BLANTYRE--Malawian President Joyce Banda on Independence Day, July 6, said she'd used constitutional powers to pardon 377 prisoners but refused to sign for the freedom of 11 defilers or rapists, saying they should remain there for life the rest of their natural life.
"Let them die there. It will be possible to bury them in one mass grave. This is a serious matter," she said in her maiden independence speech at low-key national prayers led by Christian and Muslim clerics to mark the country's 48 years of independence.
She said the terminally ill child molesters "had knowingly sought charms from herbalists who advised them to sleep with virgins in order to get cured of their illnesses."
Defilement is a serious problem in this poor country where belief still holds sway that sleeping with a virgin can heal sexually transmiited diseases such as AIDS.
Banda, speaking in the main local language Chichewa at the ceremony attended by diplomats, top government officials, retired president Bakili Muluzi, opposition politicians and scores of Malawians, touched on a litany of socio-political issues.
She hailed independent heroes, such as founder president Kamuzu Banda, for putting their lives on the line so Malawi could be free from British colonial rule.
"It's important for people who were not there to know the people who sacrificed for this nation," Banda said, adding that during the independence struggle , she was eight years old.
She said although Malawi had clocked 48 years as an independent state, citizens must answer the question why the country was "still poor and what is it that we can do?"
Leading one of the poorest countries on earth, Banda said:"My agenda is to end poverty."
The president said she could understand why her country, "which has not been at war", was second after Sierra Leone with the highest maternal deaths.
"Sierra Leone has been fighting recently...why is it that we have many mothers dying from childbirth than them?" she asked.
She said her administration was now "running" to reverse some of the negative trends.
"Poverty is still with us...let us not sleep now. Everybody is willing to run with us," she added.
Banda appealed to civil servants not to "sabotage" policies of her administration.
"Let's run together. It's not about me Joyce Banda, it's about Malawians," she said without going into details.
She said her government didn't hold elaborate celebrations because it was broke/
Anglican bishop James Tengatenga, in his homily hit at Malawi's former presidents Banda, Muluzi and Bingu wa Mutharika, saying they all became "dictators and semigods because they forget they were human beings."
He said there was power in being a president and people praise leaders as semi-gods.
"Presidents forget that all good things come from God.Today, we have a mother as woman president, if you are not careful, you will be like the former presidents," Tengatenga, often outspoken, said.
---©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment.