BLANTYRE-- Thousands of Malawians Monday converged on Ndata Farm, the sprawling private estate of former Pres Bingu wa Mutharika, to witness the funeral service of the 78-year-old economist-turned politician.
Mutharika died suddenly on April 5 after collapsing in his office at the New State House in the capital, Lilongwe.
Several African leaders, including Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya and Armando Geubuza of Mozambique and African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping, attended the Catholic Ceremony.
Guebuza, speaking on behalf of the visiting leaders, described Pres Mutharika as a career economist who had contributed to the development of the world for working with the World Bank, the Economic Commission for Africa and the Common Market for the Eastern and Southern Africa (COMES).
"The tragedy that befell this great country, SADC and the continent defies description," he said.
Malawi's new Pres Joyce Banda, who led the mourners, evoked her predecessor's favourite mantra "Malawi is not a poor country but Malawians are poor".
"President Bingu wa Mutharika taught me and all Malawians to dream, he taught us not only to dream but also to dream in colour," he said.
Banda said Pres Mutharika believed in unlocking "inner will and ambition". She said despite his failings Mutharika was an optimist.
Pres Mutharika's death means a huge paradigm shift in Malawi's politics. His ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) expelled from its ranks Joyce Banda who at the time was the country’s vice president. She went on to found her own Peoples Party. Banda was kicked out of the party for refusing to endorse the president's brother, Peter Mutharika, to succeed him at his scheduled retirement in 2014.
According to the Constitution, the Vice-President automatically takes over the reigns of power.
Former heir apparent Peter Mutharika on Monday took it upon himself to assure members of the orphaned party the DPP will survive.
"To the loyal members of the DPP I promise you the DPP will continue," he said. "The goals of development and justice shall continue, so the party will continue, I promise that now."
Prof. Mutharika was installed as DPP acting president when his brother died. But since his death there has been haemorrhaging of members from the DPP to Banda's PP.
Pres Mutharika was accorded full military honours. He was buried in 'Maphumulo wa Bata' or 'Peaceful Rest', a white mausoleum he constructed for his first wife, Ethel, who died in 2007. The mausoleum is dubbed 'The Taj Mahal' after the white marble mausoleum in Agra, India, which Emperor Shah Jahan built for his favourite wife.
He is survived by his second wife, Callista, and four children.
---©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment