Written by Felix Mponda MBC
President Peter Mutharika on Wednesday led thousands of mourners to pay glowing tribute to one of Malawi’s eminent entrepreneurs, philanthropist and former cabinet minister Patrick Mbewe for being a “freedom fighter” during the struggle against one party rule in the early 1990s.
“It was not easy to fight against one party state, but Hon Mbewe sacrificed his resources to help bring multiparty politics,” Local Government and Rural Development Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa was speaking when he represented President Mutharika at a burial ceremony of the former minister at Tawa Estate in Chiradzulu District.
Mbewe died on Saturday in Blantyre from kidney complications, according to a clan member Lovemore Munlo.
Mbewe, alongside the first multiparty President, Dr. Bakili Muluzi and other activists, launched the United Democratic Front as an underground movement in 1992 to fight for pluralism.
The UDF won the 1994 elections and Muluzi became the first multiparty President, after defeating Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda of the MCP.
He appointed Mbewe to serve in various ministerial positions, including Local Government, Tourism and Transport.
Nankhumwa said because Mbewe practiced “smart politics” without castigating others, was principled and selflessly contributed to the development of the country, Mutharika had directed that he should be accorded full military honours, complete with three volleys and a parade mounted by soldiers of the Malawi Defence Force.
Mbewe’s expensive dome casket, draped with the national flag, was carried by military pallbearers, from the estate house to the new family graveyard, a stone throw away.
Archbishop Tarsizio Ziyaye of Lilongwe Diocese, who led mass to honour Mbewe’s contribution to the church, said the former minister “served both government and the church well.”
Described as a devout Catholic, Mbewe helped the Montfort Parish to acquire land where the new imposing church has been built. He also financially backed many projects of the church in Blantyre and his home district, church leaders said.
Vicar General Boniface Tamani, in his euology said Christians should reflect on Mbewe’s death and ask themselves how people will remember them.
“Some of you are rich people, but do you use your resources for the good of others as Mbewe did?” he asked.
He urged the faithful to “give back to God by helping those in need.”
Mbewe’s funeral united politicians from different parties, including UTM’s Saulos Chilima, Lazarus Chakwera of MCP and Atupele Muluzi from UDF.
Mbewe, a close associate of former President Dr Bakili Muluzi, was co-patron of the UDF.