President Joyce Banda on Sunday announced plans to set up a Heroes’ Acre in Nkhata Bay as a way of respecting those who died in the struggle in the district in March, 1959.

She made the announcement at the Martyrs’ Day commemoration in the district, making her the first President ever, to attend the event.

Nkhata Bay registered the highest number of deaths at the peak of the struggle against colonial rule on March 3 1959.

Almost 31 people were shot dead in cold blood while pushing for the release of leaders of the Nyasaland African Congress who were arrested during a state of emergency.

“All our heroes should be buried there and we will be talking to the families and see if they can agree that we exhume the heroes and rebury them at the Heroes’ Acre.”

“We have set up a ministerial committee and in the next budget there should be money for the establishment of the Heroes’ Acre,” said Banda at the function.

Previously, such events lacked the presence of the President, prompting relatives of victims to complain that the gesture symbolised lack of appreciation.

Among others, she also highlighted for possible exhumation, the remains of Dunduzu Chisiza, Chakufwa Chihana and John Chilembwe, and added that her government would also set aside money to cater for the building of tombstones at some of the heroes’ graves.

She even urged Nkhata Bay Central parliamentarian Symon Vuwa Kaunda, who spoke vocally at the event, to speak with the same magnitude when discussing the possibility of a Heroes’ Acre in Parliament.

Traditional Authority Mkumbira, who has been chairing the commemoration organising committee, asked President Banda to have an audience with the Nkhata Bay chiefs and relations of the heroes which the President granted.

Relatives of the victims have been angry that the absence of high profile figures like the President at the event meant lack of appreciation for the victims’ blood.

They warned during the 2012 commemorations that they would not allow such representation in future events.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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