Call for inquiry as boat capsizes on Lake Malawi
By Penelope Paliani Kamanga
President of Umodzi Party, one of the well-known Malawian opposition political parties, Professor John Chisi, has asked the government to institute a commission of inquiry to investigate why there have been a spate of boat accidents this year on Lake Malawi and has insisted on the need to regulate transportation rules on the lake.
This comes soon after a boat carrying about 70 Presbyterian members returning from Easter Holiday celebrations capsized on 16 April in the remote Rumphi district in northern Malawi, killing 6 people. At least 11 others were still missing. and 54 people survived.
Chisi said that Lake Malawi had recently become a death trap and that there was a need to investigate why in just three months, there had been two fatal boat accidents.
“There is need for a commission of inquiry to investigate why the accident happened and transport authorities need to give us an update of how they control vessels on the lake. If someone did not follow the rules then they should be taken to book. It is high time people who commit such crimes be stopped and get punished,” he said.
Chisi insisted that there was a need for people responsible for vessel transportation to give out information on what were the regulations and rules on capacity.
He said often times transporters did not follow the regulations and no one cared.
Police confirmed that the vessel was unseaworthy and another concerned citizen, Gladys Phiri, wondered why for long such vessels were allowed to carry passengers putting the lives of people at risk.
Rumphi Police Station Officer Denis Banda told the local radio station MIJ FM that in the absence of proper documentation and identification of people when they were boarding the boats, it was difficult to regulate on how much people could board the boats.
The current boat accident remains the worst heart breaking so far as in the country.
Meanwhile, the Malawi Defense Force has beefed up its search team to help find the 11 missing people. MDF acting spokesperson Wilned Chawinga said they had added two more divers from Chilumba Baracks.
Ines Msowoya, one of the survivors, said this had been the most scary accident ever. ” I can never thank God enough for saving me from this ordeal especially to know that some people did not make it,” she said.
The accident happened when the boat was hit by a storm, a development that made it difficult for the operator to control the vessel, leading it to capsize.
Last year, 12 people died after a Tanzania boat they were traveling in capsized. In 2012 almost 47 people thought to be illegal migrants from east Africa died when their boat capsized in Lake Malawi.
The group was apparently trying to enter northern Malawi from Tanzania, police said. Many on board may have been Ethiopians.