Family members of the country’s founding president the late Hastings Kamuzu Banda and officials from Malawi Congress Party (MCP) on Wednesday honoured him by laying wreaths at his mausoleum in the capital city while government officials and other political parties stayed away from the function.
MCP presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera took time off his campaign trail to honour Kamuzu on Kamuzu Day, which was declared a public holiday by government.
There was no official representation from government. Minister of Defence Ken Kandodo, Kamuzu’s great grandnephew, was also conspicuously absent from the event.
The ceremony was brief, without speeches or religious sermons. Hymns were restricted to the period of wreath-laying on the tomb where Kamuzu—the country’s ruler from independence in 1964 to 1994—now rests.
Speaking after the ceremony, Rosemary Chilemba, a niece to the late president, said the family was not saddened by the absence of government representatives and other political parties.
She attributed the absence of other officials to the ongoing campaign for the May 20 Tripartite Elections, but said the development was a sign of democracy, something that would make Kamuzu proud.
Said Chilemba: “We are not sad at all. We know we are in a democratic environment. The ruling party is not MCP, but another party. Kamuzu himself accepted democracy in 1994 and, again, this is a family event.
“People right now are busy fighting for events. So, it’s understandable they were not able to come here. We also did not extend invitations [to others] because we knew people would be busy with the campaigns.”
However, Chilemba stressed that Kamuzu Day is an important and historic national event which must be remembered by the whole country.
Chakwera described the departed president as “a great leader whose legacy even we, in this generation, continuously inspires.”
Commenting on the significance of the event coinciding with his own presidential bid, Chakwera said: “I am sure in the heavens, God knows it has significance. It feels me with awe, with godly fear to realise that there is a real possibility to feel his big shoes by winning this election.”
Chakwera said this year’s Kamuzu Day celebrations were also of greater significance as the country later in July celebrates the 50th anniversary of independence; saying: “We could not have had the jubilee celebrations if Kamuzu had not demonstrated great leadership and destroyed the stupid [Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland].”