There was drama today at the funeral ceremony of Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe at Bolero in Rumphi after Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) Livingstonia Synold general secretary The Reverend Levi Nyondo wanted Vice-President Saulos Chilima and leader of opposition Lazarus Chakwera to be accorded time to give their eulogies.
Immediately after Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kondwani Nankhumwa had finished giving his eulogy on behalf of the President Peter Mutharika, Nyondo rose to “correct an anomaly” in the funeral programme.
He said as a church they were not involved when making the programme and observed that it was only fair for Chakwera and Chilima to be given similar opportunity to give own eulogies as leader of opposition and representative of all opposition political parties respectively.
Said Nyondo: “This is a funeral and as CCAP Livingstonia (Synod) we do not want to go to hell after the end has come. As such, we are against denying other people an opportunity to give their eulogies.”
He went on to remind the gathering that traditional leaders work together with the church, saying without the church they cannot do much.
But before he could finish his remarks, one of the chiefs grabbed the microphone from the reverend, asking all to respect protocol that demands that nobody makes remarks after the President.
“Protocol demands that nobody speaks after the President has spoken and may I, therefore, ask that there be no more speeches from now and that we proceed to the sermon,” he said.
After some interventions from chiefs and an apology was made directed to the church, the ceremony proceeded with a caution from the church that in future similar ceremonies where they are involved, they must be involved in the making of the programme.
Born Walter John Hardy Gondwe, Chikulamayembe succumbed to low blood pressure on Thursday last week aged 86.
Government announced later that the chief would be accorded a State funeral. Earlier, Mutharika had delegated Nankhumwa to represent him at the funeral, but the Office of the President and Cabinet later issued a statement announcing that the President would personally attend the burial ceremony.
On the other hand, the Office of the Vice-President on Monday evening also confirmed that Chilima would attend the funeral ceremony.
Nyondo had warned politicians against donning party colours to the funeral.
During a church service in Mzuzu to see off the chief’s body, he said: “Wearing of political colours brings confusion. We will not allow any person to bring political colours. Anyone who dares will be chased away.”
An opinion poll on political survey by the Institute of Public Opinion and Research (Ipor) last month showed that UTM and its leader Chilima is the third most popular grouping after the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) whose leader is Chakwera.
In a recent survey conducted by the Zomba-based Institute of Public Opinion and Research (Ipor) between August and September this year, Chilima was rated third most popular after Mutharika and Chakwera. However, the survey dated October 2018, rated UTM, which is promoting Chilima’s presidential candidacy, as stronger in the Northern Region with 28 percent followed by DPP and MCP.
With DPP positioned as stronger in the Southern Region and MCP in the Central Region, the Northern Region is widely regarded as a swing area that could decide the elections.