Representatives of government and the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) were yesterday conspicuously missing at the memorial service for the country’s founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda held in Mzuzu.
The event took place in Mzuzu for the first time since the family started organising the annual memorial service to remember Kamuzu, who died on November 25 1997.
A member of the Kamuzu family and former Cabinet minister Ken Kandodo, said government opted out of the event despite organisers sending letters and invitation cards to all parties represented in Parliament and government officials, including Cabinet ministers.
He said: “We are surprised that government officials have not graced the occasion because we did send out invitation letters to everybody that matters in Malawi.
“Secondly, we are surprised because we gave out invitation cards to all parties in Parliament, including the ruling party.”
Kandodo said the method of inviting people is the same they have used in the past 18 years. He said they send out letters at least three weeks before the actual day of the event.
He said: “So, we don’t think there is a person who would say didn’t know about this event. We are, however, happy and satisfied that ordinary men and women have attended the event.”
However, government and the DPP yesterday denied receiving any letter or card from the organising committee of the event.
Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi, who is the official government spokesperson, could not be reached for comment.
However, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development
Goodall Gondwe, who usually represents government at events in the Northern Region, said he was not aware of the memorial service.
The minister, who was in Mzuzu at the time of the interview, observed that Kamuzu memorial service is “not really a government event” that requires the attention of its officials.
He said: “I am told that organisers sent invitations to individuals. Some of us did not have the invitation. So, how do we come? How do we go? Yes, it is a national event in so far as the holiday is concerned. But the activities are not defined by the government.”
DPP spokesperson Francis Kasaila also feigned ignorance of the event, saying “I am not aware of the invitation”.
He added: “Our understanding is that that function is not a party function. It is a function for all Malawians from all different parties. Therefore, to say DPP was not represented, I find it difficult.”
Political and social commentator Moses Mkandawire said the memorial service needs to be made a national event and be guided by government. He also said such events need to be attended by everybody regardless of political affiliation.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president and leader of opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera described Kamuzu as a true statesman who deserves respect for making sure that the transition to multiparty democracy was smooth.
He said Kamuzu needs to be respected for apologising to the nation for the atrocities committed under his one-party rule.
The event was held under the theme Unity and Reconciliation with the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia leading the memorial service. n