The family of founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda yesterday expressed dismay at the lack of government representation at Kamuzu Day prayers in Kasungu despite extending an invitation.
During memorial prayers held at Mtunthama CCAP in the district, the family said the conspicuous absence of government representatives was sending wrong signals as the same officials, including the President, honour individuals such as John Chilembwe by attending Chilembwe Day commemorations in Chiradzulu on January 15.
Speaking on behalf of the family, former Cabinet minister Ken Kandodo, who is Kamuzu’s nephew, said it was unfortunate that government representatives did not make it to the place even after the family sent an invitation.
He said: “We sent letters to everyone, including government officials, but to our surprise no one from government is with us. They didn’t even give a response or send an apology. Only MCP [Malawi Congress Party] is here and this is really bad that the founder of the nation is not being given the honour he deserves.”
Kandodo also said it was unfortunate that the government machinery has resorted to castigating the former president who died in November 1997.
Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi, who is the official government spokesperson, asked for more time to consult when asked why government was not represented.
He said: “Since it is a public holiday, let me consult on that one.”
MCP president Lazarus Chakwera attended the memorial prayers alongside his newly-elected first vice-president Mohammad Sidik Mia.
The MCP president said it was unfortunate that slowly the country was running away from the spirit of hard work, honesty and not mixing politics in the civil service which Kamuzu instilled.
Chakwera said the civil service now leaves a lot to be desired because most civil servants are no longer performers compared to the 31-year one-party rule under Kamuzu and MCP.
He said: “During the time of the Ngwazi, the civil servants delivered their duties diligently unlike today when civil service is mixed with politics and the professionalism is no longer there. This is bad and, as leaders, we need to work hard to stop this.”
Chakwera called for servant leadership if the country is to retain standards set by Kamuzu, a dictator ousted through the ballot in May 1994.
Moderator of Nkhoma Synod of the Church of Central African Presbyterian (CCAP) the Reverend Bisiwick Chimbalu Nkhoma said it was sad that government did not make it to a national event of the founding president.
In an interview later, he said: “This is sad that only MCP is present here. This is a national event and as such everyone, including government [representatives], need to be here.”
Reacting to the developments, George Phiri, a political analyst based at the University of Livingstonia, said: “I would describe the situation as unfortunate because government declared the day a national holiday. The absence of government representatives means that they don’t value the day. Why did they set the holiday if the wouldn’t be there? In my view, it was important for government to be present at the function. They should bear in mind that Kamuzu is a historical figure who deserves respect.”
Mustaffa Hussein, a political scientist from Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, said there was need for guidance on how such public holidays should be commemorated.
He said: “By virtue of government maintaining it as a public holiday, they need to give proper guidance on the celebrations and as government they needed to be there. Government officials should be part and parcel of such activities.”
Former president Bingu wa Mutharika’s administration reinstituted the Kamuzu Day on May 14 and scrapped off Freedom Day—the day the Bakili Muluzi administration set to reflect on the June 14 1993 National Referendum that ushered in multiparty democracy.