Barely hours after announcing Independence Anniversary Celebrations on July 6, Minister of Homeland Security Richard Chimwendo Banda last evening said government has scaled down on the event following advice from Presidential Task Force on Covid-19.
The minister said the commemoration of the country’s 57 Independence Anniversary will now be restricted to an interdenominational service of worship at the Malawi Square, an outdoor space at Umodzi Park that also houses The President’s Hotel and Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe.
Chimwendo Banda said the development has trimmed the budget from the initial K244 million to “less than K50 million”.
He said: “After meeting the leadership of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, we have decided to scale down on the celebrations. There will not be celebrations in Blantyre and Mzuzu. Even in Lilongwe, it will only be prayers. It will be strictly attended by 200 people. We want to ensure compliance to Covid-19 measures.”
On the choice of Lilongwe for the commemoration, the minister said the celebrations are held on rotational basis and that the last time they were held the venue was Blantyre. He said next year Mzuzu will host.
Earlier yesterday, Chimwendo Banda addressed a news conference in Lilongwe on the celebrations. He was accompanied by his Cabinet colleagues Gospel Kazako (Information), Khumbize Chiponda (Health), Michael Usi (Tourism, Wildlife and Culture) and Deputy Minister of Local Government Halima Daud.
He said participation at the commemorations initially set for Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu event will be strictly by invitation and in compliance with Covid-19 measures.
Reacting to the initial plan, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) chairperson Gift Trapence asked government said the events were a Covid-19 risk and also called for the need to avoid incurring unnecessary costs.
Last year, the Independence Day celebrations were called off at the eleventh hour due to rising cases of Covid-19.
Malawi is currently registering a spike in Covid-19 new infections amid fears the third wave is here, but authorities are yet to declare the third wave.