Former president Joyce Banda, who during his reign between 2012 and 2014 championed the formation of Yao cultural heritage group, has turned down an invitation to attend its launch today.
The Yaos, finally, are launching Chiwanja cha Yao at Mangochi Turn-Off in Balaka and the function is expected to start at 8:30 this morning, according to the organisers.
President Peter Mutharika, who has not met Banda since he defeated her in the 2014 presidential race, is set to attend the launch, according to office of the President and Cabinet (OPC).
People’s Party (PP) spokesperson Ackson Kalaile Banda dismissed as incorrect suggestions that the former president’s decision not to attend could be a calculated move not to meet Mutharika face to face.
“That’s incorrect, as a matter of fact; she has made some financial contribution to the launch of this grouping. The organising team met her personally to deliver the invitation and she made her contribution.
“The decision not to attend has come because she has other equally important things and she wants to attend to that,” Kalaile Banda said.
The PP spokesperson said the former president is not afraid of anyone and would have attended if it were not for the other commitments.
Banda, previously accused by President Mutharika of refusing to hand over power to him as he was being sworn in, maneuvered during her reign to mobilise the Yaos to form their cultural grouping in a clear copycat of the late former president Bingu Wa Mutharika, who initiated the formation of the controversial Muhlako wa Alhomwe and became its patron.
Some social and political commentators have previously viewed such groups as divisive in that they promote tribalism, but other traditional leaders and politicians have defended such groupings, arguing they are meant to promote cultural values.
Chiwanja cha Yao spokesperson Prince Mtelera said in an interview yesterday that other high profile personalities to attend the launch include former president Bakili Muluzi and Archbishop Thomas Luke Msusa of Archdiocese of Blantyre.
Mtelera said their grouping is inclusive, nonpolitical and nonreligious and it accommodates everyone regardless, as long as they are Yaos.
“People should not mistake this group as one for Muslims, no. This group is not Islam, it is for Yaos. What I mean is that there are Yaos who are Christians and there are Yaos who are Muslims, they are all welcome.
“Our grouping is meant to promote the progressive cultural values and traditions, and at the same time, fighting those negative things associated with us, for example polygamy,” Mtelera said, adding while polygamy is accepted amongst them, people must have knowledge of its dangers such as HIV and Aids.