Minister of Sports and Culture Grace Chiumia on Saturday suffered humiliating boos and jeers at Gonapamuhanya Cultural Festival at Bolero in Rumphi.
Apparently, the minister stirred a hornets’ nest during the Tumbuka cultural event at Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe’s Bolero headquarters in Rumphi when she digressed from her written speech to chide Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya for urging leaders against ranting and insulting their people.
Msowoya, who is also Malawi Congress Party (MCP) vice-president, was constantly whispering with his party president and leader of opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera, when he stood to offer advice to “leaders of all manner”, a scenario the minister misconstrued as a swipe at President Peter Mutharika.
There were massive claps, ululation and hums of approval when Msowoya asked leaders to respect their people, saying: “When you are a leader, it doesn’t mean you should be ranting all the time.
“Leadership is not about insulting the people. Treat them well and with dignity. I am saying this to all leaders, including Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe himself.”
Recently, Mutharika came under fire following his rantings at a tense news conference where the visibly angry President banged tables in a desperate attempt to put to rest what he termed “all the nonsense” regarding a 115-strong Malawi delegation to last month’s United Nations General Assembly amid prevailing economic collapse and food shortage.
However, the minister’s response got no applause, but incessant boos and jeers, as she was adjudged to be no less arrogant than the President whom some circles accuse of displaying dictatorial tendencies.
As Chiumia spoke, some members of the audience were heard screaming “khala waka pasi [please do not waste our time, just sit down]” and “jala pamlomo [shut your mouth]” as she struggled to show that the Speaker of Parliament was out of order.
“It is not right for the Speaker to expect leaders not to get angry. They [leaders] are also human beings. The Speaker himself also gets angry and bangs the table when MPs [members of Parliament] misbehave in Parliament,” said Chiumia, who was the guest of honour at the Gonapamuhanya ceremony which pays tribute to the Chikulamayembe kingship.
Chakwera, who described himself as a “son-in-law” since his wife hails from Chikulamayembe’s Nkhamanga Kingdom, opted for few words of encouragement to Malawians not to abandon and despise their culture.
Chikulamayembe said the people of Rumphi West Constituency, where Gonapamuhanya happened, feel “disappointed and disowned” due to government’s failure to construct Rumphi-Nyika Road and a teacher’s training college whose foundation stone was laid by Mutharika in 2011 when he was Minister of Education, Science and Technology.