The campaign to make official all indigenous languages in the country hit a setback on Wednesday when the legislator expected to receive a petition on behalf of the National Assembly pulled out at the eleventh hour.
The Lost History Foundation (LHF) is championing the cause as well as pressing on government to promote all indigenous languages to the level of Chichewa as a national language and change the name Chichewa to Chinyanja.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Nkhotakota North East legislator Martha Lunji Chanjo Mhone was scheduled to receive a petition from LHF and present it to Parliament as stipulated by the House’s rule.
Standing Order 53 (1) reads that “a petition substantially in and content of the form prescribed in Appendix IV may petition be presented by a member for the redress of an alleged public grievance” and 58 states “a petition shall be presented by a member on a private members’ day”.
However, Chanjo Mhone, who is also DPP deputy whip in Parliament, disassociated herself from the campaign.
She said: “I have a forum for my constituency where chiefs and representatives of the youth, among other stakeholders, are there. I do not do things pertaining to Parliament without consulting them.
“When I presented on the forum that I am championing this issue, they advised me against it.”
LHF executive director Conleith Selenje said they will identify another legislator to receive the petition.
“This came at the eleventh hour when the foundation and concerned patriots had already made all the preparations to meet the her and present the petition.
“The foundation had followed all the necessary protocols regarding standing orders on the delivery of the same,” he said.
Selenje said since the issue was brought in the limelight, there has been a lot of positive response towards the petition.
He said: “Many Malawians really want to see and experience not only the change of Chichewa name to chiNyanja and the use of it in Parliament. They are also keen to see their languages being recognised at national status.”
However, Selenje said since he started championing the issue, he has been receiving threats on his life from unknown people while others have openly attacked his physical looks.
“But as an activist and researcher, I take history as a tool to steer our national destiny. We should learn from history and use it as a tool for national unity, healing, reconciliation and reform. Rigidity in most people’s minds will not help national development,” said Selenje.