For the past 12 years, he has never made it easy for government. This man of God has used every opportunity—be it through the Public Affairs Committee (PAC), the pulpit, or even through prayer—to critique government on various socioeconomic challenges affecting the country.
Actually, during the July 6 2017 commemorations in Mzuzu, Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Grace Chiumia ‘responded’ to his prayer in which he lamented the lack of a sustainable development plan for the country’s successive leaders.
But now, the cleric, Reverend Maurice Munthali of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) Synod of Livingstonia, has announced his early retirement from active ministry on health grounds.
Munthali, who early August spoke at an Alliance for Democracy (Aford) rally in Rumphi, drumming up support for the party has, however, downplayed assertion in some quarters that his resignation is meant to give him time to campaign in Rumphi West Constituency, ahead of the 2019 polls.
However, once back on his feet, Munthali does not rule out joining active politics to represent people of Rumphi West, whom he says have since 2013 wanted him to represent them in Parliament.
Actually, Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe told Nation on Sunday in an interview that people of Rumphi West and himself want Munthali to represent them in the 2019 polls, because “he is a capable person”.
In an interview this week, Munthali said he has struggled with an ailment for the past six years, and doctors have recommended that he steps aside from active ministry.
“It is so painful to leave active ministry, something I have passion for and know that God has always wanted me to serve him. But I have been advised by doctors to resign, and I have done so. My primary job now is to look at my health,” said Munthali.
On politics, Munthali said there was nothing wrong with men of God joining politics, adding that as the light of the world, men of God are supposed to join politics and help to end the suffering of the citizenry.
“It doesn’t mean when you join politics, then you become crooked or what, it depends on your character. I don’t think I will change on my call if I join politics. Men of God must not run away from politics, they are the salt of the world, they must go there,” he said.
His joining of politics in future, said Munthali, is solely depended on his health. He asked people to continue praying or his health.
“We have always pointed fingers at politicians for the many ills affecting the country, so this is our opportunity as men of God to step in so that we correct things. We have a duty to see to it that this country is liberated from its many problems,” he said.
According to Munthali, in 2013 when he wanted to retire, Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe sent a delegation to the Synod, asking it to permit him to join politics, and that they still want him to do so.
In an interview on Thursday, Chikulamayembe confirmed his desire for Munthali to join politics.
“The Reverend is a person who will always accept when he has done something wrong, and always interacts with people and tries to find solutions to problems we face. So, I see no better person to represent us in 2019 than him,” said Chikulayemembe.
This endorsement has excited Munthali who says: “If the whole chief thinks I am the best person to represent people from my area, who am I to say no? I feel very humbled.”
Assuming Munthali stands in 2019, he us likely to face Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) councillor for Masasa Ward in Mzuzu, Yona Mkandawire, who is also eyeing the same seat. The Rumphi West seat is currently occupied by Jacqueline Kouwenhoven.
Aford leader Chihana could not be reached for comment, but in an earlier interview, he dodged questions about Munthali’s involvement in the party’s activities, saying he was just a friend of Aford.
“Every Northerner is an Aford member at heart, and the Reverend Munthali has been a friend of Aford for a long time. Once he retires, he will have the liberty to do what he wants,” he said.
Meanwhile, Synod Moderator Reverend John Gondwe has confirmed the early retirement of Munthali, whom he has described as a great asset to the church.
“He wrote the secretariat and the General Administrative Committee accepted the retirement. He still had four years to retire, but he cited health grounds and there is nothing we can do,” said Gondwe.
Born on July 25 1956 at Chimbata Village, Mwazizi under Chikulamayembe in Rumphi, Munthali is married to Thandie Luhanga and they have three children, and three grandchildren.
Having obtained a certificate in Theology at Livingstonia Theological College, Munthali obtained a Diploma in the same field in 1994 from Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation in Zambia. He was offered an honorary Masters degree in Theology in 2015 by the University of Jerusalem.
He has worked in eight parishes of the Synod. He opened his clerical work at Lupaso in Mzimba (1985-1987), then Mpherembe (1987-88), Ekwendeni (1988-1990), Dwangwa (1990-1994).
He then served as the Synod’s literacy secretary between 1995 and 2004. At the same time, between 2000 and 2003, he ministered at Chibavi, and later became General Secretary for the Synod between 2004 and 2012.
In 2012, he served the Lilongwe church up to 2016, when he was transferred to Katawa in Mzuzu where he has served until his retirement.
Besides, Munthali has been moderator for the Synod, and has also served as board chairperson for the Christian Literature Association of Malawi (Claim) and Zomba Theological College. He has also served as a member of the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) for 12 years.