M’mbelwa Chiefs Council has cancelled the annual Umthetho Cultural Festival due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
As of Wednesday morning, there were 1 877 Covid-19 confirmed cases and 24 registered deaths in the country.
In an interview yesterday, the council secretary Senior Chief Mpherembe said they want to protect people’s lives from the virus which spreads fast in overcrowded spaces.
He said: “We don’t want to risk people’s lives with a gathering of three days. So, we will cancel the event this year. If there are new developments, we will let the nation know.”
The Umthetho takes place in August every year to celebrate the Ngoni cultural heritage.
The event begins on Thursday with a workshop on a specified theme. The second day is dedicated to traditional dances and visits to various cultural heritage sites in the district.
The climaxe comes on the third day with both local and international dignitaries attending the festival at the foot of Hora Mountain.
The dignitaries include government officials and traditional leaders from Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Mzimba Heritage Association vice-secretary Kingsley Jere said preparations for the festival had just started when the chiefs cancelled the event.
He said: “The event is organised with our own funds, so we were making contributions for the event.
“But the process was very slow because people were not sure if the event would really take place. Covid-19 has inconvenienced us so much,” he said.
Jere said the association supports the cancellation of the event even though it means losing an opportunity to strengthen their culture.
“Umthetho gives us an opportunity as the sons and daughters of Mzimba to know each other, interact and strengthen our cultural heritage.
“We hope to return next year with the event if we overcome the pandemic,” he said.