President Lazarus Chakwera yesterday publicly expressed his displeasure at poor quality decorations for the commemoration of the 57th Independence Anniversary Celebrations and urged Malawians to strive to make a difference to drive the country to prosperity.
In his maiden Independence Day address at muted celebrations in Lilongwe, the President asked Malawians to ask themselves if whatever they are doing will make the country better. Here, he also chided Cabinet ministers for posting “nonsense” on social media and expressed his dissatisfaction with decorations for the occasion.
He said: “When you hear a fellow citizen complaining, ask them: is what you are doing making Malawi better? When you see people putting ugly decorations at roundabouts, stop and ask them: is what you are doing making Malawi better?
“When you see people walking around without [face] masks or social distance, ask them: is what you are doing making Malawi better? When you see a minister posting nonsense on social media, ask them: is what you are doing making Malawi better?”
His sentiments on the decorations for the event initially budgeted at K244 million, but later trimmed to “under K50 million” amid public outrage on social media came against a backlash from sections of the public which branded the decorations substandard.
To achieve economic liberation, Chakwera said, there is need for less talk and more action, no begging and not more political parties, but productivity.
The President said: “What we need is not more talking or more shouting or more fingerpointing or more politicking or more begging or more gossip or more meetings or more political parties or more prayers.
“If any of these things were God’s formula for prosperity, Malawi would be the wealthiest of the nations.”
During the event held at the open air Malawi Square within the Umodzi Park complex that also includes The President Hotel and Bingu International Convention Centre, the President and the clergy called for mindset change to take the country out of poverty.
Chakwera, a former Malawi Assemblies of God president who quit the pulpit in 2012 to join frontline politics, read the first reading from Romans 12 verses 1 to 3 at the National Service of Worship held under the theme Building an Inclusive, Wealthy, Self-reliant Nation Through Mindset Change and Servant Leadership.
True to the theme, especially the aspect of mindset change, invited guests arrived at the venue before the 9am starting time, a marked departure from the usual tendency of not observing time.
Conspicuously missing at the venue were representatives of opposition political parties.
Main organising committee chairperson Richard Chimwendo Banda, who is also Minister of Homeland Security, said invitations were extended to opposition parties and leaders, including former president Peter Mutharika.
From the start of the service, speakers emphasised on mindset change and unity. The prayers and homilies also focused on mindset change and unity for both leaders and citizens.
Pentecostal International Church Apostle Esau Banda, who was the first to preach, said that mindset change should start with national leadership.
He said leaders should move away from business as usual approach of doing things, saying that is the reason the country has failed to develop. He challenged the leaders to take the lead in thinking outside the box.
Banda said: “Malawians need leaders that are God-fearing, humble, selfless and prudent. Malawi needs leaders who are highly ethical and professional, leaders with integrity, leaders who are transparent and accountable.
“Malawians need servant leaders and not masters or godfathers who want to be hero worshipped. Malawians need leaders who can refrain from corruption, nepotism, disunity, pride and immorality.”
Anglican Church Northern Malawi Diocese Bishop Fanuel Magangani said Malawi needs to break the spirit of poverty and that should start with mindset change.
He said Malawians have to work together and ensure prosperity for everyone.
Muslim Association of Malawi chairperson Sheikh Idrissa Muhammad said there is also need for mindset change in the fight against Covid-19, observing that the pandemic has heavily affected the development of the country.
Chilima, First Lady Monica Chakwera, Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani Hara, former president Joyce Banda former vice-president Khumbo Kachali, Cabinet ministers and other leaders of the Tonse Alliance partner parties were among the invited guests at the scaled down commemoration.
The clergy also included Episcopal Conference of Malawi chairperson Archbishop Thomas Msusa of the Archdiocese of Blantyre in the Catholic Church, CCAP General Synod moderator the Reverend Bizwick Nkhoma, Malawi Assemblies of God president the Reverend Andrew Dube, Zomba Catholic Diocese Bishop George Tambala, Calvary Family Church International president Apostle Madalitso Mbewe, Blantyre CCAP Synod moderator the Reverend Masauko Mbolembole, Seventh Day Adventist Church president Pastor Frackson Kayama, CCAP Synod of Livingstonia moderator the Reverend Isaac Malongo, CCAP General Assembly secretary general the Reverend Mwawi Chilongozi, Evangelical Association of Malawi women’s desk coordinator Monica Chokhotho and Rastafari Movement high priest Ras Nimrod Chilambe.
Initially, the celebrations were earmarked for Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu with traditional dances and other activities on the menu. However, the organising committee made a U-turn on Thursday, citing Covid-19 as a contributing factor to the scaling down.