Opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera yesterday failed to attend the Chilembwe Day commemorations at Providence Industrial Mission (PIM) headquarters in Chiradzulu, citing a “volatile” environment at the venue.
During the event which started around 10am, social media was awash with reports that governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cadets blocked Chakwera and his running mate Mohammed Sidik Mia from attending the commemoration.
But MCP secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka said in an interview Chakwera was invited to the event, held in memory of fallen nationalist Reverend John Chilembwe, but returned following a tip-off from the party’s intelligence team that he would not be safe there.
He said: “We had our security people on the ground. From yesterday [Monday], they were monitoring the situation there, to ensure there is no risk on Dr Chakwera’s life and anybody who would come with him.
“What surprised us was that there were DPP cadets occupying all seats surrounding the two seats allocated to [Chakwera and his companion]. When our security people tried to reason with those in-charge of protocol, they refused to budge. Our security felt the situation was volatile and therefore, they advised [Chakwera] to return. At that time, we were just a kilometre away from PIM”.
Mkaka also claimed that the church told the party that it had reserved 10 seats for Chakwera and his team but was surprised to learn from their security that State House only allocated two seats.
The MCP secretary general accused the DPP of politicising the national event.
But in his speech at the memorial service, President Peter Mutharika spoke of unity, urging Malawians to work together in developing the nation.
He said Malawi is not a poor country and there is need for Malawians to love one another and stop hatred for the sake of the country’s progress.
Said APM: “What we need is to unite, be focused and work hard. Malawi is not a poor country, it is the people who are poor.
“But God did not create us to be poor people, so it is up to us to choose to be poor or not. Let us choose to make Malawi a prosperous nation. What we need is to work hard and love one another”.
Mutharika described Chilembwe as a spiritual, political and national leader who had good vision for the country.
He said: “Every year, we celebrate the life of Reverend John Chilembwe because he was the first Malawian who started the foundation of this nation. Chilembwe was a hard worker and a visionary leader who loved this country. Let us also love our country and care about one another.”
The mood at the memorial service turned sombre following Mutharika’s announcement that he had been informed of the death of five people in a road accident a few kilometres from the venue. The people were on their way to PIM to attend the service.
The President said a 3-tonner truck, which was coming from Mulanje with 45 people on board, overturned at Chisombezi about 500 metres from Catholic University Turnoff. He pledged support for those that were injured.
When asked about the absence of opposition political parties at the service, whose reserved seats were still visible, PIM president Wilson Mitambo said he was surprised that Chakwera did not show up.
He said Mkaka confirmed Chakwera’s attendance but did not communicate of his failure to attend.
Mitambo, however expressed disappointment with DPP party members for putting on their party regalia.
He said: “We communicated to all political parties which we invited that this is not a political event and that no one should wear party colours. But some DPP members did not listen, which is very unfortunate.”
Efforts to speak to State House spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani and DPP publicity secretary Nicholas Dausi proved futile as their phones went unanswered on several attempts. Government set January 15 to commemorate the life of Chilembwe who was born in 1871 and died on February 3 1915.