Malawi on Monday reverted to its independence flag, with MPs saying the change in 2010 was an unforgivable attack on the countryâ€™s sense of nationhood.
The return to the countryâ€™s independence colours of black, red and green with a red rising sun on the black background has come 22 months after the flag was changedâ€”with high emotions characterising debate in the House.
“The change [in 2010 by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)] was not prompted by occurrence of any significance. This was an attack on nationhood. The strange looking and rather meaningless flag reflected that the [DPP] leadership was out of the touch with feelings of the people it was governing,” leader of the House Henry Phoya told Parliament on Monday.
In 2010, the then DPP-dominated Parliament changed the national flag to red, black and green with a full sun in white to symbolise what authorities then said was unprecedented development.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) legislator Jolly Kalelo said the full white sun on the flag was “too hot” for Malawians, calling the change in 2010 without adequate consultation and reflected the arrogance of the then ruling party.
â€˜Change not a priorityâ€™
But DPPâ€™s Nick Masebo said the change is not a priority at this point as Malawians are going through hard times with the steep devaluation and are being asked to bear costs for changing items such as driverâ€™s licences and vehicle registration plates.
“The Peopleâ€™s Party [PP] administration is showing signs of being inconsiderate of the peopleâ€™s welfare,” he said.
However, Energy and Mines Minister Dr. Cassim Chilumpha dismissed Maseboâ€™s description of the change as petty, saying a flag is a national symbol that is very valuable to be changed anyhow by a group of individuals.
Nsanje Central MP Francis Kasaila (DPP) took the debate to another level when he quoted from the Hansard of July 2 2010 statements by current Deputy Minister of Agriculture Ulemu Chilapondwa and Deputy Leader of the House Anita Kalinde in support of the then change of flag. Kasaila said both Chilapondwa and Kalinde indicated that they had consulted their constituents on the matter.
Said Kasaila: “The DPP chief whip then was the current Vice-President [Khumbo Kachali] who asked all the DPP MPs to vote for the new flag. All these people indicated that they had consulted. Are they telling Malawians today that they lied?”
Dedza North West MP Alekeni Menyani (MCP) said Malawians want an apology from DPP.
Said the MP: “The change was an insult to Malawians and was the beginning of the road to becoming a semi-failed State. My only plea is to those that cannot afford to change some essential documents, government should allow them to use until expiry.â€
Deputy Minister of Gender, Women and Child Development Jennipher Chilunga said DPP bulldozed the change in 2010 without consultation, a statement that was rebutted by leader of DPP in Parliament Dr. George Chaponda who said his party consulted, but PP has failed to consult Malawians.
Said Chilunga: “There was no significant change that justified the change of flag. At the time of change, there were long queues [of vehicles] at filling stations. There was no electricity, there was no foreign exchange in the banks.â€
Nkhata Bay West MP Grace Chiumia (DPP) said President Joyce Banda had clearly indicated her wish to respect the views of Malawians through consultations; hence, it was wrong for government to bring the bill into the House without consultations.
â€˜What DPP did was stupidâ€™
Leader of opposition John Tembo narrated the history of the flag, saying people died in the fight for independence which was captured by the original flag.
“What they [DPP] did was not only folly, but it was stupid. No one can just wake up and change history. This is a day we were waiting to change the flag,” Tembo said before being asked to withdraw the word “stupid”.
In winding up debate, Phoya said any bonafide and patriotic Malawian was not happy with the 2010 change.
Said Phoya: “This government will not push any motorist to change their driverâ€™s licence and number plates [which bear the national flag]. There will be a grace period given to all Malawians to use the DPP imposed flag. However, no new documents will be issued with the DPP imposed flag after enactment.â€
.Â Government says it will not push motorists to change their driving licences and number plates bearing the 2010 â€œDPP imposed flagâ€.
.Â The original, independence flag has black, red and green with a red rising sun in the black background.