Today, December 25, is Christmas Day when Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, widely regarded as their Lord and Saviour. For years, the spirit of Christmas has been characterised by love, sharing and peace.
Perhaps in the same spirit of Christmas, political leaders in the country have taken time off to celebrate the occasion and call for peace and unity in the country, especially with the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections around the corner.
Responding to enquiries on how they would spend Christmas Day, the political leaders, notably President Peter Mutharika, Vice-President Saulos Chilima, Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya, former president Joyce Banda and United Democratic Front (UDF) president Atupele Muluzi said they would be spending the day with friends and family members.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, who is also leader of opposition in Parliament, was not immediately available for comment. His party vice-president and newly unveiled running mate Mohammad Sidik Mia said Chakwera was out of the country.
Speaking through presidential press secretary and spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani, Mutharika said he will spend the day at the presidential lakeside resort at Chikoko Bay in Monkey Bay, Mangochi, with his family.
And in a written Christmas Day message made available to The Nation, the President asked Malawians to be grateful to God for peace.
He said in the past four-and-a-half years he has been at the helm, the country has overcome several challenges, including floods, drought and hunger.
Said Mutharika: “We are a God-fearing nation. Let us wish one another love, peace and unity. Let us wish our country love, peace and unity. And let us pray for love, peace and unity in our country.”
On his part, Chilima, speaking through his special adviser on economic affairs Milward Tobias, said he will be spending Christmas with his family and friends.
The Vice-President, who parted ways with Mutharika and was last week elected unopposed as presidential candidate for the new political party UTM, urged Malawians to approach 2019 with an open mind as they prepare to vote in the elections.
Reads a Christmas statement from the Office of the Vice-President: “Dr Chilima further encourages Malawians to face 2019 with hope and confidence that through the ballot, it is time to change and fix our challenges. We cannot continue with the laissez faire or business as usual approach to governance and expect meaningful development.”
Muluzi, who is Minister of Health in Mutharika’s Cabinet following a parliamentary working relationship between his UDF and the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said he will be spending time with his family, especially his two young children who he said deserve some quality time at the end of what he described as a busy year.
Speaking through UDF secretary general Kandi Padambo, Muluzi, a Muslim by faith, also said he will also be spending part of his festive holiday at his home village in Kapoloma, Machinga.
Said Padambo on Muluzi’s behalf: “Christmas is a time when we come together as one Malawi and think about how we can all develop our country.
“As we move into 2019, let us use Christmas to make peace as one Malawi and work not as individuals for individual gains, but as one, as a unified nation that can provide an example across the region of innovation and a continued peaceful and vibrant democracy.”
Former president Joyce Banda, who is also president of People’s Party (PP), speaking through her party spokesperson Ackson Kalaile Banda, said she will spending her day in her home village in Zomba where she is currently residing.
Said Kalaile Banda: “As you might be aware, the party has been holding rallies in different places, so her excellency will be taking her time off during this holiday. She will be spending the Christmas with her family in Zomba to be precise.”
In her message, the former president urged Malawians to remain safe during the festive period to be able to cast their votes in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
Mia, also a Muslim by faith, said besides spending time with his family, he will extend a helping hand to the needy.
He said: “It is my desire that as I enjoy the company of my lovely wife and wonderful children. We will also take time to give practical gifts and assistance to those most in need, we will spend our Christmas putting smiles on as many people’s faces as possible.”
In a written response yesterday, Msowoya, who said he will be spending Christmas at his home in Karonga with family and colleagues, urged people to tread carefully and vote wisely in elections.
He said: “Think carefully as we move towards elections next year. Watch out for wolves in sheep skins, those that disguise themselves as statesmen. Remember, voting happens in a day, but suffering and frustrations can be a long five years.”