On Saturday, the Tumbuka people from Rumphi gathered at Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe’s headquarters in Bolero for Gonapamuhanya Cultural Festival. However, the annual commemoration in honour of the first Chikulamayembe, Gonapamuhanya, was marred by political clashes. In this interview with our Mzuzu Bureau Supervisor JOSEPH MWALE, the reigning Chikulamayembe looks at how politics almost spoiled the cultural event.
: How important is Gonapamuhanya cultural festival?
: You are aware that culture is of paramount importance in life because culture is a dimension of development, more especially when it is being pursued in the right direction. The youth need to know the Tumbuka way of life, where we are coming from and where we are going. To us, culture is very important, hence the annual celebration.
This year, the celebration revolved around promoting and protecting the girl child. I am aging, and someone has to take up my role, that means we have at all times to protect the young ones.
: For three years now, Gonapamuhanya has been blighted by political scuffles. What do you make of these clashes?
: Politicians will never be the same with traditional leaders. Our ambitions are not the same. You see, the ruling party [Democratic Progressive Party-DPP] thinks all the activities
that Gonapamuhanya pursued belong to them. This is wrong.
They were trying to protect their authority. They didn’t want their counterparts to come in, but we challenged them. This is not a political issue, so we said: “Please can you get out of the arena”.
Of course, they obeyed, but the village heads were very annoyed with them. They chased them away. This is what you should expect from politicians. If you think, some day, you will go into the political arena and become a politician, Mr Mwale, you got to be very careful.
: What do you make of these conflicts?
: I think that they are denting the beautiful event called Gonapamuhanya. I also think that these people have a very private political motive. This is the second time they have done that.
Last year, they started doing the same, but there were people who controlled them before things went out of hand.
This year, they have done it again. I think that there is a sinister motive. But all the same, this is a traditional event, not a political issue. We will not get disturbed by politicians. I have made that clear and I told them on Sunday that we will not be disturbed.
: Why do you invite politicians to the event?
: Usually, they are not invited. We only invite the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development and the President. I believe that it is the two who invite other party officials and followers. So, it is these party officials who make a lot of noise, not the legislators or senior officials.
: What are you doing to ensure that next year’s Gonapamuhanya does not become another political battlefield?
: I have discussed this matter with my advisers and the rest of the chiefs around me. We are taking a step to deal with this once and for all. We want to talk to the President and other authorities to say that this is bad because they are painting a very bad image [of Gonapamuhanya] and we are not happy about it. We would not want to have this sort of situation next year. Shortly, I will be meeting the President [Peter Mutharika]. All in all, after the fracas, we had a very nice ceremony because we had a huge delegation from Zambia, we danced, ate and drunk. It was a very nice event. n