Minister of Civic Education and National Unity, Timothy Mtambo, has called on Blantyre City Council (BCC) to apologise to the Muslim and Christian communities for the way it handled the billboard wrangle between the Islamic Information Bureau (IIB) and the Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM).
In demanding the apology through a letter dated August 8 2020, Mtambo says his ministry is of the view that the council was supposed to engage both parties and “arrive at a common agreement amicably”.
The minister indicates that BCC failed to inform its client of its decision to remove the billboard and that the billboard was allegedly removed at night coupled with failure to communicate either to the public or its client.
“…Thereby creating room for suspicions that the party that entered the complaint was responsible for the removal. This is a recipe for further antagonising the two parties,” reads part of the letter.
In a telephone interview with The Daily Times, Mtambo said the dialogue involving Islamic leadership and EAM is ongoing and that it is being mediated by the Public Affairs Committee.
BCC spokesperson, Anthony Kasunda, confirmed having received the communication from the minister.
“The letter from the Minister of Civic Education and National Unity is receiving the attention it deserves,” Kasunda said.
The standoff between the Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) and EAM started when IIB recently erected a billboard at Maselema in Blantyre.
The Billboard partly read: “If you have read the Old Testament and the New Testament now read the last testament –the Quran, the ultimate miracle.”
EAM through Pastor Zacc Kawalala raised a complaint arguing that the message on the billboard was “tantamount to comparison between the Bible and the Quran” and that the same “is unacceptable and a recipe for religious conflict in the country”.
After the billboard was removed, the Muslim community has been demanding for its restoration and threatened to take legal action.
Recently, MAM spokesperson Sheikh Dinala Chabulika said the message on the board was not meant to demean any religion and that Muslims look at Christians as brothers and sisters.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.