By Bright Mhango
Hastings Kamuzu Banda, to some Malawians and Africans, was a statesman worthy emulating and that he has to be celebrated and given a special place in Malawi’s History. To others, like me, celebrating Kamuzu is like re-installing Adolf Hitler as Germany’s Chancellor. In this rant, I will raise reasons why Kamuzu should only be celebrated by witches.
I will start by dispelling the myth that Kamuzu was the one who fought for independence for Malawi, and that he was a good man.
When the four Young Turks; Masauko Chipembere, Dunduzu and Yatuta Chisiza, Kanyama Chiume plus Orton Chirwa launched their opposition against the 1953 Federation of Nyasaland and Rhodesia, Kamuzu was in England. He refused to come to Malawi fearing that his extended family would prey on his money even though Nyasaland had paid part of his fees for him to become a doctor in Malawi.
It was only after he was sued for impregnating his secretary, Mrs. French in England and given marching orders in Ghana for operating an abortion clinic that he came to Malawi. There was nothing patriotic about his refuguish move.
The likes of Masauko Chipembere were doing just fine, the reason they invited Kamuzu was because he was old and thus instrumental in convincing the chiefs that didn’t take the Turks seriously when they preached independence. Chipembere and Chisiza had already made their names as daredevils and the Hansard was selling like porn because of their revolutionary statements in the white dominated Legislative Council.
It was the young Turks who paraded Kamuzu around Malawi and gave him the post of MCP president on a silver platter. The Turks are the guys that wrote his swaying speeches and did some of the translation; yes translation, because the Malawian who wrote about his tribe in America did not speak his own language.
With the Vocal Turks, Operation Sunrise soon landed Kamuzu and his three mates at Gweru Prison in Zimbabwe where they laid out plans together. When Kamuzu was released and toured the world in the name of leader, his friends languished at Kanjedza. Kamuzu delayed securing their release to make political headway, finally releasing them on the day of the MCP convention in Nkhota Kota where he was made Life president of MCP.
They chanted down the British Babylon together and soon they won independence but Kamuzu wanted all the power; keeping a firm grip on six key ministries and not respecting the Turks and friends in public. The Turks felt like the rest of the Animals in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. They fought together and the pigs wanted it all?
It was only natural that the Turks, just like they did with the ‘Bush Meeting’ that sparked Operation Sunrise, meet again - producing the Kuchawe Manifesto that ultimately sparked the Cabinet Crisis of 1964. It was not even a crisis, the ministers wanted to check Kamuzu’s unjustifiably huge powers. Naturally Kamuzu refused and a vote of no confidence was proposed against him.
Of course Kamuzu tricked the parliament and stayed on in power, he fired the ministers and the anarchy started.
Orton Chirwa and wife Vera were rewarded with a death sentence becoming Africa’s longest serving prisoners of concise. Dunduzu Chisiza was found dead on the Zomba-Blantyre road, Yatuta was betrayed by his Greek buddy and gunned down, and Chipembere went into exile.
Of course, the court did not find any evidence to nail Kamuzu for the Mwanza murders but what did you expect? What do dictators do with evidence?
As if that is not enough, Kamuzu took a queer attitude towards people from the districts north of Nkhamenya, who for lack of a better term, I will term Northerners. The only crime these people seem to have committed was to embrace Scottish education especially as pioneered by Dr. Robert Laws at Khondowe.
What followed was the banning of ChiTumbuka from MBC and The Daily Times at the onset of the 70’s. I once spoke to Manjawira Msowoya who explained how he and his fellow Northerners were booed at MBC by workmates after the ban was announced, you should have seen the look on his face.
Studies by the likes of Noam Chomsky and Ajit Mohanty suggest that tribal children learn better in their mother tongue at basic level, this was what was going on in Malawi with ChiTumbuka being taken up to JCE level in Tumbuka areas. Kamuzu pulled out Northern languages from the Syllabus and had all the books burnt.
Tongas and Senas had to study ‘Maliro Ndi Miyambi ya Achewa’ as if they had no funerals and customs. I know a teacher who was slapped for teaching in ChiTumbuka soon after the ban and the church elders at St. Peters Parish in Mzuzu were nearly arrested for preaching in ChiTumbuka.
Unfortunate for the North, 80% of the police stations were filled with Chewa speaking officers to partly enforce the ban and to check rebels. Even today, villagers are forced to speak in Chichewa when being interrogated or giving evidence.
To come from the North was suddenly a problem to Kamuzu; led by John Tembo late in his rule he brought on the Quota system to check the numbers of Northerners in secondary schools and colleges. Brothers and sisters had to shed ‘Northern’ names to adopt those from the Chewa speaking tribes to stand a chance.
Call it what you may but the 1980s deportation of teachers of Northern origin to the North was the most traumatising. It was not just teachers, hundreds fled across the borders and their crime was the same, being Northerners.
If not for a Mr. Jungubawa felling a tree onto the road leading to Livingstonia’s water source, a government 110 defender full of poison would have accomplished its mission. Livingstonia by then was fully behind Chakufwa Chihana’s revolutionary messages. Of course none of you cares about that genocide attempt, but I do, I was there in Livingstonia. And thanks to the likes of November and Paul Jungubawa, that 110 Defender was evenly smashed and popularity for Chakufwa Chihana trebled.
As if that is not enough, Kamuzu made speeches calling an end to regional discrimination to ironically call for it. While he splashed millions on his pet capital city, he swore not to develop the North and called people from their ‘Rebels.’
My grandfather at Mlowe, the home of Kamplepo Kaluwa and myself, told me that the lakeshore road had to be diverted at Chiweta to pass via Phwezi and Mzuzu to avoid developing the Mlowe and Nkhatabay areas because they were the homes of some of the so called rebels, in fact the so called Northern Corridor was only sanctioned after war in Mozambique made Nacala a bad route. Why such passion at hating and for what? Being a Chirwa or a Chiume?
I have come to be Northerner because of Kamuzu. My friends are from Lilongwe, Dowa and I from the North. I cannot speak my language elsewhere in Malawi or people will call me names. I am certainly not going to get employed in some companies because I am from the North.
Kamuzu crushed dissent like lice. Good journalism was a crime. Pollock Mhango was detained (1981) for seven years and beaten mad for writing; Mkwapatira Mhango was bombed (1989) in his house killing him, his two wives and five children. This was just after Kamuzu said that facts of his lavish official hostess were being leaked to international media by Mkwapatira and family. Maybe, you cannot feel the gravity because you are not a Mhango.
We cannot pin down what my distant grandfather, Matchipisa Munthali did to deserve 27 years behind bars, or why Atati Mpakati lost, first his fingers, to a parcel Bombing and later his life in a KGB style assassination.
People lived in fear under Kamuzu, I remember being with my grandmother, NyaChikoko when Kamuzu death was announced, she sighed and told stories of how her house was forcibly used as a guest house by MCP officials and how drunkards were clubbed to death by the Malawi Young Pioneers for behaving in a rebel manner.
Miniskirts and long hair were banned while our friends in Jamaica and USA enjoyed hair and bare thigh. Though I was young, I recall how jittery people were at the passing of a plane believed to be carrying the Ngwazi or at the chime of the national anthem. Only the rare breeds partied and gardened during public holidays. Was that not a gaol of some sort? Smells like Taliban controlled Afghanistan to me.
Yes, you remembered the Youth Week! Good as its intentions were, the implementation was via Chinese channels and that part hurts a lot.
The saga continues
Kamuzu Banda was the only Black Person that thought Apartheid was good. When everybody was breaking ties with South Africa, he was busy strengthening trade links. Here is a guy who criticised the Federation and called for independence of Malawi.
If you are reading this from Lilongwe you should know that you are in the blood city, it was built with funding from the oppressive South Africa. In addition, Kamuzu said at the OAU that Egyptian planes that were scheduled to start bombing South Africa should not pass through Malawi.
Banda’s hypocrisy also played out in Mozambique where he supported both the oppressive Portuguese government and the rebels? How sick is that? Supporting both Renamo and Frelimo resulted into Malawians killing Malawians sometimes as they were in both fighting sides.
The Britons asked to build Bangula dam, which would have been bigger that Sudan’s Gezira Damn but using lame excuses such us the fear of Bilharzias, Kamuzu rejected the move effectively assuming responsibility of today’s blackouts.
Personal enrichment is also another noxious thing about Kamuzu, coming to Malawi as a broke sex scandalist with a medicine career begging to be banned, he died with wealth estimated at half a billion US dollars. Why the past and current governments haven’t properly looked into his wealth is a question for all of us to ponder on.
This is the guy who clashed with Orton Chirwa on the pace of Africanisation in the 60’s, what does he produce as a solution? Kamuzu Academy. Taking 80% of the budget allocation to education to set up a school that taught Latin and Greek. Did Malawi not need a hundred MCDEs -as they were called?
The guy was a schizophrenic, its why he dubbed himself the mouthful title ‘His Excellency The Life President (Paramount Chief) Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda,’ thirteen years before his death as quoted in The Independent of UK on 27 November 1997, said “Government here means Kamuzu. Kamuzu is Malawi. So be frank when speaking about government. You know you are speaking about Kamuzu, that’s all whether you like it or not.” Is Malawi Kamuzu now? So this is where Muluzi copied his “afune asafune” phraseology?
All I have been trying to say it that when you celebrate Kamuzu, when you let people that pioneered his policies like John Tembo and when you give respect to queer questionable women like Cecilia Kadzamira, you make some of us shiver. I was shocked to hear that Tembo is now a church elder but I know that’s typical of the church, even Pope Benedict backed gay molesting priests?
When you build grand mausoleums for dictators, adopt their names, policies and name landmarks after them, you make us remember what we are trying hard to forget. I wonder if they have a street named after Hitler in Germany.
Yes we know to many of you he is a hero, of course he is the guy that made you rich, that made your culture and language official, that gave you the ‘elite’ status among your fellow Malawians but if I am to belong to Malawi, it should be that without big brother posters looking down on me and reminding me of the Nazism that I, my kind and others have been through.