By Hastings Ndebvu
“Systems of government are dynamic and they are bound to change in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of the people… During my term of office, I selflessly dedicated myself to the good cause of Mother Malawi in the fight against poverty, ignorance, disease among other issues: but if within the process, those who worked in my government or through false pretence in my name or indeed unknowingly by me, pain and suffering was caused to anybody in this country in the name of nationhood, I offer my sincere apologies. I also appeal for a spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness amongst us all.”
This is an excerpt of a statement of apology by the country’s first president the late Ngwazi Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda on January 4, 1996 shortly after being acquitted in the infamous Mwanza Trial.
Kamuzu knew he had left behind a two face legacy. One, of a celebrated icon and the other, the bigger one unfortunately, of an iron fisted ruler people would not dilly dally to incorporate in the brackets of the ruthless of dictators to have graced the African continent.
True to the his fears, Kamuzu’s name still splits the political pundits, the intellectuals, the academicians and indeed the men on the street with some hailing the “Lion” as Kamuzu was fondly known, as the greatest leader the country has ever had and others loving to hate the Ngwazi to an extent of calling for a complete edit of the country’s history scrolls just to rid the nation of the what they say is a nauseating and stinking episode of Kamuzu’s rule in the history of the nation.
Granted, Kamuzu, had his flaws, just like his predecessors and successors. Infringements of people’s rights, the ruthless Malawi Young Pioneers, the detentions without trial, the overzealous censorship of works of art and the staged “accidents” that claimed the lives of some innocents sons of this nations indeed left a stain on the fabric of our nation’s history.
But that be as may to suggest that Kamuzu be erased from the annals of our history is toeing a step too far, it is to say the least, throwing a bouncing baby together with the bathwater.
As former president Bakili Muluzi used to say during his reign, “History safuta ayi, olo ingaipe bwanji! (You do not erase a country’s history, whether it’s good or bad). As a nation, keeping the history of Kamuzu can not only be due to what Atcheya rightly used to say. Rather it is the silver lining to Kamuzu’s cloud that as a nation, we must revel in and take aspirations . The flaws? Should they not serve as a board the nation should draw its lessons from?
The Life of Kamuzu Banda, the son to Mphonongo Banda and Akupingamnyama, should
Give Malawians the atleast something to draw pride from. Both as an individual and a leader of our state.
As an individual, Kamuzu portrayed a never give up and never say die attitude in his quest for a better life. At a tender age of 13 he set off, on foot, with his uncle Hannock Msokera Phiri for Hartley, presesent day Zimbabwe, where he, a year later proceeded to Johannesburg to work in the mines in his chase for a better life. Perhaps it is this hardworking attitude that forced Bishop W.T. Vernon of the African Methodist Church to offer to pay Kamuzu’s tuition fee at A Methodist School in the United States of America on the condition that Kamuzu funds his own passage to Uncle Sam.
His hard work saw him further his education which climaxed in the attainment of a second medical degree from the University of Edinburgh. This however was just a preamble to a greater service of liberation which Banda would pay to his native and indeed our country Malawi.
Breaking the “stupid” federation.
Kamuzu’s enviable sense of patriotism while in Diaspora deserves special mention. He already had his sights on breaking the “stupid” federation even when he was in the cold lands. While overseas Kamuzu never for once forgot his native country. While at Bloomington, he wrote several essays about his native Chewa culture in particular and Malawi in general. In all this, Kamuzu was keenly following the events in this country and was bold enough to end his 42 stay abroad to come home and lead his kinsmen to freedom. Quite a bold leader.
When fighting the federation, Kamuzu risked his won life and indeed that of the majority of Malawians fighting for the same cause as his. But being the Brave leader Kamuzu was, he caused a stir enough to make the British protectorate rise up and take notice of the struggle of Malawians in their attempt to break free from the federation. Despite Being arrested on March 3 1959 for his role in the “Operation Sunrise,” Kamuzu was never deterred and continuing leading his country to independence when he got out of Gwelo (now Gweru) in April 1960.
He traveled to Britain to partake in independence talks which resulted in the Britain, through its Secretary of State for African Affairs R.A Butler to bow down to the mounting pressure and agree to end the Federation in December 1962. 4 years later and six years after his return Kamuzu successfully attained independence for the country and choose the name “Malawi” to replace Nyasaland.
Such an achievement may now, 49 years down time, seem a not so important feat for some of the people in this country to give Kamuzu the credit he desearves for achieving it. But malice aside, it can not be an exaggeration to say that this country will forever be indebted to Kamuzu for firstly breaking the stupid federation as he termed it and secondly for leading the nation to its independence.
These were no easy feats. They had been tried before by the Likes of John Chilembwe but, without taking anything from them, not achieved. People like John Chilembwe lost their lives and Kamuzu was well aware of such a threat when he came home. But he came all the same to fight neither for himself nor for his family but for the people of the entire nation. Kamuzu, for this feat has every reason to be hailed as a hero of this nation.
This well accounted history of our independence should be taught within ourselves with pride. Our kids in our schools must know this piece of history like a pastor should his words. They too must be able to take pride In the fact that a person from their own country was able to rise up against the white man in as early as the 1960’s to ensure that they enjoy the freedom they are enjoying. That their parents bury to the grave the notorious Thangata. That were able to jump into any bus and lounge themselves in any seat in that bus, next to anyone without feeling ashamed of their skin color.
Even more to tell them that a country like South Africa Had to wait until the early 1990’s to enjoy such freedoms owing to a delayed attainment of freedom. Why then should we as a country fail to honor Kamuzu?
Visionary leadership and national development
After taking over the reins of power from the British, Kamuzu showed right away that he had come to develop the nation through massive infrastructural development. Shortly after attaining independence, Banda promised that he would enact the
To appreciate the magnitude of Kamuzu’s achievement in assembling the University of Malawi, which ended with the formation of the College of Medicine in 1991, one just has to appreciate that since then, the country has had just a single University in the name of Mzuzu merely turned into one from an already established secondary school. It therefore is not an exaggeration to say that the majority of the country has is and will continue to s benefit from university education because of Kamuzu. Why then should we as a nation fail to celebrate the life of Kamuzu?
Banda’s vision of transforming the country also manifested itself through the various infrastructural Development Policies (DEVPOLs) documents that Kamuzu adopted for the development of the country since 1964. These are the policies that saw Kamuzu singlehandedly, relocate the capital city from Zomba to Lilongwe against the wish of the British government who opted for the capital city to shift to Blantyre.
Kamuzu instituted the Capital City Development Corporation which catapulted the building of the capital city. A new road connecting Blantyre, Zomba and Lilongwe was built under this initiative, the government seat at Capital Hill and other buildings that we are still proud of as a nation today such as the Malawi Hotels Limited, currently trading as SunBird Hotels were built. It was under Kamuzu that the country experienced its first economic boom during the mid to the late 1970s owing to Kamuzu’s sound management of the country’s major companies.
It would also be absurd to delete from the history of this country the dynamic leadership with which Kamuzu Banda made Malawi almost a Hunger Free nation during his entire reign save for some few and far between notable years of famine such as 1949.
Kamuzu encouraged Malawians to invest heavily in their agricultural fields to ensure a hunger free nation. A wise encouragement this was considering that the majority of the populace was illiterate. The farm clubs which were playing a crucial role in providing advisory and farm inputs assistance to the local farmers proved to be of massive importance in making the national granaries full year in year out. As a country we only need to cast our memories back to the past few years in which the country’s granaries run out of its stocks to appreciate the magnitude of Kamuzu’s wise leadership that enabled him to make Malawi a food secure nation for three decades.
It may also sound absurd but it is true that Kamuzu need to be hailed in his efforts in his role in promoting the rights of women in this country. Kamuzu’s reign was very supportive of women rights as compared to other African government of his era. This was evident by the formation of the Chitukuko Cha Amayi m’Malawi, (CCAM), a grouping which aimed to address and fight the challenges that our mothers faced during Kamuzu’s reign.
In terms of international relations, there are also some lessons that we can draw from Kamuzu. Controversial as his association with the Apartheid government of South Africa might have been which Kamuzu got a lot of stick for anyway, Kamuzu chose a plausible approach by urging fellow African leaders to concentrate on convincing the South African government that apartheid was an evil than need not show its face on earth. Quite an a plausible approach than a hostile approach which many African countries wanted to take.
When all about why Kamuzu must be celebrated by the nation is said and done, it is worth exposing and highlighting the atrocities that the Africa’s “odd man out” committed to some of the countries personalities, societies, tribes, regions and at times to the country in general. We as a nation need to be vigilant in arresting any possible re-emergence of such calamities.
That said, let the country be not blinded by the consequences of such calamities so much as so forget the service that Kamuzu rendered to this nation. If he admitted and apologies to those he or his cronies hurt in his name during his reign, why then should we as a nation not demonstrate the “God fearing nation” we as a nation fame ourselves for and celebrate the positives of the great man who founded and fathered a great nation that is our country.
Today, on his day, let us celebrate the life of a brave man who dared death to liberate his people. Let us take pride in a leader who instilled discipline, unity and obedience in his nation to the admiration of many a leader, including our incumbent president. The leader who deserves to be hailed as the cornerstone of this nation.
i will counter this tommorow.....