Ten years ago, on a day like Tuesday last week, precisely June 14, we could not have spent the day, as usual, at our various working places, working.
Most of us could have been home, or relaxed somewhere, reflecting on the critical relevance of June 14 to the country’s political history.
June 14 1993, we all know, is a day Malawians took to a decisive referendum to publicly reject their long time silent hatred of 31 years of Kamuzu Banda’s dictatorship.
It was a day and year that marked the complete deletion of dictatorship—a historical moment that, with just a vote, summed the collective and shared spirit of how a nation, a people, chose the direction and tone of how they should be governed.
As such, June 14 is a critical day and so critical that, every time it is invoked, it bears testimony to the ideal that power to govern shall always be drawn from the sustained trust and wish of the governed.
It was against preserving such an ideal, with a goal to inform and inspire generations to come, that the Bakili Muluzi government made June 14 a public holiday.
That decision was quite befitting not just to the ideals of human freedom it represents, but also the honour it carries to men and women who took part in ending Kamuzu Banda’s 31-year-rule of death and darkness.
Unfortunately, when Bingu wa Mutharika accidentally rose to the Presidency in 2004, he, alone—charged by politicking not a sense of statesmanship and collective memory—just moved and scrapped off June 14 as a public holiday.
The gravity of that decision by Bingu lies mostly in what it does to our collective memory.
The discourse that emerges is of a nation that values the deeds of one man whose rule, let us face it, left terrible scars on our conscious.
I don’t know about you, but I refuse, with a deep sense of arrogance and protest, such a discourse.
I refuse to let the might and spirit of those that—amid threats, whips, property forfeiture and killings—braved the seasons and voted NO to continued Kamuzu’s 31-year-rule of ‘death and darkness’, to use the late Chakufwa Chihana’s catchphrase.
Kamuzu Banda, like every subsequent president, was not extraordinary. I argue, and I can write a paper on this, that he was just an average leader with a privilege of having too much power to dictate things to the advantage of himself and those close to him.
If you read the history of the rise of once referred to as a Third World countries, you will note a striking trend. Most of them developed during the policies that were dictated through between the 1970s and 80s.
Kamuzu Banda had all the power and authority to dictate development in Malawi. When a 1993 UN report revealed that Malawians had become poorer than they were in 1964 it was an indication that—despite Kamuzu’s manufactured development consent imposed on Malawians—the true picture out there was that of gross failure.
And he failed.
As such, I submit, as a concerned Malawian, that Kamuzu should not be in our collective memory as extraordinary, rather as just one of the presidents that have ruled Malawi.
It is imperative, therefore, that Kamuzu Day must fall and Freedom Day should be reinstated.
Is anyone out there with me?
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