Malawians mark Kamuzu Day: Ngwazi left a legacy more lasting than bronze

Today, May 14, is Kamuzu Day – the official birthday of Malawi’s first president, the late Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda.

Kamuzu Banda

Kamuzu Banda

Kamuzu with Nelson Mandela

Kamuzu with former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Kamuzu with former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Kamuzu had class, jere 'Alidzi' seen riding posh Rolls-Royce on, the convertible roof lowers

Kamuzu had class, jere ‘Alidzi’ seen riding posh Rolls-Royce on, the convertible roof lowers

Kamuzu Academy in Kasungu

Kamuzu Academy in Kasungu

Kamuzu Moseleum in Lilongwe

Kamuzu Moseleum in Lilongwe

Kamuzu: Rest we forget

Kamuzu: Lest we forget

Kamuzu’s kinfolk, the Chendawaka Family has organised a memorial service and a gospel music festival at Kamuzu’s home in Kasungu District.

This public holiday-albeit enjoyed by the whole nation for 30 years, was first banned when the country attained multiparty democracy in 1993 but was reverted by former President, late Bingu wa Mutharika in 2009. But it does not enjoy the same pomp it used to have when Kamuzu was alive such as the military guard of honour and parade at Kamuzu Stadium and the traditional dances later at Sanjika Palace.

That the more reason why the Chendawaka Family decided that they should organise their own activities to celebrate the life and achievement of this Father and Founder of the Malawi Nation, a title he was fondly used to be described by in his 30-year rule of Malawi.

The late Bingu, in declaring the Kamuzu Day back as a public holiday, said he always held the former Head of State with the highest esteem through the various infrastructure that speak volumes of the development foundation of this country – the Capital Hill, the lakeshore road, the University of Malawi that specialised in breeding the highly educated technocrats such as lawyers, lecturers, engineers, architects, nurses, high school teachers and doctors.

There is the grammar school, Kamuzu Academy that has greatly contributed the elite professionals in the country’s industry, the Kamuzu International Airport, the meandering Blantyre-Chikwawa and the Kacheche-Chiweta roads and the Chiromo Bridge in Nsanje that catered for both railway and vehicles. Then there is Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre which he upgraded and added to it the special wing – Gogo Chatinkha Martenity Wing, the Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe and all the hospitals across the country.

The examples are just too many to mention – Kamuzu left a legacy more lasting than bronze.

But why was the holiday banned in the first place? When people were fighting for multiparty democracy at the beginning of 1993, Kamuzu was demonised just to disenchant him from the masses because the one-party leady exuded a certain aura on his people and was worshipped as an iconic father-figure. The opposition had to demonise almost everything around him in order to entice people to vote en-masse against Malawi Congress Party for the 1993 Referendum and the 1994 General Elections.

Thus the opposition mounted attractive de-campaigning slogans against Kamuzu which won the sympathy of the masses. In their campaign, the multi-party activists included the infamous Mwanza Accident; crocodiles farms that were allegedly used as the gallows for those deemed to have crossed paths with Kamuzu; the forced party cards which denied people access to the market or get into public buses if forgotten at home if one is not willing to buy a fresh one; Malawi Young Pioneers – the paramilitary wing that terrorised innocent Malawians over petty political issues; the Youth League –  the party cadres that beat up women for washing napkins on 3rd March, the Martyrs Day; the stringent dress code that sent women to jail for wearing miniskirts or trousers; the lack of freedom of speech; all these warranted as a de-campaign strategy for the opposition in order to bring sanity to a nation and to conform to the true meaning of democracy.

But, as is the culture in Malawi, the dead are always respected. When Kamuzu died on25th of November 1997, he was glorified for the good things we see and the nation was told to forget the alleged evil that was rumoured about him.

The eulogies were heart rending. The newspapers went to town with impressive headlines. Special supplements were published with catchy headlines alongside the famous public portrait of his with a lion beside him. Former South Africa President, late Nelson Mandela, described Kamuzu as a ‘liberator’, for “supporting and funding the Liberation Front in Zimbabwe” and that when Mandela was released from prison “Dr. Banda sent him a huge sum of money which he did not request for”.

Prominent lawyer Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa, then working as subeditor at The Daily Times before he went back to Chancellor College to study law, wrote a special poem – ‘Ode to D.O.F.; More than a legend” –  in which he said in part: “Tradition says/Scorn him when alive/And praise him at the grave/But the legend has shown:/He was great and intelligent/From youth to the end”.

A speech reproduced in one the special editions was that he made on the eve of Independence in 1964: “We are where we are now because we believe that freedom is the birthright of Man, it belongs to him by right of his humanity, and for this we fought…Let us discipline ourselves to work hard and dedicate anew our energies in the services of this country.”

On the eve of the 1993 Referendum, Kamuzu made an historic speech in which he said: “Go about your voting procedures in an orderly and dignified manner, respecting each other as Malawians have always done. You should all remember that how you conduct yourselves during and after the referendum is most important since it will not only show our level of maturity as a nation but whether we move forward as a nation or degenerate into chaos. We should remember that the greatness of a nation derives from the worthy actions of its people.” He signed off by his usual salutation: “Bwanas and Donas, you have my best wishes”.

After all eulogies were made, the country stood still as the reverie reverberated at his final resting place at Capital Hill, which once was called Mphungu Village and where lies the Kamuzu mausoleum, complete with a statue –  courtesy of late President Bingu wa Mutharika – who reignited Malawians to continue holding Kamuzu with the highest esteem he deserves by bringing back the Kamuzu Day holiday.

Kamuzu Academy, the top grammar school that he founded in 1981 has the motto, ‘Honor Deo et Patriae’ (Latin for Honour your God and Fatherland) – it teaches patriotism and giving thanks to God for the precious gift of life. In celebrating the life of Kamuzu, Malawians honour their God for the life of the Father and Founder of the Malawi Nation.

May he ‘Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine et lux perpetua luceat eis’ Latin for ‘rest in God’s peace’ as said by as Kamuzu Academy Trustees and the Board of Governors in the condolence message they placed in the The Daily Times of December 3, 1997

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GONANI
Guest
GONANI
4 months 11 days ago
I just want to tell all the empty heads (kapena dingoti zipukupuku nonse amene mwalemba ndowe apa) who have commented rubbish here that you are mother fuckers! You need to be tought a lesson how to appreciate good things. What can you show us that your so called democratic presidents have done? The moment the Ngwazi stepped down the country has been on the downward spiral. Muluzi was just bulding mosques everywhwhere with government money at the expence of all the developments that Ngwazi had left. Other than that there is nothing. Bingu brought back our dignity by building on… Read more »
Winston Msowoya
Guest
Winston Msowoya
4 months 11 days ago

We still have millions of Malawians who lack authentic history of their own country hence the brutal savage exploited their ignorance to the fullest.Let me correct Mr.Mediocre Malawi that Queens Hospital in Blantyre was not built by Mphonongo Banda,but it was built by the then Roy Welensky’s Federal Government of Rhodesia and Nyasaland before Banda set foot in Malawi from his homeland of Ghana.Please know your history before you mislead the people.WAKEUP YOU MBAVA!!!

JJ
Guest
JJ
4 months 12 days ago

Don’t compare oranges and cooking oil. Don’t compare the leadership of a dictator and that of a democratic leader. Compare dictator vs. dictator. Compare the performance of dictator Kamuzu with that of dictators in other countries in Kamuzu era e.g. dictators in Tanzani, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, etc. You will notice that Kamuzu was underperformer and a mediocre leader. After all he had no relatives here. He was just an imposter. His people were in Ghaina where he built his hospital.

Historian
Guest
Historian
4 months 13 days ago
Kamuzu Banda was unquestionably a Malawian. Yes he found Malawians literally naked and he left them literally blind. While the rest of her neighbors were investing in infrastructure, Ngwazi focused his energy on crushing his opponents. Dr. Attati Mpakati, Yatuta Chisiza and Mr Orton Chirwa. He knew the secret to his lifetime sitting on the throne was denying Malawians some visible freedoms he himself enjoyed. He even put a strict dressing code! The Ngwazi was a heartless dictator. He fooled Malawians. Some Malawians could not accept it when it was reported that he had died. They thought by his title… Read more »
ujen
Guest
ujen
4 months 13 days ago

A leader is recognised by his/her absence. If Kamuzu was so great then how come we who lived with him do not know what to do with our country .He either did not teach us see or we did not want to follow him. Whatever the case might be we have refused to be like him.o Only Binguuadmired him guess what came of Bi ngu. Like student line mentor II feel fortunate gust the good lord has given me wisdom to see where others can’t see.

naphili
Guest
naphili
4 months 13 days ago

Ghananian or Malawian, at least he did a lot for this country! And of course he had class and was well respected outside Malawi.What have your so called leaders done since, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

mediocre malawi
Guest
mediocre malawi
4 months 13 days ago

Roads, universities queen elizabeth central hospital etc. Are these exceptional achievements or just part of his job description. Mediocrity at its best malawians. Who are you comparing kamuzu with.?he left malawi the poorest country in the world and you call such a person an achiever. If kamuzu never stole the presidency from the deserving young men like chisiza, chirwa, you think we wouldnt hv university or roads?

JJ
Guest
JJ
4 months 13 days ago

Nobody can challenge me or prove that this imposter “Kamuzu” was a Malawian. What I know is that this imposter was a Ghainian and I can prove it.

Howard Kaunga
Guest
Howard Kaunga
4 months 13 days ago

Access to the net should not be abused. Let us avoid castigation of fallen heads of our beloved state of Malawi by being a little smart. let us show that we are responsible writers and that we are not educated savages,please.if we have grudges with the departed souls, then you can consult the Kamuzu family, who I think, are very ready to compensate you because it appears you do not understand the importance of Kamuzu in Malawian history and beyond.

laston
Guest
laston
4 months 13 days ago

sizochita kukakamiza, ngati zakumvuta vomereza ndi kuzitsiya kuti ena ayendetse.
sibwino kukakamira,amalawi akumvutika.kamuzu anali tate wa fuko la malawi osati izi tikuwona panozi.

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