Political slave trade in Malawi: When will Malawians be free?

African countries have passed through many tribulations in the hands of a white man ranging from Thangata system of agriculture, slave trade, colonialism, and neo-colonialism. Way back in 1400 and 1500 before slave trade, there was what was called Thangata system of agriculture in Malawi when people worked in plantations without wage. John Chilembwe fought this though not successful enough. He ended up loosing his life. May his soul rest in peace! This time was called Chilembwe uprising! However, we thank God, thangata ended.

When people thought they were free, came slave trade. Slave trade can be traced back to 1600 to early 1833. In central Africa slave trade was influenced by the chiefs’ covetousness to have prestigious life style of their time not compared to our digital one of course. Africa was/is rich in gold, silver, bauxite, ivory and other natural resources.Traders came to Africa including Central Africa to trade salt, beads, pieces of clothes, gun powder, metal and many others in exchange with gold, silver, bauxite, ivory and others. As time went by, thesse traders started developing their places with resources from Africa. This included infrastructures and also much in plantations. This made western traders to start being interested in human trade to help in buildings, plantations and domestic work. This came to be called “slave trade”.

Since chiefs were the point of contact for trade, slave traders did not steal slaves but bargained with them of whom after testing the fashioned clothes leaving out nyanda, winning more women’s hearts through beads, having sense of security through guns and testing dry salt, they yielded to greed and put their subjects for sale. The trade took almost two and half centuries with chiefs benefiting while at the same time loosing strong young men who would develop their areas. It was until 1800s when people like William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson, Methodist preachers, John Newton, Granville Sharp, Olaudah Equiano, Ignitius Sancho, John Wesley and others fought against it and the trade came to an end. The British government realised the evil in slave trade and passed the act to abolish it in July, 1833 in the House of Commons, and on 1st August 1833, in the House of Lords. We thank God slave trade ended.multiparty

When Africans thought they were free, colonialism dawned. Westerners came in a different skin, the administration skin. They came to rule headless chickens in Africa. In the name of the so called Over Seas Management and Administration (BOMA), they continued to take away resources. Our forefathers were forced to pay tribute to develop the white man’s land. Our forefathers could hide in the trees or curves running away from paying tax because they didn’t have money since mzungu had taken what belonged to them. The ordinary black man was just a development tool not to be developed. The westerners divided Africa as if no one existed before (partition of African nations). The map we have today bringing conflicts were demarcated by them but now they are watching African conflicts from a distance saying almost nothing or even fueling them. When you see them coming in, you know that they have self-interest. Starting with Egypt in 1924, then 1957, Ghana and many other countries including Malawi in 1960s to South Africa’s 1994, Africa got independence.

When people thought they were free, one party system of government dominated with many of them killing those with opposite ideas. Malawi is unexceptional to this with political slave trade being introduced. We were forced to buy cards in order to access hospitals, markets, classrooms, even grinding mills. The cards were good but the way they were sold was oppressive. Since there was regional competition between Malawi Youth League in selling cards, some barbarous MYLs forced pregnant women to buy a card for the unborn. We were sitting down during Kamuzu rallies. One could not stand up to go and help himself/herself because the army, police, Malawi Young Pioneers and Malawi Youth League were everywhere and could beat anyone trying to stand up. The only thing one could do in such situation was to just do it right there or wait until the end of the rally if s/he is able. Men were apprehended, detained and beaten for denying their wives to dance for Kamuzu Banda. People’s cars were used to carry people to rallies without the owners’ consent or wage. Lucky you who were not born during this period! Note that some of these things were done without the knowledge of Kamuzu Banda but by some cruel people who wanted to please him. He truly denied some of the allegations after loosing power to Bakili Muluzi in 1994. Well, we forgave him for he repented, that’s why we still consider him a hero.

When we obtained democracy in 1994 through the brave work of catholic fathers and democrats such as Chakufwa Chihana and Bakili Muluzi, Malawians thought they were free, unfortunately not yet. Muluzi’s reign was marked with intimidations to chiefs and religious leaders with some of them being beaten in public, corruption, hunger, theft, murder crimes and others. Democracy was not fully attained. His words of “zinthu zisintha basii” did not match with his actions. Bakili could bring lorries packed with maize during hunger times promising people that at the end of the rally, the maize was going to be distributed with Mk50 for grinding given to each maize beneficiary. Before the rally was over, tracks were driven away and the same maize was shown to another gathering. It was psychological torture, political slave trade, when people’s trust was sold. He could promise people shoes and later changes tune and says; “do I know your sizes?”

He could tell people saying. “ndikubweretserani feteleza waulere (I will give you free fertilizer)”. When reminded, he could say “sindinanene kuti feteleza waulere ndinanena kuti feteleza wa uleya (Urea), kodi a Malawi mumamva bwanji? (I didn’t say free fertilizer, i said Urea fertilizer, Malawians, why do you have problems to understand)?” People’s minds were being tortured and being enslaved by politics. Bakili moved through without much political party opposition because it was the only strong party beside MCP and none wished to go back to MCP regime. Bakili became untouchable also but his challengers were Civil Society Organisations such as PAC. Lucky you who were not old enough to feel it!

Bingu wa Mutharika started at a humble note in his first five years and everyone including those who did not vote for him appreciated his work but faced serious opposition from MCP and the dumped UDF who were the majority in the house. He later came up with a strategy to win Malawians’ hearts by using chiefs who were also used by slave traders. He started elevating and paying chiefs well, something good. Chiefs started having gowns during his reign and through them tarnished the name of the opposition parties for denying passing budget because they were in favour of applying section 65 first. He stabilised economy, there was food and social security. He had national interest at heart. This gave him an opportune time; he won with landslide in 2009 general elections. Did you know? If you want to get votes from most Malawians, give them food, they will not care about other constitutional issues or policies, but food. This is what Bingu did.

After winning with landslide, it was a payback time for Malawians. Professor became untouchable though patriotic to some extent. Joyce Banda and Khumbo Kachali fell out of his grace and unceremoniously parted ways while Banda was still the vice president. Joyce Banda,  Khumbo Kachali and others formed People’s Party. Mutharika made enemies in and out, never listened to advice, bills were just passing in the parliament against citizens’ wish such as that of changing the flag though some things he was against were sensible such as denying legalising homosexuality, arrests were effected on petty issues, religious leaders were again under threats, violation of human rights and constitution was worsening again, going back to real Ngwazi era. His obduracy led to collapsing of economy. Fuel and forex became scarce like the church fight.  When citizens wanted to express their dissatisfaction, alas, 20 of them were shot dead by the police on 20 July, 2011. People were inslaved in their own country, their own votes betrayed them. Political slave trade! However CSOs and Church leaders were not quiet, they really criticized him until his death. May his soul rest in peace!

When Joyce Banda ascended to power, Malawians thought they have attained social and economic freedom, unfortunately not yet. Some Malawians celebrated the death of Mutharika in secret, thinking it was God’s will so that Joyce Banda, a God sent would rule. Well, we thank God that we have a woman leader so that we make a good comparison. We have seen that a woman can also handle presidential position. She has rectified international relations, fuel and forex scarcity is no longer our problem but unfortunately very expensive to afford and uncertain price rates. She started with misuse of public funds (celebrating 100 days in office) something that never happened with the former presidents. Others were wondering, “is she celebrating 100 days in office or Bingu’s death?”

Joyce Banda who accused Mutharika of misusing chiefs has taken after her predecessor. She has gone to the extent of directly involving them in her own party by offering party positions. Like I said in my other article, chiefs are again used to gain people’s votes and we will soon be dumped when we put these politicians on positions. Security has collapsed; people are killed day in day out to the extent of jumping the face and start killing investors. Women are being raped, people’s goods are no longer secure, things have become so expensive to afford, hunger looming again. More money is coming from donors, yes, but no tactual benefits are seen out of it. I hear, presidential jet was sold but who knows where the money has gone? Mother Malawi, when will you be free? People who messed up things during Bakili and Bingu are now with Joyce Banda, what new do we expect from them? Tell me, how many are new in this administration? All are recycled politicians protecting their interests not ours. Section 65 continues to be ignored.

I feel for MBC and Malawi Police for they continue to be abused by every government. MBC clues are used as campaign tools by every government and if anyone seems to oppose, he/she is fired or transfered to a department not matching his/her profession. The same with the police, they arrest people on trivial cases in the name of orders from above. They are no free. If the opposition party wins election in 2014, most people affected for change of government are police officers and MBC workers for supporting the previous government. Why can’t we let these departments work with nuetrality? When will they be free and enjoy their work? They are enslaved by uncivilised Malawian politics.

People who formed the task force against Bingu are now defending the same things they accused him about. They are enjoying life while the ordinary voter has no stake to bite. Now these people are coming close to us to get votes after which they will dump us again. Like road construction machine, voters construct economic triumph road for politicians but never move through it because they are denied to drive on it. Our mum has vehemently declined to re-declare assets saying she did when she was the vice president. We hear claims that she redeclared early this year, why was she denying that she can’t redeclare? Has she really redeclared? If yes, why not made public? If she can’t redeclare because she did while she  the vice president, why did she accept taking another oath when ascending to presidency when she already did when she was the vice president? Malawians are taken for granted and enslaved by political elites.

My question is; who are we going to trust? When will Malawians be free? 2014 is coming, let us pray that God gives us a leader who will not betray and psychologically enslave us but working towards the good of all citizens. Our only chance to do away with recycled politicians is 2014, let’s vote in new blood. I wish our constitution gave MPs term limit so that we completely do away with politicians who have been betraying us. I encourage all young people to take part in voter registration so that, whatever happens after 2014, we don’t blame anyone but our own choice.

God, please, give us a trustful leader during 2014 elections (Luke 4:18-19).

  • Robert Masikamu (Public Advisor) writes excusively for Nyasa Times. Other online media are free to copy and paste his articles on their websites.
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