Calls for Malawi to bring back Freedom Day: Scrape off Kamuzu Day holiday, ‘it’s glorifying rejected dictator

Some Malawians and commentators have argued that Kamuzu Day holiday on May 14  to celebrate the life of founding president Hastings Kamuzu Bands who died on November 25 in 1997 must fall and Freedom Day should be reinstated on June 14.

This historic ballot which Muluzi defated Kamuzu in 1994 elections

Ballot paper in 1994 elections that ushered multiparty government

Ngwazi Kamuzu Banda: It has been alleged that those who opposed Banda were
arrested, tortured, sent into exile, and sometimes maimed or killed.

Bakili Muluzi votes 17 May 1994 in Ntaja, his home village, in Malawi’s election that brought the end of Kamuzu Banda’s 30 year autocratic rule of Malawi.

Those who spoke to Nyasa Times said holiday on May 14 and should be scrapped off and the nation should stop glorifying the rejected dictator if democracy still matters as it did in 1993 when Malawians wanted change.

Kamuzu Day has often been a low key event and is mostly celebrated by his family  and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).

Malawians want to the Freedom Day on June 14 back so that citizens should commemorate reintroduction of multi-party democracy in the country and share history to the youth on the struggles to end one-party dictatorship.

June 14, 1993 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.

The day was set aside by former president Bakili Muluzi, Malawi’s first democratically elected president in 1994, who gallantly fought for multiparty democracy and defeated Kamuzu in 1994 elections.

Muluzi’s handpicked successor, late Bingu wa Mutharika who rose to the Presidency in 2004 —charged by politicking not a sense of statesmanship and collective memory—just moved and scrapped off June 14 as a public holiday.

“Hypocrites are leaders who muted the June 14 holiday immortalizing the Big No to the excesses of the so-called ‘father and founder of the Malawi Nation’ in preference for an overdrive in honour of the very monster we wholeheartedly wanted to forget,” James Chavula is on record writing.

And another writer Ephraim Nyondo also argued that is imperative that Kamuzu Day must fall and Freedom Day should be reinstated.

He argues that the nation should not value the deeds of one man whose rule left terrible scars on people’s 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,” he wrote.

Great and honoured in his fighting times, revered and reviled in the three decades Kamuzu ruled and fallen graciously in his end, he was one of Malawi’s rare son, the nation’s fighting and liberating spirit only fallen in the memories of posterity as ‘that dictator’.

University of Malawi political scientist, Blessings Chinsinga, believes Kamuzu was responsible for atrocities  since he was the president of the country.

“We may not say he was directly responsible for the killings. But since he was a leader and in control of Malawi’s administration, he was to blame. Thus he sanctioned those incidents just as leaders give authorities,” explains Chinsinga.

Some political experts share the view that Kamuzu was responsible because as president, he was responsible for the welfare of his people and incidents as those could not have happened behind his back.

External and internal pressure forced Kamuzu to call for a referendum in 1993, giving Malawians a chance to choose whether they wanted to continue with his one party authoritarian rule or to adopt multi-party democracy. 64% of Malawians chose the latter. This led to a 1994 general elections where Kamuzu lost to Bakili Muluzi. Kamuzu was gracious in defeat; he congratulated Muluzi and wished him well before the vote count was over.

Before his death November of 1997, the aged and frail Kamuzu made a public statement asking Malawians who suffered under his autocratic leadership to forgive him. It was an unprecedented and unexpected move. The once mighty “lion” had been humbled, it could no longer roar and it was now owning up to its brutal past. Malawi prides itself as a “God fearing nation”, so probably Kamuzu knew that these “God fearing people” would indeed forgive him, as their Bibles teach. Kamuzu tolerated no dissent or opposing views for the entire 30 years he was in office. If Malawi is indeed a “God fearing” nation then Kamuzu was second inline – he was a demigod to be feared and revered.

Kamuzu created an inward-looking country, where he acquired this divine status that all his people were supposed to look up to.

Muluzi was slightly different probably because he was a direct successor. Yet he did his best to erase Kamuzu’s name, renaming almost everything that bore Kamuzu’s name. It was Bingu wa  Mutharika who built Kamuzu’s lavish mausoleum at taxpayers’ expense. Yet in life Mutharika , who also copied the Kamuzu title of ‘Ngwazi’, feared Kamuzu so much that he spent years in self-imposed exile during Kamuzu’s reign. After only one year in office, Joyce Banda also already renamed State House “Kamuzu Palace”.

It is this kind of nostalgia that has compromised transitional justice in Malawi. Malawi could well be the only country that celebrates the life of its autocratic dictator.

Tossing around Kamuzu’s name and image as a political tool is making Kamuzu into a heroic saint that bears little resemblance to the historical record. He was a ruthless authoritarian that caused a lot of pain to many people whose relatives and parents languished in jails, exile and some were killed without committing any crime at all. He ran a state without a justice system. He was the sole arbiter of truth. This is the side of Kamuzu that is slowly being erased from nation history, deliberately or not, and as we blur the lines of our past, it becomes more and more difficult to understand our present. Airbrushing Kamuzu’s legacy and creating false nostalgia that is only aimed at diverting the national psyche from current leadership failures is not only injustice for those that suffered during his reign, it also stifles national progress and development.

Malawi will not develop if nostalgia and hero-worshiping are drivers of its leadership. The country needs visionary leaders ready for public service. Leaders with policies that can drive the nation forward; this has nothing to do with anybody’s age, gender or tribe. Here the electorate have a role to pay: look beyond personalities and focus on their policies instead.

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34 Comments on "Calls for Malawi to bring back Freedom Day: Scrape off Kamuzu Day holiday, ‘it’s glorifying rejected dictator"

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All leaders who became presidents after colonialism in Africa were dictators as thatwas the only way to enforce what they believe will promote their movements. Its not only Kamuzu, but also all African leaders you can name. Democracy came later in life as the best way of sharing leadership. As such you people who still harbrour hatrage of Kamuzu you must grow up. Whether you want it or not he was the one who lead us after colonialism as such Kamuzu day should stand. However, if you have grudges against him I can only feel sorry for you

parties without presidential candidates
parties without presidential candidates

Chilembwe Day shoud be the first to be removed. Palibe anachita iye.
Hosting young chaps at sangika is not good leadership. Masanje eni. Anawo sangayiwale Mavuto amend akukumana nawo ku ma universities. Alibe fees, salandira allowances ngati kale, akuphunzira mmalo oyipa, too many strikes.
Appeasement of qouta system products. Kkkkkkkk. Brainy students of past can’t act foolishly like this. l

Keen Observer

I think the students themselves are to be blamed here cos imagine someone from College of Medicines, Chancellor College, Poly, Banda whatever you call it these days to go Sanjika just because of 20k? They’re supposed to be those who are well informed, well knowledgeable that they can resist but alas they’re the ones who say they go to endorse The Professor. It’s not not their duty to endorse him, it’s the duty of the party members from the branches at the convention to do that.

winston msowoya
Banda did not create the Nation of Malawi and afterall,he is not a Malawian per-se.I strongly uphold those patriotic Malawians who demand that Kamuzu day be scraped once and forall.His rule has created dangerous divisions tribalistically and politically.He did this deliberately to rule the people like goats and indeed,he succeeded in his mission that has its roots up to this day.Having spent most of my lifetime in exile,iam not sure whether John Chilembwe is accorded the same respect.Personally,I would be overwhelmed if he is indeed,accorded such an honour by the Malawians.This is the man we can call the father of… Read more »

MCP is now new blood so don’t lie to us and mislead people. Nkhalamba zonse who were cruel in the 70s and 80s now belong to DPP, UDF and PP. FYI Bakili Muluzi was the leader of MYP and he authorized all cruel activities. Go back and read history books.


Such stories are Created to divert our attention from Real Issues. Why should government vehicles be Used to ferry Students to Sanjika for a Party Function? Police and Immigration vehicles. Osati izi.Ntchito za a Ngwazi zawachitira umboni zokha.Olo mutatothesa maholiday.Dzuwa salozelana.


Whatever you are for, whether changing it or retaining it, I have no problem. I am a Malawian living in diaspora in the first world. All our holidays are observed over the weekend. So I would advocate for moving the holiday to be a simple weekend celebration and let national development continue during the week with normal week work. Unless you tell me that the Malawian worker is not productive then we can continue to lose those precious hours of work.

Keen Observer

Which diaspora Sir that observes public holidays only weekend?

A malawi ndinu anthu ogana kwambiri no wonder chifukwa chake wina aliyense amangonena zoti kamuzu anali munthu oyipa ngankhale ndi ife amene tinabadwa ma 90s we say kamuzu anali wakhaza. That cheap politics is the reason why Malawi remains the poorest nation on this planet. We are busy fighting for useless thing’s koma Chaponda akamaba ma billion we come in numbers praising him. Keneth Kaunda in Zambia it is said that anapha anthu ambiri mu ulamuliro wake but they still regard him as a father because they understand that mundali muli zambiri. Chisanu of Mozambique ana anthu ambiri koma amamutenga… Read more »
Binnwell Kachikopa
Most Malawians are jelousy, ignorance rules much in their minds than sanity. Bakili Muluzi was once a secretary general of MCP and especially when MCP committed those atrocities such as Mwanza killings, Dausi, Henery Mussa, Gwanda Chakuwamba and many more in DPP, UDF AND PP were members of the notorious MYP. Kamuzu like Bingu and like Peter Mutharika were was fed lies on what was happening on the ground. This article is burnt on propaganda against the Kamuzu Banda. Whether you prople like it or not Kamuzu was a hero and non of your so called professors can much his… Read more »
Of course Kamuzu was not supernatural but it is grossly inaccurate claiming he was no any different from post-multiparty mediocrity. Yes, almost all post-independence leaders in Africa were dictators? But on a balance of scale Kamuzu’s contribution to the country far much outweigh the negatives. Most acclaimed atrocities Kamuzu is said to have committed, to us who were young in the 70s & 80s would easily derive inferences now. There’s a culture of hero-worshipping presidents in Malawi wanting to maintain the status quo esp by those surrounding the president “Ayimanso” nthawi ya Tcheya…..the rest we know. Do not demonise Kamuzu… Read more »

Despite shortfalls of Ngwazi Dr H Kamuzu Banda i still respect him alot.When i remember during crop inspection with mbumba dancing around oh those were good old days.

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