Give Malawians a break on Kamuzu, not a hero but tinpot dictator: Malawi newspaper columnist

Calling it a spade , a spade -Newspaper columnist George Kasakula writing in ‘My Diary’ column published in Weekend Nation on Saturday May 18  says founding president Kamuzu Banda was not a hero but a tinpot dictator, who for 31 years, terrorised his own people to serve his overgrown ego and those close to him.  The column is re-posted  below, full text:

May 14, 2013

Going through statements from various quarters, including one President Joyce Banda made in Kasungu, canonising Kamuzu Banda as a holy patron saint of development and women liberation, you would think that this is not the same man who for over 30 years ruled Malawi with an iron fist.

Kamuzu’s legacy might have one positive thing or two, but those that try to paint him as the most virtuous thing that ever happened to this country should give Malawians who suffered under this man some break.

Those who want to use Kamuzu’s name for their own selfish political agenda should know that Malawians will not forget that this is the man whose government agents killed the Mwanza four, Aaron Gadama, Dick Matenje, Twaibu Sangala and David Chiwanga as well as Attati Mpakati, among others, in cold blood for merely opposing his selfish policies that were meant to benefit a clique at the expense of the majority of Malawians.

Kamuzu Banda
Kamuzu Banda

This is the man who sent scores of innocent Malawians into exile and many only returned after 1994, spending the best part of their lives away from their own home.

Many came back old and broken, finding it very difficult to cope and ended up in graves.

Then, there are those that were not lucky enough to run away from Kamuzu’s vindictive ire and ended up being locked away without trial.

I can go on and on, wasting scarce newspaper space, mentioning this group or that group which suffered under Kamuzu’s reign of terror, but to cut an otherwise long story short, those that speak of this man in these unprecedented glowing terms are simply throwing a torrent of insults at those who paid the ultimate price with their blood for opposing the despot.

Let us face facts, Malawi was one hell of a place to live in.

Those who oppose this were either part of that evil system and, therefore, benefitted from it or were born dishonest enough not to accept the simple truth that the old autocrat’s terror permeated every single Malawian society and its agents such as Youth Leaguers or Malawi Young Pioneers were at hand to pounce on anybody making even the faintest sound, crying for freedom.

I am not a dunderhead not to appreciate the fact that the past belongs to the past and that, as a nation, we should move on, but I also refuse to accept that this past should be painted white for mere political exigencies and conveniences of today, as the President is trying to do, when I know for a fact that it was pitch black.

This is like giving political leaders a blank cheque to kill, maim and imprison innocent citizens knowing that Malawians will forget and might even start praising them in due course.

Kamuzu can never be venerated when Malawians were only saved from State brutality after the fall of the Soviet Union which led to a paradigm shift among Western nations that saw them insist on human rights as a condition for their aid and the bravery of Catholic bishops with their 1992 Pastoral Letter that called for freedom to Malawians.

As for the assertion that Kamuzu developed Malawi, give us a break, will you? Which development is this? Is Malawi developed when a vast majority in rural areas cannot even afford the proverbial pinch of salt?

In any case, did Kamuzu build the infrastructure we wax lyrical about using his personal money? Was it not from donors or taxes?

This habit of personalising development is trifle and partly responsible for the fact that Malawi is still poor 50 years after independence.

Kamuzu is not a hero, but a tinpot dictator, who for 31 years, terrorised his own people to serve his overgrown ego and those close to him.

This is his legacy and the rest is immaterial. No one should cheat Malawians.

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