Joyce Banda, Her Majesty’s Governor to the Malawi Protectorate

In 1915 Reverend John Chilembwe organized a group of his followers in an uprising against the British authority in Nyasaland. He was angered by the way black Africans were treated – beaten and demeaned – by the white settlers. Chilembwe’s uprising involved killing all white males. Unfortunately, his uprising did not gain traction. He was captured and killed by the British.

The history of our country is full of men and women who fought tirelessly to liberate the country from colonial rule. Most of these fearless sons and daughters of Malawi were killed in those struggles never to see the fruits of their labor. We will never know the names of most of these unsung heroes. I remember a story told by my uncle. One day in the midst of the fight for independence, an announcement was made that one young man had been shot on the hand and then arrested by white policemen at Conforzi estates. The village crier shouted, “This is a call to all men to go and fight a war against the white man at Conforzi headquarters.”

President Banda

My uncle, being a good citizen, rushed with hundreds of other men from Kumadzi Village [Thyolo] all the way to Conforzi tea estates headquarters where they surrounded the building the young man was held. The situation, already tense, was made worse when one angry young man threw a stone at a white policeman. This policeman turned around and fired live bullets indiscriminately in the crowd. My uncle recalled that a teenager who was standing close to him died on the spot after being hit by one of those bullets. This scared the old man so much that he ran many kilometers back to Kumadzi village without stopping anywhere.

Why did all these people fight and die? Why did this deceased teenager run to Conforzi estate to give his support, yes his very life, to the cause for freedom? Freedom was important to them. They believed that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were more important than anything else. John Chilembwe, a very educated young man with a beautiful family and a bright future, counted all that but nothing if his people could not rule themselves. The freedom we now have was literary bought with blood and tears.

I wonder what John Chilembwe and this unknown young martyr would have thought if they knew that many years after their death the country they fought for would be eager to give itself back to the British. I wonder what they would think to know that many years after their death, leaders of their free descendants would have no innovative ideas with which to develop their country other than kneeling down before the British.

If ever there was a time for our nation to be reminded of this history, the time is now. We live at a time when the president of the country seem to have resolved that the best way to develop this country is to basically give it back to Europeans. Today Malawi has become more of a British protectorate than an independent nation. Every decision seems to be made just because the British have demanded so.

We have been told that the presidential plane and ministerial cars are being sold to save money. Nobody has shown us how selling these items would save the money. Are these assets being sold just because the British have said so? How much does the plane cost to maintain? Compare this to how much it would cost the president and her entourage to hire planes for official trips. If she chooses commercial flights, how much will the tickets for the whole entourage, including layover in expensive hotels, cost?

Same thing with the vehicles – expensive and durable cars may be cheaper to maintain for the busy ministers than cheap vehicles that are liable to frequent breakdowns. Nobody has given a complete analysis of these issues and showed the nation how the sensational act of selling these items will save money.

Another interesting decision was how the new president jumped on devaluing the currency, a move that could have grave and unforeseen consequences. Now we know why she did it – it is because the British wanted her to. It was revealing how the visiting International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell insisted on ‘Brian Banda’ that devaluation was the only option for Malawi. Really? Many experts and PhD economists (not just developmental or peace experts) do not think that this is a clear-cut issue. So how did this lowly uneducated British cabinet minister know that devaluation was the only option?

Perhaps the most disturbing act by the present administration was on the issue of homosexuality. The president indicated that government would be repealing the law prohibiting homosexuality in parliament [that was good]. Then a few days later she addressed a press conference and advised members of parliament to vote their conscious on this issue [that was good too]. But then she went on and said something outrageous, “if the parliament does not have enough votes to repeal the law, I will be ok with that. I will go to the international community and tell them that Malawians are not ready on this issue”. What? Why does she feel an obligation to report to outsiders the results of a Malawi Parliamentary vote? Except, of course, if the decision to take the issue to parliament was made for her by those outsiders!

And for all her talk about curbing unnecessary spending, she was the first to hop on a plane to celebrate the British Queen’s anniversary. An anniversary for a ridiculous and archaic system that says a black boy or girl born on the streets of Brixton in London cannot be head of state in Britain because he/she was not born in the right family and race.

In many ways Joyce Banda’s presidency is a blow to aspirations of women. For too long women have argued that they will make better leaders for this continent and that they will bring the much needed development and reforms. If the Joyce Banda presidency is truly representative of ‘African woman presidency’, then we have cause for serious concern. At this rate, one has to wonder if women leaders will not effectively surrender the continent and its sovereignty back to the Europeans. Malawi needs a decisive leader who together with cabinet and parliament will analyze problems, understand and solve them based on the interests of this country. It is increasingly becoming apparent that Joyce Banda is not that leader. Even British papers are beginning to mock Malawi as a country that has become a ‘donor fearing nation’.

It is very important to be educated about Britain’s interests in Africa. The British are more concerned about controlling Africa than anything else. Issues of good governance and development come second to their thirst for power and control of the continent. They prefer to prop up leaders who kneel down before them. In spite of all the talk about human rights and good governance, they have still maintained good relations with autocratic countries like Uganda and Equatorial Guinea. Why – because leaders of those countries have mastered the art of kneeling down before the British Monarch.

It must be pointed out that while Robert Mugabe was kneeling before them, he was their buddy. They even gave him a knighthood. But when he kicked out white farmers, they immediately turned around and crowned him the ‘worst dictator’ in the world. They started talking about Matebeleland atrocities that occurred 10 years earlier than the knighthood. Bingu wa Mutharika was their darling until he kicked out their envoy, then they sent him a letter to account for ‘mismanagement’ of British aid.

The Joyce Banda philosophy of developing Malawi by simply kowtowing to the British is tantamount to a poor woman resorting to prostitution with the hope of getting money to solve her problems. Sure she will get some money but at what cost! In the long history of the world, no country or group of people has ever developed by simply being a puppet to another nation. We are NOT about to rewrite that history.

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