Why Kamuzu Banda chose 3rd March as Martyrs’ Day in Malawi

Every year, on 3rd March, Malawians observe Martyrs Day. Whereas the day invokes sorrowful memories, it is the day we show respect for the magnanimous men and women who braved bullets, suffered imprisonment and all forms of humiliation during the fight for the freedoms and rights we enjoy today. It is the day we remember and honour our freedom fighters and the values and ideologies they envisaged to make Malawi a better country for all.

Malawi commemorates March 3 as Martyrs Day

Apart from 3rd March there are other two days on which we also remember our martyrs; 15th January, Chilembwe Day, we celebrate the life of Reverend John Chilembwe of the Providence Industrial Mission in Chiradzulu who led a dramatic and fierce rebellion against colonialism in 1915 and on 14th May, Kamuzu Day, we remember our first Republican president, Kamuzu Banda.

While Martyrs Day and Kamuzu Day have been there since independence, it was after 1994 when the then president, Bakili Muluzi declared 15th January as Chilembwe Day holiday. In 1944, during the formative period of the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC), George Mwase from Nkhata Bay and other members of the executive committee then, pressed the colonial Nyasaland Government to set 15th January as Chilembwe Day. To no avail.

Malawians experienced many periodic political upheavals during the colonial era, but why did Kamuzu Banda see it befitting to declare 3rd March as a Martyrs’ Day holiday? Kamuzu Banda explained this in his 1974 Martyrs Day message to the nation. It was broadcast on Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) on 2nd March, and published in the Daily Times newspaper of March 4, as follows;

“…… I have stated that tomorrow, Sunday, March 3rd is Martyr’s Day, and that Martyrs’ Day is the day on which we, the people of this country, remember and honour those of our people who sacrificed their lives in order that this country, may be free and independent, and that these men and women were shot dead in cold blood on March 3rd, 1959, in August and September 1953, and between January and May, 1915.

If these men and women were killed in more days than one, why pick March the 3rd? You may ask. March the 3rd was chosen as a day on which to remember and honour those of our people, who sacrificed their lives in order that we may be free, because what happened on that day, 3rd March, 1959, resulted in independence. The independence that the country got in 1964 was a direct result of what happened on March the 3rd, 1959.

What took place in 1915 (Chilembwe Uprising) did not result in freedom and independence. What took place in 1953 did not result in freedom and independence. After the incidents in 1915, the colonial rule became still more entrenched in this country. After the incidents of Thyolo and Domasi in August and September1953, where our people were shot dead in cold blood, the Federation was imposed. And from that time, August and September 1953, to August 1957, when the Nyasaland African Congress held a conference in Blantyre, the Federation was imposed or had been imposed, and foreign rule seemed to be here to stay. But after the incidents on March the 3rd, 1959, nobody, not even the colonial rulers themselves, felt that what had taken place on that day would end there and then

Kamuzu Banda’s assertions are shared by most historians who have noted that while before March the 3rd, 1959, the British government thought that the Federation was there to stay. However, after that day’s commotions and killings they recognized that the Federation’s survival was doubtful and decided to abandon it altogether. Observers believe that the disturbances on 3rd March, 1959, accelerated our independence which had previously appeared a decade away, and probably a far cry.

While before 3rd March, the colonial government considered Kamuzu Banda as a leader of a few ambitious and possibly misguided political elites, the situation during the state of emergency on 3rd March, 1959 strengthened his position as undisputed leader of not only the Nyasaland African Congress but of all oppressed Africans across the country.

Because of the actions on 3rd March 1959, a historic policy shift by the colonial government was made in central Africa. It is therefore important for us as Malawians to understand and appreciate the choice of 3rd March out of all other days as a day we honour and celebrate all our martyrs

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CESSPOOL SIMALOTO
Guest
CESSPOOL SIMALOTO

Pe vinjeru bwana professor the article is multilayered not leaning heavily on your home district N/Bay that also lost 31 people on that day. Malawi has three Martyrs “Shrines” spread across the first half of twentieth century as our nation was struggling to gain self government. However the sad events the 90s under Dr Banda took away the hopes of the early freedom fighters then come July 20 2011 under Bingu Malawi is still chasing a dream of freedom these two leaders entrenched dictatorship. Malawians were bullied into fear

GRM
Guest
GRM

Well written piece of history. Tadziwanawo

Ruth
Guest
Ruth

Zeleza, good article but lacks in-depth analysis. The upheavals in January 1915 and September 1953 were crucial catalysts that eventually precipitated the eventual policy shift by the British colonialists. The colonial government might have looked strong after these events, but inside, it was weakened since Chilembwe’s uprising. Since Chilembwe, Malawians became more experienced and determined to protests against colonialism and the eventual attempt at the federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. In other words, the 3rd March 1959 uprising is signinificant because inakhodzola nthambi yotchoka kale yomwe all along imaoneka ngati idakali ndi mphamvu.

THE PATRIOT
Guest
THE PATRIOT

All respect to those that fought for independence………

Section 1000
Guest
Section 1000

Firstly, what happened in 1959 on the 3rd of March in Malawi? You haven’t mention what happened, where did it happen, why it happened. You just saying bla bla bla bcoz of what happened on the 3rd of March, nigga what exactly happened? Secondly, the soldier saluting the Malawi flag there is not a Malawian solder, that’s American Camouflage and he must be a green beret. So why the fuck using a American soldier on a Malawian flag on this important issue, did the Americans colonize us and gave us respect by saluting our flag after we got independence or… Read more »

Hlabezulu Ngonoonda
Guest
Hlabezulu Ngonoonda

The arrival of Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda on 6 July 1958 in Nyasaland ignited political fire such that his coming set the mood for Nyasas to fight for their independence from the colonialists. By 3 March 1959 political tension was too high. The then Governor Robert Armitage declared a state of emergency on the morning of 3 March 1959 over Nyasaland. Reason being that the colonialists could not contain the tension and intimidation and in particular the apparent plot to “get rid” of certain colonial government officials and those deemed to support colonial rule. It was on the same day… Read more »

ndele
Guest
ndele

poti sitidziwatu zinazi why we do them, azungu andiuza style

Maunits
Guest
Maunits

Madala madala

Khima
Guest
Khima

Why put a foreign soldier and Malawian Flag?? kinda mismatch.

JOHN
Guest
JOHN

Exactly that was my question when I saw that. We are talking of independence and yet we still think and do things as if we are not independence.