Kamuzu remembered with mixed feelings: Independence hero turned tyrant of Malawi

Family members of the country’s founding president the late Hastings Kamuzu Banda and officials from Malawi Congress Party (MCP) on Thursday May 14, Kamuzu Day public holiday,   honoured Kamuzu by laying wreaths at his mausoleum in the capital city while there were mixed feelings among citizens and analysts about his legacy.

Kamuzu: Malawi’s ruler from independence in 1964 to 1994.
MCP’s Chakwera took time off his campaign trail to honour Kamuzu on Kamuzu Day, which was declared a public holiday by government.
The ceremony to remember Kamuzu—the country’s ruler from independence in 1964 to 1994.
Mama Cecelia Tamanda Kadzamira, Kamuzu Banda’s hostess, was among the attendees of the prayers for Ngwazi
Citizens for Transformation leader Timothy Mtambo (L) lays a wreath at Kanuzu’s resting place
Founding president the late Hastings Kamuzu Banda mausoleum

MCP presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera led the  honour of  Kamuzu but there was no official representation from government apart from the country’s enstrange vice-president Saulos Chilima, who is running mate to Chakwera in the fresh presidential elections on MCP ticket.

Kamuzu—ruled Malawi  under the one-party dictatorship from 1964 to 1994— was lauded by Chakwera at the memorial as “visionary leader” who developed the nation.

A cross section of Malawians who Nyasa Times interviewed, mostly the older generation, remembered Kamuzu as the “ruler” who banned women from wearing trousers or mini-skirts. He prohibited kissing in public. He ordered haircuts for long-haired tourists. He censored the mail, jailed his opponents, declared himself President-for-Life and ruled Malawi for three decades until the age of 96, when his countrymen finally wearied of his totalitarian reign.

A historian Mbiri Banda told Nyasa Times that: “in history, we look at three variables to determine the historicity of an event, a person, or just anything worth the study. One, society; two, change; and, lastly, time.  In other words, history studies changes in society for a given period of time.

“In taking a historical analysis of Hastings Banda, our focus need not stray: We must ask if, in thirty one years, our society experienced any considerable change, either negatively or positively.”

He  continued: “In answering this question, we will, depending on which angle one takes, be able to, at long last, vilify Hastings Banda as worth a holiday or revere him with a deserved glory.

“For me, Hastings Kamuzu Banda doesn’t deserve reckon of special historical mention besides being remembered as one of the people that, at a specific period in history, served Malawi as a Head of State. Compared to most first generation leaders of once Third World countries—for the Asian Tigers, there was literally nothing extraordinary about Hastings Banda’s leadership.”

Kamuzu was an eccentric medical doctor who called himself Ngwazi (“the conqueror”) and founded an Eton-style academy to teach Latin and Greek to his people.

He is seen as the founder of Malawi because he was its ruler when it gained independence from Britain in 1964. He even coined the country’s name. Yet under his rule, thousands of innocent people were jailed, exiled or killed.

“He built hospitals, schools, universities – it’s all because of him. The roads you travel, the development that you see in Malawi today – it’s all because of this man,” remarked one MCP supporter Chiyambi Chilemba.

“Yes, he was a dictator,” she said. “But it was an era of dictators. To err is human.”

“Most of the atrocities in that time were actually done by people around him,” she added. “When he was angry, he would say, ‘I don’t like this person, remove him.’ People would misinterpret it and torture the person and jail him.”

Banda became the first president for Malawi on July 6 1964 when the country attained independence.

In 1994, Bakili Muluzi defeated him in the first multiparty general election.

Kamuzu died on November 23 1997.

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Duli
Duli
4 months ago

I watched the whole function. I am convinced that it was a ng’ona campaign memorial led by the fake accent ex-reverend Lezala Nyolonyo and graced by his newly swallowed Zeze, his blind mapesi followers and the sycomphatic synod and the late Kamuzu’ concubine. The notorious synod brought its bush choir of barefoot kids singing about tippex and corruption in the Essau and Jacob narrative. Nonse wakumoto.

Mphatso M
Mphatso M
4 months ago

Dr. H Kamuzu Banda was not a dictatorship. That is what the wazungus call him, but we the true, patriotic and grateful born frees, call him ‘ the father and founder of our nation’. Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda was a great man. He was a quintessential African statesman, who had every emotion and passion for the betterment of his people. If anyone wishes to see or have a glimpse of who this great son of the African soil really was, please go to YouTube, and search for ; Meet Kamuzu Banda Pt5 . I understand that it can only take… Read more »

BABA
4 months ago

belongs at the International Criminal Court not book of praises

BAKALI
4 months ago

idiotic celebrating this dictator. Mama kadzamila should have been sent to the international criminal court together with John Tembo. Why do we, Malawians love basking in mediocrity. what are we celebrating here?? These criminals that plundered MAlawis resources, its people, robbed us of so many talented individuals. we are celebrating this nonsense??

Gulzar
Gulzar
4 months ago
Reply to  BAKALI

Tembo and Kadzamira are the ones instigating the crimes Tembo was in control he took over by using his niece kadzamira it was well known only the idiots believed otherwisr

Victor
Victor
4 months ago

All these leaders have exercised their wickedness, ,Muluzi Bakilili. People died like Matafale and others, Bingu people got killed like chasowa and others, right now people are dying and corrupted leaders are everywhere in the country, people who don’t care about your wellbeing so it will only take a fool to agree with what this government is telling the nation

Jumanji
Jumanji
4 months ago

NO-ONE is interested. It was MCP and UTM national executive committee that attended the function. Shame on Chakwera and Chilima

good
good
4 months ago

It was a rule of terror. It’s very unfortunate that someone can say to err is human in such a situation. These murders were very systematic. Y Chisiza was murdered and buried in an unknown location. Until today his family has been asking all those who know where he was buried to speak out so that they too can have some peace. This was sheer evil. This is just one case but if you travel throughout Malawi the cases are many of the brutality of that regime. There’s nothing to celebrate about that regime. His family can celebrate it if… Read more »

Forgive them
Forgive them
4 months ago

mbiri banda or whatever name they call you,there’s no denying that during kamuzu’s 30 yr reign a lot of bad things happened,but are you honest with yourself that kamuzu did nothing for this country?or you’re just one bitter person who can’t even forgive a neighbor’s child for plucking a mango in your tree? Get a life and move on,if you’re not careful you’ll go to the grave still embittered with Kamuzu.

Namulondola
4 months ago
Reply to  Forgive them

He did things that he wanted, but the lives of the people were very very poor. Men were on the run from chamwaka . Women , men, youths , young and unborn babies were forced to have a membership card. Jehova witness were forced to leave and their properties taken away. The poor lost their pots, livestock and paid contributions to party meetings by force. Each district was forced to give a cow to him on every meeting. Where are these livestock’s ? People were sleeping in bad houses, no construction of good houses as we see today. Even the… Read more »

Grey hair
Grey hair
4 months ago
Reply to  Forgive them

If your father was killed and make you not to attend any school in Malawi.. I think you can forgive MCP,

Okay
Okay
4 months ago

The public holiday should be repealed. It’s not worth it. The innocent souls kamuzu took must be torturing him in hell. 31 years of underdevelopment, persecution and torture of enemies. Forcible sale of party membership cards.
Chief mwase the strongest chewa chief was humiliated and imprisoned under his watch. His myp beat up chiefs including chief chikumbu who was very old. Exiled his first cabinet ministers mostly those from South and North. Father of tribalism in Malawi

good
good
4 months ago
Reply to  Okay

Let Me correct you sir, the Godfather and Grandmaster of tribalism.

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