Malawi’s ex-president Muluzi recalls fight for democracy in local press

Malawi’s first democratic president Bakili Muluzi has given an interview in the local press to chronicle 25 years journey of the country’s democracy after the nation commorated what used to be Freedom Day  June 14, when citizens voted in 1993 referendum to adopt multiparty democracy.

Bakili Muluzi governed Malawi from 1994 to 2004

Muluzi, a generally jovial happy-go-lucky fella who is fond of cracking jokes at every available opportunity,   said in interview report published in The Nation newspaper that  “there is nothing that can replace democracy in the modern world.”

He said: “When I hear some people say we have achieved nothing with democracy, it saddens me. Many institutions such as Malawi Human Rights Commission, Anti-Corruption Bureau, the Malawi Law Commission, the Ombudsman’s Office and the Malawi Electoral Commission and Judiciary came about after we gallantly fought for democracy.”

Muluzi, who governed from 1994 to 2004, recounts the high price for democracy.

The paper quoted him explaining: “I remember that immediately after 63 percent of Malawians voted in favour of multiparty during the 1993 referendum, over 500 000 people who had fled the country, including Kanyama Chiume, returned to Malawi. Others who had been detained without trial were released.”

The former Malawi leader recalled how the underground movement started around 1983 after the death of three Cabinet ministers Aaron Gadama, Dick Matenje, Twaibu Sangala and a parliamentarian David Chiwanga.

“They died two years after I left Cabinet. Patrick Mbewe, the late Dumbo Lemani, Brown Mpinganjira and myself met and asked ourselves; ‘should we really allow this to continue?’

“Our group later grew to 17 people. We were approaching one person at a time.

“We later started producing pamphlets denouncing the system and calling for change which we would distribute across the country,” he explained.

The former president said the late Chakufwa Chihana, who later became leader of Alliance for Democracy (Aford), had also started his agenda for change and challenging the president under the one-party dictatorship, Hastings Kamuzu Banda.

He recalled: “On two occasions police came to my residence in Naperi, which now houses Joy Radio, and told me they had information that I was rising against Banda.

“I denied the accusations. I was wearing a Kamuzu badge and I told them, how can I do that? They left and I immediately went around and alerted my friends.

“Kamuzu later announced during a public rally in Balaka that if anyone sees me they should arrest me. That time we were at Harry Thomson’s office at Ginnery Corner, holding one of our meetings.

“Lemani tipped us off and we verified it to be true. There was British High Commissioner’s residence in Blantyre, apart from the one in Lilongwe, and we agreed I should seek refuge there. That was the only safest place.”

He said police went to his house, searched everywhere, and went to his Kapoloma home village in Machinga without success. Muluzi said they took his son, young Atupele (now parliamentarian for the former ruling United Democratic Front  -UDF and  Minister of Health in President Peter Mutharika’s Cabinet)  then and his mother to police station where they pressed them to disclose where he was, but they told police they had no idea and were let go.

“I spent three days at the British High Commissioner’s residence, the commissioner was not there. My friends late Collins Chizumira and Wenham Nakanga were lawyers, and they knew where I was hiding. So they came and asked: ‘Why don’t you surrender to police?’ and I accepted,” he said.

Muluzi said Nakanga drove him to Southern Region Police Headquarters and without charge, he was locked at Chichiri Prison where he spent five nights.

In the newspaper interview, Muluzi said the 1992 pastoral letter issued by Catholic bishops titled Living Our Faith, hit the nail on the head as it was considered a remarkable support to what they had been demanding.

He said the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) was born around that time, acting as a link between those calling for change and government.

“We were very happy that Malawians finally voted for referendum. We knew that would be the beginning of human dignity,” he said.

But Muluzi does not credit himself and his cronies for the change in Malawi politics.

He said: “It was all God’s grace. Sometimes I ask myself, how did it happen? It was almost impossible. Many people were killed and arrested. We had the support of people. People were yearning for change.”

The former president   who retired  active politics nowadays is  visibly weak and walks with difficulties with the aid of a walking stick after he  suffered slipped veterbral discs .

He can longer sit upright for a long time and has to be helped by aides to board vehicles.

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QueenB
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QueenB

Malawi is in this state of economy and poverty because of Bakili Muluzi. He brought into government all thieves who were his friends. Sold every company and parastatal that produced Malawi products and provided jobs to Malawians and pocketed the money. Look at what they did to Press Corporation, Cold Storage, David Whitehead, MMM, Grain and Milling, MADECO, Chikangawa, the list goes on and on. He can’t even point out what he did in the 10 years he was president but depleting everything. He told people to come to cities and do business with no resources to start with. He… Read more »

#DzukaniAmalawi
Guest
#DzukaniAmalawi

The story as narrating the chase between the Lion King and the the Impala the prey, will never be the same. Both will talk of their how strong or smart they were even in the midst of casualties. No matter how Muluzi sweetens the success story to multi party dispensation from the cruel autocratic regime; the view from the ordinary people is disturbing. Malawi has gotten worse economically, socially and morally from what it was in 1993 to now in 2018. The post dictatorship leaders have driven the country to the ground and right into a dark hole to the… Read more »

Concerned citizen
Guest

Most of the institutions talked about are toothless, lack independence or can be swayed.

Democracy not benefiting as there are a chosen few enjoying at the expense of the masses.

One just has to look at the suicidal procurement of the genet which have turned a marginally profitable institution into a loss maker. For what. This is true of many other institution in our country.

The country is being run into the ground, as far as I am concerned it is being done on purpose.

LEGO
Guest

Don’t tell us lies,which meeting are you talking about here?The only people who came out to criticise the regime were Aleke Banda,Kanyama Chiumie,Chakufwa Chihana you name them not you Bakili.After referendum in 1993 thats when you formed your party and you won the elections in 1994 BASED on tribalism and regionalism.In that year the one who was popular was Chakufwa Chihana and he is the one who liberated us from a one party system to multi party

Hlabezulu Ngonoonda
Guest
Hlabezulu Ngonoonda

Gerhard Anders in “Like Chameleons. Civil Servants and Corruption in Malawi” published by Euro-African Association for Anthropology of Social Change and Development 2002 pp. 23-24 reports that: ” Bakili Muluzi was elected in the first free elections in 1994 and re-elected in 1999. The new government and parliament took several anti-corruption measures often under considerable donor pressure. In 1995 parliament passed the Corrupt Practices Act and in 1998 the donor funded Anti-Corruption Bureau became operational.This policy is a direct product of the promotion of “good governance” by the World Bank, IMF and the International donor community (e.g. World Bank 2000a,… Read more »

Chilungamo
Guest
Chilungamo

Muluzi may be saying the truth but implying UDF started meetings as a pressure group in 1983 is a total FAT LIE. Who could dare Kamuzu in thr 1980s? Men couldn’t even trust their own spouses? Ndiye meeting up to over 15 people?? So Tcheya probably was meeting BJ to gossip about former colleagues in MCP, YES or just for men’s ‘pep talk about girls/ women. Not that they were planning any tangible maneuver against MCP, NO! Muluzi should STOP trying to get credit he doesn’t deserve. It JUST happened that by God’s Grace he happened to have been the… Read more »

Juma phiri
Guest
Juma phiri

Nothing good came out Bakili talking of 1.5 billion,how he killed Malawi railways to empower his company etc…what a waste

Yatuta
Guest

After your time of presidency, the UDF vice president was late Aleke Banda and why did you leave him for Bingu ? Do you call that democracy? Third and open term which you introduced you think is democracy ? Your lure was painful.

Maunits
Guest
Maunits

I dont get sense out of this. Why are suffering out of this democracy if you are jovial and happy that you started democracy. There is no future of children everything has dwindled the things that were vibrant by one leader Kamuzu so what is purpose of democracy bola one party system yomeyija mankhwala analipo, sukulu zabwino, chuma chabwino ulimi wabwino zinthu zotchipa kuba kunalibe iweyo chair unaba 6 pence anakumanga pano Chaponda anaba koma akuti alibe mlandu what is the use of democracy.

Malume
Guest
Malume

I have no better words for Muluzi. He messed up this country. Malawians became thieves, lazy and corrupt in the name of “kumachenjera pa town.” How do we cerebrate democracy of poverty, corruption, nepotism he planted in Malawi. You fought to pave way for stealing government resources. You sold government companies to your personal advantage.

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