Malawi’s founding president Kamuzu Banda remembered

Hastings Kamuzu Banda, tyrant of Malawi, died on November 25th, aged about 100. He was the lion of Malawi; others called him Ngwazi the giant bird catching fish in Lake Malawi. Kamuzu Banda was called by many names of fear, not for good, but as typical African dictator. Instead of respecting him, his own people feared him. Nobody mentioned his name without impunity.

Each time he addressed meetings, he never spoke about development but rather instigating fears among his own people. His meetings were staged for more than six hours people coached with sun shine for nothing, only dancing and praises of himself. He spent most his time shouting and spoke about Europeans like a Barbarian Black Leader, instead of doing something for the very same people he oppressed.

He treated his own people like dogs, reminding of the things he did for them that had it been not for his return from Europe Malawian could have remained living in mud houses and thatched kitchens without ventilations. Each time he had a political meeting, poor people were called upon to contribute for him in regardless they had or not. People contributed against their will.

Kamuzu Banda

In that act there was no spare whether you had nothing or just one chicken, you did just that. People contributed mugawa (mealie meal, eggs. Beans, goats, sheep, cows, peanuts and, many more for the sake of peace with Malawi Congress Party. The practice was another way of disposing worthy from poor people.

Kamuzu Banda created Malawi Young Pioneers just like the Green Bombers of Zimbabwe likewise; the Youth Force in Zambia during the rule of Dr. Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia for the sake of plugging fear among the people,  making sure that, everybody tolled the Political Line.

All those who defined the order, some of them were killed others were left disabled. Kamuzu Banda described his rule democracy. Kamuzu Banda instigated violence among the people calling people to report any stupid thing to his political offices for Malawi Congress Party. Men were beaten or killed for failing to provide their wives with a cloth material call chitenje bearing Kamuzu Banda face.

During his rule many families were broken because of his political policies. Kamuzu Banda ruled Malawi like a personal property or Animal Farm. Each time Kamuzu Banda had political meeting in the Northern Region of Malawi for instance in Chitipa District a small town at the border with Tanzania, he called to suspend all town municipal buses to seize carrying people to work instead he ordered all buses to carry woman all over Malawi in regardless whether they were married or not to that Chitipa District for his political meeting likewise with other arrears.

No man protested this practice in fear of death, gets arrested for protesting about his wife. The distance a part of these District Towns is equally two to three thousand kilometers apart. These women left sick husbands, children, their aged parents and grandchildren for a stupid political meeting. Dr. Kamuzu Banda sews this as a perfect democracy. Kamuzu Banda had neither woman rights nor human right, but abuse.

He looked down upon these women as just mere his dancing chickens. Kamuzu Banda had no opposition. Each time he heard about someone in that order, he threatened to imprison or throw him in Shire River invested with hungry crocodiles. He imprisoned and placed people on house arrest from politicians, woman, the elderly and, students.

During his rule there was no free movement of people either in urban or rural areas.  His Malawi Young Pioneers created a barrier political party cards system.  Boarding transport, entering the market place, registering a sick at the hospital, looking for work was practically impossible without Kamuzu Banda political party card.  Malawi Congress Party created that system to deny free movement of people.

The Malawi Young Pioneers mounted political road brock everywhere in the country tiered or dust roads stopping cars, busses, trains, including pedestrians asking them about if they were carrying political party cards. If you never carried a political party card, you would not be allowed entry or passage. Everything stopped just that moment. At road blocks people would be harassed, beaten and detailed for no just a course.

Sometimes people without these oppressive political cards, their journeys would be cut short forcing them to drop from any transportation.  During that time Malawi became more like a military state. People could be picked up, rounded without a reason, or beaten up without a parent reasons.

Kamuzu Banda created indinasation for himself; he took all better farms from the white people and converted them into his own company called Chamwavi General Companies. He used the Malawi Young Pioneers to work in those farms for free like general slaves.
Whoever did something that was better than his liking, he seized those investments and the owner imprisoned. He chased away Indians from growth points and districted, took away their properties others arrested and deported to India. Those who left on their own were not allowed to take anything except there naked bodies, children and wives.

HE LOOKED like an eccentric version of the typical African dictator: he proclaimed himself president for life, locked up his opponents, lived royally in a poor country, carried a fly whisk and went to church. But Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, who ruled Malawi for its first three decades, was no cardboard cut-out African ruler.

He had another life inside another life, some would say another persona. The two strands, never reconciled, his people lived in poor poverty while himself and his cronies lives in style. He made himself one of the most enigmatic characters of 20th-century Africa.

During his reign in power, no Black Leaders questioned about his human rights and the abuse political opponents. He spoke like a wise man and yet he was crude and selfish for his position. He spoke plasmatic European accent and a full of eagle. Black people were so poor, living like pigs, living in poor mad houses, could not afford to buy better cloths, let alone feed his family, living on 3c USD per day. Very few people could afford to send their children to better schools.

There was less money in circulation, he spend less money in government and took the chunk of the money into his business. He was accountable to no body. There was no attorney general for check and balance. There was more corruption, tax misused without an audit. So many bad things took place during his reign. His bad administration can never be better described but to say the worst government ever existed in the world.

His people survived from working in the mines in South Africa where they earned mere peanuts and yet he spoke of good things about Malawian. The west poured in so much for the people, instead of using the money for the benefits of the people he used less money and the rest put in his personal use.

Dr. Banda was officially 91 but his oldest friends believe he was at least ten years older. He said he was born in the tiny British protectorate of Nyasaland, now Malawi, in Central Africa, and had walked to South Africa as a young man. But when he returned, some half a century later, he knew no local language and, extraordinary for Africa, had no relations.

Some doubted that he had come from there. While he was the president of Malawi, Dr. Kamuzu Banda never spoke any other language except English. Those who worked in his government were not free to practice their duties. There was fear among them about what the future holds with kamuzu Banda. Who ever worked for his government and should one betray him, that particular person would be dismissed from government, his property confiscated, his children removed from schools, scholar ships cuts, even his beautiful house demolished and all bank account frozen.

While working in the mines in South Africa he eagerly educated himself and, through church connections, obtained an education in America. He qualified with high grades as a doctor and won a place to study medicine at Glasgow University in Scotland. He arrived in 1937 and was to make Britain his home for the next 20 years, establishing his medical practice in poor areas of wartime and post-war Britain.

Attracted by his ability as a doctor, his courtesy and his puritan simplicity, rich and poor flocked to his surgery—some achievement for a black man in Britain at that time. He was teetotal, celibate and dressed like an undertaker. To the elders of the Church of Scotland he was a living tribute to Christian missionary endeavour in Africa, and they made him an elder too.

In the post-war independence stirrings in Africa, Dr Banda played an ambivalent role. Originally a moderate, he kept his distance from firebrand leaders such as the Ghanaian Kwame Nkrumah, whom he patronizingly referred to as “my boy”. But when the British tried to forge a union out of the two Rhodesia’s, now Zambia and Zimbabwe, and Nyasaland, he turned radical.

His personal life changed. In 1953 the puritanical doctor had a child with his married English secretary, was cited in her divorce, and fled to Ghana, then the Gold Coast. Four years later his practice there was closed and opened later. It was said, he was conducting illegal abortions. By now the movement for independence in Africa was in full swing and he moved to what he claimed was his birthplace. Other independence fighters in Nyasaland (Malawi) bowed to his age and superior education and made him their leader.

From there his route to power was typical of the times: freedom rallies, imprisonment by the British authorities, released, and tea with the governor, a constitutional conference and a flattering independence ceremony conducted by a British royal. He then set about getting rid of his most loyal followers, employing the same security laws he had campaigned against so vigorously.

He once said they should be “food for crocodiles”. Many people were killed, claims of car accidents without proof. As I’m as far as today many families are still looking for their loved one who went missing during Kamuzu Banda regime.

When old friends and supporters from Britain and America visited him, he could still be the quiet, courteous doctor they had loved so much, but if they mentioned politics he would become enraged, even hysterical. Once, stamping his feet, he screamed at his visitor that his opponents should “Rot! Rot! Rot!” in jail.

Was the culture gap between the Victorian-like persona he had created in America and Britain and the spirit of African freedom too great to be encompassed in one personality? Whatever, Malawi became a bizarre place under his rule. Miniskirts, long hair and other manifestations of western sexual liberalism were outlawed. He surrounded himself with hundreds of women dressed in clothes bearing his image that danced and chanted poems of praise. In their presence he became visibly excited. A former nurse, Cecilia Kadzimira, became his “official hostess”. They never married, though her power over him grew as he aged.

Turning his back on former allies in the struggle for independence, Dr Banda gave diplomatic support to South Africa’s white rulers, who built him a palace and a new capital in return. In Malawi his attitude to Africans was colonial. He saw them as poor benighted people who needed his guidance and a British education. The Kamuzu Academy was founded; a college based on Eton, at which British teachers inculcated Latin and Greek into favoured African children.

He avoided grand socialist plans which lured other African countries to destruction; instead, he gathered the most valuable parts of the economy into a company which he headed. Malawians were told to prosper by tilling the land. They stayed poor and Dr Banda spent at least a month a year at a top London hotel. His end was nearly ignominious.

He was bundled from power in an election in 1994 after his old ally Britain abandoned him. He gave up gracefully but was put on trial accused of killing four politicians in 1983. He was acquitted. Prison would not have been a fitting end for such an intriguing, if flawed, character. He died in a South African hospital.  May his soul rest in peace.

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