And when your children ask you: “What does the ceremony mean to you?” then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice when the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshipped. – Exodus 12:26-27
As I listen and watch many of the political rallies that are prepping voters in Malawi for the 2019 Presidential, Parliamentary, and Councilor elections, I have been concerned about an omission that could be exigent or necessary for the candidates to appear as democratic as possible. In their omitting to make mention of the principal architect of Malawi’s development, the candidates are really doing the most harm, to themselves and to the electorate (whether young or old).
While rummaging in my mind’s eye about the end of year topic, I was privy to a conversation of former Principle Secretaries that captured one of my running themes: as a scholar of history, I’m always mindful of my past being the molder of my present and foreshadow of my future. This column has reiterated the need for Malawians to remember their heroes in the immediate, recent, and distant past. Thus, it is important to remember how Malawi became a democratic country, how Malawi progressed following the attainment of independence from colonial rule, and how Malawi (then Nyasaland) faired under colonial rule.
For example, while credit from the political podium make mention of the country’s progression to democratic rule, through some fearless (often unnamed) Malawians that fought the tyranny of dictatorship (that too left unnamed), many are at ease to jump to 1915 and in their oratory, linger on the hardship faced by John Chilembwe. Let history be recalled in its fullness. While Chilembwe could be cited as one of Malawi’s first heroes, it is erroneous and a grave injustice to omit the other truths about Malawi’s full list of heroes.
This is a call to all political candidates running for office, to remember, recall, and recount the numerous achievements made in the rule (tyrannical though it may have been) of Malawi’s first late President Ngwazi Dr. Kamuzu Banda. He and hundreds of his followers spent one year in prison in Gwero and Khami (Rhodesia and Nyasaland Federal Detention Centers) in Zimbabwe (then known as Rhodesia). Many of his development projects were realized with help from such Gwelo/Khami prison mates as Dunduzu Chisiza, Orton Chirwa, Aleke Banda, the Bwanausi brothers, Nyemba and Jasper Mbekeani, David Rubadiri, John Msothi, Lewis Makata and many others.
Upon his release, he surrounded himself with people that helped him in his development agenda (dubbed “the three Gwelo Dreams”). This is a credit to Dr. Banda; that he had a development agenda and several strategies in realizing that agenda. And sometimes the strategies required him to align himself with countries deemed by the majority of other African countries, to be “our enemies.”
But it was through Dr. Banda’s pragmatism, that he realized the achievements that one former Principle Secretary itemized. It is re-produced, with the former PS’s permission:
[12/12, 8:42 PM] Regarding the Rwanda economic development miracle being so much talked about, we have a Retired PSs WhatsApp chat forum. I was prompted to post on it a write-up I crafted, cataloguing a glorious record of the scale of the colossal economic development Malawi attained in the immediate post-independence period of just under 25 years. I lamented to colleagues that we seem to have lost that drive in the later years. It was anybody’s guess which later years (the multiparty era).
I believe if we had maintained that pace and drive, we would probably be what little Rwanda is today and more. Or indeed what little Mauritius has reached today in its very high level of economic development. These were equally resource-poor countries.
There was a posting on the forum of a development vision conceived by a prospective Nigerian presidential candidate in their general election next year and for that country. It is the comments that some of the forum members made that prompted me to reflect on what was without doubt, a proud development record by an otherwise resource-poor country that Malawi was at independence.
This is what I wrote. It is lengthy. You will have to take your time to read it…
Of course, one must admit we had a down side to our politics especially in the area of human rights; but, I submit, not in the area of economic development.
In Malawi have had the glory in our post-independence past from which we can draw a lot to inspire our nation to move forward. Imagine if we had kept the pace of the economic and development drive we had in the 60s, 70s, and 80s during a period of just under twenty-five years counting from 1964!
This is the period when we built the housing estates of Ndirande New Lines, Nkolokosa Lines, Soche East Lines, Zingwangwa New Lines, Chinyonga, and Njamba in Blantyre. When we built Areas 18, 15, 12, 10, 11, 43, Chilinde in Lilongwe; when we built Chasefu, Katoto and other sites in Mzuzu and Zomba.
We built Capital Hill, City Centre, Army Headquarters, Police Headquarters, Malawi Armed Forces College, Moyale, and Chilumba Barracks, MYP Training Bases (38 of them) throughout the country; we built our Security Forces Air wings and Naval Units for all the three of them: Army, Police, and MYP.
We built our magnificent and majestic State Houses in all the three regions of the country to stand solid a thousand years and more. Included among these state residences, is the imposing Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe with capacity to host multiple dignitaries in the residential wings.
And we built the Reserve Bank of Malawi Headquarters, and other statutory headquarters in the Capital City.
We built our referral hospitals and we built modern district hospitals in virtually every district by 1992, except in just five districts.
We built our University of Malawi including a well-provided College of Medicine and other tertiary colleges and when we built major secondary schools in every district. This sector enhanced our human resource capital and pool of professionals that help run the country.
We built our dams and hydro power stations and we constructed thousands of kilometers of tarmac roads, the railway line to Nacala in Mozambique, and extended the railway lines to Mchinji with a magnificent railway station in Area 25, which had a presidential suite.
We built our agriculture schemes that rolled out to every corner of the country and of every food and cash crop and when smallholder agriculture boomed that earned Malawi the admiration and praise of the world. (Among the crops in the schemes, were the staple food crop maize, ground nuts, rice, cotton and tea).
We built our tobacco auction floors in Kanengo comprising a building known at the time to be the largest building in Africa.
We owned and operated our own airline, had our own trained pilots we were so proud of and whom we knew by their names endearingly, and we were proud to fly on our national airline we called Air Malawi.
We bought our own Boeing 737 aircraft we named Kwacha, which saw some of us travel to Seattle USA, to negotiate and conclude the sale agreement. We acquired two French ATR aircrafts of 48 passenger seat capacity, for regional flights; and one 18-passenger seat German Donier aircraft for domestic short hauls. And I recall a second Boeing 737 aircraft was in the offing and would have been in-country, had it not been for the coming in of the change to multiparty dispensation.
We built our international airport in Lilongwe opened provisionally in1983 and operationally in 1984, bringing into Malawi large airlines that included BA, KLM and the UTA. At this time, we could fly to and from major European capitals directly from Lilongwe. The Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) project included the building of the Lumbadzi housing estate and ADL House in the City Centre.
We built the Capital Hotel in Lilongwe as a requirement by IATA in relation to the building of the international airport in Lilongwe. As was the building of Kamuzu Central Hospital opened in May 1977, and which we achieved with a loan from the Danish Government that became a grant.
We built our stadiums, among which of course, our own CIVO must be mentioned along with the Kamuzu Institute Stadium, Silver Stadium, Police Stadium; all these are in Lilongwe. Situated in Blantyre are the MDC Stadium and of course the great Kamuzu Stadium where we proudly won the East and Central Africa Challenge Cup in 1978, are. And Blantyre erupted into a ding of the patriotic song of our national independence: “Zivute zitani Ife Amalawi tili pambuyo pa Kamuzu” (Come what may, we are Malawians, we are behind Kamuzu).
We trained our people in all fields of human endeavor, some of which others would have thought were on the peripheral such as in antiquities, anthropology and in arts and culture up to doctoral levels.
We developed our veterinary services and had highly trained professionals, with animal disease control services easily accessible throughout the country.
We established and protected our national parks, wildlife, and game reserves and forestry reserves, the last of which was the Lake Malawi National Park at Cape Maclear in Mangochi; the latter to protect the ornamental mbuna fish species, which was declared a national park in 1977.
We built three traditional court buildings every year, one in each of the country’s three Regions, which were part of Malawi’s system of courts. These buildings are currently proving to be very useful court structures for the magistrate courts in rural areas. These Traditional Courts buildings, in total 320 by 1994 at the change to the multiparty system of government, had spread to every part of the country. For that purpose, the Ministry of Justice maintained its own building units.
We purchased and sometimes, built and our own buildings for embassies and consulates abroad. And I can happily recall being in a delegation to Bonn in 1984, to conclude a sale agreement for a vacant site, on which to construct our embassy building in that country, although, later the embassy moved when Berlin became the new capital of Germany.
Being one from the lakeshore area, I cannot omit to recite the time when we developed our fisheries and boat-making industry.
As secondary school and college students, we always rushed to a radio at lunch hour to listen to the reading of the English lunch-hour news bulletin by our most admired Malawian news readers at the time.
Virtually all groceries, household products, and consumable goods, and other essential goods for livelihood, were produced in the Makata Industrial Area, Ginnery Corner and in other parts of Blantyre; when we hardly ever faced any shortages of such essential goods and commodities.
The supply of utilities was consistent, such that if you had no electricity or water supply at your house, it meant you were disconnected for non-payment of bills, and you were ashamed of that eventuality of disconnection.
It is a source of pride and joy for the country for the fact that Malawi is one of the few countries in Africa, to have built a new capital city so successfully, which is said to be among the fastest growing cities in Africa. Justice Elton Singini, SC
This is the lament of the former Law Commissioner, who poses the challenge to other professional Malawians in economics and development to look at the achievements of the 31-year progression Malawi made under Kamuzu Banda; and aspire to continue to attain such feat of development in Malawi. The main purpose of this expose is to ask the same to candidates in the Malawi 2019 Tri-Partite elections.
Next year Malawi commemorates 25 years of democracy, what have been our development achievements in that time? Do they measure up to those made under the Kamuzu Banda rule? What grand schemes can candidates craft to sell to Malawians to vote for you in 2019? Do you have songs of hope that as a candidate you can bring to the table, or rally grounds, and sell to Malawians that you are a deliberate and development-driven politician?
Happy New Year!
Janet Zeenat Karim
Author of Women & Leadership: Women are the Change you seek
…..but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15