Hastings Kamuzu Banda, to some Malawians and Africans, was a statesman worthy emulating and that he has to be celebrated and given a special place in Malawi’s History. To others, like me, celebrating Kamuzu is like re-installing Adolf Hitler as Germany’s Chancellor. In this rant, I will raise reasons why Kamuzu should only be celebrated by witches.
I will start by dispelling the myth that Kamuzu was the one who fought for independence for Malawi, and that he was a good man.
When the four Young Turks; Masauko Chipembere, Dunduzu and Yatuta Chisiza, Kanyama Chiume plus Orton Chirwa launched their opposition against the 1953 Federation of Nyasaland and Rhodesia, Kamuzu was in England. He refused to come to Malawi fearing that his extended family would prey on his money even though Nyasaland had paid part of his fees for him to become a doctor in Malawi.
It was only after he was sued for impregnating his secretary, Mrs. French in England and given marching orders in Ghana for operating an abortion clinic that he came to Malawi. There was nothing patriotic about his refuguish move.
The likes of Masauko Chipembere were doing just fine, the reason they invited Kamuzu was because he was old and thus instrumental in convincing the chiefs that didn’t take the Turks seriously when they preached independence. Chipembere and Chisiza had already made their names as daredevils and the Hansard was selling like porn because of their revolutionary statements in the white dominated Legislative Council.
It was the young Turks who paraded Kamuzu around Malawi and gave him the post of MCP president on a silver platter. The Turks are the guys that wrote his swaying speeches and did some of the translation; yes translation, because the Malawian who wrote about his tribe in America did not speak his own language.
With the Vocal Turks, Operation Sunrise soon landed Kamuzu and his three mates at Gweru Prison in Zimbabwe where they laid out plans together. When Kamuzu was released and toured the world in the name of leader, his friends languished at Kanjedza. Kamuzu delayed securing their release to make political headway, finally releasing them on the day of the MCP convention in Nkhota Kota where he was made Life president of MCP.
They chanted down the British Babylon together and soon they won independence but Kamuzu wanted all the power; keeping a firm grip on six key ministries and not respecting the Turks and friends in public. The Turks felt like the rest of the Animals in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. They fought together and the pigs wanted it all?
It was only natural that the Turks, just like they did with the ‘Bush Meeting’ that sparked Operation Sunrise, meet again – producing theKuchawe Manifesto that ultimately sparked the Cabinet Crisis of 1964. It was not even a crisis, the ministers wanted to check Kamuzu’s unjustifiably huge powers. Naturally Kamuzu refused and a vote of no confidence was proposed against him.
Of course Kamuzu tricked the parliament and stayed on in power, he fired the ministers and the anarchy started.
Orton Chirwa and wife Vera were rewarded with a death sentence becoming Africa’s longest serving prisoners of concise. Dunduzu Chisiza was found dead on the Zomba-Blantyre road, Yatuta was betrayed by his Greek buddy and gunned down, and Chipembere went into exile.
Of course, the court did not find any evidence to nail Kamuzu for the Mwanza murders but what did you expect? What do dictators do with evidence?
As if that is not enough, Kamuzu took a queer attitude towards people from the districts north of Nkhamenya, who for lack of a better term, I will term Northerners. The only crime these people seem to have committed was to embrace Scottish education especially as pioneered by Dr. Robert Laws at Khondowe.
What followed was the banning of ChiTumbuka from MBC and The Daily Times at the onset of the 70’s. I once spoke to Manjawira Msowoya who explained how he and his fellow Northerners were booed at MBC by workmates after the ban was announced, you should have seen the look on his face.
Studies by the likes of Noam Chomsky and Ajit Mohanty suggest that tribal children learn better in their mother tongue at basic level, this was what was going on in Malawi with ChiTumbuka being taken up to JCE level in Tumbuka areas. Kamuzu pulled out Northern languages from the Syllabus and had all the books burnt.
Tongas and Senas had to study ‘Maliro Ndi Miyambi ya Achewa’ as if they had no funerals and customs. I know a teacher who was slapped for teaching in ChiTumbuka soon after the ban and the church elders at St. Peters Parish in Mzuzu were nearly arrested for preaching in ChiTumbuka.
Unfortunate for the North, 80% of the police stations were filled with Chewa speaking officers to partly enforce the ban and to check rebels. Even today, villagers are forced to speak in Chichewa being interrogated or giving evidence.
To come from the North was suddenly a problem to Kamuzu; led by John Tembo late in his rule he brought on the Quota system to check the numbers of Northerners in secondary schools & colleges. Brothers and sisters had to shed ‘Nothern’ names to adopt those from the Chewa speaking tribes to stand a chance.