kamuzu
By Jimmy Kainja*
Last week we had a public holiday in Malawi. May 14 is “Kamuzu Day,” when the nation celebrates the life of its founding president, Hastings Kamuzu Banda whose autocratic rule lasted between 1964 and 1994. The day has been there since Kamuzu’s reign, during which it was celebrated as his birthday. This despite the fact that Kamuzu himself may never have known his actual birthday, owing to the fact that such events were not recorded around the time he was born. (He told everyone he was born in 1906 but most people reckon he was actually born eight years earlier.) This year was especially interesting for me because I have not been in Malawi on May 14 for the last ten years or so. Social networks were buzzing with Kamuzu nostalgia, newspapers published thick supplements on him and radio stations were jostling to outdo each other with their Kamuzu “specials”. But is the annual bonanza of tributes to the self-styled “Lion of the Nation” really about Kamuzu, or does it instead reflect anxieties about the failure of leadership since the arrival of multi-party democracy in 1994? And why is there no discussion of the kind of dictator he was?
Kamuzu clearly loved Malawi as a country. He took advantage of generous development aid projects of the 1960s to mid 1970s that was aimed at helping develop former European colonies to fulfill his vision for the country. Most of such projects are still visible today. He built the country’s only international airport; hydroelectric power stations that his successors are struggling to upgrade; he built most of the roads that connects the country’s four cities; he oversaw the most competent, organised and disciplined civil service that Malawi has ever had; he built the University of Malawi (the one his successors are failing to run) and he built the two main referral hospitals that the country has.
This is a foundation that sustained his reign of terror. Yet it is the same foundation that his successors could have easily built on when his regime finally fell in 1994.
Like many sub-Saharan Africa countries that were doing away with their dictators in the early to mid 1990s following the end of the Cold War and with the end of Apartheid, Malawians demanded social, economic and political change. External and internal pressure forced Kamuzu to call for a referendum in 1993, giving Malawians a chance to choose whether they wanted to continue with his one party authoritarian rule or to adopt multi-party democracy. 64% of Malawians chose the latter. This led to a 1994 general elections where Kamuzu lost to Bakili Muluzi. Kamuzu was gracious in defeat; he congratulated Muluzi and wished him well before the vote count was over.
Before his death November of 1997, the aged and frail Kamuzu made a public statement asking Malawians who suffered under his autocratic leadership to forgive him. It was an unprecedented and unexpected move. The once mighty “lion” had been humbled, it could no longer roar and it was now owning up to its brutal past. Malawi prides itself as a “God fearing nation”, so probably Kamuzu knew that these “God fearing people” would indeed forgive him, as their Bibles teach. Kamuzu tolerated no dissent or opposing views for the entire 30 years he was in office. If Malawi is indeed a “God fearing” nation then Kamuzu was second inline – he was a demigod to be feared and revered.
Kamuzu created an inward-looking country, where he acquired this divine status that all his people were supposed to look up to. Anyone he felt was a threat to his “life presidency” was jailed, exiled or killed (Elliot reviewed the prison memoirs of the great poet Jack Mapanje a couple of years ago). Legend has it that he would feed some of those jailed to crocodiles. This cannot be verified but the rumour itself speaks volumes of a man Malawians today celebrate as a national hero worth shutting down national business for. On Kamuzu Day there were people sitting and watching in disgust as the nation celebrated as a hero the fallen despot that made their lives hell.
This is understandable and I sympathise with the victims of Kamuzu’s dictatorship. Yet the point of celebrating Kamuzu Day is far more complex than celebrating his life. It is a leadership failure in Malawi that has created this day. It works as a kind of smokescreen, inhibiting critical engagement with our present as much as our past. Malawian politics is not about policies and there are no ideological fault-lines. It is about individuals outdoing each other. When politicians parade their attributes on a political podium, as they do, they are not only talking about themselves, they are contrasting themselves with their rivals. The formula is that of a beauty contest. In this game of personalities none of the Malawi leaders that have come after Kamuzu — Muluzi, Bingu wa Mutharika and Joyce Banda — can outdo him. He built infrastructure and could point to it, and they have not. Simply put: these leaders have failed to build on the foundation Kamuzu built.
Consequently, these leaders have wanted to associate themselves with Kamuzu. If you cannot beat him, join him. Muluzi was slightly different probably because he was a direct successor. Yet he did his best to erase Kamuzu’s name, renaming almost everything that bore Kamuzu’s name. It was Mutharika who built Kamuzu’s lavish mausoleum at taxpayers’ expense. Yet in life Mutharika feared Kamuzu so much that he spent years in self-imposed exile during Kamuzu’s reign. After only one year in office, Joyce Banda has already renamed State House “Kamuzu Palace”. At the time of writing this piece, Banda was in Kasungu, Kamuzu’s home district, attending celebrations – wearing clothes bearing Kamuzu’s face.
It is this kind of nostalgia that has compromised transitional justice in Malawi. Malawi could well be the only country that celebrates the life of its autocratic dictator. No wonder that the Machiavellian figure of John Tembo, Kamuzu’s long time right-hand man and overseer of many of Kamuzu’s policies, remains prominent in mainstream politics today as the leader of Kamuzu’s party, the Malawi Congress Party. He is the leader of opposition in parliament and though he turns 81 years old this September, he will still contest the presidency once again in 2014. Tembo’s political durability is in part down to the fact that the succession of failed leaders that have come after 1994 means his MCP is, not unreasonably, regarded as Malawi’s most successful ruling party ever. Yet the history of that party tells its own story about Kamuzu. The MCP was the party of liberation formed by a generation of freedom fighters, who were later to suffer under Kamuzu’s presidency. The founder of the MCP was the late Orton Chirwa, who together with his wife, Vera, was arrested by Kamuzu 1981. Orton died in jail in 1992; Vera was released at the turn of multiparty democracy in 1993. Until today the couple remain Africa’s longest serving prisoners of conscience.
There have been some younger Malawians aspiring for leadership positions, including presidency. Unfortunately, some of them have already joined the hero worship bandwagon. As a way of justifying that the youth can also hold leadership positions, some of these younger aspirants are arguing that Kamuzu had the youngest-ever cabinet in the history of Malawi. Referring to his first cabinet, of 1964. Yet most of these yet aspirants forget to mention what happened next.
Kamuzu got rid of all these young intellectuals and leaders, one by one, following the Cabinet Crisis of 1964. Notably Henry Masauko Chipembere and Kanyama Chiume were exiled, and Yatuta Chisiza, like his brother Dunduzu before him, was gunned down by security forces. This epitomised Kamuzu’s 30 years rule. In 1983 there was the well documented case of Mwanza murders where four MPs were killed for simply suggesting that Kamuzu was ageing therefore there was a need to start succession plans. Of course the courts acquitted Kamuzu and Tembo in the trial that followed multiparty democracy simply because the government was too inept. For the record, Malawi government has never won any high profile case since 1994 – and there have been quite a few.
Tossing around Kamuzu’s name and image as a political tool is making Kamuzu into a heroic saint that bears little resemblance to the historical record. He was a ruthless authoritarian that caused a lot of pain to many people whose relatives and parents languished in jails, exile and some were killed without committing any crime at all. He ran a state without a justice system. He was the sole arbiter of truth. This is the side of Kamuzu that is slowly being erased from nation history, deliberately or not, and as we blur the lines of our past, it becomes more and more difficult to understand our present. Airbrushing Kamuzu’s legacy and creating false nostalgia that is only aimed at diverting the national psyche from current leadership failures is not only injustice for those that suffered during his reign, it also stifles national progress and development.
Malawi will not develop if nostalgia and hero-worshiping are drivers of its leadership. The country needs visionary leaders ready for public service. Leaders with policies that can drive the nation forward; this has nothing to do with anybody’s age, gender or tribe. Here the electorate have a role to pay: look beyond personalities and focus on their policies instead.

You May Also Like

3 NDEMANGA

  1. Hi everybody, I’m an Italian man decided to send a message which will describe my personality. Long ago there were transmitted values by GOD and JESUS, and at that time people felt it more consideration. Nowadays, the observance of these principles has started a process of decay. This consideration of the values is not only vital in personal relationships between men and women, but also towards present and future society, which learns and will learns our behaviour patterns. All this means that the more time passes, the less importance has the lives of others. A couple must have a very strong faith in order to address all the problems that life delivers, so it is necessary that each other are offset by a fidelity that is based precisely on the concepts above. IT’S ESSENTIALS THAT ALL PEOPLE DIFFUSE THE GOSPEL ALL OVER THE WORLD AS MANY PEOPLE WE CAN. My main characteristic is focused on being God-loving, for this reason i’m very reliable in relationships. Nobody is perfect, but this particular side makes safer a person who is interested to become a part of my life. I am willing to start something special that will lead to the development of a more solid bond. I’m available to relocate everywhere because for me geographical distance is purely a matter of jumping on a plane and next second virtual world became reality. Whatsapp: +447937463555; Viber: +393409282577; skype: testifi87

  2. After looking a few days on the dilemma of how and when the human race was born, I gave birth to these hypotheses, thanks also to the differences found in Genesis between two stories that seem different, namely the creation of man on the sixth day and then the telling of the story about Adam and Eve. If we read the part of the genesis which explains the creation of man on the sixth day, and then the creation of Adam and Eve, you may notice a detail that differs between the two parts, suggesting that they are two completely different stories. In fact, in Genesis 1:26, we can see that man was created on the sixth day in the image and likeness of God, as in Genesis 5:1 (referring to Adam and Eve after 7 days of creation) the text of the Bible omits “image”, the fact that “image” and “likeness” indicate two similar concepts but different. I think “image” means human nature able to conceive the evil, so the suffering too, instead “likeness” denotes the inherited attributes of God as love, reason and they are both still together. Hypothetically speaking, the man of the sixth day is a creature evolved from animals or some other thing, then, over time has developed the reason as we know it today, while Adam and Eve were created in the Garden of Eden and as the Bible says in Genesis 2:7 (And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground) this means that God took their dust from the young earth and has created them in the Eden where the concept of time did not exists or was limited to the 7 days, this event happened before the creation of trees as written in Genesis 2:4,5,6: (These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground and God formed man of the dust of the ground). In this perfect reality there was no concept of evil, so they were only a “likeness” of God. After that they were created, were expelled from Eden, only to find themselves in this situation where had passed perhaps millions of years (because in the Eden the time for them had not passed), a situation in which the man who was created in the image and likeness did not exists anymore because of a mass extinction caused by some natural catastrophe or by “something else”, or perhaps still he existed, and the descendants of Adam and Eve hybridized this species, confirmed in Genesis 6:1,2,3,4, in which it says that the sons of God married the daughters of men (but may also be refers to the descendants of Cain, who turned away from God). The spirit of God will not dwell forever with the man because he also is flesh, living up to 120 years (mean that men of God who lived up to 900 years later live up to 120 years because of the fact that hybridizing with the daughters of men they are “contaminated” at the genetic level, partially losing genes that enabled him to live a lot longer). According to the Bible, Adam and Eve were the first humans created by God, who lived approximately 6,000 years ago. According to the science, humans existed a long time before. The two lines of thought can be easily united, thanks to the omnipotence of God, who in the beginning created humans in a reality where there was no concept of “evil”. Metaphorically speaking, Adam and Eve were expelled from this heavenly reality, find himself in another reality, namely in today’s reality that we all know, where there is the concept of evil, as well as that of the well, a reality where they were the first humans who experienced firsthand the life God had reserved for them (so they were the first humans in the “perfect” reality). From here it is clear that the story of Adam and Eve does not upset in the least bit the evolutionary linearity, and the seven days of creation relate to a creation took place in the reality of Adam and Eve, where everything was possible, even just create the stars, animals and everything else, without the scientific method and the time needed to have their share. In practice, they were the first men of God, whereas prehistoric man lived before Adam and Eve was a man, but it could be considered as an animal evolved from animals or by something else, which had two arms and two legs, and that may have hybridized with the descendants of Adam And Eve after they were “moved away” from the “perfect reality”. God has endowed man about the concept of “infinity” and “eternity”, as well as other questions can not be explained through the use of the scientific method, thus making humans free to believe in God or not, in a reality for us tricky and necessary for the construction and continuation of his project.

ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

From The World