March 3 was not just as other days in Malawi during the reign of Kamuzu Banda in commemorating martyrs, those who died in fighting against white oppressors.
Kamuzu chose this day deliberately in order to unveil memories in every Malawian to honour on the sacrifice president himself made for our freedom.
It was on March 3, 1959 when the State of Emergency was declared in Nyasaland, which gave agents of the federal government powers to restrict the movement of or assembling into groups by the natives.
They also had powers to arrest and throw into detention those suspected to cause trouble for the government in Zomba. With the special given powers, they generously used handcuffs and guns to arrest or kill natives who posed a danger to the status quo by agitating for self-determination.
Kamuzu himself was arrested under the State of Emergency and detained for nearly a year at Gweru Prison in Southern Rhodesia.
In that construct, the Chilembwe uprising was acknowledged as the genesis of our struggle for freedom, culminating in the 1953 riots in protest against the formation of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland then climaxing in 1959 when, under the “wise, dynamic and pragmatic leadership” of Kamuzu, the martyrs stood up to gun-toting soldiers and the police until Malawi attained self-rule in 1963.
Therefore, Malawi Congress party used its Youth League to unleash terror on anyone perceived to commemorate Martyrs Day with relaxed solemnity. There was simply to be no work of any kind–not even washing nappies. No laughter, no games, no entertainment.
If person caught while drunk on the day used to face the music, since the day was more like worshiped which required everybody’s participation.
On the MBC radio, only radio 1 by that moment the solemn music and spirituals, spiced with reminiscences of remnants of the State of Emergency, from morning to close down at midnight.
While in the afternoon of March 3, many families across the country would gather around their radios to listen to a Chichewa play called ‘Adeferanji?’ That’s when the story of John Chilembwe was told as part of the Martyrs Day commemoration.
If the day was honoured to give respect to all Martyrs who suffered for our freedom or just Kamuzu himself, it was bit all good for Malawians to remember their heroes with same feeling.
In nowadays, democracy has made the day less feared, the citizens now commemorating the Martyrs day while enjoying their time in drinking joints.