Blantyre witnessed an early Independence Day party on Wednesday, thanks to a colourful parade marking the filming of Michael Usi’s documentary of founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
People from all walks thronged the streets of Malawi’s commercial capital to witness the remaking of Banda’s history which has been heavily politicised since the end of his 31-year one-party rule in 1993.
During the shooting of Kale, the motorcade carrying Usi took Malawians on the road from Limbe Market to Gogo Chatinkha Maternity Ward at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) with all the ceremony typical of the fallen leader.
There were dances by mbumba, the party women garbed in cloth emblazoned with Kamuzu’s portrait; traditional performances by Sambang’oma Dance Troupe, sights of bodyguards, police officers and other symbols of power characteristic of the one-party era.
And the pintsized Usi—clad in a black Wilson hat and khaki coat —stood majestically in an open-roof white Land Rover, waving a fly whisk and surrounded by gyrating mbumbas as well as grand mimics of the defunct red-shirted Youth League members and Malawi Young Pioneers.
For some onlookers, the exhumation of history could not have come at a better time than now when the city assembly has paved the roads with the rising-sun flag that replaced the Union Jack in 1964 in preparation for the Independence Day on Friday.
Kamuzu is the poster face of the self-rule fight that occasioned the hoisting of the rising-sun flag abandoned by the late president Bingu wa Mutharika two years ago and reinstated by Parliament just last month.
Some motorists were unhappy because the five-piece convoy further clogged the route beset by a lunch-hour traffic jam, but the most recognisable casualty of the film under construction was a Toyota salon which was swept aside by a lorry carrying the jovial party women at the flag-decorated Chichiri Roundabout.
When the motorcade entered QECH, the margins of the ward, opened in 1980 to honour the sister of Kamuzu, was clogged with people dancing and jostling for space to catch the Tikuferanji star playing the leader who was an enigma to his people.
“After years of hearing politicians smearing the image of the leader who freed Malawi from the British colonial rule 47 years ago, I am happy to see one man who acknowledges that Kamuzu was not an ordinary leader. The country would not have been developed if he was as selfish and intolerant as people who talk bad about him,” said Mayi Dinala, the woman who has remained true to the opposition MCP where many defect to ruling parties,
And Usi said the parade was just the beginning of the film that suffered a setback last year when the police halted it to pave the way for a presidential motorcade that never came. This time, there were at least 10 armed police officer in his security detail and guiding traffic all the way to QECH, where he toured the historic ward and addressed a mini-rally replete with Kamuzu’s slogans and praise songs synonymous to Kwacha Kwayera programme on MBC.
“By documenting the life of Kamuzu, Kale will set the record straight and ensure children born during the multiparty dispensation know where we are coming from,” said Usi.
Out this year, the film will also contain scenes of the imaginary Kamuzu interacting with football players and inspecting a guard of honour.