History Of Malawi

Speech By Brother Fidelis Balakasi at the Opening of Dr. Attati Mpakati’s Memorial Seminar in Lilongwe.

The Time is Here Now to Rediscover Malawi!

Distinguished Guest Speakers, Ambassador Kapote Mwakasungura and Frank Jiya;

Members of the organizing Committee for the Memorial Seminar;

The Family of Dr. Attati Mpakati and families for all Malawian fallen Heroes;

Former Lesoma Members and Cadres;

Civil Society fraternity;

Members of the Press; and

Ladies and Gentlemen.

On behalf of the Seminar Organising Committee and the Lost History Foundation, let me welcome you all to this historic event where we are honoring one of the great sons of Malawi, Dr. Attati Mpakati who was assassinated in cold blood by Dr. Hasting Banda’s one party regime in Zimbabwe on 23rd March, 1983.

Dr. Attati Mpakati was a charismatic and fearless leader of the Socialist League of Malawi (LESOMA) a political movement founded by exiled Malawians.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are all aware that, Malawi was a country where silence ruled, and there were gross violations of human rights. People were killed just because they uttered a word on how the country should be governed. People’s property were confiscated through the infamous Forfeiture Act. People were imprisoned and exiled among others.

Almost every Malawian was affected in one way or the other, physically or psychologically. In response, courageous Malawian men and women came together to fight against this barbaric and unacceptable behavior, resulting into formation of a number of political movements in exile in order to oppose the dictatorial regime of Dr. Banda having consolidated his grip on Malawi in the wake of 1964 cabinet crisis.  

Ladies and Gentlemen, one such movement, was the Socialist League of Malawi (LESOMA) which was founded in 1974, whose leader we are remembering today.  LESOMA emerged to become the most vibrant opposition political movement which managed to clandestinely recruit members across Malawi including employees in the civil service, private sector and the university. Other political movements included; the Malawi Freedom Movement (MAFREMO) that was led by Orton Chirwa—who was abducted in 1981 from Zambia and later tried in a Traditional Court on treason charges—later on, he died in Malawi Prison—and the Congress for the Second Republic (CRC) which was led by Kanyama Chiume—who came back to Malawi after referendum and later on became frustrated and went to USA where he died, but his remains were brought back.

For nine years, Dr. Attati Mpakati was a visionary leader of LESOMA that was committed to fight for justice, rule of law and human rights. Unfortunately, he did not live to see the dream of a free and democratic Malawi as the enemies of change assassinated him on 23rd March 1983 as stated above. We are told that before he met his fate, Dr Attati Mpakati was reported to be on his way from Maputo to visit his family in Sweden with a stopover in Harare for LESOMA assignments. But, prior to his assassination, Dr. Attati Mpakati had survived a letter bomb attack in February 1979 sent by agents of Dr. Banda, which crippled both of his hands while leaving in Mozambique and he lost some of his fingers.   Among the exiled political movement, LESOMA was the biggest political movement formed by exiled Malawians.

Ladies and Gentlemen, today, the 23rd. March, 2019, is therefore, a special day that marks 36 years after the assassination of Dr. Attati Mpakati. Given the role that he played in struggle for freedom and justice in Malawi, it is against this background that a Memorial Seminar in Honor of him has been organized by concerned Malawians, former members and cadres of LESOMA, together with the Lost History Foundation. This Memorial Seminar is aimed at commemorating 36 years, after the assassination of Dr. Attati Mpakati and providing a platform to celebrate his life and immense contribution to human rights and democracy for Malawi is enjoying today.  This Seminar is also aimed at reminding Malawians, to seriously begin recognizing all those who fought for freedom, living or the dead in appreciation of their contribution to their country. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, in a broader sense, the Seminar is also aimed at reminding historians, writers and education experts, that in Malawi, there is massive unwritten history which could be very useful for the future generation if well documented. The Seminar is further aimed at providing a framework to advocate for the establishment truth without which genuine reconciliation is UN attainable. 

Let me therefore call upon the media, writers and historians to take advantage of the rich history that will be shared at the Seminar, for ongoing documentation, further research and publication as well as dissemination.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have so many heroes of Malawi, whose rich history has not been much written or not written at all. We have big names—Dunduzi Chisiza a visionary leader who wrote a very brilliant paper, “Africa What Lies Ahead,” I urge all of us to read it, Yatuta Chisiza—who was the leader of the Mwanza insurrection of the 1967, Mkwapatira Mhango—a journalist that was murdered in cold blood in Zambia for reporting on Chitukoko cha Mai m’Malawi.  Orton  and Vera Chirwa, Harry Bwanausi, Willy Chokani, Masauko Chipembere, Rose Chirambo, Dick Matenje, Aaron Gadama, Twaibu Sangala, David Chiwanga among others; as well as the living, some of whom, are present with us today, Comrade Frank Jiya—who was part of Yatuta Chisiza in the 1967 Mwanza insurrection and Kapote Mwakasungula—who was the Secretary General of LESOMA, Catherine Chipembere and Vera Chirwa, and the list of names is endless.  It is high time that we began recognizing each other’s efforts and contribution if we are move forward as a nation.

Today, we do not know much about the 1964 cabinet crisis. Currently, we do not know much about Banda himself, hence, the unfortunate loss of the young man, Jumani in attempt to find out his roots.  Mama C Tamanda Kadzamira who was the closest to Banda is still alive—not much efforts have made to have her tell her story.

Ladies and Gentlemen, among the books that have appeared in recent years on the historiography of Malawi political culture and nationalism, Joey Power’s is the most refreshing.

It called “Political Culture and Nationalism in Malawi: Building Kwacha.

Jack Mapanje, reviewing the book, reaffirms, “Throughout the political career of Malawi’s president, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, the history of Malawi for schools, colleges, the university and the general public was blatantly distorted.”

He states: “It began with sketches of three major foreign influences on the people of Malawi: the Arab slave trade, the incursions and hostile entrances of the Ngoni from the south, and the establishment of British rule leading to the declaration of Nyasaland as a British Protectorate.”

Every significant personality and historical event between Chilembwe and Banda was expunged, erased, deleted from people’s memory for Banda’s convenience.

The new narrative that we imbibed was that in 1958 Banda came back from the UK and Ghana on his own, nobody invited him home; that he fought the British, the Central African Federation and brought Malawi self-rule and independence single-handed. Never, never and I say never again shall we swallow and guzzle that again!

Henry Masauko Chipembere, Kanyama Chiume, Orton Ching’oli Chirwa, Dunduzu Kaluli Chisiza, Ceciwa Bwanausi Khonje, Yatuta Chisiza, Willie Chokani, Augustine Bwanausi, Rose Chibambo, Attati Mpakati and Banda’s other colleagues with whom he broke up the Central African Federation and achieved self-rule and independence were rubbed out of history.

Further to that, “… that the personalities involved in these historical events would ever be restored to their rightful places in the people’s consciousness and the nation’s history was unimaginable. No historian or political scientist dared to undertake serious research that would rectify the situation; almost everyone feared to broach and to raise these ‘proscribed areas of research.”

Last but not least, Ladies and Gentlemen, the dark ages as describe above is over, there is a new dawn of Malawi’s post referendum of 1992.  Let me once again, strongly appeal to Malawian historians, writers and political scientists to seize this opportunity, of the existence of this rich history for research and publications on what we have gone through as a nation for the future generation to know.

Today, the 23rd. March, 2019 as we celebrate the life of Dr. Mpakati, we are setting out on a journey. The journey is two-fold: one, the country officially commences commemorating the martyrdom of Dr. Attati Mpakati and all the unsung Heros. Two, we embark on the re-discovery of the lost history.  For this to succeed, the onus is ours.  We can “choose life or death!” It’s time we “chose life!”

Thank you for your attention.

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This speech was delivered by Brother Fidelis Balakasi at the Opening of the Dr. Attati Mpakati’s Memorial Seminar in Lilongwe held on 23 March 2019 at Crown Hotel in Lilongwe.

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