By Mac Neil Kalowekamo
BLANTYRE, MALAWI. Malawi commemorated this year’s Kamuzu Day on Thursday the 14th of May with this event still courting mixed reactions and feelings in the multi-party democracy era.
14th May was set as a public holiday to remember and celebrate the life and works of the first president in independent Malawi Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda. But the day continues to be a divisive element among the Malawian citizenry both within and in the Diaspora.
While some circles accord Dr. Kamuzu Banda with the full regalia of heroism, others punch holes into his achievements saying they pale into the shadows and jaws of a 30-year-autocracy rule characterised by gross violation of human rights and double standards that promoted white supremacy at the expense of ideals of pan-africanism and liberation of the Southern African region.
Those in support of the achievements of Dr. Kamuzu Banda point to the infrastructure development that his tenure established.
“One of good things I remember Kamuzu is what he did for this nation in terms of putting up long lasting structures. You look at the roads and schools built in Kamuzu rule one will see that are durable and still in good shape compared to the ones built by the four governments in multiparty era,” wrote Mike Dodoma from Blantyre on Kemet Forum, a pan-African social media platform.
He added that nowadays a lot of government resources are going down the drain because of low and substandard infrastructures that need frequent maintenance year in year out.
Another contributor to the same forum Andrew Kaponya concurred with Dodoma saying that Dr. Kamuzu Banda believed in high quality things and this is evidenced in the structures like Chancellor College, Blantyre Civic Offices, Kamuzu Academy, Chayamba Building just to mention a few.
“I wonder where he got those bricks used to build these structures. And some of the roads built by Dr. Kamuzu Banda are still in good condition. Look at Chikwawa Road, Kacheche-Chiweta Road, we have used these roads for many years but go and check the Zomba Road which is not even one year old, it has already started putting patches,” said Kaponya.
But beyond infrastructure development, the first president of independent Malawi is seen as a failure largely in the areas of economy, human rights and international relations.
“Economically, Kamuzu failed to create an economy that could progressively empower the majority of Africans,” said Paliani Chinguwo, a Malawian living in Botswana.
He said that according the hero status to Kamuzu whose leadership had a worse record in upholding human rights domestically besides being anti-thetical to the liberation of Southern Rhodesia, Mozambique and South Africa; is a slap in the face of this country’s history, to all those who suffered all kinds of injustices under his rule and above all to the cause of pan Africanism.
“Many people suffered torture and oppression. Many were being detained without trial, some lost their lives and others fled into exile and more so, Malawi under Dr. Banda literally turned its back against the liberation movements in Mozambique, Southern Rhodesia and South Africa,” Chinguwo said.
He further observed that Kamuzu isolated the country from other African countries with his foreign policy and instead dragged Malawi to fraternise more with apartheid South Africa, Ian Smith regime in Southern Rhodesia and Portuguese in Mozambique which were racist and colonial in the first place.
“Kamuzu shunned all OAU (Organization of African Union) and SADCC (Southern African Development Coordination Conference) meetings but almost every year he patronised Commonwealth meetings convened by Britain.”
Dr. Banda ruled the country from 1964 to 1993 when Malawians chose to have multiparty system of government.
Mac Neil Kalowekamo is a fourth year student at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College studying for a Bachelor’s of Arts (BA) degree in Communications and Cultural Studies.
THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE KEMET FORUM EDITORIAL TEAM.