By Bruce Sosola.
Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh was an official envoy of the Monarchy of the United Kingdom who officiated the hoisting down and up of the Union Jack and the Rising Sun, respectively on 6 July 1964 at Kamuzu Stadium. For two years, Malawi’s head of state was Queen Elizabeth, and Kamuzu Banda her head of government.
That is the reason why 6 July celebrations should be a double celebration. On 6 July 1966 when Malawi became a republic, the monarchy ceased to be the head of state and Kamuzu Banda assumed the function. Not much of what was discussed behind the scenes between Prince Philip and Kamuzu Banda could be stated. However, speculations indicate that the Queen’s delegate had the bearing on the stern international relations stance Kamuzu Banda took moving forward during the cold war.
All is history that capitalism won and political alignment with the western block became the policy of the newborn Malawi. No wonder this stance contributed to tumultuous division with his cabinet of ministers leading to a cabinet crisis – precisely just less than two months after Prince Philip witnessed the birth of independent Malawi. Prince Philip, in the Queen’s message to independent Malawi, lamented “Malawi would not seek to impose its ideology on others, nor will it accept the imposition of other ideologies upon itself.”
To what the Queen meant is left to speculation. Prince Philip opened the first session of the Malawi Parliament on 7 July 1964 in Zomba. At the time he visited Malawi, Prince Philip had taken an incredible passion and energy for wildlife conservation and was the president of the World Wildlife Fund of Nature (WWF). It is also speculated that he championed the expansion of protected areas in Malawi at the time Lengwe National Park was threatened by the expansion of sugar plantation by the London-Rhodesia Company (Lonrho) which had represented the British Government business interests in Malawi and post-colonial Africa.
Through the unrelenting campaign by G.D. Hayes and the Royal Fauna Preservation Society in London, Hayes praised the role of Prince Philip indirectly when he circulated a pamphlet headlined “How Independence Saved an African Reserve” meaning Lengwe National Park. His passion for the environment and wildlife was contagious as his grandson Prince Harry witness a historic translocation of 500 elephants from Majete and Liwonde National Parks to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in 2017.
Before Prince Philip became the Duke of Edinburgh, he was also the Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark. Could it be that he might have had an influence in the deal to open the Carlsberg Breweries during his visit to Malawi? Coincidentally when Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs Per Hækkerup as an envoy of King Frederik IX of the Kingdom of Denmark attended the Republic Celebration in Malawi on 6 July 1966, they struck a deal to open the first Carlsberg plant outside Denmark.
The legacy of the Duke of Edinburgh could not be complete without the mention of another monumental state visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Malawi from 24 to 27 July 1979. The legend goes on that the household name Kamenya Choir hit the ground with the popular welcoming song dubbed “Queen wabwera ndi mkazi wake, Queen” translated “The Queen has come with his wife.” The story even goes on that one courageous Malawi Young Pioneers guard defied the front protocols and whispered to the choir conductor that the Queen was the female one and had basically come with her husband.
The apparent confusion came about because the Kamenya choir expected the head of the Kingdom to be the male white state visitor walking and sitting along with Kamuzu Banda. The authenticity of the occurrence could not be verified at the time of going to press. As the matter of fact, Prince Philip visited Malawi from 24-27 July 1979 together with Queen Elizabeth, his wife – exactly 15 years after he had visited Malawi during independence.
He however precisely sat close and walked along with Cecilia Tamanda Kadzamira, the official hostess of Kamuzu Banda.Malawi has a long history with Edinburgh where Prince Philip was its Duke from 1947 until his death in 2021.
Christianity in Malawi grew with the help of the Church of Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland. Coincidentally, Kamuzu Banda attended the Royal Society of Surgeons and Physicians at the University of Edinburgh where he qualified as a Medical Doctor at the fifth attempt. Prince Philip served as the Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh from 1953-2010.
Malawi’s history indeed is not complete without the mention of Prince Philip. Life is not fair sometimes. If Prince Philip had stayed a bit 60 days longer, he would have marked his 100th birthday on 10 June 2021. May His Soul Rest in Peace.