History Of Malawi

TODAY IN THE HISTORY OF MALAWI: Dr. Banda’s first public address in Nyasaland made on 6th July 1958

HKB arriving at Chileka 1958Below is an extract from Dr. Banda’s own re-collection of his first public address to the masses in Nyasaland upon his arrival back to Nyasaland on 6th July 1958.

This extract also contains the actual words that Dr. Banda uttered on this day as transcribed into his own diary from the original police recordings made at the Nyasaland Africa Congress’ office in Soche, Blantyre from where he delivered the address.

If Dr. Banda’s own testimony is anything to go by, this first public address in Nyasaland by him, is probably the first occasion for any politician to publicly use the term ‘Malawi’ to refer to the Nyasaland Protectorate.

“Mr. Chairman, Chiefs, Ladies and Gentlemen. I do not know how to tell you how happy I am to be with you here this afternoon, to see you gathered here to welcome me back home in such large numbers as you have come. But before going any further, I must apologize for speaking in English, when I should be speaking in my own Chichewa or Chinyanja. As you all know, I am a Chewa from Kasungu.

But I left Kasungu a very long time ago. And all this time, I have been away in America and in Britain. In America and Britain, the people do not speak Chichewa or Chinyanja.They speak English. So, I had to speak English. Though I still remember my Chichewa, I cannot express myself in it fluently. So, please, give me time to regain my fluency in my own Chichewa once more.”

As I said that, the crowd listened with attention that could be seen from the faces and eyes, all of which were turned towards the platform. Except for loud cheers and clapping of hands, which went up almost with every point I made, all was silence and silence that was tense.

As I recall now, I think it was Mr. Mbekeani who translated for me. As he translated my words into Chichewa, the music of it, the sound of it, flooded back into my mind and soul. I even caught him in some minor errors of translation, (laughing) but nothing serious (laughing).

I went on, “Ten years ago, I led the fight against federation from London. When I did this, the settlers in this country, government officials in this country, some government officials and some of the members of the Conservative Party in London, said I was an agitator, an extremist and a troublemaker. They said I alone, in London, thousands of miles away from Nyasaland, was opposed to federation. They said I was artificially manufacturing opposition to federation in London and exporting it here to you in Nyasaland.

They said you were not against federation. You know nothing about federation and cared less (about the federation) whether you lived under  federation or not”.

As I said these words and these sentences, loud cries of ‘bodza,bodza, bodza’ (lies, lies, lies) went up from the audience. ‘Yes’, I echoed back to the crowd, ‘Lies, Lies and Lies’.

“I knew even then, in London, these were lies. I knew that those people who were saying that you were not opposed to federation we retelling lies.

And yet, they called themselves Christians. But now, I am even more convinced that these people, though calling themselves Christians, were telling lies. Your presence here this afternoon, in such large numbers, convinces me that the settlers in this country, the government officials in this country, some government officials and the Tory Party in London, were not telling the truth when they said you,my people in this country, Chiefs and common people, were not opposed to federation”.

As I said these words, a din of clapping hands in applause came up from the audience.What I said seemed to strike a chord or ring a bell in the hearts and minds of the people in the crowd. All was interest and enthusiasm. Everyone seemed to be listening to me with keen interest and wild enthusiasm.

“I know now, for certain, that though thousands of miles away from you in London,when I opposed federation beginning in 1948, I did and was doing what you would have told me to do, if I had been home here with you. Your presence here now in such large numbers tells me that.

For here you are, men and women, young and old, boys and girls, from every tribe, from every district and from every province. Some of you have traveled miles and miles to come and see me. You are here from the Northern Province, from the Central Province and from the Southern Province. To most of you, I am but a name. You do not know me. I am totally unknown to you, except as a name. Why have you come here? Why are you here now? Why have you traveled miles and miles to come here to see me?

You have come here because you have been told that I am the man who, beginning ten years ago, away in London, led the fight against the federation. That is why you are here this afternoon in such large and impressive numbers. That is why you have traveled miles and miles, from the Northern Province, from the Central Province and  from all parts of the Southern Province.

And you are here because you have been told and you know, that of all the leaders, I am the only one who is opposed to federation now as strongly as I was opposed to it beginning in 1948. Because you know that of all the top leaders, I am opposed to federation without compromise and without equivocation, without evasion. That is why you have come here. That is why you are here now”.

More and more wild and enthusiastic applause went up from the audience as I uttered these words.

I went on “Now, I am convinced, and convinced beyond all doubts, that when I opposed federation in London, I was doing the right thing. When I said in London,‘My people do not want federation’, I was speaking the truth and nothing but the truth.Your presence here this afternoon tells me that.

I know now for sure that when I spoke against federation all over Britain, I was expressing what you thought, what  you felt and what you feared, but which I, alone, at that time, could express in a way and language that could be understood by those in power in Nyasaland and by the people and leadership in Britain”.

Again voices and clapping of hands went up from the crowd in enthusiastic applause.

“But now”, I said, “I am back. I am back home among you , my people, my own people. This time I mean to lead you in the fight against federation and for self-government in Nyasaland, not from thousands of miles away in London, but from here,right here”. As I cried, “from here, right here”, the crowd stamped the ground with their feet and went delirious with applause.

Picking up where I had left off, I told the audience that there was nothing much or new I could tell them about the federation. They all knew that federation was imposed. And I was only glad to know that they and I were of one mind on the question and that they wanted Nyasaland out of it and I wanted Nyasaland out of it. For this, I said, I was very glad. Because their opposition or continued opposition vindicated my stand on federation beginning in 1948.

Then closing on the subject of federation I said, “I promise you I will never let you down. I will never sell you and the country for £1300 a year or a glass of wine or whisky or a pat on my back by a European. We must get out of their federation. Nyasaland must come out of the federation. On this I will never compromise, even if it means imprisonment for me. On that I am determined. We must secede from the federation and have a government of our own in our Motherland, dear Nyasaland, dear Malawi. More applause went up.

I used the name Malawi on purpose. In the early 1940’s, I had seen the name ‘Lac de Maravi’ on an old, old, French map, that is there in my library. I had even then written in pencil in the margin ‘Maravi, the name of our new nation’. So I decided then and there to use the name Malawi. You can see the map for yourself over there on the shelves.

Then I paused to let the applause subside. As soon as the din of applause subsided, I began again.

“I come now”, I said, “to the question of self-government in this country. On this question of self-government, I want to state right away that I have not brought self-government in my medical bag. You and I have to fight for it together and win it together. We have to work hard for it.

Pausing a little, I began again. “As you all know, the present government of this country is not your government or my government. It is not a government of the African people of this country and their Chiefs. It is a government of British civil servants. There is in Zomba a Legislative Council of twenty-three Members and an Executive Council of nine. Of the twenty-three Members of the Legislative Council,only five are Africans. Eighteen are Europeans.

Of the eighteen Europeans, six are sent to Zomba by, and represent, the European settlers, such as the tea planters in Mulanje and Thyolo, the tobacco growers in Lilongwe, Dowa, Kasungu and Fort  Manning, and the traders, such as Mandala (African Lakes Corporation Limited) and Kandodo (The London and Blantyre Supply Company Limited) and others. Twelve are civil servants.

They are the Directors of Education, Agriculture and Public Works, the Commissioner of Labour and Police, the Conservator of Forests, the Secretary for African Affairs, the Deputy Chief Secretary, the Financial Secretary and the Governor himself. It is of course true that the Governor represents the Queen.

Of the nine members of the Executive Council, not even one is an African. They are all Europeans. Two are European settlers, nominated to the Executive Council by the Governor. The rest, seven of them, are all government officials, all civil servants.The Deputy Chief Secretary, the Secretary for African Affairs and the Director of  Agriculture as nominated members and the rest as ex-officio members or as members by virtue of the offices they hold”.

As I said these words, all faces and eyes were intently fixed on me. The people listened to me with genuine interest. Everything I was saying seemed to be sinking everyone’s mind.

Then I paused again. After pausing for a few seconds, surveying the audience, I resumed.

“I say here and now, that the time has now come, when this kind of government,government of civil servants and by civil servants, must be replaced by a government of elected representatives of the people, freely chosen, freely elected by the people themselves”.

Wild clapping of hands, exclamatory voices in wild and enthusiastic applause drowned the rest of my sentences on this topic. It seemed what I said really touched the people’s hearts. Everyone, man and woman, young and old, seemed to be clapping hands or to be doing or saying something in evident approval of what I said. I had to pause for some seconds to let the din of applause subside enough, before I could continue and say a few more sentences on this subject.

The din of applause having subsided, I continued my speech. “I say the time has now come, when the Africans in this country and their Chiefs, must choose or elect their own representatives to the Legislative Council. The time has now come when you, my people, men and women, young and old, must elect your own representatives to the Legislative Council”. More applause. “And as a beginning, a very beginning, all the present nominated members must be dropped out of the Legislative Council and their  places taken over by the Africans”.

As I said these words, wild applause again went up from the audience. “These are”, I said, “the Directors of Agriculture, Education,Public Works, the Commissioners of Police and Labour, the Conservator of Forests,the Secretary for African Affairs and the Deputy Chief Secretary. The only civil servants that must remain in the Legislative Council are the chief Secretary, the Attorney-General and the Financial Secretary.

And of course, the Governor, who represents the Queen, the Crown. The rest must get out and get out now, this moment. Not tomorrow or the day after, but now, this very moment. Their places must be taken over by the Africans now, this very moment.

“But in saying all this, I have nothing against these men, personally. I have nothing against European civil servants. All I want, all I say, is that things must be done herein Nyasaland as they are done in Britain. In Britain, civil servants are not in the government. They are not in parliament. They are not in the House of Commons. And they are not in the House of Lords. They are confined to their offices in Whitehall or other administrative quarters all over Britain.

They do not make laws, but carry out and administer laws and regulations made by British politicians, the elected representatives of the British people. I say here too, it must be like that. Civil servants must not be in the Legislative Council. Civil servants must not be in the Executive Council. They must not make laws or regulations. They must be confined to their offices and their files. Their places in the Legislative council and in the Executive Council must be taken over by the elected representatives of the Africans of this country.

It must be these elected representatives who must make the laws and regulations under which we live. The civil servants must only administer and carry out these laws and these regulations, as is done in Britain. That is all I want. That is all I am saying. And if that is sedition,if that is subversion, if that is treason, let the policemen who are standing there now,some recording this speech and taking photographs, come and arrest me. I am ready to go to prison. But I know that every European here knows that what I am saying here is the truth”.

As I said all these words and sentences, I was continually interrupted by wild and enthusiastic clapping of hands and voices of vigorous applause.

“Similarly”, I went on, “when I say we must rule or govern ourselves in Nyasaland, I do not mean that Europeans must get out of Nyasaland. Not at all. I have nothing against Europeans as such. I do not hate Europeans. How could I hate Europeans? I have lived among them the greatest part of my life. As I am speaking here now, I have many friends among Europeans, both in America and in Britain. In fact, many of my best friends now are Europeans, British and Americans.

No, I do not hate Europeans. I have nothing against them. I have come to bridge the gap of disunity between the races, between the Europeans and the Indians on the one hand, and the Africans on the other, and not to widen it. We do not have to hate Europeans to win self-government. We have to work for it. But what I want Europeans to realise is that  Nyasaland is our country and we are in the majority.

There are seven thousand or eight thousand Europeans and there are three million Africans. Nyasaland being our country and we being in the majority, we must rule ourselves, just as the British people rule themselves. We must have a majority, both in the Legislative Council and in the Executive Council. That is all I want. That is all I am saying. And if this sedition, if this is subversion, if this is treason, again, I say, I am ready for prison. Let the policemen over there making recordings and taking photographs for evidence,come and arrest me now”.

As I said these words, again a din of clapping of hands and voices went up to applaud what I said. I again paused to allow the commotion of applause to die down. As soon as all was quiet again, I resumed speaking. I thanked all present for the great and enthusiastic welcome they had given me.

I thanked Congress leaders for arranging the whole reception and welcome ceremony for me and the people for responding and coming to welcome me in such large numbers. Then I sat down. As I sat down, again wild clapping of hands and shouts of approval issued forth from the audience.

Mr. Matthew Phiri then introduced some chiefs present and Congress leaders. Then what  passed for the Nation Anthem, ‘Mbuye Dalistsani Africa’ was sung, after which a prayer was said by one of the ministers present and the meeting was closed.

It was a great day. To the people of Blantyre, if not Nyasaland, it was certainly a great day. They enjoyed every minute of it, from the ceremony at the airport to the end of the meeting at Soche.

But if it was a great day for the people of Blantyre or Nyasaland as a whole, it was a greater day to and for me. From the reception given me at the airport to the end of the meeting at Soche, all through, I was gripped by a feeling which I cannot adequately describe. Throughout the day, especially during the meeting at Soche, I  felt the way the prodigal son must have felt when he returned home. I felt I was back home among my own, my own people to whom my return really mattered.

Throughout my speech, as I cried against federation and demanded self-government and saw all faces and eyes turned and fixed on me as if by some invisible power, I saw in the eyes of the women of my mother’s age, when I left home, the face and eyes of my own mother. I saw in the faces of the boys and girls of my own age or a little older or younger when I left, the faces of my brothers and sisters and the faces of my cousins of both sexes of all grades.

And in their silent faces and eyes, I could read the words and from their still and silent lips I could hear the voices and words ‘Yes, Yes,we do not want their federation. Can’t you do something about it, Kamuzu? We do not want to be ruled by others. We want to rule ourselves. Can’t you do something about it, Kamuzu?’

And I seemed to be hearing myself saying ‘Yes, Mother, I will do something about it. And if I do not succeed, I will go to prison or die, trying to do something about it, Mother.’ That is how I felt when I left the meeting place at Soche on that afternoon, the 6th day of July, 1958. I felt more than ever determined to do something definite about federation and self-government for Nyasaland.


Credits:  Dr. Banda’s Biography written by Dr. Donald Brody.

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