History Of Malawi

Dr. Banda’s decree of February 1989 to repatriate teachers from the North and its aftermath

Mikuyu-Prison-sign-225x300According to Where Silence Rules: The Suppression of Dissent in Malawi, a report by Human Rights Watch published in October 1990:
1. On February 2, 1989, President Banda, summoned all top civil servants and denounced them of trying to under develop the South and the Center and to concentrate development projects in the North;
2. On February 9, 1989, President Banda made a speech during his annual “crop inspection” tour in which he repeated his denunciations of northerners;
3. On February 13, 1989, in a further speech at Ntcheu, the President alleged that some northerners wanted to succeed from Malawi and invite exiled former minister Kanyama Chiume to take over as President;
4. In the same speech, Banda ordered that all northern teachers to be transferred immediately to schools in their region of origin;
These attacks by President Banda on northerners were followed by a wave of sackings, with loss of pension benefits of senior civil servants from northern region.
Those dismissed included: John Phiri the PS in Ministry of Trade and Industry; James Chatupa the Chief Geologist; GG Ntawali the Commissioner of Police for Central Region; Hastings Chunga the General Manager of Small Enterprise Development Organisation of Malawi; Stanford FC Munyenyembe the Chief Resident Magistrate for Blantyre.
The next purge was the arrest of northerners who criticized the sackings or the redeployment of teachers. Prominent among these was Dr. George Mtafu aged 47, the country’s only neurosurgeon based at QUECH in Blantyre. He was one of the senior civil servants called to the February 2 meeting with President Banda.
Also detained was Thokozani Khonje, a 42 year old  Area Manager for Sugar Company of Malawi. He was arrested at Nchalo when he was having a drink with friends. He had been overheard to say the redeployment of teachers was impractical and would lead to collapse of the education system;
There were also reports of other northerners arrested in the first half of 1989 and detained at Mikuyu Prison. These  included: George Thindwa an Economist in Ministry of Trade and Tourism; a teacher named P. Mkandawire and Davie Mumba who works for a private company; and a student named Bright Nyasulu.
Astonishingly, Bright Nyasulu was a 14 year old boy.  While playing with his peers, he had made some remarks to against the decree to repatriate teachers back to their homes of origin in the North.
One of his peers had a father who was special branch police officer, and while having dinner later in the evening, this kid told his father what his peer Bright Nyasulu had said while playing earlier on. The police didn’t take long to come to arrest this 14 year old Bright Nyasulu and locked him at Mikuyu Prison as a high profile political prisoner of Dr. Banda.

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