Malawi OP-ED 

I remember Ngwazi Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda…. BOMA lathu!

By Janet Karim

17 ‘In the last days, God says, ‘I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on My menservants and maidservants, I will pour out My Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. — Acts 2:17-18

This week, I come to remember with a bucket load of accolades, the Father and founder of my beloved Malawi, Ngwazi Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda; former Life President. Just like my beloved country Malawi, I am who I am because of his wise, dynamic, foresighted, and selfless leadership. I join the many Malawians countrywide, outside Malawi in saying Happy Birthday in heaven, Bwana President!

There are many people – young and old, men and women, citizens and non-citizens, inside and outside Malawi – who would disagree with me in my celebratory mode. Some would label him as a tyrant, led Malawi in a reign of terror, some would even add that he threw Malawians who opposed him to crocodiles, others in prison; most would say, he was vehemently against opinions that were against his line of thought, and that only his voice was the right voice. They would be somewhat right.

However, when I look back and remember Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda (who moved from prime minister, then President, Life President, and former President), in his 31-year tenure as leader of what was formerly known as Nyasaland, I see personal, political, and professional benefits. Malawians in and outside Malawi, foreign countries in Africa and around the world have a lot that they have benefitted from Kamuzu and in sincerity for which to be thankful to him.

For a start, all through the 31 years Kamuzu was in power, he surrounded himself with “men and women that got this done, and in his way.” The result of this solid stand and expectations is that Malawi experienced massive countrywide development, such development that has been unmatched since the end of his rule in 1994.

Personally: I was 10 years old and very sickly child, with swollen knees and ankles, living in England where my dad was High Commissioner. When my family and I met Kamuzu (he was then Prime Minister of Malawi) at his Dorchester Hotel, I could not kneel due to the swelling in my joints. Kamuzu asked to examine me in one of the adjoining rooms. There and then, he diagnosed my ailment as rheumatic fever. He asked my parents to take me to Malawian doctor by name of Dr. Bhima. The Malawian doctor treated me but further recommended children’s doctors in London that managed my treatment.

My second personal benefit was listening to Dr. Banda, one of the most educated leaders on the African continent, was to advise Malawian scholars like me, to excel and do well in studies in colleges, secondary and primary schools. He put us on a roll to exceed even our previous grades.

Politically:  In this sphere, Kamuzu united the whole country, made up of the norther, central and southern region sections. The regions were divided into districts, with each districts having areas. They all had leaders; while these were political (appointed or elected); there was the parallel traditional leadership cluster that kept intact the hereditary model.

Another unifying factor was that of limiting the official languages to English and Chichewa. Any time Kamuzu spoke at rallies or official functions, he spoke in English and an interpreter (my dad was his first interpreter) spoke in Chichewa.

Kamuzu often spoke in terms that were of educating the people; he repeated many of these lessons and built a citizenry that adhered to the four cornerstones of unity, loyalty, obedience, and discipline. While other countries may not yap-yap about these four, but they are pillars that build democracies. The rule of law and respect for religions were other pillars Kamuzu led Malawians to embrace.

Professionally:  In the professional realm, Kamuzu guided his co-workers in the development of Malawi, to set up structures, separate from the political realm. There was the traditional sector (chiefs and village head people), the civil service that was infilled by college graduates from the University of Malawi (Chancellor College, Polytechnic, Bunda, Kamuzu College of Nursing, and Kamuzu College of Medicine), education, banking, tourism industry, import and export, transport, roads, and infrastructure development, sports, arts and crafts. At 60 years, Malawi is the proud exporter of professional men and women in a variety of sectors.

The American television station this past week featured a Malawian agriculturist, based in South Africa and this interview exposed the drone system that he uses to monitor the growth and health of his maize crop. Another information floating about is how several patents used by airlines such as Boeing, Airbus Group, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Embraer, and others, is owned by a Malawian aeroengineer, the late Professor Mhango. There are many other examples of brilliant Malawians that are excelling outside and even inside the country. The Go-Getter spirit that Kamuzu planted in our parents, passed on to us, that we pass on to our children and they to their children started with all that “As I have reiterated (meaning repeated, restated, retold) many times before….!”

So, credit for the kind of high-spirited manner that Malawians exhibit today, must deservedly go to Kamuzu.

 I end with a Facebook tribute by a Kamuzu Academy Alumni, Zohra Kalilani Matundu:

Happy 118th.Birthday to Ngwazi Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda of blessed memory! 20 years in Heaven following his departure on 25th. November 1997. Father and Founder of the Malawi nation. And Founder of the Kamuzu Academy, dubbed the Eton of Africa!

Mine are nothing but words of gratitude when I ponder on the life of Dr. H. K. Banda! To me, God has used him to bless me immensely! The education I was blessed to receive at Kamuzu Academy continues to stand me in good stead and this for all my life!

How can I not be grateful and say thank you Baba? Because I had A levels, I could be admitted to University of Cape Town with no problems. The poem I wrote for him came from the abundance of my heart!

Ngwazi may you continue to rest in peace Baba! You surely came, you saw, and you conquered. The seeds you sowed are germinating and surely, the dreams you had for Malawi shall come to pass. Albeit facing many trials and challenges, but surely, they shall come to pass! We your children strive to do our part to be part of that legacy! Celebrating the precious gift that you were and continue to be to us! Happy Birthday in heaven! Kumwambako kudyere Fillet Mignon pansi pano susa! Loads of Love LPZee (aka Zohra Matundu).

From me, I join in and say, Happy Birthday in heaven Your Excellency Ngwazi Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda, Chancellor of the University of Malawi, former Life President. You who fought for our freedom with words only, freeing us from the yokes of colonial rule from the British, and steered Malawi through unparalleled development that transformed our nation beyond recognition. Rest in Jehovah God’s eternal loving peace. (RIJGELP) Amen!

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