Hastings Banda

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Hastings Banda


Hastings Kamuzu Banda (15 February 1898 – 25 November 1997) was the leader of Malawi and its predecessor state, Nyasaland, from 1961 to 1994. After receiving much of his education overseas, Banda returned to his home country (then British Nyasaland) to speak against colonialism and advocate for independence. In 1963, he was formally appointed as Nyasaland’s Prime Minister, and led the country to independence as Malawi a year later.[1] Two years later, he proclaimed Malawi a republic with himself as president. He consolidated power and later declared Malawi a one party state under the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). In 1970, the MCP made him the party’s President for Life. In 1971, he became President for Life of Malawi itself.

As a leader of the pro-Western bloc in Africa, he received support from the West during the Cold War. He generally supported women’s rights, improved the country’s infrastructure, and maintained a good educational system relative to other African countries. However, he presided over one of the most repressive regimes in Africa. He also faced scorn for maintaining full diplomatic relations with apartheid-era South Africa.

By 1993, he was facing international pressure and widespread protest. A referendum ended his one party state, and a special assembly stripped him of his title. Banda ran for president in the democratic elections which followed, but was defeated.

He died in South Africa in 1997. His legacy remains controversial, with some hailing him as a national and African hero, while others denounce him as a tyrant and one of the most corrupt leaders in Africa's entire history.

Early life

Kamuzu Banda was born near Kasungu in Malawi (then British Central Africa) to Mphonongo Banda and Akupingamnyama Phiri. His date of birth is unknown, as it took place at a time when there was no birth registration. A biographer, Philip Short, gives February 1898 as the most likely date. His official birthday was 14 May 1906, and this date is documented in some biographical accounts.

The name Kamuzu means "a little root" and was given to him as he was conceived after his mother had been given root herbs by a medicine man to cure infertility.[2] His last name, Banda means "a small hut". He took the Christian name of Hastings after being baptised into the Church of Scotland, naming himself after John Hastings, a Scottish missionary working near his village whom he admired. The prefix Doctor was earned through his education.[2]

Around 1915–16, Banda left home on foot with Hanock Msokera Phiri, an uncle who had been a teacher at the nearby Livingstonia mission school, for Hartley, Southern Rhodesia (now Chegutu, Zimbabwe). In 1917, he left on foot for Johannesburg in South Africa. He worked in various jobs at the Witwatersrand Deep Mine on the Transvaal Reef for several years. During this time, he met Bishop W. T. Vernon of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), who offered to pay his tuition fee at a Methodist school in the United States if he could pay his own passage.[2] In 1925, he left for New York.

Life abroad (1925–1958)

United States

Banda studied in the high school section of Wilberforce Institute, an African American AME college now known as Central State University, in Wilberforce, Ohio, and graduated in 1928. With his financial support now ended, Banda earned some money on speaking engagements arranged by the Ghanaian educationalist Kweyir Aggrey, whom he had met in South Africa.

Speaking at a Kiwanis club meeting, he met one Dr. Herald, with whose help he enrolled as a premedical student at Indiana University, where he lodged with Mrs. W.N. Culmer. At Bloomington, he wrote several essays about his native Chewa tribe for the folklorist Stith Thompson, who introduced him to Edward Sapir, an anthropologist at the University of Chicago, to which, after four semesters, he transferred.

During his period there, he collaborated with the anthropologist and linguist Mark Hanna Watkins, providing information on Chewa culture. In Chicago, he lodged with an African-American, Mrs. Corinna Saunders. He majored in history, graduating with a B. Phil. in 1931. During this time, he enjoyed financial support from a Mrs. Smith, whose husband, Douglas Smith, had made fortunes from patent medicines and Pepsodent toothpaste; and also from a member of the Eastman Kodak board. He then, still with financial support from these and other benefactors (including Dr. Walter B. Stephenson of the Delta Electric Company), studied medicine at Meharry Medical College in Tennessee, from which he graduated in 1937.

United Kingdom

In order to practice medicine in territories of the British Empire, however, he was apparently required to get a second medical degree; he attended and graduated from the School of Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of the University of Edinburgh in 1941. His studies there were funded by stipends of 300 pounds per year from the government of Nyasaland (in order to facilitate his return there as a doctor) and from the Scottish Presbyterian Kirk; neither of these benefactors was aware of the other. (There are conflicting accounts of this, however. He may still have been funded by Mrs. Smith). When he enrolled for courses in tropical diseases in Liverpool, the Nyasaland government terminated his stipend. He was forced to leave Liverpool when he refused on conscientious grounds to be conscripted as an Army doctor. He obtained the qualifications LRCP and LRCS (Edin) and LRFPS (Glas).[2] He also became an elder of the Church of Scotland.[2]

Between 1942 and 1945, he worked as a doctor in North Shields near Newcastle upon Tyne. He was a tenant of Mrs. Amy Walton at this time in Alma Place in North Shields and sent a Christmas card to her every year right up to her death in the late 1960s.[citation needed] In 1948, he worked as a doctor in Renfrew. A resident, Bill Johnston, remembers the time when, as a lad, Dr. Banda came to his home to see his father, who had a nasty boil on the back of his neck. His father was a respected church elder in the town. Dr. Banda took a small bottle from his case, asked for some boiling water and poured some into the bottle. Emptying the water out, he quickly placed the open end on Bill’s father’s boil where of course it stuck as the steam condensed. With a cry of anguish, his father leapt to his feet and chased the doctor round and round the kitchen table with the bottle fastened to his neck. Bill was dumbfounded at hearing his father use language that he had never heard before.[3]

Banda originally worked at a mission for coloured seamen, before moving to a general practice in the London suburb of Harlesden. At this time, he lodged in a hotel, The Conway Court, in Paddington run by Mrs Janet Evans. Reportedly, he avoided returning to Nyasaland for fear that his new-found financial resources would be consumed by his extended family back home.

In 1946, at the behest of Chief Mwase of Kasungu, whom he had met in England in 1939, and other politically active Malawians, he represented the Nyasaland African Congress at the fifth Pan African Congress in Manchester. From this time, he took an increasingly active interest in his native land, advising the Congress and providing it some financial support. With help from sympathetic British, he also lobbied in London on their behalf.

Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland and move to Ghana

Banda was actively opposed to the efforts of Sir Roy Welensky, a politician in Northern Rhodesia, to form a federation between Southern and Northern Rhodesia with Nyasaland, a move which he feared would result in further deprivation of rights for the Nyasaland blacks. The (as he famously called it) "stupid" federation was formed in 1953.

It was rumored with some excitement that he would return to Nyasaland in 1951, but he moved instead to the Gold Coast in West Africa. He may have gone there partly because of a scandal involving his receptionist in Harlesden, Mrs. French, who became pregnant with his child. Banda was cited as co-respondent in the divorce of Major French and accused of adultery with Mrs. French. She followed Banda to West Africa, but he wanted nothing more to do with her or their child.[2] (She died penniless in 1976.[citation needed])

Call to return home

Several influential Congress leaders, including Henry Chipembere, Kanyama Chiume, Dunduzu Chisiza and T.D.T. Banda (no relation) pleaded with him to return to Nyasaland to take up leadership of their cause. A delegation sent to London met with Dr. Banda at the Port of Liverpool where he was making arrangements to return to Ghana. He agreed to return, but asked for some time to sort out a few private matters, probably seeking to clear his political name after the Mrs. French debacle.[citation needed] The delegation returned without him and proceeded to make arrangements for his imminent return. After two false starts, including a fracas between the police and African crowds threatening to storm a BOAC airplane rumored to be carrying Dr. Banda at Chileka Airport, Banda finally made a showing on 6 July 1958 after an absence of about 42 years. In August, at Nkata Bay, he was acclaimed as the leader of the Congress.

Return to his homeland

He soon began touring the country, speaking against the Central African Federation (also known as the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland), and urging its citizens to become members of the party.[4] (Allegedly, he was so out of practice in his native Chichewa that he needed an interpreter, a role which was apparently performed by John Msonthi and later by John Tembo, who remained close to him for most of his career). He was received enthusiastically wherever he spoke, and resistance to imperialism among the Malawians became increasingly common. By February 1959, the situation had become serious enough that Rhodesian troops were flown in to help keep order, and a state of emergency was declared. On 3 March, Banda, along with hundreds of other Africans, was arrested in the course of "Operation Sunrise". He was imprisoned in Gwelo (now Gweru) in Southern Rhodesia, and leadership of the Malawi Congress Party (the Nyasaland African Congress under a new name) was temporarily assumed by Orton Chirwa, who was released from prison in August 1959.

Release from prison and path to independence

The mood in Britain, meanwhile, had long been moving toward decolonization due to pressure from its colonies. Banda was released from prison in April 1960 and was almost immediately invited to London for talks aimed at bringing about independence. Elections were held in August 1961. While Banda was technically nominated as Minister of Land, Natural Resources and Local Government, he became de facto Prime Minister of Nyasaland—a title granted to him formally on 1 February 1963. He and his fellow MCP ministers quickly expanded secondary education, reformed the so-called Native Courts, ended certain colonial agricultural tariffs and made other reforms. In December 1962, R. A. Butler, British Secretary of State for African Affairs, essentially agreed to end the Federation.

It was Banda himself who chose the name "Malawi" for the former Nyasaland; he had seen it on an old French map as the name of a "Lake Maravi" in the land of the Bororos, and liked the sound and appearance of the word as "Malawi". On 6 July 1964, exactly six years after Banda's return to the country, Nyasaland became the independent Commonwealth of Malawi.

President of Malawi

1964 cabinet crisis

Barely a month after independence, Malawi suffered a cabinet crisis. He had already been accused of autocratic tendencies. Several of Banda's ministers presented him with proposals designed to limit his powers. Banda responded by dismissing four of the ministers. Other ministers resigned in sympathy.[4] The dissidents fled the country.

New constitution and consolidation of power

Malawi adopted a new constitution on 6 July 1966, in which the country was declared a republic. Banda was elected the country's first president for a five-year term; he was the only candidate. The new document granted Banda wide executive and legislative powers, and also formally made the MCP the only legal party. However, the country had already been a de facto one-party state since independence. In 1970, a congress of the MCP declared Banda its president for life. In 1971, the legislature declared Banda President for Life of Malawi as well.[4] His official title was His Excellency the Life President of the Republic of Malaŵi, Ngwazi Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda. The title Ngwazi means "chief of chiefs" (more literally, "great lion", or, some would say, "conqueror") in Chicheŵa.

Banda was mostly viewed externally as a benign, albeit eccentric, leader, an image fostered by his English-style three-piece suits, matching handkerchiefs and fly-whisk. He also spoke no Chichewa, and relied on a translator, John Msonthi.[5] In June 1967, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Massachusetts with the encomium " ... pediatrician to his infant nation".

Within Malawi, views on him ranged from cult-like devotion to fear. While he portrayed himself as a caring headmaster to his people, his government was rigidly authoritarian, even by African standards of the time. Although the constitution guaranteed civil rights and liberties, they meant almost nothing in practice, and Malawi was essentially a police state. Mail was opened and often edited. Telephones were tapped, and calls were known to be cut off if anyone said a critical word about the government. Overt opposition was not tolerated. Banda actively encouraged the people to report those who criticized him, even if they were relatives. Opponents were often arrested, exiled (like Kanyama Chiume) or died suspiciously (like Dick Matenje or Dr. Attati Mpakati).

The Mwanza Four incident

In 1983, three ministers – Dick Matenje, Twaibu Sangala, Aaron Gadama – and Member of Parliament David Chiwanga died mysteriously in what was labelled officially as a "traffic accident". Banda had invited an "internal debate on pending multiparty democracy" in Malawi. Unwittingly—-during a "cabinet meeting"--the three ministers had voiced support for the multiparty idea, effectively challenging Dr. Banda's claim to life presidency. Angered, Banda promptly "dissolved cabinet" and announced parliament would meet immediately. At the end of that sitting of parliament, everyone in the chambers was effectively stripped of their political status. The three men were then rounded up at the Zomba Parliament buildings for questioning. Chiwanga happened on them being tortured in a back room and had to be silenced too. The four men were later bundled in Matenje's Peugeot 604 and driven to Thambani in Mwanza District [west of Blantyre] where the "accident" was staged—allegedly the car had "overturned while the men had been attempting to escape into neighbouring Mozambique". Later, it was found out they had perished from tent pins hammered into their heads.[6] Dr. Banda ordered that the caskets not be opened for a last viewing and a night burial.

Life in Banda's Malawi

Party membership passcards

All adult citizens were required to be members of the MCP. Party cards had to be carried at all times and presented at random police inspections. The cards were sold, often by Banda's Malawi Young Pioneers (MYP). In some cases, these youths even sold cards to unborn children.

Malawi Young Pioneers

The Malawi Young Pioneers were the notorious paramilitary wing of the MCP that were used to intimidate and harass the public.[7] The Pioneers bore arms, conducted espionage and intelligence operations, and were trusted bodyguards for Banda.[7] They enforced the laws of Malawi and helped build a culture of fear.[7]

Cult of personality

Banda was the subject of a very pervasive cult of personality. Every business building was required to have an official picture of him hanging on the wall, and no poster, clock or picture could be higher than his portrait. Before every movie, a video of Banda waving to the people was shown while the anthem played. When Banda visited a city, a contingent of women were expected to greet him at the airport and dance for him. A special cloth, bearing the president’s picture, was the required attire for these performances. Churches had to be government sanctioned.[citation needed]


All movies shown in theaters were first viewed by the Malawi Censorship Board and edited for content. Videotapes had to be sent to the Censorship Board to be viewed. Once edited, the movie was given a sticker stating that it was now suitable for viewing, and sent back to the owner. Items to be sold in bookstores were also edited. Pages, or parts of pages, were cut out of magazines like Newsweek and TIME. The press and radio were tightly controlled, and mainly served as outlets for government propaganda. Television was banned. Knowledge of pre-Banda history was discouraged, and many books on these subjects were burned. Banda also allegedly persecuted some of the northern tribes (particularly the Tumbuka), banning their language and books as well as teachers from certain tribes. Europeans who broke any of these rules were often "PI'ed" (declared Prohibited Immigrants and deported).

Dress code and conservatism

His government supervised the people's lives very closely. Early in his rule, Banda instituted a dress code which was rooted in his socially conservative predilections. For example, women were not allowed to bare their thighs or to wear trousers. Banda argued that the dress code was not instilled to oppress women but to encourage honour and respect for them. For men, long hair and beards were banned as a sign of dissent. Men could be seized and forced to have a haircut at the discretion of border officials or police. Kissing in public was not allowed, nor were movies which contained depictions of kissing.

Even foreigners coming in to Malawi were subject to Banda's dress code. In the 1970s, prospective visitors to the country were informed of the following requirement for obtaining visas:

Female passengers will not be permitted to enter the country if wearing short dresses or trouser-suits, except in transit or at Lake Holiday resorts or National parks. Skirts and dresses must cover the knees to conform with Government regulations. The entry of 'hippies' and men with long hair and flared trousers is forbidden.

Women's issues

Nonetheles, Banda was very supportive of women's rights compared to other African rulers during his reign. He founded Chitukuko Cha Amai m'Malawi (CCAM) to address the concerns, needs, rights and opportunities for women in Malawi. This institution also motivated women to excel both in education and government and encouraged them to play more active roles in their community, church and family. The foundation's National Advisor was Cecilia Tamanda Kadzamira, the official hostess for the former president.


In 1964, after serving as a government minister in the colonial administration, Banda adopted a macroeconomic policy aimed at accelerating economic development for the betterment of Malawians. He settled on the Rostow model of "Catch Up" Economics, wherein Malawi would vigorously pursue Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI). This entailed both a quest for "self-sufficiency" for Malawi - becoming less reliant on its former colonial master — and growth of an industrial base that could ensure Malawi was capable of producing its own goods and services. Such capacity would then be used to catch up and even overtake the West. An infrastructure development program was initiated under the various Development Policies (DEVPOLs) documents that Malawi adopted from 1964 onwards. The country's infrastructure benefited through massive road construction programs. With the decision to shift the capital city from Zomba to Lilongwe (against vociferous objections from the British preference for the economically and well developed Blantyre), a new road was built linking Blantyre and Zomba to Lilongwe. The Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC) in Lilongwe was itself a beehive of infrastructure development, supported by planning and funds from apartheid-era South Africa. The British refused to finance the move to Lilongwe. The CCDC became the sole development agent for Lilongwe; putting up roads, the government seat at Capital Hill, etc. Other infrastructure entities were added, such as Malawi Hotels Limited, which undertook massive projects such as the Mount Soche, Capital Hotel and Mzuzu Hotel. On the industrial side, Malawi Development Corporation (MDC) was tasked with setting up industries and other businesses. Meanwhile, Dr. Banda's own Press Corporation Limited and MYP's Spearhead Corporation embarked on various business initiatives that lead to an economic boom during the mid-to-late 1970s.

However, by 1979/80, the bubble had burst due to the global economic crisis set in motion by the Yom Kippur War between Israel and the Arabs in 1973. Rising oil prices and falling global commodity prices combined to wreak havoc on a fragile and landlocked Malawian economy based on an insular and indefensible ISI macroeconomic strategy. Increasingly, the economy was rearranged into a political tool to serve the consumption needs of the emerging Malawian middle-class and thus render it less prone to revolution.

Banda personally founded Kamuzu Academy, a school modelled on Eton, at which Malawian children were taught Latin and Ancient Greek by expatriate classics teachers, and disciplined if they were caught speaking Chichewa. Many of the school’s alumni have assumed leadership roles in medicine, academia and business in Malawi and abroad. The school remains one of Dr Banda's most lasting legacies. It is claimed, probably incorrectly and unfairly, that Dr Banda spent almost all the country's education budget on this project,[8] while increasingly ignoring the needs and welfare of the greater majority [80%] of Malawians toiling in the rural areas. The National Rural Development Program and Rural Growth Centers were tentative and belated policies aimed at diverting rural populations from moving to the few urban areas which Dr. Banda's ISI macroeconomic policies had created and were now being battered by the arrival of more and more rural people seeking better opportunities.

Eventually, with the collapse of the Cold War, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund arrived, imposing a series of Structural Adjustment Programs from 1987.


It is believed that during his rule, Banda accumulated at least US$320 million in personal assets,[9] thought to be invested in everything from agriculture to mining interests in South Africa. The most controversial part of this is the suspicion that his two grandchildren, who currently reside in the US and South Africa, are the heirs to the Banda fortune. One of the grandchildren graduated from law school and left for the US, while the other remains in South Africa.

Foreign policy

Relations with African countries

While many southern African nations traded with apartheid-era South Africa out of economic necessity, Malawi was the only African nation that recognized South Africa and established diplomatic relations with it, including a trade treaty which angered other African leaders.[10] They threatened to expel Malawi from the Organization of African Unity until Banda left power.[10] Banda responded by accusing other African countries of hypocrisy, saying in a public speech to his parliament "There is no terror, Cassius, in your threats." (Julius Caesar).[10] He told them to concentrate on convincing the South African government that apartheid was unnecessary. Furthermore, he added that "[African leaders] practice disunity, not unity, while posing as the liberators of Africa. While they play in the orchestra of Pan Africanism, their own Romes are burning".[10] He became only partially rehabilitated in the eyes of other African leaders after the demise of the apartheid regime in South Africa.[citation needed]

Relations with South Africa

Banda was also the only African ruler to establish diplomatic ties with South Africa during apartheid as well as the Portuguese regime in Mozambique.[4] After the cabinet crisis in 1964, Banda became increasingly isolated in African politics.[4] On the other hand, his antipathy for Roy Welensky and the so called "stupid federation" was a smokescreen he used to reject the proposed Bangula Hydro-electric dam—proposed to be bigger than the Gezira Dam in Khartoum—that Welensky's Federation had sought and obtained funding for from the British government. Banda went on to blame everything including snails (likely to cause widespread Bilharzias) in order to abort the project. In turn, the British denied Banda the funding and budgetary support he needed to build his pet dream of a new Capital City at Lilongwe, in his home region. Hence he turned to South Africa — itself playing geo-political games in the region — which gave him a soft loan of 300 million rand. The quid pro quo was that Banda had to support South Africa's apartheid policies among fellow African leaders. Hence, on one occasion he paid a state visit to South Africa where he met his South African counterparts at Stellenbosch. Banda once noted that, " It is only contact like this [between South Africa and Malawi] that can reveal to your people that there are civilized people other than white..."[11]

Relations with the South Africa during South Africa's transition to multiparty state and the subsequent ANC rule became a challenge for Malawi's future. A Malawian task force spearheaded by Malawian diplomatic envoys to South Africa including SP Kachipande, and representatives in Malawi, including former diplomat, Mr. Phiri, arranged for a meeting between the two governments which resulted in Nelson Mandela's first official visit to Malawi as president of the ANC in the early-nineties. He met with John Tembo and the President. The relations between the two governments continued to be cordial after it was revealed that Banda was secretly helping the ANC during the apartheid era. The Malawi government and South African government continued diplomatic relations.

Involvement in Mozambique

Banda’s involvement in Mozambique dated back to Portuguese colonial days in Mozambique when Banda supported the Portuguese colonial government and guerrilla forces that worked for it.[12] Following independence in Malawi, Banda strengthened his relationship with the Portuguese colonial government by appointing Jorge Jardim as Malawi’s Honorary Consul in Mozambique in September 1964.[12] He also worked against Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO) forces in Malawi in continued support of the Portuguese colonial forces.[12] The Organization of African Unity had designated Malawi as one of the Frontline States to help independence movements in Mozambique.[12]

By the 1980s, Banda was able to destabilize neighboring Mozambique by supporting both the government and the guerrilla movement.[12] He successfully gave the Malawi Army and Malawi Young Pioneers opposing missions in Mozambique from 1987 to 1992.[12] He had the Malawi Army support the Mozambican government, controlled by FRELIMO after the country's independence in 1975, to defend Malawi’s interests in Mozambique. This was done formally through an agreement in 1984 with Samora Machel.[12] Simultaneously, Banda used the MYP as couriers and active supporters of Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) which had been fighting against Machel's government since the 1980s.[12] Malawi was used to channel foreign aid from South Africa's apartheid regime. Machel issued a dossier to Frontline States with evidence that Banda was still supporting the insurgents in spite of the 1984 agreement to stop.[12] By September 1986, Machel, Robert Mugabe, and Kenneth Kaunda visited Banda in order to persuade him to stop supporting RENAMO.[12] Machel's successor, Joachim Chissano, continued to complain of Malawi’s lack of willingness to stop supporting Renamo.[12] Banda however was trying to keep Malawian interests in the Port of Nacala in Mozambique and did not want to rely on Tanzania and South Africa ports for its imports and exports due to the expense.[12] Mozambique and Malawi came to an agreement to place troops from both countries in Nayuchi near the port.[12] Incidents of Malawi Army members being killed over the course of four years angered the Army because MYP members were involved with the insurgents, essentially pitting the two against each other.[12]

Political demise

The transition toward democracy in Malawi began in the early 1990s when international aid donors demanded that Banda implement reforms aimed at making his government transparent and accountable to the people and the international community as a condition for aid. The British government also stopped their financial support. This opened up the country to democratic multiparty politics.[12] In March 1992, Catholic bishops in Malawi issued a Lenten pastoral letter that criticized Banda and his government. Students of the University of Malawi at Chancellor College and the Polytechnic joined protests and demonstrations to support the bishops, forcing authorities to close the campuses.[13] In April 1992, Chakufwa Chihana, a labour unionist, openly called for a national referendum on the political future of Malawi.[12] He was arrested before he finished his speech at Lilongwe International Airport.[12] In May, labour riots in the city of Blantyre turned political with demands that Banda give up power.[13]

By October 1992, this mounting pressure from within and from the international community forced Banda to concede to hold a referendum on whether to maintain the one-party state.[12] The referendum was held on 14 June 1993,[7] with voters choosing to dismantle the one-party state.[12] After this, political parties besides the MCP were formed and preparation for the general elections began.[12] Banda worked with the newly forming parties and the church, and made no protest when a special assembly stripped him of his title of President for Life, along with most of his powers.[12] The transition was relatively peaceful in spite of a very rigid system of rule.[7]

Operation Bwezani was a Malawi Army operation to disarm the Malawi Young Pioneers at the height of the political transition in December 1993.[7] Bwezani means “give back,”.[7] The MYP had a strong network of spies and supporters countrywide at all levels in society.[12] They were Banda's personal security bodyguards and were all trained and indoctrinated in Kamuzuism and military training.[12] The Malawi Army did not infiltrate this group prior to receiving encouragement by protests by the people.[12]

After some questions about his health, Banda ran in Malawi's first truly democratic presidential election in 1994. He was roundly defeated by Bakili Muluzi,[4] a Yao from the southern region of the country, whose two terms in office were not without serious controversy.

The party Banda led since taking over from Orton Chirwa in 1960, the Malawi Congress Party, remains a major force in Malawian politics.

Mwanza Trials

In 1995, Banda was arrested and charged with the murder, ten years previously, of former cabinet colleagues. He was acquitted due to lack of evidence.[14] Banda remained quite unrepentant in his opinion of Malawians, calling them "children in politics" and saying they would miss his iron-fisted rule (see Big Men, Little People by Alec Russell).

A statement of apology was issued on 4 January 1996 in the name of H. Kamuzu Banda to the people of his nation shortly after being acquitted in the Mwanza Trials.[15] The statement was met with controversy, suspicion and disdain. It was also questioned whether Banda wrote the statement himself or if someone wrote it on his behalf.[15] In it, he noted that:

Systems of government are dynamic and they are bound to change in accordance with the wishes of and aspirations of the people...During my term of office, I selflessly dedicated myself to the good cause of Mother Malawi in the fight against Poverty, Ignorance and Disease among many other issues; but if within the process, those who worked in my government or through false pretence in my name or indeed unknowingly by me, pain and suffering was caused to anybody in this country in the name of nationhood, I offer my sincere apologies. I also appeal for a spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness amongst us all...Our beautiful country has been nicknamed `The Warm Heart of Africa' and we have been admired for our warmth and spirit of hardwork. This admiration calls not only for a need for us to look at our past and present and draw lessons from it, but there is even a greater need for us to look forward to the future in our endeavours to reconstruct and reconcile if we have to move forward at all.[15]


Banda died in a hospital in South Africa on November 15, 1997,[9] reportedly aged 101. Although buried with pomp, in the decade after his death, there were calls for a more substantial memorial for the country's first president. Construction of a mausoleum with provision for a library and a dancing arena was begun in 2005.[16]


Banda had no known heirs, but had a vast fortune at stake that is run by his family.[9] He was also unmarried when he died. Cecilia Kadzamira was the official hostess or first lady of Malawi.[9] She also essentially ruled the country together with her uncle, John Tembo, during Banda's last years. His affair and relationship with Merene French remains largely a mystery. He had rejected companionship and marriage and turned his back on the Englishwoman who bore his son. In 2010, Jumani Johansson claimed to be the son of the late president and is seeking DNA testing through the courts of Malawi.[17] Jane Dzanjalimodzi is the grand niece is the former executrix of his estate.