One of the founding fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, wrote in his book Poor Richards Almanak: “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either do things worth remembering or write things worth reading.”
One of the characteristics of developed and cultured nation is that they do not forget their history. History, as Thomas Garlyle, the famous Scottish writer said, is made of the biographies of individuals of a country or community.
In Malawi, most people live exclusively in the present. They take for granted everything around them; they do not know how people in this country lived, what they did that contributed to the history and culture of the nation.
Someone may argue: how do you expect us to know about our forebears when there are no records or books concerning them? This would be a legitimate question.
In highly developed countries, there are biographical dictionaries which give information on the lives of people who had done something worth remembering. Some of these are exceptional and have had full-scale biographies. Others may not been quite outstanding but their contributions deserved to be known.
Here I have presented profiles of some Malawians who contributed to our political and cultural history. Because the writing has been done with due attention to meeting newspaper deadlines, some essential details such as dates of birth and death have been omitted because information upon them is not readily available. What is important is to know their deeds even in brief. It is my hope that someone with more resources and energy than I have will use these profiles as foundation on which to build more detailed profiles.
The profiles are given in rough alphabetical order.
Banda, Hastings Kamuzu
Banda was born in Kasungu in 1898. He attended Chilanga Mission School up to the year 1915 when he left for South Africa. He worked at a mine in Johannesburg as an interpreter. In 1925, he left for the United States and studied at Wilberforce Academy. He graduated from Chicago University with Bachelor of Philosophy then took a medical degree at Mehary Medical College. After that, he went to Scotland and took postgraduate qualification known as a Licentiates. He settled in London to practise medicine privately while representing a political body called Nyasaland African Congress (NAC). He vigorously campaigned against the proposed federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. He transferred his medical practice to Ghana in 1953. Members of NAC invited him to come back home and assume leadership of the NAC. He arrived on July 6, 1958. On March 3 1959, Banda and more than 1,500 of his followers were arrested. He was taken to Gweru Prison, Zimbabwe, and was released on April 1 1960. After a series of negotiations, he achieved independence of Malawi on July 6 1964.He was president of Malawi up to June 1994. His achievements included transferring the country’s capital from Zomba to Lilongwe, extension of the railway system and founding of the University of Malawi. He died in 1997.
Banda, Aleke Kadonaphani
He was born in Livingstone, Zambia of Malawian parents from Nkhata Bay in 1939. In Zimbabwe, he attended Inyati Secondary School. Soon after the 1959 state of emergency in Nyasaland, he was deported to Nyasaland. In September in 1959, he teamed up with Orton Edger Chirwa, founder of the Malawi Congress Party, and at age 20, he was the party’s secretary general. He launched the party mouthpiece, a cycle-styled newsletter with the title Malawi News and when it became a full newspaper, he served as its first editor. He held several ministerial posts in Kamuzu Banda’s government. In 1981, he was detained in Zomba Prison till 1993. He then joined the United Democratic Front and served as minister of Finance, Health and Agriculture. With his daughter Mbumba, he launched The Nation group of newspapers, the only one that survived out of the numerous papers that sprang up after the year 1993.
He was from Nkhata Bay and became president of Nyasaland African Congress in 1956 after James F. Sangala. He attended Ghana’s independence in 1957 and visited Kamuzu Banda in Kumasi. He was ousted towards the end of 1957 because of a financial scandal. He founded his own party, Congress Liberation Party Later, he teamed up with Chester Katsonga’s Christian Democtratic Party (CDC) and formed Christian Liberation Party. He went into exile as Malawi was approaching independence.
Bwanausi, Augustine F
Bwanausi was from Blantyre and went to Blantyre Secondary School (BSS) and University College of Makerere, Uganda. He graduated in mathematics and was teaching at Blantyre Secondary School when he reluctantly accepted an appointment as minister. During the Cabinet Crisis, Kamuzu Banda dismissed him together with three other ministers. He went to Zambia and died there in a car accident.
Bwanausi, Harry W
He was the elder brother of Augustine. He was educated at BSS and graduated as doctor at University Witwatersland in South Africa. He went into exile in 1964 following the dismissal of Augustine. He came back in 1993. President Bakili Muluzi appointed him chairman of the University Council in 1995 for five years. He had been campaigning for multiparty while in exile.
To be continued…
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