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Measure of a great leader

I will always hold the former Head of State, Ngwazi Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda with the highest esteem. I revere and cherish appreciate his huge contributions towards the development of this country. Who cannot help but treasure all the infrastructure surrounding us that acts as development foundation of this country? — the Capital Hill, the lakeshore road, the University of Malawi that specialised in breeding the highly educated technocrats such as lawyers, lecturers, engineers, architects, nurses, high school teachers and doctors.

Who cannot marvel the grammar school in Kasungu, Kamuzu Academy, who can afford not to say that the Kamuzu International Airport is one fine peiece of engineering, how about the meandering Blantyre-Chikwawa road as well as that of Kacheche-Chiweta road and the Chiromo Bridge in Nsanje that catered for both railway and vehicles.

How about the upgraded Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre which gave birth to the special wing — Gogo Chatinkha Maternity Wing, the Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe and all the hospitals across the country. The examples are just too many to mention. Kamuzu left a legacy more lasting than bronze.

Then there is the admirable diplomatic relationship he established with the UK which saw us line up the streets of Blantyre during our school days to welcome Queen Elizabeth’s visit in 1979. I marvelled the Ngwazi when he shared the same Royal Carriage with the Queen along the streets of London during Kamuzu’s visit to UK. The Ngwazi also facilitated that we receive a visit by the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady.

When people fought for multiparty democracy, Kamuzu was demonised but for very good reasons — to disenchant him from the masses the iconic father-figure he exuded amongst us all. The opposition were forced to demonise almost everything around him in order for people to vote en-masse against Malawi Congress Party for the 1993 Referendum and the 1994 General Elections.

After he was gone and the people experienced some unsavoury governance that bred corruption, greed, fraud and theft of public resources, people are now so nostalgic of the late Ngwazi.

Very little credit was given for all the good that the Ngwazi contributed when he was alive but ironically they were used in the eulogies when he passed on. The newspapers went to town with impressive headlines, special supplements were made in a hurry and they sold like hot cakes. BNL publications were the much sought after because of the glorious pictures delved from the archives as well as the catchy headlines. They went from ‘Kamuzu—1906-1997’, complete with a colour pictures of the Ngwazi and a lion beside him; ‘Father and Founder of the Malawi Nation’ with the famous portrait of the Ngwazi in his famous black suit and a white kerchief protruding from his jacket’s breast pocket; ‘Measure of man’ with a picture when he was very young whilst practising medicine in the UK.

Mandela’s spokesman Marko Borny hailed Kamuzu for “supporting and funding the Liberation Front in Zimbabwe” and that when Mandela was released from prison “Dr. Banda sent him a huge sum of money which he did not request for”. It was a rare revelation and it touched the people of Malawi.

Delving through the archives, I came across a speech he made on April 1, 1965:  “Bwanas and Donas, today is what is known in England as April Fools’ Day; in other words, it is the first of April, 1966. For whatever reason, April the First is called April Fools’ Day in England, here in Malawi I think it is right to say that we have every reason to call it April Hopeful Day, or April’s Day of Good Hope.”

April 1st was special to Kamuzu because that was the day he was released from Gwero Prison a year before and in this speech he highlighted the journey to freedom from when he arrived, to his imprisonment and all the steps taken towards attaining independence in 1964. In this speech, he concluded by saying: “I have said that we became independent within the Commonwealth on July 6, 1964. By this I mean that although we were independent, the Queen of England remained the Queen of Malawi or she was also the Queen of Malawi and representing her as Head of State was the Governor-General, whom we know and love, Sir Glyn Jones. But last year the cabinet decided that this country should become a Republic on July 6. Since we were already independent, no one could object to the Cabinet’s decision to become a Republic. Therefore, both the Queen in England and the Governor-General here in Zomba agreed. Consequently, this country will become a republic on July 6 this year.”

On the eve of Independence in 1964, he said: “We are where we are now because we believe that freedom is the birthright of Man, it belongs to him by right of his humanity, and for this we fought…Let us discipline ourselves to work hard and dedicate anew our energies in the services of this country.”

Then there was the historical speech he made on the eve of the referendum in 1993 which people held so dear that was published in The Daily Times: “Go about your voting procedures in an orderly and dignified manner, respecting each other as Malawians have always done. You should all remember that how you conduct yourselves during and after the referendum is most important since it will not only show our level of maturity as a nation but whether we move forward as a nation or degenerate into chaos. We should remember that the greatness of a nation derives from the worthy actions of its people.” He signed off by saying: “Bwanas and Donas you have my best wishes”.

Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda achieved what he wanted for this country and left the wheel to more robust men and women to continue with the legacy. He was given the full honour he deserves and the Last Post the Malawi Defence Force played for him at his funeral made Malawians swell with pride for this great statesman who was revered the world over.

The great French scientist Louis Pasteur, who discovered the art of pasteurisation, once said; ‘Men may die, but their works remain. We are temporary guests in these great moral institution whose mortality is assured’. It is now up to Malawians themselves who must continue to enhance Kamuzu’s dream and legacy. We have a lot of work to do, a lot of enemies to reconcile and a lot of personalities to change.

Kamuzu’s legacy should give us a powerful impetus to the process of more development. It will be admirable for all of us all to lead ourselves away from the threshold of uncertainty and aim for a destiny that everyone can cherish and which Kamuzu will be proud of. We should never at any time wish we still had Kamuzu but deal with all problems on our own.

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