Political ideology after Kamuzu


A thought on Independence Day: Kamuzu laid the foundations upon which to base effective political ideologies and good governance for national development.

Governing a nation without clear political ideology is a contradiction in the practice of politics.

However, this has been one of the characteristics of several political parties that have ruled after Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda. This has retarded development during the democratic dispensation or, in other words, since 1994.


Indeed, the country has experienced constrained growth and development over the past 23 years of democracy. A closer look at political parties’ performance after Kamuzu shows the pathetic inability by these parties to emulate the good political and development models of Kamuzu of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). It is quite clear that Malawi is a profit-driven society and this is orchestrated by politicians and ministers who are driven by greed.

This paper aims to a) examine prevailing political ideologies under the democratic dispensation that are impeding growth and development of Malawi, b) appreciate targeted development as the missing dimension in Malawi and c) closely look at mixed economy as pursued by Kamuzu Banda of MCP and social democracy (Umunthu) as a more fitting political ideology, which is seemingly compatible with Kamuzu-MCP mixed economy-based ideology that has potential to bring growth and development

In this paper, we examine prevailing political ideologies impeding political and socio-economic development of Malawi. In addition, it is the purpose of the paper to appreciate targeted development strategies which are a missing dimension in the country’s political and development agenda along with case scenarios to illustrate the complexity of the political and development challenge envisaged in Malawi.


A focus on social democracy (Umunthu) and mixed economy has been made as yet another missing dimension in the political and socio-economic development of Malawi.

This paper makes the important observation that Malawi is vulnerable, fluid and being driven by greed, hence it is a miserably profit-driven society. In this context, any development that does not include man and mixed economy (in the manner Kamuzu Banda did) as its focus is no development and any industry over emphasising profit at the expense of societal needs or social responsibility is not delivering development but creating illusion.

The danger of being profit-driven

It has been argued that if Malawi, as a nation, its political leaders and political parties continue undeterred to be profit-oriented and major on issues bordering on tribal and regional superiority instead of issues of political ideology, it runs a high risk of becoming a racist and tribalistic country at the expense of building national identity and a prosperous economy.

In this regard, it has been suggested that Malawi should be guided by political ideologies that focus on man in terms of meeting human needs through the implementation of human and not just infrastructural development programmes such as an expensive stadium which is beyond our capacity to maintain.

Social democracy and mixed economy

Soci al democr a c y ( U m u n t h u ) , w h i c h encourages mixed economy, is a political ideology whose goal is based on the felt needs and welfare of mankind. Malawi needed to focus on basic needs of its population, the majority of which is below the poverty line and survives on less than $1 per day.

This is essentially because social democracy (Umunthu) centres on man. Political systems and governments in Malawi pay lip service to the important call to deliver quality services to citizens as utilities such as electricity, water and health have become costly for the average citizen to afford.

Similarly, food production and distribution, which are made possible through subsidies and are managed by a government statutory corporation (Admarc), have been turned to private sector operators.

Admarc is no longer a public corporation, so that it is now a commercial entity fighting for its own survival, thereby charging high prices for its food products at the expense of the poor.

P e r f o r m a n c e of political parties under the democratic era

Looking back to the first 30 years of Dr Kamuzu Banda and MCP’s rule leaves no doubt in the minds of keen Malawians that ignorance on the part of succeeding heads of state uprooted what Kamuzu established.

Succeeding presidents have consistently displayed an extreme lack of understanding of Malawi’s political, business and development problems. For instance, Kamuzu had a vision to have the capital moved from Zomba to Lilongwe, construct a tarmac road from Zomba to Lilongwe, establish the University of Malawi consisting of three constituent colleges, one on science/humanities and general studies, another on management/engineering and another on agriculture, which he fulfilled within a decade.

In sharp contrast, the United Democratic Front-led government promised and was determined to end hunger and poverty in Malawi within10 years, but it ended up increasing poverty to unacceptable levels; the Bingu wa Mutharika administration of the Democratic Progressive Party proposed to establish an ambitious world-class port in Nsanje which was endorsed by the Southern African Development Community – and was launched by presidents of Zambia and Zimbabwe— and build five universities within 10 years, which has not happened and the Nsanje port appears to be abandoned after the government has spent billions of kwacha of taxpayers’ money to pay contractors.

The J oyc e Banda administration, which leaned on feminist interests and desired to uplift women socially, economically and politically based on her model, was aborted within two years. Hers was a short-lived, failed state but economically tragic as it ended with the worst “Cashgate” that drained government coffers.

Her rule, being feminist, geared to improve family health (popularly known as Uchembere Wabwino) and economic conditions for women without addressing the issue of high birth rate or enforcing child spacing methods.

The political landscape is skewed as Members of Parliament, ministers and presidents jump from one party to another despite having Section 65 of the Constitution that bars them from crossing the floor in the House of Assembly. This impunity has its origin in ignorance of political ideologies.

The country demonstrated awareness and appreciation of the democratisation process that began in mid- 1990s which started with a handful of opposition political parties which today exceed 50. Yet these parties lack direction and are driven exclusively by their own institutional needs as opposed to societal needs.

There is a clear lack of purpose in political practice that makes it difficult for parties to deliver. An ideology typically constitutes a belief system to a political party.

As we celebrate 53 years of independence, the nation needs to debate on political ideologies that fit Malawi. But, meanwhile, political parties are run as clubs where members go from one party to another

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