A portrait of the late Dr. HK Banda, the first President of Malawi. Source: National Portrait Gallery

Kamuzu Banda was a doctor who became his country’s most painful affliction. He banned everything from short dresses, free expression to freedom itself and sided with apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia. Banda’s legacy was not mixed; he was a failure.

Kamuzu, The Boy

In 1915, Kamuzu Banda was just another African boy aspiring to get into Nyasaland’s Overtoun Institution for teacher training.

He had a small frame, a big brain and a lot of spirits. Banda’s uncle, Hanock Msokela Phiri had walked the same road and excelled only a few years earlier. Phiri influenced the elders to let Banda go to school thus in 1915, young Kamuzu found himself sitting at the back of an examination hall at Livingstonia Mission, straining his eyes to see the questions on a blackboard which was a little too far for someone his size.

He had no option but to stand up and take a good look. He looked over the shoulder of the student ahead of him, towards the blackboard but the examination supervisor only saw a black boy whose eyes had gone no further than another student’s script. Without second thoughts, the supervisor who went by the name T Cullen Young disqualified Banda and told him to leave the exam room. In three weeks, Banda was crossing the Zambezi River headed to Lovedale in South Africa to seek an education.

Persistent, vain and a little overambitious – that was Kamuzu Banda to his death. In his youth, these qualities were endearing and laudable as they earned him his medical practice in the United Kingdom against trying odds. However, as he aged, the same qualities became the horrifying substratum of a violent regime that endured for more than three decades.

Kamuzu, The Man


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