Many people have questions on why the late founding former President Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda of Malawi and the late founding president of Mozambique Samora Machel did not get along with each other. What happened was that in 1967 when many countries in Southern Africa were busy fighting colonialism and apartheid, President Kamuzu Banda of Malawi established diplomatic relations with apartheid South Africa. In 1971, he was bold enough to visit apartheid South Africa on a special state visit. However, since 1950s, no African leaders ever visited South Africa. All the other African leaders rebuked Kamuzu Banda for visiting apartheid South Africa except for the late President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire (now DRC) who was his close ally. We all know who Mobutu was and how he rose to power after having assassinated Patrice Lumumba.
Dr Kenneth Kaunda, former Zambian President, late Tanzanian President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and the late Libyan leader, Muammer Gaddafi, all rebuked the late President Kamuzu Banda to stop his support of RENAMO rebels to no avail. In return for his support, the apartheid government built him a new capital city of Lilongwe as a thank you for establishing diplomatic relations with them. The MCP government also benefited by having their Police officers trained in apartheid South Africa.
In 1971, Kamuzu Banda went on another state visit to Mozambique which was then still under the Portuguese colonial government. President Banda established diplomatic relations with both the Portuguese colonial government of Mozambique and the racist Ian Smith government in Rhodesia. FRELIMO was fighting the colonial government as a guerrilla movement. The Portuguese colonial government convinced Kamuzu Banda to send troops from Malawi to assist them to fight FRELIMO. In response to the request, Kamuzu send many Malawi Young Pioneers to fight FRELIMO in Mozambique.
When FRELIMO won the war in Mozambique in 1975, many former black soldiers who fought on the side of the colonial army, fled to Malawi and were given sanctuary by President Kamuzu Banda. Many of them were given jobs in the Malawi government which was led by the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) as civil servants at the expense of Malawians. They were also issued with Malawi identity documents and passports. In 1981, when the South African government formed RENAMO, most of these people joined the rebel ranks. When President Samora Machel arrested some of them, he discovered that they were travelling on Malawian passports, the enmity between him and Kamuzu Banda grew deeper. Kamuzu Banda provided logistical, military, and healthcare to RENAMO rebels free of charge. They used to travel freely on Malawian buses at the expense of the Malawian taxpayers.
President Samora Machel openly rebuked Kamuzu Banda to stop supporting the rebels. President Machel, Kaunda and Robert Mugabe, visited Malawi for talks with Kamuzu Banda to try and persuade him to stop supporting RENAMO rebels but Kamuzu Banda did not stop his support. When President Samora Machel threatened war with Malawi, that is when Kamuzu chased RENAMO rebels out of Malawi.
However, many people had questions why Kamuzu Banda, his MCP and government were supporting RENAMO rebels during their reign when the rest of Africa were against apartheid and colonialism. Why was he not helping the ANC/PAC and people like Nelson Mandela who were fighting apartheid and colonialism? To answer these questions, we must clear some of these so-called conspiracy theories that were prevalent during Kamuzu Banda’s rule in Malawi. First, there are a lot of doubts whether Dr Kamuzu Banda was indeed a Malawian. Some people argue that why was he not helping his black African friends like Nelson Mandela, Samora Machel and Robert Mugabe who were fighting colonialism? There are also questions as to why Kamuzu Banda never spoke not even a word in Chichewa the language he claimed to be his if he was Malawian.
When President Samora Machel, Robert Mugabe, Kenneth Kaunda and many other leaders were calling for the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, Kamuzu Banda was busy drinking tea with the apartheid rulers. The Malawian leader was a Judas Iscariot at a time when all the leaders in Southern Africa were united in their stance against apartheid and colonialism.
We are also told that the reason why Kamuzu Banda agreed to fight on behalf of the Portuguese colonialists in Mozambique was because they had promised to give him part of Nyasa and Nampula province in Northern Mozambique. It is said that the Portuguese colonialists had shown him some very old maps that showed that the northern part of Mozambique belonged to Malawi. President Kamuzu Banda took these old maps given to him by the Portuguese colonialists who were running Mozambique and went to show President Julius Nyerere trying to convince him that the area in question was indeed part of Malawi. President Nyerere refused to accept that. When the Portuguese knew that President Nyerere had refused to cooperate with Kamuzu Banda, they formed a new rebel group called the African National Union of Rombezia to start guerrilla activities in Northern Mozambique. At the formation of RENAMO, this group joined RENAMO.
The reason why SADC should be wary of the rise to power of Kamuzu’s party, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), in Malawi is precisely because of their chequered history. One can only hope that the current leader and President of Malawi Dr. Lazarus Chakwera will reform this party. However, this seems to be not so, given the current shenanigans that this party is involved in since coming to power this year. The recent issue of the fake prophet Shepard Bushiri’s escape from South Africa is an illustration of such shenanigans. This has caused a diplomatic spat with South Africa. Then there is the issue of Malawi planning to open an embassy in occupied Jerusalem, as another cause for concern.
Malawi being the first African country intending to do so, should warn SADC of the danger signals that history will be repeating itself.
Dr. Mustafa Mheta
Senior Researcher/Head of Africa Desk
Media Review Network.