|“||Everything is my business. Everything. Anything I say is law...literally law.||„|
|~ Hastings Banda.|
Hastings Kamuzu Banda (February 15th, 1899 – November 25th, 1997) was the prime minister and later president of Malawi from 1964 to 1994 (for the first year of his rule as it achieved independence in 1964, Malawi was the British protectorate of Nyasaland). In 1966, the country became a republic and he became president.
After receiving much of his education in ethnography, linguistics, history, and medicine overseas, Banda returned to his home country (then British Nyasaland) to speak against colonialism and advocate independence. He was formally appointed prime minister of Nyasaland and led the country to independence. Two years later he proclaimed Malawi a republic with himself as president. He consolidated power and later declared Malawi a one-party state under the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). In 1970, the MCP made him the party's President for Life. In 1971, he became President for Life of Malawi itself.
As a leader of the pro-Western bloc in Africa he received support from the West during the Cold War. He generally supported women's rights, improved the country's infrastructure and maintained a good educational system relative to other African countries but also presided over one of the most repressive regimes in Africa. His totalitarian government regularly tortured and murdered political opponents. Human rights groups estimate that at least 6,000 people were killed, tortured and jailed without trial. As many as 18,000 people were killed during his rule according to one estimate. He was scorned for maintaining full diplomatic relations with apartheid-era South Africa.
By 1993 he was facing international pressure and widespread protest. A referendum ended the one-party system and a special assembly ended his life-term presidency, stripping him of most of his powers. Banda ran for president in the democratic elections which followed and was defeated. He died in South Africa on 25 November 1997.
Banda’s birthday was officially given as May 14, 1906, but he was believed to have been born before the turn of the century. He was the son of subsistence farmers and received his earliest education in a mission school.
After working in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa, in 1925 he went to the United States, where he received a B.A. (1931) and a medical degree (1937) at the University of Chicago and Meharry Medical College in Tennessee, respectively. In order to achieve the qualifications needed to practice in the British Empire, Banda then continued his studies at the University of Edinburgh (1941) and subsequently practiced in northern England and London from 1945 to 1953.
Banda first became involved in his homeland’s politics in the late 1940s, when white settlers in the region demanded the federation of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland. Banda and others in Nyasaland strongly objected to this extension of white dominance, but the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was nevertheless established in 1953. In 1953–58 Banda practiced medicine in Ghana, but from 1956 he was under increasing pressure from Nyasa nationalists to return; he finally did so, to a tumultuous welcome, in 1958.
As president of the Nyasaland African Congress, he toured the country making antifederation speeches, and the colonial government held him partly responsible for increasing African resentment and disturbances.
In March 1959 a state of emergency was declared, and he was imprisoned by the British colonial authorities. He was released in April 1960, and a few months later he accepted British constitutional proposals granting Africans in Nyasaland a majority in the Legislative Council.
Banda’s party won the general elections held in August 1961. He served as minister of natural resources and local government in 1961–63, and he became prime minister in 1963, the year the federation was finally dissolved. He retained the post of prime minister when Nyasaland achieved independence in 1964 under the name of Malawi.
Shortly after independence, some members of Banda’s governing cabinet resigned in protest against his autocratic methods and his accommodation with South Africa and the Portuguese colonies. In 1965 a rebellion broke out—led by Henry Chipembere, one of these former ministers—but it failed to take hold in the countryside.
Malawi became a republic in 1966, with Banda as president. He headed an austere, autocratic one-party regime, maintained firm control over all aspects of the government, and jailed or executed his opponents. He was declared president for life in 1971.
During Banda's presidency, Malawi initially refused to establish diplomatic relations with any of the communist governments of Eastern Europe or Asia (however, relations were later established with North Korea in 1982 and with Romania and Albania in 1985).
Banda was one of the few African leaders to support the United States in the Vietnam War, a position he adopted in part due to his hatred of communism. During the Mozambican Civil War, he supported RENAMO.
Banda concentrated on building up his country’s infrastructure and increasing agricultural productivity. He established friendly trading relations with minority-ruled South Africa (to the disappointment of other African leaders) as well as with other countries in the region through which landlocked Malawi’s overseas trade had to pass. His foreign-policy orientation was decidedly pro-Western.
Widespread domestic protests and the withdrawal of Western financial aid forced Banda to legalize other political parties in 1993. He was voted out of office in the country’s first multiparty presidential elections, held in 1994, and in 1996 he relinquished the leadership of the Malawi Congress Party.
Banda died at the Garden City Clinic in Johannesburg, South Africa on 25 November 1997, aged 99. Although he was buried with pomp, in the decade after his death there were calls for a more substantial memorial for the country's first president. Construction of a mausoleum with provision for a library and a dancing arena was begun in 2005. In 2009 a bronze statue of Banda was erected.
From 10 April 1995, when former India Prime Minister Morarji Desai died, Banda was the world's oldest living former head of government until his own death in 1997.