aside Malawi’s foreign presidents

A happy and glorious Kamuzu day to all!

Indeed it’s been a staggering 20 years since the ‘Ngwazi’ breathed his last at Garden city hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa.

I’m neither here to praise nor mock the man. What I would like to do here is reflect on how our 53 year old republic has evolved from the day the then first black premier of Nyasaland Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda was ushered into power as the first president of the independent nation of Malawi.

So against classic Pabwalo style, this article will come off as a political piece and I’m just crossing my fingers that it won’t invite unnecessary attention especially after receiving dozens of that forwarded message that has been circulating around WhatsApp warning people to not send communications of a political nature on social media because the government will supposedly be monitoring all online activity of Malawians with social media accounts. Highly improbable by the way…ngati US government imakanika to force social media companies to release user information and chat history ndiye a Malawi angatani? The best they can do is ban such social media platforms and replace them with tailor made apps they can easily monitor and intrude on people’s private online activities just as they did in the People’s republic of China…

Either eventuality; let it be known that this is just the ramblings of a bored young man with nothing to occupy him on this public holiday…there is nothing serious expressed in this article  here.

Without much further ado, let me get to it:

I have always been fascinated by Malawi’s insecurities as a nation and how this trickles down individually to each citizen. Since the days of the independence struggle we have always discredited anything and everyone authentically Malawian against alternative elements with much more foreign tags.

It’s like saying everything and everyone 100 percent Malawian should come at a class lower than foreign options….well, everything except our beloved Sobo, Kamba puffs and Nali peri peri sauce, pokhapo we don’t compromise.

During the colonial days, the regime had expatriate administrators, teachers, pastors, civil servants and you name it…I would argue that this baseline situation helped cement the notion that foreigners were intellectually superior than the primary inhabitants of the land.

This perception was further exacerbated by the system of sending young bright Malawians to foreign lands for further education as the state lacked necessary institutions for the required human capacity development, kunalibe ma sukulu a ukachenjede kuno, so naturally these ‘have beens’ were viewed as the next best thing after foreign supremacy and till to date; in Malawi prestige is still measured in terms of ‘ngati munthu anakhalapo kapena kuphunzirako kunja’…this is why some of us continue to use forced foreign accents to get accepted into the cool circles ku achina ‘coke-peat’ ku.

So it was with this background that the original players in the local struggle for Independence in Malawi: the young Masauko Chipembere, Orton Chirwa, the Chisiza brothers (Yatuta and Dunduzu) and the rest felt there was no one inadequate amongst themselves to figurehead the movement and thus opted for the much older and very copiously more foreign Hastings Kamuzu Banda (who had been away for so long that he needed an interpreter to communicate with his compatriots in the Chewa language)

prez 4.jpg

Indeed there is no doubt that the age of a person and time spent outside of Malawi was utilized in post selections for Malawians in the colonial era and just immediately after.

So in a way, post-independence Malawi was still being run by foreigners;………. I mean if someone spends 20+ years outside his original country he does not necessarily connect with his compatriots, relatives etcetera or fit in immediately into the country upon return.

Many a Malawian who have lived outside the country for a considerable time know exactly what I’m talking about….the mind is a funny thing you see, one can be physically back in the country with the mind still locked in the UK/US or wherever sub consciously kapena actively…

This is where the concept of ‘Mzungu wa kwathu’ (the clan white man) is embedded; used to generalize the most successful clan member in a Malawian family setting who originally used to be people who had been in foreign lands and returned home with foreign habits and manners…( eating etiquette and all that sort of hullabaloo)

And it certainly does not help that such people upon return to home mostly feel superior and patristic towards the people they once left behind, amakhala akumazitenga ma ambassador of the white man’s culture to the rest of the populace.

Conceptions have changed little over the years; foreign degrees and foreign work experience are still put on a higher pedestal than our very own local pedigrees. This is why a lot of heavy shots we have in our civil service , academia, civil society and commercial sectors have considerably spent some substantial time outside of Malawi (either studying or working) and will most certainly brag about that uncompromisingly.

Don’t get me started on politics, look at our presidents to date; only two out of our five presidents have been authentically Malawian…ena onsewo have had structured lives elsewhere and have had to transplant themselves back here to take part in our leadership…I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with that.

Look at our ministers and the rest of the political party heavyweights..

Take the leadership of the DPP, UDF and MCP- the Atupele  Muluzis, the Chapondas, the Goodall Gondwes, The Chakweras, …these fine exquisite gentlemen have spent echelons of years abroad and certainly have excellent C.Vs.

And this is as ok as it is allowed.

Koma tikawaona kumayiko a anzathu olemera, there is a different story:

You will never hear of  American and British politicians bragging about spending time living outside the country….simply  because they want to capitalize on having a connection with their people, that semblance kuti they have gone through the same experiences with the average citizenry and thus can identify with them by knowing exactly what is needed.

I myself, for instance find it hard to find common ground with men whose children were raised abroad and prefer staying abroad…then expect such men to know what is best for me right here in Malawi when they encourage their own offspring  to make a living abroad and only come to  Malawi zikawasokonekera kunjako…I don’t know….but that is just my logic.

You know why Dr Bakili Muluzi was the most charismatic and most convincing president out of the whole lot? Simply because he spoke like the common man, convinced us that he thought like the common man and that he was for the common man…that’s why it always felt like you were chatting with a very entertaining uncle in most of his speeches which he so cleverly always used to divert into informality….and if you have time, find out the meaning of ‘achakulungwa’(the term he liked to call us) and you will understand what I’m talking about here.

And what did most of his critics use to attack him?

Akuti adali osaphunzira

Simply because atcheya sanakhaleko zaka zambiri kunja…(and do check your history, the man was fairly educated)

Koma chifukwa chokuti sadaphunzireko kunja nde mbola

I need say no more




  1. Though you negated this article as unimportant to be considered as a political piece. The point being raised here is quite interesting and in most of our socities quite true, I can say it’s not only Malawi but people of other African countries share the same predisposition.


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