Monday, October 08, 2018

Heil Banda (1965)

The tireless supporters of African nationalist movements will doubtless have been glad to hear that Dr. Hastings Banda, who was once one of their heroes, and who was once said to be a gentle, humane man, and who is now Prime Minister of Malawi, is running true to form.

Next July, Malawi will become a Republic and Dr. Bandas’ party—the Malawi Congress Party—is getting ready for the event.

First, they nominated (who else?) Dr. Banda as their candidate for the Presidency. Then they accepted some proposals which make it clear that Dr. Banda does not intend his Presidential rule to be restricted by the sort of checks which are on the leaders of a much maligned, imperialist country like the United States.

The Constitution the Malawi Congress Party accepted, and which will probably become law, lays it down that the country will become a one-party state with a President who is both the Head of State and the Head of the Government.

There are, of course, no prizes for guessing which party will be the only one allowed to exist and who will be the all-powerful President—or dictator, as he will be known in places where speech is still comparatively free.

This is typical of many of the new African states which are now under one-party dictatorships, run by the men who came to power on a promise to bring freedom to a people governed by a foreign nation.

On what grounds are the new dictatorships excused? Dr. Banda told his party’s convention: “It does not matter whether there is a dictator or not as long as the people choose the dictator”— which is exactly the argument used by, among others, Adolf Hitler.

This is hot a far-fetched parallel. A couple of weeks after the convention, Dr. Banda revealed what sort of dictatorship he hopes the Malawi people will choose. Commenting on the trial of the “rebel” Medson Silombela, he said: “I know he is going to be found guilty. What sort of judge can acquit him? After that you can come and watch him swing.”

Life under British capitalism is tough enough, but at least political leaders do not make it their business to go around pronouncing verdict and sentence before a trial is ended.

The rising capitalisms of Africa are no better than those of the older, more established countries.

The experience of Malawi—and of Ghana and Kenya—should be remembered, the next time there is an appeal to support a nationalist movement which aims to replace one type of suppression with another.

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