When in 1994 people voted into office a new political party, they thought they were voting not only for a new era, but an era in which the political crimes of the ancient regime would become things of the past. They looked forward to times and days when one would express a view on any public issue and go home with a restful mind.
The last 19 years have not been fear-free as we expected. The worst spectres of the period 1963 to 1993 were political murders and mysterious disappearances of people. We indeed have the freedom to air our views through the media but some people still disappear mysteriously if they have crossed with those who know how to bend or frustrate instruments of law and order.
To what extent can we depend on our police to hunt and bring to book those who murder their political opponents? I do not know the answer. Not long after the advent of the new era, a woman complained to the authorities about the disappearance of her brother, I am not sure if her brother called Chiwaya, if I remember correctly, was ever traced.
But for sure, we have not heard the final findings about Kalonga Stambuli, Peter Mlamba and now we see investigations into the death of the Polytechnic student Robert Chasowa are making no headway and we begin to wonder whether this is another case that will have to be dropped.
In his book Things Fall Apart, the Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe speaks of a bird which said “Since men have learned to shoot without missing, I have also learned to fly without perching.”
In Malawi it seems when we send our police to Scotland Yard Police School in London, to study criminology, criminals also go to another school in the underground world where they learn how to outwit law enforcement agents.
This is what makes life insecure. So long as people can commit heinous crimes and get away with it, other evil-minded people will not hesitate to commit their own crimes. Are we to believe that no one really knows what happened to those who disappeared mysteriously? Are we to believe that those who died mysteriously actually committed suicide? Life in Malawi is not quite secure.
How many political parties do we have in Malawi? In company law, an incorporated company which is no longer active is struck off the register. This, I think, should apply to political parties. Founders of certain parties have joined other parties. No one can or should belong to two parties at the same time. The registrar of political parties should write letters to people who founded those moribund parties and ask them why their parties should not be deleted from the register.
Political parties of today tend to entrench instead of minimising regionalism. There is a general wish that the founder of a party should of necessity be the leader and that when he ceases to lead for whatever reason, he should be succeeded by someone from that region. This is antediluvian politics. Pioneers in modern politics acted and thought differently.
The Nyasaland African Congress (NAC), through which Malawians fought (non-violently) for independence, was founded by James Frederick Sangala, whose face adorns the K100 note. He was from Malosa, Zomba and therefore, from the Southern Region.
In 1944, when the NAC was officially launched, members elected Levi Zililo Mumba from Mzimba as president, Sangala never resented this. I had the chance of talking to him when I was writing his autobiography.
Mumba died at the beginning of 1945 and was succeeded by Charles Matinga, Sangala’s friend. In 1950, members elected James Chinyama from Ntcheu, whose father Filipo Chinyama was executed by the government of Nyasaland for leading the Chilembwe uprising in Ntcheu.
In 1954, at last, Sangala was elected president of the party he founded. He was holding meetings in his house at Kapirintiya in Ndirande Township. After Sangala in 1956, T.D.T Banda from Nkhata Bay and lastly Dr Hasting Kamuzu Banda from Kasungu took over in 1958.
Though Sangala was from the Southern Province, the NAC was never regarded as a party for southerners in which men and women from other provinces could only hold subordinate positions.
To most people, these days the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) is seen as a party of the people of the Central Region. Except for retired Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo, all contenders to the MCP throne are from the Central Region.
The founders of MCP were Orton Chirwa and Aleke Banda, northerners, the full history of how they did this and then surrendered authority to Dr Banda is given in History of Malawi Volume 2.