The great American and one of the founding fathers noted that most people return small favours acknowledge middling ones and reply great ones with gratitude.
Mthwalo I of Mzimba apparently had similar views. When crowning one of his half brothers M’mbelwa I, he said: “Today, I make you chief. Tomorrow, if you like, come back and kill me.”
In the June 2016 Economic Journal of the Royal Economic Society, there is a queer story about a Latin American president whose citizens elected to office because they saw him as the most likely to crush insurgents. Having defeated most of the insurgents, the president spared some of them for fear that he might not be re-elected if the outlaws were completely wiped out. He opined that the electorate would then see no need for the services.
The article cites an example of two British prime ministers whose successful performance led to their rejection by the electorate or the party. Winston Churchill was appointed prime minister by King George V1 at the time Britain was about to be crushed by Nazi Germany. No one else was seen at that time as more able to steadfastly confront Nazi leader Adolf Hitler than Churchill who since 1933 had been warning the world that the German leader was going to create a new and even greater war.
Churchill performed his duties marvellously. Hitler and Nazis were defeated and removed from office. How did the British thank their wartime leader? They no longer felt the need for his service. In 1945 general elections, Churchill’s Conservative Party was heavily defeated by his successor Clement Attlee’s Labour Party.
Churchill’s wife, whom he often addressed as “Darling Clementine” tried to confront him by saying that the defeat had been a blessing in disguise. He quipped: “The blessing has been effectively disguised.”
Margaret Thatcher was voted to the leadership of the Conservative Party when trade unions in Britain were widely seen as contributing to the economic deterioration of the country. At that time, many people were referring to Britain as ‘the sick man of Europe’ and Thatcher was seen as the person who could weaken the unions.
In 1979, the Conservatives won the general election and Thatcher became the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom. Ten years later, not only had Thatcher destroyed the power of the unions but also turned the economy around. Now members of the party began finding fault with her. Instead of allowing her to lead the Conservative Party in the election for the third time, they actually forced her to resign, saying she would make the party lose the election because of her intention to introduce the poll tax.
Ingratitude of this type almost took place in Malawi in 1964. The young men, who led Nyasaland African Congress (NAZ) after James Sangala retired in 1956 as president general, found themselves unable to extricate the country out of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Jealousies in the party and mistrust from the public at large frustrated progress towards attainment of self-government.
These zealous but inadequate leaders saw the remedy in inviting Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda to give up his medical practice in Ghana, come home, take over the leadership of the party and lead Nyasaland to independence.
Banda proved to be a leader with charisma. In less than a year, he galvanised the masses from Chitipa to Nsanje. On his arrival, the inadequate young men and women were telling the people to unite behind him, never to question his words and that was the law. But once self-government was in sight, they started accusing him of running the country as his personal estate, saying that he was a dictator.
They demanded that he should renounce his position as life president of the NAC.
While Banda saw his cabinet ministers as ungrateful to him for the work he had accomplished, they argued that he had only come to finish a task that they had performed already.
They failed to unseat partly because they were still jealous of each other while Banda’s charisma managed to draw to him mass support. n