When, in 1994, South Africans of all races took part in general elections which resulted in a black man, Nelson Mandela, becoming president for the first time, it was seen worldwide as the dawn of a new era, free from bigotry.
The election of Barack Obama, an African-American president in the predominantly white United States of America (USA), clinched the victory of liberal ideologies, so did the election of David Bisnowaty to the Malawi National Assembly.
The news that Bisnowaty had been subjected to racialist innuendos in the National Assembly was demeaning to our national pride.
Those MPs who used the radical language in criticising Bisnowaty damaged the image of Malawi Congress Party
(MCP) as a reformed political party. What puzzled me was that the Speaker of Parliament acted after Bisnowaty had written him a letter of complaint. He should have cut short the racialist remarks as unparliamentary.
History shows that members of minority groups have played significant roles in the growth and defence of nations. The trouble with most people taking part in public life in Malawi is that they have not adopted the good example of our founding president Hasting Kamuzu Banda, who read voraciously.
There is something disgusting in the West known as anti-Semitism, meaning hating Jews. Never mind how it started, but we Africans should not join the bandwagon of those who practice this brand of inhumanity. We should not do so for several reasons, but mainly because of what I heard long ago.
In 1962 or 63, I attended a public address in Dar es Salaam where I was working as a civil servant. The address was by Mrs Golda Meier, then prime minister of Israel. Among other things, she asked Africans to understand why Israel must survive.
“You have suffered discrimination and abuse because of your race, dark skin, we have been tortured because of our religion. You and us have common experience of persecution,” she said, or words to this effect.
A bit of history here is necessary to illustrate the good that foreign minorities can do. In ancient Egypt, a Pharaoh one day woke up from sleep with strange dreams. He had seen seven thin cows eating seven fat cows, and thin corn eating fat corn. He called his counsellors to interpret the dream, but none did. It was a Hebrew youth, who interpreted dream.
Joseph told the king that for seven years, there would be good harvest in Egypt, followed by seven years of famine. He advised the Pharaoh to fill silos with food during the seven years of good harvest. The Pharaoh appointed Joseph as minister in-charge of food gathering. When famine came, all over the Middle East, people flocked to Egypt.
One day long ago when I was in Dar es Salaam, an American asked me if I knew why, during World War II, they had defeated the Germans. I said I did not know. He said the German scientists America used were better than the German scientists Hitler used. Who were these German scientists that the USA used? They were German Jews who had fled from the impending holocaust, among them the famous Albert Einstein.
Telling Bisnowaty to relocate to Israel is xenophobia no different from that which we recently criticised South Africa of. At the beginning of the current Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government, Vice-President Saulos Chilima led a delegation of officials to Israel to go and observe how that country had succeeded with its irrigation schemes.
The Israeli government promised to give Malawi technical assistance. Would the Israelis be keen to come here if they learn there is anti-Semitism?
Where memories are short, they could be lengthened by reading. At the very beginning of his regime, Kamuzu Banda took interest in youth development. He appealed to Israel to send him advisors and instructors on setting up youth settlements. Israelis set up a base at Nasawa in Zomba. They set up Malawi Young Pioneer (MYP) bases all over the country. There is not space enough to describe the productive activities of the MYP.
Developed countries like the USA and Britain welcome skilled immigrants to make sure they keep up to date with the technologies of other countries. We are stagnating because we do not have enough foreign entrepreneurs among us through foreign direct investment (FDI). n