4842Now I know what to do with my "Opponents."
- Oct 3, 2005Banda, Hastings Kamuzu (b. 1898?1, near Kasungu, British Central Africa Protectorate [now Malawi] - d. Nov. 25, 1997, Johannesburg, South Africa), prime minister (1963-66) and president (1966-94) of Malawi (until 1964 Nyasaland). He first became involved in his homeland's politics when white settlers in the region demanded the federation of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland in 1949. Banda and others in Nyasaland strongly objected to this extension of white dominance, but the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was nevertheless established in 1953. In 1959 he was imprisoned by the British colonial authorities. He was released in 1960 and a few months later accepted British constitutional proposals granting Africans in Nyasaland a majority in the Legislative Council. He was minister of natural resources and local government in 1961-63, and he became prime minister in 1963, the year the federation was finally dissolved. He retained the post of prime minister when Nyasaland achieved independence in 1964 under the name of Malawi. Malawi became a republic in 1966 with Banda as president. He headed an austere, autocratic one-party regime and jailed or executed his opponents. He had himself declared president for life in 1971. He concentrated on building up infrastructure and increasing agricultural productivity. His foreign-policy orientation was decidedly pro-Western. Widespread domestic protests and the withdrawal of Western aid forced him to legalize other political parties in 1993. In the country's first multiparty presidential elections (1994), he was defeated by Bakili Muluzi. Muluzi's government tried him for the 1983 murder of four political opponents but he was found not guilty. He finally retired from opposition politics in July 1997.
1 Banda's official birthday was May 18, 1906, but he was widely believed to be older and the hospital where he died gave his age as 99. For many years, it was a criminal offense to discuss his age in Malawi. His nephew, former local government minister Katola Phiri, said Banda was actually born in 1896 and that his original name was Ackim Kamkhwala Banda before he changed it to Hastings Kamuzu Banda. (There even has been a story that Banda died young, while a medical student, and that Richard Armstrong, an American medical student who had befriended him, had taken his place.)
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