Remembering Kamuzu

As we celebrate the life of the father and founder of this Nation, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, there are some aspects of his life we need to emulate if we are to face development.

Without glorifying him, Dr Banda was a man apart when it came to controlling the executive arm of the government.

In this article I intend to give an insight on how Dr Banda run the government with a ‘dedicated civil service, that was clean, efficient and corruption-free’.

According to various sources, Dr Banda was a man who believed in merit and hard work. He distanced ministers, whom most of them were politicians without the technical know-how to design policies, from the civil service.

According to an interview that Diana Cammack and Osman had with a former head of the civil service on 21 January in 2010, it is on record that Dr Banda told the civil servants that, ‘the civil service is the civil service. Do not get near to any minister.

No minister should influence you about what you can do’. He further ordered that The head of the civil service to answer solely to him and any interference from politicians be reported to him right away.

In this way, Dr Banda made sure that the civil service was clean from political influence thereby giving the public servants freedom to implement government policies.

Dr Banda was also a firm believer in merit and hard work.

From the Interview that Cammack and Osman had with the former Chief secretary to the State, it is on record that he once told one new recruit at the Ministry of External Affairs, where Banda was minister, that ‘you have joined my ministry. It is hard work. We have no Christmas; we have no Sundays’. Most positions were gotten through merit and many of the civil servants were very young and bright and like Dr Banda, they were expected to work hard and those that did well were recognised and promoted through the ranks.

Though some people may have been given jobs in the public service or other statutory corporations because of their connections, but these organisations appear to have run along meritocratic lines and even politically connected people would be dismissed if ineffective. Without sounding very sentimental, staff felt a career in the civil service was predictable and professionally rewarding which is in huge contrast with todays’ reality.

There is a huge horde of evidence that Dr Banda was personally not corrupt and that he believed that his main business was the maintenance of a stable government, an efficient, honest and incorruptible administration. Collin Baker, in his book about the 1964 cabinet crisis, quoted Dr Banda in one of his speeches when said, ‘People must come here when they have money to invest, get a licence without putting so many pounds in the pocket of a certain Minister first’. Anders, concurs with what Baker wrote when, using his informants, wrote that corruption within the civil service was minimal and some of Banda’s detainees were thieves who had attempted to benefit from their employment in statutory corporations and ministries.

From what has been highlighted, it is so clear that Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda set a tone that had we emulated, we could have been a developed nation by now. Cammack, Kelsall and Booth, in their working paper on Developmental Patrimonialism, explained that Malawi achieved economic growth and development during the 70s and 80s due to what they call ‘a disciplined economic technocracy, and an inclusive form of ethno-regional politics’. It is therefore a need for our leaders to follow the standards as set by the father and founder of this nation, Ngwazi Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda.