Banda, Ngwazi Hastings Kamuzu

1898–1997
President of Malawi

Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda served as president of MALAWI from 1966 to 1994. His presidency was a time of one-party rule. Born in the British colony of Nyasaland (present-day Malawi), Banda left home at age 17 to study in SOUTH AFRICA. Later he traveled to the United States, where he attended college and medical school.

While practicing medicine in London and GHANA, Banda became involved in his country’s politics. He joined the Nyasaland Congress and protested Britain’s decision to create a federation linking Nyasaland with the neighboring colonies of Northern and Southern Rhodesia. In 1958 the Congress asked him to come back home.

Banda soon formed his own political party, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). He was a lively and appealing public figure, and when Nyasaland won independence as Malawi in 1964, Banda became the country’s prime minister. Three years later he was chosen president. In 1971 he changed his title to President for Life and made the MCP the only legal political party in the country. Banda’s political opponents were driven into exile, imprisoned, or killed. His foreign policy favored Western governments. At home he sought to modernize Malawi’s agriculture and public works, while enforcing a strict moral code on the people. Banda regulated everything from the length of women’s skirts to the books people could read.

Despite his harsh rule, Banda was widely respected in Malawi and was nicknamed Ngwazi—meaning savior or conqueror—by the local media. However, he upset many African leaders by supporting South Africa’s apartheid government and by backing guerrilla rebels in MOZAMBIQUE. In 1991 various groups spoke out against Banda’s human rights abuses, further weakening his power. In 1994 Banda reluctantly allowed the first multiparty elections in nearly 30 years and resigned the presidency.

Banda, Ngwazi Hastings Kamuzu