Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Real Reality Show

Often reading about political history is far more interesting than any reality show. The personality clashes, the pettiness, the diplomatic strategy, are fascinating, especially when the stakes are so high. For example, the period leading up to cabinet crisis in Malawi in 1964 is like the Jersey Shore with the fate of a country at stake.

You have Hastings Banda, a doctor who had become thoroughly "European" in outlook and manner during his 40 years outside of Malawi (then Nyasaland). Banda was portrayed as a savior when he arrived in Nyasaland in 1958. Chiume and Chipembere created Banda's messiah persona. Chipembere, an anti-European hothead who was very popular among the people, would spend over a year in prison with Banda. Chiume avoided prison during the 1959 emergency, but soon became very close to Banda.

There was Dunduzu Chisiza, a young star who was being groomed to take over the finance ministry, if not more. And his brother, Yatuta, who was Banda's personal bodyguard for several years. Dunduzu was in prison with Banda and Chipembere, and the three planned Malawi's future from their cell. After their release, Banda became jealous of Dunduzu and believed the young man was being set up to succeed him. Meanwhile, Dunduzu and Chipembere were jealous of Chiume, who had Banda's confidence in the early 1960s, despite not serving jail time. Yatuta was jealous of all of them because he was kept in menial roles.

In 1962, Dunduzu died in a mysterious car accident. Most respected scholars seem to think it was an unfortunate accident where Dunduzu fell asleep at the wheel and drove off the road. But the truth will never be known. Dunduzu was in a position of power and was replaced by Banda stalwarts John Tembo and Aleke Banda, who would later benefit from Hastings Banda's nepotism. By the time of the country's independence, these men had become ministers in Prime Minister Banda's cabinet.

Meanwhile, Banda managed to foster divisions within his cabinet, utilizing the divide and rule method to consolidate his power. Chiume was put in his place for overstepping his bounds. Banda began to run his cabinet's ministries behind their backs. He privileged white civil servants over his ministers. At this point, in August of 1964, his ministers began to unite against their treatment and Banda's foreign policy, which maintained close alliances with white-ruled countries in Africa.

Banda sort of threatened to resign, but this put the ministers in an awkward situation. Chiume couldn't replace Banda because he was very unpopular. Chipembere was popular, but was out of the country on official business. the others were not qualified. Instead, the ministers asked only that Banda revise his policies.

Banda took the opportunity to engage in some nookie with Snooki and forced his ministers to play ookie cookie. His ministers resigned and Banda ruled Malawi in an autocratic fashion for the next 30 years. (The HQT-IE)

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