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Who We Are 

 

Contextual background

 

The Cabinet Crisis of 1964 occurred in August/September 1964 barely two months after Malawi attained independence. It emanated from an irreconcilable rift between the Prime Minister, Dr. Hastings Banda (later Malawi's first President) and his cabinet ministers.

 

Ordinary Malawians were taken by surprise to hear the former cabinet ministers, whom Dr Banda had fondly referred to as ‘my boys’, called ‘wild animals’ and ‘rebels’ who needed to be ‘destroyed at all costs.’

 

Subsequently the ‘rebel’ ministers and their sympathisers (mostly civil servants, some party officials and some MPs), were hunteddown by the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) youth leaguers and Malawi Young Pioneer (MYP). As such they had to flee for their livesinto exile (mainly to Tanzania and Zambia).

 

Many of these were the leading intellectuals and activists of the time who had been instrumental in paving the way for Dr. Banda Banda's return to the country in 1958.

 

One major casualty of the 1964 cabinet crisis, was the free discussion of the political and economic history of the country and above all the production, documentation and dissemination of the history at large.

 

For almost 30 years since 1964, during national festivities when the political history of the country was expressed and re-enacted on radio, in news- papers, at national and local party gatherings and in schools, a version of history was presented that was specifically designed to personally pleaseand glorify none other than Dr. Banda.

Rationale

 

After the occurrence of the cabinet crisis of 1964, Dr. Banda's role in decolonization of Malawi was highlighted at the expense of all those who had actively mobilized and agitated the masses long before D. Banda returned homein July 1958 such as the dissident cabinet ministers and other struggle icons who had fled into exile in the wake of the cabinet crisis of 1964.

 

For instance, to mention the names of the dissident cabinet ministers like MasaukoChipembere, YatutaChisiza, Orton Chirwa, Kanyama Chiume, Augustine Bwanausietc anywhere even right in the homes was 'illegal' and could easily lead to one's detention in one of the notorious camps that were mushrooming in the country. The important role of these figures in the anti-colonial struggle was being deliberately obliterated from the memories of Malawians.

 

Furthermore, the place of earlier freedom fighters, such as John Chilembwe and compatriots and the organizers and participants of the riots and civil disobedience of 1953 and 1958, were minimized even though they were expected to occupy a prominent position on Martyrs Day commemorations of 3rd March.

 

For instance, on 3 March then popularly known as Martyrs day, throughout the day, the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) played songs and music relating to the struggle for the decolonization of Malawi. Participants in the resistance struggle, or their relatives were interviewed on the radio.

 

It then became an annual practice for MBC to re-broadcast excerpts of Dr. Banda's speeches, which as might be expected, did not contain any references to the contributions to nationalism made by those struggle icons who had been forced to flee to exileie the likes of MasaukoChipembere, YatutaChisiza, Orton Chirwa, Kanyama Chiumeetc.

 

Again, the version of history that was being inculcated in the minds of the new generation of Malawians was that which had to be approved by Dr Banda himself.

It is Dr. Banda’s own version which became the official history, and anybody departing from it was regarded as anti- government, a 'rebel', a 'confusionist', an 'ungrateful' person and, therefore, someone deserving detention without trial.

 

Even to this very day, it is Dr. Banda’s own version that he imposed as Malawi’s official history that most Malawians still take it to be an accurate and authentic portrayal and presentation when it is actually far from it.

 

Further to this, when the University of Malawi opened in 1965, Dr. Banda’s own version of Malawi history was already being propagated. The history of Malawi course at the University of Malawi had to be taught selectively to avoid the intervention of the one party security machinery.

 

Even though the research interest of most of the first members of the Department of History at the newly established University of Malawi was in twentieth century Malawi, especially in nationalism, education and social change, there was a limit to which they could pursue their academic interrogations in this pursuit.

 

For instance, field academic research trips were monitored by the various security agencies, and informants were not prepared to risk being heard pronouncing the names of some of the political activists who were regarded as ‘rebels’ as far as Dr. Banda’s own version of the history which had become official was concerned.

 

To make the situation more difficult, access to the National Archives to conduct research, was extremely difficult, and few people were granted permission by the Office of the President to consult materials deposited there.

 

In addition, manuscripts which had benefited from the Government archives had to be cleared by, among others, the Ministry of Local Government, the Office of the President and the Censorship Board before they could be published.

 

We believe that the suppression of the history by the Government at the time has created a precedent where successive governments have also sought to benefit from or apply a similar strategy of distorting history to suit pollical or other ends. For this reason, the Lost History Foundation collects, archives and preserves current events so as to maintain the historical perspective. In short,  LHF is a private national archive.

Foundation description

 

Against this background the Lost History Foundation provides a platform for researchers, historians and film makers to unearth some archival materials and historical documents/records/information that provide more accurate insights into the Malawi’s history which was purposefully suppressed, distorted or deleted in the wake of cabinet crisis of 1964.

 

Lost History Foundation is therefore an attempt to contribute to the on-going processes of mending the suppressions, distortions and omissions that the Malawi’s history heavily suffered throughout the years since the cabinet crisis of 1964 as explained above and then package the accurate presentation of Malawi’s history through a series of TV/video documentaries.

Overall Aim 

 

To mend the suppressions, distortions and omissions that the Malawi’s history has catastrophically suffered since the cabinet crisis of 1964

Project objectives

 

  1. Interrogate and repair the distortions, suppression and omissions that were inflicted on the Malawi’s history;

  2. Enlighten the masses about the many inspiring and edifying aspects and figures of Malawi’s history that were purposefully hidden, distorted or suppressed following the cabinet crisis of 1964.

  3. Preserve the History of the Nation in particular and Africans in general

Project's expected outcomes 

 

  1. The masses being fully conscious about the most accurate portrayal of Malawi’s history and where possible provide alternative perspectives of various aspects of the Malawi history;

  2. Proper homage, honour and recognition being accorded to the forgotten heroes and heroines of Malawi who significantly contributed to the struggle for decolonization of Malawi, other national struggles in our history and many other aspects of life such as sports, music, religion, military, education, arts, philanthropy, science and technology etc

Outputs

 

The Lost History Foundation provides:Books, articles, seminars, conferences, video/audio documentaries on the history of Malawi. This is done through the website, and social media pages.

This project has a team of three that is implementing the project on behalf of Film Lab/Dawg Fish Entertainment:

  1. Director of Research: PalianiChinguwo;labour researcher/historian.

  2. Technical Director: Bruno Matumbi; Attorney/film maker.

  3. Executive Director: ConleithSelenje, activist/educator.

  4. Director  of Finance: Hastings  Kasongo, Accountant

Project Team