Kamuzu Day is a holiday observed on May 14th annually and commemorates the first President of Malawi, President Hastings Kamuzu Banda. He was born in 1898 and received much of his education outside the country before returning to fight against colonialism and advocate for independence.
In 1963, he was appointed Prime Minister of Nyasaland and would lead the country to independence in 1964. He chose the name Malawi for the new republic and appointed himself as the country’s first president. That is why he is still honored—although there was a brief time when the holiday was outlawed.
The History of Kamuzu Day in Malawi
Hastings Kamuzu Banda proclaimed Malawi a republic and made himself president in 1964. He consolidated power under Malawi’s new Constitution and made the country a one-party state under the Malawi Congress Party, or MCP. In 1971, he became president for life.
After the collapse of the USSR, Banda’s control over the country began to wane, and he was forced to implement a number of different reforms. In 1993, he received pressure not only from forces inside his country but also from the international community to hold a referendum on whether Malawi should remain a one-party state. Approximately 64% of citizens voted in favor of multiparty democracy. In 1994, he ran in the first democratic presidential election but ended up losing to Bakili Muluzi.
Kamuzu Day was observed for approximately three decades but was banned in 1993 when the country transitioned to democracy. In 2009, the holiday was reinstated by President Bingu wa Mutharika and replaced Freedom Day—a day that marked the 1993 National Referendum on Multiparty Democracy.
Observing Kamuzu Day in Malawi
Since this holiday is a public holiday in Malawi, it is a day off for the general population, and government offices, schools, and many businesses are closed for the day. It is also a day on which people spend time with friends and family.