'The Malawi people that we encountered were naturally friendly and welcoming'

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'The Malawi people that we encountered were naturally friendly and welcoming'


Frank remembers living in Malawi.


Frank Gaynor


Trinity College Dublin




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Frank Gaynor

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Marriage and Family


Life Story

Spatial Coverage

Malawi, Africa

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In the Malawi that we lived in there was no freedom of expression. The two main arms of the media, the radio and the newspapers, were firmly under the control of the government. They churned out endless volumes of praise for the 'Wise leadership of His Excellency Ngwazi, Dr. H Kamuzu Banda, President for Life and Life President of the Malawi Congress Party'. We seldom got an abbreviated version of this title. We also became very familiar with Dr. Banda's 'Four Cornerstones': Unity, Loyalty, Obedience and Discipline. In every secondary school there was a Young Pioneer teaching the government's version of recent Malawi history and ensuring that everyone in the school followed the Party line. Another youth organisation, called The League of Malawi Youth, had red - coated Youth Leaders stationed at market places and bus stops checking that everyone had a Party Card. Those without Party Cards were refused entry to the market or the bus. Politics was not a topic for discussion. People soon came to realise that there were informers all over the place ready to report back the slightest criticism of the President, the Government or the Party. There were rumours of vehicles driving into villages during the night and driving off with men who were never seen again. Many were imprisoned without trial. As these were Cold War times, and Dr. Banda was anti - communist, western donors conveniently overlooked the human rights abuses. Dr. Banda also, single - handedly tried to stem the flow of modern lifestyles; mini - skirts on girls and long hair on boys were forbidden. In Dr. Banda's police state the black population suffered much more than the white population. Dr Banda owned some large tobacco estates and was generally sympathetic towards the large estates managed by whites. But any white person who showed any disrespect, especially towards a government official, was declared a Prohibited Immigrant and given 48 or 72 hours to leave the country. For anyone who was prepared to 'go with the flow' living in Malawi could be a very pleasant experience. The Malawi people that we encountered were naturally friendly and welcoming, always smiling and courteous, with a tendency to bow and scrape unnecessarily towards authority, especially towards white authority. The students in the school would always kneel when talking with a teacher, just as they did when talking with elders in the village. Some volunteer teachers felt very uncomfortable having a student kneeling beside them.


Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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