#ChilembweDay: Remembering Malawi’s iconic national hero

Francis Akhalbey January 15, 2018
John Chilembwe on a Malawian Kwacha note.

Every 15th of January is Chilembwe Day in Malawi. The day is set aside to celebrate and honour John Chilembwe, an iconic and very important figure in Nyasaland’s (now Malawi) fight against European imperialism. Born in 1871, Chilembwe was a Baptist pastor and teacher. He was trained as a minister in the United States but returned to Nyasaland in 1901 to serve his people and partake in the anti-colonial struggle.

Chilembwe was a staunch opposer of the treatment of African workers on European owned plantations and also advocated for equal political and social rights of Africans. In January 1915, he organized an unsuccessful rebellion against the British. He was killed on February 3rd, 1915 while trying to escape to Mozambique after several unsuccessful attempts to arrest him.

#ChilembweDay: Remembering Malawi’s iconic national hero

John Chilembwe (left). Photo was taken in 1914.

This is how Malawians are celebrating their national hero on social media:

Speech by Malawian President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika on 2018 Chilembwe Day.

We have met to celebrate the life of John Chilembwe. Today, we celebrate Chilembwe in the spirit of embracing God for national transformation. And I am delighted to be with you today.

Let me thank you the Providence Industrial Mission for inviting me. In particular, let me thank you for calling upon the nation to think about the transformation of our country.
Transformation begins with the renewal of our minds. This is what The Holy Bible tells us in Romans 12 verse 2. The change of the mindset is the beginning of national transformation. National transformation is a collective process.

We all have to change the way we think and do things for this country to change.
But it takes courage to change a country. Change is never always welcome. That is why Chilembwe faced resistance and got killed.
That is why Moses faced a lot of resistance when he led the children of Israel to the Promised Land.

Jesus Christ himself was denied and killed by the same people he came to save. And, do you remember how people opposed Bingu? They conspired and he died. When he died, the same people turned round and said he was a visionary. Amalawi timakonda kuyamikira munthu akapita. Tisinthe! Tisiye khalidwe limenelo!

Today, I am facing every kind of resistance while I am leading this country to transformation.

They said Peter Mutharika cannot be a President. He must go back to the University where he belongs. I became the President.
They said Peter Mutharika is economically clueless. I took the badly damaged economy and now the economy has recovered. Inflation is at its lowest point in our history; interest rates are going down and the economy is growing. Our foreign currency reserves are at the highest in history.

Now Malawi is a highly rated destination for investors because we have restored economic confidence.

Malawi is a preferred destination for tourists. According to Forbes Magazine and Cosmopolitan Travel Guide, Malawi is among the 18 top countries to be most visited in 2018.

Worldwide, Malawi is rated number 3 and in Africa as number 1 as a country to visit in 2018. You will not find that in our local media because they are busy trashing this country. By doing that, they think they are hurting me. They are making a mistake. What they do not know is that they are destroying their own country.

This kind of behaviour must change. We need to transform our mindset.
We started the National Registration program so that Malawi must be a well-organized society. They said this cannot happen.

Sizitheka zimenezo! This sizitheka mentality is bringing this country down.
Now every Malawian above the age of 16 is going to have a National ID.

They said there is nothing my Government is doing. Today, we can see new roads, community colleges, and rural electricity coming to the villages. And I will not stop at anything until this country totally transforms. 
I want Malawi to be a country with a network of tarmac roads everywhere; a country with no dusty roads in our cities; a country with electricity in our villages; a country where there shall be no more grass-thatched houses. That is transformation.

I want this country to have more jobs for the youth. That is why we are expanding the private sector by inviting foreign direct investors. We must create new jobs. That is why we are building community technical colleges to equip our youth with skills. 
I want Malawi to join the digital revolution. For us to be in the digital age, we need fast and reliable internet which every Malawian can afford. That is why we launched the National Fibre Optic Backbone project. This is the beginning of a digital revolution in Malawi.

For us to transform this country, let us draw our lessons from the life of John Chilembwe. Chilembwe is a symbol of patriotism, integrity and hard work.

Chilembwe was a man of high integrity. With integrity, there will be no corruption.
Corruption is an evil and I want this evil to stop! But slowly, we are taming this evil. We have strengthened the Anti-Corruption Bureau, National Audit and all graft busting institutions. We have given them more resources. But that is not enough.

There is corruption in the private sector, in the judiciary, in the media and the faith community. However, one man cannot fight corruption alone. We need to fight it together. If you see corruption, report to the authorities.

The trouble in this country is that we are politicizing corruption. They say corruption is growing. I don’t think so. It is not true that corruption is growing in this country. What has been growing is the perception of corruption.
I will give you an example. There has been mention of seven cabinet ministers. This is a total lie; a fabrication of a certain malicious, vicious, and an irresponsible editor. The Anti-Corruption Bureau just announced last week that there are no cabinet ministers in the said case. Instead of informing the public, this paper is misinforming the country. We must love our country.

Chilembwe loved his country. That is why he fought for it; and shed his blood for this country. Let us be patriotic.

Chilembwe was a hard worker. He founded this Industrial Mission because he believed that Africans must be industrious in order to be self-dependent. Let us be industrious. 
Chilembwe is a man who dedicated his life to the service of God. In serving others, we serve God. And we serve God by serving others.
In serving others, Chilembwe was a progressive thinker who fought for transformation of this society. He fought to change the life of his people.

In this part of Africa, Chilembwe was the first African to build schools for Africans. He knew the power of education in transforming lives.
Chilembwe was the first African to fight for the rights of women and children. Chilembwe believed in empowering women as the foundation of society. That is why his wife Ida, had a vocational school for training women in skills.

In honour of this spirit, I decided that we must construct a technical college. The construction has started and it is at window level. This college will be called the Ida Chilembwe Technical College.

This college is part of technical community colleges we are building all over the country. Chilembwe saw the vision of community colleges 100 years ago. He wanted a technical college, and now his vision has been fulfilled.
As we reflect on the lessons we draw from the life of John Chilembwe, let us learn to change the way we think in order to change our nation.

God grant us the courage to decide to change; the wisdom to choose what is right; and the faith to follow the path of the righteous.

Thank you!
God bless Malawi!
And bless us all!

Last Edited by:Ismail Akwei Updated: January 15, 2018


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