Levi Zeleza Manda’s commentary titled ‘Which D.D. Phiri?’ that appeared in Weekend Nation of April 4 2015 borders on defamation and malice. The gist of his column is that I claim to be an expert in too many fields and that my views on compensation for the 1959 Nkhata Bay massacre were influenced by a bribe from the British.
If Manda has evidence that I was in touch with British authorities either before or after my article was published, he should tell the public names of those I was dealing with.
In whatever I write, I am guided by the motto of two sages: Dante (Italian) and Zik (Nigerian) that is; ‘Show the light and the people will find the way’. I do research, gather knowledge and impart it to help people make informed decisions on public issues. I am a torch-bearer.
It is true that I have written on a variety of topics which suggest that I am knowledgeable in a variety of fields.
Is it possible for one person to write articles on a variety of subjects? Is it possible for one doctor to treat patients suffering from a variety of illnesses such as malaria, wounds, coughs or leprosy? To both questions, I say yes, provided his or her education and training have prepared him or her for all these diseases.
One of the wealthiest black people is John H Johnson, owner of Ebony magazine in the United States. In his autobiography, he writes: “We had neither the time nor the resources to afford the luxury of over-trained specialists who could only do one thing… In the editorial department [they] were expected to be generalists who could write sports today, politics tomorrow and entertainment the day after”.
I am an economist because I hold a University of London degree titled BSc (Economics). The degree programme was divided into two parts. For Part One, a student had to take six compulsory subjects: principles of economics, applied economics, economics history, political history, government (political science) and history of political ideas (philosophy).
The student had also to take two optional subjects. I chose sociology which included psychology and English law. It was at Part Two that a student specialised in one subject.
It is this background that enables me to write articles on a variety of topics. The same background has enabled me to write 20 books on a variety of themes, fiction and non-fiction.
The gist of the article from which Weekend Nation quoted me was that the government should not assume responsibility of demanding compensation for the Nkhata Bay massacre because during the past 50 years, the British government has given Malawi millions if not billions of pounds in aid. This, to me, is compensation enough. For the Malawi Government to demand further compensation would be ingratitude. I am not opposed to relatives of the victims hiring a lawyer and approaching the British authorities privately.
If the government assumes responsibility for the Nkhata Bay petition, it will entangle itself in many others.
In 1959, over 50 people were killed by Federal security forces all over the country. In 1953, at least 11 people were killed during demonstrations in the Southern Region. If you read my biography of John Chilembwe titled ‘Let us die for Africa’, you will see photographs therein of Chilembwe’s men hanged publicly at Bwaila in Zomba, nearly 50 of them. Relatives of all these, upon hearing that government has successfully obtained compensation for Nkhata Bay people, will seek the same treatment from the government. The government should concentrate on development which will benefit the nation.
The rest of what Manda says shows he confuses matters. People of Nkhata Bay were shot by white soldiers from Southern Rhodesia which has been self-governing since 1923. These whites were not taking orders from Britain. Those who brutalised the Kikuyu were sent from Britain. Whether Britain can be held vicariously responsible for what happened at Nkhata Bay to the same extent as to what happened in Kenya, this would be for lawyers to wrangle over.
In quoting the case of Charles Taylor, Manda shows ignorance of the law. The International Criminal Court (ICC) arrested an individual for committing a crime. The ICC did not demand compensations from the Liberian government on behalf of the victims. The parallel would have been to arrest Roy Welensky and Edgar Whitehead, prime ministers of the Federation and Southern Rhodesian Regiment that massacred our people.
In the Taylor case, the court was requested to punish the accused for committing the crime. This was a criminal case.
In the Nkhata Bay petition, the court will be asked to compel the British government to pay compensations to relatives of the victims. This is a civil law case. You cannot use the Taylor case to support the Nkhata Bay petition argument.
They are different.