15 AUGUST 1958, Page 4

Messiah on the Wane

From Our Correspondent

Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia

land last June after more than forty years of absence from his fatherland, was duly installed as President of the Nyasaland African National Congress at a conference which met at Nkata Bay last Saturday. In his presidential address to the conference, Dr. Banda called for an end to what he termed government by civil servants in Nyasa- land. When the Governor comes, said Dr. Banda, we will want to know what kind of a constitution he and the Colonial Secretary have in mind. Saying that a new constitution that was far re- moved from the Africans' demand for self-rule was undesirable, Dr. Banda said that his people would not accept any more any clauses that pro- vided for nomination of Africans by the Governor either to the Legislative or Executive Councils. What he wants are Africans democratically elected by Africans themselves.

Dr. Banda also criticised the constitution of the Congress, saying that it was weak and ineffec- tive. He wanted one which would make him an effective leader and one which had sufficient scope for disciplinary action to be taken where necessary.

So far this is the first and only indication Dr. Banda has given to show the practical steps he is going to take towards achieving self-govern- ment for Nyasaland outside the Federation. He has, of course, made it clear that he is going to toe the Congress line without modification of its general policy. After the tremendous build-up he has had over the years, his reception in the first few days of his arrival left nothing to be desired in pomp and demonstration of popular affection. Feted everywhere, Dr. Banda was so moved emo- tionally that at one mass meeting he addressed he allowed himself to say that the Nyasas were entitled to rule themselves and 'make their own mess.' He also proceeded to say that this was a much more desirable future for his people than to live under the rule of 'white settlers' in Central Africa whose overriding desire was to suppress the Africans as South Africa was doing to its black population.

However, since he has settled down the popular feeling that he was going to be 'messiah' to rally everybody around Congress and win imme- diate results seems to be on the wane. The splinter groups which broke away from Con- gress before his arrival are still very much alive.

People believe that unless Dr. Banda is a man of exceptionally forceful character, which he does not seem to be, tribal jealousies and conflicts are going to take the upper hand and render Congress influence much less effective than its hierarchy is driving at. That seems not without substance yet conjectural at the same time.