Readers' Letters: Is Sturgeon taking tips from Malawi leader?

What have Sturgeon and the SNP learned from Malawi under the dictator Banda and the MCP?

President of Malawi Hastings Banda with Margaret Thatcher in 1979.
President of Malawi Hastings Banda with Margaret Thatcher in 1979.

Many readers of The Scotsman will be aware of the close ties between Scotland and Malawi, a relationship that goes back to the 1860s and David Livingstone. I lived in Malawi for a while in the 1980s during the period when His Excellency the Life President, Ngwazi Dr H Kamuzu Banda (as he was officially referred to) ruled that country with an iron fist. It has recently struck me how many similarities there are between how Banda and his MCP kept control over his country and how Sturgeon and the SNP are currently controlling Scotland and the Scottish people.

In Malawi in those days just about everything, especially the police, was under central control. Local authorities had very little power. All information was strictly controlled, especially government information. Members of the ruling party were not allowed in any way to criticise Banda or the policies of the Malawi Congress Party, of which he was the head. Ministers who did not follow Banda’s directives to the letter, or who were seen as threats to his power, were quickly removed from office. Banda’s partner, Mama Cecilia Kadzamira, wielded considerable power behind the scenes. The Malawian civil service unquestioningly supported the President. Banda and his cohorts were essentially able to ignore the law of the land.

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Each week Banda gave speeches telling Malawians how well the country was doing (even though it was performing very badly in economic terms). He rarely failed to point out how he had “broken the chains of the hated Federation” (the Central African Federation).

The country’s one and only radio station reported exactly what Banda wanted them to report, without any analysis.

At national events, official openings and visits by Banda, hundreds of party member supporters, all dressed in the colours of the Malawi flag, sang and danced in celebration of the President and the Malawi Congress Party. Much of Banda’s support came from the poorest people in the country because he repeatedly promised them a better future, although in 30 years he did not deliver on this promise and Malawi remained one of the poorest countries in the world.

After far too long, the people of Malawi finally came to their senses and voted out Banda. Let us hope it doesn’t take as long for the people of Scotland to come to their own senses and vote out Sturgeon and the SNP.

Roddy MacLeod, Windsor Place, Edinburgh

Daily propaganda

The First Minister has announced that she intends to continue with her daily “Public Health” broadcasts throughout the oncoming Scottish election campaign.These broadcasts have, almost from the start of the Covid 19 crisis, become a very thinly disguised means for Nicola Sturgeon to spout her own propaganda while denigrating other politicians, and England itself. It might have been thought proper for her to cease broadcasting and leave informing the public on matters relating to Covid-19 to public health officials, something they are well able to do, during the “Purdah Period”.

It might indeed be thought proper for the BBC itself to terminate her speaking during these broadcasts. Little chance, it would appear. The BBC, once a bastion for free speech and democracy, has shown itself to be cowed by Ms Sturgeon and her party.

If Ms Sturgeon is permitted to continue with her daily broadcasts then the BBC will have become complicit in establishing a one-party dictatorship in Scotland. It is only a matter of time before the Press is itself similarly controlled.

The manner in which the SNP Government has controlled the Salmond Inquiry is an example of the type of government we can look forward to, Hypocritical, Incompetent and lacking in veracity.

John B Gorrie, Craigmount Gardens, Edinburgh

Travel warning

I would like to add to Eleanor Lowrie's letter warning about travel insurance automatic renewals (February 10). I had one such unexpected renewal, and I only spotted it before the 14-day cooling off period expired because I happened to receive a bank statement.

What was more concerning was that on my bank statement was just gobbledygook, with no mention of the company's name or that it was travel insurance.

I had to retrieve a 12-month old bank statement to get an idea what it was.

Geoff Moore, Alness, Highland

Free speech

I find news that a man has been arrested for making offensive tweets about the late Captain Sir Tom Moore to be deeply uncomfortable. That is not to say I condone the insults. Captain Sir Tom Moore was a hero who both fought for and inspired his country, and tawdry attempts to muddy his name are crassly puerile attempts to shock at best, and callously political provocation at worst.

Nonetheless, to criminally charge someone for sneering at Captain Sir Tom is a far excessive and disproportionate response that will have a chilling effect on public discourse. I support free speech, and it does not just apply to people who conveniently agree with me but everyone.

If Captain Sir Tom Moore could keep his cool at the Battle of Kohima, I think he could laugh off some impotent carping from the sidelines on Twitter. I doubt he'd want this being done in his name.

Robert Frazer, Charleston Drive, Dundee, Angus

Vaccine shortfall

Dr Andrew Buist, chair of the British Medical Association's Scottish GPs committee, complained (Scotsman, January 21) that orders for vaccines had to go from GPs to health boards to the NHS and then to Movianto, a private healthcare firm contracted to distribute the vaccine.

According to a weekend report Movianto has been "sidelined". You don't sideline a company to whom you are paying £10 million a year if they are doing a good job. Dr Buist was suggesting that bureaucracy was a factor in the failure to deliver vaccine to GPs who were crying out for it.

Now it appears that into the bargain the private healthcare company itself has been doing a less than satisfactory job of collecting and distributing supplies which have been there in abundance.

Can it be that when Health Secretary Jeane Freeman complains of "supply issues" what she actually means is "distribution issues"? It certainly looks as if this is one factor in the failure to meet vaccine targets.

Colin Hamilton, Braid Hills Avenue, Edinburgh

UK racism

I found Richard Allison and Peter Hopkins’ views about some Scotland players decision not to ‘take the knee’ at Twickenham particularly saddening (Letters, February 10).

I wonder where these two men were when I was standing on football terraces in the 1970s and 1980s watching supporters throw bananas and the majority of the crowd making monkey noises when Black players touched the ball.

When Black people were being openly discriminated against in employment when trying to buy or rent houses and even trying to get served in some pubs?As Mr Hopkins rightly states we did not have the apartheid the US had but racism was alive and well in this country but just accepted.

D Mitchell, Coates Place, Edinburgh

Untrammelled?

In a recent letter (February 9), Alexander McKay laments that the SNP are a “minority” in Scotland but have enjoyed ten years of “untrammelled” power. This blinkered view overlooks that the last UK governments elected with over 50 per cent of the popular vote were the National Governments elected in 1931 and 1935. No UK government since has achieved a majority of the popular vote. Margaret Thatcher’s high-water mark was 43.9 per cent of the popular vote in 1979 and Tony Blair’s was 43.2 per cent in 1997. These wins were hailed as “landslides”.

The Scottish parliament uses a partly proportional system. In 2016 the SNP’s share of the vote (46.5 per cent of the constituency vote and 41.7 per cent of the list vote) translated not into a Westminster-style “landslide” but enabled them to form a small working majority with support from the Greens.

It is at Westminster rather than Holyrood where minority votes produce untrammelled power as we can all see to our cost.

Bill McKinlay, Cockburn Crescent, Balerno

Thin end

Neil Barber of Edinburgh Secular Society needs to see the big picture (Letters, February 10). Today it is a Christian teacher who could be barred from his profession, his views on same-sex parenting classified as “hatred”. Tomorrow it could be a feminist teacher, because her views on women-only spaces or women’s sport are classified as transphobic “hatred”. Very soon the same restrictions will apply to lawyers and politicians, and we will wonder why our fundamental rights to freedom of speech, conscience and religion have vanished.

Otto Inglis, Ansonhill, Crossgates, Fife

Charles in charge

Prince Charles has been criticised for preventing his tenants buying their houses. It is just a pity a similar measure was not applied to stop the Thatcher government flogging off council houses.

PM Dryburgh, Falcon Avenue, Edinburgh

Eye opening

The proposed closure of Edinburgh’s Eye Pavilion is a good illustration of the incompetence of the SNP administration. Having had the sight of a family member saved in one eye at the Pavilion, I am well aware of the importance to Scotland of this site of medical excellence. Indeed, it was an Edinburgh doctor who went south to deal with Margaret Thatcher’s eye in the 1980s, such was the pre-eminence of the Eye Pavilion in UK terms.

Andrew HN Gray, Craiglea Drive, Edinburgh

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