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AFRICAN TO REMEMBER: LATE PROF. GUY MHONE
By: Kemet Forum research team
One Malawian who stood thick and thin and did Africa proud through his enormous achievements inspite of being declared a persona non grata in his own country (Malawi) was Prof. Guy Mhone- a progressive scholar, musician, revolutionary, poet, athlete, staunch pan-africanist, photographer and political activist.
“He is known within many nations,…very little did Malawi know she had produced a seed that would grow into a big tree in a desert from which birds would build their nests…” This is what one of his postgraduate students Jinni Nkhambule wrote about late Prof. Guy Mhone in a condolence message.
“He was intolerant of social, political and economic injustices. He fought these all his life…In his life two things stand out-his love of humanity and Africa, hence he dedicated himself to improving human conditions and democratic development of the African continent,’’ reads an extract from Dr. Omano Edigheji’s speech delivered at the memorial service of Late Prof Guy Mhone which was held on the 4th of March 2005 at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.
Late Prof. Guy Mhone was born on 20th December 1942 in Luanshya (Zambia) where his parents had migrated from Malawi. He did his primary school education at Gloag Ranch Mission in Zimbabwe from 1953 to 1957 before enrolling at Livingstonia Secondary School in Malawi where he sat for the Cambridge O’ level certificate in 1962 and the Cambridge A’ level certificate two years later. Having scooped the first prize of the National Essay competition in 1964, he was awarded a Shell Scholarship to do further studies either in United Kingdom (UK) or Australia. This was a period when politically the atmosphere was very tense country wide following the famous cabinet crisis which had just occurred. Because of his scathing writings about the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) government, his scholarship was abrogated.
Fortunately, in 1965 another scholarship to study at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire (USA) came on his way. Then the MCP high ranking officials were inclined towards under-rating American universities as compared to the British ones. Subsequently, the government allowed young and militant Guy to leave for USA not knowing that he would enroll at one of the top US universities. Because of his political activism against the draconian rule of the post independent government in Malawi, he was later declared a persona non grata in 1965 by the Malawi Government. Later on, his Malawi passport was revoked while in the third year at Dartmouth College. Were it not for the efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Campbell who relentlessly lobbied with the US government, Senator Edward Kennedy and Senator Edward Brookes to enable Guy acquire a refuge status in U.S.A, he would have been expelled from college and immediately deported to Malawi where he would have been arrested upon arrival. Luckily enough, as an asylum seeker Guy continued with his studies and graduated with a BA (Economics) in 1968. His MA (Economics) and PhD (Economics) were awarded in 1972 and 1977 respectively by the Syracuse University where politically radical as he had ever been, he continued to speak and write against the one party system of government in Malawi. It was while at Syracuse University that he was visited by a number of exiled Malawians like Masauko Chipembere (minister of education at the time of cabinet crisis) and Prof. David Rubadiri (Malawi’s ambassador to the United Nations at the time of the cabinet crisis).
While in USA Guy had a short stint with the Belize Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and the New York Treasury department. Apart from lecturing at a number of universities in the USA and Southern Africa, Late Prof. Guy Mhone also worked with various international institutions like International Labour organization (ILO), Council for Development Research in Africa (CODESRIA), Southern Africa Political Economics Series Trust (SAPES), Centre for Public Sector Innovation. Besides he also did numerous consultancy works for the UNICEF, World Bank, UNDP, Ministry of Labor (Zimbabwe), Pan African Congress of Azania, Government of Zambia, Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ) among others. More so, he played a pivotal role in the formulation of the South Africa’s new labour law during the years he worked as a Director of the Labour Market Policy in the post apartheid South Africa’s civil service. Later, he moved on to serve as a Director at the University of the Witwatersrand’s Graduate School of Public and Development Management.
Not only that but late Prof. Guy Mhone is also saluted as one of the framers of the post 1994 South African macro-economic policy called Growth Employment And Redistribution (GEAR) policy framework. In addition, late Prof. Guy Mhone:
- Wrote dozens of papers and co-edited and co-authored many books on a wide range of topics such as structural adjustment, labour markets, agriculture, industrialization, informal sector, gender issues, HIV Aids etc.
- Explored the limits of neo-classical economics applied to African conditions, and in the process, questioned dogmas associated with labour and capital market theory.
- Developed a theory of Africa’s dysfunctional ‘enclave economies’ which forms a basis of the Alternatives to Neo-liberalism in Southern Africa (ANSA) book entitled Towards A People Driven Development Agenda published (2006) by the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ). This ANSA book was one of the last projects which he coordinated and successfully completed.
Amazingly despite his exceedingly tight schedule, Late Prof. Guy Mhone among others managed to spare considerable time to participate in marathons; do weight lifting, jog and at times swim; compose and play music; run his own photographic studio at home; do fishing; listen to jazz music; write poems some of which appear in a volume of poetry entitled The World Is Here.
Late Prof. Guy Mhone passed away on the 1st March 2005 after going an unsuccessful operation at a hospital in Pretoria. His burial ceremony was held at a family burial ground in Mzuzu on the 11th of March 2005 and was attended by foreign dignitaries and family friends who had traveled from as far as South Africa, West Africa, Zimbabwe and Europe.
Conspicuously absent at the funeral were officials from the central government of Malawi. However, the South Africa’s minister of public services and Minister of labour showed up at the memorial service of Late Prof. Guy Mhone on the 4th of March 2005 at Linder auditorium held at University of the Witwatersrand which was also broadcast on South Africa’s state television. Besides, among the numerous messages of condolences to the deceased family of Late Prof. Guy Mhone, some came from various ministries and government departments including the parliament of the Republic of South Africa.
Also conspicuously absent at a launching ceremony of the Alternatives to Neo-liberalism in Southern Africa (ANSA) book in Malawi on the 10th of December 2007 and 18th February 2008 in Lilongwe and Blantyre respectively two years after its architect Late Prof. Guy Mhone had died, were high ranking government officials and cabinet ministers who were officially invited but refused to attend. In an article that appears in the Malawi’s DAILY Times of 12th December 2007 entitled Government Shuns Book Launch the then Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Labor Dr. Daudi is reported to have said that the Malawi Government shunned the ANSA book launch all together because the ANSA book happens to contradict government’s development programmes and policies. Ironically the title of the ANSA book itself Towards A People Driven Development Agenda is essentially one appropriate way of describing the ‘Decentralisation Policy’ popularly known as ‘Mphavu ku wanthu’ championed by the Malawi Government through its various development programmes.
Rest in Peace Guy !!