Banda ruled Malawi with an iron fist. Upon taking office, he swiftly drove his opposition inside Malawi into exile and banned the foreign press from entering Malawi. In 1971 he named himself “President for Life” and continued to increase his power. Banda created two companies: Press Holdings (a nation-wide chain of supermarkets and general stores) and Admarc (which completely controlled all agricultural businesses). Through these two companies, Banda gained almost total economic control of Malawi.
Banda also made economic trade ties with South Africa. During South Africa’s apartide, Malawi became South Africa’s only public trade partner (although many African nations continued to trade with South Africa secretly). As a result, South Africa invested in Malawi heavily, eventually funding the construction of Lilongwe’s business center, known as “ City Center.” Lilongwe was declared the capital of Malawi in 1975.
Dr. Banda survived several attempts to throw him out of office. In 1978 a general election was held. Banda required all candidates pass a strict English exam (thereby eliminating all of his opposition). The candidates were then required to pledge their allegiance to Dr. Banda. One of Banda’s supporters in the government actually lost his seat as a result of the elections. He was simply reinstated a few weeks later.
One newspaper reported that during Banda’s rule over Malawi, over 250,000 people were murdered or disappeared in connection with the government. As the president himself stated: “Banda is Malawi.