In the five years since guidino his country to independence, Dr. Hastings Banda, the fiery?
In the five years since guidino his country to independence, Dr. Hastings Banda, the fiery leader of Malawi's four million people, has firmly established himself as White Africa's Black ally. Dr. Banda's Government is the only Black African most closely involved, not opposing Britain's recent proposal to supply South Africa with defensive weapons.
A former clerk in the South African gold fields he believes that the South Africans and Portuguese will soften their stand on Apartheid if they see Black and White governments working harmoniously together. He says this is the only realistic view - that some African governments do business quietly with the South while publicly reviling it, a state of affairs he regards as hypocritical.
Not surprisingly this stand has made him the odd man out among Africa's fiercely nationalistic Black leaders and he's frequently criticised for his pro-White policies.
But in spite of pressure from the North Dr. Banda continues to woo White Africa. Malawi is the only country north of the Zambesi with formal diplomatic ties with Pretoria.
In the past two years the Blantyre government has negotiated trade and labour agreements with South Africa and only last May Premier John Vorster flew north to Lilongwe to inspect Malawi's new capital city. It is being built with the help of a five million pound sterling loan from South Africa. The trip was Mr. Vorster's first visit to an independent Black African State.
The pattern is the same with Malawi's other major White ally Portuguese Mozambique. There the two governments worked closely together on a new rail link with the Norther Mozambique port of Nacala. Once again the capital came from South Africa.
At 64 Dr. Banda is a dapper man with a gift for rhetoric and cynical sense of humour. He ruled the landlocked state with an iron hand -- " I decide everything without consulting anybody and no nonsense about it", he says.
Dr. Banda's rise to power was unusual. Until 1958 when he returned to his country, then called Nyasaland, he had spent 40 years of his life abroad.
He was born the son of poor farmer and until he was 13 he as educated at a mission school. Then he set off without money of papers for South Africa stopping on the way to work at a hospital.
Once in South Africa he was befriended by an American Methodist who gave him financial aid and got him into Indiana University. A natural student, he earned degrees both at Indiana and at the University of Chicago before studying medicine in Nashville, Tennessee.
He returned to Europe for further medical training and completed his studies at Edinburgh University.
Then for five years Dr. Banda practised at Kilburn in North London where many patients still remember him as "the little doctor".
In 1958 he made his triumphant entry into Nyasaland politics. He was invited to return to lead the fight for independence and secession from the old Central African Federation whose leaders regarded him homeland as little more than a poor relation.
It was a bitter struggle and following riots Dr. Banda served the almost inevitable prison apprenticeship of nationalist leaders.
He was released in 1960 and formed the malawi Congress Party. In the elections the following year it had a runaway victory and the Doctor became Nyasaland's first Prime Minister.
In 1964 a few months after Malawi became an independent state within the British Commonwealth, Dr. Banda was faced with a cabinet crisis. All but two of his ministers resigned -- or were dismissed - because of a dispute over the pace of africanisation of top government jobs. His minister felt he was moving too slowly in his field. But Dr. Banda insisted that an African must prove he could do the work of an expatriate before taking his place.
He won an overwhelming vote of confidence and five of the dissident ministers fled the country. The sixth, Henry Chipembere, was soon leading an armed revolt. The uprising failed and Chipembere fled to the United States.
Following the abortive revolt there was a period of stability and Dr. Banda took on the role of travelling statesman. He made several trips to other African states and to Britain where he met the Duke of Edinburgh on one occasion. In 1967 he visited President Johnson in Washington.
Always a realist Dr. Banda was the only Black leader to come out against armed intervention in Rhodesia over its Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965. He pointed out that those who advocated intervention were unable to back their words with deeds.
Early in July this year, after Britain had made known a proposal to supply South Africa with defensive weapons, Dr. Banda's government was the only Black African one most closely involved not to oppose the move.
Asked to comment, a Malawi Government official said that Dr. Banda had already made his policy on the matter quite clear. If the Cape sea route was to be kept open to the west, then South Africa must have the defensive weaponry necessary to do so. It is far better, said the spokesman, if the west is in power in Southern Africa and not the Communists. Dr. Banda had earlier said, "Who am I to lift a hand in protest if Britain and South Africa do an Arms deal?".
But there are those in Africa who feel that Dr. Banda himself is a little glib -- that his friendly attitude to White Africa is dictated more by necessity than by any desire to kill apartheid with kindness.
They point out that the real facts of life in Malawi are more geographical than political. The country is an awkward shape with a vast lake as its central feature. Its towns are in the south; its communications lie either through Mozambique or through Rhodesia, and it is landlocked.
So his political critics argue that it's against this background of necessity that Malawi accepts aid from White Africa. While admitting that this is true, Dr. Banda points out that it is not just a question of economics but also one of principles.
He says there are many Europeans in South Africa and Rhodesia who are for the Africans. And that it's these people he wants to reach through his good neighbours policy.