Saturday 2 June 2012

Malawi's New President Alters National Flag.

On 7 April 2012, Mrs. Joyce Banda (pictured above), previously the Vice-President, became President of Malawi after the sudden death of the incumbant, Bingu wa Mutharika. Mr. Mutharika had led a rather lavish lifestyle and Mrs. Banda rapidly introduced measures to save money and also reversed the decision of her predecessor to change the national flag in 2010. The first national flag of Malawi had been flown from independence and featured on the first set of 4 stamps issued by the new country to celebrate the event on 6 July 1964. This set is of great significance to me since it was the first set of stamps I ever bought from a stamp shop at a price which shocked my grandmother who accompanied me - I paid 5/- (25p) for the set - you could not even send a second class letter through the post here for that price nowadays! The design also featured a portrait of the first president, Dr. Hastings Kamazu Banda, who, as a young man, had worked as a doctor in Scotland.
The first national flag was said to represent the African people (black stripe), the freedom fighters of Malawi (red stripe) and fertility (green stripe). The 31-rayed red rising sun expressed the idea of Kwacha, the dawn of a new age. This iconic flag was replaced by President Mutharika on 29 July 2010 when the colours were re-ordered and a full 46-rayed white sun was placed at the centre of the flag. The change in the appearance of the sun was said to reflect the economic development and progress which had been made since independence. No Malawian stamp has depicted the second flag but it was printed on labels attached to the two stamps issued on 18 January 2011 to commemorate 35 years of Malawian economic partnership with the European Union (an ironic issue since later in 2011 The United Kingdom and other members of the EU suspended aid to Malawi because of the President's lavish spending which was not benefitting his people). The old national flag was restored on 28 May 2012 as part of the changes following Mutharika's death although the action has provoked some controversy in Malawi. During Mutharika's rule, Malawi maintained a highly conservative philatelic new issue policy so let us hope that this continues under Mrs. Banda's rule.
This change of flag following political change has happened before and elsewhere in The Commonwealth. In The Cook Islands, a change of government led to the adoption of a new national flag on 4 January 1979 in which the flag which had been adopted in 1973 was replaced with a version in which The Union Jack was placed in the canton of the new flag and thereby stressed the links of The Cook islands with The Commonwealth. The territory issued a set of 12 stamps on 9 September 1983 which depicted various historical flags of the islands and the 1973 - 79 flag and its successor were depicted in a se-tenant pair.
At independence, on 1 October 1978, Tuvalu adopted a blue flag with a Union Jack at its canton and 9 yellow stars scattered across the field, representing the nine islands of Tuvalu. However, following a change of government, a new national flag was adopted on 1 October 1995 which included the national arms at the hoist and only 8 stars which represented the country's name which means "eight together" in Tuvuluan. The ninth island had been uninhabited but the situation changed and when the new government was replaced the returning government readopted the flag of 1978 - 95 on 11 April 1997.
The flag of 1978 to 1995 was depicted on a stamp issued as part of set of 3 which was issued on 26 October 1982 to commemorate the royal visit to Tuvalu of Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh. The stamp also featured the royal standard.
The flag of 1995 to 1997 was not featured on a stamp but was depicted on the border of a miniature sheet which was issued by Tuvalu on 1 January 1996 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Tuvalu's first postage stamp. The national ensign (national flag flown at sea) was depicted on one of a set of 4 stamps issued on 17 February 1982 to commemorate the Maritime School in Tuvalu:-
Finally, to change the subject, I note that the New York philatelic agency which releases stamps on behalf of Guyana, has changed the illustration of a sheetlet and miniature sheet which appeared on its website and publicised the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the succession of King Edward XIII (see blog of 23 March 2012). Clearly they felt that they had to correct this hilarious error and reprint the items so that they correctly commemorated King Edward VIII. Actually, I'm a little sad that they have done so, it would have been the most awful, and well as the funniest, error ever to have found its way on to a postage stamp. I wonder if there are any of the errors out there waiting for an eagle-eyed collector to snap them up.

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