EPISODE 1 ON MWANZA “WAR” OF OCTOBER 1967 IN MALAWI

Yatuta Chisiza Campus
Yatuta Chisiza Campus

Type of campus that Yatuta Chisiza and lieutenants used during Mwanza “war of October 1967.

As this month of October exactly marks 50 years after the Mwanza “war” in which post colonial Malawi’s first Home Affairs Minister, Yatuta Chisiza and his lieutenant Lutengano Mwahimba were shot dead, MIJ-FM has run the first episode of five today Sunday the 1st October. Click here to access full Episode 1.

Basically, in this Episode 1, Frank Jiya the surviving combatant from the ‘rebels’ side provides the context why the “war” broke out in the first place. He takes us back to the Cabinet crisis of 1964 particularly the manner Dr. Banda dealt with it, as the underlying factor that one may need to grapple with in order to come to terms why Yatuta Chisiza and his lieutenants finally resorted to take up arms to fight against Dr. Banda’s regime.

It is after listening to this Episode 1, that one realises that in dealing with the cabinet crisis of 1964, had Dr. Banda applied the principle of  CONTACT AND DIALOGUE that he is credited to have preached to other Africa’s heads of states as the best approach to resolve seemingly irreconcilable rifts between or among rival parties, perhaps the Mwanza “war” wouldnt not have been fought at all.

Just to substantiate the context of the Mwanza “war” that Frank Jiya lays in this Episode 1, Prof. Collin Baker (2008) highlights in George Ndomondo’s biography that within two weeks after the emergency Parliamentary Session on the Vote of no confidence on Dr. Banda, held 8-9 September 1964 at the peak of the cabinet crisis, all “dissident” ex-cabinet ministers (including Yatuta Chisiza himself) and their sympathizers who were being hunted like rabid dogs by Malawi Young Pioneers (MYP) and Youth Leageurs, had fled into exile to save their own lives. Only Masauko Chipembere among the ex-ministers chose to remain behind. There was a rumour that Chipembere was intending to form an opposition political party:

1. On 26th September 1964, Dr. Banda was informed that Chipembere‘s supporters were heading to Blantyre to organise a meeting the next day, probably connected with the rumoured  decision to set up a new political party. Dr. Banda told the Governor General Sir Glly Jones:
IF NECESSARY, FORCE MUST BE USED TO STOP IT TAKING PLACE. IF NECESSARY PEOPLE MUST BE SHOT AND I MEAN THAT THE POLICE MUST SHOOT TO KILL. YOU ARE INCHARGE OF PUBLIC ORDER, YOUR EXCELLENCY, WHILE IAM AWAY IN THE NORTH. THE MAINTENANCE OF PUBLIC ORDER AND SECURITY IS PARAMOUNT AT THIS TIME. ONE PERSON (CHIPEMBERE) CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO ENDANGER THE SECURITY OF THE WHOLE STATE.
 2. Later that day, a number of violent clashes occurred. 200 members of Malawi Youth League arrived in Limbe to stop people attending Chipembere‘s meeting scheduled for the following day.

3. This meeting by Chipembere was banned by Police under orders from Dr Banda. Chipembere still showed up at the venue in Soche to explain to the crowd that he could not hold the meeting but would do so the following Sunday and he gave a pointed resume of what he would then say.

As he finished speaking, gangs of pro-Banda Malawi Youth League arrived in government lorries, heavily armed with clubs and iron bars, and attacked the audience. There was a bloody affray resulting in 20 casualties.

In the meantime, at Thondwe, ten miles south of Zomba on the road to Blantyre, near a Young Pioneer Training Base, a large tree had been felled across the road by the a team of some 170 Youth Leaguers, who manned this road block from the early hours of Sunday in order to prevent Chipembere, other former ministers and their supporters from reaching Blantyre for the banned meeting.

4. The following week was even more deeply troubled. It opened on a Monday morning with rioting, arson and serious fighting between the pro-Banda Youth League and largely pro-Chipembere civil servants in Zomba.

On Wednesday the 30th September 1964, all Malawian government  employees in Zomba went on strike, government offices were closed early, and most urban shops in the South were closed. In Zomba, Malawian civil servants wore white bands around their wrists to show they were  not Youth Leaguers but were pro-Chipembere.
When Youens (Chief Secretary to Government) spoke to the striking civil servants, his suggestion that a delegation should put their grievances to the government was not well received and there were demands that Chipembere should address them.

5. On the last day of September 1964, as a reaction to the disturbances in the Southern region, regulations were introduced empowering Dr. Banda to restrict people to specified areas and require them to report to local police stations. He immediately signed an order confining Chipembere within a four mile radius  of his home in Malindi.

6. Supporters by the lorry loads arrived from Blantyre, Chiradzulo, Zomba, Kasupe and Fort Johnston itself- the whole of the northern half of the Southern region-coming to express their sympathy and solidarity and bringing Chipembere gifts and food stuffs.

During his (Chipembere) interview with the press, at-least six Malawian bodyguards kept a protective watch on Chipembere. Several of these were former members of staff of the Fort Johnston branch of the ruling (Malawi Congress Party) MCP who had resigned in protest when ex-ministers were recently expelled from the party.

7. Also Parliament was about to debate a constitutional amendment to permit detention without trial. Chipembere suspected that he would be the first to be detained. So on 25th October 1964, a day or two before  the parliamentary debate, he left Malindi and went to hide himself with a party of seven in the mountains.

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Sources: Prof. Collin Baker’s ‘The Life of George Ndomondo’ (Biography), 2008; Frank Jiya Testimony in Episode 1 on Mwanza “war” Series, 2017.

For feedback: p.chinguwo@kemetforum.com