A Tribute to the Unsung heroes
‘…Time has come to correct the mistake of 1964. My generation is guilty of making Dr. Banda a semi-god. We should not let that happen again in our country…’
This month of October, exactly marks 50 years after the ‘war’ in Mwanza between Malawi’ security forces on one front and an armed group of 17 under the umbrella of Ufulu Umodzi Malawi Party (UUMA) led by Malawi’s former Home Affairs Minister Yatuta Chisiza on the opposite front.
It was during this ‘war’ that Yatuta Chisiza and his lieutenant Lutengano Mwahimba were shot dead while 5 of their compatriots escaped successfully to Zambia as one committed suicide when 9 had been captured alive, later tried at the high court in Blantyre, hanged (except one among them who became a state witness) and finally buried in unmarked graves in Zomba in 1969.
As rightly stated by Member of Parliament for Karonga Central Hon. Frank Mwenifumbo in his statement in Parliament on 24th February 2017, Yatuta Chisiza and Lutengano Mwahimba and 15 others had taken up arms to wage this ‘war’ with a motivation to fight for democracy and vehemently rejected and opposed dictatorship in Malawi in the wake of the cabinet crisis of 1964.
In the aftermath of the cabinet crisis of 1964, the dissident ex- ministers and their sympathizers, were hunted down like rabid dogs by the Malawi Youth Leaguers and Malawi Young Pioneers (MYP). While some of these sympathizers were swiftly apprehended, tortured, detained without trial or extra-judicially killed, others (including the dissident ex- ministers themselves except Masauko Chipembere) managed to flee to exile.
It was while in exile in Tanzania that Yatuta Chisiza, Lutengano Mwahimba and colleagues later mobilized themselves to undergo military training and come back to Malawi fully armed to wage a ‘war’ against the tyrannical one party state regime that had been consolidated with an iron fist soon after the cabinet crisis of 1964.
In this statement, we therefore pay homage to those who were killed during the Mwanza ‘war’ of October 1967 and those who were later sentenced to death and hanged in 1969, not forgetting the five compatriots who escaped capture for their fathomless bravery, selfishless spirit, unquestionable commitment to a national cause and burning patriotism they showed by sacrificing their own lives to challenge and confront the draconian one party state regime head on as they valiantly did in October 1967 in Mwanza.
It is this act that certainly inspired many others (such as Dr. Atatti Mpakati who for almost a decade till his assassination in March 1983 led LESOMA the then largest opposition political party in exile, veteran trade unionist Chakufwa Chihana and many other freedom fighters) to rise up in due course and take other significant steps to resist and protest against the one party state regime that finally crumbled on 14th June 1993 when Malawians unanimously decided through a referendum to reinstate multi-party democracy.
Suffice to say that the reinstitution of freedom and democracy in post-independent Malawi was not an event but rather a process and more so, the victory that was finally attained in this regard on 14th June 1993, was actually a product of an arduous struggle that had spanned for almost 30 years since the cabinet crisis of 1964 if not a little earlier than that.
It is within this limelight that Mwanza ‘war’ of October 1967 becomes an integral part of the history of this arduous struggle for freedom and democracy in post-independent Malawi. Unfortunately, it appears it has not been appropriately recognized as such.
Time has now come for these 17 sons of Malawi who fought in this Mwanza ‘war’, to be honoured as heroes of the nation and martyrs for freedom in Malawi.
It is high time as a nation we embarked on re-considering the label “rebel” or “villain” which is still tagged in a subtle manner on all those who opposed Dr Banda during the cabinet crisis of 1964, and those who sympathized with the ‘dissident’ cabinet ministers, some of whom eventually took up arms to fight against one party state regime when all doors of reasoning and platform for engagement had been shut down and kicked away respectively by the then Prime Minister Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda himself leaving no room to accommodate any alternative views.
It is indeed critical for the sake of posterity that our distinguished scholars of history, relevant civil society organizations on human rights, education, governance etc and other stakeholders in collaboration with Government should engage to thoroughly review and repair Malawi’s recent history which was purposefully concealed and distorted while some significant aspects and personalities deserving hero status, were deliberately obliterated in the wake of the cabinet crisis of 1964.
Hence we therefore sincerely commend MIJ-FM Radio Station for taking positive steps in this regard to interrogate and re-examine the history around Mwanza ‘war’ through special episodes airing weekly throughout this month of October on their investigative Zilipati programme in which some eye witnesses and actual players in the ‘war’ itself are being featured to share their own insights and experiences 50 years after this ‘war’.
Lastly, may the souls of the following unsung and departed heroes who waged the ‘war’ against the draconian one party state machinery in October 1967 rest in eternal peace:
Shot dead on the 11th October 1967: Yatuta Chisiza and Lutengano Mwahimba.
Committed Suicide on the 16th October 1967: Felix Mwaliyambwile.
Captured alive on the 7th of October 1967, later tried and hanged: Felix Mwakawanga (1st accused), Simon Chidawati (2nd accused), Harris Phombeya (3rd accused).
Captured alive on the 8th of October 1967, later tried and hanged: Mwaona Jackson Mistimoyo (4th accused); Tobias Bonongwe (5th accused); Jackson Mphwanthi (7th accused) and Michael Mwambande (6th accused who turned into a state witness hence escaped hanging but eventually died at Zomba prison while serving sentence).
Captured alive on the 9th and 10th of October 1967 respectively, later tried and hanged: Raphael Kamanga (8th accused) and Suwedi Masamba (9th accused).
Escaped successfully on the 11th October 1967: George Kanyanya; Manson Chiumia; Ian Munthali; J.B. Stennings Msiska; and finally Frank Jiya as the only surviving combatant still alive today to tell the true story about Mwanza ‘war’ 50 years later.
Long Live Malawi!
Issued on 12th October 2017
Concerned citizens under the name ‘Mwanza War History On-line Study Group’