Born on 3rd July 1921 in Karonga, JB Stennings Msiska, then popularly known as “Stennings” by his peers, was among the four Yatuta Chisiza’s lieutenants who successfully escaped from the battlefield of Mwanza ‘war’ of October 1967 while Yatuta Chisiza himself and Lutengano Mwahimba lied dead after being shot as eight others were captured alive by Malawi’s security forces while one committed suicide right on the battlefield.
He made it to Zambia where he re-settled leading a quite life operating his own business in the transport sector until he returned to Malawi after the June 1993 Referendum.
By the 1950s, JB Stennings Msiska had established himself as one of the successful black business gurus in Blantyre.
He got actively involved in the struggle against colonial rule in Nyasaland right up to the July 1964 when Malawi attained its independence. JB Stennings Msiska hosted some of the meetings of the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC) at his own house in Blantyre.
During the cabinet crisis of 1964 (August-September), he found himself openly supporting the cause of the ex-cabinet ministers against the Prime Minister Dr. Banda.
In October 1964, as the ex-ministers and their sympathisers were being hunted like rabid dogs and fleeing enmasse to exile, gun shots were fired by the Malawi Police at his own house which triggered the beginning of his own journey to exile to save his life.
He lost all his property and businesses including houses in Ndirande which were confiscated under orders from Dr Banda and donated to the Malawi Young Pioneers. Other properties that were siezed included: a Bedford truck, a Zephyr 6 motor vehicle, a gun, and assorted household goods and effects.
While in exile in Tanzania, he proceeded to Algeria where he attended military training until 1967 when he left Tanzania with 16 others (including Yatuta Chisiza) heading to Mwanza fully armed to wage a war against Dr Banda regime.
In February 1994, upon his return to Malawi from exile, JB Stennings Msiska commenced a court action against the state seeking compensation for his property that was seized and confisticated by Malawi Government.
He first registered the matter before the Tribunal and eventually received some payment towards the settlement of his claims. He nevertheless claimed a total of over K7,000.000.00 as damages in connection with the seizure and confiscation of his properties and then took the matter to the High Court.
The judgement of High Court Civil registered as Case No. 291 of 1994 ruled in his favour. But the Malawi Government made an appeal at the the Supreme court as Civil Appeal No. 42 of 1998 which was heard before Chief Juctice Banda, R; Justice Unyolo L.E and Justice Tambala D.G . The state was represented by Kenyatta Nyirenda while Bazuka Mhango served as the Counsel for JB Stennings Msiska in this case.
In its jusdgement delivered on 1st December 2000, the Supreme court disallowed the appeal by the state with costs.
JB Stennings Msiska later died on the 12th November 2006 in Blantyre.
There’s a diary by him from his days in Algeria under going military training in which JB Stennings detailed the aims of the armed struggle against Dr Banda and many other aspects around his experiences in Algeria.
TO BE CONTINUED…