On 27 October 1976, Hon. Albert Muwalo was dismissed as Secretary General and Administrative Secretary of Malawi Congress Party (MCP), immediately arrested, later appeared before traditional court and finally executed a year later. Hon. Wadson Deleza then became the Acting Secretary General and Administrative Secretary.
Two weeks later, on the 7 November 1976, Hon. Rodwell Munyenyembe who was then Minister of Education, was appointed as Secretary General and Administrative Secretary while Hon. Bakili Muluzi then a Deputy Minister of Sports and Culture, became the Minister of Education taking over from Hon. Rodwell Munyenyembe.
Barely after six months, on 30 May 1977 while in London for the Silver Jubilee celebrations for the Queen’s coronation and the Commonwealth Heads of States summit, the Life President Dr. Banda made a sudden and surprise decision to swap Hon. Rodwell Munyenyembe and Hon. Bakili Muluzi in their respective positions in government and the party.
To this effect, Hon Bakili Muluzi was appointed as new Secretary General of MCP taking over from Hon. Rodwell Munyenyembe while Hon. Rodwell Munyenyembe himself moved back to the Education portfolio to replace Hon. Bakili Muluzi as minister.
Just after a month, the Life President Dr. Banda announced a new cabinet on 8 July 1977. Hon. Rodwell Munyenyembe and two others were dropped from cabinet.
This cabinet reshuffle was viewed by some as a ploy to specifically get rid of Hon. Rodwell Munyenyembe altogether (https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1977LILONG01115_c.html).
Dr. Banda further sacked Hon. Rodwell Munyenyembe from the National Executive Committee (NEC) of MCP which marked the end of his first stint in national politics until May 1994 when he re-entered the National Assembly under the Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) ticket and became the Speaker (1994-1999 and 2004 till death in 2005).
It is extremely interesting to get to learn today the impression of the United States of America (USA) embassy in Lilongwe on these two key figures ie Hon. Bakili Muluzi and Hon. Rodwell Munyenyembe around this time (in the 1970s) when these appointments were being made by Dr. Banda.
Below is how the US embassy in Lilongwe viewed these key figures in their various reports to the US state department headquarters in Washington D.C:
- In a cable dated 2nd June 1977, the US Embassy in Lilongwe made a comparison of the character of Hon. Rodwell Munyenyembe and Hon. Bakili Muluzi along side Hon. Gwanda Chakuamba. Hon. Bakili Muluzi and Hon. Gwanda Chakuamba were described as ‘loyal party hacks of mediocre talent’ while Hon. Rodwell Munyenyembe was commended as ‘intelligent and able.’ (https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1977LILONG00862_c.html).
- In a cable dated 14 July 1977, the US embassy in Lilongwe described Hon. Rodwell Munyenyembe as ‘highly intelligent man widely respected for his ability and honesty’ (https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1977LILONG01115_c.html)
- Another cable dated 10 November 1976, the US embassy in Lilongwe described Hon. Rodwell Munyenyembe as ‘serious, personable, reasonable and intelligent’ and further underscored that he had always impressed the US embassy in his conduct.(https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1976LILONG01253_b.html)
- In a much earlier cable dated 13 April 1973, the US embassy described Hon. Rodwell Munyenyembe as ‘pleasant and more of a listener than a talker’ (https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1973BLANTY00583_b.html).
A million kwacha question remains that if Dr. Banda was such a leader who did not compromise on merit and quality as we have always been made to believe, why would he then have to discard an asset like Hon. Rodwell Munyenyembe who was ‘highly intelligent, able, honest, serious, reasonable etc’ if the evaluation on him by the US embassy in Lilongwe is anything to go by?