Malawi’s first female minister Rose Chibambo has died barely three weeks before the release of a book which chronicles her impassioned role in the struggle against British colonialism and founding president Kamuzu Banda’s dictatorship.
Chibambo, a political activist credited with putting women at the centre of the independence struggle since her emergence in 1953, succumbed to heart attack aged 87 on Tuesday.
However, her iconic life story has been immortalised in The Lost Year: The Forsaken Heroes, a book in which former exile Archbald Mwakasungula and Canadian teacher Douglas Miller recount the killings, expulsions, detentions and other atrocities that blighted Banda’s reign of terror.
In an interview with The Nation, Mwakasungula described the funeral as a national shock, saying: “The country has lost a courageous person, a principled politician, a fearless freedom fighter and a very inspirational woman.
“She started politics at a very young age in 1953 and she was unwavering despite going through tough times.”
When asked about the book, the author, who was secretary general of the Socialist League of Malawi (Lesoma) during his escape to Tanzania, said it is sad Chibambo had died just three weeks before it is launched.
“The book, published by Montfort Press, will be out in the first week of February and how I wish she was there in person during the launch of the book in which she played a great role,” Mwakasungula lamented.
In the making of the book, the co-authors interviewed the deceased octogenarian alongside 44 other muted voices, eyewitnesses and unsung heroes who give deeper insights into the liberation struggle, the freedom fighters’ dream and how it has gone up in smoke.
The interviews inspired the brains behind Karonga Museum to induct Chibambo into a Living Legends exhibition, an audiovisual collection of conversation with 20 unsung heroes which was unveiled in November 2014.
Mwakasungula, who sits on the board of Karonga Museum, said they may have to reposition the Living Legends showcase or create a separate space for the dead.
“She was a living legend, she is still a national hero. We may just add a post-script to say she died on January 12 2016. We need to find a way of immortalising them,” he said.
Chibambo has been hugely eulogised as a premiere campaigner for gender equality and women’s empowerment having persuaded women to take part in the battle for self-rule and founded the Women’s League of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
Top-notch poet Professor David Rubadiri said Chibambo took a leading role in politics during an era women were confined to the kitchen and childbearing. n