“…We realise that the enemy [Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda] is both powerful and ruthless and that we are relatively weaker than him for now. We are convinced, however, that in the course of the struggle and in the long run, the revolutionary forces will be able to gain such strength and experience that will facilitate the development of such efficiency as is necessary to enable them gradually wear down the enemy’s strength to the point where he can be rooted and crushed.”—Yatuta Chisiza, August 1967.
This October marks exactly 51 years after the ‘war’ in Mwanza between Malawi’s security forces and an armed group of 17 men under the umbrella of Ufulu Umodzi Malawi (Uuma) party led by former Home Affairs minister Yatuta Chisiza.
It was during this ‘war’ that Chisiza and his lieutenant Lutengano Mwahimba were shot dead while five of their lieutenants escaped successfully across the border. One committed suicide when nine had been captured alive, later tried at the High Court in Blantyre, hanged (except one who died in prison) and finally buried in unmarked graves in Zomba in 1969.
As rightly stated by Karonga Central member of Parliament (MP) Frank Mwenifumbo in his remarks in Parliament on February 24 2017, Chisiza, Mwahimba and the 15 others had taken up arms to wage this ‘war’ with a motivation to fight for democracy. They rejected and opposed the dictatorship and human rights abuses in Malawi in the wake of the Cabinet Crisis of 1964.
Therefore, in this article, we—the Lost History Foundation—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.
We also remember the five compatriots who escaped capture for the bravery, selfless spirit, commitment to a national cause and patriotism they showed by sacrificing their lives to challenge and confront the draconian one-party regime in October 1967 in Mwanza.
As Chisiza foretold in August 1967, two months before he died, it was this act that directly or indirectly inspired many others to rise up in due course and take other significant steps to resist and protest against the one party regime that finally crumbled on June 14 1993 when Malawians unanimously decided through a referendum to reinstate multi-party democracy.
Those that were inspired by the bravery demonstrated by Chisiza and 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.
Suffice to say that the reinstitution of multiparty 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 June 24 1993, was actually a product of an arduous struggle that had spanned almost 30 years since the Cabinet crisis of 1964 if not a little earlier than that.
It is in light of this that the Mwanza ‘war’ of October 1967 becomes an integral part of the history of this arduous struggle for freedom and democracy in post-independent Malawi.
Time has, therefore, now come for these 17 sons of Malawi who fought in this ‘war’ to be honoured as heroes of the nation and martyrs for freedom in Malawi.
It is high time as a nation we reconsidered the term ‘rebel’ or ‘villain’, which is still tagged in a subtle manner on all those who opposed Kamuzu Banda during the 1964 Cabinet Crisis and those who sympathised with the ‘dissident’ Cabinet ministers, some of whom eventually took up arms to fight against the one party regime when all doors of reasoning and platform for engagement had been shut by the then prime minister Banda, leaving no room for alternative views.
It is indeed critical for the sake of posterity that our distinguished scholars of history, human rights activists, education, governance 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 the following entities for taking their own initiative to interrogate and re-examine the history around the October 1967 Mwanza ‘war’:
- MIJ FM, through special episodes of audio documentaries that aired weekly throughout October 2017, in their investigative Zilipati Programme in which some eye witnesses and actual players in the ‘war’ itself were featured to share their own insights and experiences 50 years after this ‘war’;
- Chancellor College (Chanco) Association of Young Patriots (CAYP) for organising and hosting a seminar on the October 1967 Mwanza ‘War’ to be held at Gymkhana Club on Saturday October 13 2018;
- The Film LAB for embarking on a video documentary on the October 1967 Mwanza ‘war’ which is being finalised and coming out soon;
- All patriotic citizens of Malawi who have been supporting the above mentioned initiatives morally, technically and financially.
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:
lYatuta Chisiza and Lutengano Mwahimba (Shot dead on 11th October 1967)
lFelix Mwaliyambwile (Committed Suicide on the 16th October 1967)
lFelix Mwakawanga, Simon Chidawati, Harris Phombeya, Mwaona Mistimoyo, Tobias Bonongwe; Jackson Mphwanthi; Raphael Kamanga; Suwedi Masamba (hanged in 1969) and Michael Mwambande later died at Zomba prison.
lGeorge Kanyanya (deceased); Manson Chiumia (deceased); Ian Munthali (deceased); J.B. Stennings Msiska (deceased); and finally Frank Jiya (still alive) who escaped successfully from the battlefield on the October 11 1967.
We end this piece with this poem: