Government, opposition parties and retired politicians have expressed shock at the demise of martyr Rose Chibambo, Malawi’s first female cabinet minister, who died today morning at Mwaiwathu Private Hospital in Blantyre.
In an interview today, a family member, Kamuzu Chibambo, said the martyr died of heart related problems.
“We are yet to come up with the funeral programme, but vigil is taking place at my house in Nyambadwe,” said Chibambo.
Reacting to the death, retired politician Gwanda Chakuamba who worked with late Chibambo, said it will be hard for Malawi to find another woman of her calibre.
“You must know that during the federal days to have a woman as a leader was no mean thing. Rose was very close to Dr Kamuzu Banda and that is why she became a leader of what we used to call Amazon Army also know as Women’s League in African Nyasaland Congress.
“She was brave, intelligent and very few women competed with her, even men respected her. I remember I worked with her both in and out of parliament and everytime I was sent with her to do something, she was very eloquent in they was she articulated issues,” recalled Chakuamba.
Former President Bakili Muluzi described the late Chibambo as a political icon whose contribution to Malawi will forever be remembered.
“She first joined the fights for Malawi’s independence, then became a first female cabinet minister, and that is not a mean achievement.
“I followed her political career well and I can only admire her bravely and brilliance. Politicians today, especially women have to learn from her selflessness and desire to fight for what is right for the country,” he said.
Just like Chakuamba, Muluzi said he would be happy to see government according late Chibambo a state funeral, saying it will befit her contributions to the country.
“She deserves a State funeral, because of her contribution and for being the first female cabinet minister. According her that will be the best thing to do,” urged Muluzi.
Leader of opposition in parliament Lazarus Chakwera, who is also president of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) also expressed shock at Chibambo’s demise.
“As I am talking to you now, before me is a picture of the first cabinet with Chibambo as the only women. That speaks volumes on the calibre of a person we have lost. It is a loss not only the MCP, but also to the entire country. We have lost a women’s voice and an inspiration.”
He said late Chibambo’s life presents an opportunity for women in politics to fight for their rights, and remain vigilant in every developmental endeavour.
“When she was fighting for independence, am sure there were many people that discouraged her, but she looked forward with a view that the next generation has to enjoy. That is a woman we have lost and I am deeply saddened,” added Chakwera.
Government spokesperson Jappie Mhango said late Chibambo served Malawi with diligence, and that government has lost a pool of wisdom.
“She remains part of our history. We are sad because most of the times late Chibambo used to advise us on a number of things and her death means we have lost a poll of wisdom,” said Mhango.
Late Rose Chibambo was born Rose Ziba on September 8 1928 at Kafukule in Mzimba. She did her primary school at Kafukule Village school and got selected to Ekwendeni Boarding school.
In 1947, she married Edwin Chibambo and moved to Livingstonia where the husband taught for a while, before moving to Salima where he worked as a Station Master for NTC Bus Services.
Later, the Chibambo family moved to Zomba where he joined the government service, a place where Rose Chibambo competed her standard six and marked the beginning of her political life.
In 1959, Chibambo, and others, were imprisoned by the federal government for being a threat to the British rule. She was sent to jail just a day after giving birth, and spent one year at Zomba prison.
Between 1963 and 1964, Chibambo served as Deputy Minister for Hospitals, Prisons, and Social Welfare. After the cabinet crisis in 1964, Chibambo fled to Zambia for 30 years, and only returned to Malawi in 1995.
From 2012, the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) started featuring her portrait on the new K200 bank note, which is still used to date.
The late Chibambo is survived by six children.