History Of Malawi

15th August 1961 General Elections

Written by Inno Chanza.

The 15th August 1961 General Elections in Nyasaland…and the aftermath.Mikeka Mkandawire leader of the Blantyre NAC radicals wins as the only native MP on the Upper Roll.28 Parliamentary seats were up for grabs. In a deliberate move to keep the youthful militants out of the voting process the voting age was 28 years.

Literate people who had paid tax continuously for 10 years were the only citizens eligible to vote and decide the future of Nyasaland… a qualification that raised the voting age from 21 to 28. Malawi Congress Party under Dr Banda faced the main opposition from the United Federal Party led by the Blantyre based Lawyer Michael Blackwood and his vice Matthews Phiri.

Other renowned members of the United Federal Party were Harry Jonga the Blantyre-based businessman, Ralph Chinyama and Charles Matinga, former Presidents of Nyasaland African Congress who were not happy with the dictatorial tendencies of Dr Banda which were visible as early as 1960. Harry Jonga became the party organiser of the United Federal Party in February 1961.

In April 1961, the Christian Democratic Party of Chester Katsonga and the Congress Liberation Party of TDT Banda merged to form the Christian Liberation Party with Gilbert Ponde Ponde. ..the most vocal critique of Dr Banda as the Secretary General.TDT Banda had considerable support in volatile Nkhata Bay and Thyolo (the districts which were united by the Thangata issues).

MCP won all the 20 lower Parliamentary Seats amid intimidation, violence and other anomalies.Ralph Chinyama the son of Phillipo Chinyama leader of the 1915 Uprising in Ntcheu opposed MCP and caused electoral upsets in Lilongwe where he commanded support with his former mentor George Mwasi.

On the higher roll which had 8 seats and considered dominated by whites ..MCP made inroads…it’s 2 candidates Mikeka Mkandawire and Ismail Kassam Surtee won. Colin Cameron another Glasgow Blantyre based Lawyer who supported MCP was called by Dr Banda to contest against Blackwood in Blantyre central.Cameron told Dr Banda he could not win against Blackwood in Blantyre but he could do win in Soche Constituency where he could contest against Abdul Sattar Sacranie another renowned Blantyre Lawyer.

Dr Banda asked Sacranie to pave way for Cameron and Sacranie was promised Mayorship of Blantyre after the elections.Colin Cameron stood as an independent and won…and the last 5 seats in the higher roll were won by United Federal Party.Habil Mathew Chipembere, a church elder of Anglican ..Henry Chipemberes father was asked by Dr Banda to stand as an MP. ..on behalf of Henry Chipembere who was still in prison .Dr Banda pleaded with Chipembere senior to stand to keep the sit for Chipembere til he came out of prison.

Four years down the line Dr Banda banished Habil Mathew Chipembere from Nyasaland after the cabinet crisis. He was told to go to Tanzania never to return for an issue he was never involved in.Kamuzu personally selected the MPS for MCP and where they should stand a move that Christian Liberation Party Secretary General Secretary Gilbert Pondeponde described as dictatorial.

Dunduzu Chisiza was told to stand for Karonga while Yatuta was sidelined. Orton Chirwa stood for Nkhata Bay while his adversary Kanyama Chiume was moved to Rumphi in a rare move..to appease Kanyama… decided by Dr Banda himself. Kanyama was moved to Mikeka Mkandawire’s Rumphi constituency.After MCP victory , the Governor General, Sir Glyn Jones told United Federal Party that it would only be offered one cabinet post instead of 2 which Michael Blackwood it’s leader refused and opted to go into opposition.

Practically Sir Glyn Jones was supposed to appoint the cabinet ministers but he deliberately left the task to Dr Banda to observe how he could perform.Dr Banda appointed the cabinet to the chagrin of Sir Glyn Jones who had reservations…. upon seeing Dr Banda assigning himself 2 portfolios. ..a thing Jones had never seen before.The first ever cabinet was:Dr Banda assigned himself the most important portfolios of that time, Ministry of Natural Resources and Local Government.

William Kanyama Chiume..a University of Makerere graduate, Minister of Education.(Dunduzu Chisiza and Orton Chirwa opposed the appointed of Kanyama)Augustine Bwanausi, a Makerere graduate in whose Blantyre house Chipembere and Chiume planned their rise to power, became Minister of Labour. Under the Lancaster Agreement 2 portfolios had to be assigned to the higher roll of the parliament.Colin Cameron Glasgow trained Lawyer, Minister of Works. Mikeka Mkandawire, Minister without Portfolio.Dunduzu Chisiza, Secretary to Minister of Finance Orton Chirwa, Secretary to Minister of Justice.

Henry Chipembere was still in prison.The cabinet which Dr Banda, Dunduzu Chisiza and Henry Chipembere drafted while together in prison was not what Dr Banda appointed.By sidelining Orton Chirwa who was a naturally second in command to him… was a way to consolidate his autonomy to power. Orton was a mild sober headed intellectual who Dr Banda feared.

Dr Banda soathed him that ..ooh he wanted him to study the Minister of Justice..to take over later on.The other threat was Dunduzu Chisiza who he feared because of his natural intelligence. He deliberately diluted Chisizas threat by again saying …”ooh you will be under studying the minister of finance to take over later on”The last threat was the radical Henry Chipembere who commanded the masses….Dr Banda was happy that Chipembere was still in prison and momentarily out of the picture.


Dr Banda feared these 3 and on Chipembere he stressed that Chipembere should not be taken to the independence negotiations because of his volatile nature.Dunduzu Chisiza however launched the infamous 1962 criticisms of Dr Banda which developed into heavy disagreements between the two.

No one backed Chisiza at that point in time but if Chipembere was out of Prison in 1962 the cabinet crisis that happened in 1964 would have happened in 1962 as obviously a man of his principles Henry Chipembere would have stood by Dunduzu Chisiza.Chisiza had defiantly told Dr Banda that he was keeping Chipembere in prison to buy time.

The incidence that Chipembere did on 8 September 1964 to back the rebel ministers led by Orton Chirwa this time around and precipitated a mutiny… ..if that happened in 1962 before independence ….Britain would not have granted the independence.Dunduzu Chisiza and Gilbert Pondeponde died mysteriously in 1962 and 63 respectively…both of them were critical of Dr Banda.

Ponde Ponde had formed Mbadwa Party in 1963 that shook MCP towards the 1964 elections.Mikeka Mkandawire questions Dr Banda’s decisions in 1962 as a leader and in 1964 he supports the rebel Cabinet Ministers. In 1965 Mikeka Mkandawire goes into exile in Scotland and returns to Nyasaland in 1995.

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