“…We realize that the enemy (Dr. 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 month of October exactly marks 51 years after the ‘war’ in Mwanza between Malawi’ security forces on one front against an armed group of 17 under the umbrella of Ufulu Umodzi Malawi Africa (UUMA) party led by Malawi’s former Home Affairs Minister Yatuta Chisiza on the opposite front.
It was during this ‘war’ that Yatuta Chisiza and his lieutenant Lutengano Mwahimba were shot dead while 5 of their lietenants escaped successfully across the border as one committed suicide when 9 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 Member of Parliament for Karonga Central Hon. Frank Mwenifumbo in his remarks made in Parliament on 24th February 2017, Yatuta Chisiza and Lutengano Mwahimba and 15 others had taken up arms to wage this ‘war’ with a motivation to fight for democracy and vehemently rejected and opposed the dictatorship and human rights abused in Malawi in the wake of the cabinet crisis of 1964.
In this press statement, we therefore 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, not forgetting the five compatriots who escaped capture for their fathomless bravery, selfishless spirit, unquestionable commitment to a national cause and burning patriotism they showed by sacrificing their own lives to challenge and confront the draconian one party state regime head on as they valiantly did in October 1967 in Mwanza.
As Yatuta Chisiza foretold in August 1967 two months before he died, it was this act that directly or indirectly inspired many 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) to rise up in due course and take other significant steps to resist and protest against the one party state regime that finally crumbled on 14th June 1993 when Malawians unanimously decided through a referendum to reinstate multi-party democracy.
Suffice to say that the reinstitution of multi-party 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 14th June 1993, was actually a product of an arduous struggle that had spanned for almost 30 years since the cabinet crisis of 1964 if not a little earlier than that.
It is within this limelight that Mwanza ‘war’ of October 1967 becomes an integral part of the history of this arduous struggle for freedom and democracy in post-independent Malawi. Unfortunately, it appears it has not been appropriately recognized as such.
Time has now therefore come for these 17 sons of Malawi who fought in this Mwanza ‘war’, to be honoured as heroes of the nation and martyrs for freedom in Malawi.
It is high time as a nation we embarked on re-considering the label “rebel” or “villain” which is still tagged in a subtle manner on all those who opposed Dr Banda during the cabinet crisis of 1964, and those who sympathized with the ‘dissident’ cabinet ministers, some of whom eventually took up arms to fight against one party state regime when all doors of reasoning and platform for engagement had been shut down and kicked away respectively by the then Prime Minister Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda himself leaving no room to accommodate any alternative views.
It is indeed critical for the sake of posterity that our distinguished scholars of history, relevant civil society organizations on human rights, education, governance etc 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 own initiatives in this regard to interrogate and re-examine the history around the October 1967 Mwanza ‘war’:
- MIJ FM radio through special episodes of audio documentaries which aired weekly throughout the entire month of October in 2017 on 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’;
- Chancol Association of Young Patriots (CAYP) for organizing and hosting a seminar on the October 1967 Mwanza ‘War’ to be held in Zomba on Saturday the 13th October 2018;
- The Film LAB for embarking on the video documentary on the October 1967 Mwanza ‘war’ which is being finalized and coming out soon;
- All those patriotic citizens of Malawi from all walks of life at home and abroad who have been generously 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:
Yatuta Chisiza and Lutengano Mwahimba (Shot dead on 11th October 1967)
Felix Mwaliyambwile (Committed Suicide on the 16th October 1967)
Felix 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.
George Kanyanya (late); Manson Chiumia (late); Ian Munthali (late); J.B. Stennings Msiska (late); and finally, Frank Jiya (still alive) who escaped successfully from the battlefield on the 11th October 1967.
Issued on 10th October 2018.