Following the Lenten pastoral letter of March 1992 by the Catholic bishops, students demonstrations, and the strike activities staged by workers from March to May 1992 and then the sanctions that Malawi suffered from May 1992 amidst international criticism of appalling human rights record in the country, Dr Banda’s government was brought to its knees to the extent that Dr Banda was compelled to succumb to the demands for democratic reforms:
1. On 18 October 1992: Dr Banda the then Life President of the Republic of Malawi, announced that a referendum would be held on the 15 March 1993 (later postponed to 14 June 1993) for Malawians to choose whether to revert to multi party state or maintain with one party state.
2. Two days later after this announcement, on the 20th October 1992 , Orton Chirwa was found mysteriously dead in his cell at Zomba Prison. With the wind of democratic change blowing over Malawi, others had considered Orton Chirwa the most senior and eminent political figure in the opposition front at that time, as the potential candidate to become the next President of Malawi after Dr Banda in event of change of government.
3. Barely a week before the announcement for a referendum by Dr. Banda, John Ngwiri had also mysteriously died at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe on 10 October 1992.
John Ngwiri had previously served as the Secretary to the Office of President and Cabinet (SPC) from 1975 to 1985. The assassination of the Mwanza Four (Dick Matenje, Aaron Gadama, Twaibu Sangala and David Chiwanga) happened in May 1983 while he was the head of civil service (SPC).
According to a testimony to this writer given by one member of John Ngwiri’s family who opted for anonymity:
“There were 3 ambulances that were dispatched from Lilongwe. John Ngwiri was then at his farm in Dedza where he was alarmed to hear that an ambulance showed up at his Bemvu farm in Ntcheu with instructions to collect him to receive medical care.
A few days later, reports reached him from his home village in Tsangano Ntcheu that yet another ambulance with the same instructions showed up. Finally, a third ambulance, came to his farm in Dedza where he was. He categorically refused that he did not need an urgent medical care. But the ambulance crew insisted to collect him as instructed .
Next, he phoned his brother to alert him that he would be heading to Lilongwe with the ambulance.
John Ngwiri and his wife as a guardian, were then driven to Kamuzu Central Hospital and were informed that for his privacy, he had to be allocated a bed in the ICU while the wife was given a room at a ward.
John Ngwiri was later taken to the theatre for undisclosed procedure without consent or consultations with the wife as the guardian. From the theatre, John Ngwiri’s health deteriorated… he was unable to speak and sadly he passed away right there.”
The major reason why the accused in the Mwanza case (Dr Banda, JZU Tembo and Mama Kadzamira and three former police officers) were acquitted by both High Court and Supreme Court, was that John Ngwiri as the SPC and Mac Kamwana as head of police were not alive to testify in court to establish beyond reasonable doubt who exactly issued the orders to assassinate the Mwanza Four for the security officers to execute accordingly. These orders were allegedly passed through John Ngwiri and then Mac Kamwana.
By September 1992, Zambia was on the verge of clocking a year after a successful change to multiparty government under a new President Fredrick Chiluba. Hence the writing was clear on the wall that just like in the neighboring Zambia, the one party regime in Malawi was also crumbling and that a new multiparty government was in the offing whose priority would possibly be to unearth the truth about Mwanza Four murders among others.
The million Kwacha questions therefore remain:
Was it a mere coincidence or not that John Ngwiri a probable key witness on the Mwanza case that was likely to commence upon the demise of one party state, mysteriously died a week before Dr Banda succumbed to the pressure and finally announced a referendum?
Was it a mere coincidence or not that Orton Chirwa who was earmarked to be the potential successor to Dr Banda would also mysteriously die in prison barely two days after Dr Banda succumbed to pressure and announced referendum?