CounterJab: Jogging Tembo’s memory as wrinkle appears in Mutharika’s anti-federalism  

Former leader of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) John Tembo and Monsignor Boniface Tamani joined the federalism debate this past week and spoke more or less from the same script.

Tembo:On record saying r egionalism by Mutharika is unacceptable to united Malawi

Tembo: On record saying r egionalism by Mutharika is unacceptable to united Malawi

Monsignor Tamani was quoted saying instead of working together to solve Malawi’s many development challenges, federalism proponents had “selfish reasons” for proposing that the country abandons the unitary system of government.

“If we want to change the system, it will mean distributing resources to small provinces or states…we have corruption in our midst,” said Tamani. “How sure are we that these meagre resources will be managed well?”

Monsignor Tamani is Catholic and his church is known for speaking with one voice on matters of national importance. While Counterjab could go off on a tangent and say his comments were a preemptive strike by the church on perhaps the most important issue since 1992 when it challenged the Banda regime over its excesses, one can also assume that the senior cleric was expressing his personal views.

If the church was testing waters – new way of doing things; hey Pope Francis rocks! — it would mean a major shift by the most influential church in Malawi when it comes to playing its prophetic role in lives of God’s children.

For his part, Tembo repeated a tired line used by opponents of federalism, saying Malawi was too small for the system. In his view, Malawians from the North who have been vocal about Malawi changing the system of government really have no case.

“The largest forest is there, the Chinese also built a hospital in the same region, and recently, government constructed the Chitipa, Karonga road,” said Tembo in an interview with a local radio. “Our first president always wanted to be one Malawi, one Nation. We need to pursue that.”

Tembo says there was a time when people from the MCP stronghold of Central Region felt sidelined when it came to selection to secondary schools and universities but they never made any noise.


Tembo could be trying to rewrite history for his own legacy or for his beloved MCP. However, it is also possible that the octogenarian gets a bout of amnesia in regards to his recollection of what really happened. But since nobody, including the radio that interviewed him had the guts to jog his memory, Counterjab takes the esteemed honour to help him with that.

Now, if indeed it is true that people from his region felt that they were being left out, at least they had someone looking out for them. As a matter of fact, they had more than one powerful individual on their side. One of them was Tembo who at one time was chairperson of about a dozen private and public organizations and the other was Malawi’s founding president Dr. Kamuzu Banda. How could these two just sit on their hands and not help their own kind? Something had to be done.

But Tembo, in talking about those who felt were left out in the cold but suffered in silence, does not say that the Banda administration’s response was the introduction of the quota system. That move by the government prompted some parents with northern region sounding names to change the names of their children to improve their chances of selection to secondary schools.

When it came to entering the state-funded University of Malawi (Unima), the government decided to reduce the dominance of students from the north by guaranteeing each of the country’s 24 districts 10 places regardless of grades.

Tembo, who for years had done what he thought was necessary to hit the sweet spot and was ready to succeed Kamuzu, can talk about unity all he wants but the truth of the matter is that Banda’s dictatorial regime always governed by the policy of divide and conquer.

Back in the early 90s when the administration sensed that it was losing its grip on power, Tembo and Banda supporters struck back. Chakufwa Chihana, who came out and strongly supported the Catholic Bishops’ pastoral letter that criticized the political system, was an easy target for the State which jailed him.

Prominent northerners took turns to try and take down religious leaders from the region whom they accused of undermining the government. Banda’s supporters also said campus demonstrations at Unima’s biggest constituent Chancellor College in support of the bishops who had been put under house arrest were masterminded by students from the northern region.

The message Tembo and others were sending to people from the central and southern regions was that northerners had plotted to seize control of the country and that their ultimate goal was to develop the north to the detriment of the two regions. Sadly, this despicable mentality still prevails among some people today.

What the MCP was saying fit in with what the party had done a few years earlier. Teachers from northern Malawi were ordered to leave the central and southern regions ostensibly because their quality of teaching was inferior. The geniuses at the MCP central command had suddenly discovered that northerners had conspired to do this to give an advantage to their people! Yes, in order to win, oppressive regimes must brainwash their people to get them to swallow what is being shoved down their throats.

It should be pointed out that Tembo’s position on federalism runs counter to that of MCP president and Leader of Opposition Dr. Lazarus Chakwera who wants the idea debated. For the record, Chakwera is not from the North. He is from Tembo’s region.

Opposition United Democratic Front leader in parliament Lucius Banda says Malawi needed federalism “by yesterday.”

“With the federal system of government, the central government will still benefit and be on top,” Banda was quoted by the online publication Afriem. He points out that regions which felt neglected stood to benefit under federalism.

“It’s about power and competition on leadership and innovation,” said Banda, a successful singer whose music comments on social ills. And do not let his name fool you; Banda is not from the north, he is from the southern region.

In dissing federalism, Counterjab believes opponents either do not understand it or that they simply are afraid of competition. And a new wrinkle has appeared in the no-federalism camp. President Peter Mutharika, whose anti-federalism pronouncements must have emboldened some of his supporters, was for federalism before he was against it.

The Nation of October 31st, 2014 reported that Mutharika, while still teaching law in the United States, proposed federalism for Malawi in 2006. Mutharika cited the very same reasons – regional marginalization — put forth by proponents today which paradoxically are no longer relevant to him today yet his administration looks, feels and smells like it.

To fellow federalism supporters, our opponent is bleeding. But do not think this is over because this is a 12-round fight. He still has a lot left in the tank thus this fight will be over only after he gets dropped.

  • The author is former founding editor of Maravi Post who is now a Counterjab columnist on Nyasa Times
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52 thoughts on “CounterJab: Jogging Tembo’s memory as wrinkle appears in Mutharika’s anti-federalism  ”

  1. LERO says:

    What are we passionately fighting for or against? Do some little introspection and the truth will glare your face!!! Why do we want what we want? why do we oppose what we dont want?

  2. Francis kamanga says:

    The dayz of suffering can be many but the day of our freedom is one, quota system, Chichewa to core Subject in Malawi as if some of us we dont have languages, locating Companies to only two regions that improve social and economic activities will be stories of the past but all these will be our Testmonies. We will forget all the pain when we gain our liberty . This Song by SOPHIA GEORGE “ROCKER’s IN THE RAIN”

  3. Francis kamanga says:

    Why Tembo is commenting? Tembo was on the fore front for our suffering in the North. He wants to unitary system that benefits only two region that also oppress Northerners. Why are you afraid. Some even say if Northerners be alone then they will suffer, leave us alone and suffer. We are very capable to govern our own country. No any individual from Northern region can be made president in the stupid republic of Malawi and we will never be because its full of idiots. But if Malawi can be a federal state a Northerner one day will be a president. Kyungu is Stupid because Karonga has never benefited from uranium mining since Paladin started its operation in the region and by then DPP was in Power. He has betrayed his own people because rotten bread from Vuwa Kaunda. Now you never benefit something that a Northerner does not benefit in the North. Whatever is in the North is for Northerners and that’s our aim behind. We need Social and economic development to develop our people’s lives. I love my People I love my Northern region (Nyika Republic). The land of My Birth given by God. Some of you you miss a lot I advice you to visit NORTHERN REGION FORUM AND SEE ALL POSTS AND COMMENTS we are on facebook. Our forum is very impressive. MY ROOTS I WILL NEVER FORGET, I WILL NEVER FORGET MY PEOPLE, MY NORTH. Thank you.

  4. Modern leaders has failed modern Malawi. To aliviate corruption, Federalism is the answer. Just imagine, from Nsanje to Chitipa, we don’t see modernized highways. What we see are tared paths of ancient times. Govt offices have no cleaners esp. outside, they look like ruins. District towns are more like ghosts towns. Blantyre, Mzuzu and Lilonwe our major cities are forgotten and not pleasing to look at. Money goes to the pockets of pirates in the govt and parties. With federal govt culprits will be easy to catch. Each province will be accountable.

  5. Mjumacharo says:

    Kodi anthu ena amaganiza bwanji za anthu aku mpoto? Mudzawazunza mpaka liti? Federalism is the minumum we are calling for otherwise the maximum is cession to form the Republic of Nyika or whatever tingagwirizane eni akefe ku mpoto. Tembo , Tamani you are offside.

  6. atumbuka ife …. tamanga manga zinyumba Ku south ndiku central…. kusiya kwathu lero tiziti feudalism…. we r selfish chitukuko ndi nokha mukuti akupangireni ndani? idiots….

  7. Mbwiye says:

    Why is it that anybody opposing federalism is called all sorts of names, he or she is stupid, dunderhead etc etc? Is it true that all opposing federalism are brainless? Is it true JZU is stupid? Is it true that Paramount Kyungu is stupid? If the issue has been left open to be debated why should we label those with the opposing views stupid? where is democracy? This creates suspicion that this whole issue is not advocated in good faith. It creates suspicion that the idea is being advocated with ill intentions. If it is an open debate JZU should be free to contribute negatively, Lucius Banda should be free to contribute positively, Paramount Kyungu and D D Phiri should be free to contribute the way they want without being ridiculed, otherwise it will not be taken seriously. If it is an open debate why should some people be called stupid if it is a genuine call? People are reading all these comments and will judge whether there is a hidden agenda or not mostly when it has been introduced by people who have failed elections.

  8. Nkhwatakwata says:

    Tembo’s stance against federalism is just to protect his son’s diplomatic post. As for Tamana, it is for the same reason that federalism would solve, sharing of the national cake because corruption benefits the powerful so if power is devolved corruption will be spread evenly.

  9. John tembo ukagwere! APM nawe ukagwere! Do not fear of the unknown. Mind you if federalism fails then recession will dose Northerners. Fullstop.

  10. PHYATANGU says:

    Leave all the nothern region cowards to rot and will die crying because their dreams will never come to fruition because they are selfish and too much stealing starting from Kasa….Khu…jb… so they have no room for their silly agenda in Malawi.

  11. MBWENUMBWENU says:

    inu nose mumangoti atumbuka atumbuka ngati chizungu chakupitani apa tifunseni ife atumbuka tikumasulilani. paja anthu a ku south ur think as thieves. this is deep only comment if u have brains not mamina muntu.

    1. Bongololo says:

      Apa wadumba nganya. Mbankhungu banthu aba, ndicho chekha bakumanya miyoyo yabo! They won’t comment on the specifics of the issue, because they don’t understand the issue; they don’t even understand the tribal make-up of their own country, and that’s why we as a country find ourselves in the state we’re in because they end up ruling us. Bazumbwe aba, bakutandalila kujima mbeba ndicho chekha bakumanya. Blabifulu zawo!

  12. Alekhalibdul says:

    Zimene ndimayembekezela ndizoti ndalama zalowa mukalemba zazii…we r nt ready 4feredism coz w r afraid u may start feredism nokhanokha atumbuka the chilongoz,nyirendaz,mhonez,bandaz,gondwez,mungayambe kuukilana nokhanokha…

  13. john jere says:

    Let federalism come so that ma region onse apange zawo!goverment busines gona go as usual!RSA/USA/NIGERIA are using it!kodi mukuopa chani athini?

  14. Me too says:

    Words and actions of the past have their witnesses. Late Michael Mlambala as Minister of Education was given an order during a Kamuzu rally in Ntcheu South to send all teachers from the North back to their region, because they were teaching gulewamkulu to Chewa children (instead of the approved syllabus). Does anyone still remember that historical event? Or have we chosen to forget it? Quota system was introduced around the same time. Never forget.

  15. Jamie says:

    Peter cannaot dictate what malawians want. I wonder some of u think what he wrote in 2006 should be a basis for his decisions today. Well, u know ppl’s thoughts are not static. The political environment then is different from today’s.

  16. pierra says:

    a lot of commentators here are very wrong about the concept of federal government. it is not about letting a region go it alone! It is about creating a powerful central government assisted by regional governorships that oversee central government wealth allocations. It is about equality treatment in economic development such that no region is left behind.

    at the moment, some regional centres will take twenty or thirty years to catch up with the likes of BT and LL. Such favourism begets bias economic preferencing among foreign and local investment groups sentencing poorly developed centres into decline. A federal state would ensure equitable share of central government allocation rates ensuring that economic development is consistent albeit at an equal share basis.

    federal government is not about letting regional centres going it alone in tax collection and economic development. It is about empowering local level governance.

  17. Each system has its own merits and demerits,however strangely most scholars globally write in favour of federalism to unitary government. For those interested to know more just do your own research there is so much written on this hot matter no wonder to hear that Pres Peter himself felt so in 2006 before he joined politics . For Malawi, however, we need to do more research on what we truly think could work best for us its not about regionalism,religion,political party,etc as some people want us to believe its about mapping the way forward for the good of Malawi. Unfortunately, the answers cannot be drawn from what the columnist of this article, Tembo,Peter,or Temani are saying, the answers should come from Malawians. These leaders including the columnist are expressing their right to personal views on the matter and not the views of people from their regions or religions. May Government and leaders from various sectors facilitate the general understanding of the matter by citing both demerits and merits of the systems so that the poor and the illiterate Malawians who are usually the ,most affected by the decisions we the elite make, should decide their fate with proper knowledge on whether they want a Federal (US), a unitary (UK) or another mixed type a ‘Confederal’ ‘Government (Canada, Switzerland,etc) system. May God bless Malawi

  18. Livulezi river says:

    God’s time is best! Peter proposed federalism in 2006. So today the issue has sprout!! What a coincidence!!!!! My observation is that govt should allow the northerners to stand on their own considering the fact that when one says I don’t want to be your friend, you don’t need to cling to him, rest you may be just wasting your time and energy with that type of friendship. So these northerners have proved beyond any doubt that they sre self centered and need to be left alone! ife anatikola!!!! As for Chakwera, he married a northerner where he is getting that influence. Inu mukuona bwaaaaa???????

  19. akimu jimu says:

    ferdelism cant b a solution to what this nation is going through

    1. Bongololo says:

      Federalism will at least help you spell correctly and write better english, that I am pretty sure about.

  20. Nazizwa says:

    What else do you expect from authors of the kind of Mr. Mwanza? Do you know that Kamuzu had good number of Northern Region Ministers in his first and other cabinets? who has invested so much in other regions? Who in turn is bound to loose if this can work? cant you see between the thin line? Do you know that people on the ground don’t really understand this system? to them they think each tribe will go to their region once the system is approved. I’m afraid people may loose their property and investments they have put in other regions apart from their own thinking we are one Malawi and nothing to fear! Do enough civic education, let people fully understand then go Go for It! (FREE ADVICE)

  21. joseph banda says:

    PARTICK MWANZA, you wrote an article hoping that WE debate about it. Then you make your conclusions with your biased and BIGOTED idea of Federation. You say we do not underastand. Tembo Fr Tamani are wrong. You and your ill advised and greedy people and are intelligent to dictate to us about federation? I hope you have evaluated the costs that will fall on the people of the North. DO not be naive. Tembo is old enough to guide. Do not cry in the future.

    By the way as a spirit of Federism, when is YOUR CHURCH LIvingstonia start dismantling its structure in the central back to home of Federation?

  22. Phwitiko says:

    Opponents of Federalism must be naive & ashamed now because the good Prof. Peter himself did wise up Malawians that unitary state has completely failed to address the underlying problems of tribalism & regionalism. Federalism & proportional representation prevent future genocide which is looming as displayed by hate comments. Peter is not a Tumbuka who proposed federalism. JZU has no moral authority to comment on such issue because has a lot of blood on his hands thus why God didn’t allow him to rule this country. As for Tamani, he must be a good fool now learning the news Peter proposed it in 2006. Some of those that oppose are blind uncivilised educated people that may understand Primary SES better than real history. Before you vomit your trash first understand the gist of the issue. You ask me on federalism, there are advantages & disadvantages but advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

  23. Uyo Munkhungu says:

    Very good article! Pity that we get very few with such clarity. Now wait for comments from those against and compare quality of thought and presentation!

    1. ffff says:

      Fed can not work in our poor country,and is not gonna happen you we just wasting our time to talk about this, insteeady of discussing some thing which is very important which can develop our poor country example cash gaters bring what they took from our coffer

  24. wilfred ziba says:

    I think Tembo need to shut up, not only do we northerners need federalism but secession.
    we are tired of being treated as if we don’t belong in Malawi, enough is enough and if this means having a war, and so be it

  25. jonas says:

    Za ziiii zenizeni

  26. suretu says:

    federal gov can not work in our too poor country…in nigeria mthey have the same system but is not working for corruption and tribalism is among them the gorv is neglecting very important issue s.nigeria is too big so as canada.

    But all these its because politician it for their own bennefit. Malawi akundi nvetsa chisoni

  27. Chagweb says:

    Those against federalism are just afraid because they do not understand it. It does not mean breaking the country. It just leads to those areas taking care of own development needs. Kamuzu tried this when he had regional ministers. But fell short because he was afraid. Of unknown

  28. gwede says:

    What are you saying. Mukungolongolola palibepo tatolapo ife

    1. Dango says:

      coz you’re an idiot, that’s why!

  29. Patriot says:

    Amupatsa chi banzi uyu.
    Federal system of gouvernment is very good. In fact EXCELLENT.
    Mr. Tamani are you agaisnt DECENTRALISATION OF POWER? If yes, then you are AGAINST DEVELOPMENT.

  30. petrol kali says:

    the problem in malawi is critical thinking. Look chiefs and religious leaders think whatever they say we should not question, we should receive it as gospel truth. Nthawi imeneyo inapita atamani ndi atembo komanso akyungu

  31. DOBO says:

    Whatever people can say on federalism in Malawi, the bottom line is electoral and political problems we have in Malawi not developmental.One may want to refer federalism issue to whatever but federalism may solve both problems.Without that,Southerners will continue to produce the Presidency of Malawi and the problems will continue. Do not blame the northerners for coming up this idea to the public.History tells that northerners start things and its up to the majority to take it or not.They started MCP majority took it and MCP will never die.They started Democracy majority took it and Democracy in Malawi will never die.They start AFORD majority did not take it, it is dead. Issues started by Southerners exist for shorter time and die. UDF is dying and DDP will die.Any party to be formed by Northerners and accepted by majority will survive and exist along side with MCP. Its about Histoty not ME.

  32. Ambuje ku lilongwe says:

    Mukuzinzunza ndikulemba zimenezi tazimba koma ndizopanda mcere malume. What u should know is that malawi is not ready for federation. Ngakhale mucite propaganda yotani but u will achieve nothing.
    Zonse mwakamba tamva maganizo ako ofuna kupotoza anthu. Maganizo a APM anali akale i dont think today angamaganize zomwezonso ai.
    Mpatseni mpata atukule dzikoli osati kumamupasa nthengenenge ai. Kumpoto kuli cipatala camakono ca Mzuzu, Msewu wa Citipa, Cipatala ca Nkhatabay, Reserve Bank, High Court, Mzuzu Unversity, Mall, Nkhalango yaikulu muno mmalawi, Maroboti, Mtsika wamakono, Airport, Moyale barracks, Cilumba garrison, mpopano ayamba kumanga Mombera University, minsewu yambiri, COMWE MUKUFUNA NDICIANI AMZATHU AKUMPOTO, CITUKUKO POGAWA OSAIWALA FACTOR YOYAMBA NDI POPULATIONi. Apa muwona kuti zina u are out.

  33. The Patriot says:

    Well done, lets now go for the knock out since our opponent is bleeding!

  34. munyane Junior says:

    Its painful when you hide your fathers name before you get an opportunity. we are excluded already so are they Alfred to officially do so

  35. Federalism yitheka basi

  36. Fred phiri says:

    Mitundu kuwukilanatu uku….

  37. Qeubec says:

    If other regions do not want Federal System of government, then we in the north will Seceed and create a federal system in the north. We will fight this at all cost.

  38. Tiko says:

    Oh oh, the author is so angry and emotional. I say yes for fed so that we can deal away with you the most intelligent northerners. You are myopic, you do not deceifer what will happen afterward. No northerner will be welcome in other regions even after proper laws just as no one will wish to work in the north as it is even today. So keep on the most intelligent brutes on earth.

  39. Nyasa says:

    What we need is secession of the north and not federalism. Many northerners tremble and shiver when they hear about secession of the north. Lol. Can a parasite leave its host voluntarily? Kkkk

    Many of us here in the central region support what baba Tembo said and not Chakwera’s opinion. He will remain alone with his TUMBUKAS if he is not careful.

  40. sokalawo says:

    Why Federalism? If we believe in unity why enforcing quarter system? There must be something wrong with Malawi. We don’t think on our own instead we take what other country’s believe to implicate our own relatives. Lets us think critically about our welfare and the welfare of our relatives.

  41. Mc Chigubu says:

    Federalism is good yes,,, but stop attacking innocent people with decenting views,,, that’s stupidity of highest magnitude

  42. J. Chimbalanga says:

    size pf the country has nothing to do with federalism. I repect mr Tembo but what he is saying doesnt reflect the wishes of the people of central region. Almost everybody in the region is for federalism. May be he has received something from this foolish nepotic ddp and lomwe tribe . Jzu is no longer our leader and if you run out of ideas just remain quite.

    1. Nyasa says:

      Which everybody are you referring to? Do you mean including me? Kodi atumbuka inu bwanji kunama? Mulira simunati.

  43. Kampalapata says:

    No comment wakwithu!

  44. mai nsato says:

    Whose badge is he wearing? His own or Chakweras? Tembo sitingakumvere olo utatithira doom mmaso!!

  45. nyolokan says:

    Counterjab you rock!! more fire!!

  46. Nyapapi says:

    Chakwera is speaking for his vice president therefore he is a northerner. Plus, he also married there!

    Za federation za atumbuka izi!

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