Kamuzu and Kanyama Chiume: Mungomo series on Ngwazi, part 3

Murray William KanyamaChiume was by no means a political midget. He was a true African nationalist leader who not onlyassisted in the liberation of Nyasaland form colonial oppression, but was a friend of many African leaders who shared the same freedom aspirations to his own. His relationship with Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, whose parents some believe came from Nkhata Bay before settling in Kasungu, making the two vitual “homeboys” was to say the least a father and son relationship.

Kanyama Chiume (left) and Kamuzu

Kanyama Chiume (left) and Kamuzu

Although political patronage reduced Chiume to an irrelevant broken man living in exile in Tanzania for thirty years, his legacy should never be forgotten by Malawians. The master of propaganda, he propelled Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda into prominence upon his return from Ghana to lead the Nyasaland African Congress. His associates claim that he composed the “ZonseZimene, ZaKamuzu Banda” song which rallied voters for the 1961 general elections.

After returning fromTanzania in 1994 where he continued to espouse democratic values for Malawi following his fallout with Dr. Banda in 1964, he formed a party which failed to garner any support in the country, nostalgically called Congress for the Second Republic. A hugely opinionated man, it would seem he could not bring himself to be led by ChakufwaChihana, who was a mere leader of the Youth League in Rumphi when he fled Malawi against all conventional wisdom. In his last days, hepublished a local newspaper From Nkhata Bay with Love,”which continued to speak out against tribalism, regional politics and corruption – denouncing a culture of leadership that depended on the “fatness of the financial carrot dangled before individuals.”

Chiume, believed to have been a key leader in the 1964 Malawi Cabinet Crisisof 1964, after having spoken out against Dr. Banda’s plan to retain whites within the administrative hierarchy of government and acceding to power sharing arrangements with the former colonial administration, is also believed to have convinced MasaukoChipembere, a formidable force in the Southern Region, to pull the rag under Dr. Banda’s feet.

Kanyama Chiume recognized for his mastery in propaganda is said to have written a scathing letter to Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda critical of his tacit support for settlers in Southern Africa; and his proposal to adopt Detention without Trial without consulting his cabinet. Others however believe that the fall out was as a result of simmering differences which arose between Dr. Banda and his lieutenants over their call to cut ties with Britain and forge new a relationship with Communist China. They have also, allegedly proposed the introduction of payment of three pence (3p) as medical contribution for all people attending government hospitals.

On his part, Kamuzu dug in his heels and provided leadership in denying the breaking of ties with Britain and refused to remove whites from the government. He subsequently negotiated a scholarship program with United Kingdom, in which UK undertook to provide training opportunities for Malawiansin readiness for the implementation of full indigenization of the civil service. Hundreds of Malawians were subsequently sent to universities and colleges in United Kingdom, India, Canada and USA to create a civil service which was modelled on the British public service and became an integral part of his 30 years governance.

Chiume, fired from cabinetand forced out of the (now renamed) Malawi Congress Party (MCP) went into exile in Tanzania from 1964 to 1994. It would take 30 years for Malawi to dislodge Dr. Banda from his mantle as flatterers created a circle around the now frail and ailing leader.

Kamuzu may be faulted for certain excesses. But he did not operate in a utopian setting. It would seem to me, that he had to balance what he, as a leader judged to be necessary to the security and economic wellbeingof the otherwise infant nation. Understandably, Kanyama Chiume, a close friend of Julius Nyerere who had just declared his intentions to align Tanganyika with Communist China is also believed have attempted to influence politics in Nyasaland as he did in Uganda.

And Britain, a formidable colonial power was not going to take kindly to any early switch of ideological allegiance so soon after liberation. Milton Obote, at the behest of Mwalimu Nyerere, some beleive flirting with Communist China, and the British gave their tacit approval to his removal from power only to be replaced by an idiot called Idi Amin.

Patrice Lumumba of Congo also paid a great price for his early ideological shift. Kamuzu knew this very well. After all, his friend Kwame Nkrumah was guiding him along. After all, a great power, as they say, has no friends, merely interests, and interests change. Kamuzu was aware that the idea of international politics is merely a sentimental overlay concealing calculations of national interest. He would not play a weak hand to strengthen Nyerere’s hand whose interests Chiume seemed to unwittingly have been adopting.

Kanyama Chiume an activist of considerable experience, it would seem, had missed the essential recognition that the politician is ideally constrained by his representative function which is circumscribed by the responsibilities of his office. He seemed to have fundamentally failed to appreciate the brutalities of power which are largely converted into sauvities of authority and that he needed to distinguish between these two phenomena. While the masses, perplexed by the obvious theater unfolding before them, not understanding how the man who had not so long ago composed songs in praise of Kamuzu, would suddenly change and challenge him for making unilateral decisions. Mesmerized by the courage and open criticism which Dr Kamuzu Banda heaped on whites in vitriolic public speeches, calling the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland…”their stupid federation”, the power of those who now held important positions, albeit exaggerated, were saviors. And Kamuzu was the Ngwazi, Mpulumutsi, “ZonseZimenezaKamuzu Banda”.

The departure from the stage of the likes of Orton Chirwa, Kanyama Chiume, Harry Bwanausi, MasaukoChipembere, Rose Chibambo, YatutaChisiza, DunduzuChisiza, Willy Chokani and many more, only opened a door for others such as John Tembo, GwandaChakuamba,Mrs Margaret Mlanga, Robson Chirwaand others.

Politics is sometimes compared to a theatre. In which case politicians and actors certainly are relatives of the same tribe. The task of the actor is to play whatever role, however painful it may be as he leads his audience to the climax of the show in which he either emerges as the hero or villain. Similarly, in politics the leader is guided by ideals, distant beacons of excellence at which he attempts to focus the attention of his followers. But the supreme navigational tool, is to my mind, justice, which is the masterpiece of political philosophy.

Yes, that regulative virtue which determines the place of all virtues. It wouldn’t be correct to accuse Judges of the Courts for sending people to the gallows because some people do not believe in death sentence. They are simply instruments of a “justice” system that society adopts. I would like to suggest that KanyamaChiume and Kamuzu Banda were two faces of one coin. They were simply separated by ideology. Actors on the same political stage, where one was to emerge hero and the other villain!

In celebrating the relationship of these two opposite sides of the one coin, I invite you to peep into Kanyama’s eloquent piece of writing to “his father”, Kamuzu.



2nd August, 1962

Dear Father,

I would like to assure you that in spite of the many false accusations which were showered on me yesterday including the threat of my being beaten up by my friend Chisiza, I bear no ill feeling against my friends and will do all I can to maintain unity to assist you in the difficult tasks that lie ahead. It is not the first time that accusations of this nature have been falsely made on me nevertheless, when I entered politics, I was aware that the task of liberating a nation and maintaining it intact, is not an easy one; and I have travelled enough to realize that our worst problems have not yet started.

In these difficult times, we need a leader of your stature, standing and strength. I feel now more than ever that we were wise with my friend Chipembere to have asked and begged you to come and lead us. May I say with all humility and sincerity; I shall do all I can even if it meant extreme persecution to make sure that your wise leadership is maintained and upheld. For that I am determined not to shift an inch even it meant death. A man, father, dies but once and for me to die for a cause and a leader I hundred percent identify with the struggle and preservation of this nation, will be a noble cause.

I went to find out what were the “dangerous” rumours Mr. Chsiza said were circulating in Zomba. I am told it is to the effect that I am the one blocking the release of Chipembere. I have never heard of such a fantastic rumour in my life, but I am glad it is taken as a big joke in Zomba for Zomba people with whom I have been for three and half years as a former member of Legislative Council know how dear Chip is to me and how dear I am to him. It is not a rumour you should worry about – indeed it is a big joke though I think I need not go into details as to its source. I attach a letter from Augustine Bwanausi to me when I was in London. How this friendliness could have suddenly turned into hate I leave it to you Sir to deduce.

Again, I assure you that as far as I am concerned, yesterday’s ugly performance against me is now ancient history and as always, I pledge to work together with all your boys for good of Malawi.

May our Heavenly Father shower your blessings on you so that you lead us and teach us the tasks of holding intact a nation when we are surrounded around Nyasaland by political vultures.

Your son,


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27 thoughts on “Kamuzu and Kanyama Chiume: Mungomo series on Ngwazi, part 3”

  1. Optic Computer says:

    We know we are a sinking Titanic at a cost! Tribalism is Malawian. I believe when tribalism dies we shall cease to be malanian.

  2. John Kachasu says:

    We alos would like to know about SILOMBELA. Who was he and how did he die. What happened.

  3. 1988 Kamuzu was not too old

    1. Kenkkk says:

      He was too old. He was already in his 80s or 90s depending on what date you use as his birth. In the early 60s chipembere and kanyama were already calling him father. He returned to malawi already elderly.

  4. bryan says:

    i hate all the people from south, friends or no friends. let it be what ever you want but one day you are going to c what u want.

  5. Mwana wa kwa Msulira says:

    Please note that today, the noisiest people about tribalism claims of the current government and Bingu’s were mbwenu-mbwenus…they alsways want to have their cake and eat it. When they are in charge of any organisation, check the people they employ, or a tleast favour to employ…they must first come from the north. Wake up you Central region and Southern region politicians…these people are selfish to the core. Ministry of Works and Supplies as it was called the, together with Design Department was just full of them from. There was Mwalwenje, Nyasulu, Lungu, Gondwe, Mwamlima, Mwakasungula…do you want more?

  6. Mwana wa kwa Msulira says:

    o Machemba,

    Let me tell you the about the real reason for the reintroduction of the quota system. It started again when Donton Mkandawire was at Maneb. He was leaking Standard 8 examinations to schools in the north just as he was leaking the MSCE examinations to schools like Phwezi. This would give the impression to the unsuspecting person that the north had bright children. That is why most secondary schools in the south including Nsanje Day Secondary School, has children from Rumphi who could hardly speak a word of Chichewa. In the same way, Chancellor college was full of northerners with stolen 6 points! They filled up the Law faculty, and that’s why today you see that they control the justice system. When Tembo was briefed as Chariman of the University Council, that is when Kamuzu made a public announcement that all teachers from the north must go back and teach in their district because they were deliberately sleeping on the job when they taught in the south to give an impression that the southern and central region children were dull. We must thank Mungomo for his series, we will know the truth about all the plans which the mbwenu-mbwenus have been doing all along. And when a clever leader wants to address this, they cry foul. Anthu odzikonda awa. Even at Chancellor College, they hide books only lending tawene-tawene pera! Zipitani kwanu!

    1. Nyani wa ku Mwananyani says:

      Mwana wa kwa Msulira:
      Your observations are welcome, indeed.
      But your piece is misdirected at o’Machemba. Nowhere did he write about the RE-INTRODUCTION of the quota! He only alluded to the introduction, ie. the apparent (first) introduction by Kamuzu, in 1964; and the rationale for that decision. Seems like o’Machemba was around that time, and writes from first hand knowledge.
      Re-read his comments and please be more careful, next time.

  7. Chindindi says:

    Dr HKB and Kanyama did their part as far as Malawi politics is concerned.
    This time around lets see the way forward to develop our nation.
    We might have learnt a lesson from what these politicians did to our nation,some being good and some bad.This is how life is all about.Thus why a coin has got two faces.
    You can not be good to all.

  8. Kenkkk says:

    Totally agree with you Matutu, your observation is 100% correct. While chip originally was 100% obedient to kamuzu, kanyama was not. Kanyama could express his own views and disagree with kamuzu while remaining obedient.

  9. Mugonapamhanya says:

    Kanyama’s attitude is a reflection of Northern Region Politics: heap praises on a leader to his face and stab him to death behind his back.
    To me those “rebel” ministers are not heroes at all. What did they achieve with their rebelion? They were ignorant too. By refusing hospital fees on the pretext that people were too poor, where did they think money for buying medicine would come from? What was the tax base for Malawi in 1962? Dr Banda was clever, after expelling them he introduced the head tax in order to achieve what the confused rebels refused and public hospitals had medicine. Now, when visionless Bakili Muluzi came he abolished head tax and believed Malawi’s economic woes would be delt with by begging. The first cabinet did Malawi more harm than good.

  10. Sapitwa says:

    The other side of Kanyama has been left unexposed. He was a true son of the Mwenumbwenus. Being the first Minister of Education in the new nation, he introduced the silent practice: “hold my hand and hold the one belonging to your fellow mbwenumbwenu and so goes the chain”. With this, Kanyama offered 95% of all the mentioned scholarships to his fellow mbwenumbwenus. There was no merit as a criteria at that time. If you had GCE “O” Level, and you belonged to this clan, you were given a scholarship which saw you first starting with “A”Levels to Degree level or Diploma or HND. Some with JC went overseas with their families as they could stay longer going through the process.
    When these first, second, third intakes came back after graduating, they followed the same practice of the mbwenumbwenus of holding one another’s hand. That was typical Kanyama, the Nepostic and tribalistic politician. That is why there were too many mbwenumbwenus in many senior positions in Government and parastatals. In contrast, Banda was not like that but was aware of what was happening and thus why he introduced the Quota system as enough came to enough… Anaonjeza ambwenumbwenu!

    1. Kenkkk says:

      Sapitwa, keep on speculating lies. So kamuzu waited for more than 20 years in 1988 long after the Rebels have fled to introduce quota system?

      Kamuzu was never an advocate of quota system but was pushed to do so in the later years when he was becoming too old and you should know who had more influence!!! But as they say the buck stops with the leader.

      1. Khuth'upa o'Machemba says:

        KenKKK: Sapitwa is correct about the quota.
        It is well known that Kamuzu annulled the 1964 secondary school selection, because he figured it was doctored by Chiume, who was then minister of education. Kamuzu was furious with Chiume over this. And that is when Kamuzu decided approximately equal numbers of students should be selected to national secondary schools, like the prestigious BSS. Kamuzu actually ordered a second selection: Quota with merit. (Yes, there is such a scenario).
        And Sapitwa mentions the underground planning, and underhanded dealings by northerners, led by Chiume. This is likely true. I wonder if Sapitwa was alive that time, and observed these shenanigans. Some of us who were around can tell you the boasting of northerners was palpable. More than today’s northerners who claim they are the smartest in the country! And it’s possible that if the blatant favoritism by Chiume and his northern coterie was not checked by Kamuzu, there would have been ethnic war at that time. I am not kidding.
        Talk to those who were around, especially in the South (there was nothing significant in the Centre or the North) and you will know the truth. I mean those who were around in Blantyre, Zomba, Ncheu, Cholo, Mlanje (including Palombe), Fort Johnston (Mangoche), for example. Names spelled like they were at that time, just for fun.

        1. Kenkkk says:

          I beg to differ.

  11. manwell nditende says:

    what a piece of superficial history and one sided.
    he is trying to show that chip chiume et al amamuthokoza kamuzu… all politicians do. look at our tourism minister’s verbal diarrhoea…

  12. edward says:

    Two political Legend who at thé end lived aparallel life

  13. mwiithotho says:

    A ku mpoto awaaa

  14. X says:

    What is the aim of this series? If the aim is to show how much of a “great leader” Banda was, I am not seeing that being fulfilled. The letters that have been presented so far have actually just depicted him as a praise-hungry old man who saw himself as the “saviour” of Nyasaland. These letters were written in the most sycophantic language it’s actually disgusting. In fact, what has been proven so far is that these gentlemen were part of the problem of creating the tyrant Banda became.

    What’s even more ironic is the fact that these individuals BOTH went into exile shortly after independence because of Banda himself. The letters prior to these events are quite frankly irrelevant now. I would actually like to know what these men thought of Banda after the Cabinet Crisis events. I highly doubt they still thought of him as their “father” and “leader.”

    So as far as I’m concerned, the author of this series needs to really check his aim and method of achieving said aim. Perhaps these truly are writings of a confused former MCP spin-doctor.

    1. Khuth'upa o'Machemba says:

      Wawa, wawa. Agreeing, totally, with your comments.
      HKB ended up enslaving Malawians, under a very brutal dictatorship. Get that Mr. Mungomo! I hope on the upcoming Kamuzu Day, MCP will say something about the brutality of that man.

  15. me says:

    Kanyama chiume was a complete politician and a big patriot. A piece of art that made kamuzu feel paranoid so sending him along with a galaxy of brilliant northern stalwarts into exile was probably a breath of fresh air.

  16. yosefe gambatula says:

    Bootlicking started sometime ago.Robson Chirwa used to crawl like a cat to the real ngwazi calling him adada a person full of grey hairs in his head and finally Kamuzu became very big headed.Cheap politics of Malawi with its bwana syndrome.All the Chips used to call him their father shunning to work as equals.

  17. Bright says:

    The letter which hon. Kanyama wrote to his father is dated 2/08/62 bearly a year or some months after general elections in 1961.It could have been wise enough if the letter which Bwanause wrote Kanyama while in London and was attached to this was also know to us as what were the contents of that letter otherwise it is difficult for us to describe the real being of Kanyama in the absence of this.

  18. KF says:

    At last an insight what really led to the cabinet crisis.

  19. JJB says:

    People that know Kanyama Chieme, will tell you that his being called this and that is a myth. Chiume was a terrible individual, compared to Banda, Band was a saint.

    The fact that he was exiled does not make one this imaginary “saviour”

    Chiume was a monster FULL STOP.

  20. Zidura Ntengo Undigwere says:

    Regarding the 3 penny charge as hospital fee: It should be pointed out that this was one bone of contention between the so-called rebels and Kamuzu Banda. And this fee was proposed by Kamuzu himself. Having lived in America, Britain and Ghana for many years, he was out of touch with the economic realities in Malawi. His Lieutenants: “Chip”, Chiume, Bwanausu, the two Chisizas et al., having been born and grown up in then Nyasaland, and therefore were aware of the economic and political realities, were not impressed. It speaks volumes that citizens never heard again about this fee, even after the cabinet crisis. (There were stressful days: one day all schools, certainly in the South, were closed). But Kamuzu had heard, loud and clear, that this fee was a non starter. Much like the trial balloon that has recently been floated by the current government: wise move to drop the idea, like a hot potato!
    The degree to which Kamuzu’s lieutenants went to praise him to the nth degree, in private, is just amazing. If “Chip” and Chiume would boot-lick like that (reference to their respective (private) letters), then there would be many, who would ass-lick. And then there were the residuals, like Tembo and Chakuamba, who actually felt so inferior to Kamuzu, that they saw him as their Messiah and would put themselves in harms was to save him.
    The beginning of the creation of a Malawian political monster, to be sure.

  21. matutu says:

    Both, Kamuzu & Kanyama had vision of different type. Kanyama’s calling Kamuzu a father partly shows how submissive to his vision this man was. It also character of an obedient son who carefully listens to his father but when he is at odds in opinions with his father he is not afraid to confront him. That is a strong character.

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