Kamuzu and Masauko Chipembere, the letter: Mungomo series on Ngwazi, part 2

If civic order be the desired outcome of a democratic society, then the brutality and violence which has characterized Western Europe, in both politics and the religion smack of hypocrisy to the extreme. For decades, most down trodden countries which have fought for independence particularly in Africa have suffered immense abuse and exploitation so much so that the Western democratic project within and elsewhere has been met with consternation. Nyasaland, the former British colony, was never spared the birth pangs suffered by any such country aspiring to reinvent social order following violent and brutal oppression based on the perceived racial superiority of white settlers.

Ngwazi Kamuzu Banda

Ngwazi Kamuzu Banda

Our fore fathers, yes, those who fought for the freedom from oppression which we so much take for granted today took serious of decisions to risk their lives to engage in a fight akin to the biblical David and Goliath duel. They gave themselves up for our freedom. In our case, we should remember and revere them, for without their gallantry, there would have been no Cashgate…if that is the democracy we so craved! It does not help our nation to spit on their legacies for petty political correctness camouflaged in so called democratic zeal.

In our quest to create new heroes, our country is seriously suffering from collective political amnesia for which we may pay a great price, as we consistently reinvent our civic order. The Western democracies are strewn with monuments of their former heroes, whether they were once reviled or not.

As Malawi fought against imperial Britain, there were many who so suffered that for the country to just apologetically honour them with a potholed road here and there is an insult to their legacy. It is disgraceful in the least. I for one would like to see a the day all the government buildings at Capital Hill named after our liberation heroes.

I would relish to see a Yatuta Chisiza Bulding, a monument of Dunduzu Chisiza in Mzuzu City. A monument of Alekechipongwe-azungu Kadonaphani Banda or Kanyama Chiume in Nkhata- Bay.

I would relish a government building to be named after Richard Amon Katengeza at the City Center in Lilongwe, a John Gwengwe Building at Capitol Hill. A Khuma Sendeza Road in Lilongwe. A monument of Gomile Kuntumanji in Zomba, a monument for Gwanda Chakuamba in Blantyre. A Lali Lubani Building, and perhaps more urgently a monument for Masauko Chipembere in Malindi, a Chakufwa Chihana stadium. These and many more, are heroes of our freedom. We need not agree with them, but they are our heroes nonetheless. Our local government institutions should urgently begin to address this omission.

In our attempt to create new heroes, which we surely have, we should also consciously decide to build on our history. Only immature nations fail to recognize their history however unpalatable it may be.

In remembering Kamuzu Banda’s legacy, I have chosen to honour the relationship which existed between Malawi’s premier nationalist Masauko Chipembere and his “beloved father” Kamuzu.

Courtesy of the Chipembere family A wedding photograph of Masauko and Catherine (Ajizinga) Chipembere. Years later, Catherine Chipembere served as deputy minister of health and population in the Malawian government.

Courtesy of the Chipembere family
A wedding photograph of Masauko and Catherine (Ajizinga) Chipembere. Years later, Catherine Chipembere served as deputy minister of health and population in the Malawian government.

As the British held him in Zomba Prison for agitating for freedom, Chipembere he wrote, in his own handwriting on Her Majesty’s Prison printed paper to “his father” the following letter, and here reproduced verbatim.

From: Masauko H B Chipembere

19th December, 1962

Ngwazi Dr. H Kamuzu Banda

Ministry of Local Government, Surveys and Natural Recourses



My beloved Father and Master,

I have refrained from writing letters to you all along because I know, perhaps more than most people do, how busy you are and what harm is done each time we distract your attention from matters of great import to trivialities of a purely personal character.

The purpose of this letter is, firstly to inform you that I have now come to the end of my prison sentence which was three years but has been reduced to 2 years in accordance with a prison law which grants remission of sentence for good behaviour. You will be proud to learn that the good conduct which has earned me this reduction of sentence stems directly from the impact of your wise admonition given to me and my colleagues in Gwelo Prison in 1959. In that piece of advice you enjoined that a political prisoner must not give any trouble to the prison authorities and must make no fuss of any kind, so as to demonstrate his willingness to suffer for his country; and you set an admirable example for us to imitate by keeping absolutely quiet and not complaining about this or that amenity. I have endevoured to live up to this ideal throughout my stay here. As a result, I will be released in a few weeks time, probably on 9th February.

I long to see you – you have become more than merely my leader and are my veritable father. I very much long to be with you and once more enjoy those highly edifying discussions and lessons that we want to have with you and which made me feel, each time I left your lounge, that had increased my stock of general knowledge and acquired a broader outlook on life.

Needless to say, I intend once again to place myself at your disposal, so that if you think I can be of any usefulness to you, or to the country, you may freely assign any duties to me either in our Party or in our government.

This allusion to our government brings me to the second purpose of this letter. May I join those thousands of people in and outside Nyasaland who are sending you hearty congratulations upon your resounding victory at the recent Constitutional Conference in London.

I am usually optimistic about the outcome of any difficult task that you undertake, knowing what combination of effort and skill you always put into anything worth doing; so I had expected happy results from the Conference. But never in my fondest dreams did I imagine that you would win such sweeping changes so soon after the implementation of the 1961 Constitution.

One does not have to be an expert in the structure and operation of constitutions to be able to appreciate the significance of your singular victory at the Marlborough House Conference table. The fact that what you have obtained for us is the substance of independence although it is not so designated is there for all discerning eyes to see.

But there is something even more remarkable about this triumph. It would have been surprising enough if you had had no obstacles to contend with at the Conference. But you were fighting against innumerable odds. The forces that were arrayed against you and that were militating against the realisation of your demands were, to say the least, formidable. Seldom can a leader, in all annals of colonial peoples, have won so brilliant a victory against so many odds, so soon after another victory. It speaks volumes of your adroitness as a bargainer and adds immeasurably to the glories that have gilded your name ever since your unique political career began.

I have read with profound interest and excitement the published excerpts from the White Paper that embodies the new constitution. It is in short, a “Common Man’s” constitution. It is an instrument that permits the limitless participation of our people in their government. It is bound to bring us great benefits. By enabling our people to be active in public affairs it will unlock those virile emotions which are congenial in us but which, through no fault of our own, have lain dormant during the last seventy years and have been replaced by apathy and a phlegmatic disposition for all matters concerning public administration.

Only a few years ago were we gravely menaced with extinction. We were “in exteremis”, and many of our people begun to give up hope. They began to believe that fate had decreed that we perish and be engulfed in undefined and altogether alien nationhood. All this is now a story of the past. You have brought about radical transformation in the entire political picture in our country. Where there was despair there is now hope; where there was gloom there is joy, and where there was darkness there is light. So, borrowing from and acknowledging a heroic couplet from Alexander Pope, we can say:-

“ Nyasas and Nyasas rights lay hid in night; God said ‘ Let Banda be’ and all was light”

I am,

Your affectionate son and servant,


Masauko Chipembere.

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23 thoughts on “Kamuzu and Masauko Chipembere, the letter: Mungomo series on Ngwazi, part 2”

  1. Yakobe Nthala says:

    Well informed

  2. matthews jere says:

    Please Mr Mngomo come up with a book on Dr Banda otherwise our history is heading for extinction. Worse still with the removal of all Kamuzu traits in our schools’ syllabus , shame on us malawi!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. kadamanja says:

    Mr Mungomo , i like these articles i would love to see more. koma mbumba mmene zimanyozera Kanyama ndi Chipembere! aaaah! Anthuwa anali abwino kwa Ngwazi.

  4. Charlie Hebdo says:

    Though Mr Mungomo promised at the beginning of his articles about Kamuzu not to make any judgements but to leave the readership make their own judgements as to whether Dr Banda was a despot or a democrat, it is not difficult to tell what he wants readers to think of Kamuzu. See, Mr Mungomo has presented only one letter of praise leaving several where Chipembere regretted Dr Banda dictatorial behaviour. This letter including that of Kanyama were written before they really got to know the real Kamuzu. Read “Chipembere: Missing Years”.

  5. Phodogoma says:

    Our forefathers of Chipembere agegroup suffered a lot from Kamuzu as the president of Malawi. Indeed Kamuzu was being treated as a lion, a biggest lion of the world for that matter.
    Look at the introductory words for Chipembere’s letter as quoted ‘My beloved father and Master’.Kamuzu being referred to not only father but also the master. Zinaliko.
    Then finally Mr. Chipembere now is concluding his letter as

    I am
    Your affectionate son but also a servant.

    Brian I will be very happy to see letters which John Ungape Tembo was writing to the Lion of Malawi. Hunt them and expose them.How did Ungapake address the Lion.

  6. Nintiri says:

    Please write a book Mr Mungomo those born from 1990s dont know about our first and please open our eyes on the cabinet crisis and why Kamuzu became to be feared so much and not loved who and what made him to be demonised although born in the mid 1970s my research on the matter has never got me a clear picture from old timers.

  7. Andimana Phoso says:

    Mr Mungomo, I salute you. Malawians need to know this. We were told that Kamuzu was such an egotistical maniac who wanted to be praised lest people ended up as food for crocodiles. What you are bringing out is beginning to open our eyes why Kamuzu became the man he was. These were for sure leaders who cannot be compared to the madeya we have today. Please …more fire, we need to know the truth about our heroes. And by the way, please come back to Malawi and help to rebuild the Malawi Congress Party which has been reduced to regional party of chewas…that is not the party Kamuzu led. It was well represented by the North. Look at the names, the Chisiza brothers, Aleke Banda, Orton Chirwa, Rose Chibambo, Mwalwimba, Mwaungulus, the Nyasulus etc. And from the south such names as Kuntumanji, Chpembere, Chakuamba, Mlanga, Edda Chitalo. But look at the MCP of today…achewa okha okha! Kamuzu must be turning in his grave.

  8. opportunist says:

    Man to remember

  9. Msadane says:

    You cannot keep a good man down no matter how hard you may try. The heroes of our motherland are and will remain part of our history. Our perceptions of what each one contributed or did not contribute are varied and definitely subjective …. thus those are never going to converge. What is not disputable is that there were politicians who played a role in the genesis of our country. May their souls rest in peace.

  10. Chifira says:

    I would rather have been Kamuzu’s boot-licker than Mathanyula’s. how about that fools????

  11. Chifira says:

    Chituka, thanks I will definitely check out this book, I’m blown away!

  12. Observer says:

    Kodi mwasowa zochita inu aNyasaTimes eti! what is this nonsense?

  13. rudolf phiri says:

    Sapitwa ( Number 4)
    The answer to your question is YES! If you learn your Agriculture, biology, physics, history etc in English, and if you live in this globalised world of today and want to compete for an international position or advantage against a person from Ghana, or ecuador or Romania then you cannot bring your vernacular language translater with you. Mastering English made these people argue like equals on the international platform. Today , the learner`s failure to master the english language leads them to memorising things they dont understand or worse, cheating in exams. The crop of students with MSCE today seeking employment or even going to University ( the Bakili free primary school generation, 1994-2014) is often characterised by very poor spoken and written english. What idiot gives students a choice between english literature and english language? So yes, thes chipemberes and that generation were better educated because they mastered the english languages. It made them confident!

  14. On says:

    Disappointing contents of a letter written in very good English. Truly written in the colonial days when it seems to prove you are good, you had to speak or write good English. Not any more.
    How could one boot-lick a colleague like this. This is why we are in trouble in Malawi . We like to praise: Abwana, munthu wa nkulu, bwana, etc we say this to simple people doing simple things. We run to open gates for people we are not employed to open gates for. We go to the shops to buy bread for people we are not hired to do that for etc etc. Zomvetsa chisoni. Later we cry about dictatorships…its in our blood!

  15. the devil incarnate says:

    Malawi, a country full of educated illiterates in the name of economists, professors, etc but all useless bastards!

  16. Zidura Ntengo Undigwere says:

    What exactly, really, is the main purpose of this article, if I may ask, Mr. Mungomo?
    The suggestion of honoring so many people, all over the place, will only dilute the significance and the idea of monuments, in the first place. Do not mess with the system we have in place: it’s working. No significant complaints from unbiased citizenry.
    And regarding your presentation of “Chip’s” letter: what was the aim, again? We know that “Chip”, as he was known by his fandom, was an articulate communicator, in English as well as in Chinyanja. And he was very respected; probably second to Kamuzu himself. But what we didn’t know is that “Chip” worshiped the Ngwazi; apparently, idolized him even, according to the letter. This letter is depressing to some of us who held “Chip” in great esteem. We now think he was a modern day bootlicker. Kalanga ine (worse than “too bad”; worst expectation, ever)! This is one of the major effects of this letter. One wonders if this letter is supposed to stay private, or be in the public domain.
    And who released this letter? Are MCP, your (Mr. Mungomo) former masters, releasing this letter to bolster Kamuzu’s stature ahead of the commemoration of his “birthday”? If that is the case, MCP have you as wa ganyu (they are now using you). This presentation will NOT change the reputation of your hero, Kamuzu, an iota in the eyes of Malawians. He will still be regarded as dictator par excellence. One of the worst rulers of Africa. Ever. Some say, may be even second to apartheid Afrikaners. And that’s something NOT worth celebrating.

  17. Kenkkk says:

    Yes the English is well articulated but the contents are very disappointing to me because that is what made Kamuzu big- headed, constantly seeking praises from people, made masauko look very inferior when he was actually not.

    When masauko later came to his senses, he realized it was too late. Having said all that, I still feel Kamuzu has been our best president so far despite his shortcomings in some issues.

  18. chituka says:

    Chifira, there is a book titled “Chipembere; the missing years”,byColin Baker.published by Kachere Series in 2008. Go to local bookshops or visist Chancellor College.

  19. Sapitwa says:

    So you think mastering English is a measure for high education you stupid fool?

  20. Tithatonse says:

    The whole letter was praise singing Kamuzu and this was 1962. An educated and astute person belittling himself. I thought he would write to Kamuzu as an equal.

    Not surprised that Kamuzu grew into an arrogant, unappreciative and heartless individual who treated fellow Malawians like pubic lice.

    With such attitude towards early on, I am not surprised that many perished and many went into exile. This letter can be called the genesis of monster creation.

  21. Msambizi wenecho says:

    Chipembere was a very articulate writer of the queens language.What has gone wrong with modern education?The graduates of today cannot match the writing of the chipemberes despite having alot books and technology to aid them in writing.Their English very horrible.

  22. Chifira says:

    Wow ! Where can I find Masauko Chipembere’s biography??? That is the writing of a very educated man. Not this fake professor we have as a president. I can hardly understand what he is saying.
    Please chonde anybody who has any literature on Masauko Chipembere please let me know. I need to learn about a man who had such a mastery of the queen’s language I’m truly fascinated now. …………….osati Mathanyula.

    1. Charlie Hebdo says:

      Get yourself a copy of “Chipembere: the missing years”. I bet you will have a different view of Kamuzu by the time you finish. Mr Mungomo has provided only the positives about what Chipembere thought of Kamuzu. Chipembere was very critical of Dr Banda’s leadership style when he got to know the man really well. I wish Mr Mungomo had presented those views as well so that people can make their own judgements.

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