Who exactly was John Chilembwe?

After the collapse of the MCP dictatorship in 1993, it seems Malawians embraced democracy with as much freedom of scholarly and intellectual analysis of our national history and its figures, as they did with all other aspects of freedom and human rights.

Chilembwe

Chilembwe

The MCP dictatorship was not only an era of political darkness, but also an era of indoctrination where everyone was either conditioned or compelled in one way or another to accept history as it was provided with little or no questions at all, especially on politically sensitive history.

This can be evidenced by the fact that the history of Dr Kamuzu Banda himself was not clear and only few questions were asked and only through cautious whispers. And it seems the history of John Chilembwe and the significance of his life and the 1915 insurgency was not told as it should have been.

And Malawians did not have the freedom to look at this history, and analyze it especially with respect to, who Chilembwe really was given the facts surrounding his involvement in the colonial politics of his time.

With the rise of press freedom since 1994, which promotes the freedom to share or publish even deviant opinions on all matters of national interest, I have read and heard a lot from people who have said a lot about who Chilembwe really was, which many did not share back then.

For instance, some have called Chilembwe a mere rebel while others have called him a murderer, and similar labels which have robed him of his usual and generally accepted heroic and patriotic accolades.

But what I find interesting the most until today, is what President of the United Independence Party, Hellen Singh who was also presidential candidate in the 2014 Elections told me in late November 2013. I had a chance of chatting with this brilliant lady at her office in Blantyre. During our chat, which lasted more than an hour, the longest I have ever had with a politician, we diverted to Chilembwe, after she had argued that Malawians celebrate the wrong heroes.

Singh eloquently and intelligently – she is an intelligent and eloquent lady- narrated the story of Chilembwe to me, just brief enough to drive her point home, and said, “John Chilebwe was a Trade Unionist.” I had never thought about Chilembwe as a Trade Unionist, and I did not see that coming.

Upon noticing that I needed a little more convincing on the matter, she said, “ JohnChilembwe was not a freedom fighter, he was a Trade Unionist because he was only fighting against poor wages of Nyasaland Africans working on the plantations of the White colonialists.” I knew she was talking about the infamous “Thangata.” “You don’t call such a person a freedom fighter.” She summarized while I inquisitively nodded my head.

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Kkkkkkkkk
Guest
Kkkkkkkkk
8 months 2 days ago

Wat a stupid and narrow minded journalist.

Stevoh
Guest
Stevoh
8 months 3 days ago

For wat so ever little he fought for hero he become hellen back to school immedieatly

Aubrey Mwale
Guest
Aubrey Mwale
8 months 5 days ago
Very sad indeed. Malawians are very much acquainted with the history of Europeans than they are with their own history. Is it not John Chilembwe who seeing the conscription of his country men to fight for the British in the first world war had to pen the Queen of England and her government asking whether after the war a black man will as well become recognised and enjoy due respect and freedom?……..and were these not some of the ‘red flags’ that the colonial masters notice in Chilembwe as the makings of a potential trouble maker and rebel?……Seriously Hellen Sighn to… Read more »
Coco nyoni
Guest
Coco nyoni
8 months 6 days ago

The writer has to go back to school and start al over again! Leadin standard eight books makamaka a Dzuka

Mark Saoneka
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Mark Saoneka
8 months 6 days ago

During the said Kamuzu Banda’s tyrany era, History was plainly and clearly taught right from primary schools and Malawians have known Chilembwe as freedom fighter not as a unionist as Hellen Singh suggests. Why degrading Malawian historic heros like that? History writers were wiser than her.

chithaphwi
Guest
chithaphwi
8 months 6 days ago

I feel what mrs Sing is trying to do is to tell a black man that he is is nothing compaired to a white man. Racism at its best. period! how much did this reporter get to write this nonsense. Can Nyasatimes remove this immediately

Winston Msowoya
Guest
Winston Msowoya
8 months 7 days ago
With due respect,I would like to dispute Singh’s assertion that Chilembwe was not a freedom fighter,but a Trade Unionist.It seems Hellen Singh is confused a bit in that John was fighting to liberate his fellow Nyasalanders from the exploitation of man by man and therefore,realistically,he was a freedom fighter period.Being surppressed by an avaricious and implacable capitalists these poor people needed the help of such people like John Chilembwe.In fact,if Singh,were in similar situation,she could seek the help from John.Reading from Helen’s last name,it implies to me that she cares less if black human beings suffer humiliation under white coloured… Read more »
kk man
Guest
kk man
8 months 7 days ago
please malawians, lets be patriotic , i couldnt expect the so called trained journalist writing this trash, is he really a malawian? how can you as a flag carrier sink so low? i am so worried if this type of stupidity is indeed in some malawians, lets suppport our heroes, they died for us, our parents wents through alot of diffilcuties, it wasnt easy for somebody to stand and critisize as we our doing now, just because that was a treason case with minimum punishment of of death sentence, we are free today because of them, whether john was a… Read more »
Winston Msowoya
Guest
Winston Msowoya
8 months 7 days ago
With due respect,I would like to dispute Singh’s assertion that Chilembwe was not a freedom fighter,but a Trade Unionist.It seems Hellen Singh is confused a bit in that John was fighting to liberate his fellow Nyasalanders from the exploitation of man by man and therefore,realistically,he was a freedom fighter period.Being surppressed by an avaricious and implacable capitalists these poor people needed the help of such people like John Chilembwe.In fact,if Singh,were in similar situation,she could seek the help from John.Reading from Helen’s last name,it implies to me that she cares less if black human beings suffer humiliation under white coloured… Read more »
abgy
Guest
8 months 7 days ago

olemba article chindere chakufikapo

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