Finally MCP leader Lazarus Chakwera started making the apologies his party has owed Malawians for a long time at the funeral of Rose Chibambo who died in the early hours of Tuesday, 12 January, 2016 aged 87.
The Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera apologized to Malawians for the hardships they faced during the era of the party’s founder Kamuzu Banda.
Speaking during the burial ceremony of Rose Chibambo, Lazarus Chakwera apologized to those who were forced to leave the country.
The Cabinet Crisis of 1964 in Malawi occurred in August and September 1964 shortly after independence when, after an unresolved confrontation between the Prime Minister, Hastings Banda (later Malawi’s first President) and the cabinet ministers present on 26 August 1964, three ministers and a parliamentary secretary were dismissed on 7 September.
These dismissals were followed by the resignations of three more cabinet ministers and another parliamentary secretary, in sympathy with those dismissed. Initially, this only left the President and one other minister in post, although one of those who had resigned rescinded his resignation within a few hours. The reasons that the ex-ministers put forward for the confrontation and subsequent resignations were the autocratic attitude of Banda, who failed to consult other ministers and kept power in his own hands, his insistence on maintaining diplomatic relations with South Africa and Portugal and a number of domestic austerity measures.
It is unclear whether the former ministers intended to remove Kamuzu Banda entirely, to reduce his role to that of a non-executive figurehead or simply to force him to recognize collective cabinet responsibility. Kamuzu Banda seized the initiative, firstly, by dismissing some of the dissidents rather than negotiating, and secondly, (after the resignations) by holding a debate on a motion of confidence on 8 and 9 September 1964.
As the result of the debate was an overwhelming vote of confidence, Kamuzu Banda declined to reinstate any of the ministers or offer them any other posts, despite the urging of the Governor-General to compromise.
After some unrest, and clashes between supporters of the ex-ministers and of Kamuzu Banda, most of the former left Malawi in October with their families and leading supporters, for Zambia or Tanzania. One ex-minister, Henry Chipembere went into hiding inside Malawi and, in February 1965 led a small, unsuccessful armed uprising. After its failure, he was able to arrange for his transfer to the USA.
Another ex-minister, Yatuta Chisiza, organised an even smaller incursion from Mozambique in 1967, in which he was killed. Several of the former ministers died in exile or, in the case of Orton Chirwa in a Malawian jail, but some survived to return to Malawi after Banda was deposed and to return to public life.
Among the exiled sons and daughters of Malawi was Rose Chibambo who fled to Zambia after being labelled as a traitor to the state and threat to national security.
Rose Chibambo and many others whose names remain unknown like Godfrey Mandowa were forced to leave difficult lives abroad away from their families and loved ones.
Chibambo and her family faced constant harassment from MCP loyalists until they fled to Zambia in 1965 where they faced the challenge of starting a new life.
When her husband Edwin Chibambo died, former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda offered a plane to carry his remains to Malawi but Rose Chibambo insisted on burying her husband in Zambia for fear of facing humiliation in her motherland.
Late Rose Chibambo returned to Malawi in 1994 after the country adopted multiparty system.
Former President Bingu WA Mutharika honoured Chibambo by naming a street in Mzuzu City after her and having her face on the country’s K200 banknote.
If Lazarus Chakwera has chosen to ride to the Presidency on the Mantle of the MCP with its checkered past, He needs a whole speech dedicated to apologizing for this party that killed people in daylight. Turned families against each other and did not allow descend among its ranks.
Chakwera should not disgrace the death of Rose Chibambo with halfhearted apologies. He owes many of us a more sincere apology and shame on those who would say let bygones be bygones. You must be among the few that never suffered directly at the hands of the MCP like some of us did.
Elwin Mandowa is The Managing Editor of The Maravi Post