BY PAUL LUKE SILUNGWE
Cecilia started her relationship with Dr. Banda when she was only 21. At that time, she was a nursing intern. The 63-year-old Dr. Banda was then practicing medicine at his Yiannakis Clinic in Limbe, Blantyre. Dr. Banda had just opened the clinic for personal practice, as a physician, having had a controversial career record in England and Ghana.
After the 1961 General Elections ushered in Dr. Banda as Head of the native Government, Cecilia Kadzamira started her trade — studying and mastering her environment, and taking advantage of it. As a Personal Secretary of Dr. Banda, she had first-hand information about all the affairs of everyone working in government for Dr. Banda, including but not limited to their respective powers and influence. Cecilia sooner started learning how to push her own interests to Dr. Banda. Her role between 1961 and 1964 in Dr. Banda’s life, was very much similar to that of Merene French in England — Personal Secretary — confidante, and more of a young lover.
In the early 60s, whilst Merene French was still in love with Dr. Banda, she kept on writing him letters, but most of them were not reaching Dr. Banda courtesy of Cecilia. Dr. Banda had now grown fond of Cecilia that he never intended to keep his promise of giving her a scholarship for her studies overseas, for fear of losing her. The young Cecilia was equally contented with the countless favours, opportunities and riches that her family and cronies were enjoying due to her dodgy relationship with Dr. Banda.
In September 1962, the maverick Dunduzu Chisiza, popularly referred to as Du Chisiza, was killed in a mysterious car accident at Thondwe, Zomba, amid policy disagreements with Dr. Banda. Du Chisiza was a deputy to the Minister of Finance — Henry Phillips. Chisiza was also Secretary General of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). Cecilia’s first notable influence was felt when she coerced Dr. Banda to appoint her Uncle, John Tembo, to fill the big gap left by Du, despite Tembo having no knowledge or qualifications in Finance like the finance magnate that was Dunduzu Chisiza.
[Subject to time and resources, at some point, as I explore Malawi’s Political History, I pledge to dedicate an article, chronicling the bravery exploits of this intelligent man. A brilliant reformist whose life was unceremoniously nipped in its blossoming bud by the forces of darkness. Not now, nor tomorrow, or any time soon. But surely, Dunduzu Chisiza deserves a space in my series]
Well, subsequently, John Tembo, who was elected as MP in Nyasaland 1961 General Elections, was arbitrarily appointed to ‘understudy’ the Minister of Finance, Henry Phillips, til independence in 1964. This did not please other senior party members who doubted Tembo’s credentials to assume the office. Orton Chirwa and Augustine Bwanausi are particularly on record to have confronted Dr. Banda, and vehemently opposed this dubious appointment. But that was just the birth of nepotism, patronage, and a fountain of all other -isms to come and haunt the foggy future of Nyasaland.
After Independence in 1964, while people were busy aligning themselves and shifting their allegiances in the midst of the Cabinet Crisis, Cecilia was on the other hand busy consolidating her powers behind the curtains. The first real casualties of the Cabinet Crisis were her direct rivals; the Heads of the Women’s League — Rose Chibambo and Vera Chirwa. Rose Chibambo was fired and sent into exile by Dr. Banda for her open criticism of his policies. Vera Chirwa found her way to the UK to pursue her Master’s Degree in Laws. Vera was nonetheless still in good terms with Dr. Banda during her early days in exile, and maintained good communications with Dr. Banda. But being a wife of a rebel leader — Orton Chirwa — she was also out of the picture, and eventually banished as well in the end.
Cecilia’s female competitors were outdone more smartly by fate rather than design. More of the premises upon which Dr. Banda used to arrive his decisions at, were directly from informal discussions he had with Cecilia Kadzamira. Cecilia and her cronies had assured Dr. Banda that they would never betray or desert him. Dr. Banda felt assured with these people, and made himself one of them. With Cecilia’s influence on Dr. Banda, the sky was now the limit for John Tembo. Thus, he was subsequently made full Cabinet Minister of Finance in 1964.
During the 1965 Chipembere uprising, in his scathing letter addressed to Sir. Glyn Jones, Chipembere highlighted the growing overarching powers of Cecilia Kadzamira. Chipembere lamented how it was increasingly becoming hard for anybody, even for the ex Cabinet Ministers, to contact or meet Dr. Banda without the scrutiny of Miss. Kadzamira. Refer to the Getrude – Chisale wall at State House. Chipembere recalled that Miss. Kadzamira was no longer that young innocent girl he had linked Dr. Banda with back in 1959. She had now come to learn the trade of politics of separation, isolation, observation, divide and rule and, of course, extermination. For her, the more Dr. Banda stayed in power, the more she was in control of things in Nyasaland for her self and her uncle John Tembo.
The status quo had to be maintained and anybody against this was against her survival. Her expertise was to stay out of the picture while she controlled the power buttons in the backroom. A lot of people were sent to detention from 1970 to 1974 on either her or Tembo’s ticket. Cecilia’s only setback on her quest for power happened in 1974. While so many power competitors for her Uncle, John Tembo, were sent to detentions at Mikuyu and Dzaleka, others eliminated for good, everything seemed smooth and riding well for her family until John Tembo committed a blunder by stepping on Dr. Banda’s little finger.
To be continued…