The most well documented case of a clear plot of politically- engineered deaths in Malawi is what is called the ‘Mwanza Murders’.
Bakili Muluzi used to describe these tragic deaths as the main reason why all Malawians of good sense will for eternity not revert to the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) regime. And indeed, all indicators are there that as Muluzi prophesied, MCP will remain in opposition.
In the Mwanza Murder, three Cabinet Ministers and one Member of Parliament were killed on May 18, 1983, along the Thambani back-road that leads southwards from Mwanza central district area at about 20 km.
These were top figures during the MCP regime and their names were; Dick T. Matenje (M.P, MCP Secretary General and Minister without Portfolio), Aaron E. Gadama (M.P and Regional Minister for the Centre), Twaibu Sangala (M.P and Minister of Health) and David Chiwanga (Chikhwawa East M.P).
The four were allegedly killed for opposing Dr. Banda’s unpopular policies and dictatorship. They also criticized Banda on the inexorable rising of John Tembo (uncle to Cecilia Tamanda Kadzamila) in government positions and the roles of Mama Cecilia Tamanda Kadzamila, the State House Official Hostess-Banda’s most close aide.
The Four also criticized Banda over economic policy after the Malawi economy had started ailing. In addition, they spoke out their views on the deteriorating human rights record and attempted a glasnost reform from within the MCP party.
Informed observers, also state that they opposed a proposal to amend the constitution to allow a post of prime minister to be created for John Tembo, who was President Kamuzu Banda’s right hand man.
It is claimed that Tembo informed the president that the three ministers were planning a parliamentary revolt similar to the ‘1964 Cabinet crises’. The ‘1964 Cabinet Crisis’ took place soon after Malawi attained independence, in which some of Banda’s most trusted ministers such as Henry Chipembere, Orton Chirwa and others, challenged and revolted against Banda’s policies.
With these allegations made by Tembo, Banda was made to believe that the Four were enemies of his regime and needed to be eliminated immediately. According to author John Lloyd Lwanda’s, Banda used the state machinery to consolidate his power. Banda also used parliament which enacted laws to put a legal seal of legitimacy on his evil acts. By 1964, Banda had passed the Public Security Laws which he used to clip the wings of dissents.
Another author, Sam Mpasu, writing in his 1995 book, Political Prisoner 3/75 of Dr Hasting Kamuzu Banda of Malawi, narrates a personal experience of the Banda period with features not very uncommon to the current Malawi political culture:
It is true that we had what looked like peace. But it was peace of the cemetery. It was enforced silence which was taken for peace. Our lips were sealed by fear and death. Our pens were silenced by long jail terms without trial. The jails were full and murders were rampant. The murderers were above the law.
A common feature of the deaths perpetrated by the MCP regime is, they are a result of some mysterious operation that is largely inscrutable.
The mysterious nature of such deaths poses a challenge in prosecuting the suspected people behind such murders.
‘Mystery’ in classical Greek mythology is very much connected to ‘myth’. ‘Mystery’ from Latin mysterium and Greek mysterion means secret rite or doctrine.
The term mystery was used in many contexts of Greek mythology to connote an action or event which is secret in a way that, it is not fully understood, baffles or eludes understanding-an enigma or an inexplicable phenomenon.
‘Mystery’ as used here, suggests that, though people might rightly speculate or see what actually happened on such deaths, from the view point of ‘law and evidence’ such deaths are called to be ‘mysterious’ because, people keep on debating on the circumstances in which the people died.
For example, when the government under former president Bakili Muluzi launched a legal battle against Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, John Tembo and others over the Mwanza murders, the prosecution, raised massive expectation that it would secure a guilty verdict.This, needless to say, never happened, an outcome that tells how difficult it is to prove the guilt of people suspected of engineering such deaths. What many people expect to be obvious is after all, not always very obvious.
The main reason for the failure to prosecute such deaths is that they are shrouded in mystery.
On the death of the Four MCP executives in Mwanza, evidence pointed to that it was a clear plot by John Tembo and Kamuzu Banda.
According to the details contained in Lwanda’s 1993 book, Kamuzu Banda of Malawi: A study in Promise, Power and Paralysis, the four targets of the plotted murders were arrested on Zomba-Blantyre road and taken to the Eastern Region Police Headquarters in Zomba and spent a night at Mikuyu Prison.
They were transferred to Blantyre the following day where they were brought first to the MCP sub-head office at Chichiri in Blantyre and later to a special branch Centre in Limbe.
During the night, reports have it that they were hooded, handcuffed and driven to Mwanza- Thambani back-road which leads south from Mwanza district along the Mozambican border, where they were hammered and butchered to death.
Their bodies were put back in the car-a blue Peugeot which had brought them there. The car was tipped over an incline along the road facing into Mpandadzi River to create an impression of a car accident caused due to the nature of the landscape.
The place where the four bodies were dumped is found deep in the forest and the nearest village was found at a distance of a kilometer away. This would mean that it was not an afterthought that the bodies were dumped there but it was carefully selected before the four died.
The Commission of Inquiry which Bakili Muluzi instituted led by Supreme Court Judge, Michael Mtegha, to investigate the circumstances that led to the alleged accident, gathered voluminous evidence and traced many witnesses that pointed to the triumvirate which consisted of John Tembo, Kamuzu Banda and Mama Cecilia Tamanda Kadzamila, as having had a hand in the deaths.
More to that, details of the court case also alleged that the operation to eliminate the Four was led by the head of the Special Branch of Police, Macpherson Itimu and that the head of the killing squad was Aaron Mlaviwa and were assisted by a special duties squad of policemen, Leston Likaomba and Macdonald Kalemba.
At the very bottom line was Inspector General of Police, Macmillan Kamwana giving final orders.
Despite of these details, the deaths of the Four remained a mystery to the extent that the suspects were acquitted after a prolonged arrest and were depicted as not having a hand in the killing.
John Tembo’s roles were depicted as narrowly within the Reserve Bank Governor (this was his post at the time of the deaths-not a politician) and Mama Kadzamila within the roles of the Official Hostess, while Kamuzu was depicted as the eagle above Malawi politics.What this suggests, is that it is very difficult to draw a distinction between reason, science and mystery.
It appears in these cases of deaths, that ‘mystery’ challenges the logic of law and evidence.
This tells you have sophisticated the MCP has been in safely escaping a guilty image during enquires and court trials.
You may argue that Lazarus Chakwera is presiding over a changed democratic MCP, but where its young men have also already started beating up its own members and councilor, as it happened in Salima district recently, just know that it is preparing itself for more violence, to repeat history of organized mass mysterious killings.
(BY NYONI WA NYONI)