By Pilirani Chinguwo
(Director of Research for Malawi Lost History Foundation)
His relationship with Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, whose parents some believe came from Nkhata Bay before settling in Kasungu, making the two vitual “homeboys” was to say the least a father and son relationship.
Chiume was born in Nkhata Bay District Nyasaland , and described his given name, Kanyama, as meaning “another piece of meat for you,” a wry joke by parents who had grown wearily accustomed to death in their family.
Chiume’s younger brother died at two months, and Chiume’s own mother died the following day, aged 37. After the funeral, Chiume went with his uncle to his native Tanganyika (now Tanzania). He attended schools in Dar es Salaam in the mid-1940s.
At a time when this coastal city was a hotbed of African nationalist political activity. In his last year at Tabora Upper School he became Secretary of the Debating Society.
Polishing rhetorical skills which would later be much admired when he entered politics in Nyasaland (now Malawi). At Tabora Upper School he reportedly invited an alumnus, Julius Nyerere, to join him in debating against white colonial teachers and administrators on political subjects. According to Chiume in his autobiography (the strict veracity of which has sometimes been questioned), they were so successful in this debate that the school threatened him with expulsion. Nyerere later became the first leader of independent Tanzania.
In 1949, Chiume went to Makerere College in Kampala, Uganda, the premier university in East Africa, and in 1951 he was admitted into Makerere College’s Medicine School. He later changed his major to Education.
After discovering that he “could not stand human dissection”, specializing in Physics, Chemistry and Biology.He was president of the Makerere College Political Society, while Mwai Kibaki was a committee member.
Later he was joined at Makerere by other Nyasas, Vincent Gondwe, David Rubadiri (former Vice Chancellor of the University of Malawi), and Augustine Bwanausi Chiume was also chairperson of the Makerere College Education Society.
Chiume and other students formed a Nyasaland Students Association at Makerere,African Congress by doing research, and by also linking up with fellow Nyasas at Fort Hare College, where Henry Masauko Chipembere a lifelong friend and political colleague of Chiume’s.
went for his own university education. Another future leader of Nyasa nationalism, Dunduzu Chisiza , was also active in the Nyasaland Students Association at this time.
In 1955, Nyasaland adopted a new constitution designed to give more representation to Africans, and in the elections which followed Chiume, along with Henry Chipembere, became one of five African representatives in the Legislative Council.
He and Chipembere electrified the native population with their vigorous speeches and combative questions in the legislature, which had until then been a somewhat sedate body. As a result, Hansard, the official record of the Council’s proceedings, became a bestseller.
Although political patronage reduced Chiume to an irrelevant broken man living in exile in Tanzania for thirty years, his legacy should never be forgotten by Malawians. The master of propaganda, he propelled Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda into prominence upon his return from Ghana..
To lead the Nyasaland African Congress. His associates claim that he composed the
“ZonseZimene, ZaKamuzu Banda” song which rallied voters for the 1961 general elections.After returning fromTanzania in 1994 where he continued to espouse democratic values for Malawi following his fallout with Dr. Banda in 1964, he formed a party which failed to garner any support in the country, nostalgically called Congress for the Second Republic. A hugely opinionated man, it would seem he could not bring himself to be led by Chakufwa Chihana.
Then Chihana was mere leader of the Youth League.(Chihana thread next month).In his last days, hepublished a local newspaper “From Nkhata Bay with Love,” which continued to speak out against tribalism, regional politics and corruption denouncing a culture of leadership that depended on the “fatness of the financial carrot dangled before individuals.a key leader in the 1964 Malawi Cabinet Crisisof 1964, after having spoken out against Dr. Banda’s plan to retain whites within the administrative hierarchy of government and acceding to power sharing arrangements with the former colonial administration, is also believed to have convinced MasaukoChipembere, a formidable force in the Southern Region, to pull the rag under Dr. Banda’s feet.
The departure from the stage of the likes of Orton Chirwa, Kanyama Chiume, Harry Bwanausi, MasaukoChipembere, Rose Chibambo, YatutaChisiza, DunduzuChisiza, Willy Chokani etc only opened a door for others such as John Tembo, GwandaChakuamba,Mrs Margaret Mlanga, Robson Chirwa.