Honourable Goodbye To John Tembo: A True Son Of Malawi

When Euphonik tweeted Good Riddance after finding out about Zoleka’s death, I thought it was the most stupid thing a man could have said after someone’s death. But when news broke of John Z.U Tembo’s death, you could feel a lot of people silently say the exact words, Good Riddance.

In our culture, we are taught to respect the dead, but sometimes people remember the works of the deceased when they still roamed the earth and spew curses on their souls.

For some readers, you might not be familiar with John Tembo. If you are Malawian and have no clue about the atrocities that he did, then you did yourself a disservice. The first clue should have been why a lot of the older Malawians denied him the presidency two times in a row. For most, he was the face of the many gruesome murders and evil that the Malawi Congress Party rained on many Malawians. He was one of the reasons so many families were displaced and some exiled from their ancestral lands.

the mastermind that was John Tembo

He was a lot of things, one of them being a mastermind. To this day, a lot of the older generations speak about the amounts of murders he had orchestrated when he was Kamuzu Banda’s right-hand man. However, there has never been enough concrete to pin him as a conspirator to the murders.

The Mwanza Four were one of the most painful deaths witnessed during Banda’s rule and were believed to have been ordered by John Tembo. However, upon trial, Kamuzu Banda, John Tembo, and Former Official Hostess Cecilia Kadzamira as respondents were found not guilty, and their case was officially dismissed in 1997. Maravi Post explains the story and all the theories that led to the gruesome death of the three cabinet ministers and a member of parliament.

So many people have lamented the evilness of John Tembo, my own late father once said “If you think Kamuzu was evil, then John Tembo was the ultimate devil.”

He was a man who truly believed in the ideologies of a one-party system, and his own leader had to send him to America to learn in full context about democracy. Regardless, he came back to Malawi and punished anyone who opposed the leadership of the Malawi Congress Party.

by the order of John Tembo

Young John Tembo

During the one-party rule, anyone who opposed Kamuzu Banda either mysteriously died or would find themselves locked up in one of the country’s maximum prisons without trial. Books like Smouldering Charcoal, Political Prisoner 3/75, and Fearless Fighter lament this.

However, when Kamuzu Banda had become so old and rested his powers on the Former Official Hostess and her uncle, John Tembo, it is believed that some of the orders were no longer those of Kamuzu. They became orders from John Tembo that had Kamuzu’s signature.

A lot of witnesses to murders or those that were sent to do the bidding would all mention being sent by Tembo and not Kamuzu himself as it was believed. He became a puppet master of the most feared man in the country. He began leading the Young Militia (later deemed parallel MCP) that punished Malawians. It is highly believed that the death of Mkwapatira Mhango, a Malawian journalist who was exiled to Lusaka and was firebombed in his house in 1989, was ordered by Tembo.

the true son of the soil

As he descends to the soil, many have made it known that he is remembered as one of Malawi’s true son. I ask, what makes him a true son of the soil?

A man who was so greedy to have power that he killed his fellow kinsmen who stood in the way and never owned up to it? The man who rained hell on many families, making them leave their homes in search of peace in other countries? A man who left many traumatized that they promised him that he would never truly get the one candy he truly wanted, Malawi’s presidency?

If you happen to not know about Malawi’s history, I’ll tell you now that one of the reasons the Malawi Congress Party did not taste power since they lost it in 1994 was due to John Tembo. A lot of our parents could not vote for a man who showed them nothing but greediness and evil during the one-party system.

A man who at one time sat on 13 organizational boards, including the Reserve Bank of Malawi, and had so many allegations of corruption under his belt. Almost became the Prime Minister of the country if not for the Mwanza Four for opposing it. Later in the democratic era, contested twice and was rejected by Malawians due to their fear of going back to the rabbit hole.

So when the Minister of Information said that Malawians should be like John Tembo, I’d say that we are on the right path due to the rising of murder cases in the country. But this is a story for another day.

of whether he deserves a state funeral

Obviously, he does, but it is pathetic to watch other people whitewash him like a saint during this time. Muluzi might have said that Malawians are quick to forget but there are other wounds too deep to be covered up.

Allow those who know about the suffering he rained on citizens to speak their minds on the person he was. Because during their time of power, they would joke about having people fed to their crocodiles and having their boys “take care” of those against them.

We should give him the farewell he might have wanted, for he was a true son of the state.

7 thoughts on “Honourable Goodbye To John Tembo: A True Son Of Malawi

  1. This is so well written, a short walk back into our history. It is important that we don’t miss out on these details, or act as though death suddenly erases all these atrocities.

    1. Exactly, this was being taken as a far-fetched piece of history. What was said was all the good and saint-washing him like he does not carry a black cloud around him for all he did to others

  2. His the longest serving governor of RBM and also Malawi’s longest serving finance minister. It was during his tenure in 1971 that the Malawi kwacha was introduced replacing the British pound.

    1. And no one is discounting that, what I had issues with was acting like he was a saint while he served the country. We have to remember both the good and the bad, I just did a bit of some of the things he did to others

  3. One senior citizen mentioned that when it came to doing the work, he was the best but what he hated was being opposed and that is why every one who opposed disappeared. He wanted full control of everything.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.