Cecilia Kadzamira started her relationship with Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda when she was only 21, a nursing intern, and Dr Banda was 63 at Banda’s Yiannakis Clinic Limbe where he opened his personal practice. After the 1961 General Elections, when Dr Banda became the head of the native Government, Cecilia Kadzamira started her trade to study her environment and take advantage of it.
Cecilia as the Personal Secretary of Dr Banda knew all the affairs of everyone in Government working for Dr Banda and their powers. She now started learning how to push her own interests to Dr Banda. Cecilia’s role between 1961 and 64 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, Merene French still in love with Dr Banda kept on writing Dr Banda letters but most of them were not reaching Dr Banda, thanks to 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. And young Cecilia was contented with the favours, opportunities and riches that her family and cronies were enjoying due to her dodgy relationship with Dr Banda.
In September 1962, Dunduzu Chisiza was killed mysteriously in a “car accident” at Thondwe amid policy differences with Dr Banda. Du Chisiza was a deputy to the Minister of Finance, Henry Phillips. Chisiza was also a Secretary General of MCP. Cecilia’s first notable influence was felt when he coerced Dr Banda to appoint her Uncle John Tembo to fill the big gap left by Dunduzu Chisiza, despite Tembo having no knowledge or qualifications in Finance like the finance magnate Dunduzu Chisiza.
Thus John Tembo, who was elected an MP in 1961 General elections was appointed to understudy the Minister of Finance, Henry Phillips till independence 1964. Orton Chirwa and Augustine Bwanausi questioned Dr Banda and opposed this appointment. But this was the birth of nepotism, patronage and a fountain of things to come in the foggy future of Nyasaland.
After Independence in 1964, while People were busy aligning themselves and shifting their allegiances in the midst of Cabinet Crisis, Cecilia was busy consolidating her powers behind the curtain. 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 Dr. Banda’s policies while Vera Chirwa was in UK pursuing her Masters in Laws. Vera was still in good terms with Dr. Banda and maintained communications with him, but being a wife of rebel leader Orton Chirwa, she was also out of the picture.
Cecilia’s female competitions were outdone more by fate rather than design. More of the premises that Dr. Banda used to arrive at his decisions were 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. Tembo was made a full Minister of Finance in 1964. During the 1965 Chipembere uprising in his letter to Sir Glyn Jones, Chipembere highlighted the growing power of Cecilia Kadzamira. That now nobody even the ex-Cabinet Ministers could contact or meet Dr. Banda without the scrutiny of Miss Kadzamira. Miss Kadzamira was no longer that young innocent girl he linked Dr. Banda with in 1959. Kadzamira had learnt the trade of politics of separation, isolation, observation, divide and rule and extermination.
For her, the more Dr. Banda stayed in power, the more she was in control of things in Nyasaland for herself 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 74 on 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 Zaleka—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. Dr. Banda gave John Tembo the responsibility to organise the 1974 Youth Week Inaugural Ceremony at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre. John Tembo unilaterally transferred the venue of the event to Lilongwe without Dr. Banda’s knowledge.
He was growing too big for his boots. Tembo made the decision to move the Youth Week event to Lilongwe to coincide with the New Capital Inauguration gala, the event which Dr. Banda had not sanctioned yet. When Dr. Banda discovered this, he found it offensive. He summoned John Tembo and dressed him down like a 5 year old infront of Gwanda Chakuamba. Dr. Banda then instructed Gwanda Chakuamba to sort out Tembo’s mess and reorganise the event back in Blantyre within a week at a higher cost by the government courtesy of John Tembo.
That marked the Genesis of enmity and hostilities between Gwanda and Tembo. Chakuamba scored a massive point by his efficient reorganisation of the event back to Blantyre in the midst of Dr. Banda uttering his famous phrase “I don’t want to see him [Tembo] again!” Truly like what Sam Mpasu in his book described Kamuzu “No man’s friend”, that phrase was this time around directed to John Tembo ‘the master eliminator’ himself.
John Tembo seemed so powerful before this but without Cecilia Kadzamira he was nothing in the eyes of Dr. Banda. The real custodian of power in Nyasaland was Miss Kadzamira. She not only controlled what was to reach Dr. Banda, she also controlled the outcome or fate of anything leaving the state house. If she couldn’t control the outcome, she could at least negotiate a lesser punishment for the victim…..that is if she was interested.
Furthermore, she had powers to even negotiate with the executioners of the punishment who also wanted to be in her good books for future use. With Tembo’s banishment, .Kadzamira became handy. Tembo was removed as head of National Cerebrations Council and other important positions. The Banda-Tembo relations soured. It was an uphill task for Cecilia to renegotiate Tembo’s position to Dr. Banda. Cecilia tried to highlight any event that Tembo performed well to Dr. Banda to soothe Dr. Banda’s anger on Tembo.
Cecilia cunningly discovered that the only time that Dr. Banda could forgive and forget Tembo’s misdemeanours was only if he was seeing him regularly. Dr. Banda’s interpreter was John Msonthi. The job was not that very important but it put you in close proximity with Dr. Banda who enjoyed his communication with the natives through Msonthi as they joked through their speeches.
Cecilia discussed with her uncle the prospect of eliminating Msonthi as Dr. Banda’s translator and replace Msonthi with Tembo to keep Tembo constantly in the face of Dr. Banda as a loyal Servant. Msonthi was taken away as translator and the Kadzamira – Tembo axis made sure that there was no other replacement available except John Tembo who was accepted reluctantly by Dr. Banda as a temporary stand – in.
But the Kadzamira-Tembo axis had planned this role permanently to scare of any prospectives in future… Who could dare??
Tembo now made this his primary job and his vehicle to cultivate more power assisted by her loving niece.
As the relationship of Dr Banda and Cecilia Kadzamira grew more intimate and she started doing roles of a first lady, rumours in Nyasaland were linking her background to how she dumped her fiancé, Augustine Mnthambala in her quest for power. Mnthambala without proper reasons was put on house arrest from 1969 to 1973. Obviously to remove him from the public and to suppress what was going around that he was Cecilia’s fiance before Dr. Banda grabbed her.
Mnthambala escaped in 1973 when he secured a job with the American Embassy never to come again … at least after the advent of the multiparty politics in Nyasaland 3 decades later.
His sin was “Cecilia’s fiance before Dr. Banda.”