by FRANCIS TAYANJAH-PHIRI
He lived a full MCP life, donning the party colours of MCP, and embraced its discipline to the core.
He had a dent of reputation, when he was implicated in the famous Mwanza Deaths – of cabinet ministers and parliamentarians, who died mysteriously. However, the courts cleared that slate, and along with former Life president Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Kamuzu’s long time Official Hostess, Cecilia Kadzamira; former Police Inspector General, and others, became free selves.
What many may deliberately twist of the fallen MCP former president, is that he was one of the rare personalities that stood for the party. The Malawi Congress Party was like ‘his second wife’; at many times even disappointing his siblings at his continued decision to give way for younger blood.
Ask those close to him and you will be shared with their knowledge that JZU – as Tembo was mostly referred to, could do anything to safeguard the party. This can be said of the fierce struggle of sorts with his former party mate and icon, Gwanda Chakuamba.
The negativity of the propaganda – whether true or not – haunted his reputation. Insiders can attest he had the pressure from inside the party that he leave the stage for better options [by the way, JZU had a lot of land in Dedza, Lilongwe, and other investments; but he decided to cling on to the party.
Mind you, it was not about personal gains, as evidenced by the quotation of, former President Bakili Muluzi speaking to a local online publication.
“Malawians should emulate Tembo’s dedication to work and his loyalty,” said Muluzi, who has worked together with the deceased as both friends and foes.
The bickering of the Muluzi, as UDF, and MCP being the main opposition parties, usually reached the horizon of disagreements.
But, still, Tembo and Muluzi worked together after the latter fell out of grace with his ‘personal choice for UDF leadership’ Bingu Wa Mutharika. In a surprise twist, Muluzi and Tembo joined forces to punch Bingu at the polls, sadly they lost. But the two [JZU and Muluzi’s political short stint], gave the Mutharika administration a tough time, as evidenced by the two party’s bid to pass Section 65 Bill.
“Section 65 Number One, Budget number two!” normally shouted JZU, as Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, giving Bingu a thorn in the fresh.
The former teacher turned politician at the emergency of the first indigenous government of Malawi, hailed from Dedza District in the Central Region of Malawi. He was born in September 1932, according to official records – sadly so, his life also ended in September, when he breathed his last on the 27th.
His reputation of dedicated service spreads across many areas. He was a long time Chair of Press Corporation, Governor of the Reserve Bank, chair Blantyre Print and Packaging, and also served in the Football Fraternal, as a darling of the soccer sports.
But all places he served, regardless of portfolio and situations, he always pressed for the betterment of the employs welfare. Ask around those who worked for Air Malawi and other companies then, people enjoyed good perks, because of the Dedza Principled man, who courtesy of Kamuzu Banda’s lead, he always wore smart – then, three piece suits being a darling for politicians.
From his university schooling in Lesotho, where he also found the apple of his eye, he became a teacher before by invitation, joining the political terrain. Through the ranks serving many political portfolios, including that of political heading the Finance Ministry, aiding the country’s leadership to be economically vibrant.
No wonder, State President Lazarus Chakwera has described the former leader of opposition as a pillar in the history of Malawian politics. A man who vied for the president’s seat on many occasions, but only ending up as a Leader of Opposition; but still remained dedicated to the party and its values.
A lot of words may also be said of MCP’s transition, amidst a terrain of power struggle. He could have decided to hang on, but allowed the younger generation to get the mantle, hence ending a chance of ever becoming Malawi’s president.
Above many things, the gentleman was well versed in a lot of things and information, courtesy of the old stock of politicians. Quiz media practitioners, like yours truly, you will be told one had to be very prepared to interview JZU, otherwise he would tell you in the face to be well equipped in your questioning.
Over the years, once one earns his trust, that reliance would remain.
“His wisdom transcended generations and his unwavering passion for our nation was evident,” Chakwera is quoted by one of the online media outlets, Malawi 24, as written on his Facebook Page.
He may have died in retirement, but the Malawi history would not be complete with an omission of JZU, his roles, deliverables, reputation and of course dedication to his party.
And his family also talks highly of his parental roles, going by what John Tembo Jnr is being quoted.
But, the political giant is gone, with a lesson of loyalty, discipline and other trends from the Kamuzu Banda regime.