Tembo rests

…MCP celebrates his legacy

After a political career spanning over five decades, an orator of Malawi’s political and economic history and a figure who will remain divisive of what his role was during Malawi’s three decades of one-party Malawi Congress Party (MCP), John Zenus Ungapake Tembo, finally rested on Wednesday, ending a remarkable era of Malawi’s history.

“Take heart my son” – President Chakwera consoles John Tembo Junior

JZU Tembo was in politics for 62 years, the longest for any politician in Malawi’s history.

John Junior, Tembo’s son described his father as a “fountain of wisdom” and said the loss would be immersed and said the family has been left with “pride and left with lessons” that they will carry on.

“Wina akavula, usavule kuti wina avule, keep your respect and dignity, “said Tembo in reference to his critics, saying JZU himself taught them not to fight back, but take a higher moral ground.

Late JZu remains being lowered by the Malawi Defence Soldiers

From 1932

JZU Tembo’s life started on 14 September 1932. He had 10 siblings of Reverend Zenus Ungapake Tembo who was a Presbyterian minister.

He grew up in Nkhoma, Salima and Mlanda schools owned by the CCAP Nkhoma Synod then called Dutch Reformed Mission schools before going to study his secondary education at Blantyre Secondary School earned him a Cambridge School Certificate in 1953.

He briefly worked at Government Audit Services and left Malawi in 1955 for Lesotho where he went to Roma University to study and graduated in 1958 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Political Philosophy in 1958.

He returned to Malawi and qualified later as a teacher, briefly teaching at Dedza Secondary School where he taught Former President Peter Mutharika, Former Chief Justice Richard Banda, and former Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe.

He later went to Kongwe Secondary School where he became a headteacher at what is now known as Robert Blake Secondary School.

Political career

In 1960 he was among a few educated Africans that he was invited by the MCP to run for the party in the 1961 general elections, becoming the first MCP MP for the whole of Dedza district. He still was teaching.

In 1963 he was assistant minister for finance between 1963 to 1964, rising to become Minister of Finance, the first during independence until 1969.

He became Dedza South MP from 1965 to 1971, during which he moved to become Minister of Trade and Industry before being appointed Governor of the Reserve Bank, where he served until 1984.

He is accredited to have negotiated with Dutch brewery Carlsberg to open its first plant outside Europe in Malawi.

JZU Tembo became an MCP member of the National Executive Committee from 1970 until his retirement from politics in 2014.

He became number two in the party as Treasurer General from 1987 to 1991 and party vice president from 1999 to 2003 when he ascended to the office of the party leader. He retired in 2014.

Tembo was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to the Commonwealth in 1958.

He is survived by his daughter with his first wife Eta, and three children with his long-time sweetheart Ruth whom he has been laid at her side at a Mausoleum at his village in Dedza.

JZU Tembo preserved MCP- Onani

…explains Puludzu, Nkholokolo according to JZU

Dedza South Parliamentarian Ishmael Ndaila Onani fired up Malawi Congress Party (MCP) supporters during the farewell ceremony of the party’s third President John Tembo, asking those who are in power to “remember they are there because of the party.”

Onani who took over from late Tembo as a parliamentarian after years, explained the use of popular terms “puludzu” and “nkholokolo” the late veteran politician during the peak of his career and became associated with him.

praised Tembo’s role in keeping the party intact after the loss of power in 1994 – Onani

He said “nkhokolokolo” were people that turn up late and contribute very little but want to control everything, an indirect jab to those that came into MCP late and were now seen to be in the front trying to run the party.

“Puludzu, meant whatever criticism, or obstacles, focus on what one wants to achieve. Eyes on the ball,” said Onani.

He praised Tembo’s role in keeping the party intact after the loss of power in 1994, saying he went as far as selling his personal property to keep the party running.

“People like Mai Manjankhosi said they never felt like orphans after Dr Banda because of this man Tembo. Let us not make the women, the youth, and even District Chairmen orphans just because JZU Tembo is gone,” charged Onani who was cheered by the party faithful.

Onani said the party needs to be united and took a swipe at those near the seat of power to “always tell the truth” So that the party can continue to grow.

Speaking at the ceremony held at Dedza ceremony, former Speaker of Parliament, and long-time Finance Minister under the MCP regime Luios Chimango said JZU Tembo was an encyclopedia of knowledge of the MCP and that his death marked a wipe out of deep knowledge.

“He did not pretend he had all the knowledge, he treated professionals with courtesy and never shouted at anyone when they made mistakes,” said Chimango who pleaded with his critics to wait after his burial and engage on his legacy.

He said JZU Tembo raised crucial issues like section 65 at the time they were appropriate and that the matters always need engagement as alluded to by Former President Joyce Banda during her eulogy in Lilongwe on Tuesday.

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