In the book of history essays titled The Making of Modern Africa under the heading â€˜Origins of African Nationalism in Southern Rhodesiaâ€™ we read: â€œAt first their leaders were from South Africa and Nyasaland but in the 1930s, educated Africans from Southern Rhodesia began to take away the leadership of these associationsâ€.
Under the heading â€˜African Industrial organisationsâ€™ we read; â€œThe idea of industrial organisations for Africans was born in South Africa where Clements Kadalie founded the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU). It rapidly grew into a mass political organisation in South Africa. In the late 1920s, Kadalie, who came from Nyasaland, sent fellow Nyasa Robert Sambo to Southern Rhodesia to establish a local branch of his union. He was deported but the idea caught on and branches were established in Bulawayo and Salisbury (Harare). The leaders of the movement were arrested and imprisoned in the 1930s.
In fact, Kadalie did not just send only Robert Sambo who was from Rumphi but also Issa Macdonald Lawrence from Chiradzulu. They were sentenced to three years imprisonment. On a visit to Britain in 1927, Kadalie approached members of Parliament about his imprisoned compatriots. They were released and deported to Nyasaland.
What Robert Sambo did thereafter I do not know, but Lawrence was elected first treasurer general of the Nyasaland African Congress in 1944, though like Levi Ziliro Mumba, the president general, he died soon after. James Frederick Sangala told me that Lawrence was husband of Ruth, sister of Dr Daniel Malikebu of PIM.
Who was this Kadalie? A prophet better known and respected abroad than at home. Alas even abroad some people are now trying to push his name into oblivion.
In 1912, African intellectuals in South Africa met in Cape Town and formed the African National Congress (ANC) and elected Dr John L. Dube as president. Up to the early 1950s, the ANC was a club of patriotic intellectuals without a mass following.
In 1919, a clerk from Nyasaland (Malawi) working in Cape Town founded the first trade union for Africans in South Africa, the ICU. He conducted a strike which led to improved conditions of South African stevedores. Within five years, the ICU spread to the rest of South Africa, including Namibia. South African writers such as Jordan K. Ngubane and Heidi Holland testify the fact that it attracted a mass following to the extent the ANC had not done so far.
From being a pure trade union, the ICU graduated into a political movement. Kadalie fearlessly and openly denounced the segregation policies of General Smuts and General Hertzog. At one point, he travelled to the Netherlands, Germany and Austria where he appealed to the leaders of those countries to exert pressure on the Afrikaners to accord equality to all citizens of South Africa.
The story of Kadalie has appeared in many books dealing with South Africa. He deserves a massive biography. For a start, those interested should read the booklet I See You. â€œThe man South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Namibia should not forget.â€ It is being sold by Central Bookshop, Fegs and Nyabufu bookshops.
At the end of 1951, Kadalie visited his village Chifira in Nkhata Bay. On his return to South Africa, he died. At his funeral, Professor D.D.T. Jabavu of Fort Hare University College said: â€œHere is a man, a genius among the African people. Kadalie was able to lead very big numbers of his people. He has left a heritage. Today we know that black people can be organised and united.â€
If citizens of Frontline states put on heirs and say that only they helped people of southern Africa, tell them that through Kadalie, Malawi had been doing that long before them.
It is true that Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda did not allow political parties from these countries to set up military bases in Malawi. But apart from providing space for such parties, we do not learn that the Frontier states sent their own armies to fight along the freedom fighters. Most of the food, money and equipment were provided by well wishers outside Africa like China, the Soviet Union, Scandinavian countries and so on.
Despite Kamuzu Bandaâ€™s open dealings with minority regimes of southern Africa, there is no reason to believe that behind the scenes he was not giving much appreciated assistance to the freedom fighters. When black South Africans got their independence, Malawi was invited to attend their first celebrations. The great Nelson Mandela, on behalf of the ANC and the leader of the Pan African Congress of South Africa, soon after their release made a courtesy call on president Banda just as they had done on presidents of the Frontline states. Would they have done so if Dr Banda had been unfriendly to them?