Chirunga Newsletter

Date: 1988

Region: Africa

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Print Journalism

Artist: Producers of Chirunga Newsletter

Confronting Bodies: University of Malawi

Dates of Action: 1988

Location: Malawi

Description of Artwork: Chirunga Newsletter, a magazine produced by the students at Chancellor College, part of the University of Malawi. An issue of the magazine in late 1988 raise a number of grievances, including the introduction whereby students are admitted by region of origin rather than purely on merit. The newsletter also criticized encroachment of political organizations on the university campus. The CCAM organized functions at the university which students, especially women, were obliged to attend. There was a complaint that the CCAM had ruined one of the college sports grounds by holding a fair on it. The Chirunga Newsletter criticized a decision not to readmit students who had interrupted their studies for maternity leave. This decision was taken without warning and without retrospective effect. Finally the magazine was critical of high rates of interest on student loan scheme, funded out of foreign aid grants. This is pretty much the usual fare of student magazines the world over, but for Malawi it was extremely daring.

The Incident: The editor of the Chirunga Newsletter, George Chazama, and two of his reporters, were called before the British Vice Chancellor of the University, Dr. John Dubbey, and told they were suspended for the remainder of the academic year. This was confirmed by a letter of January 23, 1989 which stated that the contents of the magazine were "considered prejudicial to the good order of the university" -- a somewhat ironic phrase, since the suspensions then provoked the first ever student demonstration at the University.

Results of Incident: On February 6 four students--George Chazama, Peterkins Chinoko, Tasosa Gondwe and Hardy Nyirenda--were expelled from the University. The expelled students were prevented from getting jobs and believed that they were under threat of arrest. At least three of them left the country.

Source: Human Rights Watch/Africa Watch, "Where Silence Rules, The Suppression of Dissent in Malawi," October 1990, Pg. 69