Peter Mackay Archive Project

A University of Stirling cataloguing project

Category: Publications

Concord and Malawi News

This week we have sent away the first batch of archive material to be digitised! In this batch we’re digitising some photograph albums that include pictures of political events, from Kamuzu Banda’s homecoming to the first general election in 1964, Mackay’s own idyllic travels around Central Africa and images he hoped to include in a proposed book Portrait of Malawi. In addition to these photographs, we’re sending away some of the key periodicals that Mackay had a hand in – of these, we have already discussed a little about Tsopano, but here’s some more about the magazines joining it: Concord and Malawi News.

Concord’s artist Jean Maynard adapted a painting by Toladi from the Art School, Brazzaville, French Equatorial Africa, for the cover of this Royal Edition.

Concord was the magazine of the Interracial Association of Southern Rhodesia which was founded by Hardwicke Holderness – an MP in Garfield Todd’s Government who supported full equality between races – in 1953. Mackay was with the publication from the very beginning and helped move it from an idea to reality.

The aim was for Concord to be the first multiracial publication in the colony and this is reflected in its content which ranged from impressions of Parliament written by MPs of the day to articles on the various celebrations of different ethnicities and religions such as Ramadan and Deepvali and a series of articles on indigenous Rhodesian art and Bantu culture. Though politics featured regularly in the magazine, its topics were eclectic – encompassing literature (a short story by Doris Lessing), history (excerpts from – of course! – Dr. Livingstone’s account of Victoria Falls) and popular interest pieces.

Our run of Concord spans the years 1954-1958 and includes the ‘Royal Number’ which celebrated the visit of the Queen Mother to Southern Rhodesia in 1957.

While Mackay describes the Interracial Society as having faded out of existence and having been ultimately unable to inspire the ‘communal sense of sharing’ it had set out to instil, he kept this run for posterity – perhaps for pragmatic reasons with regards his profession but perhaps also as a reminder of his first distinct move to help bridge the colour bar. Though Mackay himself admits that this move was more an ‘accidental stumble towards tomorrow’ than anything, his involvement in these societies lay the foundations for what was to come.

Throughout much of his archive, Mackay expresses a keen awareness of the difficulties of including white Europeans in the cause of African Nationalism. He describes the tendency to think of white liberals as ‘wishy-washy’ in his book We Have Tomorrow, citing what he considered to be the weak attempts of the Interracial Society and the Capricorn Africa Society as reasonable demonstrations that this was, largely, an accurate surmise. After his incidental start along this path, Mackay attributes the conversion of his ‘own wishy-washyness’ to ‘something more combative’ and his striding more confidently and purposefully towards that tomorrow to Operation Sunrise.

Operation Sunrise was the name given to police action taken on the 3rd March 1959 when governor of the Central African Federation Sir Robert Armitage declared a state of emergency “because of the action of the leaders of the Nyasaland African Congress”. The aim was to arrest 350 people that the government felt were threats to law and order following a renewed move towards independence made by the NAC after appointing Kamuzu Banda as their leader. Those arrested were imprisoned without trial and waited months in jail for Macmillan’s government in the UK to order their release.

The final periodical we are digitising in this round exemplifies that movement towards action that Mackay felt after Operation Sunrise. With the key members of the NAC imprisoned and the organisation banned, Orton Chirwa established the Malawi Congress Party and held its position as President in safe-keeping until Banda’s release. Aleke Banda took up the interim role of Secretary-General and edited Malawi News – the official party newspaper from its inception until he left for scholarship at Harvard in 1962 when Mackay took over the role as editor until a suitable African alternative could be found.

We have a run of the initially fortnightly and eventually weekly run of Malawi News from January 1960-January 1961 which includes Special Editions – notably, the edition given over to the release of Kamuzu Banda from Gwelo – and bilingual articles.

Edition celebrating Dr. Banda’s release from Gwelo prison, 2nd April 1960

The magazine is a fascinating source of information on the political climate from a very singular point of view, offering an interesting look at a reporting style that was at times unpolished and often displayed open bias. The insight it offers into the propaganda surrounding and sustained by the MCP and its leader, Dr. Banda is remarkable – to the extent that Mackay, in notes he makes on the editorship of the publication (presumably in his brief period filling in, certainly they appear among papers of that period), writes that “lots of things happen which are not recorded in MN and, I am afraid, sometimes this is due to ‘forgetting’ to write about them rather than ‘not knowing’ they had taken place.”

Despite a harsh critique of the administration of the newspaper in these notes, commenting on everything from the overall appearance of the finished product to the literary efforts of the journalists, Malawi News obviously held a place in Mackay’s heart – perhaps even just for being a tangible example of the rise in open popularity of a movement he championed so strongly.

“Will you ask Kathewera to send me a copy of Malawi News Vol II No 52. I will then have a complete set of the first year’s issues to give me joy when I look back on them in my old age”

– Peter Mackay to Aleke Banda, 18th February 1962

So the three periodicals we have sent away for digitisation mark three very distinct and important stages in Mackay’s interaction in the politics of Malawi. Concord shows us his beginnings, his original understanding that the colour bar was not something he agreed with. Tsopano illustrates Mackay’s efforts to let the African voice be heard in the struggle for independence and Malawi News reports on the events that would see the struggles of Mackay and so many others bear fruit.

We can’t wait to be able to share the digitised versions!

Malawi News: Thandika Mkandawire, Musosa Kazembe, Matthews Ndovi, Mackay and Aleke Banda, c.1962

More on CID intrusion and Tsopano

The Criminal Investigation Department demanded to see the first issue of Tsopano before it went to print and though the printers refused on principal, the intrusion scared them off the job. In an attempt to rectify the issue, Mackay demanded that the Ministry of Justice state whether there had been any particular reason for such an intrusion or whether the inspection had been routine. By the time this telegram had been received, the original printers were unable to resume the project, leaving Tsopano to find new printers to work with. These new printers had no scruples about showing Tsopano copy to the police whenever they were asked and Tsopano simply learned to work with it, frustrated by the continued interference but confident that it was doing its best to remain within the bounds of the Emergency Regulations.

Tsopano Magazine

Whenever Peter Mackay refers to his ‘career’ in his personal papers, he is referring to his work as a journalist. Whatever else he may have accomplished in Africa we might have to describe as his extra curriculars or his passions, maybe more of a lifestyle choice than anything.

From corresponding on Rhodesian Farmer in the late 40’s and early 50’s, Mackay went on to contribute to many local, national and international journals and newspapers and he had an editorial hand in a number of the same. Having said that, I consider Tsopano to be Mackay’s first brainchild. Perhaps it’s because he kept production files for each issue which are crammed with articles edited both for reasons of space and reasons of prudent censorship, interviews, correspondence and administration for the day to day running of a magazine. These files are also contained in the archive and they illuminate the workings of editorship so brilliantly that I began to feel like Tsopano was the crowning glory of all Mackay’s journalistic endeavours. This may or may not be true, but he certainly took great pains to preserve everything to do with the production of the magazine – and created his own notes on the material 35 years after the fact.

“My own interest in a publishing venture in Nyasaland actually began last year when it seemed clear that something was needed to counteract the one-sidedness of press coverage in and about Nyasaland… But whereas before – and always – my thoughts were directed towards trying to condition the attitudes of people of my own race, I now began to think in terms of something which would genuinely help to articulate the little-known and certainly misunderstood cause of African nationalism.”

Personal correspondence, November 1959

So what was Tsopano? Tsopano was an anti-Federation magazine published from 1959-1961 by Mackay originally in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia for Nyasas in Nyasaland. It ran for 13 issues (all of which are contained in the archive). It was published entirely in English, though Mackay expressed the hope that it might eventually appear in Chinyanja too, because to further the cause of the magazine – which was to present as unbiased an account of African feeling within Nyasaland as possible – Mackay wanted influential English-speakers to be able to easily access the information therein. Indeed, he counted Harold Macmillan as one of his readers among many other high ranking and influential English speakers.

Tsopano sought to inform Nyasas on key government initiatives such as the Devlin Report (1959) and the Monckton Commission (1960), enable constructive criticism of the current political regime and discuss hopes for the future of Nyasaland – no mean feat when  the colonial Government had declared a State of Emergency in March 1959, imposing Emergency Regulations which effectively acted as several modes of censorship.

Whilst the magazine was sympathetic to the views of the Malawi Congress Party – how could it not be when they were at the heart of the anti-Federation movement? – and  wrote on its members and their activities often, it’s overriding aim was to “provide a true and genuine medium for the expression of African opinion in Nyasaland”. As such, letters to the editor that expressed anger and opposition to the main tone of the periodical were also published from time to time (though it has to be said that the vast majority of correspondence kept in the production files are letters of admiration for the work Tsopano was doing and whole-hearted support for Kamuzu Banda, the leader of the MCP). And Mackay seems to have been sensible of the accusations that might be made of such a magazine, writing in a letter early on in the planning process that Tsopano “does not have among its objects the role of being his [Banda’s] mouthpiece (though its contents will undoubtedly be sympathetic to his views insofar as these are closely identified with ‘expression of African opinion’)…”

This must be a very early doodle of what the magazine was to look like as ‘Marawi’ was discounted as a possible name early on in proceedings.

Careful consideration went into the naming of Tsopano. Mackay tells us in We Have Tomorrow that they had originally thought to use the Chichewa word ‘marawi’ but Kamuzu Banda had asserted that he had different plans for such a name. ‘Marawi’ which literally translates as ‘flames’ became adopted by the Malawi Congress Party – the political party that arose from the ashes of the banned Nyasaland African Congress party in the aftermath of Operation Sunrise (1959) and the symbolism of the phoenix rising from the ashes was deliberately evoked in terms of the party and of the country itself.

So Mackay and his friends were back to the drawing board for names for their periodical. In a letter to his friend and frequent contributor to Tsopano, Jimmy Skinner, Mackay suggested a few Chichewa words chosen for their directness of meaning. ‘Tsopano’, the Chichewa for ‘now’ seems like an afterthought in this discussion but something about it must have appealed to Jimmy because there are no extant mock-ups of any names other than Marawi and Tsopano.

Cover mock-up for Tsopano issue 1

Mackay explains in his book We Have Tomorrow that Tsopano’s overall presentation was intended “to match its serious purpose without being ponderous” and it’s true that there isn’t much that’s visually enticing within the publication. The only photos ever produced are of the Malawi Congress Party conference in Nkhota Kota, 1959 which are Mackay’s own and are also contained in the archive. Illustrations are also few and far between, reserved for key members of the MCP. However, Peter Mackay’s production files are rife with more artistic contributions to the magazine that never make it to print: poems, songs, moralistic tales (my favourite of which is entitled ‘Story of a Wild Pig’) are all sent in by readers keen to voice their frustrations and their hopes but in a more artistic manner. In one response to such a contribution, recorded in the production files, Mackay explains that while space is so limited the editors of Tsopano do not feel they can justify granting inches to items that do not deal directly with political issues.

 

Despite the above, I enjoy noticing that Mackay couldn’t help himself. The subject matter and its representation might be weighty and thought-provoking but the look of Tsopano as a magazine is bright and cheerful – maybe intended to represent the catharsis and optimism Mackay hoped the magazine and its subject matter would inspire. I like to think of him choosing what lurid colour the next cover would be – an imagining helped along by a comment he made in a letter describing his search for a green that was ‘suitably bilious’ for issue 4. Not only this but in the last issue of Tsopano printed as 1961 dawned in Nyasaland, the year when the Malawi Congress Party would finally win the election and set the wheels of change in motion, Mackay finally printed a poem that had been sent in to Tsopano HQ entitled ‘Thought for the New Year’.

The full run: from the bilious green issue 4 to the silver and gold issues 11 and 12

Tsopano tried to toe the line that Nyasaland’s Emergency Regulations instilled, struggling always to avoid condemnation from the government, regretting the lack of wholly open free speech that they could afford their contributors but always allowing that Tsopano, a much needed vent for the people of Nyasaland, with limitations was ‘better than no Tsopano at all’. Because of this, the study of this periodical and its corresponding production files is also an interesting foray into a world of censorship and defiance of that censorship. From the very first issue Mackay strives to advise on how best to do this – issuing a statement laying out the restrictions that Tsopano faces in no uncertain terms and suggesting constructive criticism rather than open hostility as being the best way of expressing ones views without contravening the rules in place. Even so, some of the editing of letters and articles in the production files makes for incredibly interesting viewing: in and amongst the grammatical corrections and standard truncating of long text are the sentences and paragraphs mostly likely crossed out because they were too bold or passionate to be printed.

“I am still not at all happy at the way the contents suffer from the legal paring they have to undergo.”

Personal correspondence, November 1959

The road to publishing such a series as Tsopano was not smooth. CID intrusion at the initial stages of printing issue 1 forced the original printers to decline to work with Tsopano and ensured that the ensuing printers were kept in the government’s pocket and allowed regular inspection of the copy. Indeed, Mackay’s first production file notes that some of his papers had been taken away without his knowledge, examined by members of the British South Africa Police and returned with their signature – a forceful reminder of why the magazine strove to keep its criticism constructive.

‘Stamp’ of the British South Africa Police which Mackay could not account for when drawing up notes for his production files 35 years on

Though there had always been plans to give control of Tsopano over to Malawis once the MCP were in a better position to oversee its publication and, indeed, Mackay sometimes referred to Tsopano as having been subsumed by Malawi News in correspondence to his friends and acquaintances in the 60’s, Tsopano ceased suddenly some way through preparations for issue 14, perhaps due to a lack of funds foreshadowed in Issue 13 in a statement made about Government pressure restricting revenue from advertising.

But though Mackay may have felt that the nature of Tsopano demanded that he  only held control of it temporarily while those who ought to have control were imprisoned or otherwise oppressed, his thirst for action and love for his profession dictated that he start up another magazine – Chapupu II – just over a year after Tsopano ceased business.

Mock-up for the unpublished issue 14