He was born in Florence Bay (now Chiweta or Chitimba) in the Karonga district of Nyasaland (now Malawi) on 8 August 1930, the youngest and eleventh child of Kaluli Chisiza, a group village headman and farmer. He, like his older brother Yatuta Chisiza, was educated at Uliwa Junior Primary School and later, to the rough equivalent of sixth grade level, as a boarder at Livingstonia. He left school in 1949, having failed the Nyasaland Standard VI examination.
He worked as a clerk in the records office of the Tanganyika (now Tanzania) police in 1949 and later for four years continued his education at Aggrey Memorial College in Uganda, where he joined and became secretary of the Nyasaland Students' Association centred at Makerere College, supporting himself with odd jobs. At this time he became an adherent of the Bahá'í Faith. In 1955-6, after a stay in the Belgian Congo in 1952-3 and another period in Uganda, and armed with his Cambridge Overseas School Certificate from Aggrey, he returned briefly to Nyasaland before going to work as a clerk interpreter and translator in the Indian High Commission in Salisbury (now Harare), Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
In Salisbury, Chisiza joined the Mashonaland branch of the Nyasaland African Congress and was instrumental in forming the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress Youth League. Together with George Nyandoro and Edson Sithole, he formed the City Youth League (CYL), whose first major accomplishment was the 1956 Salisbury Bus Boycott. In August 1956, presumably because this was regarded as a seditious organisation, he was declared a prohibited immigrant and deported back to Nyasaland where he worked in a family butchery business and actively continued political activities opposing the Federation with Rhodesia. In 1957, he participated actively on behalf of the Nyasaland African Congress in constitutional discussions with the colonial administration.
Association with Hastings Kamuzu Banda
Later that year, he went to England to study economics, sociology and political science at Fircroft College in Birmingham, where he began a correspondence with Hastings Kamuzu Banda (later the first President of the Republic of Malawi). He was, it is thought, first commended to Banda in a letter (dated 6 July 1957) from Henry Chipembere, who described him as a young man he would like for his 'extreme views' and as 'a self-made intellectual of no university attainments who surprised all with his mental powers'. He met Banda in person in London in June of that year, when, together with Chipembere and Chief Kutanja, they met with the Colonial Secretary, Lennox-Boyd, to discuss a new constitution for Nyasaland (one which had already been roundly rejected by Nyasaland's governor, Robert Armitage). Lennox-Boyd 'took note' of their views but said he didn’t think Congress represented Nyasa African opinion.
In August 1958, at Banda's request, Du returned to Nyasaland and, at a meeting of the Congress in Nkhata Bay on 1 August, was nominated as Secretary General of the Malawi Congress Party. He, together with his brother, Yatuta, Kanyama Chiume and Henry Chipembere, worked tirelessly to promote Banda's image as saviour of the native peoples of Nyasaland. He was a key organiser of Nyasaland African Congress and part of the inner circle that met on 24-25 January 1959 to discuss a change of approach from non-violence to violence where necessary. Chisiza was arrested, along with other high-profile African dissidents, in the dawn raids of Operation Sunrise on 3 March 1959, when the colonial administration, responding to incidents of rioting in various areas of the country, declared a state of emergency in Nyasaland. He was imprisoned in Gwelo, Southern Rhodesia, in the European wing of the jail together with Banda, Chipembere and his brother Yatuta (and separately from many other Africans jailed after Operation Sunrise). He was released, some months after Banda, in September 1960 and in December participated in constitutional talks also involving Banda and Orton Chirwa in London. These were the Lancaster House Constitutional Conference, and the Federal Review Conference, the latter which was to review the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Early in 1961, he visited India where he took part in demonstrations at the American and Belgian embassies protesting the CIA-assisted murder of Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the Congo. His pamphlet "Africa – What Lies Ahead" was published by the Indian Council for Africa. In August 1961, Chisiza was elected to represent Karonga in the Legislative Council and became Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Henry Phillips (later Sir Henry Phillips).
It appears that during this early period in the run-up to independence, Chisiza and Banda had severe and sometimes heated disagreements over policy. In April 1962, together with his now-mentor Henry Phillips, he visited London for discussions regarding Nyasaland finances. His favourable attitude toward a possible loan for a hydroelectric project to be made through the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (opposition to which was the proximate cause, many would say, for the independence movement in Nyasaland) reportedly caused Banda to become extremely annoyed. The rift was such that, according to some reports, Chisiza resigned or threatened to resign. Some sources allege that he seriously contemplated forming an opposition party, possibly along with Henry Chipembere, once independence had been achieved.
In July 1962 he hosted an economic development symposium, sponsored by the Ford Foundation, at which authorities from around the world presented papers on African and Malawian development. He himself gave a presentation warning of the dangers of dictatorship in emerging African countries. (Among his publications was the aforementioned paper entitled "Africa – What Lies Ahead?", published by the African-American Institute, New York, in 1962). The conference was an unqualified success. In the short time of his prominence, Chisiza gained enormous respect in the west for his intellect, energy and pioneering ideas.
Chisiza died on the night of Monday, 3 September 1962, while driving back to Zomba from Blantyre. His cream-coloured Mercedes was found in a small stream bed beside a bridge at Thondwe, on the road to Zomba. An inquest concluded he had died from a fracture at the base of his skull. He left a wife and three sons. One, Du Chisiza Jnr, was born subsequent to his death and became one of Malawi's most prominent playwrights.
- "Remembering Du: an episode in the development of Malawi's political culture", by Joey Power. African Affairs, Vol 97, Number 388, July 1998.
- "Dunduzu Kaluli Chisiza", by D. D. Phiri (ISBN 0-582-60130-4).
- “Crisis in Rhodesia”, by Nathan Shamuyarira, Andre Deutsch, 1965
- "Historical Dictionary of Malawi", by O. Kalinga, C. Crosby, London: Scarecrow Press 2001
- "Kamuzu Banda of Malawi", by J Lwanda, Zomba: Kachere 1995
- Chisiza, D. “The Outlook for contemporary Africa.” The Journal of Modern African Studies, 1, 1 (1963), pp. 25 -38.