Abiti Joyce Befu, Leader of our delegation, also known internationally as MG 66 and the Most Excellent Grand Achiever or MEGA-1, Alhajj Mufti Jean-Philippe LePoisson , SC (RTD), the Most Paramount Native authority Mzee Mandela and I, Malawi’s only Mohashoi, are still here in Chintheche enjoying the spoils of the Tonga celebration that gathered people and dances from all walks and corners of Tongaland. Even NgangaMaigwaigwa, PSC (RTD), temporarily abandoned his search for Joyce Banda to join us in the ethnic extravaganza.
According to official chronicles and migration stories told during the launch of the Nkhata Bay Tonga Heritage, which has since been baptised MudaukuwaaTonga, the Tonga came into Malawi not from Congo-Zaire but through the North-East route, most likely from around Lake Victoria. Even Egypt was mentioned as a possible origin. This legend makes the Tonga a distinct ethnic grouping from the Chewa.
We also heard that Tongaland extends from North Rukuru down to Linthipe River where, according to published legend, Kanyenda, a Tonga chief, is said to have signed a memorandum of understanding with Chewa chiefs.
It was interesting that on the day the MudaukuwaaTonga was being launched and Tonganess was being celebrated, someone somewhere WhatsApped an unsigned list that claimed that over 200 senior chiefs in Malawi are Chewa.
“Vabozavo,” one Tongally-dressed chief protested when the list was presented to him. “FukaMalaza is a relative of FukaMapiri and both are part of the Tonga chiefs that signed a memorandum of understanding with the colonial government in 1889. MalengaMzoma, Malenga Sanga and MalengaChanzi are all Tonga chiefs. MalengaMzoma is Tonga. Legend and recent historical research have established that Mkumpha of Likoma and Chizumulu is a Tonga chief. Mkumbira is a relative of Mankhambira. How does Mankhambira remain a Tonga while his relative is a Chewa? The truth is that this list is part of the propaganda andChewanisation project,” the chief said.
“Chewanisation project?” I asked.
“Yes. From 1964 the Chewa have plotted to give the impression that Malawi is Chewa country and the rest of us are mere squatters,” the chief said.
The chief continued: “First, their Chewa-dominated administration banned the use of local languages in education to ensure that all children learned the Chewa language. Second, they banned all literature containing content other than Chewa culture to ensure that Chewa language and culture dominated. That’s why they made everybody read books like MalirondiMiyamboyaaChewa, and KukulandiMwambo.
Internationally, use of local language in academics is associated with successful concept acquisition. The missionaries and the colonial government knew this fact. But the Chewanisation-project was ready to even go against science.”
“I don’t understand,” Abiti said, mouth agape and arms akimbo. “You mean there was something sinister about the adoption of Chewa language as a national language?”
“Yes,” the chief said. “Look at it this way. When Tanzania adopted Swahili as a national language that country also made Swahili the language of academic instruction, policy dissemination, and justice delivery and government communication. What purpose does the Chewa language serve other than cultural enslavement of non-Chewa peoples?”
“The Chief is making sense,” Jean-Philippe said, adding, “ Adolf Hilter’s Chief Propagandist, Joseph Goebbels, used to say that if you repeat a lie, through books, media, social networks and other ideological apparatuses of state control, many times enough that lie is accepted as the truth because people will start believing it. This is what this list of Chewa chiefs is doing. It is Hitlerian propaganda. This will circulate many times enough through social media and word of mouth that the world will believe Malawi is Chewa country.”
“In short,” the chief said, leaning on his walking stick, “if there were any Chewa chiefs in Tongaland, elements of Chewa culture would have been present here. There is no Nyau here because there is no Chewa Chief in Tongaland. The Chewa are not Tonga and the Tonga are not Chewa. Painful as this fact is, our neighbours must accept that Malawi is a multicultural and multiethnic country and the Chewa project to dominate others through propaganda and underhand campaigns will never succeed.”