Abiti Joyce Befu, the Most Excellent Grand Achiever-MEGA 1, also affectionately known as MG 66, the Most Paramount Native Authority Mzee Mandela, Alhajj Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC (RTD), Nganga Maigwaigwa, PSC (RTD) and I, Malawi’s only Mohashoi, will be in Chitipa from this week until our finances militate against us.
Many Malawians, even urbanites that trace their roots to this district, have not been here before. Even in our delegation, only I, the Mohashoi, have been here before. And they were short stints. So, we have a lot to see and discover. We will visit Chisenga, Kameme, Kaseye, Misuku and Titi before crossing the border to Tunduma in Zambia to find out why Malawi is not connected to the Tazara oil pipeline, which lies not very far from the Malawi-Zambia-Tanzania border.
Chitipa was once upon a time part of the North Nyasa District that spanned today’s Karonga, Chitipa and Rumphi districts.
Chitipa is the home to celebrities and great. Legson Kayira, academic and author of Jingala and I will Try came from here. Peterkins Kayira, the legendary footballer, author of Football in Malawi, comes from here. Bentry Masugzo Kayira, academic and author of Tremors of the Jungle, comes from here.
Also, James Nyondo, founding president of the National Salvation Front (NASAF) party, came from here. Richard Walibwe Nyirongo, footballer and academic, comes from here. Welani Chilenga, sprinter, meteorologist and politician comes from here. Chipimpha Mughogho, one of the founder trustees of Phwezi Foundation and chairman of the Alliance for Democracy (Aford) came from here. Rodwell Mnyenyembe, twice speaker of Parliament, came from here. Peter Chiona, former Malawi Congress Party (MCP) second vice-president, came from here. Antony Mkumbwa, businessman and investor, and auditor comes from here.
Chitipa is cosmopolitan and a virtual united states. Conservative estimates indicate that in Chitipa there are over 10 tribes who speak over 10 languages. In the Nthalire area, where we are today, the people mostly speak Chinyika or Chinyiha, which sounds like a dialect of Chitumbuka. As one travels further north the linguistic pattern becomes more complex. Around the district headquarters, the Boma, which lies almost 100 kilometres to the North East of here, one is likely to hear people speak Chiwandya, Chinamwanga, Chiweta, Chimambwe, Chindali, Chisukwa, Chilambya, Chibemba and, of course, Chiswahili. As one travels towards Karonga, one is likely to hear people speak Kyangonde. While here, we will endeavour to understand how Chitipians manage to communicate given such linguistic diversity.
Chitipa is a rich district and a huge unadulterated land of opportunity. It has good agricultural soils that can support any crop, including industrial ganja. Some decades ago, during the days of the Ngwazi, Chitipa was capable of producing enough maize to feed all maize-eating Malawians. Chitipa still has some of the best apiaries in Malawi and produces some of the best natural honey in the world. Chitipa is one of the contributors to the world-loved Mzuzu Coffee. While here, we will endeavour to meet and chat with coffee farmers to learn how much they benefit from their toil.
In colonial and in the days of the Ngwazi, Chitipa Airport had the longest runway in central Africa able to handle huge military cargo planes. Once we get to Chitipa headquarters, we will visit the airport. We only hope that people have not yet parcelled it out.
Chitipians are hard workers in their fields as well as in class. Those who have mingled with Chitipians will not disagree that the majority of our brothers and sisters do not like loud and rowdy places. They are fond of keeping to themselves, because, we have come to learn, they like introspection and cogitation.
While here we will also try to find out what makes Chitipa the home of Mathematicians and natural scientists. Stick with us.