Mukombe Alhajj Mufti Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC (RTD), Nganga Maigwaigwa, PSC (RTD), the Most Paramount Native Authority Mzee Mandela, Abiti Joyce, MG 66 and MEGA-1 and I, the only Mahoshoi in Malawi are this week wrapping up our tour of Karonga.
We are lodged at Maji Zuwa Water and Sun Resort perched in an adulterated piece of nature that is Sangilo. If you don’t know where Sangilo is, don’t bother. Just ask anybody at Chitimba, Hara, Uliwa or Chilumba and you will be directed here. So welcome to Chilumba, welcome to Sangilo, welcome to paradise.
We are spending this week here in Chilumba visiting friends and places. On our way here, we stopped at Mikoma Beach Lodge where we were given an unforgettable Karongian treatment. We told the girls that attended to us that we would soon be back there to swim in the lake, our Lake Malawi, play beach volleyball, dance mwinoghe and ndingala in the evenings and, of course, smoke tourist cigarettes as we will be drinking our favourite fantakoko.
We also stopped at Nyungwe before we went to meet our Chikwenga friends at Chilumba Barracks. We also visited St Anne’s Primary school, one of the oldest Catholic schools in Karonga. We did not stay long there. We then went to the almost deserted Chilumba Jetty to have a drink before going up to Lulomo Peninsula, home to the Ndovis whose ancestors are famed to have migrated in canoes from UTonga. We wondered at how Malawi’s democratically elected leaders have taken Malawi backwards.
In times past, Chilumba Jetty was a beehive of activities. When the Ilala, the Mtendere and Chauncy Mapples docked here on their way to Kaporo in Karonga or to Monkey Bay in Mangochi, business, friendships and marriages boomed and, naturally, diseases were caught and distributed. That hustle and bustle is gone and may not return.
“You know what?” I said to myself.
“What?” Mukome Jean-Philippe responded.
“This country is very unfortunate. We have enjoyed over 50 years of peace but apart from our astronomical population increase we have nothing to show to the world,” I said.
“Okay. Not even your beautiful lake?”
“Our beautiful lake is being underutilised,” I said. “By today, we should have had lake liners, speedboats and luxury marine transport means here, taking tourists and others to different destinations during vacations and weekends. Uganda does it but our leaders need a jolt from the Chikwengas.”
“Fear of the Chikwengas is the beginning of political wisdom,” Jean-Philippe said.
“During the MCP and Kamuzu days, the cities had circular buses that crisscrossed the townships transporting people to work, shopping, nothingness and back home. Here in rural areas, the lake service was efficiently synchronised with land transport such that travel was almost seamless making business doable but….,” I sighed.
“Well, we agreed not to bother too much about the past. Life is not for those who get bothered by things they cannot correct,” Jean-Philippe said.
“But the past is good to learn from,” Abiti came in, adding, “Was it Dr Banda who decided that Malawi should use the Nacala Corridor for importing and exporting goods? The Liwonde Port was designed for that. Then president Muluzi came and decided to prioritise the Northern Corridor instead. And the ports of Chilumba, Nkhata Bay and Chipoka were face-lifted and readied. Then Bingu rubbished both and chose the Shire-Zambezi Waterway. Joyce Banda came and decided to ignore the Nacala corridor, the Northern corridor and the Nsanje corridor. Then Apita came only to prioritise nothing,” I said.
“What happened to the Mtwara corridor?” Jean-Philippe asked.
“Like what happened to the other corridors,” Nganga said matter-of-factly.
“With the Northern Corridor, Chilumba, Nkhata Bay and Chipoka would have turned into Brazil-like ocean-front towns,” Mzee Mandela said, “but the Chilumba port I see here is as dead as Nkhata Bay, Chipoka and Monkey Bay ports!”