Who owns the elephants of Nkhota Kota?

In the course of the past week, Alhajj Mufti Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC (RTD), Nganga Maigwaigwa, PSC (RTD), the Most Paramount Native Authority Mzee Mandela, Abiti Joyce Befu, MG 66 and the Most Excellent Grand Achiever (MEGA-1) and I, the Mohashoi, took  five Nkhota Kota natives on a tour of discovery of their own district.

From Dwangwa we stopped near the entrance to the elephant BOMA to witness the hauling by force of elephants from Liwonde to the Nkhota Kota Wildlife Reserve. If animal rights defenders existed in Malawi, they would have beaten all the elephant handlers. One of the abusers and enslavers of the elephants had come all the way from a life of opulence where he is paid a salary for simply being a grandson of the Queen of United Queendom (UQ).

“Why are they doing this?” wondered Malenga, a middle-aged male NkhotaKotian.

Malenga claimed to be related to Malenga Chanzi in Nkhota Kota, and Malenga Sanga and Malenga Mzoma in Nkhata Bay, chiefs who must haved descended from one ancestor and ruler of the United Republic of Tongaland (URT).

“You did not answer my question!” Malenga said.

“They are populating the Nkhota Kota Wildlife Reserve to ensure the elephants in the Liwonde Wildlife Reserve have enough room to maneuver,” Jean-Philippe explained.

“I see,” Malenga said laughing, “you educated people are very funny liars!”

“Why?” I asked.

“Whose elephants are these?” Malenga went on.

“They belong to Malawi, Malawians, NkhotaKotians…” Jean-Philippe volunteered an answer.

“Are you sure?”Malenga said, “I hear the game reserve and everything in it now belongs to African Parks. For us to go inside the game reserve we need to ask for permission and pay.  Our tobacco gardens are inside the game reserve. They are now adding these elephants to scare us so that only foreigners, those people handling the elephants use the game reserve. Is it still ours? Why did they not even consult us?”

“The Malawi Government, your government, has granted a concession to African Parks to manage the game reserve, your game reserve, because you, evil people, as one British Newspaper described you,  poach and kill the elephants!” Jean-Philippe said.

“Kamuzu anakana nsatsi! No local person has ever killed an elephant because no local person needs it. Here we eat fish. We eat mpasa, mbuvu, usipa, nchila and occasionally chambu! The government knows who kills wild animals and who transports the tusks for eventual exportation! We hear that there are helipads inside the game reserve. Now, which local person needs helipad without a helicopter?” Malenga asked.

“In short, it’s time to leave!” I said cutting the conversation.

As we approached the Bua River bridge we were stopped by about 10 or more families of baboons.   I killed the engine of the AFORD NEVEREST. We waited. The baboons did not make a move. I flashed the headlights to scare them away. They did not bother.  I hooted. The baboons stood up almost in unison like soldiers getting ready for a military parade. And they started marching towards us.

“Imagine these were elephants!” Malenga muttered.

I started the engine and engaged reverse gear. Lo and behold, behind us, there were more baboon families, enjoying themselves on the tamarc road.

“You know what? I will take a risk,” I said to myself.

“Do anything except killing the baboons,” Abiti advised in a hushed tone that hardly masked her fear.

“Hear the roar of a huge vehicle. Let’s go! Now,” Malenga commanded.

“I hear it, too,” Nganga and Mandela said contemporaneously.

I engaged drive and started off. The baboons jumped into the nearby bushes to let us pass.  After crossing the bridge, I stopped at the nearby school and I asked the women who were drawing water from protected public water tap what the baboons wanted from us.

“They wanted human protection from some predator,” one lady responded. “It means they had seen a leopard or lion in the vicinity or a cobra!”

“How do you know that?” I asked.

“We are neighbours,” another woman answered. “They come here for cassava and we go into the reserve for wood and mushroom, but my only worry now is the elephants. With large numbers there, our freedom to harvest from our wildlife reserve is curtailed! And we hear we will be paying African Parks to visit our own wildlife reserve!”

I left and went back to the car. I explained the drama as interpreted by the women.

“Now let’s go to Lake Alice!” I said as I started the vehicle.

“Where is that?”

“A few kilometres to the west of Nkhota Kota Boma,” I said.

“Is that not what we NkhotaKotians call Lake Chilingali or Lake Chitukutu?”n



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