Last week, it rained so much in Nkhotakota that we had to reschedule some of our visits to the district’s tourist sites. The low-lying areas around Sani were literary covered in water. We even feared Kaka’s village, family, and mosque had been swept away. No area was spared. We wanted to drive to some outfit inside the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. We failed because the road was too slippery even for our all-terrain Toyota Harriet.
I have driven on the Misuku escarpment in Chitipa, the Golodi Road and the Kaziwiziwi-Livingstonia escarpment in Rumphi, the East Bank Road in Chikhwawa, the Phodogoma-Ndawambe Road in Phalombe, the Mwanza-Neno Road, and the Mpamba-Mzenga Road. Never have I failed to negotiate a vehicle. If it were a human being or an institution, we would have accused the Lozi Road of gross abuse of human freedoms, which include our unfettered freedom to tour the Warm Heart of Africa.
As such, we were forced to stay at Nkhotakota Boma. But Jean-Philippe turned our misery into something worthwhile. He suggested that we go up and down the district headquarters, or boma to keep ourselves busy.
“You are right,” I said, “this district has unique sites.”
“This is where Dr David Livingstone met Jumbe Salim bin Abdullah and convinced him to stop buying and reselling Malawian slaves to his fellow Arabs. Near the church and the hospital, there is a fig tree under which the two parties met.”
“Who was selling the slaves to Jumbe?”
“Then human life was not as valuable as it is today. I hear that some chiefs used to be buried with healthy beautiful girls.”
“Vanity. Like Egyptian kings, our ancestors believed that dying was resting and to rest well and in peace, a chief needed a beautiful girl to chat with.”
Jean-Philippe laughed heartily before suggesting that we visit the tree under which Livingstone met Jumbe. Since the skies had cleared, we decided to walk down the road to Linga, where the Arab merchants kept the slaves before their transportations in dhows on Lake Malawi to Likoma and eventually Tanzania, Zanzibar, Pemba, and the Middle East.
As soon as we got there, Jean-Philippe started taking photographs. Then an old-looking man came near us, greeted us, welcomed us, and started explaining.
“Kaka, for years we have asked the government, through our ministers and MPs, to build something decent around here and promote this place because it is historical; but because we are poor people at the bottom of everything, nothing has been done.”
“Maybe, you should wait until you have elected councillors.”
“If ministers and MPs have failed to develop their own district’s tourism, what can a mere councillor do?”
We did not answer. The old-looking man volunteered to take us to another site. We followed him patiently.
“Under this tree, in 1960, the Malawi Congress Party and its president Dr Kamuzu Banda, held their first party convention. But, look at the place, how many would believe me? History took place here, but all the monuments are erected in Lilongwe.”
Jean-Philippe asked me to ask the old-looking man what happened to the jetty at the lakeshore. I did not ask because I already knew what happened.