For some time, tourists have been trekking to Machinga. Their mission is to appreciate the wonder that is Malape Pillars. These are pillars of earth that were formed years ago due to forces of nature.
But now the feature, the Machinga tourism gem, is under threat and locals have raised the alarm.
Village head Lilomba, under whose jurisdiction the pillars fall, and leading tour guide Kawinga Ngopola said this when officials from the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture and journalists toured the Malape Pillars at the foot of Chikala Hills.
Regional tourism officer (South) Christine Chimangeni said that the ministry is working to maintain the pillars, destined as a unique national treasure.
In his words, Lilomba said: “We are worried that the pillars may be washed away. For so long, they have been crumbling to this current state and we fear if nothing is done soon, we will lose them forever.”
The village head, who falls under Traditional Authority Nsanama in Machinga, said the pillars previously covered a bigger area than today.
“We tried planting trees previously, but it has not worked. We have tried planting vertiver [grass], but the collision continues. We hope something will be done to preserve the site,” he added.
Ngopola, who leads the Malape Cultural Troupe which performs for tourists at the site, said they are equally worried that the pillars may vanish into oblivion.
“In recent times, people have come to realise that the pillars are worth promoting. They must be protected. We are happy that several musicians, including ‘Soldier’ Lucius Banda have shot music videos to promote this space. It must be protected,” he said.
Ngopola was referring to Lucius Banda’s latest music video shot at the site. The artiste posted on Facebook that the video for Ndinu Yemweyo which will be released on July 31 2021.
Talking about Malape Pillars’ background, he said the place was associated with spirits.
He said: “We were told of stories that these pillars were blanketed in mysteries where people could encounter hair-raising experiences such as hearing voices without seeing the speaker, bumping into snowy-white maize flour on reed mats without the owner in sight or listening to choruses being sung loudly by invisible people.
“One could meet strange-looking persons and talk with them but abruptly they could vanish into thin air. In fact, some people from the village are believed to have disappeared mysteriously.”
Ngopola said massive deforestation led people to start frequenting the place and eventually it turned into a place of interest because of the uniqueness of the pillars.
Potiphar Kaliba, acting director of museums and monuments, says Malape Pillars is a site formed through geological processes where soil of different types reacted differently to the elements.
“When it rains, softer soil is washed away by the rains while the hard soil remains intact forming what are known as Malape Pillars. This impressive geological heritage is a result of differences in soil resistance,” he said.
On the current state of the pillars, Chimangeni said the ministry is aware and they working to preserve the site.
“The Department of Antiquities in the ministry is working out how we can preserve this precious gem. As part of our local tourism development strategy, the pillars are an integral spot in the region,” she said.
Speaking during the launch of the cultural troupe in November last year, Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture Michael Usi said it was the Tonse Alliance promise to see that the pillars are well presented, managed and marketed.
Malape is a Yao term derived from the word kulapa which simply means something so startling that it takes your breath away or leaves you speechless.
The place is tucked like a ghost about five kilometres from the Liwonde-Nselema Road at Mpotola Trading Centre in the district.