Family and politicians have described the death of the country’s longest serving Speaker of Parliament Nelson Khonje as a big loss.
Khonje, who served as Speaker of the National Assembly from 1975 to 1987 during the one-party era, died on Sunday at his home in Mwanza.
In an interview yesterday, Khonje’s grandson Michael Katengeza described the deceased as a pillar who instilled in his family a hardworking spirit.
He said: “Our grandfather has died of old age. As a family, we remember him as a hero who liked interacting with people of all ages. He was a God-fearing person who encouraged his children to be hard workers. We will miss our pillar.”
Born on December 6 1923, Khonje, a secondary school teacher by profession, joined politics in 1971 to become member of Parliament (MP) for Mwanza, then the only constituency in the district.
In 1993, at the dawn of multiparty democracy, he quit MCP and joined United Democratic Front (UDF) before retaining his seat as MP for Mwanza Central Constituency in 1994 first post-independence multiparty general elections.
Mwanza Central MP Nicholas Dausi, who is also Minister of Homeland Security, described Khonje’s demise as a big brow to the family, Mwanza district and Malawi as a whole.
He said Khonje was a calm and humble person, hence working with former President Kamuzu Banda for long time.
On his part MCP secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka described Khonje’s death as a loss to the nation, saying he contributed to the country’s development.
Khonje went to Matandani and Malamulo Seventh Day Adventist schools before qualifying for Cambridge O-Level through correspondence. In 1962, alongside politician the late Aaron Gadama, he attended Moray House College of Education in Scotland.
He returned to Malawi in 1964 and taught at Masongola, Ntcheu and Ntchisi Secondary Schools up to 1971.
As speaker of parliament he preceded Alec Mjuma Nyasulu who served from 1971 to 1975 and was succeeded by Malani Lungu who served from 1987 to 1992.
Khonje is survived by five children. He will be laid to rest tomorrow at Chikolosa Village Traditional Authority Kanduku in Mwanza.