In the life neurosurgeon-cum-politician George Nga Mtafu, which spanned from 1943 to 2015 he certainly saw and experienced a lot worth a publishable recount.
That was a conviction that the German-trained neurosurgeon had during his life which ended tragically in a road accident on October 20 six years ago and posthumously his story has seen the day of light.
This is courtesy of his recently published autobiography titled Notes And Life Sketches launched on Wednesday in Blantyre.
Mtafu’s life was full and eventful. His fortunes tipped from both ends, making his story rich, exciting, insightful and stunning.
In the preface provided by writer and media trainer Levi Zeleza Manda, he describes the book as a combo of stories about culture, love, politics, religion and education with the author as the main character.
He writes:“It is also about the steadfastness and centrality of women in human civilisation. It is a prison memoir and a political critique. It is about the role students played in the fight for independence and multiparty politics.”
Notes And Life Sketches has taken Mtafu from his humble beginnings in Chizumulu Islands, to his secondary school days at Malosa Secondary in Zomba all the way to Germany, where he went to study medicine, to eventually become the first neurosurgeon in Malawi.
That part of the book allows the author to zero in on a number of perspectives such as education and culture, referring to is as ‘Umuthu child upbringing.’
“It must be remembered that education was held in high esteem in those days than today. There was serious competition in school those days, the entire family was happy when one child was bringing good results.
“The whole village was happy. In our Tonga culture a child belongs to the whole community,” he writes in the book.
The other episode of Mtafu’s life, which is prominent in the book, is about his time in prison at Mikuyu during the Malawi Congress Party’s one party reign.
It was this experience that probably birthed the politician in him and cemented his resilience as a human being. His suffering while in prison is vividly captured through the horrendous experience he suffered and in extension the same on his wife Elvey and his two sons Anke and Bentley.
His stay at Mikuyu Prison allowed Mtafu to link up with other political prisoners such as Brown Mpinganjira, whom he shared a cell with.
In the book, Mtafu credits Mpinganjira as the man behind the formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF).
He writes:“The seed sowed in the cell at Mikuyu, watered laboriously by Brown Mpinganjira with great assistance from donors and many of us, germinated to found a pressure group first and later the party called UDF.
“So, if the question is asked as to which one person was mightily responsible for the founding of UDF, the answer is must be Brown Mpinganjira. He found all of us in his person and we took upon ourselves the risk of forming the party that is UDF.”
Speaking during the book launch, political commentator Humphrey Mvula said it was unimaginable that people who were arrested on the basis of rumour went through all that.
University of Malawi Associate professor of law Edge Kanyongolo, who was the guest of honour during the launch, said the fight to usher in political pluralism required people to take risks and devise creative ways in advancing the cause and Mtafu was one of them.
He said: “The resilience, tenacity, force to just go on and on, it must have taken him a special drive. To survive Mikuyu Prison was not easy. They were conditions which were meant to break you.
“He represents the generation of those who survived the one party rule. He was a real patriot.”
The book also presented Dr Mtafu an opportunity to shed light on a number of ‘controversies’ he attracted while serving as member of Parliament and the misunderstandings on his faith.
He never swore by the Bible during swearing in ceremonies at Parliament and that fanned a notion that he was an atheist. It is a perception he has categorically dismissed in his book.
“My church is not in the habit of trivially swearing on the Bible, nor inordinately swearing in God’s Holy Name,” said Mtafu, who was an Adventist faithful.
During one parliamentary debate Mtafu brought the deliberations into a mess when he shouted through the microphone: ‘Agalu Inu’. He has provided his own defence to the unfortunate incident.
He said: “Hon. Anna Kachikho spoke into the microphone, but directed at me, ‘You will be a corpse by tonight, be careful with what you speak about us’. Many members in the House, the Speaker, heard about the macabre remark…
“In great consternation and disbelief, I made the remark, ‘Agalu Inu. Strangely, the media only picked up my remark, not the one by Hon. Anna Kachikho.”
Mtafu also lamented the declining fortunes of UDF, which he captured as being on a self-destruction mode. He decried the decisions of the leadership made such as backtracking on the agreed decision to let the then vice-president Justin Malewezi to run as the party’s candidate in the 2004 elections.
It is a position Mvula agrees.
“It was a party that we agreed that don’t bring your son or wife as everyone had to start from grassroots. But these are principles we broke when we went into power as some people became too powerful,” he said.