There are many elites in Malawi whose life, fortune, misfortune, love and hate have been defined by Zomba. We are not talking about the rural areas of Zomba but the presumed capital city of the Eastern Region of this federal republic.
For us, Zomba is what was the capital city of Nyasaland and Malawi until 1975. It was the seat of Parliament until 1994. For a long time, it was a municipality, which is a grade below a city until fairly recently when Moya Bingu wa Mutharika promoted it to a city but without the infrastructure befitting a city.
Zomba was and still is the seat of the most feared maximum prison in Malawi. Part of the external walls of this Zomba Maximum Prison has been painted and its front yard gardens have been decorated but the bloodstains in the minds of Malawians are still visible and will take rivers of paint to get erased.
It was here that many politicians spent their lives and died. Some, like Orton Chirwa, were released only to be buried in their homes.
Zomba was and still is the home of the University of Malawi. It was here that the decision to disband, some say kill, the University of Malawi (Unima) was endorsed. Some intellectuals argue the name University of Malawi or Unima will be retained by Chancellor College. It’s just a face saver. The incontestable fact is that the University of Malawi as we know it today has died due to Zombian decisions.
Zomba was and still is the home of wrong national decisions. Zomba was the home of Mikuyu Prison where, where as our dear MBC television and radio are reminding us, people were detained for as long as the ‘man in the hills’ wished not for correction but humiliation and punishment.
It was from Zomba that a decision was made to imprison the fiery Watch Tower preacher and religious cum political leader, Musokwa Eliot Kenani Kamwana Chirwa and later exile him to Mauritius in the wake of the Chilembwe uprising.
It was from Zomba that the decision to forcefully put down the Chilembwe Uprising of 1915 was made even the colonial authority knew Chilembwe and his followers had genuine complaints. It was from here that a Zombian decision was made to gun down unarmed protesters in 1959.
It was also from Zomba that Kamuzu Banda made the decision to transfer the capital city to Lilongwe. It was also from Zomba that Bakili Muluzi made the decision to transfer parliament to Lilongwe.
These decisions shock us. We wonder why. Why did the capital transfer to Lilongwe without a replacement development? We wonder why the parliament was moved knowing pretty well it was an annual money spinner for our hotels, motels, guest houses, rest-houses and restaurants? Even hospitals benefitted from the presence of parliamentarians here in Zomba. Why are good money generating, pride donating things removed from Zomba and all bad things are left intact? South Africa still keeps its parliament in Cape Town to make the mother city relevant.
Had the parliament not been whisked away from us, that new parliament building in Lilongwe would have been here in Zomba to show we are still part of Malawi.
We still have the armed forces headquarters here and we appreciate. The muezzins are still actively calling then faithful to prayer and we appreciate. The Ku Chawe Inn is perching atop Zomba Plateau and we appreciate. However, no tourist comes here today because there is no airport worth a name and there is no serious coach to bring tourists to this city.
We appreciate the emergence and expansion of hitherto nondescript villages such as Matawale and Chikanda into bustling high density towns. However, we are frustrated that these emerging towns have worse problems with electricity, road infrastructure and water than what our fellow Malawians in Blantyre have. So we hear here.
To be honest Zomba is dead and we know who killed, buried and tombstoned it. But we will not accept that the tombstone on our city gets unveiled.