Amazing story of Malawian Louis Nthena and his relation to Malcom x

My name is Louis Nthenda (a Malawi national, now aged 72 and living in Japan). I am the young black man talking to the girl in the photo behind and to the right of Malcolm X. In 1964, I was a 25 year-old postgraduate student at St Antony’s College, Oxford with a closely cut beard. I would like to share with your readers the background of how Malcolm X came to visit UK and participate as the principal speaker in this debate. I first met Malcolm X in the New Stanley Hotel in Nairobi on the evening of 3rd (I think?) September 1964.malcom

I had flown in from Lusaka to catch the old (and the world’s first faster-than-sound plane) VC10 which in those days couldn’t land in Lusaka or Salisbury (now Harare) and flew only from Nairobi. Besides, it couldn’t do the Nairobi-London flight non-stop without refuelling stops. So from Nairobi we stopped for fuel in Khartoum and at Rome’s Leonardo Da Vinci before finally landing at Heathrow.

I remember at Rome, it was a longer wait and we got off to stretch our legs and visit Duty Free shops. How technology has changed! But here I am digressing. Although I am a Malawi national, I was at the time in exile and working in Zambia. I had resigned my management position at the Anglo-American Nchanga Copper Mine, Zambia, to become Leverhulme Research Scholar at St Antony’s College, Oxford. I had to stay overnight in Nairobi. I was sitting at the dinner table by myself among a sea of white faces when I noticed another not-so-white face across the room also sitting by himself.

As Northern Rhodesia (this was before Zambia’s independence) had TV broadcasting, I easily recognised the face as Malcolm X’s. 1964 was the year he visited Mecca and he had been going around the Middle East giving “incendiary” speeches. He had just flown in from Nasser’s Egypt (or was it from the OAU meet in Addis Ababa?) and I had been following his pilgrimage through Newsweek and Northern Rhodesia TV. Anyway, I walked across and asked if I could move to his table with my dinner.

He said yes. We spent the rest of the evening talking about cabbages and kings. I was rather big-headed in those days (by some people’s accounts, I still am); so I told him that the first thing I was going to do when I got to Oxford was become a member of the Oxford Union and my first act was to arrange for the Union to invite him to a debate before the year-end. He warmed to the idea. And that’s what I did.

I became a member within days of my arrival and on the same day of my membership told the Union executive that I could arrange for Malcolm X to come to a Union debate. The Union didn’t have much money for such a big name debater from overseas. So someone rang up the BBC telling them, “there is a young gentleman here who says he can get Malcolm X to a Union debate. Could you sponsor the visit?” The BBC said absolutely; on condition that they televised the debate and that after the debate they could take over and arrange his programme to travel around the UK.

I wrote to him and the rest is history. The debate was between him and Enoch Powell — a brilliant but rebel former Conservative Cabinet Minister who espoused deporting all blacks and Asians from the UK. So the two debaters both took very extreme positions and both out of intellectual and personal conviction.

I thought Malcolm X, of course, won the debate, nem con. He was not just articulate but the house was quite clearly on his side. I checked the records though and they say that despite a prolonged ovation after Malcolm X finished speaking, the motion, which was a quotation from Goldwater’s acceptance speech to the Republican National Convention of that year, was lost 137 to 288. Memory is a strange thing and can be fooled by wishful thinking.

When Malcolm X arrived at Oxford, I was always by his side during the two / three days he was there. I did have letters from him both before and after the visit which were lost in Nigeria, where I went to teach after Oxford; but this story is the Nthenda family lore and now some of the pictures are beginning to surface. I was not aware of this photograph.

I am now going to trace the other two persons in the photo. Your readers and the world owe it to this incident and arrangement that we have surviving images and voice recording of this famous debate.

Thank you for the photo and for letting me share background information of this little episode with your readers.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Louis Nthenda – Chuo-ku, Tokyo JAPAN

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56 thoughts on “Amazing story of Malawian Louis Nthena and his relation to Malcom x”

  1. Dent Munthali says:

    God bless Louise Nthenda!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Hoitty says:

    Zambia had tv in the 60s? shame on us

  3. ..fanzi, the old man is showing that a Malawian contributed to the on going emancipation of an African sold into slavery. That a huge contribution considering that it was Malcoms’ first visit to the UK, a nation which had equal numbers of people of slave parentage and were equally demanding equal rights – mwapanga bwanji anthu inu kodi?

  4. j cholomandenga says:

    Woah, this story hits me like a ton of bricks, i did not meet Malcolm X, but i know Dr L. Nthenda, I knew he was living somewhere in Japan, now i have to try and track him down and get him to share with me , his recollection of the great MX himself.

  5. golo says:

    Thumbs up Nyasatimes.At least you have shared something that is very interesting. some of us have learnt a thing or two

  6. njayawanjaya says:

    just come back home to Chiradzulu, your relations are waiting for you. the house you left just behind the old CZ hospital is still there. we remember how KB feared you and the 24 hours short stay he used to give when you visited. COME NAMESAKE!!!!!!!!!

  7. where are Malawians? says:

    so what? whats impressive here?????

  8. Kanyimbi says:

    This guy should not fool us. He is appearing twice on the same photo with different appearances and different dressing which can not happen on earth. This shows that the picture is produced by a photo editor software application such as Photoshop, U lead etc. The old man is still thinking Malawi is still Nyasaland. Technology reached Malawi along time ago. And with this picture which is edited, I don’t trust your story. Kanyimbi samapusitsidwa.

  9. Kanyimbi says:

    This mtchona has nothing to offer to Malawians. Please know that we declared you dead already. People in diaspora are helping the flood victims and all you can offer us is a story of you meeting Macolm X?

  10. Gimbogo says:

    Did he bring Malcom X to Nyasaland

  11. ndadabwa says:

    big headed. mavenda a ku Japan, kikikiki

  12. welesoke says:

    Interesting story

  13. haha says:

    WHAT HAS THIS 72 OR IS IT 76 YR OLD CONTRIBUTED TO MALAWI? NOTHING! JUST DIE AND BE BURIED THERE. WE WON’T MISS YOU.

  14. Dolo says:

    W@ has made dis man com bak? We’ve 2 b wyz! Dis iznt a malwian, he even fails 2 mention w@ we cal malaawi national’malawian’, he wnts 2 com bak bcoz malwi has a na,e wrld wide?? No, & i hop gvt won’t tolarate d@!

  15. Mwakipiki says:

    And what do we as readers and indeed as Malawians benefit from this story or indeed his meeting with Malcom X? Did that meeting bring any positive change here?

  16. hendie says:

    Wow. Interesting

  17. hendie says:

    Wow. So interesting

  18. chingolopiyo says:

    Dr Nthenda, your relatives at Masanjala in Chiradzulo and brothers, sisters, nephew and nieces miss you in Zomba. Osamathera moyenda,kwnu nkwanu mthengo mudalaka njoka.

  19. chefourpence says:

    nthawi yonseyi munali kuti baba? Your latest photo?

  20. Okay says:

    Are you one Nthenda whose story I was told when very young? The story was that a certain Nthenda from CZ (we have Nthendas in CZ and Mayaka (ZA) was a genius. Tha was at Masanjala primary school. This Nthenda could be promoted several classes in a year. He later on relocated to Mayaka, ZA. When kamuzu learnt about the intelligence of this Nthenda, kamuzu got mad. he then followed up on him the way he did on another CZ guy, Attati Mpakati. Like also on Mkwapatira Mhango and Orton Chirwa and Kanyama Chiume. This Nthenda then went into Diaspora. Every time Kamuzu heard about him, he got jittery.

    If the above Nthenda is the one whose story is told here, I am afraid, I am ashamed. If you are the one, how can you leave us alone in CZ, ZA (Mayaka) all these years without returning? Since multiparty dispensation, why did\t you find it fit to come back home and assist in building Malawi? How many such people of the Nthenda caliber are hibernating there in diaspora? Of late if you go to Immigration Department, you see more Mzimba, Nkhata Bay and Mangochi guys trecking to South Africa. And my friends from CZ, TO and MJ treck to Central and Northern region, and get settled there. Going nto diaspora within Malawi. I ave never imagined this spirit of running away from home and get settled elsewhere. If it means working, no problem but completely disappearing from home, be it Malawi, Mzimba, Mangochi or CZ, ZA, TO and MJ. So when some crazy guys play around with us and decide to be ranking us a the poorest, should we complain? Malawians are naturally not patriotic. Visiting Harare some time ago, I met an old ngangain a supermaket, working and speaking broken nyanja, saying he went there in the 50s.

    I therefore admire the likes of Bingus, Peters and Kamuzu wh came back home for a good cause.

    That is, if this Nthenda is the one I was told about, shame on such type of diasporas. Mwapurika?

  21. Roy Kachale says:

    Za ziii

  22. Sips says:

    I enjoyed reading your narration Dr. Nthenda. Thank you for sharing. I particularly enjoyed the fluency in writing the English language, I hope our writers for Nyasa Times borrow a leaf from your book and improve on their writing skills, which are atrocious in my opinion.

  23. musamude khamzy highway says:

    COME BACK HOME…MALAWI NEED PEOPLE LIKE YOU…COME PLZ

  24. DPG says:

    Ma gents what do you make out of the Malcom X pic. Please take a good look. The guy resembles Clive Macholowe.

  25. musekanji palibe kanu says:

    thats so great..cant believe our own country man shared good times with malcom x,he was such a historic freedom fighter

  26. Titus Skoti says:

    PEDANT, you are right this article must have been written in 2011, so it’s stale. Btw, what is the moral lesson from this story of “Dr. Nthenda”? We have had matchona ambiri omwe anabwerera kumudzi and are contributing to the development of this nation. We appreciate their return. I don’t know what benefit there is for us to know about Dr. Nthenda and Malcom X. Kaya mwina enanu mwatolapo something from the story. To me it’s like reading fiction. What connection there is between VC 10, Salsbury, Nairobi, stopovers, 72 years of age, Chuo-Ku etc and the picture vis-a-vis the picture and the title? I am not sure. Anyway, poti timawerenga china chiri chonse, koma apa pokha Nyasa Times mwapala zedi!!!!!

  27. mafiloe says:

    thats nice Mr Nthenda its my pleasure to see u visting your motherland one day.

  28. charlie hebdo says:

    How many of such educated malawian kind are idly unknown out there?… you should have been here..you would have been a minister and got easy money by now ( cashgate) or a timber merchat ( chikangawa) or started a cellphone company, or bought freightliner trucks whose offices be based in Chigumula or or start a legal firm to protect cashgaters. Unfortunately you chose not to be ‘ like them’….great man, good luck, God bless

  29. ujeni says:

    Dr Nthenda, great respect, you are a giant. Dont mind some stupid comments from some mosquitos here, we have plenty of them here in Malawi.

  30. Mnngulu says:

    Diasporanians are not good leaders. Look at Kamuzu, Bingu and Pitala to follow copses into the grave and are buried togethr like flies do. Che Nthenda can come but should stay away from . No change the constitution only those that have lived in Malawi for the last 20 years should be eligible to run for President , mp or councillor. Full Stop. Tatopa ndi a kalwe awa.

  31. Maximus Decimus Meridius says:

    Haters will be Haters.
    A Malawi nsanje kuchuluka that’s why even in national anthem “nsanje” had to be mentioned.
    Brain drain will always be there haters, and as long as somebody is smart they can work and live anywhere. Haters,

  32. joseph banda says:

    Hey Dr Thenda, I like this story. Will You continue?

  33. zuze jacob says:

    Dr Nthenda epitomizes the tragedy of our past which has come now come home to roost as post colonial states such as Chad, CAR, Mozambique have made progress whilst Malawi continues to remain or has even regressed into the pre-independence era. Our great development icons , have remained outside in the belief that the past has not changed, the present will not accommodate them. The culture of foraging from the poor and striping them to nothingness and hounding and scoffing at our intellectuals as nothing continues to hold sway. Indeed even former street sweet and chewing gum sellers or break dancers and disco fanatics who have now adorned some political regalia will not allow the likes of Dr Nthenda near them.

    This is the tragedy of our land. Unless government makes a conscious effort to bring back and or consult our Malawian intellectuals in the Diaspora Malawi will remain a foreign country to our intellectuals as those who sit at the helm of leadership continue to deepen the sunami of our poverty!

  34. Katswiri says:

    Come back home Dr.

  35. Mfwethu says:

    Boko Good, umbuli basi. Who told you Chuo-ku is his name? Those of us who have traveled know that in Japan a name ending in -KU is like a location, so Dr Nthenda lives in Tokyo but the location is Chuo-Ku. Kumafunsa kaye kusiyana ndikuonetsera umbuli wanu poyera chonchi.
    Nice piece of history Dr Nthenda though.

  36. Ntondo Musi says:

    So all this Dr Nthenda person could contribute to Malawi after 72 years on being alive in this story? And some ”educated” Malawians here think he has done something to celebrate about? mxiiii

  37. B Njiwa says:

    I am inspired by your story, share us more

  38. What does it mean asking someone aged 72 years “come and assist your country?” I think this is being harsh! Thanks for sharing such a good story brother. We wish you a happy early old age!

  39. ggggggg says:

    I dont see any amazing thing from the story may be I need to be enlightened from this old man

  40. make says:

    Great story, loved reading it. There are many great Malawians who are spat out by the country but are welcomed elsewhere. developed countries do not refuse talent when they see it but Malawi always refuses it’s talented ones.

  41. WA MWANO says:

    Next time he will say he was one of the wailers. ..Bob marley band mates

  42. Pedant says:

    Dr Nthenda says that in 1964 he was a 25 year-old postgraduate student at St Antony’s College, Oxford, meaning he was born in I939. However he also says he is 72 years old at the time of writing this article, which mathematically means this was not written in 2015. Is this article from a few years ago, Nyasa Times?

  43. Zaria Friends says:

    Sanu Louis, inakwana? Inagajiya? Yaya magida? Well, interesting to hear you are in Japan. Please greet magida, Zione, Eyalu(?). Next time you visit Malawi, please let us get together to reflect over Zaria which we hear has been academically flattened by boko haram.
    Cheers from pharmacy family

  44. Nyani wa ku Mwananyani says:

    Nthenda looking spiffy there! And exuding confidence, to be sure.
    Even though this is a personal story, it needed to be told because Malcolm X was not a nobody. How many of us can say we shook hands with, or walked lock step with such giants? Can’t even count them on one hand! Detractors: kagwereni uko!

  45. Boko Good says:

    Mr Chuo-Ku, What are you doing in diaspora. Come back and assist your country. I see you changed your name just like Daniel Phiri. I tell you Nyasaland after 50 years is number 1 in the world, courtesy of your kinsmen. Malcom X had a vision. What vision do you have for your country. We however admire you for meeting him. Goodluck and thanks for the story.

    1. By the way says:

      Chuo-ku is not Dr Nthenda’s name. It is the name of a ward or area. It’s part of his physical address. He’s based in Chuo-ku, Tokyo JAPAN

  46. bikoko says:

    Zopusa basi ine ndikupindulapo Chani apa, olo Nyasalande ikupezapi Chani ngati dziko, kupusa basi, talenbani nkhani anthu awelenge anthu apindule.

  47. Ishmael B Maulana says:

    This z inspiring but the one claims didn’t mention if he was sharing the same religion with Malcom-X,and he didn’t prove if wat he is saying is true coz the photo which was supposed to be shown,was the one at which at some point,met at de dinning room or after debate.Anyway we r proud of him!

  48. James says:

    I think been associated with such a person like X means you are also made of material Dr. NTHENDA. We need such ppo like you in this country. Too bad most brilliant people ran away during the Kamuzu tenure. Nayenso KB….pamenepa anatiweteka. Kungotisiyila achina Ntaba, Bakili…

  49. Nkhombokombo says:

    Malawi is aclaimed the poorest country among the poor but we are not the dullest. Check your catilogue, you will discover that you’ll find atleast one or two learned Nyasa in each of these called well to do countries around the globe. God bless Malawi.

  50. Mfulatuvi says:

    Malawians are not only the poorest people on earth materially but also intellectually. Here is nthenda,a malawian compatriot who shared moments with one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century and most people who commented here think his story is insignificant?

  51. Moya says:

    It’s a story that is inspiring, that a Malawian met and organized a meeting with a legend who up to now in America malcom x is highly respected for fighting for the rights of minorities, it is also a lesson that despite being a poor country but using our intellect w can achieve big things. Let’s not undermine ourselves.let’s look around for legends in our times and invite them to speak for the poor nations and let’s groom our own legends and be voice for the poor countries who want to transform. Let’s form an association of poor 8 P8 and arrange meeting with the G8 and ask them the tough questions why how, really?

  52. Citizen 'O' says:

    This is too personal and doesn’t add any value whatsoever to the reader. The Nthenda guy can share this story to his grandchildren otherwise, it just doesn’t make sense. And look, in the picture he is behind Malcom X, tallking to someone and not Mr. X himself and he claims they got along well, kkkkkk!

  53. Mmodziyekha says:

    Obama is from Kenya and Bob Marley might be from Zimbabwe and now isuppose Malcom X is from Malawi related to Nthenda.kk! isnt Peter Tosh based from nkhota-kota or kaning’ina?

  54. the poorest country in the world says:

    kodi mwati izi zili ndi nchito yanji pa moyo wanga?

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