An open letter to Malawi President on Rumphi-Chitipa Road: ‘No Transport, No Economy’

My fellow citizens, I would like to appeal to reason, your reasoning power, your imagination, your dreams for a better Malawi, although it has always been proved for centuries that in any battle between imagination and reasoning, imagination always wins. Hence demagogues appeal to emotions, tribal affiliations, elitism, seclusion, exclusion, while leaders appeal to reason, rationale, justice, egalitarianism, equal opportunities.

Rough ride: Part of the Rumphi- Chitipa via Nyika Road

Rough ride: Part of the Rumphi- Chitipa via Nyika Road

Malawians are capable of moving ahead beyond imagination. Yes, we can. But there is only ONE thing missing in our society that causes the malaise, jealousy, deprivation, deliberate misallocation of resources, deliberate mis-channeling of donor funds for political ends, lack of vision and lack of perception of the future generations after us and hence deliberate mis-investment or non-investment in the projects that have futuristic connotations.

That missing link is that WE as a nation, do not perceive ourselves as Malawians, first and foremost. Rather we tend to see ourselves, as clans, tribes and ethnic sub-groupings of the 17 such polarized ethnicities.

The cure from today, lies in all of us thinking that we are Malawians first and foremost and that each one of us belongs to every part of Malawi and that every part of Malawi belongs to us.

Economists believe that the world is like a dam. Hence, whatever happens, or does not happen when expected to happen, in any part of the world has ripple effects across the globe, or the global village.

Malawi is a microcosm of the world. She is no exception to this economic principle. Non-development of the north has a huge bearing on the non-development of Malawi.

The lack of proper road infrastructure in the north, has crippling effects on the Malawi economy as a whole. Malawians in most parts of Mzimba, Rumphi and Chitipa have no access to markets for their produce and lack access to equal opportunities because of lack of viable transport networks. “NO TRANSPORT, NO ECONOMY’. People in that area are incapacitated to trade their wares in exchange for goods and services from other areas. NO transport infrastructure place.

Let me put this matter into its historical perspective.

In the early 1950s, up to the time and duration of the federation, there was some semblance of a viable road that was graded about once a year, which enabled a bus company called North Charterland Transport Company to ply the Mzimba-Nakonde route. The buses were a mockery to what should be called a bus nowadays. They were merely converted Lories with hard wooden benches and without canopy, but a tent. Every passenger became white or brown with dust all over their body during travel. We looked like “Gule waMkulu dancers”. But the road was usable and passable. Then came the Nyasaland Transport Company, it too did ply the Mzimba-Nakonde route. Nakonde is where Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi meet. But he buses were unreliable and operated only once or twice a week. As a result, one day, in the company of my uncle I walked all the way from Hewe, some 32 Km away to my village.


In 1965, MBC crews toured the north. When they came to my village at Luviri in Rumphi, along the now discussed Rumphi-Chitipa Road, they interviewed an elderly village mate of mine, Mr Chimduzi Gondwe and asked him how he compared the Welensky’s federal days to the then current Kamuzu’s Malawi days, his answer was crisp: “Our roads were better off under Welensky’s. At least they were graded by caterpillars every year. Nowadays the roads have gone to the dogs”. This is my translation from what he said in Tumbuka. This was aired on MBC. The result was that Ba Chimduzi Gondwe got detained for several years without trial, under the Preventative Detention Act that Kamuzu imposed on the Malawi nation.

Sometime after that incident, the roads became impassable to buses. To this date, only some high rise Lorries ply the Rumphi –Hewe-Nthalire-Chitipa route. For 40 years or more, no Galion Caterpillar has been seen anywhere on the Rumphi—Hewe-Nthalire-Chitipa road, grading that road. So I support Ba Chimduzi Gondwe. The federal days did a better job on that road.

Even during the 1990s, Ba Timothy Nundwe of Hewe, the man who used to go to Livingstonia Secondary School, the second secondary school built by Livingstonia’s Board of Governors after Blantyre Secondary School which was built in 1939 and had its first intake in 1940, being the first secondary school in Malawi, used to walk all the way from Hewe to Bolero in order to find transport, carrying his suitcase on his head for the 40 Km of long walk. He used to do the same on return trip to his village in Hewe during holidays. The Nundwe story speaks for many, not only students, but also all those that travelled or dared to travel. There were lions en route in the Mphora area as one approaches Hewe.

The situation has remained unchanged up to this date. NO bus or minibus goes beyond Bolero.

According the Ba Hon Goodall Gondwe, in some parts of Mzimba, children can grow up to 18 years or more without seeing any motor vehicle of any kind.

A couple of years ago, I did ask my brother, Ba Hon Khimbo Kachali why he joined politics. His answer was that it was because he wanted to speak for the development of the north, beginning with a good road network infrastructure. In fact it would appear he did help source funds to build the Jenda- Edingeni-Embangweni Road which was to proceed to Euthini, Mpherembe, and Vwaza Marsh, famous as a unique game reserve, all the way to meet the Rumphi-Chitipa Road at Chikwawa (Rumhi’s Chikwawa after Runyina Bridge).

When my brother fell out with President Bingu WA Mutharika, the funds were withdrawn, re-routed and diverted elsewhere. No questions asked. In Malawi, people don’t ask questions, or else.

In short, fellow Malawians in the rural Mazimba-Rumphi-Chitipa areas are cut off from the rest of Malawi. They have no “trade routes” for their produce and let alone are cut off from the partaking of equal opportunities that modern Malawi provides. On the other hand, people of the rest of Malawi are also cut off from opportunities that those parts of Malawi would provide had there be some viable road infrastructure and viable transport networks.

Malawi, because of excellent soils and very good climate in most parts, was designated by the British South Africa Company, headed by Cecil John Rhodes, to be a planter’s territory. However, mineral prospecting, made the BSAC to limit plantations to Southern and Central provinces, while Mzimba, Nkhata bay and the North Nyasa District, now Karonga, Rumphi and Chitipa, were preserved for mining activities because of their rich mineral deposits. This explains the delay in the development of the road infrastructure in the north, pending the intended mining operations.

Let me draw a corollary or parallel from another relevant part of Malawi history.

David Livingstone, our first major tourist of the British stock, was NOT a missionary. He was a British Consul paid by the British Government and tasked with three things: (a) To explore TRADE ROOTS for British industry, trade and commerce along the Zambezi River and open up MARKETS for British goods and services or “British made” or “Made in Britain” goods, (b) to find settlements for British subjects as population was growing and (c) to open opportunities for British missionaries to soften the hearts of the hard core Africans. He was paid, as British Consul, an initial sum of 500 pounds by the British Government but was heavily funded by the London Missi0nary Society to the extent that he even got built a boat that cruised Lake Nyasa to the tune of 6 000 pounds. He named that boat “Lady Lake”. Livingston travelled on two passports: A British one and a Portuguese one, which he obtained from the Portuguese Embassy in Cape Town.

Let me hasten to add that the Americans are busy destabilizing the world so as to protect and expand markets for their multinationals. The American goods include domestic goods, industrial goods, war machinery, and weapons as military hardware and name it. America wants markets, markets, markets. At one time in Japan, Lockheed wanted to undercut Boeing through bribes. It was found out and Lockheed had to be disqualified and closed down. These multinationals are often infested with CIA agents. Markets, markets, markets.

Let me also add that at some point in time, in 2008 in particular, South Africa clandestinely offered Zimbabwe the use of their Rand. Mugabe sent economic intelligence agents to find out the small print behind that sudden offer, after Zimbabwe and South Africa were generally at daggers drawn. The agents did their analysis and found out that South Africa wanted to make Zimbabwe another dormitory market for South African made goods and services, goods with labels “Made in South Africa”, all over. The economic intelligence unit told Mugabe to avoid that. Hence we dollarized with the Americans and tried to protect our industry. But sanctions found a loophole. Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia are all dormitory markets for South Africa.

Sadly, Malawi has become another dormitory market for South Africa and South African goods. There was a fruit canning in Luchenza, the home of Ba Hon George Chaponda. I enjoyed those fruits “Canned in Luchenza”. Why not have a fruit canning factory in Chitipa and enjoy “Canned in Chitipa” fruits. Why not have tinned fish “Tinned by Maldeco Fisheries in Mangochi”.

We Malawians are a very funny breed of people. Anything made outside, including sawdust is deemed “superior” to anything made in Malawi. We ignorantly support Game Stores which have killed our industry. We are even preventing produce from Rumphi rural Hewe, Nthalire, Chitipa from finding markers within our own country. “NO TRANSPORT, NO ECONOMY”. May I add, “NO TRANSPORT, NO MARKET”?

Our industry has been killed by lack of forward planning on the part of our successive governments, beggar governments.

Livingston succeeded in finding MARKETS, settlements for the British people and soft targets for British missionaries. There was a lot of iron smelting in Nyasaland which got killed. His was mission accomplished.

Livingstone did not treat or pay his carriers well, or those who carried him, his team of three others, including his young brother, and their luggage well. The carriers soon found themselves very much short-changed.

Two of the carriers, the most trusted and both Yao, deserted him carrying the box that contained his medicines and another that contained pieces of cloth that he used to exchange with slave agents for Arab slave traders in order to free some slaves.

Livingston was devastated. He even lamented: “I felt as if I had received a sentence of death, like poor Bishop Mackenzie”

He then knelt down and prayed: “It is difficult to say from the heart ‘Let thy will be done’, but I shall try.”

The “I Will Try” emblem of the Livingstonia Mission is coinage or paraphrase of Livingston’s “I shall try”.

Of equal importance, it would be erroneous to paint all Arabs as slave traders. While Mlozi did a lot of the slave trading in the northern area of what later became Nyasaland Protectorate, in the south, an Arab called Tipitipu and his group of fellow Arabs, were not in favour of the slave trade. Rather they ventured into the conventional barter trade in ivory, ironware, lion hides, cloths, beads and the like.

The major culprits of Nyasa enslavement were the planters in the south. Their main victims were the Lhomwe who were fleeing Portuguese East Africa, now Mozambique, and were landless. The “Thangata System” was enslavement at its worst.

I do not see why we as Malawians cannot open up our eyes and look at Malawi as one country with one nation and richly endowed with vast natural resources, particularly minerals which were discovered by the BSAC in the late 19th Century, instead of being a conglomeration of tribes.

We are now in the 21st century, yet still blind to the riches surrounding us.

Let us open our hearts and open our eyes so that we see and develop our country as a whole, while making the most and best use of our very rich natural resources. The first step is to open ‘the trade routes’ by constructing viable transport infrastructures, particularly where there are most acutely underdeveloped, and are locking up our tourist potential like the Vwaza, Nyika and other areas of tourism, eco-tourism interest and mining.

The question to ask is: “Should Malawians remain blind to opportunities which are going a-begging and yearning for unlocking by road infrastructure, forever?”

Cuthbert Kachale or simply Mzee.

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38 thoughts on “An open letter to Malawi President on Rumphi-Chitipa Road: ‘No Transport, No Economy’”

  1. BigMan says:

    At least give some credit for the Karonga Chitipa Road.

  2. Khwethemu says:


  3. chifundo says:

    a nice article ,thought provoking,i wish politicians read this and start drawing another line in their decision making policies

  4. mtumbuka wa tumbuka says:

    mufune sumafune atumbuka azapeza chomwe akufuna

  5. Mapwevupwevu says:

    Atumbuka inu! Why do you deliberately omit mentioning your time of glory in the sun when Joyce Banda was president?

    This Khumbo Kachali mentioned in this article was given another chance under PP but all he could think of was to tarmac the drive way to his house in Mzimba! What an idiot!

    All the big positions in government are held by atumbuka but you cant think of developing the north, you are busy stealing to build houses in Blantyre and Lilongwe. Kumudzi simumapitako unless munthu akafa! Mbuzi!

  6. kukhala says:


  7. Mlomwe says:

    Olo atumbuka atachoka nkupita kwao kumpoto, angatukule Dziko ndani? Poti olo Blantyre kapena Lilongwe zililimu aku South tokhatokha tikusoweka ukadaulo wa A tumbukawomwewo. Ife timangodziwa business that’s why Miznda yathu ndiyotukuka but these northerners mkalasi ndiye madolo nchifukwa chake tinawa menya ndi chija mmati Quarter Syst….. kuti asiye kuchuluka nzeru. But we need to join hands to Develop Malawi in all regions!!!!!!!!!

  8. Jalavikuba says:

    This article has brought to the fore historical facts and taken us into the future with economics. Whereto from here is for us ALL led by visionary leaders. We have the human capital, natural resources, information and technology. Thank you!!

  9. dikisan says:

    Pepani a Malawi Azanga sindimadziwa kuti aTumbuka mukuzuzika chotere. Inunso ndi a Ammalawi. Ife kuno kumwera miseu ngati iyi kulibe. Tiyeni a Tumbumbuka tichoke matauni tipite kumudzi tikatukuleko izi sizoona adzukulu adzatiseka. Ndimvernreni ndithu! Ndapota nanu zaka zachuluka. Shame on us we think we are so great among ourselves.

  10. bozwell makaranga says:

    A very well constructed article. Sound arguments. The use of Rumphi – Chitipa road or lack of it as a case study and its implications is very well argued. Lessons learned have equal relevance for any part of Malawi. Infrastructure is the platform upon which economic, social and cultural activities take place and that underlies their significance

  11. Chibalo says:

    Very nice article to read through. Well done great man Mzee!

  12. Mvula J. Mvula says:

    This is a well written article which exposes the riches, not only of Malawi, but Africa. No one disputes the fact that the rail lines, the road networks of the era of the Empire were slave trade and market oriented routes. The wisdom of the natives be it in manufacturing, agricultural and the traditional practices were all banished with speed and branded evil, outdated, dangerous and inhuman.

    However Mr. Kachale, I find your sentiments biased. You seem to be anti Livingstone and sympathetic to Arabs in this article. Whilst you narrate the evils of Livingstone in the ways he treated his carriers; you balance the activities of the Arabs: Mlozi was in slave trade; Tipitipu was for barter trade. Have you forgotten or is it deliberate of the Mandala Brothers who brought conventional trade? This is where your bias is. We are all babies of our times. Both the Arabs and Livingstone made some errors. Let us not glorify one group and vilify the other. Right from the era of the Empire, Colonialism, Post-colonialism, Neo-colonialism, Independence, Post-Independence; there has been some gaps. Whilst in the old days, we were enslaved physically – being physically taken from Africa to foreign lands; we are now double enslaved. We are now enslaved whilst living in our homes by the foreign multinational conglomerates that rips us economically in their trade practices whilst they are living in their homes. A smart game of brains! At home, we are no longer enslaved by our colonial masters; but our own kindred. Let me remind you of CASHGATE. The Independence cake has not been equitably shared. In short, we need a national vision that shares the national aspirations which will address national needs. I know this road you are mentioning. I traveled to Hewe in 1969. There was Hewe Training Base of the Malawi Young Pioneers and I visited my brother who was then working at the Immigration post at Hewe. We need a home grown economic formula that will redeem this nation from the pangs of foreign practices. Fifty years is too long to continue whining.

  13. Precious says:

    This is a very good article. Constructive and food for thought for leaders.
    Greed, divide and rule, nepotism and croonism will never take us out of poverty.
    APM if indeed you read news, this article should be good for thought.
    You can never develop parts of Malawi while ignoring others – it will never work because Malawi is like a dam – one whole – UN development of other parts will affect the others.

    I would like to warn APM about his advisers who use gossip to and sow seeds of suspicions towards others. Such people are threatened because Inclusion will expose their inadequacies. They, most certainly do it to protect their own selfish interests no matter the cost.

    Someone here ,is complaining about terrain of northern region, go to Swaziland and see that quality roads can be made on hilly terrain if there is a will.

    By the way, it’s not nice to be called the poorest country on planet earth and yet smart Malawians are getting accolades at Global level. – All because of a tongue – lhomwe, Tumbuka Chewa – Can a tongue be more important than Malawi?

  14. paul says:

    …our politicians seem clueless!
    It is a travesty and national disgrace! Roads serve a very crucial role to a country’s economic development and especially national security. How can these outlying areas be defended against foreign attacks if even the military cannot travel freely. It is not rocket science that a state of siege can quite easily occur if national priorities undermine security and economic obligations.

  15. SAUZANDE says:

    What an article ? Amalawi anzanga tiyeni tiphunzire kukhala amodzi chifukwa muumodzi muli mphavu. Mr Kachali mwationetsa kuti anthufe timangopanga zinthu mu chimbulimbuli chifukwa zomwe mwafotokoza apa ndizinthu zoti zikhoza kutukula dziko lanthu.TISAKONDE KUNENA ZINTHU ZOSOKONEZA .Come another article Mr Kachali please. GOD BLESS YOU

  16. Fumanipo says:

    Americans thought they will be ruled by whites for ever but God gave them a litmus test which made the world understand that there’s no such that Tumbuka will not rule..’Obama’

  17. gg says:

    U people from south u are very fulish in everything Atumbuka akhale oipa ? Abwino ndinu? this is radiculous

  18. sosholoza says:

    If Malawians politicians were of good will Malawi could have been developed. Politicians very well know that northerners if given chance can develop this nation beyond their imagination. They fool our brothers in the southern and central region that northerners are nepotic and proud just to plant heartred on peoples mind for their personal benefit. In fact politicians apply the law of divide and rule and this will take time for people to change their mindset to think that people of the north are also Malawians and need to enjoy equal opportunity as their fells in the other regions. Imagine the leader telling the nation that northerner are overpassing us, Do you think people can change their mind with such speeches? The article is good but who is to take this up. For the north to develop Northerners should unite and take federal system as the only hope for the region to develop and Malawi as a whole.

  19. SIR JOHN CHAULA says:

    DADA KACHALI the only problem is that all promising politicians end up being thrown on the pieces from the time immemorial cashgaters and end up cheering the meek and weak minds in the rulingford. Tiyowoyechi ise kuti tipulikikwe that jenda-rumphi, rumphi-chitipa and mzimba-njakwa roads should b done. Vinder vose na vakuno kukwithu uwo only clap hands for all this nosense

  20. kamangadazi says:

    YAKI NO 5,

  21. kamangadazi says:


  22. Jonas Gupta says:

    May be to remind some Malawians who may not be aware; the Road to Nthalire from Rumphi was last fully and well graded WHEN PEOPLE WENT TO BURRY FORMER SPEAKER, LATE RODWELL MUNYENYEMBE……when was that?

  23. Jenala says:

    Nyasa Times, you should be encouraging people to write articles, not rumours. Let us shares ideas.

  24. Mwina Katumbi says:

    Last year i went home (Ku Hewe) after so many years, I was warned not to take my little Nissan March otherwise “yamuwelako cha” so i had to park it pa Rumphi. This has been the story for years. I wonder what happens to the allocations that are provided in the budget year in year out, and beacons that are put on our road. Have we seen the produce that comes from that area? what about the tourist attraction ku Nyika uko. Chonde tovwirani tabanthu!!!!

  25. Mugonapamhanya says:

    A nice article. However, it should be noted that Northern region has a very challenging terrain to road constructors. A classic example is Karonga – Chitipa Road. It was on the cards of the colonial masters until they left. Kamuzu came and talked about it and left it the way he found it. Bakili Muluzi made lots of noise and left it still begging until Bingu came and made a big gamble by switching Taiwan with Mainland Chaina with Karonga – Chitipa road as a catch. Rumphi Chitipa road is equally very expensive and there is nothing regionalistic about why it has taken so long.

  26. dairemulala says:

    Let us also look into the tea industry. Why is it so secretive ? If we analyse the pricing mechanism, it is real a raw deal. These whites just milk our country. They actually rip us off by just transferring the goods to their country and that is where real trade is happening. We should really open our eyes, though late. NDANGODUTSAMO

  27. Sekulu says:

    Mr. Kachale (Not Yet or Sanati), l hope as your surname suggest, this is not a death will to Malawi but a Life sustaining hope for our country. Your heart, strength and life are all buried in the future of this country.

    It seems you have seen better days but may the Lord renew your strength so that you keep reminding us what we as a nation ought to do to turn our country around, socioeconomically.

    To them in the realms of power, I believe you have been offered an opportunity to realign your plans to the good of the country. And its not too late. YES WE CAN.

    It could not be better than that.

    And to all of good will, please come in to have that down to earth will, be published in English, Chichewa & Tumbuka for the benefit of all.

    Once again, Mr. Kachale may God bless you and so our country.

    Chiuta Nimuweme Nadi

  28. Zindere zakufikapo says:

    Have u been to the south ur self? So mwano onse mumachitawo mtumbuka iwe umafunanso attention of the president?…. We hv worse roads inthe south ukufuna unene kuti chani iwe. mbuzi iweeeeeeee!….. Mesa kuli boma la nyika republic ucan go ahead and upgrade the so called road. Stupid.

  29. Bwande says:

    I have said this again and again that at the root cause of our poverty is the poor road network infrastructure. Unfortunately, we are not even ashamed of it. I have had a friend from Holland who was interested to visit my home because of the good friendship. Koma ndinathawathawa kuwopa kudzachita manyazi

  30. Oliver Twist says:

    Yayi soni zanikora mwe! Kweni mwaruwanga chimoza pera, wa Dada wa Khumbo Kachale wakizangaso mu boma la wa Mama wa J.B. Kweni wakaruwa kukumbusya wa Mama kuti tinozge nthowa instead Cashgate ikanjiranga mwa luwiro. Fumbanani mwekha pa ubale wino kuti ka ndalama izi tili kulyanga, kasi tiziwezgenge uli?????? Kikikikikikikiki kukumbusya vyakumanyuma kungatovwiranga viwi yayi kweni vya kunthazi. Malo ose awo mwapharazganga nkhuwamanya chomeni, especially Khondowe, nane nkhasuzgika kuya kunena kura via Kabuha na ku Phoka. Nawonga mwanikumbusya nyengo zane zakale. Yewo Ba.

  31. Blk says:

    Timadziwa izi ndi anthu ochepa kwambiri ku north ndi iweyo ku south tilipo atatu, new world order ndi imene yavuta lets wish Rusia not to b defited

  32. Kandapako says:

    Thank you Cuthbert Kachale for this article. This is what we need to be talking about in this country. I am not from the North so you tribalistic Malawians do not misinterpret my praise of this article. How I wish there were a way of taking this message to the voters so that they vote for development minded people not these selfish self enriching so called politicians. What you have written Cuthbert applies to all areas of Malawi with high potential for National development. How I wish it were possible for you to go round the country and educational institutions to talk about the issues you have raised.

  33. Vizukulu Vyachikulamayembe says:

    congratulations, wise people are still there in Malawi.

  34. yaki says:

    Anthu a mwano inu pamodzi ndi MP Kamlepo . iye samati ndi mwamuna akonzetu msewuwo tsopano mulira chiyani

  35. vivo says:

    At least you have electricity poles along that route. Ask your friends in other areas especially in the South. They are still staying in the dark after 50 years of independence.

  36. Chafwakale says:

    This is what we should be discussing as Malawians in these social networks. Osati zopusa zokhazokha.

    Excellent writing

  37. Khoswe says:

    This is a good peace wealth to be published. I hope our politicians we take heed.

  38. tuvitwana says:

    Uku ndiko kulemba mwana wakwithu. Wamakutu wapulike.

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