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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At least give some credit for the Karonga Chitipa Road.




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

mtumbuka wa tumbuka

mufune sumafune atumbuka azapeza chomwe akufuna


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!




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!!!!!!!!!


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!!


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.

bozwell makaranga

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

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