Malawi’s first and accomplished neurosurgeon and politician Nga Mtafu’s autobiography unveiled in lavish style

Montfort Media was waiting to publish an autobiography which Malawi’s first neurosurgeon, Dr. Andrew George Nga Mtafu was in the last stages of writing but the accomplished doctor and politician’s life was cut short in a tragic road accident on October 20, 2015.

His wife Elvey and family, together with Nga Mtafu’s close associates picked up the manuscript and finally had the book published and was launched in lavish style in Blantyre on Wednesday, December 29 at Malawi Sun Hotel that was graced by numerous distinguished citizens of the country.

Late Nga Mtafu’s wife Elvey

The book narrates Nga Mtafu’s life experience from growing up in the district of Likoma Island where he was born in 1942, his education that led him study neurosurgery in Germany in the 60s to his political life that started with being imprisoned during the multiparty dispensation to being a Cabinet Minister before retiring to continue practising his noble medical trade.

The book was edited by Dr. Levi Zeleza Manda, who hailed it as a personal story that touches on culture growing up on Chizumulu Island, education, health, medical practice, politics, religion and many social ills the country faces from time to time.

Zeleza encouraged Malawians to read the book, which he said was simply written to accommodate all age groups and impressed on Malawians who have played a huge part in the country’s history to emulate Nga Mtafu’s effort in writing their own autobiographies.

“Dr. Nga Mtafu is gone but he left behind his ideas and experiences through this book,” he said. “Our next generation will appreciate the history of this country better through this book.”

Amongst those present was guest of honour, Prof. Edge Kanyongolo — renowned law professor at Chancellor College; as well as Principal Magistrate, His Worship Viva Nyimba; political analyst Humphrey Mvula; politician and former diplomat Ziliro Chibambo — whom Zeleza Manda challenged that they have in their heads historical stories they needed to share with the rest of Malawians.

“You need to tell your lifelong experiences by writing your own biographies like what Nga Mtafu left behind for us. Malawians deserve to know you better through your own words and I am waiting for that day to come.

The guests who attended the launch

“This book is very informative, hilarious and very simple which was meant for everyone to enjoy up to the last word.

“Trust me, I enjoyed editing this book and to me it was an honour to be asked to edit it because I have always held Nga Mtafu in high esteem,” said Zeleza Manda,

Zeleza Manda, who was applauded by Montfort Media’s General Manager, Fr. Blaise for accepting to edit free of charge, said the book dispels all rumours that surrounded Nga Mtafu as being atheist because he was a staunch Seventh Day Adventist.

“The book will tell you why he never swore an oath in Parliament or as Cabinet Minister because he never believed in swearing an oath using the Bible or God in the name of upholding his political work.

Guest of honour Prof. Edge Kaminjolo

“Read this book and you will learn a different side of this distinguished doctor, politician, husband to Elvey here and a father. Read this book,” he encouraged the guests and the rest of Malawians.

In the book’s preface, Zeleza Manda said Nga Mtafu’s story is part melancholic, part hilarious, and part meditative and introspective.

“It is a combo of stories about culture, love, politics, religion, and education with the author as the main character. It is also about the steadfastness and centrality of women in human civilisation.

“It is a prison memoir and political critique. It is about the role students played in the fight for independence and multiparty politics. It is about Mrs. Elvey Mtafu, and her children, Anke and Bentley, being tormented by police while the husband and father, respectively, languished in detention without any charge.

The book’s editor Dr. Levi Zeleza Manda

“It is also about Bakili Muluzi, Friday Jumbe, Brown Mpinganjira, Jack Mapanje, Sam Mpasu, Humphrey Mvula, Aleke Banda, Edward Bwanali, Harry Thompson, Dumbo Lemani, Cassim Chilumpha, and many others that came together to form and run the once mighty United Democratic Front (UDF).

“[UDF] was a party that, at its peak in 1999-2004, boasted over 100 MPs in Malawi’s 193-seat Parliament, but whose numbers dropped to 47 in 2004; 17 in 2009, 14 in 2014 and just 10 in 2019. Even the president of the UDF lost his parliamentary seat in 2019.

“The author asks: ‘What had gone wrong…for UDF?’ Notes and Life Sketches provides some of the answers.

“In this book, the government, especially the Ministry of Health and the Public Sector Reforms Management Unit, will find excellent and operable suggestions on reforming that ministry, in particular, and the public service, in general.

“The general reader will find something about mindset and attitude change. There is everything for everyone.”

Guest of honour Kanyongolo, who bought the book during auction at K100,000, took up the challenge that he too and many other Malawians who played a part in Malawi’s history need to write their own biographies.

He took cognizance that writing one’s own experiences in line with what they contributed to the social life of the country, is not an easy task and thus appreciated Nga Mtafu’s effort and discipline to put all his thoughts in the book.

“It is very difficult to write, it needs a lot of effort and discipline to sit down and put your thoughts together but this noble citizen did it with simplicity for all to enjoy.

“We are all guilty of not been able to have such discipline — all of us have books in our heads but we don’t have such effort and discipline as Nga Mtafu had.

“If we don’t write our own history, someone else — a non-Malawian — will come and do it for us but it cannot be as accurate as what is in this book.”

He explained that Nga Mtafu’s life was full of resilience and tenacity in all that he did going through his childhood, his challenging medical studies in Germany and the strength he had that saw him survive horrific ordeal in his prison incarceration due to his political involvement during the multiparty dispensation at the hands of former President Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s Malawi Congress Party-led government.

“It is important to appreciate the risks that he took during that time because it was not easy — I can attest to that because I too was involved in this suicidal risk.”

He described Nga Mtafu as a true patriot, who was prepared to risk his life in defence of his country against a tyrannical MCP government and went on to serve the country as a distinguished politician before returning to practise his profession.

His life was unfortunately cut short in the tragic accident on his way to the airport to travel to South Africa to honour a neurosurgical assignment.

Kanyongolo also paid tribute to Elvey Mtafu, saying much as this was a gracious occasion, it was a bitter-sweet experience for her as she still mourns her beloved husband six years down the line.

“But it is through her and the family’s effort to continue with publishing the legacy that Nga Mtafu left behind that has brought us together to celebrate the life of Malawi’s first neurosurgeon and an accomplished politician, who loved his country as a true patriot.”

He also applauded Montfort Media for accepting to publish the book without taking consideration of making a profit first, saying the publishing industry is precarious at the moment as the reading culture is fast dwindling.

Kanyongolo and the other distinguished guests were first treated to a pavilion of books that Montfort Media has published before that included literature on country’s political landscape, education, drama and several others.

In her remarks, president of Book Publishers Association of Malawi, Maureen Masamba said this was one beautiful day the association looks forward to in their effort to encourage Malawians to write more and encourage a reading culture amongst the younger generation.

“This book is full of wisdom and our society is lucky to be accorded this opportunity [to appreciate Nga Mtafu’s life experiences]. The nation needed to know more of Nga Mtafu from his own words and the book has done just that.

“Let us share our life experiences. Let us chronicle and preserve our history and offer solutions to the challenges we face,” she said, while applauding Montfort Media for publishing the book without considering profit first.

Montfort Media is a Christian print media that promotes a just society that is headquartered in Balaka and has various books that offer the country’s political and religious landscape.

General Manager, Fr. Blaise said they felt honoured and humbled that such an accomplished neurosurgeon approached them to have his autobiography published.

“We did not hesitate but accept his request but we were very devastated when he tragically died. But we were relieved when his wife and associates decided to follow up and here we are today to officially launch it for the public to know more about Hon. Nga Mtafu,” he said.

The delegates generously participated in the book’s launch auction that saw the highest bid at K250,000 from Everest Printing Company; K110,000 from Viva Nyimba and K100,000 each from Kanyongolo and Mvula.

Others who bought at higher the price of K10,000 included Matthews Mtumbuka; filmmaker Charles Shemu Joyah; Bookland; Department of Neurosurgeons at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital; Dr. Nyengo Mkandawire; neurosurgeon Dr, Patrick Kamalo; Ziliro Chibambo; Lost History Foundation and many others.

The book is found on all St Montfort Bookshops in Balaka, Blantyre (St Pius Catholic Church), Lunzu, Chikwawa, Chisitu in Mulanje, Mwanza, Mangochi, Zomba, Lilongwe, Salima, Kasungu, Karonga and Mzuzu.

Dr. Andrew George Nga Mtafu was born on 27 September, 1943 in Chizumulu Island. He went to reputable national secondary schools in Malawi such as Malosa, Blantyre and Dedza, fondly called box 48.

He first got a British scholarship to study medicine at the University of Birmingham in 1964 but was cancelled because the leaders of the so called cabinet crisis of 1964 came from the northern part of Malawi (Kanyama Chiume, Ortorn Chirwa, Dunduza Chisiza and Chirambo), as a way of punishing students from the North for the sins of their fathers.

Lucky enough he got another scholarship to study medicine in West Germany. He became a brave man who at young age managed to deliver a small parcel of letters and newspaper cuttings to Kanyama Chiume in Dar-es-Salaam, on his way to Germany for studies during political unrest in Malawi caused by cabinet crisis.

During his practice as a neurosurgeon, he was imprisoned and tortured on political grounds and when released, he co-founded the pressure group, United Democratic Front (UDF) together with Brown Mpinganjira — which later became a party.

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1 year ago

Kudos to Dr Nga Ntafu for writing his autobiography

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