A Generation Starved (part 2) … Sitting on Gold

A Generation Starved (part 2) … Sitting on Gold

This is part 2 of my blog entry titled “A Generation Starved …”. The previous was titled “A Generation Starved … but Without Appetite”.


In my previous blog I wrote about Malawians who experienced Malawi’s history first hand or were involved in shaping it in the good “very” old days. However, it should be noted that a lot of Malawi’s history has also been created in the recent past but the lack of documentation of this history still persists. We hear people talk about what happened when….. and it ends there. Sometimes the only record that we have is an embellished newspaper report; especially considering that for a long time the government had total control of the media. I should also point out that, with all due respect to all reporters and editors especially in this era when we even have independent media houses, I believe that in almost all news pieces “there is always a story behind the story”. Imagine the news articles about the following historical events :- the alleged capture, trial of Orton, Vera Chirwa and their son, their incarceration and the eventual death of Orton, the release of Vera. No matter what we have in the news archives, there is books-worth of stories behind these news articles surrounding these events. There should be a whole book on “Traditional Courts” system and how they shaped our history and how they were used to deny justice to many of Malawians, especially political opponents like Vera, Orton, Gwanda and others. I contend that there are multiple books waiting to be written by Vera herself, the prison warders and even her relatives on how they were affected by these events and more.

Then there was one Albert Muwalo. Most of what we hear about him is legends, castigation songs, speculation and hearsay. There are indeed news archives about his death, his fall-out with the powers-that-were. Many families were affected by this gentleman’s power. Granted there are people that were victimized by Muwalo’s power. There are also stories behind Muwalo himself – from his family. How were they affected by the fact that they were related to this historic figure? History finds a way of repeating itself. if HISTORY is not documented and is not well read by future generations, the likelihood of it (especially bad history) repeating itself gets higher every day.

Focus Gwede, the former Head of Police Special Branch passed away a few months ago and left us with nothing but legends. Victims of his machinery and their families are still drifting on without documenting anything for us. I am not diminishing what it would take for them to bring out details of their times of trauma, but their pains are “a Matter of National Interest”.

In 1992, we demonstrated against the Malawi Congress Party’s treatment of the Catholic Bishops after they had released a Pastoral Letter condemning the government poor record. Many things happened surrounding the wind of change in which the Catholic Bishops, University of Malawi, Chakufwa Chihana and many Malawians played a huge role. Unless I have missed it, I have not seen much documentation of that history. I am talking about accounts from those of us that lived through the “wind” itself. There is one Irish Father Patrick O’Malley who chronicled his experience during that time. It was reported that he was ordered to leave the country within so-many hours by authorities because of what he said to students or in one of his sermons. I have not read it yet though but for future generations and even ours, reading such accounts will help us know firsthand information surrounding such important events. Let us read what Father O’Malley has to say about that experience.

Good people, please note that even submitting a short essay on your experience will go a long way in adding content to a part of our history that is riddles with major gaps.


A few months ago I had an interesting discussion with someone who claimed to have been a participant in the first Constitutional Review Conference which took place after the abolition of the one-party system through the 1992 Referendum. I challenged the individual that “as important as that conference was, we cannot find any documentation on what transpired”. If this individual continues to just store in their brain “what they shared with me on that day” without documenting it, those that were not there, future reviewers of the constitution, my generation and future generations, will be deprived of valuable historic and reference information.

How did some of the significant clauses come about? For example, how did we end up with the clause that says “one should is not eligible to stand for elected office if they have had a conviction within the seven years before the election”? Why not eleven or twenty-two or 50 or more? Was this final clause a result of debate and jostling around proposed clauses that had other numbers of years or stricter restrictions? What transpired? An essay on even one clause will go a long way in empowering us with knowledge. An essay on even one day’s event at the conference where different parties were working on behalf of different players would add value our understanding of where we are coming from. Send them and we will compile them into a book called “The Story Behind the Clause: Essays of what transpired during the Malawi Constitutional Review”.


I am calling on Mr. /Mme former cabinet minister! Please tell us how great (kunona) that role/job is as one Late Wadson Deleza once told the Malawi nation. What were the challenges? Share with us your experience describing what it means to serve the people of Malawi while always “at the mercy of the next reshuffle or which side of the bed the appointer-in-chief wakes up”?

Just take a look at something as simple as the short article that Kanyama Chiume contributed to AFRICA SPEAKS series called “Nyasaland: Secession the Only Solution”. This goes a long way in permanently etching into history literature the thinking of the people that were in the struggle for our independence. Where are we coming from?

I wish some Member of Parliament (MP) were to write about their experience as “Representative of the People” vs “Servant of the party”. I wish some MP would write about their experience when they changed from being the “Representative of the People” to the now “Supplier of coffins, chief’s bicycles and other hand outs” – using their own resources. I wish someone would document how they used all their retirement gratuity money but never made it to parliament. How many of such stories have you heard or read about? Lessons learned for us indeed.

Spare us a moment

In the past many years, I have talked to a few folks from the older generation. They talk about the times when they were students at some of the most famous secondary schools like Dedza, Zomba Catholic, Blantyre, Chaminade etc. Some lived in Malawi and some left to work outside for the likes of IMF, World Bank, academics and others. Some talk about their former jobs as “first Malawian this ‘n’ that. Many of these are enjoying their retirement in Malawi and elsewhere. I would like to ask these folks to spare us a few of their retirement hours and days and jot down their memoirs as they enjoy their retirement.


Hello Gogo, Amalume or Azakhali out there….. we are starving. Without documented accounts to refer to, we are prone to repeat the same maladies that afflicted your generation. Please start recalling those memories before they completely fade. Please write it down; document it before your times are up. How about asking your child or grandchild to get you voice recorder and “download” your memories into it?

Let us have more of “Living my destiny” by Austin C. Mkandawire. A autobiography centered around his parents and grandparents and gives perspectives on history, theology medicine, politics and medicine.

Hey! Good people, you are sitting on (our) gold.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed herein are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of any entities affiliated to the writer in any way. Examples of analysis performed within are only examples. The names referred within here are only those persons that are perceived by the writer to be in the public domain and the references herein are only to their public undertakings. Any assertion contrary to this perception should be communicated to the writer. Note that the writer does not claim to be a knowledge authority on any issues discussed within as the article is aimed to be only an initiation of or a contribution to a wider debate.


About Hastings Fukula Nyekanyeka Betha

Born in Malawian and advocate of community mobilization, citizens' active participation in sustainable community development, and youth empowerment. Primarily focusing on "Organizing Against Poverty" by encouraging a new generation of players to participate in and influence the development of our communities
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2 Responses to A Generation Starved (part 2) … Sitting on Gold

  1. Sarai Tempelhoff says:

    well said. The dearth of documented history is one that I bemoan often. However, we must also consider that ours was[is?] an oral culture. The digital age has brought information to our fingertips and we can Google the far corners of the world. But without an effort to capture the oral stories and the folklore (those rich tapestries of our roots/struggles/victories) we will soon lose what little we own of our past and be left with the accounts that come from without. It is hard to sift out the ‘truth’ from politicized and bastardaized versions of Malawi’s past but then whose truth is the one that we are looking for here?

    At the end of the day I think that this is a shared responsibility – each of us has a vested interest in recording the past and preserving our stories for the benefit of future generations!

    Well done to you for taking up the challenge!

  2. Butho says:

    Well said Malume. Had not read this blogpost but it echoes exactly what me and my mom were talking about after we saw Rose Cnibambo”s interview.


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