By Samuel Duncan & Tule Kamfonso, Contributors:
Nkhotakota is a district rich in history.
History has it that it is where Christians and Muslims first met, discussed and agreed to have mutual existence.
The history about this encounter is backed up by the last standing Bondo Mosque, a structure which housed slaves in the 1840s in Traditional Authority Malengachanzi on the shores of Lake Malawi.
An uncared for signpost at this place indicates that Swahili-Arab slave trader, Salim-bin Abdullah Jumbe, set up his headquarters here.
It further states that when Jumbe arrived in the district, he was welcomed by Chewa Chief Malengachanzi and traded in ivory in exchange for beads, clothes, guns and gunpowder, among others.
This signpost, which was constructed by the Department of Antiquities and Museums, indicates that, when ivory became scarce, Jumbe engaged in slave trade.
It was at Bondo Mosque that captured slaves were rested, fed and bathed before being sold at Zanzibar and Kilwa in Tanzania.
Apart from being a place where slaves were kept, the forgotten signpost shows that Bondo Mosque is the birth-place of Islam in Malawi.
Just a stone’s throw from the mosque, is a big fig tree and another one is found in the backyard of the Anglican All Saints Cathedral in the district.
It is at this rusty signpost, closer to the mosque one learns that Dr David Livingstone rested at the foot of the fig tree when he arrived in the district in 1861. He also met Jumbe and other Chewa chiefs and reached an agreement with them to stop slave trade.
These less-cared-for giant fig trees are also stark reminders of the birth of Christianity in Malawi.
Not far from the mosque is an un-cared-for place with no single signpost.
At this place, it is mostly the elderly who are able to voluntarily explain to foreigners, particularly Europeans, how Malawi Congress Party members danced long time back when the party held its first convention in the district.
Despite the places being flaunted as historically rich, they are in dilapidated state, prompting communities around the sites to take to task the government and non-State actors to consider constructing a museum at one of the sites to help boost tourism.
Karim Abdul Lasse suggests that the government should construct a museum or maintain the sites to sustain the country’s and the district’s history in relation to slave trade, among others.
“Both foreign and local tourists visit the historical sites but the country does not benefit anything, for they do not pay anything since we have no museum at these historical sites,” Lasse said.
Another community member, Sungani Suwedi Kawalika, pushed the blame on the district’s members of Parliament (MPs) for not taking the matter to Parliament, arguing that, if the MPs were serious about the historical sites, the sites could not be in dilapidated state.
Nkhotakota District Council (NDC) says is committed to revamping the forgotten sites.
NDC Director of Planning and Development, Derrick Mwenda, says they have earmarked the places for development and will soon engage the private sector to realise the plans.
“Plans are underway and, in the meantime, the council is liaising with the Department of Antiquities and Museums on how best to execute the plan,” Mwenda says.
Almost all of these uncared-for sites are found in Nkhotakota South Constituency whose MP, Grezelder Jeffrey, argues that, in five years, the government alone cannot implement all the development initiatives.
But Jeffrey is optimistic that the government has plans to develop the country’s historical sites including Nkhotakota.
Director of Museums and Monuments in the Ministry of Culture, Elizabeth Goman 1, observes that there are a lot of heritage sites the ministry plans to revamp.
Nkhotakota, like other districts, can be a hub of cultural heritage tourism if the government and non-State actors.
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