Sunday, July 14, 2024

Made in Nyasaland: The Enduring Influence of Malawian Diaspora over Zambia


By E. Munshya wa Munshya

Of Zambia’s neighbours, no country has had more economic, religious, educational, political, and cultural influence over Zambian than Malawi. First Republican President Kaunda was born from parents who came from modern day Malawi. The current president of our Republic, Rupiah Banda, also has parentage descent from what was then Nyasaland. Beginning from presidency to copper mine labourers, the Malawian diaspora have left an indelible mark. And they continue to do so.

Malawian influence however, is not just unique to Zambia. Other Southern African countries do have a huge Malawian diaspora among its citizenry. People of Malawian descent can be found in South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Tanzania among others. In fact, in Tanzania a leading politician is facing accusations that in spite of his Tanzanian citizenship he is in fact a Malawian. There is no doubt that Malawians are the most travelled peoples in Southern Africa. They have spread to several Southern African countries more than any other nation has done.

In this article I wish to show reasons why Malawi remains so prominent.

According to historian Rotberg, Malawi’s clout hails from the quality of European missionaries that it received. Contrasted with the missionaries sent to Zambia, Rotberg states that those sent to Malawi were more educated than their Zambian counterparts. While Malawi received medical doctors, teachers and lawyers from the Church of Scotland, Zambia received characteristically charismatic evangelicals who took their evangelical mandate more seriously without social or community consciousness.

Several Zambian historians have shown that European styled education was first established in Western Province, but many years before that Malawi had already received her first schools. The missionaries influenced Malawians to the extent that the natives themselves started making the initiative to spread the gospel and education to their surrounding tribes. It was during one of these evangelistic pursuits, that a Malawian, named David Kaunda, moved from Livingstonia Mission in Malawi to Chinsali, Zambia where he started to preach the gospel to a people that had not yet believed. David Kaunda’s ministry among the Bemba became so successful that he established a church and a school there. In fact, David Kaunda even adopted Chinsali as his own home and put himself under a Bemba chief Nkula.

David Kaunda is significant for Zambia not only because he was father to Zambia’s first president Kenneth Kaunda, but also because he became a pioneering native evangelist. David Kaunda demonstrates that Christianity had been adopted by Africans as their own religion such that they did not see it as a white man’s religion but as their own religion. David Kaunda shows that in addition to those Europeans who brought the gospel, are Africans who equally should share in that history. Additionally, from David Kaunda we see a pioneer who started the Malawian influence over Zambia and over Southern Africa.

Malawi is also influential due to the fact that for some reason, during the colonial era, Malawi supplied easy labour for mines in Zambia, Congo DR and South Africa. Most of the Malawian men and women who travelled to other countries settled there and became a very influential part of the population. History does show that usually, populations that are used or exported to other countries as labourers become rulers of those countries with time and assimilation.

The world is always dominated by labourers. China is becoming a leading economy today not because of its scientific or technological innovation, but simply because of its labour. When the West went to China to make goods and exploit cheap labour they had very little understanding that labour is a major key to China’s economic development. No nation can prosper without labor. For Malawi, it provided labour to Southern Africa, and that labour has resulted in tremendous power and clout over Southern African affairs.

In pre-independence politics, especially during the debate over the Federation, some Bemba speaking politicians on the Copperbelt did not like the Federation because they were concerned that it would only lead to domination from the Nyasas. That was because the Nyasas where more educated and Europeans found them easier to work with.

After independence, Malawi’s Kamuzu Banda was a very shadowy figure to understand. For certainty, Banda never got along very well with Zambia’s Kaunda. As a person with doubtful Malawian credentials (there are stories that Kamuzu Banda spoke very little chiChewa) Banda knew that Kaunda as a man of Malawian descent could easily influence Malawian politics. Kamuzu Banda had to be shrewd and this ingenuity saw him align himself with apartheid South Africa. Alignment with South Africa meant first that he could get South African economic benefits and he could easily supply South Africa with an African black labour that would be politically less toxic in South Africa. Second, it emboldened and ostracised Malawians already in the diaspora who felt betrayed by Banda’s actions. These Malawian diaspora could include President Kenneth Kaunda himself and several influential figures in Zambia.

It is rather telling that in keeping with the adage that “blood is thicker than water” President Kaunda never stationed armies along the Malawian border. Instead of Malawi, Kaunda stationed more soldiers along the Congolese border. For Kaunda, the Congo was more “the other” than Malawi was. Kaunda is perhaps responsible for the marginalization of Zambians of Congolese origin—a tradition than Chiluba continued. After independence, Kapwepwe and several other politicians accused Kaunda of favouring Malawians over Zambians in political appointments.

For his part Kaunda had to reject Malawian citizenship only in the 1970s. This action would latter haunt him, as Remmy Mushota used it to have the High Court declare Kenneth Kaunda as a stateless person. This High Court decision was indeed quite bizarre such that the Supreme Court had to reverse it swiftly. It was going to have serious repercussions for Zambians of Malawian descent who in fact may have included the judges of the High Court itself.

Malawi’s influence can be derived from its geography as well. It is about five times smaller than Zambia and yet has a comparable population to Zambia. This geography means that Malawian tribes are geographically closer to each other than is the case in Zambia. This geographical proximity means that tribal problems would not be as toxic as they would be in Zambia. Proximity also means that the people would have less tribal misunderstandings. For example, In Zambia the distance between Nakonde (a Namwanga stronghold) and Mongu (a Lozi stronghold) is 1500km whereas the distance between Karonga and Blantyre is only 800 kms.

All else being equal a person can drive through Malawi from its furthest two points in a day, whereas that would be impossible to do in Zambia. The consequence of its size and its population means it is far much easier for Malawians to spread out looking for greener pastures outside their country, and once they cross the border, it is easier for these Malawian tribes to stay together. One study has even suggested that even if the Tumbukas and the Chewas seem to be rivals in Malawi, they become tribal allies in Zambia.

Chiluba’s citizenship policies dented Malawian diaspora influence temporarily. He deported John Chinula and William Takere Banda. He in fact, wanted to deport Kaunda himself. What saved Kaunda and eventually many other Zambians of Malawian origin was the Supreme Court. Such a deportation was going to destabilise Zambia. Malawian influence is too pervasive to be dispensed with in the manner Chiluba wanted.

Zambia cannot do without its influential section of Malawian origin. When Chiluba defeated Kaunda in 1991, some sections felt that a Malawian had been defeated. But in 2008, another Malawian story got written and State House welcomed another occupant who is truly a Zambian citizen of unquestionably Malawian heritage. The “Made in Nyasaland” stamp over Zambia is here to stay. And the best thing Zambians can do is to embrace and respect the contribution of Malawi to the Zambian nation. Umodzi Kumhawa…in Malawi we trust.


  1. Witchcraft influence.I remember when I was young,I used to fear them as mfwiti because of the influence in traditinal medicine

  2. Well that maybe so, but it hasn’t turned us into the backwardness of Malawi we hear about! Probably the reason the RBish behaves the way he does, well we are out to correct that in a few months from now!!!

  3. Good article. I have found Malawian people to be nice people to work with. As the author has pointed out, they are less toxic and are not trouble makers unlike many of us. Diversity in the community is always a good thing and Malawians definitely have added value to our society.

  4. Malawi + Zambia + Zimbabwe = Poverty ! As long as we don’t have our priorities right as a people, where one comes from is not important. We have more serious issues to be concerned about, like using government resources to campaign than to discuss this heritage nonsense you are bringing up which is not even news !!

  5. What Is the point of this article Mr Author??
    Infant where are you from?? There us no pure
    Zambian if you look back at your heritage.
    The British divided our borders so some of our
    Relatives maybe on the other Side.So please
    Be specific or just state that you want Eastern provine
    to be part of Malawi not Zambia.But the again same will
    Apply to western province with Namibia,Copperbelt with
    Congo,North Western with Angola or Southern province
    with Zimbabwe !! So Please state your Point!!

  6. MALAWI,ZAMBIA AND ZIMBABWE were one country it seems the writer has got knw clue what he was sayn. Image the present day Zambia is divided in three parts would you also separate pipo. Robert Mugabe’s parents were also from Malawi,google it your find Malawi,google it your find out.

  7. Very shallow. What is this nonsense? Why do you desparately want to sound intellectual when all you have exhibited is rural

  8. i think we as a younger generation should take another shot at creating a federation government of zambia/zimbabwe and malawi… any takes!!!


  10. Well, well what an analytical article it is food for thought to know how great malawians are and especially if you happen to have a bit of knowledge on the country. It appears that we Zambian cannot rule like our gifted friends from Malawi. Indeed achimwene are a united force. Us Zambian we are so far apart. God bless the land of our adopted leaders.n Viva Malawi

  11. No news is good news. I knew about these things way back in the fifties and there’s NOTHING we can do about it, we the so-called Zambians. We have been marrying Malawian women more than the later so, let it be. We will never and cannot reverse what’s transpired over time, we have lost and will never recover.

    • I agree with you Chumbu #19 above, we Zambian men have had quite a good taste for women from other lands. Some of our women also have had a similar experience with men from other lands, resulting in having children with these people. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on which side of the fence you want to be, some of these children have had God’s Grace to get to top leadership positions in the land. Imagine having a Chief Banda in the heart of Lamba land born of a Lamba woman possibly sired by a man made in Nyasaland.

      It could also be possible that a UNITA member of parliament in Angola, Alcides Sakala, could have some of his parentage roots in Nyasaland. (google). Let us not lose heart, some Zambians living in Malawi may bear children that will also become presidents there.

  12. Munshya very good piece of work.I think you are one of the best Zambian writers.Your research and thoughts are well communicated in your articles.Well done.I’ve learnt a thing or two this morning.

  13. Has it been proven that RB’s parents are from Malawi as I thought that was in dispute? I dont agree with the writer’s assertion that there is less tribal animosity in Malawi. Northern Malawians feel that they have been unfairly persecuted under the Banda regime which banned the use of the Tumbuka language. The country is currently experiencing unrest and part of this is attributed to the favouritism that Bingu allegedly showers on his own ethnic group the Lomwes from the south of the country. It is highly questionable therefore to say that there is no ethnic animosity in Malawi.

    • …er, not quite. There is no unrest in Malawi, just a united demonstration took place on the 20th. It had nothing to do with ethnic divisions, just economic and governance issue. nd it was not the north vs south thing. Malawi’s leader is not even from the dominant tribe in the Southern part of Malawi. So get the facts mate. Maybe you should talk to LT, lol!

  14. @21 I am also surprised at the uninformed assertion that there is no tribalism in Malawi. It seems Zambians are No.1 at making unsubstantiated claims. It is true that the Northerners in Malawi i.e the Tumbuka suffer a lot of discrimination. Suggestions have even been made that they are not Malawians but Zambians. Others have even made suggestions that Northern Malawi should be ceded to Zambia. Indeed the Lomwe’s who are found in Southern Malawi and parts of Mozambique are now in trouble because of one of their own Mbingu is President. Now all Lomwes are Mozambicans! For the uninformed Zambians try checking Nyasa Times ands you will learn a lot about the failed State you are romanticising!

  15. Iwe chule Knucklehead, don’t say ati Easterners nima chola boys – muzungu anikonde. Which muzungu mu Zambia? That’s why they have been ruling Zambia chifukwa balibe vi ethnic animosity vako. Chule mbototo bati!

  16. That explains why Zambia is still poor.we have had 3 foreigners as presidents and the only indigenous one did not live long enough to see his vision fulfilled…

  17. Those who are dreaming about the creation of a Federation of Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe should just forget about the idea. Federations only work if the peoples in particular countries have respect for each. Respect that is lacking in the three respect countries. Today we are on a thread glorifying Malawi. I doubt you will ever find a thread glorifying Zambia either on Malawian or Zimbabwean newspapers or blogs. The truth of the matter is both Malawians and Zimbabweans have a very low regard for Zambia and Zambians. You are not counted in these countries, you are nothing! Just concentrate on developing your country!

  18. Pisiweki@23

    Chi KNUCKLEHEAD is really chule mbototo, if anything  nechi mwana cha gule yopanda muchila, he has eaten too much ba kolwe to think straight 

  19. What has Kaunda’s descency got to dod with 18 people killed in malawi protest.LT you are so dull ,including your chief editor

  20. Good observation #25. its time we just concentrate on our own issues rather than glorifying 2 failed states (Malavi and zim dollar!). I cannot understand this article with the going on in malawi. People are being killed right now and all this writter does is produce some glorifying article on Malawians!

  21. It is quite true, Malawians had a lot of influence in Zambia in all spheres of human endevour. Every fourth pupil in my class at primary school on the Copperbelt was Malawian. One of our teachers even ran away with a our K1 (One Kwacha) school fees to Malawi never to be seen. Kaunda indeed favoured Malawians, they were everywhere holding positions of influence and were so good at witchcraft as somebody has pointed out above. Of the former members of the Federation, our southern neighbours surely do not have any regard for us and our country.

    • The opposite could also be true. Zambia has had a lot of influence on Malawians to the extent of having them educated at Zambia’s extent!

  22. Very good article ,am easterner (ngonu) and when i meet someone from malawi ,i count them as brothers because we communicate in nyanja,also with the zimbabweans ,much to the surprise of other people more especially west africans.We the easterners are well known for our good behavior ,no tribalism etc..therefore liked by all the other tribes in zambia.The DRC congo only brought thieves ,people with lamentable anti social behavior,lazy etc..Malawi forever …ahhhh.nipita nipita kwatu kumawa kumawa nipita aye(sin

  23. I cant see any sence in this article.
    This guy Munsha has now gone dull, I like his first article I read but this time awe.
    Amano alisha muku nya noku shinda.

  24. I cant see any sence in this article.This guy Munsha has now gone dull, I like his first article I read but this time awe.Amano alisha muku nya noku shinda.

  25. Even Robert Mugabe was born of a Malawian father Mr Matibili and a shona mother. Zimbabweans do not make a big fuss about it as Zambians do. Indeed Malawi has exported a lot of leaders. At one time Sata claimed Mwanawasas also came from Malawi. Initially they were called Mwanawaza but the lambas called them Mwanawasa. Mwanawaza is from a Lomw.e name meaning the child has come. Investigate Munshya

    • Mwanawaza is not a Lomwe word. This is a Malawian Tonga name. Mind you there are Tongas in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania and in our Zambia. So please accept Mwanawasa as the son of Zambia. Even KK’s father was aTonga and the mother aTumbuka. Both have connections to others in Zambia. So Viva make your research.

  26. People from congo(bembas) are the only ones who cant see sense in the article ,why did you even bother to read..?we are not like you thieves good for nothing or rather nonentity to our country,the last we gave a chance to one of you,he raped the country’s resources,and never will you be given a chance again.

  27. Lol! So labour is power. And what exactly has Malawi got to show for its labour?. Malawi remains the poorest country in Southern Africa. Please Malawi is not China. Malawi has a population of 15.3m, a GDP of $5bn, a per capita income of $280. Currently they are having forex and fuel shortages. Malawi’s $5bn economy is in severe crisis and it is actually contracting. Their biggest export Tobacco is experiencing a decline because of the international anti-smoking programmes and because Malawi specialises in the cheaper Burley tobacco instead of high value Virginia variety. Last year Tobacco brought in $156m. This year they have only realised about $50m. Malawi is collapsing and this is not the time to come up with dubious praise articles just a day after Malawi has experienced mayhem.

  28. This does not mean the other 7 neighbours do not have any influence. For example we all dance to and sing music from congo, our second president was from there too. the opposition at the moment has Tanzanian influence from mwachusa traders….so lets not think in a box and feel like its all about malawi.

  29. Yes Malawians have been all over Zambia and have been part of the public sector starting from Colonial army, Police and Civil service including the church. Some schools were being headed by Malawian Headmasters until late 1980’s when Zambians took over. This is coz most of them received education earlier than Zambians. A good example Christain Mission in Many Lands (CMML) did little in terms of secondary education in Northwest Zambia and Luapula Provinces including Katanga and Eastern Angola. All they did was put up some medical facilities and churches. Whilst the church of Scotland put schools in Malawi and this meant men and women from Nyasaland taking up most clerical and other junior positions in the colonial govt. The 1st Battolian of Northen Rghhodesia has most of men drawn there.

    • I have learnt a lot from you today and this has made me understand and look at things from a different point of  view. Thank Bwana Mukbwa

  30. Why we cant dispute the contributions from our brothers from Malawi let those that have intergrated into Zambian society be level headed and continue contributing for the well being of all. Names such as Siwo, Mkandawire,Musuku, Nyasulu, Chirwa, Banda, Chinula, Chabinga, Nyirenda the list is endless. Infact there are a few Zambians who can claim true originality even the Tongas have been infiltreted by the Shonas and Ndembeles. A country can only develoopment if its society comprises people from different places. All are welcome to Zambia as long as they dont behave more than the owners.

  31. Other countries too have contributed so much to Zambia in a way.Chiluba was from zaire and rumba is still most Zambia’s Favourite music.just because the writer is from Malawi we are made to believe Malawi is more important than all neighbours.

    What does the writer expects us to do to his former country? 

  32. There is no substance in this article. You can’t gauge things of coincidence as gospel truth.

    My understanding of history and peoples of Africa doesn’t tie in with this article about Malawi.

  33. What exactly is the point here. If you dont have anything better to write mukazilemba pali mosquito na nsanya. kawili zikulumani or pali kandolo na zigolo zamene mukumwa. Baseless and sensless article

  34. For once in his life, Munshya has raised a poignant point, and quote: “The current president of our Republic, Rupiah Banda, also has parentage descent from what was then Nyasaland.” Now, we know the effect of the parentage Clause in our constitution and how this would disqualify Kanitundila pa Chigulumutu. We will soon call upon Munshya to testify for us when Bwezani is blocked from running.

  35. NATO should send it’s forces to Malawi to protect the an unarmed citizen from the on slaughter. Save achimwene from the barrel the gun.

  36. A lot of half truths being used to Justify an opinion. Simple , the East Coast and South African coast were the gateway into the African interior. Naturally, Malawi was the bus stop into Zambia. By the way there was no Great North Road so access to interior Zambia was via Malawi and into Eastern Province and beyond even from Dar.

  37. @44 I totally agree with you! NATO should impose a NO DRIVE zone in Malawi! Mutharika has even today continued the butchering of what Munshya wa Munshya tells us to be the source of Malawi’s power in SADC i.e her cheap labour. Wonder what RB is thinking now. Mutharika a Lomwe allegedly from Mozambique is putting bullets in the heads of indisciplined Chewas, the kith and Kin of RB! RB please act now as a member of SADC’s so called security organ to stop the mayhem in Malawi otherwise NATO will go in and start kicking Chewa a.s.s! Next stop could be Zed!

  38. Chiluba was my relative and I am not from Congo. Kaunda was a Zambian with Malawian parents and so is Banda. What part of Zambian don’t these bloggers understand?

  39. This article is just making illegals feel comfortable in mother Zambia……….anyway its irrelevant to PF mission into forming government………MMD kuyabebele whether its composite of Malawians or Bemba from DRC you are out…. It’s the uplifting of poor people who continue bear and endure all stupid economic mistakes done by selfish educated and non-educate African in Zambia and the rest of Africa

  40. Munshya wa Munshya, I always enjoy reading your articles. This is yet another master piece from you. What you have written is nothing but the truth. Malawi has had a profound influence in the sadc region . It is a well known fact that KK’s father DK, was a Malawan. One of the men in the Mugabe inner circle is a Phiri. I think we should all just regard Malawi as an extension of Zambia’s eastern province, for the Malawans are our brothers and sisters. But we should not divert from the issue at hand that Wa Mutharika has killed people in Mzuzu. I think you should also write about the reasons why it has been easy for wa Mutharika to shoot people in Mzuzu despite the fact that riots had broken out in various parts of the country.

  41. Munshya wa Munshya,

    very spot on, albeit you i have apprehensions over spacial factors vis tribal relations. Who really in Malawi has influence of three main tribal groupings?

    Chiluba was alleged to have been a Zairian or congolese, maybe the conclusion you should make is that foreigners have had more political, economic, social influence over zambia and zambians than any other ethnic group.


  43. Very weak article not even touching on the current state of affairs in Malawi, what is it with you chaps at Zam. Watchdog and LT, anybody crack head can come and write an article and it will be published, please don’t insult the intelligence of your readers, why don’t you read articles in Economist and Time on Facebook and see how the pros do it!!!

  44. More cadreist nonsense. Let’s start hatred of ‘Malawians’ so that the MMD can stay in power. They are getting desperate.


  46. Those saying that Malawi is poor and backward…………………mind your tongue. How do you measure that? Buildings or what? Maybe its GDP you are using…. dont you know the drawbacks of GDP? Indeed Zambia’s GDP is greater than that of Malawi, possibily because of mines and higher population of foreigners, but the wealth realized does not go to you Zambians……just check with the world bank and CIA on the population living below poverty line in ZED, yes below a US$, its 68%. And Malawi, the country you say is poor, its 53%. Ha Ha!!!! Lets look at HDI of the two countries, yes…….to see the well-being of people! Malawi is better than ZED! Check with the CIA’ website. Dont just waste you time on arguments that will not help you at all. Both Malawi and Zambia are same, poor!

  47. I even missed some words in my comment above because I was so angry with some comments here. Respect your brothers, and they will do the same to you. We are almost one, Malawi and Zambia, for Christ’s sake…..Hey! Of all the neighbouring countries, only Zambia is so close to the heart of Malawians, why? You are real brothers to us……… and its not a good idea shouting….malawi…Malawi….POOR! as if Zambia is rich… Yet impoverished as well. Once again 68% population in ZED living below poverty line( 1$US/day) and 53% malawian population living below poverty line…. God Bless us, MW and ZED so that we get rich soon.

  48. I like the valuable info you provide for your articles. I will bookmark your blog and test once more right here regularly. I am moderately sure I will be told many new stuff right right here! Best of luck for the next!

  49. Naimwe i am just thinking… But all chewas came from zambia..and so are zambias not coming back to zambia from the east…? Manje names like saka,sakala,chibwe,mwale,phiri,banda ,nkhata,zimba,nkhoma etc are zambian names and not mw..i.e they colonised ija nyanja country..mwamvera…

  50. Before I narrate my narration,I would like you to take note that;we all wanders that’s wandering life,go back xool,if we dig the past we will benifit nothing than to focus ahead,the truth is we both Africans we need help each other to develop this continent,if get Malawi rich Zambia will benifit applies to Zambia once get rich Malawi will benifit ” cause this two country are,RB and MW they born in Zambia but their parent from Malawi= Malawi Zambia,means;Zambia is surname,Malawi is first name,you voted them and then dig them.They are Zambian biologically,in Malawi record they gat no names.Be educated don’t be illiterate.

Comments are closed.

Read more

Local News

Discover more from Lusaka Times-Zambia's Leading Online News Site -

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading