DOUGLAS ROGERS visited the Southern African country
of Malawi and found a lot has changed since the death of its tyrannical president who many people believe
or was an imposter.
from only Cimbing to the remote mountain mission of
22p Livingstonia, high above Lake Malawi, my guide
Fife took a drag on his joint and told me his
"Hastings Banda was an impostor," he began.
"The real Banda was a great man who went to
Mandella's school at this mission, worked on the gold mines of South Africa and became a famous doctor in Britain and Ghana.
Polls too close to call "But he died in 1955 and a Ghanian who knew
him assumed his identity and came to Malawi in
his place. Everyone here thought he was the
Pollies aim real Banda so they made him president, but he
for their own was the wrong man."
Having just come from a Britain and obsessed
South Africa and with Princess Diana conspiracy theories, his
commits story seemed perfectly plausible. Still, I put
troops to it down to the dope.
Malawi, land of the great lake and the embassies recently-deceased dictator Hastings Banda, is infamous for its marijuana Malawi gold.
Grown in the northern mountains near the Tanzanian border, the weed is wrapped in maize leaves and buried in the ground for six months
before it is smoked.
The fermenting maize leaf is said to give it
the hallucinogenic quality which hippie
overlanders and dreadlocked backpackers now travel thousands of miles through the wilds of Africa to experience.
In Cape Maclear, a southern lake resort
is rapidly becoming the Goa of Africa, I watched groups of South Africans, Aussies and
Brits lie in stoned slumber on the beach all
day, some well into their sixth month. The
Battling local dealers just kept supplies going.
Impostor or not, Banda would be turning in his
An American-educated doctor who practised by mix of Banana Republic brutality, once ran away with the wife of a British major, he ruled Malawi with a bizarre Victorian decree.
Political enemies were thrown to the
Otago bounce back for crocodiles, men were banned from growing long hair, women not allowed to wear short skirts.
Since his demise he was deposed in 1994 and
Banda died in 1997 and the long hair and short skirts
of the western traveller have flooded in. A quarter of a million people visited Malawi
last year, four times the number in 1994.
Most are drawn to the spectacular 300-mile lake where wave-washed beaches and rainbow
coloured tropical fish give it an idyllic
Rugby ocean effect rather than that of an inland
Hanging around is cheap locally brewed
Carlsberg costs 20p, a fish-and-rice meal 50p and a cob of Malawi Gold costs no more than a pack of Silk Cut 10s in London.
But if that seems reasonable, land is given
away for free. Claiming five hectares of lake
shore for a tourism venture is easier than
Gossip finding a flatshare in Fulham and only
requires permission from the local tribal
Letters chief and an agreement with the government to
to the run it properly.
Thus at Nkhata Bay in the north, a couple from
Clapham have opened a lodge on a stretch of
Istanbul beach as gorgeous as the Cote d'Azur, half-way
: A up the Nyika plateau en route to Livingstonia.
An architect from Staines has built Malawi's
cultures first-ever eco-friendly bush camp, and a South
Make African couple in Dwangwa run Heidi's Hideout,
tracks by far the most idyllic hideaway on the water.
To find the unspoilt Malawi however, of which even Banda would be proud, one must get to
Golden times Livingstonia itself.
Built by Scottish Presbyterians in 1894, the
Travallers mission lies 900m above the lake on the Nyika
Tale plateau in the north, and is only reached by a
steep, 20km dirt road off the main lake highway.
No public transport does the route, and in the
wet season it is almost totally cut off from
the rest of the country.
To the few who make it, it is "little
Scotland" with two schools, a hospital and
church all surrounded by rolling green troughs
and hills of the plateau, eerily reminiscent
of the Highlands.
Tourists even get to stay in the Stone House,
the original home of the Scots mission founder
Dr Robert Laws which still has all the
furniture from his day.
Up here, things have hardly changed since
Walking through the mission village one
evening I met an elderly Malawian teacher and
recalled Fife's tale of Banda as Malawian
Had he heard of it? The old man looked at me
with a straight face and replied: "Of course.
"The real Hastings Banda was a tall man who
only had nine toes. The Banda who became our
president was much shorter and never once
showed us his bare feet. How could they be the
I suspected he had been on the Malawi Gold but
his eyes were clear and he assured me he
- Street Drug Slang
- Drug Slang
- Drug Street Slang
- Daily DreamTime
- Art Resume
- Work Resume
- Photographic Memories
- Addict Review
- Sifnos Review
- Samantha's story
super cool links
Chris keeley's resume
secret surrealist society artwork
newest sss art
Chris keeley's art galleries
rationalize,minimize and denial statements
the Intervention Organization
five and ten press - consulting iconoclast
Chris Keeley's Social Documentary Photography
Blinded by Science
Darkside / Gothic
G E E K
W E I R D O
Out of the Dark
In to the Light
Send me email!
Return to Intervention Organization