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Aspects of the Centenary History of Malamulo Seventh-day Adventist Mission, Makwasa, Malawi, 1902-2002



The Seventh-day Adventist church (hereinafter Adventists), an American splinter group of the Millerite movement established its first base in Malawi at Malamulo mission in 1902 and not at Blantyre in the late 1800s as some studies have suggested. The year 2002 marked a century of the work of Malamulo mission (hereinafter Malamulo) and in many ways, Adventists had cause for celebration for the contribution Malamulo made to the church and country in this long period. Over the decades, the mission developed into one of the most important Adventist missions in Africa. Most significantly was the provision of medical services through its famous hospital and leprosarium. In addition, Malamulo medical and teacher training institutions produced hundreds of medical personnel and teachers. Graduates of these institutions worked at the mission while others sought employment in government and church in other parts of the country and several of them went to work in other countries.
Aspects of the Centenary History of Malamulo Seventh-day Adventist
Mission, Makwasa, Malawi, 1902-2002
Yonah H. Matemba
Paper presented at the Postgraduate Research Colloquium, Department of Theology and Religious Studies,
Chancellor College, University of Malawi, Malawi, Chilema Lay Training Centre, 14th June 2002
The Seventh-day Adventist church (hereinafter Adventists), an American splinter group of the
Millerite movement
established its first base in Malawi at Malamulo mission in 1902
and not at
Blantyre in the late 1800s as some studies have suggested.
The year 2002 marked a century of
the work of Malamulo mission (hereinafter Malamulo) and in many ways, Adventists had cause
for celebration for the contribution Malamulo made to the church and country in this long period.
Over the decades, the mission developed into one of the most important Adventist missions in
Africa. Most significantly was the provision of medical services through its famous hospital and
leprosarium. In addition, Malamulo medical and teacher training institutions produced hundreds
of medical personnel and teachers. Graduates of these institutions worked at the mission while
others sought employment in government and church in other parts of the country and several of
them went to work in other countries. As the headquarters of the church for the first three
decades of its existence, the mission was the springboard from where evangelical endevours to
evangelise the rest of the country and the neighbouring countries were planned. The opening of
twelve missions between 1908 and 1958 in the country besides the establishment of Mwami
(1925) and Munguluni (1935) missions in Zambia and Mozambique, respectively is credited to
the work of Africans and missionaries connected with Malamulo. In 1919, E. E. Andross a
visiting General Conference (GC)
representative to Malamulo was left with the impression that
“our most prosperous native work in Africa is that conducted in Nyasaland where Brother and
Sister Rogers spent pioneer days. I had heard much of beautiful Malamulo, but I found it in
William Miller (1782-1849), father of the modern day exposition of the Second Coming of Christ theology,
introduced a new and distinct focus in evangelical worship in America especially between 1839 and 1844. Miller
emphasised the immediacy of Christ’s Second Coming, now the hallmark of Seventh-day Adventist belief. Works
on Adventist history listed in the footnote below offer good reading on Miller.
There is a plethora of books on the origins and history of the Adventist church. For example, see Booton Herndon,
The 7th Day: The Story of Seventh-day Adventists, McGraw-Hill Book Company: New York, 1960, Jerome L. Clark,
1844: Religious Movements, volume I, Nashville Tennessee: Southern Publishing Association, 1968 and R.W.
Schwarz, Light Bearers to the Remnant, Mount View, California and Oshawa, Ontario: Pacific Press Publishing
Association, 1979.
These studies confuse the arrival of George James, a lone independent Adventist missionary who arrived at
Blantyre in 1893 and died a year later but without establishing an Adventist base with the beginnings of Malamulo
in 1902. In fact, the South Malawi Field held a huge celebration in 1993 erroneously commemorating a century of
the church in Malawi. For studies connected with the erroneous 1800s theory, see Henry Church, Theological
Education that makes a difference: Church growth in the Free Methodist Church in Malawi and Zimbabwe,
Blantyre: CLAIM, 2002, p. 43. Even Jaspine Bilima’s, “The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Malawi, 1900-1980,”
unpublished M.Div., thesis, Andrews University, USA, 1987 (Malawi National Archives) begins the period of his
study erroneously in 1900 and not 1902.
This is the world headquarters of the church in America. The GC is made up of continental headquarters called
Divisions which are themselves made up of country headquarters called Unions. Unions are made up of Fields or if
bigger, Conferences. A number of churches in a given region or wide area make up a Field or Conference.
every way superior to my expectations.”
To Adventists, Malamulo is a sacred place, a Jerusalem and above all, the embodiment of their
success. Therefore, making an objective assessment of the mission presents special challenges
more so when the expected attitude is to celebrate the mission’s centenary success. Even with the
best intentions prejudice, poor judgement and events unprepared for can challenge the work of a
Christian mission. Malamulo exemplifies this scenario although it is by no means the intention of
this article to downplay the pioneering and eventful contribution of the mission to the church,
country and the neighbouring states.
The rationale for the article is that notwithstanding the legendary importance of Malamulo, a
comprehensive account of its history is lacking and therefore, this article attempts to fill this gap
in the historiography of Malamulo. Aspects of the mission particularly the foundation years have
appeared as incidentals to themes of other works.
Two university seminar papers have looked at
aspects of the mission, one in the area of health
and another on the impact of the mission in
southern Thyolo.
In spite of their pioneering work, these articles only cover partial aspects of
the Malamulo story. Unlike the studies that have covered aspects of Malamulo, one
distinguishing element with the present article is the emphasis of the contribution of African
workers connected with the mission, a neglected aspect in what little is written about Malamulo.
This article used primary sources collected through extensive research between 1998 and 2002 in
libraries and archives in Malawi, United States of America and Scotland, United Kingdom.
addition, substantial primary materials mainly in the form of minutes and reports were collected
from Adventist offices at the Malawi Union (national headquarters) and at Malamulo (secondary
school, publishing house and hospital).
Mission beginnings
Two missionaries, Joseph Booth
and Thomas Branch, with the help of forty unnamed local
people established Malamulo, a 2001-acre farm, on 15 August 1902. Known as Plainfield by its
Seventh-day Baptist nomenclature, the mission was renamed Malamulo in 1907, a Chichewa
name meaning ‘laws’ or ‘commandments’. The beginning of Malamulo was independent of the
general south to north Adventist penetration as seen by the official beginnings of the work in
V. Robinson, “Third Angel over Africa,” typescript, no date, pp. 193-194 (Ellen G. White archives, Andrews
University, USA).
See George Shepperson and Thomas Price, Independent African: John Chilembwe and Nyasaland Rising of 1915,
Edinburgh: Edinburgh Press, 1996, Harry Langworthy, “Africa for the African”: The Life of Joseph of Booth,
Blantyre: CLAIM, 1996, “History of South East Africa Union,” no author, c. 1952 unpublished (Malawi National
Archives, Zomba and Ellen G. White branch archives, Andrews University) and Bilima, “History of SDA in
See Samuel K. Sayenda, “Missionaries and Health: The Case of Malamulo Mission Hospital,” University of
Malawi, Chancellor College, History seminar paper, 1989/90 paper no. 5, pp. 19 (Kachere Institute, Chancellor
Cedrick K. Khanje, “Impact of Malamulo Mission in Southern Thyolo 1902-1972: A Broad Perspective,” History
seminar paper, University of Malawi, Chancellor College, 1972 paper no. 3, pp.15 (Malawi Collection, Chancellor
The archival references in question are to Shepperson Papers (Edinburgh University, Scotland), Malawi National
Archives, Malawi Collection and Kachere Institute (University of Malawi) and Ellen G. White archives, Andrews
University, USA.
The story of Booth has been extensively covered and would not be repeated here expect to mention that among
the many churches he established in Malawi, the Adventist church was one of them. Booth was a Baptist and not a
Seventh-day Baptist. Harry Langworthy’s monumental book on Booth is an extensive and reliable source. See
Langworthy, Life of Booth.
South Africa, Cape Town (1887) and later Zimbabwe, Solusi mission (1894). As noted
previously, even the arrival of George James in Blantyre in 1893 had no direct impact in the
origins of Malamulo.
Malamulo beginnings owes very much to the failure of Seventh-day
Baptists under the leadership of Booth (from 1899 to 1902) to run the mission. Financial
problems, Booth’s political activities and shortage of labour for the mission’s farm, forced the
Baptists to sell the mission. While in America Booth managed to convince Adventists who
bought the mission and engaged Booth together with an Adventist missionary, Thomas Branch,
to run the new mission. The involvement of Booth in the work of Adventists is one of those rare
instances where the church used non-Adventist to do its work at a time when the church did not
have its own missionaries. There appears to have been an understanding that Booth, the more
experienced of the two, would be in-charge of the physical infrastructure, the farm and finances.
While Branch, an ordained Adventist pastor well versed in the doctrines of the church, would put
his energies to evangelism. It was an arrangement that was to fall to pieces a few months later.
The Malamulo of 1902 had problems to challenge even the most suitable missionary. For
Branch, a black American, his missionary work was dogged by misfortune right from the start.
This was made worse due to his poor educational background that tended to make him ‘too’
conservative in his dealings with Booth, potential converts and missionaries of other churches.
Being a black American also brought him into direct conflict with the government. The colonial
government was not particularly welcoming when they learnt that Booth was in the company of
American blacks who were erroneously suspected of furthering the aims of Ethiopianism (a pro
African and anti colonial movement).
In fact, on 6 August 1902 on their way into the country,
the government detained Branch and his family for nine days at Chinde in Mozambique. They
were only allowed to proceed to Malawi when it was established beyond reasonable doubt that
they were harmless.
Malamulo was in a poor state when Booth and Branch began their work there. Worse, the forty
people who had been converted and were at the mission on a Baptist ticket had backslidden in
the period Booth was away. The problems at Malamulo were further worsened by the feud that
developed between Booth and Branch over the running of the mission. Booth wanted to have
complete control of the mission a thing Branch resisted and further, Branch rejected any of
Booth’s decisions that were inconsistent with Adventist beliefs, something that Booth found
particularly annoying. For example, Branch opposed Booth’s proposal of growing coffee at the
mission farm. Although Booth seemed not to have understood the behaviour of Branch on this
matter, Adventists do not grow nor consume foods such as coffee and tea. The feud between the
two got so bad that at one point that Booth withheld Branch’s salary forcing Branch to seek the
assistance of the government in Blantyre for arbitration.
There were other problems facing Booth apart from the general failure of the mission to raise
money through farming to sustain the mission as originally planned. Booth was at loggerheads
with the government because of his pro-Ethiopian views and more so that he was in the company
of black Americans. In early 1903, the government deported Booth from the country although
For details on the activities of George James in Malawi see George James, “In the African Interior,” Review and
Herald, August 1, 8, 15, 1893 and ‘Early Papers 1882-1927,’ The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, 1 August
1893, pp. 485-518 (Shepperson papers, Edinburgh University and Ellen G. White archives, Andrews University
branch office, USA). A separate article about George James is under preparation by this writer.
The fear of Ethiopianism was real at the time because whether rightly or wrongly, it was assumed that this
movement was political and its main objective was to violently overthrow colonial governments in Africa
For much of the information about the first four years of Malamulo (1902-1906), unless otherwise stated, is from
Langworthy, Life of Booth, p. 167-173.
Booth tended to state that he left voluntarily due to personal problems such as ill health. In a
way, the deportation saved Booth the embarrassment of being dismissed by the church as its
missionary at the mission. In fact, before Booth left the mission, the church sent Joseph Watson,
as an additional missionary. Watson bought a number of domesticated animals with intention of
raising them for sale to supplement the income of the struggling mission. Sadly, Watson
succumbed to malaria a few months later and became the first missionary to be buried at the
mission. A year after Booth’s departure and the death of Watson, an Adventist official, W.S.
Hyatt, superintendent of all Adventist work in Africa based in Cape Town, came to assess the
situation at the mission. Although the visit gave cheer and encouragement to Branch and his
family, in his report Hyatt observed that unless a different person was sent, the mission under
Branch was doomed to fail.
Another of the weaknesses of Branch at Malamulo seemed to have been his poor relationship
with other Christian missions in the country. After Booth left, Branch did not make
acquaintances with nearby missionaries and even those who tried to make the first move were
given a cold shoulder. An invitation of the Adventist church by older established missions to join
the Council of Missions whose interest, inter alia, was to demarcate areas of influence, was
rejected by Branch. This caused suspicion as to what the intentions of the Adventists were on
the question of spheres of influence. This was a genuine concern because missions were in
constant conflict with each other over areas of influence.
There is a suggestion that Branch
refused any association with these missions because his being black could have proven
embarrassing to the all white members of the mission council.
The more plausible explanation
could be that Branch did not find anything in common with these missions since the Adventist
church rejects ecumenism.
Alone at the mission, Branch tried to make good a hopeless situation. Without any real
experience in farming Branch cultivated about eighty acres and planted crops such as cotton and
maize. The farming endevour appears to have been a success because in 1904 forty tons of maize
was harvested although cotton failed because of too much rain. Branch also tried to raise
chickens at the mission but this project dismally failed. One other project that survived initial
failure was dairy cattle farming that was introduced by the missionary J. Watson when he bought
four cattle for the project during his short stay at the mission.
Juggling between being pastor,
farm manager and mission administrator, Branch did not devote much time to evangelism and
this explains why for three years since its establishment, there was no conversion. Other reasons
for this failure had little to do with Branch. It should be noted that Lomwe, Khokhola and
pockets of Mang’anja peoples in the area at this time were, as expected, entrenched in traditional
culture of polygamy and ancestral veneration and therefore, could not meet the requirements for
baptism. The Adventist church with its strict rules on things such as pork eating, beer drinking
and working on the Sabbath was also perhaps not very attractive to the local people.
However, on 30 September 1905 there was an event to smile about when seven converts
mostly students in the school were baptised. Sadly, only four people in that group have been
identified viz. James Malinki, Simon Ngaiyaye, James Ngaiyaye and Elliot Kamwana. The
following year a second baptismal ceremony of Kalinde Morrison Malinki and his wife Rachel
“History of SEAU,” p. 6.
See for example, Hubert Reijnarts, Ann Nielson and Mathew Schoffelers, Montfortians in Malawi: Their
Spirituality and Pastoral Approach, Blantyre: CLAIM, 1997, p. 80.
“History of SEAU,” pp. 8-9.
Bilima, “History of SDA in Malawi,” p. 38.
took place.
This was actually the re-baptism of Malinki for he had earlier (1893) been baptised
in the Zambezi Industrial Mission (ZIM) of Booth.
The work and contribution of some of the
early prominent Africans forms the discussion of the next section.
Early prominent Africans
In general, mission historiography has often emphasised the work of white missionaries leaving
the impression that Africans in the areas where missions were established were at best,
spectators. Of course, the fallacy of this perception is obvious and local converts assisted early
missionaries in their work. This was the case with Malamulo where the forty manual workers
employed at the mission surely must have assisted Booth and Branch in setting up the mission.
At a more professional level prominent Africans came to the mission and assisted in the
organisation of the early work.
One of the early Africans associated with Malamulo was Elliot Kamwana (c.1882-1956).
Kamwana’s story as the independent African evangelist and later leader of the Watchtower
movement (Jehovah’s Witness) in northern Malawi is well told in other studies.
Kamwana was
educated at Livingstonia mission and had an impressive academic record. His spoken and written
English for example spoke volumes about his educational achievements. One aspect that has not
been covered in extant sources is the fact that Kamwana had a more meaningful association with
Malamulo than merely having visited the mission. As was the case with most early prominent
Africans connected with Malamulo, Booth was the reason why Kamwana came to the mission.
However, when he arrived at Malamulo in late 1903, he found Booth already gone. Instead, he
got a teaching post at Mabel Branch’s school and was given the important position of standard
one English teacher. Kamwana came at a time when Mabel Branch and her mother Rachel, were
struggling to set up a school amidst shortage of teachers. When Branch baptised his first converts
in 1905, Kamwana was certainly one of the candidates. Later the same year, Kamwana broke ties
with the Adventists and began a long career as an independent African preacher.
Another early African who came to Malamulo following Booth was the maverick Peter
Nyambo (1884-c.1970). Some aspects of Nyambo’s story have not been published and Harry
Langworthy’s unpublished paper in the Shepperson papers at Edinburgh University makes
interesting reading.
In many respects, Nyambo can be described as the second Chilembwe
because his career and the circumstances of his relationship with Booth are similar to that of the
legendary Chilembwe. Unlike Kamwana and luckily for Nyambo, he came to Malamulo just in
Evidence shows that Malinki’s baptism was the second and not the first as Jaspine Bilima claims. Bilima however
is correct that Malinki was of the first prominent African worker of the Adventist church in Malawi. See Jaspine
Dabson Bilima, “James Malinki of Malawi: Church Leader in Cross-Cultural Ministry,” A project report for the
degree of D. Min., Andrews University, 1993, p. 125.
Rebaptism (i.e. baptising an already baptised person) is a common practice in the Adventist church. Although in
some circumstances the church recognizes the baptisms done in other churches and accepts people coming into the
church from those churches on what is called “profession of faith” the church insists that only its baptism is valid.
For aspects of conditions for re-baptism in the church see Yonah H Matemba, “The Practice of Rebaptism in the
Seventh-day Adventist Church,” University of Malawi, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, MA
module, May 1997.
See aspects of Kamwana in J. C. Chakanza, Voices of Preachers in Protest: The Ministry of Two Malawian
Prophets: Elliot Kamwana and Wilfred Gudu, Blantyre: CLAIM, 1998, pp. 12-13, Langworthy, Joseph Booth, p.
203 and Shepperson and Price, Independent African, p. 154.
Unless otherwise stated, much of the story about Nyambo discussed here is from Harry Langworthy, “Nyambo of
Malawi, c. 1884-c.1970,” unpublished, pp. 20 (Shepperson papers, Special Collection section, Edinburgh
time as Booth was leaving. Therefore, Booth took with him the nineteen year old Nyambo to
Britain. In Britain, Booth introduced Nyambo to Adventists who were eager to help Nyambo
with the intention of preparing him for missionary work in Malawi. In 1904, Adventists enrolled
Nyambo at their school, Duncome Hall, and the same year baptised him into their fellowship.
Adventist leadership in Britain, seeking to publicise the need to evangelise Africa, took Nyambo
on preaching tours in many cities of Britain. These evangelical tours were later extended to
European countries such as Germany, Holland, Belgium, the Mediterranean countries and
Switzerland, places where in total Nyambo addressed sixty Adventist gatherings between 1904
and 1905. In 1906, Nyambo was sent as a missionary to Africa. First, he went to Tanzania where
he joined the missionary, A. C. Enns as his assistant. Later, with a missionary A.G. Carscallen,
Nyambo was sent to co-pioneer Adventist work in Kenya, establishing an Adventist station at
Gendia near Kisumu.
In December 1907, Nyambo returned to Malawi and joined Malamulo as both teacher and
missionary assistant to C. J. Rogers, director of the mission. At the beginning of 1908, Nyambo
and missionary Samuel Konigmacher pioneered Matandani mission in Neno. In the same year
Nyambo helped Rogers (director of Adventist work in Malawi, 1907-1914) to produce a sixty-
page booklet of Bible stories (2000 copies were made) that was used in schools run by the
church. Added to this, fifty hymns were also translated into Chichewa by Nyambo. The
Stanborough Press, an Adventist publishing company in Britain, published both books. Due to
the white racist attitude of the time, Nyambo was not mentioned by name as the Chichewa
translator of the publications. He was only referred to as “the African with a smattering of
English translated the books.’ Other contributions Nyambo made while at Matandani include the
establishment of six out of the many schools opened in the periphery of the mission. However, it
was at Matandani mission where Nyambo broke ties with the church both as a member and as a
worker for what he claimed was because of poor treatment by the white missionaries.
Generally, the attitude of Adventist missionaries at the time was modeled along the lines of the
common colonial attitudes of white people against Africans. For example, Africans were not
allowed to wear hats in the presence of whites. The wearing of shoes was also the prerogative of
whites. At Malamulo and as well at Matandani mission, missionaries demanded that Africans
abide by this norm. Nyambo, then an assistant director and had lived in Britain for four years had
a number of shoes but was forbidden to wear them. These and the fact that the church failed to
transport Nyambo’s goods (mostly books) from East Africa on time made him leave the church.
In later years, other African Adventists such as Wilfred Gudu would cite these colonial attitudes
on dress as one of the reasons for leaving the church to form an independent church called Ana
Amulungu in 1935.
Nyambo moved to South Africa where he embarked on a political career that culminated in the
drafting of a petition titled ‘Rhodesia-Nyasaland Appeal’ in 1914. The document was signed by
sympathetic members of parliament in South Africa and was addressed to the king of England.
The petition sought to highlight the feelings of Africans against the excesses of British
imperialism. Nyambo went to Britain to present the petition personally to the king. It is not clear
whether the king gave him an audience but most likely he appears to have been pushed aside by
loyal protocol and never actually met the king although the petition got some attention of British
politicians. The First World War made it impossible for him to continue public campaigns
against British colonialism. He retired to South Africa in 1917 where he worked at as a
See Yonah Matemba, “The History of Matandani Seventh-day Adventist mission, Neno, Malawi, 1908-1989,”
MA thesis, University of Malawi, p. 44. See also The Nation, 30 December 1999 p. 54-55.
supervisor at a shoe factory in Cape Town until 1943. On his return to Malawi, he established an
independent African church in Ntcheu called Ethiopia Universal or Kush besides being a
member of the African advisory council on African education. However, by the time of his death
in c.1970 his church was known for the notoriety of mixing traditional practices with Christianity
and other religions. Today it survives in parts of southern Malawi but according to Professor
Joseph Chakanza “has carried with it unpleasant nicknames such as zoipa chitani (‘do the evil
you like’) or napuse napuse Mulungu afuna ana (loosely translated: ‘fornicate God wants
Kalinde Morrison Malinki, hereinafter Kalinde, (c.1850-1957) was one of the longest serving
African convert from the early days at Malamulo. Kalinde was associated with Booth when the
latter was in-charge of ZIM. It was at ZIM where Kalinde made acquaintances with the
legendary John Chilembwe.
Kalinde received his education at Blantyre mission and when
Booth went to America with Chilembwe in 1897, Kalinde established eight independent schools
in various parts of southern Malawi. Although the friendship resumed when Booth returned from
America, Kalinde declined to join Booth at Malamulo in 1902. It was after Booth left that
Branch approached Kalinde per the advice of the visiting official, Elder Hyatt. In 1904, Kalinde
joined the service of Malamulo but on the understanding that he would continue to supervise his
schools. In addition, ten of his best students from each of the schools would attend Malamulo
Among the ten students was his son, James, who as we shall see below became a
prominent African Adventist in his own right.
Initially, Kalinde was asked to work for Malamulo for one year but after the first year, Branch
asked him to stay for three more years. Kalinde worked as both teacher and translator. By the
end of the year, Kalinde had made the decision to stay. It has been suggested that Branch was
able to baptise his first converts in 1905 because of the assistance of Kalinde.
Kalinde was
important for the Adventists in other ways too. After the Chilembwe Rising of 1915 of which the
church (being a ‘nondescript’ mission) was erroneously accused of complicity, Kalinde provided
clear proof that Adventists had no hand in the Chilembwe affair when he was found innocent
(notwithstanding his earlier association with Chilembwe) after being arrested and kept in Zomba
prison for interrogation. In 1928, Kalinde was ordained an Adventist pastor. During the period he
worked for the church, he served as temporary director of Matandani mission (1917-1919) and
director of the church’s education department, a post he held until his retirement in the early
James Malinki, son of Kalinde and the subject of Jaspine Bilima’s 1993 doctoral project was
also an important African worker from the early years. He came to Malamulo and joined the
school in 1904 when his father was employed there. He successfully completed the important
standard six in 1910 and was employed as a teacher in the school. In 1913, he was appointed as
the first African to head a church organisation at the mission called Young People’s Missionary
Volunteer Work. In 1927, he became the first Malawian to work as a missionary in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo where he worked until 1929. Upon his return, he was
entrusted with the responsibility of opening new missions in northern Malawi such as Luwazi
(with G. Pearson) and Lunjika, both opened in 1929. At Luwazi, he also opened the first primary
See Chakanza, “An annotated List of Independent Churches in Malawi,” et passim.
Much of Malinki’s account is from his autobiography, “The history of Pastor K.M. Malinki,” published by
Malamulo press, Nyasaland, no date, pp. 32 (Shepperson papers, Edinburgh University box 20, folder 3, item 4).
See Bilima, “James Malinki,” p. 62.
“History of SEAU,” pp. 5-7.
Matemba, “History of Matandani mission,” p. 18.
school there. In 1930, Malinki became the first Malawian worker to attend the quinquennial GC
session in America.
From the late 1950s until his retirement in the early 1960s, Malinki worked
as the Stewardship Director of the Malawi Union, again the first African to hold that post. Even
the government noticed the service that Malinki made not only to the church but also to the
country. On 2 June 1962, he received the highest honour reserved for Africans when the British
government bestowed the Queen’s certificate at him in a public ceremony in Blantyre.
Other prominent Africans of the early years connected with the mission were the Ngaiyaye
brothers both baptised in 1905. These gave valuable service to the church in various capacities
until their retirement. For example, Pastor Simon Ngaiyaye pioneered Thambani mission in 1929
and in 1935 was appointed as the assistant director to the missionary W. L. Davy at Luwazi
mission in northern Malawi. On his part, Pastor James Ngaiyaye among the many positions he
held in the church became the first African appointed as Field Secretary in the Malawi Union in
Another prominent African worth noting connected with Malamulo in the early years was
Roman Chimera, a worker at the dairy farm. Born in 1893, he came to the mission as a fifteen-
year-old boy in 1908 and was immediately employed by Malamulo director at the time, C. J.
Rogers to work at the diary of more than one hundred cattle. By 1910 and under Chimera’s
supervision, the farm was producing the best butter in the country that was widely sold in places
such as Limbe and Blantyre. Through the sale of the butter, the mission farm made a profit of
over one hundred pounds a year. This also helped to publicise the mission because the butter was
wrapped in special papers with Malamulo mission printed on them.
Sadly the by the early 1960,
the dairy and the farm ceased to operate on commercial basis and eventually, the dairy closed
down altogether mainly due to lack of interest and expertise of the new missionaries and African
workers. In the history of the church, Chimera was important in other ways too. In 1924, he
pioneered the establishment of Thekerani mission and later, started Chinyama mission in
Mulanje district in 1936.
Academic training
Among the various events that may be selected to celebrate the achievements of Malamulo, was
the establishment of the Malamulo School by Mabel Branch, the adult daughter of Thomas
Branch. Begun in wattle and daub structures the school developed into the modern Malamulo
Secondary School with splendid porches, classrooms and hallways. Notwithstanding the nearby
(three miles away) Baptist Nyassa mission school at Ntambanyama (established in 1896 by
Booth) the Malamulo school appears to have been the first well organised and sought after
school in southern Thyolo. So popular was the school that in 1904 it was reported that sixty-six
students had enrolled, twenty-four of them boarders. Boarding facilities of the time were
rudimentary and were little more than a few traditional huts built next to the little school. The
idea to allow students to board at the school came about because many students came from some
distance away. With the condition of village paths infested with wild animals, it was only logical
to have students stay at the mission after school. In its early years, students were not required to
pay fees but worked at the mission farm as part of payment. In fact, to attract students the
W.L. Masoka, president of the Malawi Union, letter to the author, 16 August 1996 (Malawi Union papers).
Bilima, “James Malinki,” p. 155.
Bilima, “History of SDA in Malawi,” pp. 42-46.
General Conference Bulletin, Volume 7, Number 16, 3 June 1913, p.250 (Ellen G. White archives, Andrews
“History of SEAU,” pp. 10-11.
mission paid students three pence a month. However, students were required to pay back by
working at the farm. By 1906, the school program had been structured in such a way that
students attended classes, worked at the mission farm and attended worship, all compulsory
requirements in exchange for receiving free education. Work for students at the mission farm
was strenuous and only the most determined students stayed. For students, a typical day at the
mission went like this:
…before day light the bugle sounded rousing the boys from their slumbers. Early morning
prayers followed, and by the time the first faint streaks of day were visible, the boys were hard
at work in the farmlands. Not until the sun was well up in the sky did the bugle sound again
calling the boys to morning food. During the heat of the day, classes were conducted, many of
them outdoors until the rude mud pole school buildings could be erected. More work followed
in the afternoon, then supper and the weary students lay down to rest shortly after dark.
The manner in which manual work was demanded on the learners struck fear and resentment in
students who attended the school. Due to the severity of mission work students described the
mission as ‘Egypt’ in reference to the biblical Egypt where the children of Israel toiled in
hardship. Malamulo was then given a nickname, mlangamfiti, meaning ‘punishing
witches/wizards’, because the mission policy emphasized heavy manual work for students as a
prerequisite to attend classes and even to be given meals.
Unfortunately, this name stuck and
most students who studied there still remember the mission in that way.
The general treatment of teachers at the mission was deplorable because they were overworked
by being required to work as evangelists, supervise students at the farm, teach and even be
required to work alongside their students at the farm. There was a feeling of dissatisfaction
because of the low wages (ten shillings per month) they were paid in comparison with their huge
workload. In 1910, African teachers planned some sort of protest. Nothing however, came out of
it for fear of victimisation that their overt action would only make their situation worse.
Consequently, many teachers left mission employment and joined missions of other churches or
went south to Zimbabwe and South Africa for better job prospects.
Sadly, the legacy of
mistreating workers at the mission by administrators continued into the present. In 1991, five
secondary school teachers went into protest against the arbitrary manner of the school principal,
a Malawian, in the running of the school and worse the treatment of teachers. Consequently, the
five teachers resigned en masse.
When Mabel Branch left Malamulo at the end of her father’s tenure, the running of the school
came under the more capable hands of Mrs. Rogers, wife of the new director of Malamulo, C. J.
Rogers. In August 1907 when school re-opened, over two hundred boys had come asking for a
place for school. The following year, several out-schools such Thabva, Masenjere, Chifinde and
Milala in the peripheral of Malamulo had been opened. By 1910, out-schools run by Malamulo,
had risen to twelve with a total enrollment of four hundred students.
By the time Rogers’ left in
1914, village schools under Malamulo had been increased to twenty-six.
In 1924, a missionary
at the mission, Professor E.M. Cadwallader developed the first reading chart that was used in all
Adventist schools and later adopted for use in government and mission schools of other Christian
“History of SEAU,” p. 7.
See Matemba, “History of Matandani Mission,” p. 71.
Bilima, “James Malinki,” p. 77.
Bilima, “History SDA in Malawi,” p. 39-40.
Bilima, “James Malinki,” p. 76.
societies. For his work, the government appointed Cadwallader to serve on the Nyasaland
Educational Council.
A noteworthy progress at the school was beginning of girls’ education. In 1910, a Scottish
missionary, Sister E. Edie, established a girl’s school alongside the existing school. The same
year, two American missionaries and nurses (Ina and Etta Austen) joined Edie and assisted in the
education of girls, besides their nursing duties at the mission.
Edie’s story is also interesting in
that she was actually a convert missionary having worked at the Presbyterian Blantyre mission
from 1891 and years later while on furlough in Britain was converted into the Adventist church.
The church sent her first, as a missionary in South Africa before being sent to Malamulo to
pioneer girls’ education. Although the practice of separate education between the sexes was
followed and that girls were taught ‘typical girls’ subjects such as cooking, sweeping, washing
and sewing, it should be commended that the fact that girls were given a chance of an education
was an important development in the promotion of the welfare and status of women in Malawi.
Five girls were enrolled in the first year, an encouraging number if one considers the stumbling
blocks against girls such as prejudice and stereotyping against girls in the cultural context of that
time. In 1914, one of the female students in this group, Edith Timba, daughter of Samuel Timba,
a guard at the mission, married James Malinki in a first church wedding on record to take place
at the mission.
Apart from girls’ education, Edie also engaged in the teaching of women in the
surrounding villages on issues such as caring for their children, keeping the house and
maintaining health in the village.
In the late 1940s, missionary Ruth Foote brought a number of
innovations to the girls’ work at the school and her work is still remembered by the older folk
living around Malamulo.
In 1948, secondary education was started at the school. This development can be appreciated if
we take into consideration that it was the only secondary school in Thyolo district until after
independence when Thyolo government secondary school was opened. The majority of students
trained only up to form two (Junior Certificate) level then a feat only few Africans could
accomplish. Three students registered and the first JC examinations were written in 1951. In
1964, the school sat its first Cambridge students (today form four students).
One of the well-
known students in the first group of JC students could be Wilbert Khonje (1925-1997) who
wrote the best examination paper in the protectorate when he completed the course in 1951.
Pastor Khonje then began a long career working for the church as teacher, pastor and
administrator. In 1974, he became the first African principal of Malamulo College.
the best African principal of the school for much of the late 1970s and early 1980s could be
Pastor Gilbert Moyo who organised the building of the magnificent teachers’ houses at the
school. In 2002, Pastor Moyo with an MA degree in Educational Administration was the
registrar and mathematics lecturer at the Adventist University of Eastern Africa (Baraton) in
A further development at the mission was the introduction, in 1925, of a teacher-training
“The brief history of Malamulo mission,” no author, copy made to pastor Moyo, Principal of Malamulo mission
secondary school, 15 August 1977, p. 3 (Malamulo Secondary school files).
Bilima, “James Malinki,” p. 81.
“History of SDA in Malawi,” p. 19.
Khanje, “Impact of Malamulo Mission,” p. 6.
Josephine Cunnington Edwards, “Graduation at Malamulo,” The Youth’s Instructor, 2 October 1951, p. 6 (Ellen
G. White archives, Andrews University).
Some aspects of Wilbert Khonje’s history are from the oral account of Mrs. Gladys Nzabonimpaye (nee Khonje),
Thamaga, Botswana, 9 April 1999.
course alongside the secondary school. The course aimed at training primary school teachers,
first training T4 and later T3 teachers.
An added development was also the establishment, in
1947, of a two-year ministerial course to train local evangelists.
Because of these
developments, the school was known as ‘Malamulo Training Institute’ and later ‘Malamulo
College’. After the closure of the training and ministerial schools in 1972 for lack of funds, tutors
and students, the name of the school officially changed to ‘Malamulo Secondary School’ in
Success of the medical work
Adventist medical work at Malamulo is one of the most significant contributions the church has
made to the country. The hospital has been particularly helpful to the people of Thyolo district if
one takes into consideration the fact that Thyolo government hospital was only opened in 1932,
fifteen years after Malamulo hospital had been in operation. In terms of personnel and quality of
service, Malamulo hospital was much better than Thyolo hospital. For example, in 1976 Thyolo
hospital did not have physicians and the work of doctors was done by clinical officers. The
patient death rate in that year was 247 or 6 deaths per every 100 patients attending the hospital.
In contrast, Malamulo hospital had three medical doctors and a death rate in that year of 131 or 4
patients per every 100 patients.
Again, the establishment of a leprosarium (the first Adventist
medical facility in Africa for the treatment of lepers) as part of Malamulo hospital was another
contribution the church made to the country. In 1934, L. S. Norman appraised Malamulo hospital
thus “…there you will find an American doctor, always with the highest degrees, all maintained
by funds from the land of the almighty dollar…The Malamulo authorities tackled one weak point
of European civilization in Nyasaland: Previous to their advent there was no regular leper colony
in the country…”
Some form of organised medical work at the mission can be traced to 1910 when sisters, Etta
and Ina Austin both nurses, established medical work at the mission. After the Austin sisters left,
the work they had started stopped only to be revived in 1914 when W.H. Hurlow, a British,
arrived in 1914 but only to return a year later to Britain after contracting bilharzia. In 1915, the
work of the hydrotherapist, Irene Fourie from the United States, re-established the medical work.
For Fourie’s use, the first permanent buildings for a hospital were built. One was a four room
brick structure with one room used as men’s ward, another as women’s ward and another used as
an office and a dispensary. Fourie left in 1916 and medical work stalled only to be revived once
more when nurse Daisy Ingle arrived but the magnitude of the work required the services of a
medical doctor.
In 1925, the first medical doctor, Carl F. Birkenstock (1897-1958) arrived, marking the dawn
of a new day for Adventist medical work in Malawi.
News of a medical doctor at Malamulo
General Prospectus, Malamulo Secondary School, 1994/95, p. 2 (Malamulo Secondary School files).
E. Willmor Tarr, “Attending Camp Meeting in Southeast Africa,” The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, 13
March 1947, p. 15 (Ellen G. White archives, Andrews University).
Unless otherwise stated, aspects of Malamulo hospital and its training school are from two documents entitled
History and Record of Malamulo Mission Hospital,” no author and no date (Malamulo hospital files).
A two page leaflet titled “Information Re: the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Malawi,” no date and no author,
p. 2. (Malamulo Secondary School files).
L. S. Norman, Nyasaland without Prejudice, East Africa, London, 1934, pp. 55-56 quoted in Khanje, “Impact of
Malamulo,” p.4.
Much of the aspects of the life and work of Dr. C.F. Birkenstock is from Brian Eugene Strayer, “He Brought Hope
to the Lepers,” 1990, typescript (Ellen White archives, Andrews University).
Hospital swept through the area and scores of people flocked to the hospital to be treated. While
Lenore, his wife, trained women and girls in nutrition and hygiene, Carl and nurse Ingle treated
up to one hundred fifty patients a day, free of charge. Dr. Birkenstock lamented that if the
hospital had been in the city and patients paid for services, the hospital could have made up to
seven hundred pounds a year. So popular was the hospital that in the first eight months of 1926,
Dr. Birkenstock had treated over seventeen thousand patients.
One of the greatest achievements of the hospital through the work of Dr. Birkenstock was the
treatment of lepers. Many of the patients that came to the hospital suffered from leprosy (also
known as Hansen's disease), an illness that resulted in a slow and painful death of its victims.
Due to both fear and common sense, family and community isolated leprosy sufferers in the
effort to control its spread. In the olden days elsewhere in Africa, such people were confined into
the bush far away from the village and in most cases than not were tied to a tree to prevent them
crawling back into the village. There, they died alone and in agonizing pain. Although no cure
for leprosy existed at the time, Dr. Birkenstock pioneered radical new methods of treating lepers.
He used new medicines such as chalmoogra oil to stop the progress of the disease.
The dilemma that confronted Dr. Birkenstock was to do with lepers he was treating and needed
close monitoring. They could not go home because they were not welcome and yet they could
not stay at the mission because there were no facilities to accommodate them but also to avoid
contamination (as leprosy was a highly communicable disease) with the rest of the mission
population. This led to the idea of creating a leper colony later known as the “sick village”, an
isolated outpost located on the outskirts of the mission. As years went by the leper colony
became also known as malaliki (loosely translated: place of preaching), which was a bit of a
misnomer because it highlighted not the medical work carried at the leper colony but rather the
fact that many of invalids who lived at the sick village many for many years took became lay
preachers (and good at it), initially ministering to fellow inpatients and later as their influence
grew to the wider mission community.
The mission built 100 one-room brick huts, a mile away from the main mission, with thatched
roofs and cement floors. In these houses, lepers and their families lived together until the patient
was cured. When a patient left, his/her hut was burnt to sanitize the area and a new one was built
on the same foundation. Sadly, some kind segregation against lepers existed at the mission. A
separate church, dispensary and school for lepers and their children were built. This meant that
proper interaction between lepers and their families and the wider Malamulo community was at
best discouraged. Lepers, who at times came to the main Malamulo church to worship, were
asked to return to the leper colony church.
Financially, it was becoming burdensome to cater for the medical needs and general up-keep of
leper patients. The government through the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association met the
cost of medicine.
Other expenses were met by the mission, the Adventist world headquarters
and from individual contributions and well-wishers in the United States. In 1930, the leper
colony was extended to accommodate more than 344 patients. By 1962, the leprosarium was
treating 300 in-patients and 250 out-patients. By 1974, some 1100 patients had either received
regular in-or-out-service treatment at the leper hospital. In the 1979, due to lack of patients in the
Thyolo area and a cessation of government funding, it was decided to close the leper colony at
“History of SEAU”, p. 30.
See “History of SEAU”
Interview, A. Y. Yesaya, Publishing Director, Malawi Union, 23 April 1998.
“History of SEAU,” p. 30.
Malamulo and build it where they was need. A leper clinic was built in the Shire Valley at
Ng’abu in Chikwawa district where there was prevalence of the disease. From its inception until
1997, P. Katumbi, a graduate of Malamulo Medical Training School, headed that facility. In
1989, the old leper colony buildings that had been lying idle for ten years were renovated to
become the Literature Ministry Seminary, one of the largest Adventist Literature Evangelism
Seminary in the world.
Until his departure in 1928, Dr. Birkenstock continued to improve the
hospital when a new doctor’s office, surgical room, laboratory and two fifteen-bed wards were
From 1942 onwards, regular child-welfare and pre-natal clinics were being held for mothers.
The hospital also attracted private patients from the European and Indian communities and the
high fees they paid for services supplemented the low and times free services that Africans
received at the hospital. Of the private patients Indians were the majority and it was small
wonder that many Indian patients were being turned away for lack of space. To address the
shortage of space for Indian patients, Indian merchants gave liberally for the construction of new
Asian sick rooms. In particular, the Patel family of Limbe gave $600 for this project.
Racial segregation at the hospital was prevalent when non-African patients began attending the
hospital. The first white patients were admitted to this hospital in 1935. Before the European
hospital was built, white patients were treated at the doctor’s house or some missionary home or
a nurse would be sent to the patient’s home. In November 1942, a separate Asian/Indian ward
was established when the guest-house for missionaries was renovated and made into a ward for
Asian and Indians.
Hospital wards were racially segregated with that of Africans having the
most basic facilities. There was a European ward, a Muslim-Indian ward, a Hindu-Indian ward
and wards for Africans one for females and another for males.
The dearth of medical staff necessitated the need to train local staff at the hospital. This led to
the beginning of the now famous Malamulo Medical School. In November 1935, a three-year
Hospital Assistants Training course begun. Students completing the course acquired skills in
giving intravenous injections as well as other kinds, could scrub and assist at operations and
could use the microscope in diagnosing many of the tropical diseases.
Until 1951, the Hospital
Assistants course ran for three years but later the period was extended to four years. The fourth
year was programmed to expose students to public health problems in the villages. When the
course begun, three women and nine men registered. In October 1952, the GC sent Miss Lois
Burnett to assess the training school. Her report recommended the need to have an In-service
program for graduate students of the Hospital Assistants program working at the hospital.
Following the recommendation, a new one-year upgrading Medical Assistants course was
introduced. Between 1935 and 1951 when the period of the Hospital Assistants course was three
years, only twenty-eight graduated from the program and out of this figure only two women
(Flora Mhlanga and Ethel Mate) completed. In fact, when the program started some of the men
who joined completed but none of the first women to join the program finished the course. At the
time, it was particularly difficult for women because many of them had families therefore most
could not balance family and career, and therefore dropped out of the course. Male students
“Grand Opening of Malawi Union Literature Ministry Seminary,” Outlook, October-December 1995, p. 2.
Bilima, “History of SDA in Malawi,” p. 78.
“History of SEAU”
Tarr, “Attending Camp Meetings in South East Africa,” pp. 15-16.
Gladys Ansely, “Malamulo Training School Graduation,” The Advent Review and the Sabbath Herald, 6 March
1947, p. 11 (Ellen White archives, Andrews University).
were therefore more successful with their studies and the first male students to graduate from the
program were Rabson Treasure, Titus Munthali and Robson Chumachienda.
Generally, even among the male students many who joined the Hospital Assistants course did
not complete due to, among other things, the academic demands of the course. In some years, no
one graduated while in others only few finished. For example, only one person (Wilson Jere)
graduated in 1939 and no one completed in 1940 while only two (Pharius Kosamu and Norman
Jacob) finished in 1941. However, the situation appears to have improved in the middle of 1940
onwards because in 1945 four students graduated while in 1947 seven students completed. So
popular was program that in 1950, it registered two Indian girls, sisters Shanti and Nanda Singh.
In November 1950, the mission decided to start a new course to run alongside the Hospital
Assistants course. This was a one-year Nurses Aide program introduced to train ward helpers.
When it started, ten students registered but one soon dropped out. Generally, the course was
unpopular for it trained low-level type of hospital workers and therefore fewer and fewer
students registered for it and subsequently it was discontinued.
While medical and surgical sections had relatively adequate staff due to the abundance of
medical students and new employees from the course, shortage of staff to work in the maternity
section of the hospital became acute. This was reason the hospital decided to establish an
eighteen-month Maternity Assistants course. The program was the brainchild of the missionary
nurse Lydie Delhove who was the supervisor of the maternity department and had arrived at the
hospital in 1941. The maternity course began in January 1945 with five students - all women.
Only married women were admitted to the course because at the time traditional custom dictated
that unmarried person could not attend childbirth. The course was designed to teach students the
elementary aspects of midwifery in areas such as attending and helping women give birth and
knowing when to call a physician in complicated cases. The students who registered for this
course were Ainess Kachibade, Uneedel Sulani, Lisnet Action, Emma Chona, Vickeness Changa
and Emma Chipyoza. Emma Chona was a mother of ten and wife of the leading African teachers
at the mission, Moffat Chona. Moffat Chona apart from teaching also evangelised in the nearby
villages. He was also the translator of Mang’anja (Chichewa) at Malamulo Press. Vickness
Changa was from northern Malawi and her husband, Mackett, was a student in the Vernacular
Teaching course. The midwifery students sat for their final government examinations in 1946
and all passed except Vickness Changa. In some small way, the training of women as midwives
was a step in the progression of the status of women at a time when women especially married,
were expected to be confined to domestic chores and child bearing. At the graduation ceremony
of the first midwives, Gladys Ansely observed that “African women have progressed to the place
where they can take this course and appreciate the responsibilities that will rest upon them, is a
long step forward.”
It is worth noting that the same year the first group of midwives graduated,
a group of twenty-two students graduated from the Vernacular Teaching course and out of this
figure, there were three women. It is clear that the Adventist church began to give serious
attention to the training not only of men but also of women.
Graduates of these programs provided the much-needed scarce medical personnel that
supported the medical work of the church. Frank Chide who completed in 1943 was employed at
the hospital and was housed in a four-roomed new brick house built especially for African
medical staff. Sadly, Chide died of pulmonary tuberculosis in August 1944. Robertson Mzumara
who joined the course in 1944 suspended his course for one year and was employed as a
dispenser at Luwazi mission in the north. Witness Kaipsya of the 1944 graduating class was sent
to work at Luwazi in April 1947 to relieve Mzumara so that the latter could complete his
training. In October the same year Kaipysa came to work at Malamulo and at the beginning of
1948, left Malawi to work at Mwami mission hospital. Kaipsya was in fact following in the
footsteps of Rabson Treasure, a graduate of the first graduating class of 1938 who left with his
family for Botswana to work at the Kanye Adventist Hospital in 1945. In April 1949, Treasure
came to Malamulo as a visiting missionary and stayed at the mission for a month. Robson
Chumachienda from Thyolo of the first graduating class worked for many years at the hospital
only leaving in 1944 for greener pasture to Zambia because of meager pay at Malamulo.
Three years after Treasure first left for Botswana, Winston Kachibade of the 1945 graduating
class and his wife Ainess, a graduate midwife of the midwifery programme where she completed
in 1946 were appointed to work at Kanye hospital. Winston was employed as a dispenser while
Ainess as midwife. However, in May 1949 Winston returned from Kanye with tuberculosis and
was hospitalised in the hospital for six months. The legacy of Malamulo medical graduates
working in Botswana has continued and in 2002 one would find nurses, anesthetists, eye
specialists, medical assistants and tutors from Malawi. In 1948, another graduate of the course
was employed to work in Zambia. This was Manuel Matches, the only graduate of the 1948 class
who was employed at Mwami mission as a second dispenser. Over the years, scores of medical
workers have gone to work not in only Zambia and Botswana but also in Zaire, Tanzania,
Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa.
Over the decades, new programmes were introduced and in some cases old ones upgraded. A
two-year certificate in Enrolled Nursing was introduced in 1951. In 1968, a three-year
Laboratory Technology diploma programme to train laboratory technicians was introduced. The
hospital programmes fell under three departments: College of Medical Sciences, School of
Nursing and Midwifery and School of Medical Laboratory Technology. Programmes offered at
the hospital began to attract not only Malawian but also foreign students as well. Interestingly,
the first graduates of Laboratory Technician course in 1970 were all foreign students except one,
Redson Folotiya. Folotiya joined the hospital after completion of his course and works there to
this day. The others were two women (Rachel Mogegeh from Botswana and Monica Taoona
from Lesotho) and two men (Thomas Dandahwa and Mackenzie Maurice both from Zimbabwe).
To this end, foreign students came from Zambia, Lesotho, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zaire,
Swaziland, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Sudan, Ethiopia and Rwanda. By 1993, the three schools of the
training school had trained 962 medical workers (331 hospital/medical assistants, 247 midwives,
287 enrolled nurses and 97 laboratory technicians).
As the mission celebrated its centenary, the medical school also changed its nomenclature to
Malamulo College of Health Sciences. This was in preparation to upgrade all courses offered to
diploma and eventually to degree level to be offered by the University of Eastern African
(Baraton). The in-patient bed capacity of the hospital had also been growing. In 1947, the
hospital had a bed capacity of forty-three and a theatre and in that year alone, it treated more than
43890 patients. In 1960, further additions of male, female and maternity wards were built. By
1962, the hospital had 95 bed in-patients. At the time of writing in 2002, the hospital had a 200
bed-in patient capacity.
One of the missiological developments in the Adventist church after the Second World was the
use of light aircraft to reach and evangelise remote areas of the world. The pioneer in the use of
this new strategy at Malamulo was Dr. Jack Harvey who introduced a ‘flying doctor service’ in
History of SEAU
January 1962. Under this service, a number of rural clinics and dispensaries were opened in
many parts of the country. A Cassna 180 airplane was made available and an airstrip was
constructed at Malamulo. In 1964, Malamulo hospital became a member of the Private Hospital
Association of Malawi (PHAM). Tragically, on 10 December 1972, Dr. Harvey was killed when
his plane crashed at Luchenza airstrip and was buried at the mission cemetery. So influential was
Dr. Harvey that to this day older people around the mission still ask to be seen by Dr. Harvey!
Sadly, after Dr. Harvey’s death, the ‘Malamulo flying doctor’s service’ did not continue. The
present development at the hospital is credited to the work of the American missionary, Dr.
Gilbert Burnham through funds he secured from Adventist Relief Agency (ADRA) and United
States of American International Aid (USAID). Dr. Burnham, medical director of the hospital
from 1980 to 1991, was also a personal physician of the former president, Dr. Hastings Banda, a
regular patient at the hospital. One project started by Dr. Burnham and continues, was the Filaria
Project, set up to study how mosquitoes may transmit filariasis to humans.
On 25 December
1988 the then life president of the Republic of Malawi, Dr. Hastings Banda, visited the hospital,
an event never to be forgotten by the church in general and the mission in particular. In his
remarks to the pleasure of the hospital, the president said of the hospital: “patients are well
looked after, doctors and nurses; look after them very well. This makes me very happy.”
In 1993, president Banda came again to Malamulo but this time to worship during the Marty’s
day celebration, a visit the church was to regret later. The reason is that the president had come
to an Adventist mission after being denied to worship at missions of other churches that were in
support of the pro-democracy movements as protest against his despotic rule. The fact that the
Adventist church allowed the president to visit Malamulo was seen as contradicting the
Adventist doctrine of total separation of church and state. Many churches and pro-democracy
movements became critical of the church. The press also took up the issue and suggested that the
Adventist church was political and that it supported the political status quo, in this case the
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) government, a charge the church denied. In June 1993, a union
committee of five was set up for the purpose of drawing up a defense on the position of the
church on church-state matters. Members of the committee included two union officers, Ken
Bilima (Education Director) and late Pastor P. Katundu, (Stewardship and Ministerial Director).
The rest of the committee comprised prominent lay members, viz. Dr. Gombwa, Dr. Ronald
Mataya and Dr. James Ngombe. Ken Bilima served as secretary of the committee.
A weighty
document was produced and in it was spelled out the official stand of the church: that the church
was apolitical and did not support oppression. It also stated that the church fully supported the
Catholic Pastoral Letter on political and social change. The Adventist document was sent to
several newspapers, where it was later published.
Looking at the development of the hospital we have outlined above, one gets the impression
that medical work at the mission was problem-free and yet this was not the case.
One of the
problems with medical work in the early years was that the hospital struggled to change the
Filariasis is a disease that causes swelling of the surrounding tissues leading to elephantiasis. The disease is
mainly found in hot and wet areas such as the Shire Valley and Lakeshore. See Dr. J. Fisher, Handbook of Infections
Diseases in Malawi, Malawi Ministry of Health Publication, no date, pp. 99-101.
“The Life President visits Malamulo,” Outlook, number 1, volume 5, January-February 1989 et passim (Malamulo
Secondary School files).
Personal communication to the author, Ken Bilima (Union Education Director) and Pastor B.E. Malopa (Union
President), 23 April 1998, Union Office, Blantyre.
The document appeared in The Nation, The New Express and Daily Times in June 1993.
For aspects of some problems facing the medical work, see Sayenda, “Missionaries and Health,” pp. 8-12.
perception of the local people that modern medicine was better than traditional curative
measures. This means that local people took time to trust western medicine and preferred to seek
traditional doctors or use traditional methods in treating illness than bring patients to the hospital.
Unfortunately, Africans tended to bring patients to the hospital when the person had passed the
critical point of illness. In the African way of thinking of the time, there was more mistrust of the
whiteman’s medicine because most of such patients died and gave the people the impression that
the hospital was a deathbed. This explains why in the early years, the hospital incurred high
death rates.
Another problem was that Africans were reluctant to explain their problems to the white doctor
due to two factors. One was the language barrier and secondly and perhaps significantly due to
the social and racial distance of the time, Africans found it difficult to explain their problems to
European medical personnel. Later, as more African medical staff were trained and worked at the
hospital, the problem was eased somewhat because African medical assistants could mediate
between the doctor and the patient. African women continued to deliver children at home even
when the maternity wing was in operation. This was in spite the effort of the hospital in sending
African midwifery personnel in the villages to advise women on the advantages of delivering at
the hospital. The main reason was that women, due to cultural factors, felt generally
uncomfortable to be treated by male medical personnel in the maternity clinic.
The hospital also experienced problems of funding to the extent that the institution was
constantly short of operating funds. Although in principle this is a paying hospital, in reality
many people who sought its services were too poor to pay or if they did, paid very little for an
otherwise expensive treatment, a situation still prevalent to this day. What may have
compounded the problem was the fact that the hospital did not receive subsidy from government.
In 1921 the government spent 12351 pounds on medical services and subsides to five mission
hospitals except Malamulo. For example, the David Gordon Memorial Hospital and St. Luke’s
Hospital of Blantyre mission each received two hundred pounds. Malamulo only began to
receive a small grant in 1925 when it established the Leper Colony. In 1947 however, the
hospital received a subsidy of 350 pounds as part of funding for the midwifery course and
because the hospital had agreed to follow an approved syllabus made by the medical council.
The lack of funds led to other problems at the hospital. As often was the case, the hospital was
constantly in financial problems to the extent that on several occasions, it could not pay its
African workers. It should be noted that as the policy of the church stood in the early years,
missionary personnel were paid directly by the GC while local staff was paid locally. This means
that in the situation we are describing, missionary personnel were not affected by the
inconsistency in salary payment. Complaints of African workers were usually ignored and worse
salary increments were rare. In 1944, African medical staff wrote a letter asking for salary
increment. The medical director, Dr. Morel, callously responded saying that their service was to
God and if they were not satisfied with the conditions, they were free to leave. One medical
assistant, Robson Chumachienda and three other members of staff resigned and migrated to
Zambia for greener pastures.
Another problem experienced at the hospital was the imprisonment of a Malawian tutor at the
Medical school, Ishmael Mazunda. The case, at the height of President Band’s repressive rule,
was political. In 1990, Mazunda was alleged to have made derogatory comments about the
president. The allegation was that Mazunda while teaching students about the reproductive
capability of old people is alleged to have said that even President Banda at his age could have
children. Without mentioning Mazunda by name, Padraig OMaille has noted rather differently,
that “a biology teacher found himself cooling his heels in political detention because, in the
course of a lecture in human biology he suggested that the sperm of an old man might prove less
potent than that of a young man.”
Students seemed to have viewed the example like any
ordinary illustration that teachers could give to enhance their lessons. However, an event
unrelated to what was said in class that day turned tables upside down for the mission and worse
for Ishmael Mazunda. Some medical students, who had earlier been suspended from the training
School owing to a misdemeanor, were of the view that Ishmael Mazunda was at the forefront of
their suspension.
When they heard of the illustration that Mazunda had given in class, one of the suspended
students who had a close relative in the ruling MCP, reported the matter to the party. The
students stated that they had been suspended because they had protested against the illustration
that Ishmael Mazunda gave about the president, which they found insulting. The action of the
government was swift. Plain-clothes police descended on Malamulo where they arrested Ishmael
Mazunda. He was held without trial for one year at Chichiri maximum prison. While in
detention, many attempts on his life such as poisoning his food, were made by the security
forces. One night in early 1991, a number of political prisoners including Mazunda were put into
a prison truck and taken to Lilongwe. Up to now the purpose of the immediate transfer is not
known but when they arrived, they were immediately held up in prison again. It was at Lilongwe
prison where a kind jailer recognised Mazunda. When political prisoners’ files were reviewed for
possible release during the 1991 presidential Martyrs day commemoration, the friendly jailer
added Mazunda’s file on the list of files for consideration. With the continued influence of the
kind jailer, Mazunda’s case was dismissed and was immediately released. Today, Ishmael
Mazunda is running a successful private clinic in Mchinji district.
Evangelical work
Although slow at first as we have noted in the first section of this article, Malamulo as the first
Adventist centre in Malawi made its contribution to evangelisation. Perhaps one of the
significant things to happen at the mission during the tenure of C. J. Rogers as director of the
mission in relation to evangelism, was the mass baptism that took place in 1909. At this
occasion, forty-eight people were baptised, increasing membership of the church to over 100.
Two years later, thirty-one people were also baptised.
Compared to all the years Branch was at
the mission, these two occasions brought the largest number of converts into church. Little
wonder that the coming of Rogers was seen as the coming of new times at the mission. This
evangelical success was attributed to the work of teacher evangelists. Rogers proudly stated that
“this is our method of building a native church in the wilderness. At the same time there are, out
in a hundred heathen villages, as many as native teachers doing the same work so far as they
have been trained to do it. And in two or three years we have points of light springing up where
all was darkness before, - and how great is that darkness!”
Padraig O Maille, Living Dangerously: A Memoir of Political Change in Malawi, Blantyre: CLAIM 1999, p.108.
Aspects of the story of Ishmael Mazunda are from the oral accounts of his niece, Ronnia Kambalametore,
Malamulo mission, 21 August 2000.
Robinson, “Third Angel Over Africa,” pp. 180-182.
General Conference Bulletin, Volume 7, Number 16, 3 June 1913, p. 250 (Ellen White archives, Andrews
Ibid., p. 250.
By 1912, Malamulo and its satellite churches had a combined membership of 512.
more strategic means to convert people around the Malamulo area came through the
annual camp-meetings programme of the church. The first camp meeting for the church
in Malawi took place at Malamulo between 20 and 28 September 1918. Being the first
meeting to be held in the country the church did not put much hope on its success. Pastor
Straw from Bulawayo was invited as a guest speaker at this historic meeting. Not leaving
anything to chance, the church provided food for those who came to attend the meetings.
Adventist believers and would be believers from all corners of the country converged at
Malamulo. The meeting was such a success because it is recorded that out of 731
attendees, 113 were baptised by the end of that week.
However, from the beginning of the 1920s, changes were made to the organisation of
the camp meetings. The provision of free food to attendees was discontinued as a
measure to discourage attendance for the sake of succor. It was also financially
burdensome to feed so many people. Those coming to the meetings were now required to
bring their own food. From then onwards, every year Adventists from all corners of the
country made the annual pilgrimage to Malamulo for the camp meeting, known by
Malawian Adventists as msonkhano wa misasa. As new missions were established and
church membership grew, it was decided to discontinue the use of Malamulo as the
centre for the camp meetings. Instead, every mission and later every church held its own
annual camp meetings. The camp meetings at Malamulo brought many people into the
church and at every annual meeting scores of people joined the church. A good example
is the 1931 camp meeting where 925 people were baptised. Attendance at the Malamulo
camp meetings appears to have been growing as indicated by the numbers of people who
attended the meetings.
Between 1927 and 1936 for example, 42880 people had attended camp meetings at
Malamulo. If these figures are anything to go by, we can see the impact of these meetings
on the evangelical work of the mission. For instance, out of an attendance of 2000 at the
1946 camp meeting, seventy people were baptised.
In general, African workers made
significant contributions to evangelisation. One case in point is the work of Isaac John
who worked at the Malamulo dairy farm. In 1947, Josephine C. Edwards was to report
…he [Isaac John] is doing heavy work as head of the big Malamulo dairy, but he is
also holding efforts in two places several miles away, one near a big tea estate; and the
other, by the Conforces (sic) Tobacco Estate which is seven miles away. He told us that
he has twenty-nine people in his hearers’ class. His hearers are constantly filling our
baptismal classes…
Another African who contributed to evangelical work was a blind evangelist, Captain
Muruda, father of the late army chief, General Khanga. Muruda came to Malamulo to be
treated of his leprosy and was converted. When he recovered, he began preaching to his
fellow lepers and later was appointed chaplain at the African section of the hospital for
Ibid., p. 13.
“100 Years and Homeward Bound,” programme for the 1993 South Malawi Field centenary celebration
of the church, back page (Malawi Union papers).
Tarr, “Attending Camp Meetings in South East Africa,” p. 16.
Josephine Cunnington Edwards, “Faithful Believers in Nyasaland, East Africa,” The Advent Review and
Sabbath Herald, volume 124, number 13, 27 March 1947, p. 14.
much of the 1940s and 1950s. In the late 1940s, Wadi Kumwenda, another converted
healed leper who was in charge of the leper colony church also evangelised in the
surrounding villages.
One institution that has helped the church to evangelise through
literature is the Malamulo Publishing House. Established in 1926, the Publishing House
commonly known as the press has been producing Adventist literature mostly printed in
Chichewa to reach ordinary Malawians. Books such as Bible stories, hymns and
quarterlies or Sabbath School Lessons (Bible aids for discussion at Sabbath school
classes) are produced every year. In addition, several newsletters describing the work of
the church in Malawi were published at the press. In 1928, a small Union paper called
The Advent Messenger and in 1935, Malamulo’s own paper called The Malamulo Tidings
begun being published at the press. However, by the early 1970s, these two publications
were no longer being produced and sadly no copy of the publications exists anywhere
even at the press.
Among the prominent African workers at the press were Pastor Samuel, Bywork
Themuka, Newton Samuel and S.I. Mandala-Maseko. Pastor Samuel was the first African
personnel manager of the institution while Bywork Themuka was, in 1977, the assistant
general manager, the first African in that post. S.I. Mandala-Maseko joined the
establishment in 1970 after twenty years working in the church as a primary school
teacher in Zambia and Malawi. He worked for the press for fifteen years as a proof-reader
and translator. Among the major works he translated were Sabbath School Lessons and a
book titled ‘Go Forward’ (Pita Chitsogolo).
Newton Samuel, who replaced the
missionary Mackintosh, became the first African general manager of the institution in
1993. He has since left the institution. As the mission, reflects on is history, the church
leadership ought to find ways to keep the press from closure. Since the departure of
missionary administration, the last being Mr. Mackintosh, a South African, in 1993 the
press under African management has experienced serious cases of inefficiency,
embezzlement of funds and misuse of factory equipment and general neglect. The press
plays a very important role in Adventist worship not only in producing hymns but in also
the monthly quarterlies. The quarterlies are used during Sabbath school discussion, an
important part of Adventist worship where members use the quarterlies in discussing
various Bible themes and church doctrine. These discussion groups are usually held
before the main church service.
There is need for research to determine the impact of the mission on the local
communities on evangelism. It would appear that, overall, the mission made limited
impact on the people of southern Thyolo. It is true that some people connected to the
mission as students and patients were converted but the same can not be said about how
far the mission impacted on the people in the surrounding villages. In 1972, Cedrick
Khanje observed that people of southern Thyolo did not take advantage of the mission
such as: getting education from the institutions, being converted and even take part in the
running of the mission. Rather, he found out that it were people from other parts of the
country who benefited more to what the mission offered.
This writer finds the same
situation prevailing to this day. The Adventist church is not only a religion but also a way
of life and Adventists live their belief as should be seen in their mannerisms, piety and
Tarr, “Attending Camp Meetings in South East Africa,” p. 16.
Interview, B. I. Mandala-Maseko, Malamulo mission, 21 August 2000.
Khanje, “Impact of Malamulo,” pp. 8-9.
daily living. Therefore, if the mission were to have had an impact, villagers surrounding
the mission would be seen to have Adventist piety in such things as observing the
Sabbath. However, in the villages surrounding the mission, one finds people still engaged
in ancestral veneration, initiation ceremonies, beer drinking and polygamy. At Makwasa
trading center (half a mile from the mission) for example, beer drinking and prostitution
are the order of the day. Even on Sabbath, business goes on as usual except to mention
that the owner of the filling station and a couple of shops there was converted and
therefore his business closes during Sabbath hours. As the mission reflects on its
weaknesses in the last century, it should assess its impact on the people of southern
Thyolo with the view to find effective ways of evangelising people in its backyard.
Malamulo land seizure, 1974
One of the greatest challenges the mission faced was the loss of three-quarters of its land
seized by the government in 1974 and given to the local people. The situation was
compounded by the fact that since the early 1970s, much of Malamulo huge 2001-acre
land was not being utilised amidst a growing village population in the neighbouring
communities. To give some idea of the vastness of the mission land, it stretched and
bordered Nathande, Mapingo, Nagwengwere, Bwalo la Ndege and Makwasa market.
Therefore, the people of the villages bordering the mission were squeezed between the
huge Malamulo farm and the white owned Tea Estates.
Not having much to do with the unused land, the mission apportioned plots of land to
its African staff who successfully grew various crops for home use and some for sale to
the neighbouring villages. The mission even gave land for settlement to some of its
prominent African workers as the case of Isaac John illustrates. When John retired as
dairy supervisor at the mission, he was given a piece of land where he settled with his
family. With no land to farm and lacking formal employment (either at the mission or at
the neighbouring tea estates), most people in the bordering villages sought casual
employment to till the gardens of the mission African staff. Worse was the fact that
villagers usually came to the mission to buy food from the African staff. Therefore,
villagers could only watch in envy as mission staff maintained an African middle class
lifestyle. Little wonder that there were feelings of animosity against the church, a feeling
that continued to build up over the years. It was becoming inevitable that sooner than
later, the bubble would burst (and it did).
It is important at this stage to give the wider picture of the problem of land in southern
Malawi particularly Thyolo district. Since the migration of (from the 1890s) Ngoni,
Chewa, Chipeta, Nyanja, Mang’anja, Yao, Chikunda and significantly, the coming of
large groups of Lomwe sub-groups from Mozambique, the population of the district has
been historically large. Over the years and in addition with some indigenous people of the
area, the population has been ever growing. For example, the 1931 government census
showed that the district had a total population of 59154.
The arrival of European
For aspects of Malamulo land problem, the oral accounts of the following were used: Samuel Machilika,
assistant Principal, Matandani Mission secondary School, 21 August 1998, H. Mletseni, retired farm
supervisor of both Malamulo and Matandani farms, Matandani mission, 26 August 1998, Pastor A.Y.
Yesaya, Publishing Director, Malawi Union office, 8 January 1998 and Mr. Mulumbe, messenger, Malawi
Union Office, 8 January 1998.
Nyasaland Protectorate annual report on Native Affairs, 1941, appendix ‘A’, p. 67 (Malawi National
Archives, Zomba).
farmers and settlers after the First World War worsened the problem of land shortage.
With the full support of the colonial government, European farmers and settlers bought or
leased huge tracts of the best farming land for agriculture. Consequently, Africans were
pushed to live and farm in small, rocky and unfertile areas (where they still live in
crowded conditions to this day). Africans who remained in areas bought by Europeans
were reduced to the servile status of tenants. To qualify to live in those areas, they were
required to pay rent by working without wages (one month in the wet season for rent and
another month for hut tax) on the estates in the hated system called Thangata (literally to
help). In 1915, John Chilembwe rose against Europeans in general and estate owners in
particular in Chiradzulu in protest, inter alia, against the semi-slavery Thangata system.
The African situation on crown land was so desperate that Thyolo district had by 1939,
one of the highest population densities in the world with 93120 people living at the rate
of 149.02 per square mile.
With the introduction of the successful tea estates after 1937,
the situation became even more desperate for the Africans in this district, a situation that
exists to this day.
It is therefore less surprising that villagers living in the periphery of Malamulo were
also desperate for land. In search of land for cultivation, villagers living on the border
with the mission began encroaching into mission land. When their cemeteries became
full, they also extended them into mission land. By the beginning of the 1970s, the
problem of encroachment of mission land by villagers was becoming the norm than the
exception. The MCP held a political meeting on the issue at Makwasa on 31October 1970
to listen to the grievances of the people against the mission for holding so much land
when people were landless.
In November, the government came to the mission to
discuss the problem with church officials. We do not have a record of what was agreed at
this meeting but on 19 November, eight days after that meeting, the mission director,
K.B. Cronje “announced that 74 acres of land are to be surrendered to the government.”
It would appear that this was a compromise gesture by the church to appease both the
government and the local people but the piece of land given out, it would seem, was too
little, too late to solve the problem of encroachment. A year later, on 13 January 1971, the
Minister of Education, Malani M. Lungu visited Malamulo school, the farm and gardens
to see the worsening situation for himself.
It should be noted that the government was
secretly supporting the encroachers against the mission and as such, encroachment
continued throughout 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973 and until the bubble burst in 1974.
At the end of 1971, the mission received a new farm manager, an Afrikaner from South
Africa. He was W.A. de Beer who took a decisive action in 1974 against encroachers
leading finally to the confiscation of much of Malamulo land by the government. Before
coming to Malamulo, de Beer had worked for some years at the Union in Blantyre where
he did some clerical duties. He was appointed as Farm Manager for Malamulo because,
according to oral sources, the church could not trust the African farm supervisor,
Emerson John, who had taken over the management of the farm when his father, Isaac
John, retired. Emerson John it is told, was trained for the job especially the diary, by his
Thyolo annual reports of the Provincial Commissioners for the year 1939 (Malawi National Archives,
Malamulo College staff minutes, 27 October 1970 (Malamulo Secondary School files).
Malamulo College, staff minutes, 19 November 1970 (Malamulo Secondary School files).
Malamulo College staff minutes, 5 January 1971 (Malamulo Secondary School files).
father. He however, received additional training in farm management in Tanzania and
upon his return was made the mission’s farm supervisor. Perhaps, there was a strategic
reason to bring de Beer to Malamulo. It would appear that he was brought to re-organise
the mission farm to make it more productive by introducing a number of crops and
different projects to use up space in the effort to discourage encroaching by locals. One of
the first things de Beer did was to divide the farm into two main sections one supervised
by himself and the other by Emerson John. The part under John concentrated on dairy
farming, forestry, poultry farming, maintenance of boundary and firewood and opening
of new land. De Beers section involved gardens and crops, bees and the building of a new
dam. In addition, to these changes on the land, de Beer proposed the establishment of a
“land development committee to settle any problems as regards staff gardens etc.”
late December 1971, de Beer was proud to report that the farm had planted: six acres of
beans, 2000 banana suckers, 50000 gum trees, a conservation dam was under
construction, the vegetable garden was expanded and a road was made a round the
mission boundary.
According to oral sources, the coming of de Beer as the overall supervisor of the farm
exposed the corrupt ways of Emerson John. All accounts seem to suggest that Emerson
John, unlike his father was dishonest. Usually he could not account for missing funds in
his care and there are allegations that he used to sell mission cattle and keep the money
for himself. In fact, by the time Emerson was dismissed, the dairy had been crippled
beyond recovery and was closed down. Therefore, De Beers was sent as the overall
manager of the farm. In the short period De Beers was farm manager, he planted trees at
Nagwengwere and restarted planting maize on the farm. It would appear that the presence
of de Beer did not deter Emerson John from his corrupt ways. In 1972, the church
dismissed him from church employment. It is most likely that Emerson John did not
leave the mission without picking up a quarrel with the mission authorities. It is also
likely that his father, Isaac John, got involved in support of his son against the way
Emerson was dismissed probably without any terminal benefits in spite of his many years
of working for the church. We have made these assertions because when Emerson was
dismissed, the church chased his father as well, from the mission land that it had given as
part of retirement settlement. Isaac John and his family resettled at Tsangano in Ntcheu
district, his home village. In August 1972, H. Mletseni, who had just finished a gardening
course at Solusi mission was appointed assistant farm Manager of Malamulo farm
replacing Emerson John.
In March 1974, the mission noted that “many people are wanting the mission land and
some are encroaching already.”
In May, the Union authorised F. Dietrich, principal of
Malamulo College, “to dispose of all cattle, poultry and poultry equipment and proceeds
to be applied to capital improvement.”
It would appear that villagers saw this as
invitation to claim more land from the church seeing that most projects of the mission
farm were suspended and there was more land laying idle. In September 1974, the
mission decided to put a stop to the illegal occupation of its land by villagers. The person
Minutes of Malamulo combined staff, 7 December 1971 (Malamulo Secondary School files).
Malamulo College staff minutes, 30 December 1971 (Malamulo Secondary School files).
Malamulo College staff meeting minutes, 12 March 1974 (Malamulo Secondary School files).
Minutes of available members of SEAU executive committee, Blantyre, 23 May 1974 (Malamulo
Secondary School files).
charged to deal with the problem was de Beer. At the time this was happening, Pastor
W.W. Khonje had just been appointed the first African principal of Malamulo College
replacing F. Dietrich.
De Beers took the farm bulldozer and went to the part of mission
land at Nathande where encroachment was serious. There, without any warning to the
people who had cultivated and grown maize and cassava, de Beer demolished the gardens
and flatted the land with the bulldozer. He also destroyed the African cemetery that had
been extended into mission land. The reaction of the villagers to this demolition was
unprecedented made worse by the fact the gardens that were destroyed had crops in them.
In anger and disbelief, villagers sent representatives to report to the MCP government.
Among the group was Emerson John who made submissions to the government citing
mainly the weakness of the church. This incident also came at a particular period when
the president was enjoying immense popularity especially in the south after successfully
appointing himself life president of the party and government, three years previously.
The regional governor of the south at the time, Alfred Chiwanda, was perturbed by the
manner in which Malamulo had dealt with the encroachers. Chiwanda, who it is said did
not particularly like the church for its ‘exaggerated piety’, had found a justification to
persecute the church. Chiwanda’s report to the president about the church was clearly
harsh. He even alleged that Adventists were no different from the Jehovah’s Witnesses
and were to be punished. The statement that Adventists were no different from Jehovah’s
Witnesses was a serious matter considering the political events surrounding the Jehovah’s
Witnesses in the country especially that in 1972 the government went all out to persecute
the Witnesses.
Considering the similarities between in teachings on the issues that both churches are
apolitical and do not take part in military service, this was a serious allegation that would
have grave consequences for the church. Owing to their refusal to take part in politics and
worse, their refusal to buy MCP membership cards, the government under the direct
order of the president, branded the Jehovah’s Witnesses rebels and misfits of the Malawi
nation. In one of the dark periods in the history of modern Malawi, a systematic state
campaign was organised to persecute them. We will not repeat what has already written
about the Jehovah’s Witness experience in Malawi between 1964 and 1972 except to
mention that the movement was banned and government sponsored persecution of the
movement begun. By 1972, more than 22000 witnesses had fled to Zambia,
Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Thousands were imprisoned, many more were
killed and most of their property confiscated by government.
It would not be
presumptions to suggest that the severity of the punishment the government imposed on
the Adventist church on this issue could have been influenced by the government’s
attitude against churches that did not conform or those that appeared unconventional in
their practices and belief. For example, at the height of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’
persecution, the MCP:
…deplored the fact that certain fanatical religious sects which operated like the banned
Jehovah’s Witnesses, hindered the political and economic development. …resolved that
Minutes of the SEAU union bursary committee held on Wednesday, 16 October 1974 (Malamulo
Secondary School files).
See for example, Klaus Fiedler, “Power at the Receiving End: Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Experience in One
Party Malawi” in Kenneth Ross (ed.), God, People and Power in Malawi: Democratization in Theological
Perspective, Blantyre: CLAIM, 1996, pp. 149-156.
all members of those sects who live in the villages should be chased away from there,
and appealed to government to give maximum possible protection to members of the
party who deal with the adherents of these sects.
The fate of the mission on the issue was grim. The president ordered that most of
Malamulo land be confiscated and distributed to the nearby villagers. Following this,
Chiwanda and a host of party officials came to the mission and held a political rally at
Bwalo la Ndege (airstrip). The political leaders did not say much about the church except
telling the people that the government would start apportioning some mission land to the
people. Soon, government surveyors descended on the mission and began the process of
distributing mission land. The land that was earmarked for take over was mainly the one
that bordered villages. It would appear that at that time, there were no plans to make a
wholesale seizure of the land.
Things should never get worse than this for a Christian mission but they did partly due
to the reaction of some missionaries in America. In the country, the Union did not know
what action to take to diffuse the situation. Even Pastor W. Khonje, who, being a
Malawian and was expected to do something to save the situation, was at a loss. It was C.
J. Robinson (Malamulo director 1914-1920) while in retirement in America who
complicated things for the church. He wrote a letter and pointed out that the government
did not have a right to take away private land. Could it be that Robinson was emotional
about Malamulo because he had recently buried his wife (Mrs. L. R. Robinson) there in
1970 and was anxious about what would become of her grave? Robinson demanded the
government to stop the acquisitions and return any land it had already confiscated. He
argued that the land was the property of the church that it bought from Seventh-day
Baptists and there were documents to prove it. The manner in which he wrote the letter to
the head of state was unacceptable by the government. This was made worse by the fact
that, probably due to anger, he simply addressed his letter to the president as ‘Dear
Hastings Banda.’
This naivety brought grave consequences for the church by a government that treated
its president as a demigod. The reaction of the president was swift and decisive. He came
to Malamulo where he held a political rally and lambasted the church for disregarding the
feelings of Africans in the country of their birth. At the end of the meeting, he personally
ordered that all land formerly of Malamulo be apportioned to villagers except around the
immediate surrounding of mission buildings. By the end of the acquisition, the mission
had lost more than three-quarters of its land. The government even ordered to pay the
affected villagers the sum of K74.94 for damages
. In finding a scapegoat, the church
dismissed de Beer who returned to his native South Africa where he established a small
farm. From then onwards, it would appear that government carefully monitored activities
at Malamulo. In February 1976, the infamous bulldozer was sold and the proceeds of the
sale divided between the college and the hospital.
The action of Malamulo missionaries against the encroachers should be commented
further. It is not a disputable fact that the encroachers were wrong to use private property
even if it appeared to lay idle to them. However, the action of the mission and the manner
Fiedler, “Power at the Receiving End,” quoting Malawi News, 18 September 1972.
Minutes of available members of SEAU executive meeting, 1974 (Malamulo Secondary School files).
in which it sought to deal with the problem brings to question the moral integrity of a
Christian mission. Looking at the action of the church twenty-eight years later and
making moral judgements using present ‘eyes’ and perceptions would seem unfair.
However, in 1974 Malawi had been independent for twelve years. The Malawi of that
time just like the Nyasaland during protectorate rule (1891-1964) had a functioning
government with police and a judiciary. It could have been proper and even legal for the
church to present the matter first to the courts for arbitration than for the mission to be
both plaintiff and judge.
We also do not have evidence to the effect that the mission first warned the encroachers
before such drastic action was taken against them. To some extent, the reaction of the
government against the church had to do mainly with the manner in which the mission
had taken the law into its own hands. The missionary attitude in dealing with African
problems is reminiscent of the early days of the Christian church in Malawi before the
establishment of the British administration in the 1870s and 1880s where the missionary
played a double role. On the one hand, the missionary was Christ’s ambassador while on
the other, he was judge over African civil problems. In many cases, the missionary
seemed infamous with the latter role. Atrocities of various kinds such as beatings,
confinement and chaining on those that had broken the law were common ironically, on
the very people missionaries had come to convert.
The irony of the Malamulo land debacle was that when the land distribution was
finalised, it was found out that many of those who benefited were Adventist members.
This could well explain the fact that those who envied the land were not only villagers
who were non-members but members as well. It would seem that many African members
who were not mission staff were unhappy with the church for not giving them a portion
of land to farm like those working for the mission. For this reason, when the acquisitions
started, many African members did not defend the mission on this issue. Many
Adventists some of them MCP members benefited from the seizure by acquiring large
tracts of land.
The double irony in this case is that the majority of these individuals
continue to serve as deacons and elders at Adventist churches in the Makwasa area
including Malamulo church.
The new government of Bakili Muluzi, after the fall of Banda’s dictatorship in 1994,
set up a land commission, under Viphya Harawa as chairperson. The aim of commission
was to look into all land issues that the previous government had unlawfully seized. The
Adventist church sent a delegation to see the land commissioner over the matter with the
intention of claiming back its land at Malamulo. After this meeting, members of the
commission among them V. Harawa, Mr. Sabe, S. S. Ntonya and Mr. Mwafulirwa visited
Malamulo in 1997 on a fact-finding mission. The commission members met with the
Malamulo land-board committee chaired by the principal of Malamulo of Malamulo
Secondary School. The Malamulo land-board showed the visiting commission both maps
of Malamulo before and after the seizure. At the meeting, the church pointed out that it
wanted its land back so that more land could be made available to the three institutions of
For aspects of civil jurisdiction on Africans by missionaries before formal British administration was
established, the Blantyre atrocities at Blantyre mission is a good example. See John MacCracken, Politics
and Christianity in Malawi, 1875-1940: The Impact of the Livingstonia Mission in the Northern Province,
Blantyre: CLAIM, 2000, pp. 97-103.
Interview, Mr. B. Mulinde, maintenance supervisor, Malamulo Secondary School, 25 August 2001.
the mission (Hospital, Publishing House and Secondary School) for infrastructural
However, until today nothing of the promises the government made to return the land to
the church has been honoured. According to one church official involved with the land
negotiations, there are three problems that makes the government reluctant to give back
the land to the church. Firstly, the government fears the anger of the people who now live
on those pieces of land and therefore, the government would not do anything that would
diminish its popularity among the people. Secondly, the government does not have the
financial resources to compensate all the people who will lose their land because of the
removals. Lastly, the government does not have land where those who will be removed
can be resettled.
Of memories and memorials
There is a small cemetery at Malamulo that was used exclusively for burying
missionaries who died while working at the mission. The graves of the missionaries
buried there are a reminder of the sacrifice that many missionaries made to make what
Malamulo is today. Their graves serve as an eternal reminder to this fact. The question
we ask here is this: were missionaries the only ones who died while serving Malamulo? If
the answer is no, which is likely, why is that Africans who died while working at the
mission were not buried at the cemetery alongside their missionary counterparts? T. Jack
Thompson in his moving narrative of the Xhosa Presbyterian missionaries to Malawi
brings interesting thoughts about the symbiosis between what he calls ‘memory’ and
‘memorial’ between mental and physical remembrance.
Missionaries buried at the
mission cemetery are remembered in brick and mortar complete with tombstones
(memorial) that are visible to every one who visits the mission. On the other hand,
Africans who died while working at the mission were not allowed to be buried at this
cemetery and were buried at the nearby African cemetery, some distance away on the
outskirts of the mission. Most of their graves have no brick and mortar to indicate their
passing and yet surprisingly, they remain in the hearts of many African Adventists who
are remember them fondly (memories). Even the few that were buried at the ‘missionary’
cemetery and have no tombstones to indicate who they were, general folk memory of the
older people around the mission identifies them as if they were buried recently.
Therefore, while memorials at the cemetery reminds us about the missionaries who
served Malamulo, memories help us to remember Africans who equally served the
Visiting the mission cemetery, one can not help but be touched by the sacrifice that
many missionaries made in propagating the gospel in Africa. Tropical diseases seem to
have been the main cause of death of many of these missionaries buried there. Other
missionaries lost all their children the worst affected, according to the information on
tombstones at the cemetery, being the family of missionary C. M. Maunder who lost two
of their children and were buried at the mission. Their daughter, Avril Victoria, born on
Interview, Isaac Magaleta, Principal, Malamulo Secondary School and ex-officio chairman, Malamulo
land-board, 22 August 1998.
T. Jack Thompson, Touching the Heart: Xhosa Missionaries to Malawi, 1876-1888, Pretoria: UNISA
press, 2000, pp. 198-199.
9 May 1942 died and on 25 December 1942. Two years later, they also lost a son, who
died a day after birth on 21 April 1944. In all, at the mission cemetery, this writer was
able to count nineteen graves but only thirteen of them can be traced to the people who
were buried there because words written on tombstones are legible. The first missionary
buried there was Joseph Watson (laid to rest on 11 December 1903) while the last
missionary buried there was Hellen Aileen Bechthold (laid to rest on 7 February 1984).
One grave that is surely there but has no identification mark on it is surely that of Pastor
A. P. Pond. From other sources, we learn that Pastor Pond came at the beginning of 1923
as the new director of Malamulo. He however, died tragically in February when on at
Nsuwadzi River he fell to his death when he tried to walk along some rocks a long the
Of those graves whose tombstones are in good condition, messages on eleven of the
graves are legible. These messages are laden with Adventist doctrines. Three of the
graves have a message taken from Revelation 14: 13.
B. Winston Sparrow buried on 19
April 1933 has only the verse on the tombstone. Myrtle Miller Pierce buried on 15 April
1962 has the words “Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord from henceforth that they
may rest from their labours and their works follow them.” Dr. R. Jack Harvey has this
telling message: “Flying doctor: A life dedicated to God and mankind.” Dr. David R.
Toppenberg’s (buried 14 September 1977) tombstone is inscribed “His life given in
service.” To understand the use of Revelation 14: 13 one needs to go back to the
Adventist GC session of 1888 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. At this conference, a dispute
arose of whether Adventists would be saved by faith or by works, an issue that almost
split the church. The following year in a much calmer mood, a special session of
Adventist pastors met at Battle Creek and adopted a legalist position that Adventists
would be saved by faith and not works.
Later, the church took a position that a person is
saved by faith strengthened by works.
Messages on four of the tombstones are about the Adventist belief that the dead have no
conscious and are ‘a sleep’ and will ‘wake up’ at Christ’s Second Advent. Adventists do
not believe in a living soul or living spirit and this explains the reason Adventists would
never say ‘may his/her soul rest in peace’ in talking about the deceased. According to
Adventist teaching, the righteous dead will be raised at Christ’s second advent and
together with the righteous living, will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Then they
will go to heaven and spend a millenium. Then God shall send fire to destroy the wicked
earth and restore it for the inhabitation of the righteous who will return after a thousand
years in heaven.
For example, on the tombstone of Baby Maunder are the words
“sleeping”. At the grave of Jesse Warner Ellingworth (born 8 May 1916 and died 25
January 1918) are the words “sleeping in Jesus”. At the tombstone of Mrs. L. R.
Robinson (died 25 September 1970) are the words “fell a sleep in Jesus” while the
tombstone at the grave of Hellen Bechthold are written the words “see you in the
Matemba, “History of Matandani,” p. 45.
The text from the Good News Bible reads “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘write this: Happy
are those who from now on die in the service of the Lord!’ ‘Yes indeed! answers the spirit. ‘They will
enjoy rest from their hard work, because the results of their service go with them.”
See Spalding, Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists, pp. 282-286 and Schwarz, Light Bearers to
the Remnant, chapter 12.
Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual (revised 15th edition), Maryland: Review and Herald Publishing
Association, 1995, p. 190.
In the “The History of Matandani Seventh-day Adventist Mission,” we probably erred
when we stated that no African has been buried at the Malamulo missionary cemetery.
The tombstone of Pastor P. Longwe, an African, shows that he was buried at the
cemetery on 16 January 1970. New oral evidence tells us that out of the six graves
without tombstones at the cemetery, four are of Africans viz. Gershon Longwe, Pastor
Pastor Nchambalinja (buried 2000) and Mrs. B. Chilunga (buried 2001).
Therefore, in the “History of Matandani” we should have said that few Africans have
been buried at this cemetery. Perhaps the memory of informants in that study may have
faltered because since the 1970s, no African was buried at the cemetery. All African
workers even those who had requested to be buried at this cemetery were buried at the
nearby African grave yard. Only after 1999 did the church allow the other two Africans
to be buried at this cemetery. Soon before his death, Pastor Nchambalinja made a last
wish that when he died he should be buried at the mission, a place where he had worked
for many years and even when he retired served as unpaid assistant pastor. In fact, Pastor
Nchambalinja died a few weeks after counsellng the present writer on his wedding at
Malamulo church on 20 August 2000.
Racial segregation by white missionaries appears to have been the reason why during
the missionary era Africans could not be buried at the cemetery, then reserved for
missionaries. We have noted elsewhere in the article the racist attitude of Adventist
missionaries on dress and the general attitude that went with it. This is ironical because
Adventist missionaries were the very people who brought the message that people are all
equal before God and yet in practice they failed to practice what they preached. Our
research shows that while African workers in general were not allowed to be buried at the
cemetery, not all whites buried at the cemetery were Adventist missionaries. A case in
point is that of Dona Sidney M. Hall who originated from New York and worked at
Chididi in Nsanje. She was brought to the hospital when she fell ill and when she died,
she was buried at the cemetery. A more recent case and widely remembered by many
older folks at the mission is that of Charles J. Kingshot, a patient at the European section
of the hospital. At his request, when he died on 21 September 1978, he was buried at the
Celebrating Malamulo’s centenary work evokes justified emotions. No Adventist mission
perhaps in East, Central and Southern Africa has been more successful and has had a
longer period of service than Malamulo. However, for Malamulo to continue its work
successfully, much support in terms of financial and personnel is required amidst
shortage of skilled workforce and a dwindling financial support from the church. All the
three institutions of the mission are losing staff due to poor working conditions and
meager salaries. Again, to be able to expand, the mission needs land and with the
government dragging its feet on the matter, it appears that will require a miracle for the
mission to have its confiscated land back. The road from Thyolo boma to Makwasa, a
No burial dates of Gershom Longwe and Pastor Nkosi were remembered by all informants spoken to
about the issue.
Interview, B. Mulinde, 26 August 2001.
Interview, Mr. B. Mgwiremaso, supervisor at Malamulo Publishing House, 28 August 2001 and Mulinde, 21 August 2001.
stretch of only sixteen kilometers, takes a person over an hour to reach Malamulo. The
road is such in bad state that the mission is losing revenue because people can not get to
the hospital, the press or secondary school. This is an area the church together with the
neighbouring tea estates and the government should put resources together to make the
road usable.
As we have seen it would appear that the mission has finally redeemed itself from the
ugly legacy of segregation by allowing Africans who have worked at the mission to be
buried alongside their white counterparts at the mission cemetery. Finally, the primary
aim of any mission is always to seek ways of improving its evangelical strategies because
conversion is the measure of success of any church. Although Malamulo has done its part
in evangelical work for the church over the decades, it has failed to make a total impact in
many parts of southern Thyolo. As Henry Church has said, “a church grows best when it
functions energetically in extensive and intensive evangelism.”
Malamulo should
devise effective evangelical strategies than simply rely on the annual camp meetings, if it
is to continue making an impact in this region and beyond.
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Mandala-Maseko, B. I., Malamulo mission, 21 August 2000.
Mgwiremaso, B., supervisor at Malamulo Publishing House, 28 August 2001.
Mletseni, H., retired farm supervisor of both Malamulo and Matandani farms, Matandani
mission, 26 August 1998
Mulinde, B., maintenance supervisor, Malamulo Secondary School, 25 August 2001.
Mulumbe, Mr., messenger, Malawi Union Office, 8 January 1998.
Nzabonimpaye, Gladys, Thamaga, Botswana, 9 April 1999.
Yesaya, A. Y., Publishing Director, Malawi Union office, 8 January and 23 April 1998
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Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, volume 124, number 13, 27 March 1947.
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Includes abstract and vita. Project report (D. Min.)--Andrews University, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, 1993. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 219-229). Facsimile. s
Living Dangerously: A Memoir of Political Change in Malawi, Blantyre: CLAIM 1999, p.108. 67 Aspects of the story of Ishmael Mazunda are from the oral accounts of his niece
  • O Padraig
  • Maille
Padraig O Maille, Living Dangerously: A Memoir of Political Change in Malawi, Blantyre: CLAIM 1999, p.108. 67 Aspects of the story of Ishmael Mazunda are from the oral accounts of his niece, Ronnia Kambalametore, Malamulo mission, 21 August 2000.
Bibliography Primary sources Oral accounts with dates of interviews Kambalametore, Ronnia, Malamulo mission
  • Ibid
70 Ibid., p. 250. Bibliography Primary sources Oral accounts with dates of interviews Kambalametore, Ronnia, Malamulo mission, 21 August 2000.
retired farm supervisor of both Malamulo and Matandani farms, Matandani mission
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Mletseni, H., retired farm supervisor of both Malamulo and Matandani farms, Matandani mission, 26 August 1998
maintenance supervisor, Malamulo Secondary School
  • B Mulinde
Mulinde, B., maintenance supervisor, Malamulo Secondary School, 25 August 2001.
Publishing Director, Malawi Union office
  • A Y Yesaya
Yesaya, A. Y., Publishing Director, Malawi Union office, 8 January and 23 April 1998
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Ken Bilima, Union Education Director, 23 April 1998, Union office, Blantyre.
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Ellen White Archives, Andrews University, USA Robinson, V., "Third Angel over Africa," typescript, no date. General Conference Bulletin, Volume 7, Number 16, 3 June 1913.