Masauko Chipembere’s son pays tribute to Chief Moto


Masauko Chipembere’s son has paid tribute to Chief Moto, saying he was a very clever man who was consistently on the hunt for new ideas.

Chief Moto, real name Mussa Adam, died last month in Mangochi.

Masauko Chipembere Jnr, the last-born son of Henry Masauko Chipembere, says he had an unspoken connection with the chief that had to do with their shared history.

Here is his tribute:

We were both children of the struggle that Henry Masauko Chipembere was waging for a liberated Malawi that began in Mangochi in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Chipembere family was extremely pleased to have a recent visit from Honorable President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera in Mangochi. It also means a lot that the President went to see Chief Moto in the hospital to extend an apology for all the pain caused by the Banda regime in Moto Village. The people there are keenly aware that their story has been hidden or avoided by many in power again and again. We cannot talk about healing Malawi without talking about how to restore dignity to Moto Village.

Chief Moto told me that he had become accustomed to being visited by politicians who knew that many had been jailed and killed for standing up to Banda with my father. However, he also said that they made promises they failed to keep and that each time that happened the people in his village felt more and more isolated from notions of a unified and strengthened Malawi. There is a saying I’ve overheard in Chichewa that goes, “Ukonde uyambira ku bwakale.” This is to say, the now owes something to the past.

Although “the now owes something to the past,” it is imperative that those living in the now concentrate on how to build the future. The Chief and I decided many years ago to work together to bring new ideas to Moto Village. He tasked me with finding him new technologies that could allow the people of the village to become forward thinking. I brought the Chief a treadle pump one year. Another year, I showed up with a crew to put solar power in his home. My last visit with him was two years ago. We met in Mchinji at Permaculture Paradise run by Luwayo Biskwick, who is a master of permaculture design. Luwayo provided a week of workshops for various villagers from the Mangochi region, including Chief Moto. The Chief was one among many who was learning to move forward, regardless of the obstacles facing his people. He was learning how to farm by using what was available in his region more wisely.

Chief Moto struck me as a very clever man; someone who was consistently on the hunt for new ideas. I can see him riding his motorcycle on the dusty road that leads to Moto Village now. This memory saddens me. Not only because I miss the Chief but because the last time, we were together he explained that he had lost his young daughter on one of these poorly constructed dirt roads. During a rainstorm, she was hit by a minibus full of passengers in a place where the road had become muddy. The vehicle had slipped and taken her life. I wonder sometimes how he persisted so far away from bigger cities like Lilongwe or Blantyre, where lack of basic infrastructure can cost the life of your child.

I wish Chief Moto’s wife well. The Chipembere are extremely sorry for her loss. She usually chats with Mai Chipembere when we come to visit. She always welcomes us to their home as though we are family. In many ways we are. We are survivors of a brutal era who are now ready to do the work of healing the nation. I know we are ready because my mother, Catherine Mary Ajizinga Chipembere was the one who brought me to the villages of Mangochi in the late 1990s. She had already begun the work of building schools, creating fish dams, educating the young, providing safe places for people with HIV and giving agency to women working with orphans through her organization W.I.N. Malawi (Women’s Initiative Network). My mother raised me to understand that when Dr. Banda wanted my father Henry Masauko Chipembere dead, it was the people of Mangochi who supported him and hid him because they believed in his vision of a Malawi free of tyranny. She taught me that the people of Moto Village along with those of Chief Talia’s village had paid the highest price towards our collective liberation.

I want to thank President Lazarus Chakwera and the MCP party for their visit to our region to begin the long journey towards healing. I’m sure it was a bit of a miracle for Chief Moto to see our President from the MCP coming to build peace before his untimely passing. I want to say that the Chipembere’s are ready to work with anyone who is ready to change the conditions that we see in the villages of Mangochi.

We cannot blame those in power today for what happened long ago. However, we know that as Malawians they know the old saying, “Mputa samunamiza maso” which means something like, do not lie to my eyes. We need to act now to move the country forward and where better to start than in the villages, especially Moto Village. Our people need to see the followers of Chipembere and the new government come together to finish the work of Independence which must be human rights and dignity for all. Seeing any of us starve must be shameful to all of us.

In all of the news I read about the President’s visit to Mangochi, the media chose to use these words, “Recently, President Dr Lazarus Chakwera visited Moto Village where the Malawi Congress Party reconciled with the people of the village following a police raid that led to the arrest of some people from the village 50 years ago (1971).” I am sure these words were copied and pasted. There is a clear mistake here. The word “reconciled” was used, as though everything that happened is now finished and in the past. The word that should have been used is “reconciliation.” What happened when the President visited was a clear indication that both Mangochi and the government are seeking a path to reconciliation. We are closing one chapter and beginning the arduous work of the next. As the son of Masauko Chipembere, this is cause for joy and hope.

Rest in peace Chief Moto. I know you are watching from where you are now. We are coming together to do the work! As my father once said, “Freedom is meaningless, unless people can see change.”