Chiwiriwiri, as he is fondly known, invited his luminaries, prominent personalities from Mzuzu City, family and journalists. And to put the icing on the cake-- the heart-throbbing, dapper and stylishly dancing Paka Town Band were there too to celebrate the launch.
The venue was Ilala Crest Lodge. In attendance were some 150 excited guests. The mood was electrifying. It was probably the first time a book was launched in Mzuzu City over wine, food and arcodion music.
The self-taught historian and archivist Chiwiriwiri had come to tell poignant snippets of his life story through 'Henry Chiwiriwiri Thindwa MEMOIRS.' The audience was not disappointed.
Distinguished author and journalist Willie Zingani, who edited the book, said at the launch the memoirs "unleash a unique adventurous life of a humble retired primary school master from Usisya-Chikwina in Nkhata Bay."
"The memoirs present fascinating episodes and historic papers emanating from the author's sweat stretching long experiences in childhood, early education, teacher training, career advancement, private studies, family, politics and retirement years," Zingani added.
Here is an account of some of the key chapters.
In Chapter One, the chief lesson that Chiwiriwiri wants to teach Malawians is that they should resort to the "old culture" of teaching every school-going child the rich history of the Malawi nation.
“We have not done enough to research and dig deeper on our history of prominent Malawians in various fields, such as Clement Kadalie of Nkhata Bay and Levi Zililo Mumba from Mzimba to demonstrate the intellectual richness from the early Livingstonia educational system.”
Thindwa believes a nation without documenting its history “is a dead and lost nation. Malawi should not be a dead and lost nation," he said in an interview.
In Chapter Two, Chiwiriwiri digs about his family roots, having been born to a Christian family of James Ben Pitoli Thindwa and Enala Nyaphiri of Chikwina.
He goes further to show that the Thindwa's are originally from Tanzania.
"Some of the Thindwa's are still there in Eastern Africa including the DRC," he says, underpinning the fact that there is no original tribe born in Malawi as our great grand parents all migrated into this 'Warm Heart of Africa' from mostly southern Africa states.
The chapter also deals with his passion for education and how he rose from a humble villager to become one of Malawi's very passionate and loved teachers, especially in the North.
Chiwiriwiri also details how in 1965 dated his “beautiful young woman” from Likoma Island whom Chiwiriwiri lovingly calls "My Dream Lady Margret Nyakhondowe." They sired ten children, two of whom passed on.
The Author does not fail to mention his extra-curricula activities which include being Campaign Director and Chief Political Advisor to Professor Emeritus Peter Mwanza prior to the primaries and during 2009 general elections which saw the academician bag the parliamentary seat of Mzuzu City.
SECRET IS OUT
The secret is out in Chapter 3, as he reveals one of the best kept political secrets in Malawi.
Here, he writes about his entry into politics at age 21 and how he became an active member of the MCP Youth League.
He narrates the impressive story of Malawi's founder President Dr H. Kamuzu Banda, his journey abroad, his education and his coming back to lead the independence struggle and his rule as President.
But one best secret he reveals in this book is when he was entrusted with a huge assignment by MCP headquarters in Limbe to receive visitors and escort them to Tanzania.
Thindwa received a message from MCP control tower in Limbe which read in Tumbuka:"Upokerenge walendo wizenge pa basi, ukawaperekezye uko wa kuluta. Unozyeke chifukwa wamkhalako ma dazi ( you will receive visitors by bus, escort them where they are going. Get prepared for you will spend days).
The idea to write in Tumbuka was to ensure that no foreigner would be able to decipher the message.
Throughout the journey to Tanzania, with a night stop in Rumphi, Chiwiriwiri says he was “completely blind of my South African visitors.”
The visitors never revealed their identities until they safely arrived in Mbeya, Tanzania. It was at this point that Oliver Tambo and his colleague revealed they were from South Africa and senior members of the banned African National Congress (ANC) . Their brief stay was strictly known to selected MCP leaders.
"Tambo thanked me for risking my life to escort him to Mbeya as he feared arrest if the apartheid South African security agents discovered he was passing through Malawi on his escape to Tanzania where the ANC had hundreds of its youth on military training.
“I discovered later that Tambo left South Africa shortly after the Sharpeville massacre, on instruction to continue with the struggle from exile,” recalls Thindwa.
When Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years, Tambo became acting ANC president operating from exile until Madiba was freed in 1990, upon which Tambo returned to South Africa and handed back the ANC presidency to Mandela.
Chiwiriwiri says he never met Tambo afterwards, “but if I did, he would have remembered of our journey to Mbeya.”
Chiwiriwiri was a man of many roles and parts.
During his many years of his colourful teaching career, he developed interest in football refereeing, officiating games in LL and Districts League.
He served as Secretary General of LDFL and regional secretary of the Referees Association of Malawi.
He writes in this book the fever pitch feeling when Malawi won the East and Central African Senior Challenge cup in 1978 at the Kamuzu Stadium, whichb resulted in fever pitch and wild celebrations throughout the country.
Chiwiriwiri also narrates how the winning team met the Ngwazi at Sanjika Palace where each player was given K5 as a token of appreciation for the historic win.
He says meeting the Ngwazi in audience in those days was a great honour itself. Hundreds of Kamuzu’s Mbumba from acroos the country were in the 70s and 80s invited to visit the picturesque and hilltop Sanjika Palace in Blantyre, where he spent most of his presidency.
Finally, Chiwiriwiri served as chair of the Northern region beauty contest from 1975-1982.
He says it was a demanding task which took him to many parts of the region, organising beauty contests at district level. Miss Malawi beauty contests date back to early 1960s.
In 1979, he recollects, a national beauty contest was held in Blantyre at Mount Soche Hotel. Music was provided by New Scene, Muzi Pasi and MBC bands. Buffet: Only K10 per person. Prizes: Miss Malawi (k350) Runner-up (k200) and consolations prizes (50).
But in the 80s, orders came from the Ngwazi to ban the contests because many men complained that their daughters and wives were being forced against their will to contest.
The Henry Chiwiriwiri Thindwa MEMOIRS is a must buy book. At only K2000, it is currently available from Claim Bookshops in Blantyre, Mzuzu and Lilongwe.
Postcript: Chiwiriwiri has set the pace. There are many Chiwiriwiri's in Malawi with inspiring stories to tell and stories that will enrich our history and for future generations to learn from. As Postman (2011), ably put it, "history teaches us to move forwrad, recognise our mistakes and learn from them and ultimately create a better existence for all."