Blantyre is not only the largest and commercial city of Malawi, but also the trade centre of the Shire Highlands.
This 39-year-old old town which embraces government offices and several technical schools, is also home to the University of Malawi which first opened its doors to the public at Independence in 1964.
Blantyre, located in Southern Malawi on the Shire River near Zombe was founded in 1976 by Scottish missionaries, and is named after the birthplace, in Scotland, of the explorer David Livingstone and is well known for producing a lot of tobacco, corn, coffee, tung oil and wheat, making Agriculture the mainstay of Malawi’s economy.
Blantyre became a township in 1895 before being combined as the municipality of Blantrye-Limbe in 1956 and later attaining city status in 1966, two years after Malawi gained its independence.
Zambia and Malawi have had a close history for a long time. They are both land locked countries which apart from sharing boundaries also share climate zones. They share common values, history, languages, culture, and a border.
The two were historically one country, along with Zimbabwe, under the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland and as a result of this linkage, the citizens of Zambia and Malawi to this day commonly live in either country, while on the political front, they both gained independence from Britain almost at the same time in 1964 with Malawi gaining hers on July 6 and Zambia on 24th October.
This followed the dissolution of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland on December 31, 1963, and in January 1964, Kenneth Kaunda won the only election for Prime Minister of Northern Rhodesia, which later become the Republic of Zambia on October 24, 1964 with himself as its First president.
On the other hand, Malawi became independent on July 6 1964 with Hastings Kamuzu Banda as the First President, and the country later went on to become a Republic two years on , on 6 July ,1966.
Since their respective independence in 1964, Zambia and Malawi have gone through almost the same political pattern of single party rule and then later turned into multi-party democracies which ushered in plural politics following mounting pressure from political opponents and stakeholders alike.
And to celebrate the country’s 51st Independence anniversary which fell on July 6 this year, the Malawian Government under the leadership of President Peter Mutharika invited President Edgar Lungu as Guest of Honour to grace its national day.
The Zambian Presidential Challenger Jet carrying President Lungu who was accompanied by the First Lady Esther, and his Special Assistant for Press and Public Relations Amos Chanda touched down at Chileka Airport in Blantyre at 18:11 hours Zambian time.
President Lungu was received on arrival at Chileka Airport by Four Malawian government Cabinet Ministers who included George Chaponda , the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Goodall Gondwe ( Finance) , Bright Msaka for the Ministry of Energy and Grace Chumya responsible for Sports.
Zambia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Harry Kalaba, Tourism Minister Jean Kapata, Eastern Province Minister Malozo Sichone, Zambia’s High Commissioner to Malawi Salome Mwananshiku, and other senior Zambian and Malawian government officials were also at hand to receive President Lungu.
President Lungu then proceeded to the Blantyre City Assembly where he was honoured with the Freedom of the City status by Mayor Noah Chalamanda.
In honouring and granting President Lungu with the status of a free man of the City of Blantyre, Councillor Chalamanda thanked President Lungu for visiting Malawi.
Mayor Chalamanda told President Lungu that he was a now a free man to visit the City of Blantyre at any time when he was free and felt like returning to the commercial city. Mayor Chalamanda also said that his Council had a long relationship with the City of Ndola on the Copperbelt which started way back in 1973.
He added that he was happy to receive President Lungu who was making his first official visit to Malawi after his election on January 20, 2015.
In accepting the Key to the City of Blantyre, President Lungu said he was happy to have been given the Key to the City of Blantyre adding that the relationship between Blantyre and the City of Ndola should not only be on paper but that it should address problems of public health, slums and water supply challenges.
President Lungu said he would use the freedom he had been granted by the City of Blantyre to improve on the relationship existing between the City of Blantyre and the City of Ndola on the Copper belt established way back in 1973.
After a brief ceremony at the City Assemble, President Lungu left for Sanjika Palace for a night stop.
The celebratory day which everyone had been waiting for was finally here. It’s the Independence Day for Malawi and thousands of people trouped to Kamuzu Stadium, the venue for the celebrations.
Guest of Honour, President Lungu and his host President Peter Arthur Mutharika made a dramatic entry into the stadium, standing behind an open Land Rover, much to the delight of the joyous crowd.
After Military Parade marches in both slow and quick time, and displays of military skills, it was now time for President Lungu to make his address.
President Lungu said 1964 shall for ever remain a year of defining moments for both Zambia and Malawi.
President Lungu said he was happy that both countries had remained united and resolute in addressing matters affecting their citizens.
President Lungu also reaffirmed Zambia’s commitment to continue to collaborate with Malawi at both regional and international levels further stating that the economic transformations which Malawi had embarked on would certainly benefit the people of that country in the long run.
Speaking earlier, Malawian President Peter Mutharika said his Government was on the road to transformation adding that the reforms that his Government had embarked on were bringing hope and opportunities among the Malawian people that things will be better in the future.
President Mutharika added that his country had a better outlook ahead and also called for inclusive development in line with this year’s independence celebrations theme “Towards Transformation for Inclusive Development” saying inclusive development that his Government was advocating for, will no doubt culminate into economic growth for Malawi and its people.
Professor Mutharika also disclosed that his Government was creating an environment conducive for business to attract both local and international investors to invest in the country and help to grow the Southern African country’s economy.
And President Muthrika said that his Government had come up with three pillars of development which it wants to implement in order to bring change in the country and that these included Patriotism, Integrity and Hard work adding that with their implementation, the problem of corruption will be a thing of the past.
He said that Malawians need to be patriotic and contribute positively to the development of the country adding that with high levels of integrity, Malawi will become a better place to live in.
President Mutharika said hard work is important as it is the only sure way to end poverty in the country.
The 51st Independence celebrations in Malawi were also attended by Kenyan Vice President William Ruto.
The celebrations were characterised by match pasts mounted by the combined Defence Forces of Malawi comprising the Air wing, Marine, Parachute and Infantry battalions while various groups took turns in entertaining the crowd gathered to celebrate the 51st Independence Anniversary.
President Lungu and the First Lady Esther also watched an international match between Malawi and Uganda that ended one-zero in favour of the host team.
Later in the evening, the Host Head of State held a State Banquet in Honour of President Lungu at Sanjika Palace.
In his Banquet speech, President Lungu said there was an urgent need to ensure that the private sector takes advantage of the existing infrastructure in Zambia and Malawi, such as the Nacala and Mtwara Development Corridors, to develop partnerships and joint ventures in order to exploit the trade potential.
President Lungu said that the Mchinji-Chipata Railway and the Shire-Zambezi Waterway are two channels through which Zambia and Malawi could better facilitate trade between the two countries, the region as well as with the international community.
President Lungu further disclosed that a contractor to work on the railway line connecting the Mchinji-Chipata Railway to Tanzania Zambia Railways Authority ( TAZARA) will soon be moving on site to commence the works in order to facilitate smooth trade once the new railway line is complete.
And President Lungu said Zambia attached great importance to the shared political, economic, and social aspirations with Malawi, and also to the joint commitment to upholding the principles of democracy, good governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
He said that his presence in Malawi where he was invited to grace this years’51 st Independence celebrations which fell on July 6 serves to demonstrate the closeness of the relations that happily exist between the two countries.
President Lungu also said that his presence in Malawi further consolidated and strengthened the strong bonds of friendship, which he said were rooted in the shared history, common culture and heritage, as well as the ancestral origins.
Mr Lungu said that the continued collaboration at the bilateral level with Malawi has, over the years, translated into meaningful cooperation which continues to be strengthened further through the joint Permanent Commission of Cooperation (JPC) as well as the Joint Permanent Commission of Co-operation on Defence and Security.
“These JPC’s have provided the framework for closer interaction in various areas such as agriculture, transport and communications, trade, tourism and social development, as well as in the preservation of regional peace and security”, said President Lungu.
President Lungu said he therefore wished to encourage the two governments to continue using the platform to enhance their relations through regular meetings to address matters pertaining to the bilateral cooperation as well as to exchange general information on matters of defence and security affecting the two sister countries.
He said that his government is aware of the great economic potential that exists between the two neighbouring countries saying it is imperative that these abundant opportunities are fully exploited and utilised in order to improve the livelihoods of the local people and also to contribute to the development of the region as a whole.
On peace and democracy prevailing in the two countries, President Lungu said Zambia is encouraged by the advances made within the region in upholding the SADC principles and guidelines governing democratic elections by all the member states of the regional grouping.
He said that Zambia and Malawi had so far demonstrated their collective commitment to the attainment of the stipulated benchmarks and guidelines which are intended to enhance their democratic credentials, thereby contributing to peace and stability within the region.
President Lungu said that as peace-loving nations, committed to the rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights, Zambia and Malawi should, therefore, continue to promote the tenets of democracy not only within the SADC region, but also on the African continental level as a whole.
“Let us also continue using our common membership to SADC, COMESA, the African Union and the United Nations to exchange information and take similar positions on matters of mutual interest, in our collective effort to attain a just and prosperous world for all,”said President Lungu.
President Lungu also reaffirmed the commitment of Zambia to the strengthening of the warm neighbourly relations with Malawi.
Speaking ealier, Malawian President Prof. Mutharika said Malawi attaches great importance to the friendship and cooperation which have developed between the friendly peoples of Zambia and Malawi, which in turn have positively affected the relations at the bilateral and multilateral levels.
He said that the excellent bilateral relations with Zambia also apply to Malawi’s relations with Kenya and Mozambique and that he was grateful for the presence of the Vice President of Kenya, William Ruto and former President of Mozambique, His Excellency Joachim Chissano who also attended the banquet.
On Malawi’s 51st Independence theme “Towards Economic transformation and inclusive economic development in Malawi” , President Mutharika said that the theme was in line with the strong passion of his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) led Government desire and vision to develop Malawi.
He encouraged all Malawians to be united, work hard and be patriotic in developing the Southern African country as no one will develop it except themselves.
During his two-day State visit to Malawi, President Lungu also signed the Malawi/Zambia Trans Frontier Conservation Areas (TFCA) Treaty at Sanjika Palace.
Zambia and Malawi signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2004 to commence formal negotiations for the establishment of Malawi/Zambia TFCA and the two countries have been working together in the joint management of protected areas along the common border within the TFCA.
The project is aimed at protecting wildlife in the National Parks and Game reserves and promoting biodiversity in the border districts.
Through the TFCA ,Zambia and Malawi will work together to manage the Nyika and Kasungu National Parks and the Vwaza Marsh wildlife reserve.
On the Zambian side, the TFCA covers the Nyika, Likusuzi and North Luangwa National Parks, Musalangu Game Management Area, Lundazi, Mitenge and Makutu National Forest Reserve.
President Lungu said that his Government was still concerned and worried about the continued cutting down of Mukula trees with the help of some foreign nationals saying that there was need to bring to an end the deforestation and indiscriminate cutting down of Mukula trees in Zambia.
President Lungu said that there is need for a comprehensive and integrated approach to sustainable management of natural resources in order to protect the wild life.
He said that protection of the wild life starts with the protection of the inhabitants for the wild life such as forests.
President Lungu said the signing of the Treaty between Zambia and Malawi will no doubt protect the animals in the two countries and assured his Malawian counterpart that the agreement will be given a full lease.
The signing of the Treaty was witnessed by Zambia’s Tourism Minister Jean Kapata and her Malawian counterpart Kondwani Nakhumwa, Zambia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Harry Kalaba, Eastern Province of Zambia Minister Malozo Sichone, and Tourism Permanent Secretary Stephen Mwansa among others.
Speaking earlier, Malawian President Prof Mutharika said the signing of a Treaty to protect the common biological resources in a unique conservation and development area between the two countries is a tie that binds.
He said that the signing of the MALAWI-ZAMBIA Trans-frontier Conservation Area (TFCA) Treaty is of mutual socio-economic benefits to the people of the two countries, particularly those living within and adjacent to the TFCA.
A prudent conservation, management and development of the vast wildlife, tourism and cultural resources of the area will pay economic dividends to the people of both Zambia and Malawi.
“Proper conservation and management of our resources boosts tourism revenues for border communities in particular, and our two Nations significantly, “said President Mutharika.
He said that the right to utilize natural resources comes with the obligation of doing so in a responsible manner adding that the natural resources can only be utilized in a manner that safeguards their welfare and their continued existence for posterity.
President Mutharika said it was, therefore, of critical importance that the natural ecosystems and the rich biodiversity along the international boundaries of Malawi and Zambia are conserved and managed in a coherent approach ensured by the Treaty.
He also said that he was proud to recall that Malawi and Zambia aere signatories to various regional protocols and international conservation conventions that promote collaboration in the conservation and management of shared natural resources along their international boundaries.
“The signing of this Treaty is a fulfilment of our duty to mankind, and our duty to Africa and the region,” he said.
President Mutharika also thanked the International Cooperating Partners who have partnered with the two countries-Zambia and Malawi in fulfilling the duty to protect natural resources and mankind.
The partners who have partnered with Zambia and Malawi in this Treaty include the World Bank, the Germany Government, the Royal Norwegian Government, and Peace Parks Foundation among others.
And giving a financial commitment to the signed Treaty, Charge d’Affairs of German, Anne – Kaftrin Pferirffer said Germany stands ready to support both Zambia and Malawi on this path.
Ms. Pferirffer said the German Government has provided 20 million Euros to support the cooperation between Zambia and Malawi through the Southern African Development Community (SADC) adding that her Government is planning to commit another 10 million Euros to complement this regional project with bilateral funding on the Malawian side.
Ms. Pferirffer also expressed hope that Zambia and Malawi will now ratify the Treaty in due course, establishing the necessary structures and provide for the allocation of adequate resources to fulfil the Treaty’s vision with life.
Before signing the Treaty, President Lungu Earlier met former Mozambique president Joachim Chissano who is Deputy Chairperson of the Peace Parks Foundation Board.
President Chissano appealed to Heads of States in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries to take interest in the Peace Parks Foundation and contribute to efforts aimed at the protection of wild animals in the region.