In 1859, the famous Scottish discoverer David Livingstone was
the first European to set foot in the region now known as Malawi. He called it
Nyasaland, after the local term "nyasa" which means "big
water," referring to the large 550 kilometre lake that borders the country
to the east. Livingstone's discovery led to the arrival of British missionaries
and colonialists, and Nyasaland was named a British protectorate in 1890.
Farm land surrounding Zomba.
John Buchanan, a missionary, decided that the Mulunguzi river,
flowing off the Zomba plateau to the north, would not only supply him with water
but also power a small sugar mill. In addition to the temperate climate and
other physical attractions of the site, Zomba was conveniently placed to monitor
and eradicate the slave trade of those times. Zomba quickly became the country's
capital and leading administrative settlement.
In 1953, as colonialism was in decline, Nyasaland became part
of the Rhodesian Federation. It didn't last long: in 1964 the Federation
dissolved into the now independent nations of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. Zomba
was Malawi's capital until 1975 when Dr Hastings Banda transferred the title to
Lilongwe. The Parliament still meets in Zomba, however.
The colonial legacy in Zomba is very evident. The Gymkhana
Club, the old Governor's Residency and the army barracks are all well preserved.
The field in front of the clubhouse is now used for sports, and socialising.
Polo is no longer played at the Club; the barracks now house the Malawi Rifles
rather than the King's African Rifles, and the Residency is a rest house.
There are traditional housing areas where people live in huts
with grass roofs. There are also densely populated areas of one-roomed brick
housing where perhaps fifty people share a tap. At the heart of Zomba is a
commercial precinct with 19th and early 20th-century veranda-style shops and a
Mosque surrounding the busy agricultural market complex.
The land use model for Zomba may be simplified as follows :
1. The main recreational zone is found in the centre of the
urban area. This was once the Gymkhana Club, where the colonial rulers played
2. The Central Business District contains the main businesses
and market of the urban area. This is found close to the centre, the most
accessible location where the main roads meet.
3. High status housing surrounds Zomba's CBD. This
pattern is the opposite to that of cities in MEDCs. Inner city districts of
MEDCs date back to the factories and tenement blocks of the Industrial
Revolution, whereas the area surrounding Zomba's CBD dates from colonial times
when it housed the colony's administrators and Governor. It consequently has the
infrastructure - electricity, telephones, sewerage, water, etc. not found in
other parts of the urban area.
Zomba's industrial area along the airport road.
4. Surrounding the high-quality residential area is medium
quality housing which started out as low class housing. It has now been provided
with some basic amenities.
5. Low class housing is found on the lower land to the
south-east. This land is at risk from flooding, and contains the sewage works.
6. Factories are found along the main road leading to the
airport and also in an estate close to the CBD.
Zomba: a simplified urban structure
Zomba: actual urban structure
Photographs courtesy Tarotako
Rikkyo University Tokyo