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Notes on the Geography of Malawi: Zomba: Photo 1

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Perhaps that chief secretary was Reginald Maugham. In a more serious vein, he had written that "of the many attractive spots which I have seen in Africa, Zomba is the loveliest of all." (Colin A. Baker, Johnston's Administration, p. 80). The view here looks east from the slope of the great Zomba Mountain against which the town was built. Baker traces the origin of the town this way: "Henry Henderson, who established the Scottish Mission at Blantyre in 1876, had thought of setting it up at Zomba, but decided not to, partly on the grounds that it was too near the slave route to be safe... [John] Buchanan had joined the Blantyre Mission in 1876 as an agriculturalist, but had been dismissed in 1880 and had set up on his own as coffee and sugar planter at Zomba... [Buchanan] acted as Consul, and it was during his period as Acting Consul that Johnston first visited Central Africa" (p. 19).

Johnston was seduced by the scenery. "Blantyre was pretty," he wrote, "but Zomba was superb." As for Zomba being close to the slave route that ran from the south end of Lake Nyasa to the coast, that was all to the good for Johnston and would make it easier for him to crush the trade. The only negative was that the people of Blantyre would be miffed and rightly worried that the growth of their city would be crippled if the capital were set up 40 miles east. That was fine with Buchanan, who didn't get along with the people at Blantyre, and Johnston didn't worry overmuch about it. He had little use for missionaries.

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