Zomba, Malawi

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Chancellor College, University of Malawi
Chancellor College, University of Malawi
Zomba is located in Malawi
Location in Malawi
Coordinates: 15°23′S 35°20′E / 15.383°S 35.333°E / -15.383; 35.333
Country  Malawi
Region Southern Region
District Zomba District
Population (2008 est.)
 • Total 101,140
Time zone +2
View of Zomba Plateau from highway north of Zomba

Zomba is a city in southern Malawi, in the Shire Highlands. It is the administrative capital of Zomba District.

It was the capital of first British Central Africa and then Nyasaland before the establishment of the Republic of Malawi in 1964. It was also the first capital of Malawi and remained so until 1974, when Lilongwe became the capital. The Parliament remained even longer, until 1994 in Zomba. The city is best known for its British colonial architecture and its location at the base of the dramatic Zomba Plateau. Zomba is also the home of Chancellor College of the University of Malawi.


British colonial influence[edit]

The town's British colonial past is reflected in the architecture of its older buildings and homes. Zomba was once a hub for expatriates in Malawi. Its diverse cultural mix included British tobacco farmers and Dutch, German and U.S. emissaries. The British also established Sir Harry Johnston Primary School. The Zomba Gymkhana Club was once the focus for social activity in the expatriate community. However, in recent years, the club's appearance and reputation have been in decline. Next to the old parliament building is the botanical garden, which was established by the British, as well as the golf course in the city centre. At the southern entrance to the city, the King's African Rifles memorial is positioned right next to the M1.


Zomba is the centre for the tobacco and dairy farms of the surrounding area, which also produces rice, corn (maize), fish, and softwoods. Timber is extracted from the nearby plateau.

A market can be found in the town centre, where farmers from surrounding villages sell their products, as well as second hand clothes and basic consumer goods. Also fresh and dried fish from Lake Malawi and Lake Chilwa are sold. Local supermarkets, such as Peoples Trading Company, Metro and Shoprite are located near the bus depot. A dozen, mainly Indian and Chinese owned, shops sell imported clothes, electrical appliances, bicycles other and basic goods. Along the M1, several filling stations can be found. National Bank of Malawi, NBS savings Bank, Standard Bank and Opportunity Bank International as well as the Malawian Post have a branch in the city.

Zomba Hospital is an important employer and one of the biggest hospitals in the country.[1]

Zomba Central Prison was built in 1935 is the only maximum security prison in Malawi.


Main attraction in Zomba is the Zomba Plateau. Activities offered include rock climbing, horse riding,bird watching, fishing and mountain-biking. The Ku Chawe Inn, which lays right on the edge of the plateau is the most luxurious hotel in the area. Furthermore, tourists can sleep in log houses or camp at the trout farm. Within the town, two backpacker hostels and several lodges, ranging from basic to mid-class are open for guests. A craft market provides locally made souvenirs.


Facade in Zomba

University of Malawi[edit]

Chancellor College, the largest of the constituent colleges of the University of Malawi, is located in Zomba. The college has five faculties: Faculty of Humanities, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Law, Faculty of Social Science and Faculty of Education.

Sir Harry Johnston International Primary School[edit]

Sir Harry Johnston International School has served the international and local community since the early 1950s. The school consists of a five classroom block with a hall, and separate networked IT suite and library. Within the spacious and beautifully landscaped grounds there is a swimming pool, a seventy metre soccer/games field, basketball court, nursery class play area, a volleyball court, netball field and smaller sized training pitches. The school is centrally located on Kalimbuka Road and offers an internationally adapted UK curriculum. The school has students from a diverse range of nationalities with around half of the students Malawian. The school is non-profit making and is managed by an elected board of governors from the parent community. The school's swimming-pool is open to public from September to May.

Zomba Catholic Secondary School[edit]

Located around 3 miles from the Old Capital city's town centre, this is a government funded school founded in the 1940s by the Catholic church. A community of Marist Brothers is located on site and the Brothers help with the teaching. Although funded by the government, pupils are still required to pay fees (MK18 500 per term as of 2011) as they live on campus and must pay board. The school is regarded as one of the best government schools in Malawi and competition for entry is intense. The school has around 300 pupils and 16 teachers as well as several administrative staff.

Zomba Theological College[edit]

Zomba Theological College was founded in 1977 and is run by the five synods of Blantyre, Livingsonia, Nkhoma, Harare and Zambia but also works closely with the theological department of the University of Malawi.[2]


Zomba Plateau[edit]

The Zomba Plateau is arguably Zomba's most famous feature. In some parts, it rises to 1800m in height and is covered with vast tracts of African Juniper and Widdringtonia, and other mixed vegetation. The top of the plateau is criss-crossed by streams and is dotted with waterfalls and still lakes. The hike to the top of the Plateau is a popular tourist activity.

From the top of the plateau, it is possible to see Lake Chilwa to the north, Mount Mulanje to the southeast and the Shire River to the west. The Mulunguzi River springs from the plateau and flows through the town.

This is a good place to trek, as there is an abundance of plant life and creatures, as well as waterfalls.


Climate data for Zomba
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 27
Average low °C (°F) 18
Precipitation mm (inches) 307
Source: Weatherbase [3]


White-winged Apalis (Apalis chariessa) - several pairs have been sighted in the evergreen forest along the Mulunguzi River. It is estimated that only 100 pairs remain in the wild.

Eastern Egg Eater (Dasypeltis medici medici) - several specimens recorded, including one of 112 cm.


The easiest way to get to Zomba is by kombi bus service from Lilongwe or Blantyre via the M1, Malawi's main north-south highway. National Bus Service as well as private run mini-buses connect Zomba with Liwonde, Mangochi, Balaka, Lilongwe and Lake Malawi. Trucks and pick-ups transport passengers to Mulanje and Phalombe.

North of the city lies an airstrip, which is owned and run by the Malawian military.


Year Population[4]
1977 24 234
1987 43 250
1998 64 115
2008 101 140


Zomba Mosque

Zomba is influenced by the Muslim community of Yao and Muslim Malawians from Indian descent. The main mosque is close to the market.

Several Christian churches have branches in Zomba, the city is seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Zomba.

Eastern Region Police Headquarters, Zomba, Malawi
Zomba District Council Building, in Zomba City
CCAP Church in Zomba with Zomba golf course and Zomba Plateau in the background
Gymkhana CLub in Zomba, established 1923
Zomba Plateau approached from the Blantyre-Zomba road, which was being renovated when this picture was taken in March 2014.

Sister cities[edit]

Since 2008, Zomba is a sister city with Urbana, Illinois.[5]

A Short History of Urbana's Sister Cities Partnerships

Zomba has had a long standing connection to Urbana, Illinois, through friendships established over the years between the Urbana First Presbyterian Church and Jeanes Church CCAP, Domasi, Malawi. Dr. Ellard and Grace Malindi, 1997 PhD graduates of the School of Agriculture with emphasis in Consumer Economics, attended Urbana Presbyterian church as students and retained their close ties with the church after returning to Malawi to serve in the Ministry of Agriculture. Under the leadership of pastor Don Mason, this friendship deepened and led to the construction of Jeanes Church in Domasi and the establishment of the Shallow Wells Mission project to bring safe, potable water to rural areas of the Zomba Administrative District.

During a mission trip to Domasi in 2007, a member of the visiting team, Dennis Roberts, book designer at the University of Illinois and Urbana City Alderman, visited Chancellors College Library on the University of Malawi campus to donate books to their American collections. There he met Mr. Dickson Vuwa Phiri, Director of the Library. Mr. Phiri had just returned from a visit to the University of Illinois campus in Urbana as an Associate Visitor under the Mortenson Center for Library International Programs. A friendship was quickly established, and over the coming year further book exchanges deepened this relationship. On February 25, 2008, the Urbana City Council approved the creation of a Sister Cities partnership with Zomba, Malawi, and on June 23, 2008, this partnership was officially chartered by Sister Cities International.

The Zomba-Urbana partnership received a great stimulus when in March, 2010, Urbana was chosen as one of seventeen African partnership cities to participate in the Africa Urban Poverty Alleviation Program (AUPAP), sponsored by Sister Cities International. The goal of the $115,000.00 grant award was to create a project to improve conditions related to water, health, and sanitation within Zomba's urban areas. In Zomba a Local Community Committee (LCC) was created to administer the program. Three goals were selected: building toilets in the public schools, providing sanitary facilities at the local hospital, and bringing water to 25 selected rural areas of the city. Two projects were ultimately approved by Sister Cities international, and the city administrative staff bids were approved and construction began. During the two year period of the project, boys and girls VIP drop toilet units were built at Chikamveka, Chalomwe, and Thundu primary schools. An Ablution Block with showers, toilet facilities, and a laundry with clothes drying yard was constructed at Zomba Central Hospital's Guardian Village, providing sanitary facilities to temporary residents attending to sick family members at the hospital. These facilities were completed in October, 2012.

In March, 2012, as part of this project, Zomba City CEO Charles Kalemba and Zomba Administrative Assistant Mussa Mwale were invited by Sister Cities International to attend the Sister Cities 50th Anniversary International Conference in Arlington, VA, to speak about their experiences in working on the grant. After visiting U.S. Capital they traveled to Urbana, IL, where they appeared before the Urbana City Council, participated in media interviews, meetings, and organizational events. A "Malawi Mixer" Party was held in their honor, and they were invited to attended a reception at the home of the President of the University of Illinois.

Based on the positive results of this project, Urbana was selected to participate in a second Sister Cities International grant program, the Sino-African Initiative (SAI). This $100,000.00 grant is to create an improved sanitation and solid waste removal program in Zomba. The SAI grant involves the cooperation of Urbana, Zomba, and the Haizhu District, Guangzhou City, The Peoples Republic of China, in a large tri-lateral project.

In January, 2013, four members of the Urbana Sister Cities Committee traveled to Africa, visiting with the Zomba Local Sister Cities Committee, and traveling with them to Nairobi, Kenya, to attend a grant preparation workshop sponsored by SCI. On that trip a project for developing better waste management, sewer repairs, solid waste composting, and educational outreach was approved by Sister Cities International. Trips to Haizhu District are scheduled in July, 2013, to continue work on the goals of the SAI grant.

New outreach activities in Zomba continue through the Sister Cities program, furthering the exchange of ideas and friendship between our communities.

SISTER CITIES INTERNATIONAL MISSION STATEMENT: “Promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation—one individual, one community at a time.”


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 15°23′S 35°20′E / 15.383°S 35.333°E / -15.383; 35.333