By Munya Mosiah Malanda.
Osman Adam was the first Indian to purchase land in Blantyre in July 1894, a quarter hectare from Pettittis Estates. He built his trading store on this piece of land.
The largest land holder at that time was a native by the name Ntaja of Chilomoni who held 38,000 hectares, Kuntaja bought this Land from Chief Kapeni and Chilobwe in exchange for gunpowder.
Soche was originally a name of a Yao Chief and the mountain Soche was in his area in Blantyre. Chief Soche moved to Mpemba in 1860s with David Livingstone where his status gradually diminished Kuntaja was in good terms with Blantyre Mission which made it even easier for him to access this Land from Chiefs.
Kuntaja held this Land under Certificate 24 which he later sold to the Crown in 1892. Kuntaja also sold 3000 hectares of land in Chilomoni Mitsidi area to Joseph Booth. The Mitsidi Chilomoni area was called Sun Set Square. Other important Indian traders who arrived later in Blantyre were Lalji Kurji and Lambat.
In July 1920, Mr Kadir Khan offered Blantyre town council £100 for the right to administer the Blantyre African Market which was then located between the old Motis Mini Market and the Blantyre Bus Stands.
This was declined by Mr Hynde the Councillor of Blantyre and owner of Nyasaland Times.
In Blantyre other big landholders were John Buchanan and Harry Edwin Pettittis who owned the Mudi Recreation area among other lands. Historically the majority of Limbe Indians were Muslims.
The well known Limbe Indians leader in the late 90s was Altaf Mahomed, Owner of Swan Fizzes Co. Blantyre was dominated by Hindu Indians with the likes of Vanmali, Larji Kurji, Anadkat and others. Nyasaland’s first Indian School was opened in 1938 funded by Osman Adam and CK Dharap of the famous Dharap Primary School in Namiwawa.
Namiwawa was formerly called Hynde. In 1943, Suleman Sacranie and Omar Hassan opened another Indian Primary School in Limbe. Chichiri and Ndirande grew as informal native settlements.
Chichiri which means ‘Peg’ came about when the Nyasaland Govt put a survey Peg between Blantyre and Limbe and the settlements that sprung there adopted the name Chichiri. Chichiri was as notorious as Ndirande, famous with beer brewing.
The brew making prowess of one Elsie Kahumbe was legend of Chichiri then, Dr Kahumbe’s ancestor. Chichiri was like Zingwangwa and was razed down in 1950s to pave way for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Ginnery Corner light Industry Park.
Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital was built between 1954 to 1958.
The Rangeley Stadium aka Chichiri Stadium was completed around 1955. Rangeley was the Nyasaland Southern Region Commissioner who died around the same period and the Stadium was named after him.
The location of the Stadium was highly disputed as behind the Stands was the location of the cemetery of the inhabitants of Chichiri.
The Cemetery was relocated to Ndirande Malabada. The State of Emergency in 1959 swept the last stubborn inhabitants of Chichiri who were still refusing to move.
The majority residents of Chichiri moved to Zingwangwa. One famous Chichiri Case involved J Mpunga who refused to relocate as he had built a brick Store and valued his properties over £10,000.
He was refunded and moved to Newlands where he opened a Bottlestore. Residents were compensated at the rate of £30 per demolished structure. Ndirande was spared as it was under the Trust land Status.
The residents of Ndirande were not paying rates until 1964. Victoria Hall was built in 1900 and was a Cinema until 1933 when it became a Town Hall. Ryalls Hotel was opened in 1922 but started its operations as early as 1903.