History Of Malawi



In the wake of Cabinet Crisis of 1964, access to the National Archives in Malawi to conduct research, was extremely difficult, and few people were granted permission by the Office of the President to consult materials deposited there.

Loius Nthenda (far left) with Malcom X at Oxford University in December 1964.

In September 1966, Mr. Louis Nthenda, a Malawian PhD student at the University of Oxford working on a research topic: ‘The administration of central government in Malawi 1920-1955,‘‘ was granted access to the Archives by the President. Mr. Nthenda‘s permission to consult public records for his research was to expire in February 1967.

Towards the end of January 1967, Mr. Louis Nthenda applied to the Government, through the office of the National Archivist, for permission to extend his research until July 1967.

In his confidential report to the Secretary for Local Government, the National Archivist regretted that he could not honestly recommend Mr. Louis Nthenda‘s application for extension of his period of access to government records because the researcher appeared to be something of a ‘security risk.

In reaching this position the Archivist explained:
“It is obvious from the conversations that I had with him that he has pronounced left-wing views and has little sympathy with the present Malawi Government, in particular with its attitude to foreign affairs.

As Mr. Nthenda‘s opinions are so much at variance with those of this Government, I hardly feel that it is right for him to enjoy the privilege of having access to this Government‘s files – particularly as there is the danger that when he returns to Britain he may publish articles harmful to Malawi‘s image abroad and possibly use the material which he has gained here to that end.”

In view of these representations by the Government Archivist, the Minister of Local Government advised the Archivist to inform Mr. Louis Nthenda that Government could not approve the researcher‘s application for the extension of his period of access to government files.

Mr. Louis Nthenda responded to this negative reply with shock and therefore wrote a lengthy letter to the Minister in which among other things, he requested an audience with the Minister, where he would make his representations with the hope of being favourably considered for an extended period of access to the government files.

When this request was forwarded to the President, the President ordered that Mr. Louis Nthenda must be removed from the access to the Government Archives immediately. He [was] in no circumstances to be allowed to return.

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Source: Lihoma, Paul (2012) The impact of administrative change on record keeping in Malawi. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow .

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