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A Woman of Substance

Mar 20, 2009, 7:53 AM

Vera Chirwa: a fearless fighter, an autobiography. 2008. 208 pages

This is the definitive story of one of Africa's great women in the post independence era a lady who epitomized struggle for human rights, justice, democracy and good motherhood. Vera Chirwa, as written by her is instructive as it is edifying.

Instructive because it tells us of how strong beliefs and principles can be an antidote to the nightmares of imprisonment, torture and other forms of repression. She was forced into exile together with her husband, Orton Chirwa, Malawi's first African lawyer and first Justice Minister under the dictator Banda. The pains of exile for a young woman nursing children is hard enough to bear and the fear of the long claws of the Big Man you are running away from reaching you, and it becomes unbearable. Banda was not the type of dictator who will allow his opponents rest even if they were living abroad lie kidnapped them, poisoned or fire bombed them, lie reached them everywhere they could be.

Vera and Orton learnt this the bitter way when in 1983, they were kidnapped together with their eldest son and shipped to Malawi in crates (p.86). Later sentenced to death, they served in prison till the thing days of the dictatorship in 1993.

Vera's story is edifying because in it she tells how she was bale to forgive even her torturers and tormentors, when she met them in the street or supermarket. As some of them want to dodge or look the other way, she will call them and shake their hands (p. 1 95). Some will stutter incomprehensible apologies, some will  ask for forgiveness.

Since out of jail. She has become a leading champion of human rights and prison reform in Africa. She has also spoken out against violence and political corruption in Malawi tinder the new leaders in the post Banda era.

She writes with humour, courage and tact. She is a woman of substance. a role model for African women. This is an interesting book, which opens the colonial and post colonial history of Malawi.

This book is available at Timbooktoo. 4494345

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