I can remember back in the 80’s when we used to sit arrounding fire at night with either grandfather or grandmother or both grannies telling us parables and all sort of proverbs. If they wanted to knock cowardice off you, they would tell horror stories at night. Stories of the greedy hyena, Hare the trickster, Lion the King and the story of Napolo which washed away some households in the Eastern and Southern region.. Upon our realization that these were just mere stories, we never took them seriously though they seemed to be helping in one or other situation.
The story of Napolo is always accompanied with words like Chingwe hole and Namitembo River. For a couple of years, people have taken the issue of Chingwe hole and Namitembo River as parables and that these places do not exist. It is to erase this doubt that this story has been written..
Zomba plateau in the Eastern Region is gifted with a lot of precious and beautiful things such as Williams Falls, Chagwa Dam, Mulunguzi Dam, and Sunbird KuChawe Resort. However, there is one place or feature which people till now do not know that such a place exists. The story of Chingwe Hole and Namitembo River has always been regarded as a parable. Nthanda Times crew paid homage to Zomba plateau to know more about this place which its story is not clearly known.
Chingwe hole has been there for a couple of years but the exact year which it came into existence is not known yet. The story of Chingwe hole has been told in different versions regarding the moral the narrator wants to pass on to the audience.
Though it is now a home of different species of animals such as birds and reptiles, Chingwe hole used to serve as a grave for people who died of leprosy. One would wonder as to why leprosy people were treated in such a harsh manner. The answer I would give is that they believed that such people were cursed and that they did not want to live with cursed people for they believed that bad omens would engulf the whole society. So to avoid the omens, they chose to dump them into the whole. Not only did the hole eat innocent souls of leprosy people, mentally affected people and others who were regarded as not important and trouble makers in the societies were also devoured by the hole.
However, when brought at the hole, the victims were not just thrown inside the hole as objects but were rather lowered down using a rope (Chingwe) hence the name Chingwe hole which means the hole of ropes. On another note, the name Chingwe hole is connected to what happened decades after the act of throwing leprosy people and mentally affected people had already ceased.
Namitembo River is a name which always comes in the narratives of Chingwe hole. According to Mr. Kingsley Kananji of Domasi Village from Zomba city, the hole leads to a tunnel which is now called Namitembo River.
Mr. Kananji said that bodies of the people who were thrown into the hole were found floating in the river. The corpses were washed by running water from the hole into the river; hence Chingwe hole gives source to the river of Namitembo. The name Namitembo which means corpses was given to the river because it’s where corpses of the people thrown inside Chingwe hole were seen floating.
In the narratives, it is common said that this was a home of spirits to which Kananji nodded an agreement but was quick to elaborate what kind of spirits they were. It is believed that when a person dies, his or her spirit goes to heaven but the spirits of the innocent souls which were engulfed by this mysterious hole remained into it.
In the late 1800s, some tourists visited the hole upon hearing its mysterious stories. All they wanted was to measure how deep the hole is and what lives inside it. The whites at first tied a long rope to a dog’s leg and lowered it inside the mysterious hole. To their surprise, the rope did not reach to the bottom of the hole and decided to bring the dog out so that they should lengthen the rope but to their amazement and wonder, the dog did not come together with the rope.
One of the whites sacrificed himself to see what has get hold of the dog. He was lowered down into the hole using a little bit longer rope than the one they used before. When they pulled out their friend, they were engulfed with fear to see that their friend was also stuck inside the hole. When they looked at the rope they were using, it was turned into black color; this serves as the second source of the name Chingwe hole. It is believed that the spirits of the people who were thrown into the hole after being seen as threatening and not important got angry. There are these spirits that people refer to in the narratives. It is said that these spirits had eaten the dog and the person.
Nowadays, the hole seems to be blocked with stones, branches and all sorts of objects that tourists throw inside it. These things have caused the hole not to be attractive as it used to be in the past.