By Duncan Mlanjira
Malawi’s author, economist, historian and playwright, Desmond Dudwa Phiri, commonly known as D. D. Phiri, passed away on Sunday, March 24 at Mwaiwathu Private Hospital in Blantyre and film producer Charles Shamu Joyah has described him as a prophet who was never listened to.
“Today, the Malawian writer, philosopher, economist, educator, historian and prophet – yes, prophet – DD Phiri, has made transition to take permanent sojourn with the great ancestors of Africa after a tireless life of writing to change this country for the better,” Writes Joyah on Facebook.
“Even when we did not listen, he never gave up. Like a true prophet, he warned us of our economic downturn if we did not curb corruption, and truly, his word came to pass. He saw the value of history and chronicled the lives of many Malawians who would have been forgotten had he not taken it upon himself to write about them.
“As a philosopher his writings were so deep, yet he was gifted with the ability to use simple language to convey his thoughts so that everyone could easily understand. His writings were never directed to the armchair philosophers, but rather to the common man in the street.
“The one outstanding thing about DD Phiri was that even when he was criticizing someone, he did it so gently, without acrimony, anger, malice or mischief that even the criticized would get the message without feeling offended. That is a gift only reserved for the few.
“Now he is gone. As time inexorably ticks by, the dead fade further and further into past tense, but as long as human beings are able to read, DD Phiri will forever remain alive through his writings. His soul will forever Rest In Peace,” Joyah writes.
In his response, John Mkakeni Chipeta said: “This is the guy who deserves recognition as a Hero!!! We hope those in power will accord Dudwa the Honour he earned.”
Poet Benedicto Atani Malunga had this to say: “A befitting eulogy like the one Joyah has composed is the greatest honour one writer of substance could have conveyed to another of equal stature.
“Late DD Phiri was indeed a multifaceted institution in his own right. Formidably well read and therefore adequately informed, he was the epitome of the benefits of continuos education.
“Self effacing and delightfully honest, his scholarship was about delivering tangible results all could see. He was one who impressed me with his realization that a garden of flowers derived its beauty from the multiple colours it accommodated.
“Even when attacked by those who thought they were better writers than him, his rejoinders were devoid of unwarranted vitriol but had a balance of candour and academic decorum that clearly demonstrated that there was no point in writing as if one had a monopoly over knowledge at the risk of ignoring the Achebean dictum to the effect that wisdom is a goatskin bag everybody carries his own.
“May therefore the soul of our quintessential scholar rest in peace. The books he has left behind him are the sources of enlightenment future and present generations will tap knowledge and wisdom from,” Malunga said.
According to Wikipedia, DD Phiri was born in Mzimba. He went to Blantyre Secondary School and Livingstonia and London. He later moved to England and studied Economics, History, and Sociology at the London School of Economics (part of the University of London).
He was accorded with an honorary doctorate by the University of Malawi.
He worked as a diplomat in the foreign service and retired from the civil service in 1976. He was the principal and proprietor of the Aggrey Memorial School in Blantyre and a columnist for The Nation and The Times newspapers.
He published 17 books in the fields of history, sociology and economics and was recognized by the Pan-African Writers’ Association (PAWA) as one of the top 23 authors in Africa in 2011.
His published works include:
- Let Us Die for Africa: An African Perspective on the Life and Death of John Chilembwe of Nyasaland (1999)
- Charles Chidongo Chinula (1975)
- Dunduzu K. Chisiza (1974)
- James Frederick Sangala: Founder of the Nyasaland African Congress and Bridge between Patriot John Chilembwe and Ngwazi Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda (1974)
- Inkosi Gomani II: Maseko-Ngoni Paramount Chief Who Suffered Martyrdom for His People and Country (1973)
- From Nguni to Ngoni:A History of the Ngoni Exodus from Zululand and Swaziland to Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia (1982)
- History of Malawi: From Earliest Times to the Year 1915 (January 2004)
- History of the Tumbuka People (2000)
- Democracy with a Price: The History of Malawi since 1900 (co-authors Bakili Muluzi, Yusuf Juwayeyi, Mercy Makhambera (1999)
- Mankhwala a Ntchito
- Kanakazi Kayaya
- Ku Msika wa Vyawaka
- Ulanda wa Mavunika
- Hints to Private Students
- What the Achievers Teach about Success
- Malawi Our Future Our Choice: The Selected Essays of DD Phiri (co-authors John Williams, Judy Williams) (2006)
- The Chief’s Bride