Maputo - Mozambique
Fort Mangochi was built in 1897, right at the location of a former stockade of Zarafi (or Jalasi), a powerful Yao Chief who, with his fellow Yao chiefs controlled the slave trade on the Shire Highlands. Located as he was, Jalasi exerted greater control of the slave trade route, which passed through the southern end of Lake Malawi to the Lujenda Valley and the East Coast. His location further enabled him to put tougher resistance against the British campaign to eradicate the slave trade.
When he was finally captured in 1895 after he had fled to Mozambique, the British converted it into a fort and maintained a garrison of at least 40 men to ensure peace and security in the area. Lieutenant E.G. Alson completed constructing the Fort in 1897. It was well equipped with several houses, stores and offices. The fort was abandoned in 1928, after changing functions from a slave trade deterrent to a military outpost during the First World War and finally, a training camp for the Kings African Rifles.
Fort Mangochi is found in Mangochi District, Southern Region of Malawi. It is located on a plateau near the summit of Mount Mangochi, at an elevation of 1372 metres above the sea level. Its geographical coordinates are approximately 14°26’48S, 35°29’12E .The fort is rectangular in shape and covers an area of approximately 46,405 square metres.
Fig. 1. Wall of Fort Mangochi.
About 15 metres west of the fort is located a series of buildings which were constructed after 1897 and were in use during the time the fort served as an outpost for the King’s African Riffles Battalion. These later structures could be considered a part of the site as they constitute a part of the later uses of the fort..
Fig. 2. Eastern Entrance of Fort Mangochi
Fort Mangochi is a pre-colonial heritage which was Chief Jalasi’s stronghold who was a slave trader, who controlled the main route from the south end of the lake to the Lujenda Valley on the East Coast.
The ruins of Fort Mangochi are perhaps the best-preserved remnant associated with the slave trade in Malawi. The Fort is comprised of an outer intact stone wall some 60 centimetres thick and varying in height between 1 and 4 metres. This wall is roughly rectangular and encloses an area of over 200 metres by 100metres. Inside this wall are remains of at least seven brick houses that included the commanding officer’s quarters, a guardroom, storerooms and offices.
Fig. 3. Western side of the wall
Most of the walls of these houses are also intact and some even have roof beams and door and window lintels in place. Some of the houses are overgrown by tall vegetation which caused much damage to the walls. Outside the stone wall are ruins of what were the soldiers’ quarters. Their walls stand up to 1metre or so high and, at least two buildings have their gabbles intact.
The Fort is a protected monument under the Act of 1967 as part of the Colonial Administration. The Department of Antiquities are the custodian of this heritage property. The fort is also protected by the Forestry Act , since it is located in the protected forest reserve.