Malawian Migration to Zimbabwe, 1900 - 1965

Tracing Machona

Zoë R. Groves




This book explores the culture of migration that emerged in Malawi in the early twentieth century as the British colony became central to labour migration in southern Africa. Migrants who travelled to Zimbabwe stayed for years or decades, and those who never returned became known as machona – ‘the lost ones’. Through an analysis of colonial archives and oral histories, this book captures a range of migrant experiences during a period of enormous political change, including the rise of nationalist politics, and the creation and demise of the Central African Federation. Following migrants from origin to destination, and in some cases back again, this book explores gender, generation, ethnicity and class, and highlights life beyond the workplace in a racially segregated city. Malawian men and women shaped the culture and politics of urban Zimbabwe in ways that remain visible today. Ultimately, the voluntary movement of Africans within the African continent raises important questions about the history of diaspora communities and the politics of belonging in post-colonial Africa.


Draws on archival research in Malawi, Zimbabwe and the UK, and oral history interviews in four districts of Malawi and several suburbs of Harare


Zoë R. Groves is Lecturer in Modern Global, Colonial and Postcolonial History at the University of Leicester, UK, and Research Associate at Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) in Johannesburg, South Africa.