Famous Yawo People


  • Ali, Aires – former Prime Minister of Mozambique (16 January 2012 to 8 October 2012)
  • Banda, Joyce, former President of Malawi (7 April 2012-31 May 2014) and former Vice President of Malawi (2009-2012). Previously Minister of Women, Gender and Social Welfare.
  • Chikwenga, James 
  • Chilembwe, John (1871 – February 3, 1915) U.S. trained Baptist minister and early leader of the independence movement in Nyasaland (now Malawi). Celebrated as a hero in Malawi with an annual national holiday in part for an unsuccessful uprising against colonial rule.
  • Chipembere, Henery Masauko
  • Daudi, Dr. Andrew, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture. From Namwera, Mangochi District.
  • Iron, Josephy of Mpondas village, Mangochi District, served as Inspector General of the Malawi Police Service
  • Kumtumanje, Gomile 
  • Makata, Lawrence, representative of Nyasaland in the failed federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland
  • Mtewa, Dr. Meke
  • Muhamed, Dr. Imrane Sharif, Lecturer, University of Malawi’s Chancellor College. Dr. Sharif Muhamad also served as Secretary General, Public Affairs Committee (PAC) and Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM). From Namwera, Mangochi District.
  • Mussah, Kapichira
  • Muluzi, Bakili (born March 17, 1943) former President of Malawi from 1994-2004.
  • Nakanga, Wenham
  • Omar, Dr. Salumin served as an advisor to the late President Bingu Wa Mutharika on Islamic Affairs. He is from Namwera, Malawi.
  • Sangala, Twaibu, former Malawian cabinet minister (Minister of Health) who died under suspicious circumstances during President Banda’s regime
  • Sikawa, Dr. Daniel, Lecturer, University of Malawi’s Bunda College of Agriculture. From Namwera, Malawi.
  • Stambuli, Dr. Kalonga was an advisor of former President Dr. Bakili Muluzi on Economic Affairs. He is from Chimbende, T/A Chowe, Mangochi. 


  • Sheik Chibekete
  • Che Mbendu
  • Bishop Thomas Msusa hails from Iba village in T/A Katuli, Mangochi District. He attended primary school at Kwilembe and Masongola Primary Schools. His secondary school education took place at Nankhunda Minor Seminary in Zomba and later studied the priesthood at St. Peter’s Major Seminary in Zomba. He became the Chief Priest at Mayaka Parish in Zomba under the Zomba diocese. Bishop Msusa went to Catholic University for Eastern Africa in Kenya for his Master’s Degree in Theology. For further education, he obtained his Ph.D in Rome, Italy and was appointed as Province Minister to the Vatican under Uganda, Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania. He is the first Yawo Bishop in the Roman Catholic Church and worked under the Zomba Diocese.
  • Monsenior Josephy Kimu
  • Mufti Abidi Salom. First person to be awarded title of Mufti in Malawi.
  • Mufti Kassam Abasi of T/A Chowe, Mangochi District, Malawi. Second Mufti of Malawi.
  • Sheik Mkwanda of Bibi Kuluwunda’s village in Salima, Malawi was known to speak 14 languages.
  • Sheik Dinala Chalonlilea, founder of Islamic Information Bureau
  • Lali Lubani, founder of the Muslim Association of Malawi
  • Husein Mwalabu, chairperson for the Forum for the Defence of Islam in Malawi


  • T/A Makanjira of Nyasaland (Malawi). One of the most famous Yawo chiefs during the slave trade who stood up to the British governmental system but was eventually defeated by Sir Harry Johnston’s army who opposed the trading of slaves. In exchange for slaves, the Portuguese and Arabs traded weapons. It is believed that Makanjira used traditional medicine in order to overcome his enemies. When driven away by Bandawe and his soldiers, he fled to Mozambique (Portuguese East Africa). To this day, Makanjira is famous for his use of magic konwn locally as chitega.
  • T/A Katuli was the first Yawo chief to rule a greater area between the borders of Malawi and Mozambique. In Malawi, he has made boundary with T/A Jalasi and T/A Makanjira as well as T/A Chowe and across the borders his aras is extended to Masangulu. He was chosen to pass judgments during the colonial rule in Zomba when the British government decided to give power to traditional chiefs whether to execute convicts found guilty of murder charges. He was known as the only Yawo chief in Mangochi who supported strongly the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) when other chiefs denounced Kamuzu’s government because of Moto village arrest and Masauko Chipembere.
  • T/A Tambala, originally of Mozambique, settled at Masuku area of Mangochi District in Malawi. He proceeded later to Dedza where he fought the Ngoni and Chewa tribes and settled in the midst of their homelands. He is known as the first Yawo chief to settle in the Central Region of the country in a place where they are not surrounded by other Yawo people. He was a follower of Islam and demanded circumcision among his male subjects. He was also famous for carrying a cock (chitundu) in a kraal as his magic weapon. This cock is believed to have protected him from his enemies and every one called him Che Tambala because of this practice. His village is known up to this day as ku Chitundu ku Che Tambala.
  • T/A Kumtaja of Blantyre, Malawi
  • T/A Mkalo of Chiradzulu, Malawi
  • T/A Kadewere of Chiradzulu, Malawi
  • T/A Mpama of Chiradzulu, Malawi
  • T/A Chikoni of Zomba, Malawi
  • T/A Kumtumanje of Zomba, Malawi
  • Bibi Kuluwunda of Salima, Malawi
  • T/A Chikumbu of Mulanje, Malawi
  • T/A Msamale of Balaka, Malawi


  • Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi (7 April 2012-31 May 2014) and former Vice President of Malawi (2009-2012). Previously Minister of Women, Gender and Social Welfare.
  • Mrs. Lemani (Nee Miss Namwera), Lecturer, Polytechnic, Blantyre, Malawi
  • Tujilane Chimzunmila, Ph.D. in Business Studies who worked with Reserve Bank of Malawi as Internal Finance Manageress. A wife to Collins Chimzumila.
  • Lilian Patel of T/A Jalasi in Mangochi District, Malawi. Member of Parliament for Mangochi South for 15 years. Held many ministerial posts during the time of Dr. Bakili Muluzi’s presidency including Minister of Health, Education and External Affairs. Married Mr. Roloff Patel, an Asian national (deceased).
  • Chief Kausinga
  • Mayi Patuma Ali, Mayi Sanudi and Mayi Manesi hailed from the Namwera area of Mangochi District, Malawi. They were popular during the Malawi Congress Party regime as dancers from Nkhwanzi Mbumba. President for life Kamuzu Banda was impressed with their skills. Though they were not educated, Kamuzu took them to England saying learning does not mean going to school only but also traveling. When you travel you learn new things you have never experienced in your life.


  • Swadick Sanudi of Ulongwe, T/A Msamala in Balaka District, Malawi. First choice Malawi National Football Team. Schooled at Mtaja CDSS in Machinga. Picked by Big Bullets when Mtaja CDSS beat Big Bullets Youth 5-1. Plays professionally in South Africa.
  • Affick Sikelo of Mangochi, Malawi. Footballer with Big Bullets for many years as well as National Team player. Now living in Chiromoni Township, Blantyre.
  • John Maduka of T/A Katuli in Mangochi, Malawi. Played with Silver Strikers and Malawi National Football Team for many years as midfielder. Now based in South Africa where he played professionally.
  • Hassan Mankhokwe of 6 Miles in Zomba, T/A Mulumbe, Malawi. Former goalkeep for Red Lions Football Club.


  • Tambala Chitenje of Mangochi, Malawi. Composer of “Tambala Chitenje” and “Soka”.
  • Wilson Makawa of Malawi living abroad in Zambia. Known for his song “Katukutu Sigela Jika”.
  • Gides Chalamanda of Njuli in Chiradzulu, Malawi. Composed “Chigalimoto Cha kwa America” and “Buffalo Soldier”.
  • Moris Maulidi of Songani in Zomba, Malawi. Formed his group known as Songani Strings Stars and most famous for producing “Asakina Pikanani”.


  • Jack Mapanje(born 1944 in Kadango) is a Malawian writer and poet. He was the former head of English at the University of Malawi, and is currently a senior lecturer in English at Newcastle University.
  • James Chuma, Abdullah Susi & Jacob Wainwright were companions of Dr. David Livingstone
  • Mungo Murray Chisuse, the “African photographer, Blantyre, Nyasaland” (as he referred to his photographic works) was one of the first African photographers on the continent. A contemporary and friend of John Chilembwe, his photograph of Chilembwe is what present day Malawian banknotes use to depict Mr. Chilembwe.

“M.M. Chisuse” lived at the Blantyre Scottish Presbyterian mission residence around 1880 and was educated under missionary David Clement Scott where he also worked as a ‘house boy’ from 1881. He traveled to Scotland in 1885 with Scott where he attended Stewart’s College in Edinburgh. Upon returning to Blantyre, he worked as a printer in the late 1870s. He published his Yao translation of part of Grimm’s Fairy Tales in the mission journal, Kalilo, in 1892. Five years later, he traveled to England where he received more training in printing works. He learned how to ride a bicycle while there (possibly one of the first Malawians to do so) and became familiar with the violin. By 1900 he began to become more heavily involved in photography in Nyasaland. He remained dependent on mission employment until he began to become involved with independent businessmen in the community when, in 1909, he became one of the founding members of the Natives’ Industrial Union. His photographic works became more prominent and his achievements are now a priceless treasure to present-day Malawi as so many historic figures from the early part of the 20th century were captured by his photographic skills. *information obtained from “Mungo Murray Chisuse and the Early History of Photography in Malawi” by John McCracken, Society of Malawi Journal, Vol. 61, No. 2 2008.

25 Responses to “Famous Yawo People

  • My name is Amidu Jagaji and iam coming from Mjale village T/A kalembo and i would like to inform you that our culture should come together and have a stetegic plan that will focus on the eeds and the challenges most of the yao youth are facing here in Malawi due to religion and political difference and its very un fairr for some of us who have been side line by various organisation due to our yao name and it is my desire that we should also move follwed to regoster an organisation that will also focus on the challeges that the yao community is facing so that there can be equality of resource rather than just focusing on the only tribe that some one believe and for your own information let us work hard in empoering the youth in tribe so that we can also read this countyry like what Muluzi did.

    • I am very very happy for this initiative. Yes as Yao people, we need to know where we belong, what big things did our leaders do? and as a tribe, where do we stand and emulate the good things and keep the candle burning for our tribe, our areas, our people and our leaders..!

  • am proud of this initiative.I belong to this society.where I stay,yawos are regarded as the most backward people.but am now proud to know that we are also educated and productive people also.

  • I apriciate the innitiative.i jst want to a few names who ve not been included.
    That includes
    John chilembwe
    Lali lubani
    Husein mwalabu
    others to follow

  • Obrigado pela iniciativa, gostei de cadastrar me num site dos ayaawos, mais em Mocambique existem outras figuras famosas num panorama politico, musical, academico, etc, nao sou o primeiro ministro, como por exemplo o Professor Catendratico Armindo Ngunga. Bom dia para todos os povos ayaawos e os simpatizantes desse povo. Abraco. Cubilas Messope

  • Sikomo a chakulungwakulungwa. Mtundu wetu wa chiyao nditu ukusosekwa ukumulaneje. Soni, pakusosekwa kutenda ndondomeko jati wandu’we wa chiYao tukumbuchileje utamilo wetu ligongotu wanache wakupagwa kuyaka kuno, wajinji ngakuwecheta chiYao.

    Sosileje soni jele bungweji jimanyichije kwabasi kuti wandu ajimanyilireje. Pana wandu wa chiYao wabasi wampakajile jele bungweji nikamusyanaga yakutenda.

  • You may want to add to your list of famous Yaos
    Dr. David Livingstone’s servants Susi and Chuma who were key guides in guiding the great explorer through the trade routes in East Africa . Upon his death, dissected his heart and burried it in Zambia preserved and carried his body to Bagamoya in Tanzania before it was transferred to London

  • I think this list of famous yao’s is not worth. You should have done a thorough research before you came up with this list. Thats Y pipo blame Yao’s saying , Yao’s like short cuts.
    Let me remind you that the current Head of the Pennysilvania Police is Ramon Suman, a yao from Machinga but born in the USA. When you talk about musicians, what about Martin Siwedi who played guitar in most of Tracy Chapmans earlier music heats. We have Yao fim actors here in the USA and I am one of them.

  • Che Mkochi,
    Obviously, the website is a good start. I think that what would be good is indeed if we take charge in giving a good account of ourselves whether we are in Mocambique, Tanzania or Malawi. We have a very rich heritage. We are a unique people and have influenced the history of East Africa. Many Yaos have been shy or embarrassed to identify themselves as Yaos. Most recently, I have just found a key Malawian to have been a Yao, Dr. Attati Mpakati who was assasinated by Dr. Banda.

    There is a nascent organization in Malawi; called Ndamo Sya Ayao which is being developed to promote Yao culture. If we achieve our aims and make a cultural center. You will certainly be in the arts section.

    Dr. Daniel Dube

    Yambone yosope.

  • quite interesting!!!!!!

  • We are scattered all over southern africa. What I have observed about my tribesmen in countries where Chiyawo is not widely spoken, there is an identity crisis. Generally in every Yawo family, two or three intelligent children are born. Most of these children, though Muslims, because of the environment, lose touch with their language. I speak this language with easy but my children cannot understand even a single word. However, I am made to believe that the pupils in Malawi’s Mangochi region and those in Lichinga Province in Mozambique learn other vernaculars at school at the expense of their mother language (Yawo). Its time for us to take an initiative to ensure that we preserve our culture. Please note that I take solace in the fact that Yawo people are wonderful, humble and intelligent though our elders did not attend formal education.

    • I’m looking for the origin of my father Goodson Wamuwa or Namuwa who migrated to Zimbabwe by then Rhodesia. He was born in Chiradzulu Malawi in 9-03-1930. My name is Rodreck Zimbili. I believe he is of the Yao tribe. Pliz help.

  • The most important thing for the Yao people is to claim our heritage back. For this we need to celebrate our independece as a people, our economic enterprise and indeed rich traditions. Our people have began to mass large amounts of wealth. This wealth can only translate into tribal strength if yaos have connections and networking that designed for development of ourselves and our families and our people whereever they may be. Tribal confidence will come when we celebrate and create our own heroes, do our own sports, our own trade associations and build a practical education infrastructure that is focussed on things we do best and opening new horizons for the tribe.

  • Greetings. I have bumped into this page by mistake. I must say i am really happy. I am Yao. I live in Holland. I was born in Zimbabwe. there is a huge Yao community in Zimbabwe and most of us are second or third generation. Our grand parents migrated from Malawi. One this they left a heritage for us, the fact that we are Yao. We have tried to maintain our language and values. I went through jando and so were my sisters for msondo, all in a foreign land. indeed we must maintain our identity and value whom we are. In Zimbabwe, there could be more that 100 000 Yao people.My father tells me his parents hailed from CheMdoka Village, in Mangochi , T/A Namavi. Here is a facebook page for Yao people born in Zimbabwe (https://www.facebook.com/groups/203238253117271/)

  • I have liked this site, and as a yao am very sure am gonna learn more… I am doing my research on Yao tribe and very sure indeed I will benefit more from this site

  • Yakutesya lungw’anutu yeleyi achakulungwa: kwaune basi kwamba kutogolera. Am a Yao frm Dedza in T/A Tambala’s area. This is a good initiative but we need to add more as most information is flawed n shallow.

  • my name is Rah Chitumbo, ayao born in Zambia Luasaka educated in Mumbwa distrct primary school and junior secondary school.my father comes from the heart of Lichinga Malica, mozambique and mother further as we go to lake Malawi mbandesi.
    when at i thought we are the most backward race but now i have seen not really the case.
    I am a happy yao man living in Nampula city mozambique working in the United Nations.Through fighting to know where my parents came from lead to mozambique motherland.
    I thank all the brothers who are concerned with our origin of our parents lets come together to preserve our yao culture.

  • My name is Ayami Clement, from T/A Chowe Bugudadi Village Mangochi District. I am happy to share our views like this with my fellow yao trib. I would be great if the world can support the development.

  • This is quite interesting indeed, I am proud to be a yao, born in Mangochi,Kella village.
    leaving in Cape Town,previously served as business associate at Macquarie bank Limited(Australia bank)together with the Thabo Tembo a son of John Tembo.

    Currently I am working in hand with South African magnet hotelier tycoon, Sol Kerzner.
    we have to be proud among ourselves as we are the only friendly culture,I guess in Malawi where we warmly can easily accommodate the other tribes.
    kwende tukamulane a chakulungwa pakunyadira mtundu wetu

  • Well done comrades keep up the good work.I am a yao born & bred in zim.Teacher by profession,currently studying
    for a degree in educational management.

  • It is good when the people of my tribe put their heads together to record our own history and achievements. I am happy and proud of this.My father was Yao from Mpondas Mangochi and my mother Zimbabwean and I am very proud to call myself Yao.I like this initiative yet at the same time I would like to stress that it should not only be about prominent people but all the Yaos at large, it is good to praise and uplift achievers but in Yao we say “Chilambo vandu”.
    Blantyre ,Chiladzulu and Zomba are areas with a serious presence of people and Chiefs of Yao origin yet the culture and language is dying, I have met some ignorant Yao people staying in Malawi who think it is cool not to be able to speak Yao their own mother tongue.It is a shame yet I can not really blame them because this was a result of wrong influences from the colonial times by the British and the christian churches which later crept on into the Kamuzu era whereby Yaos were looked down on. Magic, whichcraft and ignorance were all associated with our tribe then. I remember growing up and being mocked for being circurmcised could not bath with others because I was made to think that I was abnormal. There has always been a mystery about our tribe to the extent that my current wife only believed after meeting me that”we Yaos dont eat dead people’s intestines during sadaka” as alleged by many lol.The problem is our history has been written on our behalf by others. The roles of our gallant fighters was down played by the former colonisers whose aim was to annihilate our tribe gunning down our chiefs and people hiding behind an anti slavery drive. Religion also played a major role in splitting our tribe and confusing our history , up to date I get shocked when I meet people who do not consider me Yao simply because I am not a Moslem and also those who can not call themselves Yao because they have converted to Christianity.what is the true qualification of a Yao? I believe it is high time that a line was drawn between being a Yao and any religious affilliations. We should stop calling others Ayao sanga and Ayao vakulya mapuku because the bottom line is we all belong together. Arabs and Europeans brought us these religions which we embraced but should not be our identity, my biggest challenge to the Yaos is who really are we? Where did we come from?What are the real Yao tottems, how do we relate with the Makondes, Lomwes and Bisas who are supposed to be our natural cousins. How did Chinamwali start is it a Moslem thing or it was just part of our culture? Look into the value and essence of these initiations and how they can apply to our current situation.
    There is HIVand AIDS prevalence nowadays we could also look at how to incoporate awareness of such into our cultural norms. Look at our social and marriage systems and inherittance practices and find the best ways to apply them now to our benefit. vaChiYao vangalusa! balabala jelejo. By the way I once visited a village behind Malosa Hospital in Machinga the origin of Mr Kumakanga and I feel it is unfair to exclude that man considering the book writing contribution he did to the education system of Malawi, and next to his place was also Makhumula Nkhoma a prominent Yao and also please chief Somba of Blantyre, che Mpinganjila ,chief Sosola CheNyambi,Che Liwonde, cheKawinga, cheMataka vaKumwembe to name a few.

  • Its great to have This piece of information and am proud of my Yawo People

  • Let us work together please.

  • My name is Habiba my surname Dinala a South African born Yawo, I’m so proud to see Yawo people being proud of who they are, my father is late but he Used to so proudly say ngune wachiYawo. And that made me to alwys want to find out more about the Yawos. By the way there is so many of us born in SA.

  • I’m Saidi wali Maluwa a Zulu Yao born in South Africa some forty years ago.
    My Dad Maluwa was born in Lu ab in Beira Mozambique to Wochi wali Mpando from Mwenye Che Mpando.

    My grandmother namely Anganijao abiti Chitenje abiti Chizekula was born in the late around 1896 whom I was very lucky to have met in 1984 is a direct paternal aunt to the late famous Chief T/A Katuli,Mkuwele Ngolojele in Mangochi.

    I’m also very proud to say that my mom on the other hand is a Lemba descendant Zulu and Zulu too by surname.

    I was indeed very lucky to visit my relatives in Malawi and learn alot especially about the fisrt most famous female Yao Chief BIBI NGOLOJELE and other stories from them in my early youth.

    I would like to express my gratitude to “THE I AM YAO PRJECT” for taking the great interest in regard to their project.


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