18 September 2017

Malawi: An Encounter With Malawian Father of 28 Children, Four Wives

Photo: Nyasa Times
Lindiza Phiri (right) being interviewed in Nkhatabay.

He has fathered 28 children with four wives and has over 50 grandchildren whom he can hardly recognise.

Lindiza Phiri, 85, fathered 12 children with his first wife, 10 with the second, four with the third and two with the fourth.

"I was born very strong as a man; that is why I decided to marry four wives who gave me 28 children.

"I had a well planned time table for my wives. I used to spend a week in each woman's home and they were all living happily because I could satisfy them all," says Phiri, a Tonga of Chintheche in Nkhata Bay District.

Phiri, who recently lost two wives due to death and divorce, hardly knows or remembers how many grandchildren he has since they are so many.

"I have got many grandchildren, probably over 50. I also have great grandchildren but I cannot remember all their names though I frequently visit them in their homes," he says.

However, Phiri concedes that though he was working hard on farming and some piece works, he could not managed to provide all basic needs such as food, clothing and education to his children.

"We used to cultivate cassava with my wives and sell the surplus. At the same time, I was working as a foreman in public works projects along the lakeshore road but what I was getting was not enough at all to provide good care to my children," he says.

As a result of lack of enough parental care, he says, some of his children went to South Africa and Tanzania for greener pasture.

"Some of my children failed to go far with education due to lack of support from me and 10 or 12 died over the years," he says, regrettably.

Phiri adds that out of the 28 children, "10 or 12 died" over the years

Indeed, one of Phiri's youngest sons says in a separate interview that he does not have interest to go to school anymore because most of his elder brothers and sisters did not go far with education.

The 17-year-old boy says he is currently concentrating on fishing in Lake Malawi just to make enough money to meet his basic needs.

"Later in future I want to follow my brothers in either Tanzania or South Africa for a greener pasture," he says.

Now at 85, Phiri says he regrets to have contributed to the country's rising population with such a large number of children whom he has ended up failing to support their formal education.

However, as the saying goes, "like father, like son," one of Phiri's sons is also polygamous; a development Phiri says is an impartation of his sexual power.

"I have one child who has emulated me, he is married to two wives now," says Phiri amid laughs while extending his arm to this reporter for a handshake.

Nevertheless, Phiri, who still looks strong despite his age, is quick to say that he does not encourage his children and young couples in general to have many children.

"My experience eventually taught me a lesson that having many children is not good if one cannot manage to provide enough care including educational support.

"Marrying several wives is not good and is not even accepted by God. I did that just to satisfy my body's sexual emotions. Let me encourage those that are in marriage to live happily and not quarrelling frequently," he says.

United Nations' projection shows that Malawi's population could easily reach 23 million in 2025 and 37 million in 2050 if families continue to have, on average, six children.

Currently, according to National Statistical Office, the country's population is already at 17.7 million from 14.8 million in 2012.

Despite such alarming figures, many families in the country continue to bear many children, a situation which is worrisome to social economic development of the country.

Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) paper says without a reduction in the average number of births per woman, health, education and employment services will continue to be overstretched.

"If families continue to have, on average, six children, by 2040, the yearly production of maize will barely feed the population and Malawi will have very little maize for export.

"With fewer children and smaller families, Malawi would have a surplus of maize. One critical way to address food security is to slow population growth," reads part of the MGDS document.

Of course Malawi has made substantial improvements in addressing its population issues by increasing its use of modern contraceptive methods, which is currently at 42 per cent.

"But very few women especially in rural areas use the contraceptives," says MGDS paper.

Minister of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Nicholas Dausi recently bemoaned the country's rapid population growth, saying it is exerting much pressure on resources and slowing economic growth.

Dausi said uncontrolled population growth is retrogressive to economic development as the country's resources can never be adequate for everybody.

"Imagine in 1964 when we got independence, Malawi's population was only about 2.5 million and in 2017 the population has increased to 17 million indicating that there is no control. But the land's size and resources remain the same," he said.

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