Built in 1891, Captains Villa run by Villa Tafika is one of the oldest houses in Malawi. Mangochi was then known as Fort Johnston, an English settlement errected in order to hinder the spread of the Portuguese influence. At this strategical place ferries were crossing the river. It was here, where the British fought against the Yao, who were involved in slavetrade. Chief Mponda was defeated right at this spot.
Rhoedes, the captain of the famous HMS Guendolin lived in the house. He brought the first naval victory for the British at Lake Malawi during the WW I by striking the unprepared German Herman van Wissman by surprise. Later during colonial time this place already had a good reputation for hospitality when it became Hotel Fort Johnston. It was used as the European Club. Behind today´s Villa , the former Fort Johnson Hotel is the former tennis clubhouse which is today the Lake Malawi Museum. To the left of Villa Tafika is the Queen Victoria Memorial Tower, in front of Villa is the water front.
Heavy floods put the house under water (year unknown). When it was restored, the terrain was raised. As you can see, the groundfloor disappeared. The first floor became the groundfloor of the house, turning the balcony into a khonde (verandah). The room on top which gives the building its imposing character and the balcony were added later.
This house also became the residence of the District Commissioners.
Then Dr. Tim Currinam as the first Head of Department of Community Health of College of Medicine was living in that house. Also the Head of Fisheries Department lived here.
An era of decay and vandalism followed. Mr. Chikwenga bought the house. Each of the four big rooms was let out to individuals and the house became overcrowded. Water and electricity were disconnected. The building became dilapidated. The roof invested with bats. Windows were vandalized. The powerful kachere tree forced its way through the walls of the building causing huge cracks in the walls. A building more than 100 years old was about to be lost in decay.
In 2004 the neglected house was taken over by Prof. Joseph M. Mfutso Bengo and his family. He renovated this place and restored its old glory – as a villa and a hotel – Villa Tafika Lodge (2006) and renovated the museum wing. After an interim halt of business due to Covid19, and damages due to tropical storms (climate change) he modernized it in 2023 with solar geysers and additional rooms: now the Captains Villa. It is his philosophy to support local craftsmen and businesses for the growth of Malawi.
The Villa Tafika you see today includes the original house. To the existing four rooms, rooms were added by closing the khonde. All original walls were maintained. The balcony had become a hazard and needed to be re-enforced and re-built. The roof was secured with new columns. Ceilings along the elevated khonde (veranda) make it safe and attractive. Like in the very old times, the roof would be made out of grass.