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Suleman Khonat a Malawian – Now Mayor of Blackburn, UK.

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By Charles Leyman Kachitsa

A Malawian born in Mangochi District, Cllr Suleman Khonat has become the first African Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, United Kingdom (UK).

According to the Lancashire Telegraph, the annual Mayor Making ceremony took place in Blackburn Town Hall last night, where Councillor Suleman Khonat spoke about his passion for helping people across communities and raising funds for much needed causes.

He has been a keen supporter of the East Lancashire Hospice and a volunteer at Pleasington cemetery helping bereaved families during burials. As a charity worker and volunteer has said he is “humbled” to take on the role as Blackburn with Darwen’s new Mayor.

Cllr Khonat was first elected in 2004 as the Labour councillor for the Shear Brow Ward (now known as the Shear Brow and Corporation Park Ward).

Cllr Khonat at a Malawian event in Manchester, 2019

His Malawi roots are so deep having lived in several district in the country. Mr Khonat’s parents relocated to Mponela in Kasungu district when he was young before moving on to stay in Lilongwe Nkhoma from where Suleman left for the United Kingdom UK in 1976. He moved after his father passed away in Nkhoma, Lilongwe.

The Lancashire Telegraph reported that in his speech last night, he said: “I am honoured, humbled and proud to serve as the Mayor for Blackburn with Darwen, and am looking forward to a positive and successful year ahead.

“I want to help people. There isn’t a family in Blackburn with Darwen who can say they weren’t affected by the past two years. Health, education or employment, everyone has been dealing with something.

“It’s going to be a challenge. After two years, things are opening up now. I know I’m going to be busy.

“Blackburn with Darwen has so much to offer. I want to highlight help for the homeless in the borough. I want to be a champion for mental health, to get people to the services that can help them, show them how they can help each other.

“I’m also passionate about education. I want to find a way to bring first aid education to school children to help bring more health resilience to our communities.”

He added: “I speak many languages, so I will be connecting with all communities to engage them and encourage them to get involved and make a positive difference in Blackburn with Darwin.”

Mayoress and Consort titles this year will be shared between his children: Sumayya Mayat, Hajra Sath, Reyhana Khonat, Ridwan Khonat, Hameema Khan and Sumaiya Khonat.

The Mayor owns newsagent in Blackburn. Mr Khonat is also on the executive of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents in the UK. As if that is not enough for such an honourably man, he is again a local Magistrate sitting in Lancashire Courts since 2001. Before becoming a successful newsagent owner, he worked as a weaver at Witton Mill within Blackburn’s textile industry, later went on to be a bus conductor and had a few other jobs.

Despite all these responsibilities he has still a soft spot for his home country Malawi and wants to contribute to its development which already does through some NGOs. His bothers Omar and Salim Baghas are still in Malawi and help in some of the initiative to help in assist with developing the country.

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