We are here in Lilongwe, the Capital City, the commercial city, and the seat of the Government of the Federal Republic of Malawi. Lilongwe is also the seat of diplomatic missions, United Nations bodies and, most importantly, the home of Cashgate and Farm Tractorgate. Lilongwe is expensive—extremely expensive by Malawian standards. Rentals are nearly three times those obtaining in the cities of Blantyre, Zomba, Mzuzu, and Karonga. Public transport fares, vegetables, charcoal, and even friendship cost more here than anywhere else in this poorest country in the world (forget about the purchasing power parity (PPP) economese used to massage the painful reality). Lilongwe is also probably the dustiest and dirtiest capital city in Southern Africa.
Surprisingly, everybody complains about these challenges but nobody wants to go away. Teachers don’t want to be posted away from this crazy city; economists, ichthyologists, educationists and agriculturalists don’t want to go anywhere else. Even people, such as pastors and reverends, who swore to serve God and save anyone anywhere in this majorly sinful federal republic don’t want to preach anywhere else.
Recently, we learned that a reverend of the Livingstonia CCAP Synod refused to be posted to a church in the Mzimba Kingdom and was consequently suspended (some say fired), and with the tacit support of his congregation decided to found his own church using the very accounts, the very buildings, the very deacons, the very Baibulo and the very Sumu Za Chiuta.
We are not interested in foretelling the future because we are a hic et nunc expedition; but lawyers and the courts should start getting ready to handle God-related “criminal” cases.
In short, we are here to investigate why people prefer to be in Cashgate City even amidst grinding poverty. To do this we will participate in all prayer vigils and drink in every pub because this is where the pipo discuss down-to-earth raw stuff.
Since our vehicle, the VW Amailoko, is in the garage for scheduled maintenance, the car hire company has given us a Nissan Havala. We don’t like it. So, we have decided to sit back and enjoy the things all reasonable men and women do until the Amailoko is ready. As part of our preliminary visitation, yesterday we were at Pa Atumbuka drinking fantakoko, amalaula and Nkhoma Hill gin and eating mang’ina, nthumbwana and matoke.
“Tell me,” Sheikh Jean-Philippe LePoisson started, “if you were asked to identify ten modern heroes, who would these be?”
“What’s a hero?” Native Authority Mandela asked.
“Someone who has done remarked things for humanity,” Jean-Philippe explained.
“All the women of this world are heroes for bringing forth life,” Abiti Joyce Befu, MG 66, leader of delegation and expedition, declared.
“That’s a biological function. Nobody gets credit for that,” Sheikh Jean-Philippe LePoisson said, dismissing MG 66’s nomination.
“You, men, don’t understand what we, women, go through to bring forth drunkards like you into this world!” Abiti persisted.
“And do you understand the fatigue men go through to bring forth your so-called drunkards?” I joked as I sipped on my Nkhoma Hill gin on the rocks.
“Do you?” Native Authority Mandela asked, mockingly.
“You certified chauvinists! It takes a lot of energy, thinking, budgeting, and sleepless nights to raise a child,” Abiti spoke maternally.
“It’s because women think children belong to them alone!” Native Authority Mandela challenged.
“Et tu Native Authority? Indeed, when the wise become unwise among the unwise,” Abiti said with a measure of sagacity.
“Guys. Let’s get back to the issue. Ten modern heroes. Who would these be? Please justify your nomination,” Sheikh Jean-Philippe said, steering the debate the way Likomians used to control the dhow, chombo, before the Banda government banned this most modest, effective and reliable means of lake transport between the Overseas (as Likoma and Chizumulu are fondly called) and Nkhata Bay.
“I would nominate the 10 from the following: Evison Matafale, Ethel Kamwendo-Banda, George W Bush, Juan Evo Morales, Bingu wa Mutharika, Bakili Muluzi, Frederick de Klerk, Jacob Zuma, Eliot Kenani Kamwana, Wilfrid Gudu, Moira Chimombo, Jones Katangwe, Alice Ulandawiza, Mayi a Leya, John Tembo, Mathews Chikaonda and ourselves, the Bottom Up expedition,” I proposed.
“For the first time in some 40 days you have not mentioned Edward Chitsulo!” Abiti said rather sombrely.
“Maybe it’s time we accepted reality and let him rest in external peace. Yes?” I responded.
“You are right,” Native Authority Mandela concurred with me.
“Now, can you justify your nominations?” Sheikh Jean-Philippe reminded me.
“Why don’t we do that next week?” I suggested.