As soon as Jean-Philippe was discharged from St John’s Hospital, we decided to drive back to Nkhata Bay principally to attend this year’s Martyr’s Day commemoration.
The Toyota Harrier was rather wobbly and we passed by Kagwenthagwentha Motors for the mechanics there to check on the suspension. They changed bushes, steering rack ends and other front suspension parts. When the bill came we were shocked.
“K350 000 for changing bushes?” Jean-Philippe wondered.
“The charge includes labour, spare parts, and sundries,” the head mechanic, a short, dark, and sturdily built middle aged man called Chipokawaoli Gondwe, said.
“What are sundries?” I asked.
“Assorted items such as grease, soap, and towels,” Gondwe explained.
“Did the car need soap?”Jean-Philippe asked, before asking Gondwe to bring a calculator. Jean-Philippe punched in the numbers. He smiled.
“In hard currency, it is not much after all,” he said as he reached for his wallet.
“What does it translate to?”
“Less than one thousand green bucks,” Jean-Philippe said as he pulled out ten one hundred dollar notes from his wallet.
We took the money to the accounts assistant, Ezinasi. She refused to take the US dollars, saying she had never handled any before. As such, she feared, she would not know whether the notes Jean-Philippe produced were fake or not.
We were about to walk to the nearest bank when the Garage manager came in and asked us to pay in US dollars.
We started off around four o’clock. When we got to the round-about near the Mzuzu High Court, I stopped the vehicle and explained to Jean-Philippe that anything he saw to the east was in Nkhata Bay territory.
“What? I thought Mzuzu was in Mzimba?”
“About two thirds of the city is in Mzimba, the rest is in Nkhata Bay,” I said.
“Who else knows that?”
“You,” I said jokingly as I started off the engine to continue our drive to Nkhata Bay.
We drove slowly to show Jean-Philippe the land marks of the Nkhata Bay side of Mzuzu City. I showed him Moyale Barracks which was instrumental in 1993 in the disarming of the notorious Malawi Young Pioneers, the MCP’s paramilitary cadres. We drove down the sharp bends of the Kaning’ina forest. At Lwana la Tonga, I stopped the vehicle.
“Legend has it that here the Tonga fearlessly fought against the invading Ngoni army until it was defeated,” I said.
“Who else knows that?”
I did not answer. Instead, I drove on towards Nkhata Bay until we got to Manolo where I stopped the vehicle once again.
“Orton Chirwa was buried here after he died in jail in Zomba in 1992,” I said.
“I have heard about him? I understand he was the founding president of the MCP,” Jean-Philippe said before asking why he had to die in jail.
I explained to Jean-Philippe that Orton Chirwa and some members of his family were abducted from Zambia to Malawi, tried by the traditional court at Soche in Blantyre and sentenced to death.
“That was cruel,” Jean-Philippe remarked.
“Yes. But the sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment.”
“I see no difference.”
We drove on down the potholed road. Near Mpamba, Jean-Philippe asked me why the Malawi government has not demanded an apology and compensation from the British Government for the mass murders of 1959. I told him I had no idea.
“Last time you told me that even the bodies of the 1959 martyrs have disappeared from the graves.”
“Yes. The excavators did not find anything human remains to rebury.”
“Why has your government remained quiet about such an important issue?”
“I don’t know.”
“The British must apologise for the atrocities their soldiers or police committed.”
“What difference will it make?”
“History books will be rewritten. And that’s important.”