Last Thursday, we drove to Mua Mission to see the beautiful Kungoni Art Centre located near Mtakataka in the area of Chief Kachindamoto. From Dedza Township, Mua Mission is not that far. One hour would be enough if one took the Bembeke road and drove down the rolling hills that dissolve into the Great Rift Valley of which Lake Malawi is a magnificent part.
Since our Toyota Harriet has not been serviced for a long time, we did not want to expose it to taxing road conditions. We unanimously agreed to drive down the Lilongwe-Blantyre highway and use the Golomoti road.
“Have you heard about the Kamenya Choir?”I asked Sheikh Jean-Philippe LePoisson as we passed near Kamenya-Gwaza.
“The notorious Kamenya Choir? I don’t understand why the government allows that choir to churn out hate speech? Abiti Joyce Befu, our leader of delegation and commander-in-chief, wondered.
“Are you Jean-Philippe?” I asked.
“I am the boss in this vehicle and, therefore, I can answer any question from anybody at anytime and in any manner. Do you understand, my driver?” Abiti challenged.
“But do you have to shout, always?”Jean-Philippe asked MG 66 before turning to me,” What about the Kamenya Choir?”
“I just wanted to point at the choir’s home village, but your woman interrupted me with the authority of a first lady,” I responded.
“My woman? I must be the first gentleman then!”Jean-Philippe joked as we meandered down the Mlanda-Golomoti road.
“The Kamenya Choir fanned hatred against President Banda’s exiled enemies. In one song the choir promised to capture Kanyama Chiume, kill him and eat his flesh!” Native Authority Mandela explained.
“You mean President Joyce Banda has enemies in exile?” Jean-Philippe wondered.
“No. I meant His Excellency the Life President, Ngwazi Dr H. Kamuzu Banda, father and founder of the Malawi Nation, DOF, Mchikumbe Number One, Guardian of Malawi’s Women…….”
“Enough! I know the dictator you are referring to,” Jean-Philippe interrupted Native Authority.
“What’s surprising is that all the presidents that have come after Dr Banda have recruited the Kamenya Choir to sing diatribes of the Opposition,” Native Authority Mandela said.
No one answered and we drove in silence until we joined the Balaka-Salima highway at Golomoti. When I stopped at the road junction, a few boys in tattered shots and USAID emblazoned T-shirts ran towards us to offer us roasted green maize and mice, a Malawi Maseko Ngoni delicacy. I bought four cobs and two mipani of salted mice which I passed to the team in the vehicle.
“Do you have to eat mice?” Sheikh Jean-Philippe asked me, in particular.
“Do drivers have any choice?” MG 66 answered sarcastically.
“I eat anything that is edible. I have eaten mice, monkey head, fish, crocodile, locusts, hippo, elephant, and, if it were allowed in Malawi, I would have already eaten human meat!” I said as I plucked one mouse from the mpani.
We drove north for some kilometres. As we approached Mtakataka Trading Centre, we turned left and drove westwards to Mua Mission. We went straight to the Kungoni Centre of Culture and Art. Before we could savour the artwork, we rushed to the Ntondo Namalikhate restaurant for a drink.
“Welcome home,” the restaurateur-assistant on duty greeted us with a typically Malawian smile.
Jean-Philippe ordered our usual drinks. We sat down to drink. We chatted about everything and everyone.
“How do you rate Dr Lazarus Chakwera’s chances of winning the Presidency?” the restaurateur-assistant asked.
“You know,” I started, “for a long time, Dr Lazarus Chakwera wallowed in his MCP convention victory. He did not project himself to the people of Malawi. He seemed convinced that because he is a retired reverend, Christians would automatically vote for him; that because he comes from the Central Region, all ‘central-regioners’ would rally behind him; and because Kamuzu Banda was a darling of the MCP, simply singing praise songs for him were enough. At least, now, he is talking about serious policy issues, such as the universal fertiliser subsidy and in-country production of fertiliser. He and the MCP are finally waking up from their deep political slumber.”
“But why does the MCP continue praises Kamuzu as if Chakwera is Kamuzu and Kamuzu is the MCP presidential candidate?” the restaurateur-assistant wondered.