Jean-Philippe and I spent Christmas Day afternoon at Linga Beach in Nkhotakota. Unlike what some Malawians do on this day, we did not drink and drive.
We left the Toyota Harriet at the lodge and walked down to the beach through the makeshift market and stopped at the football field where a band of happy kakas and dadas were busy dancing to Canada music. Why it is called Canada, Jean-Philippe and I did not ask.
“Kaka! Come and join in,” a young man shouted above the din of the singing and the rhythmic and melodious clinking of metallic instruments.
Believing we did not hear his invitation, the young kaka beckoned us. While I hesitated, Jean-Philippe dashed in and mingled with the dancers. I also joined in.
We spent more than an hour at the Canada Dance Festival before we left for the beach. Jean-Philippe effusively photographed the dancers. We finally got to a pub that had been made out of an abandoned lake ferry or boat. We walked up the narrow steps to the top deck. One of the commercial bar service providers, as barmaids are politically called, came and asked for our orders.
“Still water, please,” Jean-Philippe said.
“Still water, please,” I answered.
“Why? It’s Christmas Day. Make merry!”
“Dada, I don’t have enough money.”
“Your friend will pay.”
“He does not have money.”
“Mzungu?” The commercial bar service provider wondered and walked to the counter to collect our drinks. She brought the drinks and asked us what we wanted to get from the braai.
“Nothing. We don’t have money!”
“I will pay,” the commercial bar service provider offered.
I briefed Jean-Philippe about the offer. He asked me if I really believed the offer was free. I told him that although I didn’t believe in getting things for free, it would have been bad manners for us to refuse a free braai on Christmas Day. So, we agreed to accept the free braai our commercial bar service provider had offered. Moments later, she came back with a whole rib cage of an adult goat in flat tray.
“Karibuni,” she said as she placed the dish on our table.
“Thanks. Sit down for a second. What’s your name?” I asked.
“Annie! What’s your friend’s name?”
“Jean-Philippe. But, why don’t you want to know me first?”
She smiled and walked away.
We ate the meat and drank the still water in silence. Then Jean-Philippe asked a question he had asked me previously when we visited the tree under which the MCP held its first convention ever.
“The jetty was privatised and left to rot and collapse. So, did the rice processing company that provided jobs and business opportunities to Nkhotakotans.”
“Elsewhere, privatisation has proven to be good for business development. It has generated employment and improved services,” Jean-Philippe said.
“But not in Malawi. We sold Wico and we now sit on plastic chairs. We privatised B&C and today we import hoes and treadle pumps from India. We sold Press Agriculture, disbanded Spearhead and abandoned ‘Chinese’ rice schemes and today we struggle to feed ourselves. We sold Oilcom infrastructure and today we have nowhere to store fuel. We privatised garment manufacturers and today we rely on kaunjika. We privatised the MYP and commercialised religion and today we cry about moral breakdown. Privatisation impoverished Malawi.”