The idea to write this article came on the way to South Africa. My delegation had two people, not 100, not 200 and not 135. A colleague and moi (the French for me). We left via Chileka Airport. As we were about to leave, Captain ‘Jan Kruger’ came onto the intercom to announce that we will start of a little bit late. There was a problem at the destination airport. OR Tambo International Airport had a problem. An aircraft had broken down on the runway at OR Tambo. Yes, OR Tambo. Jan Smuts Airport during Pieter Botha’s time. Changed names to Johannesburg Airport when Mandela was President of South Africa (which was not enough to satisfy the comrades). Amandhla! Amandhla! No other name could beat that of Oliver R. Tambo.
So, Captain Kruger said that we will start off late. Not because OR Tambo needed to clear up the mess of the aircraft which was blocking entry into Egoli. No. We were to start off late because “air traffic control at OR have advised us to load in more fuel.” Global warming here I come. The flight to Egoli needed so much litres of fuel now. We will be circulating and circling the air this way that way, just to wait for some green light at OR. And we did just that. From the small video in the plane, I watched as the plane pointed towards OR Tambo, then pointed to some direction, then pointed backwards towards Blantyre, pointed towards Namibia and then pointed towards Bantu Holomisa’s Transkei and other directions before finally it pointed in the right direction of OR Tambo.
I was in Jo’burg for several days. But my friend and I never featured in the newspapers as to what we were doing there when millions upon millions here back home are under the threat of starvation. Why were we spending time in that four star hotel when “there are no medicines in our hospitals.” Did we not have a soul of perhaps electing to travel by bus, share a room (since there were two beds in each of our rooms anyway?). We were evil incarnate. A demonstration by civil society was what we deserved. We were heartless public servants.
The return trip with Captain Mangwana was uneventful. I do not know how you use the term “uneventful” in your life. But if you are working overnight at the hospital as a doctor and you tell your friends that “the night was uneventful” what you actually mean is that “no patient died”, “there was no emergency to warrant you go to the theatre at all” and perhaps you had a few hours of sleep. As one flies into Malawi, there is no doubt whatsoever that in our living memory we will have desert Malawi. There are hardly any trees to show off. The rivers have dried up and the Shire is low. Luckily, it had started to rain. Rains mean more water in the Shire. No black outs now? Just dreaming. Another reason to justify the black-outs will soon be found. n