I recently visited Xenophobland, spending a week in their cosmopolitan metropolis and leaving just before the most violent attacks on foreigners to date were unleashed.
My hotel was located in a lush and well manicured area of town, showing an exuberance befitting a country a few of whose citizens would easily fall into the temptation of being jealous of immigrants. It looked like it had been fashioned in heaven and dropped to earth to be grabbed by those earthlings who had, by some inexplicable chance, won the favour of the gods.
One day, I decided to take a stroll down the road to the trading area further down the road, about three kilometres from the hotel. Suddenly, I was back to earth and to Africa: street vending was all over the place, imbibers were busy in the drinking joints,and barber shops were full of patrons waiting to have a haircut. Save for a few tall buildings that dotted the landscape, I might as well have been in Limbe or Mzuzu.
I saw a pick-up truck loaded with green maize and began to get homesick at the thought of organising a barbecue of what in Malawi is known as mondokwa or dowe. At some street corner, I lifted my eyes skyward and saw an inscription on a building which read “Udokotela wa mazinyo”. Then I remembered that I was in a Bantu speaking country. The inscription simply meant, as any Malawian would have figured out: “Doctor for teeth”, or “Dentist”, for short.
Later, I passed by a display of herbal medicines. The vendor, who I presumed to be a sangoma (medicine man), urged me, in a language unintelligible to me, to take a look. I did not mind him and kept walking.
Eventually, I walked into a restaurant and ordered a take-away meal: rice stew. The lady in attendance first greeted in me in the local language and on realising that I was not following, she quickly switched to English. She served a measure of boiled rice and poured over it a few scoops of red, semi-liquid fluid. I paid for my meal and hit the road again.
Full of anticipation, I quickly opened my lunch box when I got to the hotel. I discovered that the stew was a composition of crushed tomato, pepper and some flat, solid items that looked like pieces of a jig-saw puzzle that had been cut from a carpet. They turned out to be offal, but without any intestines wound around them. It was difficult for me to recognise them as offal because I am used to them appearing cylindrical, with several spirals of intestines around them. I did not eat the meal because it was too hot for me.
Malawi and Xenophobland are poles apart in terms of affluence, but there are so many similarities between them—language, culture and yes even offal—among others. The only difference is that our friends were endowed with huge deposits of gold, diamond and chrome and other minerals such as manganese, platinum, vanadium and vermiculite. If we search within ourselves, we will discover that we have a wonderful resource we have not yet utilised to the full—the human resource.
We just need to change our mindset and convince ourselves that we can achieve great things. Our colleagues in East Africa are utilising their human resource to produce motor vehicles and a range of software products. Kiira EV is a Ugandan car project that will soon be mass producing electrically driven vehicles. Recently there was an item on BBC’s Focus on Africa about some Ugandan software engineers producing animated cartoons speaking in a Ugandan language. That is the direction we need to take.
I was pleasantly surprised to read an article about Malawian young men developing electronic games. The Nation of April 21 2015 reports that Pike Msonda, Chifundo Kasiya, Sylvester Mphinji and Tiseke Chilima are developing a mobile game they have called Blue Guardian, soon to be supported by Android software. If we can produce more of this kind of crop of young people, it will not be necessary to trek down to Xenophobland. Let the Xenophobians keep their gold and their diamonds. One thing I know is that those involved in senseless, diabolical acts of xenophobic violence cannot develop anything as innovative as Blue Guardian.