To Mzondi Mkandawire, entertainment does not preclude performances that conjure up the warning: don’t try this at home.
The 36-year-old is no wrestler like merciless heavyweight John Cena of WWE Raw. Neither is he a silly risk-taker the type of Fear Factor actors.
His claim to fame revolves around cars, especially things not to do when driving on the road.
“Cars are very close to my heart; almost my toys,” he says.
On Sunday, the car fanatic left football spectators at Mzuzu Stadium frantic and mesmerised with rare car stunts.
At half time, Mkandawire jumped into his open-roofed Land Rover Freelander to do what Formula 1 car racing champions—Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton—would not do.
With the vehicle speeding on the oval track encircling the patchy football pitch, he threw his legs on the steering wheel with the rest of the body sticking out on the roof. That was dangerous, wasn’t it? But he jump out of the motion vehicle, opened the bonnet, jumped into the engine and splinted back to the open rooftop, hoping over the windscreen. What’s more? He tumbled into the driving seat upside down, both legs protruding skywards as the head and hands out of view.
The stunt continued until he leapt out of the running car. It raced for almost 20 metres when he got back in, increasing the speed, suddenly stepping on the brake pedal and came a 360 swerve. Not once. Twice. On the same spot. Dust whirled all over when it screeched to a skid the size that bring sparks to chase-and-shoot Hollywood movies.
Brainless or entertaining?
Throughout, there were thunderous claps, wows and standing ovations from the majority of spectators who found the show breathtaking.
“It’s just entertainment. I’m happy when people are happy,” he said. “I’m happy when people are happy”.
This could be the reason he christened his firstborn son Chimwemwe. But there is a thin line between entertaining people and endangering their lives. His offering requires faith—the name of his daughter—as well as skill, he said.
“It’s a risky, but we will all die, wont we?” he asks.
For three months, Mkandawire has called on traffic police offices and the Road Traffic Directorate and Safety Services to ascertain the legality of the seemingly risky car show.
In April, the law enforcers subjected him to a stringent test drive at Mzuzu Upper Stadium and they were dumb stricken.
“They haven’t given me feedback yet,” revealed Mkandawire.
But who is this motoring prodigy?
Born in 1979, he obtained his driving license in in 1998 when he trekked to Zambia capital, Lusaka, where his cousin was a car seller.
“I grew up driving cars of all manner: salons, vans, minibuses, pickups, you name it,” he explained.
He first caught the car bug viewing car racing competitions on TV, but it became an incurable acute, obsessive syndrome when he joined a gang of streetwise car enthusiasts who used to showcase their antics as a public entertainment.
“In Zambia, cars are an entertainment tool. There were these guys who used to bring their cars, demarcate a ground and start playing around with their cars in a way that was out of this world,” he says.
Actually, he learnt the moves from instructor Newton Tembo in 2001, two years before he returned to Malawi.
Home and dry, he says: “Cars can make people cry. Cars can make people laugh. I use them for a good cause.”
Mkandawire is deputy director of Education, Literacy and Art (ELA), a no-profit organisation founded by Slovenian Jana Dular in 2011 at Kande, Nkhata Bay South.
After 10am, the centre brings together pupils with learning challenges for special lessons. After sunset, it switches on solar electricity to offer learners from poor background a safer environment and longer durations for studying and homework.
However, arts has a home in ELA-Mazembe Youth Empowerment Club (Emyec). Opened in January, Emyec strives to ensure the youth take education seriously and get spiritual guidance while unleashing their creativity.
So far, it has facilitated readmission of four girls and one boy who dropped out of school due to early marriages, alcoholism and hemp smoking.
Besides, Emyec has a band, theatre group, dance troupe and poets. With the support of Mkandawire, who plays gospel music, the performers tour surrounding schools to raise funds for the centre and needy children as financial injections from Europe are on the wane.