This is a week of questions. Never before have we sat down to interrogate ourselves so intensely on behalf of our country. Like all great moments of introspection, it just happened like a big bang, whose collision led to the formation of the universe, so say scientists. We did not plan to discuss anything serious. We went to our usual joint to drink our usual Balaka Gin, Amalaula and eat pork products, from the intestines to the trotter via the hoofs or mang’ina.
Balaka is an interesting Islamic, Christian, Rastafarian, atheist and Ngoni State. Here people tolerate each other and respect any person’s gastronomic preferences. You get into the market and you find all manner of meat and fish products. Here in the state of Balaka, home of the self-knighted soldier of the poor; of Milera Nkhoma whose musical dream was curtailed by directionless feminism campaigners; and of the only woman in the world who received an honourary doctorate degree for being a first lady, tolerance is the foundation stone for peaceful ethnic coexistence.
It just happened that last Tuesday, of all the days, we met two very introspective people young men at Zukuzuku Hotel, our usual joint here in the State of Balaka, Federal Republic of Malawi. These youngish and quite garrulous young men seemed to have taken too much Amalaula or Balaka Gin without mang’ina to cushion their verbal hemorrhage.
“Does this government have any clue about how to fix this country’s economy?” asked one young man, laughing like a pregnant goat.
“We have no control over our economy because we have no long-term homegrown solutions,” said second young man, as he dragged his bottle of Bosberg Spill away from the edge of the counter.
The first man responded: “What I find interesting is that our governments always come up with seemingly fresh economic experiments, the very models that have not worked elsewhere,” said the first youngish man, adding, “We talk about zero-aid budgeting without talking about how we will raise money to cover the gap left by donors; we talk about cutting down expenditure without cutting down of presidential and ministerial travel; we talk about financial prudence without minimising dinning and partying!”
“We just need to intensify domestic collection measure and curb corruption,” said the second man.
“Intensify what?” Sheikh Jean-Philippe LePossion, Deputy Chief Apostle of the Interfaith International Prayerhouse (Malawi) Limited, asked.
“Tax collection!” the young man defended his position.
“Are Malawians not already overtaxed?” Native Authority Mandela wondered, “Have you ever sat down to calculate how much government gets from what is supposed to get from the people, particularly civil servants?”
“I mean, if everybody, all business persons, all ministers, all churches, all… and I mean all.. paid taxes, Malawi would not be in the economic quagmire. If the presidents of Malawi, from Kamuzu to Peter Mutharika, paid tax; if all the ministers did not evade tax; if we all paid as we earned, donors would not have been such an important tribe in our lives…” the young man challenged.
“And why do your presidents not pay tax?” Sheikh Jean-Philippe wondered.
“Does he have to?” Abiti Joyce Befu, MG 66, asked, emptying her glass of Amalaula.
“What do you think, Sir?” The young man asked me, in particular.
“As an aspirant, I don’t want to talk about presidential privileges,” I answered.
Sheikh Jean-Philippe, Native Authority Mandela and MG 66 smiled like Siamese triplets. Abiti laughed so much so that she chocked.
“Presidential aspirant. Who? You?” Abiti asked mockingly.