When we arrived at Msambandopa Boys Home, located along the beautiful Mdyaka-Msuli shoreline, we decided to sit on one of big rocks that form the Msambandopa Point on Lake Malawi. Jean-Philippe reminded me that that day was Fools’ Day. He suggested that we restrain ourselves from taking anything haram that day to surprise and fool our alcohol addicted bodies. He asked what April meant in Malawi.
I told him that in Malawi, April is a month of mixed fortunes. For most farmers, it is the month in which they start recovering from the hungry and torturous months of February and March. It is the month in which maize is harvested, shelled, dried and stored. If the storage facilities are poor, the maize rots slowly as it did at Kanengo. It is the month in which tobacco farmers smile if the price of the green leaf is good. It is also the month when tobacco tenants weep because pickpockets and prostitutes whet their money-pinching skills.
Politically, April is the month that reminds Malawians about the triumphal return of Chakufwa Chihana, twenty years ago this year, to challenge the MCP and the self-styled life President Ngwazi Dr. Hasting Kamuzu Banda. That moment contributed significantly to political change in Malawi. Of course, mega denialists will not agree, preferring to praise the Catholic Church and its April 1992 Lenten Letter alone, forgetting that that Lenten letter was not the first to be issued by the church. But Banda never got moved. Chihana’s fanatics and supporters call him the father of democracy.
But, of course, Bakili Muluzi’s fanatics and supporters joke that he, Muluzi, is the father and owner of multiparty democracy (Mwini matipate) in Malawi, forgetting that if Kamuzu Banda, as life president, had not courageously risked the political future of the MCP and hearkened to the late Aaron Longwe’s strident calls for a referendum and accepted the outcome of the poll, nothing would have changed. Nothing. Of course, politicians don’t want to acknowledge the “people out there” who voted fearlessly and overwhelmingly for change
April is also the month during which the devil sat on Malawi’s back (satana anatikhalira pamsana) by taking away our duly elected president Moya Professor Dr Bingu wa Mutharika on 5th, no on 6th, no no 7th, yes on 5th April, 2012. Despite his mistakes, Bingu understood what Malawi needed for it to develop. His book, The African Dream, which many DPP fanatics and supporters praised and Bingu’s enemies and contestants condemned even before they read, reveals his thinking and beliefs, from the economy through agriculture to politics. It is a book that should not be condemned to the dustbin because he died. Somewhere in the University of Malawi someone should think of establishing a Bingu Centre for the African Dream.
April is the month during some which one overzealous power-sozzled Southerner was proved wrong and Malawi produced its first ever female president, not by accident, but through the Constitution. Despite her mistakes, she has tried to do the best for Malawi. She has tried to listen to sensible suggestions, including the sale of the presidential jet, reduction of her convoy and her official salary, and the warming up of relations with Malawi’s neighbours and lenders and investors.
April is also the month during which Aleke Kadonaphani died of cancer. A year or so before he died, Aleke was reportedly busy writing his autobiography, whose progress was interrupted by his frequent medical visits to South Africa. He also dreamed of establishing a cancer centre or something like that. Much earlier, he dreamed of becoming president of Malawi until when the very person, and the very party that he initially backed, told him bluntly that Malawi was not ready for a “Northern” president.
“Wow, Malawian April is really eventful,” Jean-Philippe remarked.
“And that’s not all.”
“Chez-nous, April is mostly associated with the return of warm weather and Fools’ Day.”
“Which fools do you commemorate, by the way?”
“I have no idea. By the way, who will win the next election?”
“If the PP will lose and accept the result, it will be the first ruling party in Malawi to do since 1994.”