After visiting my relatives at Msambandopa Boys Home for two days, Jean-Philippe and I went back to Chinthechi to collect the Toyota Harriet so that we could conquer new territory. As our great people say, baby crocodiles do not grow in one pool. Clever visitors are those who know not only what to say, when, where, why and how, but also when to leave.
So, since last Thursday, Jean-Philippe and I have been on the road again. We drove to Mzuzu where we spent a day. We found the city boring and its life highly predictable. Apart from what the church says, Mzuzu produces no major news event. There is no football match, no sport, no fights, no crime, no political campaign worth debating. As such, we decided to leave for Livingstonia.
As we drove away from the City of Mzuzu, Jean-Philippe asked me what I would have been if I had not been to school. I did not answer. He joked that I would probably have become a fisherman or a wizard.
I told him, in no uncertain terms, that I did not enjoy his jokes and that I reserved the right to report him to the nearest police officer for overstaying in Malawi. Then, he changed topics.
“Working as journalist in Mzuzu must be very tough,” he said to himself.
“Why?” I asked.
“Well. Journalism is about news events, unusual occurrences, among others.”
“Are you insinuating that Mzuzu based reporters stage the events they report?”
“Not at all. I actually admire their hard work and their ability to still find something worth reporting on in such a peaceful city.”
When we passed through Phwezi and drove through the meandering road towards Chiweta, Jean-Philippe could not believe what he saw.
“I never thought I could ever see such natural and breathtaking landscapes.”
“Look. This is a great. And those trees on top of that mountain… wow. See?”
“I am driving. Don’t disturb me. Otherwise, you will go back to France in a coffin.”
“You will kill me?”
“If I crash this vehicle here we have no chance of surviving.”
“But should that really stop me from admiring nature?”
“But, just don’t disturb me, the driver. Yes?”
“Yes, Mr driver, sir!” Jean-Philippe saluted me sarcastically.
“You deserve the guillotine!”
We reached the Mchenga coal mining area in the afternoon. I parked the car and asked Jean-Philippe to follow me to the mine supervisor’s office.
We did not find the supervisor there. His junior, who introduced himself as Petro Jones Chakuluma, and claimed to have been at the mine for more than ten years, asked us how he could help.
“My French friend and I want to visit the mine,” I said.
“There is nothing to see. Just coal, coal dust, and miners and surrounding communities covered in coal dust,” Chakuluma said.
“The last time I was here, someone took me on a tour of the mine. I can tell you, I have never been so scared in life.”
“What exactly did you see?”
“The tunnel walls were supported by wooden poles. There was leakage everywhere.”
“Well, nothing has since changed,” Chakuluma said.
“I read that a lot of miners here get lung infections,” Jean-Philippe said.
“Could be true,” Chakuluma said.
“Why are the villages around such a productive mine so poor? Where is your social responsibility?” Jean-Philippe asked.
Chakuluma did not answer.