This week we are in Monkey Bay, Mangochi, to celebrate at Chikoko Village, the retirement of the Most Paramount Native Authority Mandela.
Those who care will remember that Alhaj Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC (RTD) and I, the Mohashoi, met and recruited the Most Paramount Native Authority Mandela alongside a PTC till operator, the lady who is now our leader of delegation, Professor Dr Abiti Joyce Befu.
The Most Paramount Native Authority Mandela has been with us on our travels of discovery from Titi in Chitipa to Marka in Nsanje, from Ndawambe in Mchinji to Khuyu and Ulisa in Likoma. All along he has exuded a vigour uncharacteristic of an octogenarian nearing the nineties.
Three weeks ago, we were camped together in Nsipe expecting to celebrate with the people of Mangoni the ascension to the national throne by a boy from home. Together with the Nsipeans, we got the shock of the century as tipex obliterated the dream of a Ndata in Mangoni or in Kabudula.
Professor Abiti Befu was visibly disappointed with the announced result. Nganga Maigwaigwa contorted his face when the announcement was made. Jean-Philippe maintained his existentialist ‘je m’en fous’ stance while I did not comment. The Most Paramount Native Authority Mandela was shocked and even developed a high blood pressure as a result.
We rushed him to Ntcheu for treatment. His first statement upon discharge from the hospital was, “home, I want to retire home!”
In Malawi retiring has several meanings. Retiring could mean leaving the current occupation or dying. Not knowing what he exactly meant, we drove him here at Chikoko Village. He is still frail but jocund.
He has met his extended family, children, grand children, great grand children, and only yesterday, he welcomed into the world his second great great grand child. He has named him Mandela.
It is in honour of his contributions to our expedition that we are throwing a party tonight.
While we prepared for this evening’s grand au-revoir, or what Saddam Hussein would have called the mother of all grand parties, Native Authority Mandela had some words of wisdom for us.
“You see,” he had stammered, “Some people believe life is short, but I will tell you that life is long enough for us to contribute to the world.”
“Meaning?” Jean-Philippe had wondered.
“Jesus died in his early 30s but look at how he has changed the world, including the concept of age and time. To this day, people are dying, stealing, being robbed, comforted and despised in his name. Karl Marx died at 64 years of age but he had lived long enough to moot a political theory that has divided the world into Left and Right. Martin Luther King died aged 39 but until today his speeches continue to inspire human rights defenders. Ndunduzu Chisiza, John Chilembwe were not old people….”
“We are listening, “Abiti had said.
“So, look back at the years you have lived and ask yourself what you have done for yourself, your society, your God and even your enemies. If by age 60 you have not achieved anything for yourself, don’t force matters. Accept failure and retire.”
“You sound philosophical,” Nganga commented.
“Existentialist, I would say,” Jean-Philippe said.
“Realist,” I said.
“It’s better not to be remembered than to be remembered for something bad, such as fraud, theft, and abuse of borrowed power,” he had said.
We had all laughed.
“Just remember that our generation defeated the colonialists. Your generation defeated the one-party state and it is up to this generation to shape the world into what they want,” he had said, jokingly as usual.
“Correct. Nothing gets into shape unless it is shaken,” Jean-Philippe had remarked.