Good people, comedy is good. The strength of comedy lies not in that the makers of sublime jokes are like best chefs and waiters who serve their audiences with a reason to laugh and giggle.
Rather, the comedians mirror the follies of our society as it is.
Of course, Saturday was supposed to be a day of jokes unlike any other when Uganda’s celebrated triumvirate—Teacher Mpamire, Anne Kansiime and Coltida—were in Blantyre to unleash their hilarious weapons of mass entertainment.
Ignore one of the sickest jokes that happened that day. Teacher Mpamire, who has carved a life by slighting preposterous things politicians of his President Yoweri Museveni’s standing do, sped off to Chimwankhunda Secondary School to plant a tree as a searing summer sun robbed the parched setting of the remnant drops of moisture the seedling needs to grow. Summer what? Summer sun!
Planting trees in the dry season is not really about creating a legacy or a future where the children will sit under that tree and tell each other: “Teacher Mpamire was here!”
However, Mpamire just said something about this country which has earned global bunter for cutting trees at a supersonic speed and planting much fewer than we chuck. The comic day, Mpamire just made fun of everything terribly wrong about what we often take for granted: we seem willing to plant trees and expect them to grow with little or no care.
But we sow in vain.
Unfortunately, this is what we have been doing since the dethronement of founding President Kamuzu Banda in 1994. Here was a man who planted trees and made sure they grew. If one died, somebody had to answer for negligence and another seedling was fittingly planted on the same spot pronto.
Now show me a surviving tree planted by his successor Bakili Muluzi and I will give you why it is easier for an ant to swallow an elephant than the giants to chew a pumpkin.
We long lost count of trees planted to die because we are too busy with road shows to ensure they take root and grow.
At one of my favourite schools, Rumphi Catholic Primary School which is fondly known as RU2, we remember January 2017 when the then president, Bingu wa Mutharika, marked the historic scale-up the annual tree-planting spree from a day-long event to a three month season by planting an acacias seedling decorated with a golden lining and flashy flowers into a generously adorned pit using a shovel and space that was not spared from that overdose of decor.
Those of us who had a chance to pass through the cracked corridors of the humble school, which produced Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe and my dad John Benedicto Kanankhunda Chavula (JBK the no less great), saw future generations wallowing in the shade of that tree with gratitude to their Excellency the hands that planted it.
But as the wrath of negligence has it, the first to tumble was a placard that proclaimed: this tree was planted by President Bingu wa Mutharika. As termites sent it crashing to the ground, the malnourished tree Bingu planted with pomp and ceremony thirsted to death, chocked by flourishing weeds of all manner that seemingly mocked it: “Oh little tree, thou shalt not grow by the authority of the hands that buried you in that pit, but a little more water, sunlight and breathing space.”
On its spot thorns flourish, reminding us that no amount of ceremony, but care alone, will make exotic trees grow where indigenous forests have been wiped out without mercy.
But Mpamire was a barometer of many things that are not working because of a deep rooted culture of negligence.n