Amid devastation of floods that have ravaged parts of Lilongwe, residents of Mtandire in the capital city are counting their losses; destroyed homes, businesses and lives.
But in the midst of anguish and grief, this township is winning a new spirit of volunteerism and solidarity it has never experienced before.
Some of the stories are nothing short of heroism and courage: strangers risking their lives to rescue people they have never known. Some bordering on emotional roller-coasters: a father who mourned his twin boys aged 14 after being told they had been washed away by the angry waters, only to meet them again alive.
The Nation met those stories yesterday and witnessed the devastation. As The Nation spoke to community members whose lives have changed due to the devastation, we met both the losers and heroes.
In the middle of the visit, news goes around that the dead body of a missing person Hastings Milanzie has been found in the river. He was a father and a husband. But one more person Bakali White cannot yet be traced. He too is some little one’s father, residents say.
Those leading the search are not just servicemen on government payroll, but poor and unemployed people are spending night and day in a spirit of volunteerism.
They include 23-year-old Moses Chigoneka who dived into scary cruising waters on Friday morning around 8am after seeing two boys being washed away by the floods. The boys turned out to be twins, Amidu and Isaac.
“I woke up that day at 5am; the water levels were so high in the nearby Lingadzi River. Then, suddenly the floods came. At 8am I saw two boys whom I had never seen before. They were being swept away by the heavy waters. Without any hesitation, I jumped into the water to rescue them,” recounts Chigoneka.
He told The Nation that he has been swimming in Lingadzi River since he was young.
“They were young kids, it was risky, but my heart told me that if there was a chance I could save their lives, let me take it.”
Chigoneka showed The Nation multiple snakebite wounds on his arms as the waters are now infested by snakes washed away from nearby bushes.
Upon jumping into the water, he grabbed the young brothers and lifted them up until a Malawi Defence Force helicopter came to their rescue.
It turned out, the father of those twins, Jafali Amidu, a 42-year-old painter who was by then doing piecework in the more affluent neighbouring residential township Area 47, had erroneously been informed that his boys had already died.
“I didn’t know what to do when I saw people who rescued my children. I don’t have money to give them, but I have made them aware just how grateful I am for what they did. I had shed tears for my children after being told they were dead; just how much can one be grateful to mourn your kids and then see them alive, rescued by strangers,” Amidu said.
Across the township, evidence of the devastation in houses and shops reduced to rubble remains, but some residents are already working on rebuilding their homes.
Senior Group Village Head Chigoneka said over 400 households, translating to 2 200 people have been affected.