It is again harvest time and as usual, some Malawians are back to proving they have goldfish memories — they exhibit forgetfulness of the highest order.
Look here, last week I visited a friend and all along the ghetto’s winding road to his shack, I saw men, women and children staggering under sacks of maize fresh from their gardens.
I was not sure if the wobbling was because the small-looking bags were heavier than my eyes could measure or that the people carrying them had not yet recovered from the dehumanising food shortage that had pushed them to surviving on wild tubers.
It looked more of the latter.
You see, in my neighbourhood, the maize is not as dry, but in a farming year which the rains were not as dependable, and most fields are patchy, harvesting has been accelerated for many reasons. I can share two:
One, many home’s food baskets have gone empty for so long. People therefore cannot wait for the maize to dry properly while their homes have nothing to survive on.
Secondly, for those that will at least harvest something, the threat of thieves is extensive and caution would suggest carrying the maize home in its yet-to-dry state.
With this, you may think people have had a lesson on treating food—mainly maize—as a precious commodity and that this year the grain will be handled with utter care.
But alas, we are what we are.
So, I found my friend busy threshing his harvest, a packet of opaque beer placidly placed by his side. For once in many months, my friend afforded a smile.
I gathered he had been selling some of his maize and that a good part of the returns were already down his throat.
I learnt that for the whole of the past week he had been running a maize market from home.
‘Akulu, kunja kwacha—tione kusintha,’ he said, looking at his drink as if it were an oasis of life.
‘Alimi pano alawe ulemerero,’ he added to his assertion, taking a long determined sip.
Honourable Republicans, this rotten habit of forgetting the long hard hours of toil is a deeply entrenched disease.
Artists have tried their mighty best to pluck it by its roots, but the habit is an elusive worm boring at our societies’ sense of food security.
I looked at my friend and in his eyes saw Joseph Nkasa of the old belting a warning:
Chaka chino taona mbwaza,
Yatikhwekhwereza kutisiya tili mbuuu.
Tadya madeya ofiira owawa ngati kwinini
Mbamu ziwiri zokha kuchukucha mkamwa…
The verse echoed in:
Njala ndi mdani
Njala kusonkha utsiru
Mukakolola chakudya chanu
Chaka cha mawa kuli moto!.