It is a mythical folktale in the Ngonde Kingdom that has baffled me for years. Despite living among them, learning and speaking the language, I never really bear witness to any person that had the so called ‘Mbungulu’.
The average reader might not know what ‘Mbungulu’ is all about. Maybe even myself though writing about it. That qualifies to be a paradox of some kind. So, we just call it this way. No questions asked.
Like most medical doctors, myself included, that trained at ‘Google Medical School’ know what ‘Mbungulu’ is all about. It is even clear if you have knowledge of Ngonde traditions.
Basically, as a google-trained internal medicine specialist, I am in a pole position to unmask this paradox and claim the ultimate: Order of the Lion of Kabwafu. Sounds good.
But I will not keep you guessing. In Ngonde mythology, a person with ‘Mbungulu’ is a medical equivalent of a patient with an eating disorder. To them, food is life. They live to eat. Everything they do is to satisfy the needs of a hungry digestive system.
A digestive system that never tires with a plentiful supply of digestive juices. It is all about digest quickly. Like all living beings, follow conventional biological traits. Eat, digest, excrete and eat. It’s a cycle of some kind, the difference being the obsession.
In the world of metaphors, it comes in different dialects. A stitch in time saves nine, the English would say. In our local versions it could be “papsa tonola sudziwa mtima wa moto or fodya ndi wa pa mphuno wapachala ngwa mphepo”. You could even say make hay while the sun shines. In all essence, time is of essence in everything and we can’t rewind back. Posterity loves time and it is the best judge.
Often a person obsessed with eating pays little attention to increasing capacity to produce more food. ‘Mbungulu’ lunatics were known in the mythology as lazy people, but once won many champion leagues of eating, not just eating competitions, but as a way of life. Many never invested in the future and thrived on the social contract that sometimes is loosely translated in divine philanthropy of money tree growers somewhere.
In times of drought, money trees wither and the ‘Mbungulu’ culture collapses and becomes an obsession of history. You don’t need a biblical Joseph to help Pharaoh interpret dreams. There are no longer dreams. Reality rules. All good things come to an end.
The good news is that bad times are never permanent. Can’t we just ignore massive consumption and become a capital investment minded nation? Our budget can take the lead.
For the last few years our national budget has been hitting trillion figures. Consumption and recurrent expenditures are still dominant most of which do not generate taxes in return. Our capital expenses in the budget remain premised on some external benefactors.
It could be an opportune time for all of us in our minds to hit the gym and exorcise the ‘Mbungulu’ mentality and burn them bad fats through investing in key public enabling infrastructure such as roads, energy, airports, health, education, housing and telecommunications. We surely can put eating behind us.
In Ngonde mythology, ‘Mbungulu’ rascals often suffer some tricky but curable condition. It is called corruption. Its signs include excessive eating for today in the hope that tomorrow the disease will provide more food to support the eating disorder.
Finally, there is a reason why some countries make progress while others stagnate or recede into abyss. Join us in Karonga District for the tales of ‘Mbungulu’ and the legacies left behind by its architects. Poverty. n