When I cast back my memory of boyhood and schooldays during World War II, one song that keeps titillating my appetite used to go as follows in the Tumbuka language:
Tiri na charo chithu zina lake Nyasaland
Kweni mkati mwake mahara mulije
Para tabana tikunena tikuhamba kusukulu
Bapapi bakufumba fizi muli nayo?
This translates or paraphrases as follows:
We have a country called Nyasaland
But within it, there is no knowledge
When we children say we are going to school
Parents retort: have you got school fees?
The song then went on to say the knowledge of African men was in the calabash of beer. In other words, children wanted progress and modern ways but grown-ups, stuck in their ancient ways, were discouraging them.
In the attempt to build a better Malawi, one of the things we must do away with are prejudices based on region, religion or tribe. These things are as painful and dangerous to handle as live serpents.
Young people of Malawi are more progressive in this respect than their parents. One of the good legacies of the Young Pioneers Movement was its contribution to breaking up regional and tribal biases. President Kamuzu Banda, to whom these young people were very dear, ordered that bases should be set up all over the country. Each base was required to have representatives from each region if not district. You would meet young men and women in Nsanje heading for Chitipa bases. Those in Chitipa would be heading for bases in Mulanje or Chikhwawa.
These young people saw for themselves that the evil things their parents attributed to people of other tribes or regions were false. Having lost prejudices, these young people found loved ones across regions and tribes.
These days, intermarriage has become a matter of course. A new Malawian nation is springing up.
But grown-ups who are jockeying for top positions in public life try to keep tribalism and regionalism still afloat. About a decade ago, I received two anonymous letters accusing me of campaigning for the late Aleke Banda to become president of Malawi. One of them starkly stated: â€œWe people of the South and Centre will never allow a Northerner to become president of Malawi because Northerners, practice nepotism and regionalism.â€
That same week, I read an opinion poll which had been taken by a newspaper called The Chronicle published in Lilongwe. A question had been put to members of the public as to who should take over since Muluziâ€™s bid for third term had failed. Six names had been produced, Aleke Banda was top and Justin Malewezi followed.
Often, as I walk on the road, someone from the Northern Region stops me to say â€˜these people hate us, why do you not write about this?â€™
I smile but do nothing about it. These people are like the anonymous letter writers who want to incite trouble but do not want to bear the consequence.
In all the regions, there are good people and bad people. All of us know that Malawi is our only country and that we cannot afford to mess it. We should resist bad influences, even from close friends. All Malawians are brothers and sisters. The only way to ensure oneâ€™s security is to make sure you do not cause trouble for others.
In economics, there is a principle known as Pareto optimality. If you transfer some goods from X to Y, and the position of Y improves while that of X does not get worse, it means the previous position was inequitable and the present situation is better.
Silos of maize have been built in various parts of the country. They get depleted at different rates. Because of famine in district X, the silos may get depleted sooner than in district Y where people have enough maize of their own and do not make demands on the silos. It is quite proper for a government ministry responsible for food distribution to transfer excess bags from the surplus district to the deficient one.
In principle, the transfer of beds from Dowa to Mzimba was justified if there was a surplus in Dowa and shortage in Mzimba. But the matter was bungled. The transfer ought to have taken place after the by-elections. Instead of taking all the surplus beds to one district, some should have been sent to other districts. Government resources are for sharing not monopolising.