Malawi derives its name, we are told, from the burning furnaces of the Amaravi people who were iron smelters. This is the land of flames.
Now, apparently, the name is having a heavy bearing on our very being. We are just experiencing too many fires.
In the past two weeks, fire gutted Thyolo and Lunzu secondary schools, the Mzuzu University, attorney general Kalekeni Kaphale’s house, the Leopard Matches and the Blantyre market.
For flimsy reasons students at Thyolo and Lunzu razed down parts of their schools. No one really knows what fly bit the students to engage in such criminal acts of arson.
From the burning, one thing is clear: Our councils do not have the capacity to contain the inferno. The other day, when the third floor of Nico House in Blantyre was burning, the city assembly fire engine did not have the proper ladders for the firefighters to extinguish the fire.
In most cases, the council have only one or two fire engines. You wonder how two vehicles can service a whole city. Mind you, all that happens when the councils are collecting all sorts of rates.
On the other hand, you find that the firefighters have to go some two or three kilometers to find the next hydrant. In a fire emergency, urgency is primary as it consumes in a manner of seconds.
While negligence is one of the causes for the fires in markets, the illegal tapping of electricity in our markets is at times responsible for the conflagration.
While we are about the fire concern, this week Malawi and some other countries in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) expressed a heatwave that saw temperatures rising to between 33 and 39 degrees celcius. In Nsanje it was extreme, at 44 degrees celcius.
The heat has been so intense that on Wednesday the Constitutional Court sitting in Lilongwe had to repudiate the traditional wigs and black gowns as hearing in the Elections Case continued. Rising temperatures are some of the effects of climate change.
From the words of the director of meteorological services Jordan Nkhokwe, the excessive heat also signals heavy rainfall accompanied with thunder and gushing winds. That begs the question: Are we prepared in case of disaster?