After that short visit to Chitimba and Chilumba, we, Sheikh Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC (RTD), Abiti Joyce Befu, AMAI (RTD), Mzee Native Authority Mandela, and I, the Mohashoi, decided to return to Blantyre through Livingstonia, Rumphi, Kazuni, Edingeni and Jenda. We chose to take this unfriendly and perilous route for many reasons. Chief among the reasons was to remind ourselves about the transportation problems the Republic of Nyika, as the North is fondly called amongst federalists, had before the construction of the Mzuzu-Chikangawa highway and to check if, indeed, the Chiweta-Livingstonia-Rumphi road refurbishment President Peter Mutharika launched had taken off.
We are pleased to inform the world that nothing much has happened on the ground although signs are there that one day a better road will be constructed to connect Chiweta-Livingstonia and Rumphi. From there to Hewe and Edingeni and Jenda, the roads are still as they were before Dr Kamuzu Banda came to Malawi, ruled Malawi, and left Malawi. The dust is the same. The bumps are the same. However, hope is there. Here, the natives, the owners of the land, still hope one day a good road will be constructed. When exactly, only Jah Rastafari and Jesus Matiki can tell.
We arrived at Jenda late on Monday evening. Around 21.00 hours. The place, now a brightly lit town centre that grew out of a mere roadblock in the 1980s, was teaming with people shouting as they sold and bought wares. Two young men and some women approached our car, the versatile VW Amailoko.
“Kupedza majungu, vimphwete, ngoma na mphwangwe!” one of them touted as the sales team got even closer and I wound down the window glass to respond to the advertisement.
“How much is one pumpkin?” I asked.
“Three for K100!” one saleslady, speaking on behalf of the rest, responded as she packed majungu into plastic bags.
“I just need one,” I said.
“One? Ok, K50!” the sales lady exclaimed.
“I thought mzungu means white person in Chichewa!” Jean-Philippe wondered.
“Yes. And where does mzungu come in?” I asked.
“I heard her say she was selling mzungu!” Jean-Philippe went on.
“ No. Majungu is Chitumbuka for pumpkins!” Abiti said.
“But the last time you said pumpkin is tanji in Chitumbuka!” Jean-Philippe protested.
“No. That was in Chitonga!” Abiti corrected.
“Wow! How many languages does this country have?”
“As many as its ethnic groups,” Mzee Native Authority Mandela replied.
“Are you buying or not?” the majungu saleslady asked, reminding us that the team was still there to make money from us before going to the next set of customers.
I took out a K50.00 note and gave it to the lady, who, in exchange, gave me the Champira pumpkin. Later, we drove to a nearby drinking place, which was already ‘hot and jivy’. I asked for a fantakoko, Mzee, AMAI and Jean-Philippe went for amalaula on the rocks. As we sipped on our drinks, the barman asked if we wanted a place to sleep. I threw the question at my friends.
“Tidziyambe ndife a Malawi,” Abiti said.
“What does that mean?” Jean-Philippe wondered.
“Malawians should lead in touring the country,” Mzee Mandela translated.
“Which means?” Jean-Philippe wondered.
“We should spend the night here and travel to places yonder tomorrow morning,” Abiti answered.
“Do you have any money to keep us here?” Jean-Philippe mocked.
“That is neither here nor there. Whether we spend your money here or elsewhere, your money will have been spent anyway,” Abiti reasoned.
Mzee Native Authority Mandela and I laughed loudly in unison like conjoined twins. Not to be left out, Jean-Philippe joined us in the laughter.
“So, where do we sleep?” Jean-Philippe asked, “Any descent place here?”
“Of course, there is guest house, called Mawe, on the other side of the road. It is nice. It has TV, ensuite rooms, hot water and serves breakfast and other meals,” the barman said.
“Wow. We are staying. Thanks honey for insisting,” Jean-Philippe said.
“Who is your honey?” Abiti asked.
“Whether you are my honey or somebody else’s, you are a honey, basi,” Jean-Philippe said.n