We are spending our weekend this week and serenade into Mother’s Day next Monday in serious cogitation, self-introspection, self-assessment, self-examination and self-critique. Since such brain-splitting work requires a certain measure of Yoga-like concentration, we have elected to be in what the indigenes still call Tcholo, the only district in Malawi to have produced two brothers as State presidents almost back to back except for the interruption of the 2012 to 2014 period when Malawi had power all day everyday. Our phones will be off until Monday. Don’t bother WhatsApping us during this weekend as we will not respond.
Initially we had planned to go as far as Makwasa and up the hills to see our friend Friday Nikoloma at a lodge somewhere in the hills facing Nsanje, Chikwawa and Mozambique. From there we would have been able to relax, breathe real fresh air, avoid the din and tintinnabulation that characterise our cities, run away from blackouts by staying where lack of electricity is a permanent feature, and appreciate the beauty of the Lower Shire valley and its many natural features.
Perched atop those hills we would have wondered, as Jean-Philippe has done since he arrived in Malawi in 2012, where the large numbers of potential voters that register in Chikwawa and Nsanje live because nearly two thirds of the Shire Valley area is nothing but game reserves, forest reserves, flood plain and marshes. Turning North, East, and West from those hills we would have wondered where the thousands, if not millions, of voters live because almost the entire land is just tea estates.
However, we decided to stay at Game Haven in Bvumbwe. For those who have not travelled beyond their villages, here is the truth. Game Haven is home from home. It is reasonably priced and we like the staff and stuff here. In fact, each time we run out of ideas, we get down to Game Haven, from Blantyre or Cashgate City or the Old Capital, whose mayor does not know that the first solar street lights were insatalled at Livingsonia Secondary School, now the seat of the University of Livingstonia, in Rumphi in the late 1980s.
As soon as we arrived here, Alhajj Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC (RTD), Nganga Maigwaigwa, PSC (RTD), the Most Paramount Native Authority Mandela, and Professor Abiti Dr Joyce Befu, MG 66 and MEGA 1, requested a fantakoko each. I, the Mohashoi, decided to be different by asking for Chombi Tea from Mulanje.
“I have often wondered what could be wrong with us Malawians,” Jean-Philippe, who has since acquired Malawian citizenship and will be running for a parliamentary seat in 2019, started as soon as we sat down in the lounge watching Saulos Chilima on ZBS TV making promises about creating one million jobs within the first 90 days of his elevation to the presidency of this wretched place we often call the Federal Republic of Malawi.
“What do you mean?” Professor Befu, asked.
“The Registrar of Political Parties is refusing to register the UTM because it sounds like another registered party. Surely, the same Registrar should have remembered that he or she allowed the registration of MDP which sounds like MCP or NCD which sounds like MCP,” Jean-Philippe said.
“And PP which sounds like PPM or DPP,” Native Authority Mandela said.
“The registrar should register the UTM pronto and Malawians will distinguish it from UTP, “ Nganga said, adding, “After all, failing to register the movement into a party does not mean the grouping cannot win and form a government. All of the UTM aspirants can stand as independents and register themselves as a party while already in government. Then the Registrar of Political Parties will have no teeth to bite the ruling party.”
“Another thing that surprises me about Malawians is mismanagement,” Jean-Philippe said, changing topics.
“Elaborate,” I said.
Jean-Philippe explained: “You have a huge chain store, called Chipuku, and you see it collapse, claiming there is no business. You have a chain store called PTC and you allow it to shrink and close branches for lack of business. Ten days later, a team of foreigners from the East takes up the same business and rebrands it Chipiku Minus and it succeeds. The closed PTC store is reopened and renamed by a South African chain store and it succeeds. Don’t you think, there is a serious problem with us, Malawians?”
Abiti commented: “I agree totally. We Malawians, have a problem. Unless we go real deep and find what this problem is, we will not move forward. I have always thought that if the Japanese took over the leadership of Malawi, this same country would be the envy of the world. Is it our fatalism? Incompetence? What is wrong with us?”
“We have lots of assets that are underutilised. No major disaster. A youthful population. Energetic farmers. A lot of international goodwill. But, why have 54 years of foreign aid not helped us? The Marshall Plan was a once-off aid to war devastated Europe and Europe rose from the ashes to economic vibrancy within a decade or so?