We are in Monkey Bay, the home of the MV Ilala, MV Mtendere, MV Karonga, the MV John Chilembwe and the graveyard of the MV Mpasa, MV Chancy Maples, and other dead marine vessels.
The MV Mpasa, as those who care may remember, was the venue where Dr Kamuzu Banda, counsel Orton Ching’oli Chirwa, QC, and other fighters for our independence from the British were whisked into in 1959. It was in reaction to this arrest that the people of Malawi resident in Nkhata Bay oblivious of the lure of tribalism, marched, unarmed but purposefully united in vision, and sang today’s freedom songs.
They marched to peacefully ask the British district commissioner, John Block, to release their detained leaders. But, in response, Block, representing the British government and his Queen, commanded the Federal police to open fire. Thirty-one men, women and children were murdered in cold blood on that third day of March 1959.
Of course, as someone has argued on behalf of the British government, 3rd March 1959 is water under the Malawi Bridge and we must, actually, thank the British for giving Malawi some monetary recompense for the blood the people with whom we share the DNA spilled. Thank British aid we do but our wounds are still fresh and painful.
We propose to the Malawi Government that the MV Mpasa should be preserved as it is a reminder of our bloody struggle for independence. Parents should pilgrimage with their children to Monkey Bay, and get into the MV Mpasa, every 3rd March for them to have a ‘feel’ of the story of our independence. We also propose to that producer who wants to dramatise the Unsung Song, to come to Monkey Bay and let his actors stage some scenes in the MV Mpasa.
Enough about history. Back to today. We are here to escort Abiti Joyce Befu, MG 66, and the Most Paramount Native Authority Mandela who are visiting their families after a long while.
Yesterday, we ventured into a drinking joint around 2pm to quench our thirst. As we drank our fantakoko, an advertisement ran on Dziwe Community Radio, broadcasting from the foothills of the Nankumba Peninsula. The advertisement called on all uncircumcised men to voluntarily to go for male circumcision as a fight against HIV. Towards the end of the advert a disclaimer: “remember that male circumcision efficacy is at 60 percent. So, always remember to use a condom!”
“This is utter nonsense,” Mandela exclaimed.
“What is utterly nonsensical?” I asked.
“Do you remember the first time we met at the PTC shop where Abiti was working as a till operator I asked you about male circumcision and HIV prevention? Don’t you?”
“I don’t remember!”
“You should. That time in 2013, I asked you about some radio announcement that claimed that the government wanted all young men to be circumcised to avoid catching HIV and avoid cancers. In the language of the Chewa this is called mdulidwe. But does this male genital mutilation really reduce the chances of catching HIV?”
“Aah, I now remember! You see that’s what medical research had shown,” I said.
“Now medical research shows that circumcision should be assisted by condomisation?”
“I don’t understand your question!”
“If male genital mutilation really worked, why do circumcised men here catch HIV and die?”
“May be they are not professionally and voluntarily circumcised?” Jean-Philippe joked.
“Almost all autochthonous men in this district are professionally and religiously circumcised. Why has circumcision not resulted in reduced spread of HIV, here? Why does my simple question stand unanswered?” Mandela asked.
“Circumcise and condomise! The campaign means health officials now acknowledge they initially misled Malawians about the importance of male circumcision,” Jean-Philippe declared.
“And why did the health officials mislead us out of ABC in the first place? We believed there was no cure for HIV and we started behaving ourselves, then came ‘circumcise and ye shall be safe from HIV!’” Mandela wondered.
“What is ABC?” Jean-Philippe asked.
“Abstain, be faithful to one partner and condomise if you don’t trust each other!”
“I guess from now we should use DABHC.”
“Don’t Always Believe in Health Campaigns!” n