I have written here before on my trip to Rwanda, Kigali (which by the way, the natives’ pronunciation is like Chigali, the same way Ugandas call Mr Kibuye, Mr Chibuye). I was surprised just as I was reassured when every hundred metres or so along the main road, there was a solitary armed policeman (there was no woman) or someone from the Army. These people stood almost motionless facing the street. They were not like answering their cell phones or on Face book or chat. They looked serious just as they looked fierce.
I am wondering what’s got to me. I have seen that Blantyre is awash with, I would say, heavily armed police men and women. These look different, though, from the Chigali Police. Our police are on the phone some of the times, they are walking singly as pairs, in threes and in some cases in half a dozen men and women. In Chigali, I never saw any of these armed men moving up and down the streets. Here in Malawi, our armed police officers are moving. Different context, different challenges, different strategies. I would expect, however, that they have walkie-talkies (which in my childhood, we referred to these as wireless messages).
Let us now go to the title of this article. Some people have questioned whether it is possible to only bring white people and Chinese who are investing in agriculture, energy and water. The people who will invest in energy generation (and distribution) have a ready market. This is because Malawians have the money to pay for electricity, only that there is not enough power to go around. We have committed ourselves to electrify the rural areas. Our commitment is such that we have gone ahead and even when we do not have adequate megawatts for everyone.
The next thing we can talk about is water. Water is life, so they say. But people in Blantyre’s townships and other neighbourhoods do not have POTABLE water all the time. You are wondering why I have put the word POTABLE in all UPPERCASE? The reason is that last time I travelled to Lilongwe (from Blantyre) via the M 1 Road, at Bunda Turnoff Roundabout, I was greeted by this Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) billboard with our President quoted. In the quote, POTABLE water was spelt like portable water (with an “r”). Potable water should never have an “r”. What is potable water by the way? This is water that is fit for human consumption. It tastes right and smells right (does not smell, in fact); looks well (looks like colourless water), has the right chemical balance and micro-organism balance. How do I know all this? It is because I teach a class on potable water, but never on portable water. I also emphasise that never should a person write portable water when what they want to talk/write about is potable water.
Could we perhaps postpone discussions on mining and oil exploration until we have sorted out the electricity thing? Otherwise we are setting ourselves for ridicule aren’t we?