Praise be to Escom for it embodies our national mediocrity. We, Abiti Joyce Befu, Mufti Alhajj Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC (RTD), the Native Authority Mandela, MP, and I, the Mohashoi, spent a miserable night at Dowa Boma. The Chikumbanje Guesthouse we cheerfully checked into was only able to provide candle lighting for two hours. Unable to stay put in our darkness enveloped rooms, at about 8 pm we tried to venture out to taste Dowa nightlife.
Verily we report unto you. We came back disappointed as, except for a few souls walking up and down the market street to get a drink from faintly lit entertainment centres, Dowa had already gone to sleep.
“So, the Dowans spend ten hours sleeping?” Jean-Philippe asked nobody in particular.
“How do you know?” I retorted.
“If they are already asleep by this hour and they will wake up at 6 am, it means they have ten hours of night-lazing,” Jean-Philippe reasoned.
“It does not always work like that,” Native Authority Mandela protested.
“The people in rural Malawi sleep early and wake up extremely early, say around 3 am,” Abiti commented.
“Did you say 3 am?”Jean-Philippe asked in disbelief.
“3 o’clock in the morning,” Native Authority Mandela said slowly as if he were reading a text to a slow learner.
“What for?” Jean-Philippe inquired further.
“To go gardening. The food you and the unappreciative urban dwellers, and the Tractorgate masters, eat comes from the sweat these rural people, the smallholders, drip every early morning,” I said.
“They work from around 3 to 8 am; get home; and go to drink. So when you meet them around 9 am drunk you wrongly think they are lazy. But, wait, by 9 am they will have already done approximately five hours of food production with hard labour,” I said.
“Why does your government not assume the responsibility of food production? I mean, if they mechanise agricultural production, this small population will have enough food to eat and some to throw away. Sort of Mwana walilanji?” Jean-Philippe suggested.
“What is mwana walilanji?” Abiti wondered.
“The idea of having plenty food, more food than what a household needs is called mwana walilanji. At least that is what I learned in Mangoni; not so Mohashoi?”
“Wrong. It is called mwana alirenji?” I corrected him.
“Well. The difference is the same. At least you understood what I wanted to communicate,” Jean-Philippe said.
We all laughed and agreed to retire to bed and leave early in the morning to go to Senga Bay in Salima on our way to the Lake of Stars festival in Chinthechi, the founding home of Malawi’s premier lakeside music, dance, drink, Jah-leaf smoke and, of course, ujeni carnival.
We converged in the restaurant at 6 am. Chikumbanje’s restaurant girls were already there preparing our breakfast: tea with super-sized stock-packed sangweji as sandwiches are called in most parts of Malawi. We left at exactly 8 am.
We hardly drove for a kilometre when the tarmac road came to an abrupt end.
“What is this? You mean there is no tarmac from here?” Jean-Philippe asked.
I stopped the VW Amailoko to ask a gentleman who was walking opposite us. The man stopped and assured us that the road was dusty and rugged but passable.
“Onzanu onse omadutsa komweko,” he said.
“What did he say?”Jean-Philippe asked.
“All motorists drive through the same road,” Native Authority Mandela translated.
We drove in silence as I negotiated gullies, craters, rumbling sandy surfaces and jutting stones. The VW Amailoko behaved and did its job without being forced into four-wheeling until we got near the Lilongwe-Salima junction where we were treated to another short stretch of tarmac road before we turned left to go to Mvera and beyond.
“Who is the minister responsible for villages and district roads?”Jean-Philippe asked.
“What do you want her for?” Abiti answered.
“To ask her when her department will repair or finish tarring this road. Imagine, the road is this bad in summer. How does she expect trucks and ambulances to pass through this type of road during the rainy season?”
“Wait for the next political campaign season!” I said. n