We spent almost three hours driving around Lake Chilingali. It was scorching hot. But Jean-Philippe kept asking for more time to take photographs of butterflies, birds, crocodiles, snakes, fish, fish farmers, cassava farmers, rice farmers, and even weed farmers. He photographed anything moving. As such, we did not have enough time to travel to Unaka. On our way back to our lodge that afternoon, we drove past jubilant young kakas and dadas. They kept making catcalls at us. I ignored them with a smile or a wave once in a while. As we went past a group of women, one woman shouted something that I did not pick out clearly.
Jean-Philippe asked if I had heard what the woman said. I told him I had not. He commanded me to reverse. When we got level with the women, I rolled down the window glass and asked what it was one of them had said as we passed by.
“Kaka”, one of them started, “we just wanted to find out if your friend is married.”
“You want to marry him?”
I laughed. I explained to Jean-Philippe what the young lady had just said.
“Does she sound serious?”
I did not answer. Instead, I engaged gear and drove away to the lodge. Before we went to our respective rooms, Jean-Philippe suggested that we agree on dinner time. I suggested that we meet at five pm and drive down to some restaurant and bar at the Linga beach. He agreed.
Once alone in my room, I put on the electric fan, picked the day’s The Nation newspaper, and threw myself onto the bed. As I read the newspaper, my mind raced away; far away. I asked myself what happened to Malawi’s nationalist vision. When our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters fought for independence from the British, they had big dreams. They dreamed a country where all men and women would be treated as equals; a country where one’s ethnic origin or tribal belonging would not be criteria for identifying who eats what, who sits where, or who hates whom. The big dreamers died one by one; some in mysterious accidents, others from disease.
Thirty years after independence, Malawians were again asked to envision their country by 2020. They dreamed that by 2020, Malawi would be secure, democratically mature, self-reliant, technologically driven middle–income country where all citizens would enjoy equal opportunities, and God fearing.
Now, just seven years before 2020, what progress has Malawi made? We seem to be moving backwards. Why? We have tried educated and uneducated political leaders. All seem to have failed the nation. Leaders of oversight institutions are overpaid but corrupt. Our traditional leaders are no longer traditional. Our religious leaders are no longer God-fearing and media leaders easily bribed. There is no one to trust.
We have become a country where those entrusted with responsibility steal from themselves because they think they are stealing from the president. That someone can steal fertiliser and seed meant for national food security is beyond comprehension.
Jean-Philippe knocked at the door. I stood up, switched off the electric fan and walked out. We drove down to Linga for our dinner. My eyes were at nkholokola with kondowoli.