Saturday, 24 October 2009

Chihoro is Beans: Home Sweet Home

The climax of my holiday was when I realised that I was no longer as young. What made me realise this was whilst driving from Blantyre to Lilongwe, having watched Malawi (Flames) hold Ivory Coast to a one all draw, ahead of me was a Toyota Coaster belonging to University of Malawi. I followed it for a good 5 miles as what I suspect were students, performed all acts of stupidity, as they dangerously leaned out of windows and cars driving on the opposite side swerved to avoid them! I last saw such an act when I was in primary school, going to youth rally at Kamuzu Stadium. How time flies. I overtook and smiled in amusement at these stupid boys who were sons of someone!

The previous day, I was fascinated with the change in Flames supporters. It was all red and colourful. I had a K10, 000 VIP ticket, courtesy of Baba (Gaston Mwenelupembe). I was impressed that the tickets had numbers, meaning I had a seat as per my ticket. Indeed I had a seat, but, two fat guys next to me had two ticketless children aged probably 10 and 11 and we were supposed to share the seat! “Madala tingopanga squeeze ndi mafanawa, nanga tiamane chikopa? (Sir, let the five of us just share these three seats so that we do not deny the kids entertainment!) My foot, I was sweating and heating up inside. I decided to act the Malawi way and share, in case I was told I had exhausted our quota! Please FAM and Sports Council, either tickets are sold matched with chairs, or let us go back to old system where even with a ticket you were not assured of chair. I nevertheless enjoyed the match having shared my K10, 000 ndi mafana. But we can improve on the noise. I loved the boooooooo on Drogba and “DROGBA WHO? Poster!

I drove to Lusaka during the time I was in Malawi. I dreaded the journey because of the famous potholes on the road (especially between Sinda and Petauke), which I knew inside-out during my 5 years living in Lusaka. To my surprise, I never stumbled into a single pothole throughout my journey. Thanks to RB (President Rupiah Banda). I understand his young wife has business in Eastern province. It was great to enjoy Mosi once again at Times Cafe and Car wash.

What would a trip to Malawi be without Chihoro village? I had to drive Mpatsa 7 as Gorodi is still as it has always been. Maybe now with Quota policy, the road would be upgraded to bitumen standard. Apart from dust and fact that we had funeral in family, Chihoro was fun. But I was disappointed that we had no beans at the village. For me no beans, no relish! Whatever happened to this policy of beans beans beans? I forgot to ask my Dad whether this was due to quota policy! I did a bit of tour and Homestead (primary school) still had those grass-thatched pit latrines and vyungu - still flourishing with green maize. The numbers of folks at Chihoro have diminished over the years and wonder what the village will be left of in the next 20 years.

Driving back, we stopped at Phwezi. The previous day Four Form students had run amok and had been expelled from school. They were only to come and write their exams the following week. I looked at infrastructure at Phwezi and felt sad that boys still bath at the river, the buildings were still as pathetic and the food being served was, to say the least, undesirable. I had a chat with students who will be our leaders of tomorrow. Maybe it is time owners of Phwezi sat back and make a decision to give students not only good education, but good learning environment.

Meeting Kalenga Jere at Diplomats was my highlight of my trip. He had flown all the way from Solomon Islands to go attend “Lake of Stars”. Having had my phone stolen at Diplomats that night, it was time to bid farewell to Malawi. It was not to be. As I pushed a trolley of ufa, beans, rice, matemba and my little bag at Kamuzu International Airport, I noticed there was no one at the SA check-in counter. I asked someone when the counter would be opened. He looked at me and said, Madala, zitseko zandege atseka. Mwachedwa. (You are late, the flight is about to take off!) You must be kidding, I said. This is 1pm, the flight is supposed to leave at 2.55pm. “That is the old timetable. From October 1, SA leaves at 1pm from Lilongwe to Johannesburg. Just wait for the Mai Wandawanda, she will help you!” Never forget that lesson. In Malawi, always reconfirm your flight irrespective of what your Azungu agents tell you. I looked at my ufa and matemba bag and called a number. Come back and pick me up. Flight has left. Well, had I flown that day, I would not have had the chance to meet DAIRE KUMWENDA the next Thursday and hear his views about the Quota policy. That was 15 October.

Having swallowed fansidar on 18 October, I can happily join John Kauta today 25 October in Brunei for yet another BBQ and a couple of beers despite the fact that Brunei is a dry country.

Quota Policy

I arrived in anticipation, a cold Carlsberg green, after years of drinking lousy English beers. I thought it was a joke, but I noticed the shabby looking guy was damn serious. “Your ID sir” he said whilst chewing and blowing the gum. The only ID I had on me was my driver’s licence. “Ahhhh, Mkandawire”! He said. “I am sorry but your quota is filled up. Try the next pub. Most of you do not go there”, he mused. “What do you mean quota is filled up?” I queried. He took his register and starting going through the list. Munthali, Nyirenda, 4 Mwaungulus, 2 Kasambalas, 2 Matiyas 3Singanos, Nundwes, 6 Bandas but 4 from the kukaya. You know Manchester United is playing today and your friends rushed to ensure they fill up the quota. “But Matiya and Singano...... Before I finished, the bouncer said, “I know, but we know that they never paid lobola, so they are both Mkamwinis in Mbalachanda! I was lost!

I left still confused and headed for “Peoples” and buy my Green and with fewer “breath gadgets” during the day, drunk my cold beer whilst driving. I decided to visit my friend and was sure that I would be able to watch the match with him. As I arrived, the watchman opened the gate for me. My friend greeted me warmly and ushered me into his home and his children were watching cartoon network. “Welcome back home”, he said. I know you are a Liverpool fan, but unfortunately, you cannot watch the match today because I exhausted my TV quota for this week. He said a colleague would keep him updated on scores. When I asked him why we cannot go and watch the match at the hotel, he told me that he had exhausted his “out of home” quota and he was stuck till the following week. “What is this quota business?” I asked and told him how I was kept out at the club.

He told me that Government was implementing a Quota policy and it had to be strictly observed. He indicated that the new ID card has made it possible to implement the quota. For example a quota will now be implemented in tobacco and cotton growing, foreign exchange allocation, international football matches, booking hotel rooms, passports, drivers licence, owning retail shops, buying of vehicles, international travel etc. If the trend does not change, quota will be extended to “red light streets” as it seems it is dominated by people from one area and this is not equitable distribution of income. “What about market vendors?” Well, he said. That has already been implemented, including fish mongers, tailors, sumagulalas etc. “What is sumagulalas? I asked. Ohh that. These are people that carry things on their heads across borders. You mean Smugglers? I mused?

He told me that quota was good for the country and homes. It brought stability and unity. Imagine a situation with no diversification in red light streets! It would be boring, no? He told me that I had to understand principles of economics. When there is scarcity, resources have to be shared. I asked him whether we had run out of ideas on how to increase the resources. He told me that was not the point. Don’t you understand that when supply increases, prices go down? You have to keep demand always high and supply low. That is the only way you can yield power and control the market. I asked him whether that was not legitimising sharing of poverty and whether it was fair to deny those life fish mongers and tobacco farmers to pursue their dream by curtailing their numbers, when all they knew is that trade? He said, the idea was that fish mongers would also now try to grow tobacco and tailors should attempt to become teachers and those book- worms should dirty their hands by catching fish or growing tobacco. It is called Diversification and Equity. I got more confused!

When I asked for another green, he told me that unfortunately, I had exceeded my quota for the day. I left for my humble home and wondered whether my wife would not impose a quota restriction when I arrived home!