10/10/2017

Meeting the believers

The question was not whether it is true or false. That, in a way, sounded already settled. The question was when are they arriving in other parts of Malawi.

“So, the bloodsuckers have not yet reached where you come from?”

My friend was asked by a well meaning gentleman. We were at the outskirts of Blantyre. A rural area within the city of Blantyre.


When the rumour started, those of us given to humour dismissed it as a joke. Made a few unruly comments on it. Then, three people were killed in Mulanje. The mob thatkilled them suspected them of being bloodsuckers.

As we were attempting to come to terms with it, a chief’s house was ransacked by his subjects. The crime? He was accused of conniving with the bloodsuckers.

That made the situation bad, the rumours vile. Nevertheless, two more people were killed. Their crime was that they were strangers in an area where people have harvested a new belief that there are bloodsuckers in their communities.

It is not a new belief, or rumour. This, of bloodsuckers. Back in my young days, in Primary School, classes were suspended more than once on fear of the same. Some student would see a car (or even just get tired of classes),  cry that there were bloodsuckers on Campus and before we saw anything, we would be home narrating to our mothers our narrow escape from bloodsuckers. The unlucky among us would get a good hiding from their mothers, the lucky ones would be new sources of information for their mothers. It was those days. Days of youth. Days of folly.

But then, we would kill nobody out of that fear. And, indeed, the next day most of us would be back in class – that bloodsucking ordeal forgotten. The student who had started it (the rumour) to run away from some punishment now facing the punishment, this time with no new excuse to use so he could have the classes suspended. 

The different thing, right now, is that the rumours are not propagated by Primary School pupils who are still learning to differentiate the left hand from the right. They are propagated by elderly community members entrusted with the responsibility to not only vote but also raise Malawi’s next generation.

Beyond that frightening argument of age and its relationship with the future of Malawi in this whole bloodsucking debacle is the needless loss of lives that has already happened and will happen if these rumours keep being unchecked. That really makes all the difference in the childish bloodsucking rumours we spread in Primary School and this regarded-as-factual experience of some communities within Malawi.

The first time I heard of the bloodsucking rumours this year, I laughed. And dismissed them. In my ‘enlightened’ state, I found it too 'primitive' for anyone to believe that someone would be sucking their blood for rituals. I was astounded by the fact that anyone could subscribe to such thinking.

Despite my intentions to sympathise with the ‘ignorance’ of those who were claiming to be victims or potential victims for the bloodsuckers, I did not really step down to agree with their biased reality that they were being bloodsucked. And, indeed, I sincerely believed (and still believe) that all those experiences being related to bloodsucking can be explained away medically – or scientifically.

In all honesty, I did not think that anyone would believe that. I said that if people believe it then certainly they do in in private. It is such an illogical fear and belief to be held – and celebrated – in public.

That was until Monday, October 09…

I had gone with a friend to an area on the outskirts of Blantyre. It is still a part of Blantyre. they call in Blantyre rural.

In the exchange of stories, the story of bloodsuckers came in. I should disclose that these days I am apprehensive of visiting newer rural areas. Ever since the brutal murder of the five who were suspected of being bloodsuckers, I have personally decided to protect myself and stay away from communities I will be suspected as one. So, even upon going there, I was wary. I never raised that subject. I did not want to have anything to do with it. Yet, somehow, it slid in. My observations skills were alert.

I wanted to know how people in a rural area in Blantyre were thinking of the phenomenon. What with cabinet ministers confusing each other by either saying that the issue isa hoax or others really saying it is true, with prayers to Jesus Christ beingthe only way to stop the bloodsuckers.

It was the way that the issue was introduced that had my attention. Usually, people in rural areas ask for opinion from those in urban areas. In this case, I had expected the people to ask us – from the urban area – if the story about bloodsuckers was true. It could not have been strange. They had already asked a lot from us. About developments. About places. About anything. Our opinion – I would unfairly say – had been one they had hang on. Except on bloodsucking.

“So, the bloodsuckers have not yet reached where you have come from?”

It was not a question on the claim. To them, that was a settled issue. That there are bloodsuckers was not a matter of debate. It was just the whereabouts that we could talk about.

I did not interrupt. Did not want to question them on the claim. I wanted to hear more and, it was more that we heard.

In that area, they said, they had also been faced by a similar situation about three years ago.

“There were bloodsuckers here,” another gentleman offered. “They came here, that house…” he pointed at a house not far away from where we were. “It was dogs that chased them. They were tall beings. When one looked at them, nobody could see where the head was at. They were tall. Just tall with no ending. They reached the sky, maybe.

“That day, dogs barked in an unusual way. The boy who lived in that house woke up only to find tubes being inserted through windows, he shouted for help. When we came out, there was a stench of Methylated Spirit everywhere in the air. We saw those beings running away, to the river until they disappeared. That was about three years ago.”

They had my interest. So, I asked if they ever came again.

“You know what, the next day we apprehended them. Four men. They were in a car. Dressed as women. None of them was from this area. They were dressed in an all white attire. We suspected them. We asked them to disembark from the car, they refused. We knew it was them. We smashed the car. We were about to kill them when the Police arrived. They rescued them. Since then, they never came back again,” another gentleman pronounced.

“Do you think they will come again this year?” it was not me, nor my friend, who asked. It was an elder gentleman, among themselves – certainly afraid that they might come for his octogenarian blood.

“I don’t think they will come. Not after that ordeal last time,” another said.

“But then, is it the same people whom we smashed their car last time? I don’t think so, these might be new ones,” another added.

“I do not know, but I heard on the radio that the government will do something on this…”
“Which government?” at this, we had metamorphosed into mere spectators of a village conversation. “One person said on the radio that when she was bloodsucked and went to the hospital, they told her not to tell anyone about the ordeal. They plastered her wound (from which the bloodsucking tubes were inserted) and told her to keep quiet about it…”

“You know what, somebody on the radio said that all the people who are doubting about the bloodsuckers…”

“Are there people doubting?”

“Yes, there are…so, this person said that all those doubting should wait until their children are bloodsucked…”

“Ha! How can they be? They are rich people (those doubting). It is the poor people in rural areas like here that are being sucked. After a long day, a little drink, you just sleep and what’s a better meal for bloodsuckers than that?”