5/17/2015

A nation on its knees, morally

There was a country. There was a Malawi.

To pass such an indictment on a population of 16 million plus people, to address them in the past, is one of the least experiences a person like me cherish in. But, there are events that happen. These events shock and shake you. They make you question anything. And everything. Sometimes, they push you to the extreme: you deny the presence of reality.

It is a sad place to be in. A dangerous seat to sit in. To have to self-anoint oneself as a judge over a people smacks of hypocrisy. Sadly, it is the place I am in. It is the place I have chosen to be in, this moment.

Today, I thought of writing a eulogy to the versatile writer and journalist who surrendered his ghost on one of the roads in Malawi: Ralph Tenthani.

I wanted to write an eulogy. To deny the brilliant argument made by my friend, Wana Kalua, that Tenthani was the only person worthy to write his own eulogy. Owing to his brilliant skills at writing. I wanted to. Until Beaton wrote. I gave up. Beaton has snatched the words out of me.

Even if I am to write from the experience of having had to work under Tenthani at The Big Issue or working with Tenthani at Blantyre Newspapers Limited, I would just sound like an echo of a gong sounded in the ancient past. Reverberating in the future. A failed copy of Beaton's sentiments.

So, I shelved the idea. I am not going to write about Tenthani.

But...

Something has disturbed me in the death. It has made me question the kind of society we have become. That instead of mourning the dead, we are searching for a political opponent to blame in a death.

In Malawi, people have stopped dying. I mean, they are dying but not just dying. There is always somebody behind that death. If, scientifically, you cannot point at somebody poisoning or hiring assassins to shoot somebody then, be assured, we will find what is called a cultural excuse.

This, the cultural excuse, is something you cannot validate. It is an area loaded with fear, rumours, lies and superstitions. Witch-hinting. Sadly, a majority are taken away and made to debate these. An example is me: I have to write this to argue on speculations and conjectures of superstition just because it is in the public domain. Denying it is denying the current Malawian reality.

Not long ago, Malawi minister of information made remarks that have divided the public opinion. The gravity of those remarks, the legal penalties that have suddenly been attached to them, make me shudder to freely comment on this space. The short and short of it, however, is that he alleged that the former President Bingu wa Mutharika's death was not natural. He alleged somebody whose name abbreviates as JB killed the President. The issue has sparked such a debate that one would think it centers around the question of life and death.

In Malawi, a country resting on fear and superstitions hiding behind religion and culture, the minister sparked a fire.

His remarks, no matter how much they are being bleached, appear to have dented the reputation of an opposition political party. Or its leader. Now, the other party is up in arms.

As though they were looking for a loophole to attack, the other party have suddenly jumped on Tenthani's death to drum up support and discredit - in the same breath, almost.

Conspiracy theories have already started emerging how that accident which claimed one of the country's finest journalists, always holding DPP authority responsible, must not have been accident. I have seen the people peddling this theory. I have seen the kind of shirts they put on, the kind of glasses they are using to view this death and one thing has emerged: the colour that the disenfranchised party uses is the same one they like.

I know, we can just say, it is all politics.

But, who in death would want to be a 'politicised' entity?

I do not know about others but, for myself, I would not want to.

I was raised up in a society that valued people. It is a society which, jokes had it, would beatify a thug at his death. They would label him a saint who would never hurt a fly. Yet, deep down, the truth will be screaming the opposite.

Then, to talk of a dead person was to speak the good of him. Then a community joined hands, buried enmity, to celebrate a life going. Not anymore. 

Suddenly, with our love for politicians who have milked the country dry yet we love to clap hands for them, we have let our guard fall. Now, morality is a myth. It appears, in a blink, we have discovered nobody survives on morality and therefore it should take the fastest lane to perdition. It appears we have found a new glory, I would say folly, in celebrating the fall of another. Now, it appears, the death of Tenthani will soon become a practical joke.

I would not imagine the kind of pain we are willing to let his family go through as we show our political colours. Once campaign starts, I fear we will let them relive the painful moment they are living in now, everyday.

I would have said a lot. Have argued with all my might. But, I know, in the madness of politics it is insane to shout the opposite. Lest you be butchered.

After all, we know politicians are just politicians. It appears to be a politician one has to first give up on morals. That possibly explains why when we hear that our politicians have stolen from our taxes, we relax. And rush to their defense. It is as if we expect them to steal. Now, the whole country is stealing...

There has been disturbing news from Scotland, concerning their aid. The Cashgate scandal which saw the flight of donors, so politically referred to as development partners, appeared to have been a tip of the iceberg.

As we took to social media to accuse and charge our politicians, the locals on the ground were as well getting their share. Of a stolen loot. One disturbing case has been the one in which the locals got a loan to be used for farm inputs and instead used that money for buying irrelevant things. Wants, not needs.

Sadly, these locals instead of learning how to fish thought that it was better they use the bait given as a fish in itself. It is such a sad ordeal which one of my friends rightly claimed is the kind of robbery one does to their selves.

The shocking, and sad, story is that instead of buying agricultural inputs they bought electrical equipments - not for farming. For entertainment. Here, you will hardly see a hand of a politician. These are common people, like me, who have well mastered the art of stealing. I wonder if any people can sink so low. Soon, it appears, to define thievery and corruption one will just have to point at Malawi. Such a kind of immorality.

And, these are dots.

The situation is terrible, I fear. Somehow, we are on the highway to doom and nobody cares to check. The concept of multipartyism, and its twin: democracy, have been misunderstood amongst us.

With social media, for the average literate folk, he has a gun. He shoots. Carelessly.

Without social media, the other folk, is not any better. He is perpetuating the same despicable state he is in.With no conscience.

In our hurry to modernize, it appears, we are missing stages. Our nation, now, seems to be running out of anything but immorality.

We might debate. We might argue. All the hours we can have. But, something has snapped in us. That something used to hold us. Now, we are on a free fall!