We are still in Chitipa, the land of marshes, rivers, hills, bees, beehives, and the world’s most succulent Mzuzu coffee. Today we add that Chitipa is the most peaceful, tolerant, cosmopolitan, friendly and detribalised society in Malawi. Apart from Mangochians and Karongians, Chitipians are perchance the hardest working folks in this, our bloodsuckerland.
This is our last weekend during this leg of our expedition. But as Arnold Schwarzenegger warns, we “will be back” soon. Chitipa is not the kind of place you would refuse to see twice, thrice, quadrice, and even kiloice.
To bid farewell to our many Chitipian friends here, Abiti Joyce Befu, MG 66, MEGA-1; the Most Paramount Native Authority Mzee Mandela, Nganga Maigwaigwa, PSC (RTD), Alhajj Mufti Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC (RTD) and I, Malawi’s only Mohashoi, decided to throw a Bottom Up party.
MEGA-1’s proposal to hold the party at Chitipa Inn was squarely turned down because our expedition is mass-centred and we could not afford to be partying in hotels, inns, or motels, the very symbols of opulence and mass suppression and suffocation. We had only one venue option: Mangoline, the warm heart of Chitipa.
“That’s it!” exclaimed Mwenendozi, who has been our selfless guide throughout the tour of Chitipa, when news of the party was relayed to him by telephone.
In the evening, we all converged at the Mangoline. Mwenendozi asked for Kabanga shandy, a potpourri comprising locally brewed beer, fresh eggs, goat milk, and mashed mbalagha, as plantains are called in some areas of Chitipa and Karonga.
“Same here,” I said.
“Here, too,” Jean-Philippe called,” murmuring, “When in Chitipa, eat and drink as Chitipians do!”
“Fantakoko,” Abiti said, contorting her face at the mention of the concoction called Kabanga shandy.
“Amaraula, please!” Mzee Mandela called.
“We have fantakoko but not Malaulo drink!” a lady serving us said.
“Amaraula; not Malaulo…. Kabanga shandy, then!” Mzee said laughing hurtedly.
As we waited for our orders, Mwenendozi took his Hightel tablet phone and scrolled down through the menu before saying, “Here, watch this! This man being stoned was lynched by civilised Blantyre residents on suspicion of being a bloodsucker!”
“This is terrible!” Abiti, breaking down, “How can we do this in this beautiful country. Why?”
“And this was right at a police station and police road. Where were the police?” Jean-Philippe asked.
“They were overwhelmed,” Nganga said.
“Overwhelmed by an unarmed mob?” I asked.
“Police can’t shoot without orders from above!” Nganga, a retired police commissioner argued.
“I see. So, each time police shoot, a superior is behind the shooting! When the police shot and killed demonstrators in July 2012, an order came from above?” Jean-Philippe asked conclusively.
“I didn’t say that!” Nganga protested.
“But why are people behaving like this? Is there evidence that someone had ever had her blood sucked?” Abiti repeated her question.
“I heard some armchair academics explain that bloodsucking stories emerge because most Malawians are backward, hungry, illiterate, infuriated, frustrated, jealous, poor, self-piteous, suspicious, superstitious, self-destruct, rumour-mongering, temperamental, traditional, uncouth, underserved, ultra-religious, unscientific, uncivilised and vengeful,” Jean-Philippe said.
“Are such conclusions based on field studies or armchair theorisations?” Abiti asked.
“Ask them,” I said and turned to get my hotpot of Kabanga shandy.
“One medical doctor said early this week that these bloodsucking criminal acts emanate from mass hysteria, nothing medically possible,” Mwenendozi said.
“How come are these blood-sucking events restricted to the same tribal areas: Mulanje, Chiradzulu, Thyolo, Phalombe, Nsanje, Chikwawa, Blantyre and Zomba? Does it mean there are no poor and illiterate and potentially hysterical people in other parts of Malawi? And why Malawi and not Tanzania or Zambia, where the majority are equally poor?” Abiti was not convinced.
“You see,” Jean-Philippe said, “every event has a cause or source. What I expected Malawian social scientists, anthropologists, and social commentators is to get deeper into what is causing people to feel blood-sucked and act hysterically in this specific tribal area. Don’t forget that even mass hysteria has a cause or source! Address that cause or source and condemn the mass hysteria later. If bloodsuckerland wants a lasting solution, that is. Otherwise, bloodsucking will be back, again and again.”