I went to see a friend in Lilongwe’s Area 18 inside the week. As it is our tradition, I managed to walk into the friend’s compound with ‘something’ to cheer him with.
It was a 20 litre gallon of water, and oh boy, we had a good dose of laughter!
As friends, we joked about the underworld Area 18 has suddenly become at the discovery some four weeks ago of a burst sewer pipe that fed into a water supply line, and eventually into the dishes and tummies of our beloved brothers and sisters.
We joked and joked and got locked into discussing life in Area 18 since their water came accompanied by septic waste.
Between then and now, drama has never fallen short, with sides involved in the ‘circus’ arguing and counter-arguing on anything fit for that day’s squabble.
At the end of the arguments, the Area 18 resident goes back home to his tap, still not convinced that lasting solutions will come any soon.
I listened to the friend’s tales and came to a conclusion that him, like many other residents of Area 18, are burdened by hesitation on the safety of their water.
‘Amwene, bola tikanapanda kudziwa. Bola kumangodzimwera ngati m’mene mukuchitira m’madera mwinamu,’ he said, rather sarcastically, but sensibly understandable.
From that horrendous day of fate, our dear brothers and sisters are living like prisoners on a psychological death row, treating their once trusted taps with caution and doubt.
But what is caution when you have no alternatives? At the push of a reality of lack of options, the resident is shoved by despair into drinking from the same ‘poisoned taps.’
Imagine what psychological torture this is.
Think of families with little children. Think of that negative urge choking residents as they take their tea of cold glass of water [or should I call it ‘mystery juice?’].
Ladies and gentlemen, this matter ought to have received the strongest sense of urgency and communication. The people of Area 18 need to be engaged. They need to be helped with the psychological torture of being left ‘alone’ to drink from pipes that authorities seem to hesitate to call ‘good again.’
That is the nature of the world we live in now. An inconclusive world.A world of deterioration.
Whether the sides involved will soon treat the Area 18 matter with proper communication and care is not within my grasp of a guess.
Whether the matter will be a wakeup call for Lilongwe Water Board and the City Assembly to quickly sweep around their systems towards avoiding a repeat of this tragedy is beyond my prediction.
But of one thing I am so confident: in a few days there will come that man perched on a motor cycle, whistling to his tune of duty as he greets the Area 18 resident:
‘Mwadzuka Mama?Ndabweretsa bilu yamadzi.’ n