Against linguistic arrogance, intolerance

We promised. As always we deliver on all our promises. Abiti Joyce Befu, the Most Excellent Grand Achiever, MEGA-1 also popularly known internationally as MG 66, Alhajj Mufti Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC (RTD), Nganga Maigwagwa, PSC (RTD), the Most Paramount Native Authority Mzee Mandela and I, the only Malawian Mohashoi, are here  still here in Chitipa, the land of marshes, until our resources evaporate. We promised.

In the three weeks that we have been here we have learnt a lot.  We have learned why Chitipians love, and excel in, science and mathematics in particular but we will relate the reason in detail later.   For today be contented that Chitipians realised  decades ago that mathematics and statistics, though dreaded in school, are mere codes, a form of language that just need decoding to understand what they communicate. Those who persevere and work hard to disentangle the entanglements called formulae excel. Ask mathematics educationists.

We have already been to Chisenga. We thought we would be there for a day or two but three things made us stay longer. The service we received, the quality of drink from Zambia and umwanavuli called Miriam.

This week we are here at Chitipa Boma. Our guide is a veteran civil servant named Egg-Plant Mwenendozi. Mwenendozi knows Chitipa like the back of his right palm. He was first posted here 20 years ago next year. Then Chitipa was a dusty town that many foreigners, even some Chitipians themselves, shunned. Bitumisation of the Chitipa-Karonga highway had not been finished then.  However, Mwenendozi settled down and since then he has refused six transfers to other districts, including to headquarters in Cashgate City. He has vowed to work here, retire here, die here and get interred here. He genuinely believes Chitipa is the epicentre of prosperity.

From last Tuesday to Thursday we were in Misuku.  After that long trip to the land of honey, we decided to rest and give the Aford Neverest a clean wash inside out.  On Friday evening Mwenendozi took us to Mangoline, Chitipa’s red-light district.   When we arrived there, we were shocked.

“This is where we come to rest, wish our bad past away and strategise for the future,” Mwenendozi started, calming the apprehension in us down.

“Ulakiza Mwenendozi?” A lady who had come to greet us asked.

“Tuli akiza mwemwe? Mbako ubwala,” Mwenendozi answered.

“I hope you are not turning us into merchandise!”Jean-Philippe joked.

“Try to speak in another language so that we all understand what’s going on,” Abiti pleaded as the Mango lady was leaving.

“Why?”Mwenendozi wondered.

“Because we don’t understand Chitipian languages!” Abiti explained.

“Why don’t you understand them?” Mwenendozi challenged.

“Well…I never thought they were important,” Abiti admitted.

“That’s the tragedy of Malawi. We ignore the fact that Malawi is multicultural and multilingual.  Here at Mangoline we are against linguistic arrogance and intolerance. Here you are free to speak any language and you will be served,” Mwenendozi said as the Mango lady brought some bottles of drinks.

“Madam,” Abiti said to the Mango lady, “How do I say ‘give me some water’ in your language?”

“Nipako maji in Chitumbuka, mbako amishi in Chisukwa, mphako aminzi in Chilambya and mphelako amanzi in Chinamwanga! Mpatsenkoni madzi in Chichewa…. You want me to continue?”  The Mango lady   challenged.

“So, which one of those is your mother tongue?” Nganga wondered.

“Ichibandya!” the Mango lady said, laughing.

“What?” Nganga exclaimed.

“To know the world and appreciate its peoples, open up to their languages. I often wonder why in school they don’t teach all the languages of Malawi or at least Chiyao and Chitumbuka alongside English and Chichewa!”

“Makes a lot of sense but that will be extremely expensive,” Mzee Mandela commented.

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