If I can, I try to avoid the Blantyre Central Business District (CBD) because finding parking space there is an absolute nightmare.
The CBD of Blantyre belongs to designated landlords/ladies who own the majority of the parking lots where they place plastic beacons to warn ordinary motorists that those lots are not available.
Sometime in January, I had no choice but to go into the heart of Blantyre to transact some business. I went round and round a number of times before I eventually found a parking lot some 100 metres from the location of my business. I heaved a heavy sigh of relief and, zealously parked and walked to where I wanted to transact the business.
After my business, I walked back to the car and I was met by an eager parking fee collector who stretched out her hand to get a K100 from me.
“I do not have a K100, madam,” I told her because I did not have any changed money on me. “I will pay you tomorrow when I come again.” She looked at me with a gaze that would penetrate the flesh, like a laser beam, and reluctantly let me go. Your guess is as good as mine as to what sort of names I must have earned to this fee collector on that afternoon.
The following day I had to continue the business in town. After the manouvres similar to the ones I had undertaken the previous day, I found a parking lot some distance from the previous day’s one and on the opposite side of the road. When it was time to go, a different fee collector approached me, asking for K100. “Where is your fellow collector, the lady?” I asked him.
“She is down there,” he responded.
“Please ask her to come. I want to pay to her,” I continued. The man looked perplexed but acted on my request. When the lady was brought, I asked her if she remembered me and she said she did. I offered to pay K200, for the previous day and for that day. In total amazement she told me how grateful she was, adding that she had written off the previous day’s payment because she did not expect that I would honour it.
One hundred kwacha is very little money; it cannot even take you from one point to another by minibus. And yet this lady was surprised that a promise to honour the payment of even such a small amount could be honoured. This is so because not many people honour their promises these days. Not many people are faithful over small things, much less over big ones.
In the UK, I saw motorists drive into a filling station, help themselves, collect a slip then go into a building to pay. I just wondered if that kind of arrangement would work here. Yes, many Malawian motorists would, indeed, help themselves, but would skip the paying part.
I am not talking about spirituality; I am talking about humanity. As far as spirituality is concerned, Malawi is way ahead of the United Kingdom. Malawi’s countless churches are full every week. Many classrooms have been turned into make-shift churches, and yes, just about everybody attends church regularly. But we do not have the morality to back our spirituality. Less spiritual people in the UK and other Western countries have a much higher sense of morality than us.
The morality of those who are spiritual in such countries is simply out of this world. I used to belong to the youth organisation of the church I was attending in Macclesfield, near Manchester. One day several of us travelled together in fellow youth’s car to a function out of town. As we were getting out of the car, one of use let the car door kiss another car parked beside ours. This worried the youth in whose car we had he travelled. He examined the place where the door had made contact for any scratches, reached out for a pen then wrote a small note, giving his address in case the owner of the other car wanted to contact him. He left the note under a wiper.
Acting morally is a habit that people develop. It has nothing to do with their financial status. Many people think robbery is rampant in Malawi because the people are poor. Wrong! Poor and rich people alike get involved in theft in Malawi. The rich may call it fraud or Cashgate, but it is theft in every sense of the word.