How much is Joyce Banda worth?

The receptionist at Majete Wildlife Reserve behaved like a typical Malawian.  We were unable to pay him immediately but he allowed us to go away and expected us to come back and pay.

We left the park and drove to the Chikhwawa district headquarters.  There, Jean-Philippe went into the Malawi Savers Bank. He spent close to an hour before he was told that the bank could not handle his transaction.  He commanded that we drive to either Nchalo or Blantyre because, in his own language, the difference was the same.

I, the master of the roads of Malawi, decided to drive to Blantyre. We got to Blantyre around lunch time.  We, that is, Jean-Philippe and I minus Alfonsina Nyanthepa, who decided to stay in the vehicle, went into the Nationalist Bank of Malawi.

The banking hall was packed. The depositors’ and withdrawers’ queues were not different. We joined the withdrawers’ queue. Jean-Philippe loudly whispered why such a big banking hall had only four bank tellers to handle depositors and withdrawers.

“Next time tell the bank manager that it is service and not the beauty of the building that makes a good bank,” Jean-Philippe said.

“In Malawi,” I responded, “retailers believe that the more they delay their clients the better. The other day a clinical officer at Chinthechi refused to serve patients because, in his words, the patients were too few. So, he waited until more patients came.”

“Really?”

“Believe in me and you will know Malawi.”

“And where is Chinthechi?”

“In Tongaland.”

“Joyce Banda’s home?”

“No. She comes from Zomba. But she is married to a man from Tongaland.”

“They love each other?”

“They have been married for years.”

“Will she also build a big mansion like Bingu did?”

“I have no idea.’”

Apart from Jean-Philippe and me, everybody seemed patient. We also shut up and watched the 60th anniversary of Queen Elisabeth’s ascendancy to the throne.

 When the cameras swung to show the audience, we saw Mrs Joyce Banda in the group of many heads of state that witnessed the climax of the celebration.

“60 years in power? If that were in Africa, she would have been called a dictator,” a lady in front of Jean-Philippe said to no one in particular.

 “She is just a ceremonial head,” Jean-Philippe said, adding, ‘”she is not an absolute monarch like the King of Swaziland.”

“Nonsense,” the woman in front of Jean-Philippe said, “that woman is paid thirteen salaries as head of thirteen countries, including Australia, Canada and Jamaica. She is also head of the Commonwealth, and, according to her detractors, the richest unemployed woman in the world. She signs any bill passed in the thirteen parliaments. How does such a person become ceremonial?”

Jean-Philippe stared at me. Then he changed topics.

“How much is your President worth? Last time I heard she gave prisoners K4 million, then she gave netballers K10 million, then she promised to buy iron sheets for the Catholic Church in Karonga? Is it her money or government money she uses?”

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