We are in Karonga, the land of Ngonde, home of Malawisaurus museaum, Undule Mwakasungula, Dunduzu Chisiza, and the controversial Kayekera Uranium mine. Here, in Ngondeland, food security is always assured because the people here supplement maize with matoke or plantain or cassava. As such, shortage of maize here is not synonymous with food shortage. When roasted green banana is taken with roasted beef, the sensation is heavenly.
Jean-Philippe insists on calling Karonga town a city, but I have categorically told him that it is only the President of the Republic of Malawi that has legal powers to declare any place a city. But, Jean-Philippe argues that informally graduating Karonga Town Council into a city does not constitute a crime. After all, CONGOMA has already asked the Malawi government to upgrade Karonga Town Council into a Municipality. A manucipality, Jean-Philippe believes is a baby city.
Karonga is unique. It is a town that was principally built by the people of Karonga. While most business people and politicians in Mzimba, Nkhata Bay, Likoma, Chizumulu, Nsanje and Rumphi were busy building mansions in Blantyre or Lilongwe, the Karongians invested in their district. The Kampunga Mwafulirwas had a long-term vision. If truth be told Karongian-style long-term planning has eluded Malawi’s leaders. Today, Karonga is the main town along the “killed” northern kolidolo.
We arrived here on Wednesday evening after spending a few hours at Uliwa and Chilumba taking haram drinks with some heavily built resident MDF friends. Some of the things we discussed with the muscular defenders of the land we call Malawi cannot be laid bare here. However, we left Chilumba fully assured that Malawians are in very safe hands and that no piece of land, drop of water, grain of sand or pascal of air will be forcibly taken away from us.
As we drove to Karonga, I explained to Jean-Philippe the professional role the Malawi army played in disarming the Malawi Congress Party’s militarised terrorist grouping called the Malawi Young Pioneers (MYP), an organisation whose original objective was to harness the energy of Malawi’s youths for development. To save his face, President Kamuzu Banda ordered(?) the army to disarm the MYP well after the army had already started Operation Bwezani (zida).
“I also understand your army refused to stage a coup de constitution when President Mutharika died,” Jean-Philippe commented.
“That issue is before the courts. I don’t want to be locked up for contempt of court,” I said.
Here in Karonga we are operating from Club Marina, a reasonably priced bed and breakfast joint that faces Lake Malawi and gives the tourist a clear view of the Livingstone Mountains in Tanzania. Except for a few changes here and there, Club Marina’s appearance and hospitality standards have remained undiluted since Sopela wa Sopela’s days.
The place is self-contained. There is food, meaning maize nsima, matoke, fish, haram drinks, fizzy drinks, soft Malawian music, ever smiling girls who make you feel life is infinite and ever humble young men who always stand ready to get orders.
“What special drink do you have in stock?”Jean-Philippe asked Roselyn, one of the charming waitresses.
“Have you tasted Terminator?” Roselyn asked.
“What is that?” Jean-Philippe
“A mixture of Chivas and Amarula. Most of our clients like it.”
“If it is good for them, it must be good for us, too. So, two shots of Terminator on the rocks for me…”
“And you, sir, what would you like to have?”
“Me? I am not edible.” Roselyn protested, before breaking into a smile.
“I am just joking… Can you change the music? If you have ndingala music I will appreciate listening to something typically Karongian.”
Roselyn left to get the order. Jean-Philippe asked me if ndingala was the same music we had been listening to in the vehicle.
“That’s gule music by the Galang’ombe Boys of Lilongwe,” I said.
Roselyn brought Jean-Philippe’s drink and withdrew to a nearby table. Jean-Philippe sipped on it hesitantly. I waited for his reaction to Terminator.
“How is it?”
I asked Roselyn to serve me three tots of Terminator on the rocks. She went to the counter and in no time she brought not only my drink, but also a plateful of matoke and susa.
“Welcome to Karonga, the warm heart of Malawi, and Club Marina, the Warm Heart of Karonga,” Roselyn said as she placed the food plate and drink on our table. n