‘We are architects of our own poverty’

Professor Dr Abiti Joyce Befu, MG 66 and MEGA-1, Nganga Maigwaigwa, PSC (RTD), Al Haj Mukeme Mufti Jean Philippe LePoisson, SC (RTD), the Most Paramount Native Authority Mandela and I, the Mohashoi, are camped here in Kasungu where we are campaigning for our preferred candidates.  Who these candidates are, we will reveal soon.  Please remind us soon.

Here in Kasungu we are camped at Kasungu Inn, one of the many tourism investments the Malawi Congress Party government of the great Ngwazi Dr Kamuzu Banda bequeathed to the people of Malawi.  Kasungu Inn was strategically located to accommodate tourists and visitors intending to sample the Kasungu National Park to the west and the Nkhota Kota Wildlife Reserve to the east.

Then there was Chintheche Inn in Nkhata Bay for tourists wanting to savour the beauty of the Northern Lakeshore and the nearby Viphya Forest Plantation, wrongly called Chikangawa Forest, and the Nyika Wildlife Reserve about 100 kilometres north west of Chintheche.

Then there was Chitipa Inn at Chitipa Boma to cater for tourists visiting the northern section of the Viphya Wildlife Reserve, the magnificent Misuku Hills and the nearby Marambo country.

Then there was Ngabu Inn in Chikwawa for tourists visiting the many reserves in the lower Shire Valley.  All the tourism destinations were served by coaches, lake steamers and air transport. The airstrips being shared, farmed and turned into stadia today were an investment in tourism development in Malawi. The late Air Malawi flew to Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mangochi, Mzuzu and Karonga. And tourists enjoyed themselves despite the strict dress code.

If Kamuzu rose from the dead today and walked into these now-privatised Inns, he would faint and die again pronto. If privatisation leads to such mediocrity, then it is not worth it.  We don’t want to vomit. So, don’t ask us any questions on the issue of privatisation.

Nonetheless, we are here.  Last night we were at the bar doing what all tourists do: drink halaal or soft drinks, including the new Castel.

“No wonder we are not developing,” one youngish Kasunguan man said as we did a postmortem of the presidential debates. “Impossible is not a word progressive communities should be uttering!”

“I didn’t say it is impossible” a second Kasunguan protested, “I only questioned the source of resources for those programmes being proposed.”

“Dream big and in colour as Ngwazi Kamuzu Banda and Ngwazi Bingu kept saying!” the first Kasunguan said, “and later struggle with how to fund the realisation of your dream.”

“Point!” Jean-Philippe jumped in.

“Saulos Chilima and the UTM say it is possible to create one million jobs in the first six months and have a bullet train between Blantyre and Mzuzu via Lilongwe. And someone says, ‘Impossible!’  Lazarus Chakwera and MCP say it is possible to have a health facility to serve people in every 4-kilometre radius. ‘Impossible!” someone says.  Reverend Kaliya says it is possible to use helicopter ambulances to treat people in hard-to-reach areas and evacuate patients to referral hospitals when need be. ‘Impossible!’ someone says.”

“I love this man!” Jean-Philippe.

“Agreed, but what we are against is promising the moon when you know you cannot achieve the dream,” another Kasunguan said. “We want something hic et nunc!”

“What’s hic et nunc?” Nganga asked.

“Here and now!”  I said.

“You see human beings must think and dream bigger and better than birds of the air.  Poor countries are poor because of poor and short-run planning, lack of innovation, ‘impossible’ thinking and, of course, corruption. Rich countries are rich because they do the exact reverse of what obtains in poor countries,” Mandela said with regal finality.

“So, we must be dreaming about bullet trains when we have no food!” the second Kasunguan said, laughing sarcastically.

“Dream about both. Dream big and long-term while you feed your family!” Jean-Philippe said.

“Experience has taught me that as individual Malawians and as a country we lack ambition and we are architects of our own poverty!” Professor Befu said conclusively.

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