Native Authority Mandela, Sheikh Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC, and I did not spend a lot of time at Chembe Village, also known as Cape Maclear, because, honestly speaking, there was nothing new for us to see. As people who had travelled the length and breadth of life we did not see anything appetising, tantalising, and attractive at Chembe to write home about. Sand, canoes, and white girls swimming in their bikinis are material for cub tourists. So, we finished our drinks, went to the lakeshore just to “sign pour presence into the water” and jumped into our Toyota Harriet.
On the way back to Monkey Bay, Native Authority Mandela told us a lot of tales about monkeys.
“Do you know that monkeys are cleverer than some human beings?” Native authority Mandela asked.
“Which monkeys?” Sheikh Jean-Philippe asked, mockingly.
“All types, baboons, Ntchima or Pusi!” Native Authority Mandela responded
“I thought Pusi was Chichewa for cat?” Sheikh Jean-Philippe wondered.
“Not in Monkeybian Chichewa. Here Pusi is velvet monkey,” Native Authority Mandela answered.
“I suppose I am yet to claim to be an expert on Malawi,” Sheikh Jean-Philippe remarked.
“I am interested to hear why Monkeybian monkeys are cleverer than some people,” I said, curtailing the dialogue between Jean-Philippe and Native Authority Mandela.
Mandela explained that his experience at the Monkey Bay Port had taught him that monkeys know exactly what to do when, where, why, and how.
“For example, monkeys will never go back to a bad experience or repeat a negative experiment,” Native Authority Mandela said.
“How did you know that?” Sheikh Jean-Philippe quizzed.
“I observed monkey behaviour for 40 years,” Mandela responded, “When one monkey was shot dead at Mwala wa Mphini, the monkeys got together, mourned their dead relative and have not gone back there since.”
“Are you sure if we went to Mwala wa Mphini we would not find any monkey?”
“Well, unless they have gone back there for the first time today,” NA Mandela, said smilingly before giving another testimony which credited monkeys with the ability to distinguish friendly human beings from aggressive ones.
We drove to Mwala wa Mphini and indeed found no monkey. “Is that not further proof that monkeys are cleverer than some human beings? Why should people insist on living in a place where there is no food? Why should people stick to something that does not work?” I answered.
By the time Native Authority Mandela finished his monkey tales, we had almost arrived at Monkey Bay town centre. It was already dusk and I reminded NA Mandela about my date with the PTC till operator we had seen in the day. Native Authority Mandela gave us the directions to her home, but he decided against accompanying us.
We drove to the house. I switched off the engine. We waited for any human movement. Sheikh Jean-Philippe asked me to hoot. I refused. Then I remembered that Native Authority had given me the PTC till operator’s number. I took out my Nophwiya Aisha mobile phone and looked for her number. I could not locate it. Sheikh Jean-Philippe reminded me that I had saved it simply as MG 66. I found it and called. She did not answer. I tried again. The phone rang once and was cut.
Then the door opened and a slender woman emerged. She walked silently to the car and greeted us. She asked how we had managed to trace her home without Native Authority Mandela.
“We are navigators,” Sheikh Jean-Philippe boasted, “You can leave us on Planet Neptune, but we will always find our way back to Monkey Bay!”
“What’s happened to your electricity?” I asked.
“It was disconnected,” the woman said mirthlessly.
“That’s my first assignment!” I declared.
“Don’t bother about electricity. Connected or not, there is no difference. Until two months I used to pay for my electricity. But I decided not to pay anymore,” She said soberly.
“But you need it,” Sheikh Jean-Philippe said, almost pleading.
“What’s the point? I live alone. I spend the day at work. In the early evening and early morning when I need power most, it is not there. Power comes back at 9.00 am and lasts until around 6.00 pm. Then it is off again until around 10.00 pm when I am asleep. So why should I pay? What’s the point? Why should I spend my meager resources on charcoal, candles, and also pay for electricity which I don’t use?”
“Clever woman; we need someone like to join us in our demonstrations at the Mangochi Mosque next week. What’s your name, by the way?” Sheikh Jean-Philippe asked.
“ Joyce Banda?” Jean-Philippe plodded further.
“ No. Joyce Befu.”