Do Malawian banks really know their customers?

BENJA: Malawian banks!

DANISO: What about them?

BENJA: I've a feeling they don't think at all.

DANISO: Well, I sure hope so. They're inanimate objects so I would be scared were they to start thinking.

BENJA: Smartass! But you know what I mean.

DANISO: Maybe but an illustration would help clarify matters, don't you think?

BENJA: Fine. Imagine you're an ordinary customer at Malawi's biggest bank.

DANISO: By an ordinary customer I suppose you mean someone like me, someone who visits the bank only once in a month to do a full withdrawal of the salary. For some of us a bank is just a pay center, you know.

BENJA: Not really, but I suppose you could also fall into that category. Anyway, even though you're a customer at branch X of Malawi's biggest bank, you can walk to any of its ATMs in the country and be able to cash up to one hundred thousand Kwacha. No questions asked.

DANISO: True, but I don't yet see your point. Anyway, go on.

BENJA: If on the other hand you were to present your cheque to any other branch besides the one that hosts your account, it would be sent to the back, no matter how small the amount, to be authorised by someone with a weightier signature than a teller's.

DANISO: It doesn't make sense, does it. In fact, I've been a victim of this on a number of occasions whener my ATM card and I have been on separation.

BENJA: You would think that with all the information they've recently collected on their clients, including photos, they would do away with such formalities. After all, it's the owner of the account presenting the cheque.

DANISO: By the way, after punching in your credentials on the computer, the teller normally asks, "Are you the owner of the account?"

BENJA: How irritating.

Why Malawians are corrupt

What do you apply on your bald patch, face cream or hair oil? I’ve absolutely no idea. One can’t have an answer to every question. That’s life.

Yes, life.
A good friend of mine never tires of reminding me that life’s got a wicked knack for serving curved balls. One of mine is having a grey mop when my brother, who’s all of six years older, still sports black hair. Mind you, this is many years after mine was prematurely deserted by melanin.


Anyway, unlike my brother, most of my friends would also be ‘unproud’ owners of professorial  greys were it not for some bottled or tubed help. But, would you believe it, they still have the temerity to tease me about my greys. What cheek! I get my own back, though, by reminding them that were they to get long hospital admissions, they would be getting no visitors. Since the visitors would be looking for black haired patients, they would be passing by their beds without stopping, probably assuming that the patients they had intended to visit had been discharged.
Incidentally, these days I religiously trim my hair to the scalp. Not that I’ve a head shaped for baldness. But hey, it’s either that or greyness in its full glory.

If only the Malawi government were as religious in trimming corruption …

Yes, corruption is the seemingly malignant cancer that permeates every facet of Malawian society. If you want something, you’ve to cough up that extra amount on top of the legal fees. Birth certificates. Passports. Company registrations. Driving Licenses. Plot of lands. Certificates of Fitness. Contracts. Almost everything you can think of can be had but for a fee.

Sometimes I feel the government shouldn’t be paying the people who work in the departments responsible for producing these documents. In practice these corrupt souls are self-employed. They don’t work for the government despite the salaries they receive, do they? If anything, the government should be charging them rent for the furnished office space it provides them. As for the special stationery which is required for the issuance of the ‘papers’, the wretched should be buying them from Government Print. Hey, their businesses requires input, no?

For years I used think poor salaries contributed to our culture of corruption. But I recently had a Eureka moment.  It then occurred to me in brilliant Technicolor that we’re coopted into corruption very early into our childhoods.
I can see your faces knitting the question, ‘How?’

Well, how do we get a child to eat? Or bath? Or go to school on a particularly cold winter day. Indeed how do we get kids to do any task that they aren’t particularly keen on?
Yes, we bribe them with offers of treats! If you bath, I’ll buy you a toy. If you eat, I’ll let you watch Ben 10. If you go to school, I’ll buy you that toy you’ve been bothering me about.

Always if this, then that. A whole series of bribes gets dangled before our children and before we know it, it becomes inculcated into their psyche as they morph into adults. They end up being adults who can’t do anything without an offer of something in return.

Malawi's president is allergic to her country's papers

BENJA: What a dressing down! But is the president serious that she doesn't like the sight of our local newspapers?

DANISO: Maybe but then how does she know that they are unkind to her? That her White House sojourn didn't make it to the front pages? Telepathy? Maybe the good prophet TBJ prophesies the stories and phones to brief her.

BENJA: Come on! For all we know, she could be getting press briefings.

DANISO: Maybe, maybe not. By the way, I think the public needn't have seen some of the dirty laundry she brought out. I was also very surprised by her comment about MBC TV. How can she make such a sweeping statement about it being open when, according to her, she only watched it once?

DANISO: MBC TV open? Does she know what she's saying? She should watch it for a whole day and see how much PP fare viewers are forced to watch. And while she's at it, let her browse the Malawi News Agency website as well.

BENJA: MANA is something else. If your only source of news was MANA, you would think there's no opposition in Malawi, that opposition parties aren't holding conventions, that they aren't going round on incessant whistle stop tours, that PP and UDF thugs didn't slug it out in Zomba, that everything in Malawi is going as smooth as Swiss clockwork.

DANISO: I think like every Malawian leader before her, Her Excellency Her Excellency is addicted to praise singing. Anything else is anathema to her.

BENJA: All the more reason she should be watching MBC TV.

DANISO: I think she doesn't realise praise singing gives her a false sense of achievement, a skewed perception of her people's feelings. These she can only genuinely gauge if she were being given press briefings.

BENJA: She also ought to be paying a little more attention to her Facebook page. As far as the world is concerned, it's the president's page.

DANISO: Let's not go there. Please.

: Ok. Fine. Let's talk football then. What conclusions have you drawn from the recent Champions League earth shuttering results?

: I think the two-team Spanish League was lulled into a false sense of superiority. They didn't realise that football has since migrate north and been infused with ruthless German efficiency.

BENJA: 4-0, 4-1. Who would've thought? I think bookies have made a killing because nobody could've seen those scores coming.

DANISO: Nobody.

Celebrating a predecessor's death

DANISO: Now that PP has danced and celebrated on Bingu's grave, what next?

BENJA: It's a shame really. A very mean thing to do.

DANISO: Uncouth. Crass. Cheap. It's like a son who instead of commemorating his father's death, chooses to celebrate the wealth he was willed as result of the death.

BENJA: I sometimes wonder whether JB has advisers.

: I doubt it, at least not ones who mean her well. If she had, do you think she would've been abusing government machinery to be harassing David's mother?

BENJA: You mean Madonna? I agree. How can she be so mean spirited, a practicing Christian?

: Whatever happened to 'Love thy neighbour'? Especially a neighbour who's helping you in her own little way?

BENJA: Well, it's been a funny few days. First off the block was DPP lauding Bingu as the best president Malawi has ever had.

DANISO: I think it's in our genes to sanitise the characters of the dead, to gloss over their flaws no matter how tarred. No wonder we call a dead body a chief, even if it's that of a village idiot.

BENJA: No wonder employees fall over themselves praising departed colleagues "who the employer will have  great problems replacing, if at all." You've to wonder.

DANISO: So too Bingu. In the year since, we've already forgotten his long list of flaws. The most nepotistic president ever, one who barely tolerated people from certain tribes and took great pleasure in publicly insulting some of them.

BENJA: We've forgotten that the economic mess Malawi is going through today started during his second term when the Kwacha was being artificially propped up. We've totally forgotten that were he still alive today, Malawi would be in a far worse position than it is now.

DANISO: We can't even remember the arson attacks against critics, the arrests, even a murder, his unexplained wealth when not long before he was rescued by his predecessor, he used to be both a driver and a conductor for his own minibus, a man who, according to a man who used to be his cook, would budget for and buy only two chickens a month.

BENJA: I suppose his people have all the right to love him, after all many of them were uplifted along with him. But to foist the second term Bingu on all of us as Malawi's best president, is an insult. An insult to the SMEs whose businesses had to shutdown in the face of an all conquering business juggernaut from his tribe who had to

DANISO: Do you remember the poor orphans whose land was grabbed? Malawi's best president? My foot! Let me have a Green. I'm boiling inside just at the memory of him.

Any lessons from the Kenyan elections?

BENJA: Daniso, you seem pensive. What's eating you?

DANISO: Some thoughts don't easily lend themselves to conversation, young man.

BENJA: You could've fooled me. I thought if at all there's a man who's capable of verbalising his thoughts, uncensored, that man is you.

DANISO: Sometimes my thoughts are too entangled even for me to unravel.

BENJA: That will be the day. Anyway, what do you think of the Kenyan electoral process right up to the Supreme Court's decision?

DANISO: Uhmm ... let's see now. The electronic registration, voting and transmission of results were a total debacle. Whoever was responsible should've had his ass fried. But in the final analysis, despite a few other minor wrinkles, the result they got is what they would've got even in a glitch free election.

BENJA: I'm of the same opinion.

DANISO: I was also very impressed by two women, bowled over in fact.

BENJA: Really and who are those two?

DANISO: I thought Martha Karua was the best candidate in the first debate, I didn't watch the second one. She was very articulate. But elections are about money and she didn't have lots of that, apparently.

BENJA: You rated her that highly?

DANISO: If I were Kenyan I would've voted for her.

: Who's the other one? The Registrar of the Supreme Court?

DANISO: I must say she sounded very professional, but no. It's Daina Kethi Kilonzo, the youngest and only woman counsel. She was quite a revelation. In fact she's become quite a sensation even on Twitter.

BENJA: Aren't you holding back something?

DANISO: I'll be the first to admit that her brilliant brain is fronted by an exquisitely sculpted face and her body packaged in such a way that makes even this old man's loins stir. Yes, she's beautiful and very sexy.

BENJA: I knew it. I knew it.

DANISO: But it's her brains that awed me more. You know I'm a sucker for brilliant minds. After all, it's really a woman's mind that a man is in a relationship with, not the body however well packaged.

BENJA: I'm not so sure about that but I'll let it pass. Now, if you were to draw only one lesson from the process, what would it be?

DANISO: That's a hard ask considering that there are a number of things I would wish replicated here in Malawi ... the debates, for example. They were very well organised. But I suppose the main lesson is that if there are any disputes, any resultant court processes should be dispensed with first before a president elect is sworn in.

BENJA: I also liked that part. But then it's in their new constitution.

DANISO: I know. Anyway, enough about the elections. What's the name of that KTN presenter who was at the Supreme Court, do you remember? The woman? She was excellent.

BENJA. The one with a wedding ring?

DANISO: She's married? Damn!

Malawians politicians are all cut from the same cloth

Lucius Banda composed Ali ndi Njira Zawo

BENJA: What's that song by Soldier Lucius Banda about these people being all the same?

DANISO: Which people now? Minibus drivers?

BENJA: Of course minibus drivers are all the same. But I'm talking about politicians.

DANISO: Oh, I remember now. You mean 'Ali Ndi Njira Zawo'? I love that song. So relevant to our own political setup.

BENJA: Yes, that's the song. All Malawian politicians are really from the same gene pool. They are greedy conniving egoistic kleptocratic plunderers of public resources, with absolutely no vision for our country.

DANISO: You're right. Their vision doesn't extend beyond their feet. But they've a very good sense of smell though.

BENJA: You're kidding, right? Strong sense of smell when they've to mix with so many unwashed bodies during campaign rallies?

: Not that kind of sense of smell. Our politicians have good noses for homing in on corrupt deals ... not to prevent them, mind you, but to join the plunder.

BENJA: Anyway, what I wanted to say is that Malawian politicians are the same regardless of which parties they belong to. Look at how they abuse MBC, our so called public broadcaster.

DANISO: I don't even listen to it, let alone watch it.

BENJA: Considering that you've neither a radio nor a TV, I'm not surprised ... Hehehehe ... Anyway, each party in power would rather MBC remains on the shortest of leashes.

DANISO: To be unleashed at their whim as a propaganda tool..

BENJA: Very useful during campaign periods. That's why even though the opposition has the numbers in the current parliament to push through private members' bills, none will be introduced that would permanently reform MBC to keep it out of the stifling clutches of future ruling parties.

DANISO: Because they would also like to be abusing it in the same way should they get into power in future elections?

BENJA: Exactly.

Benja and Daniso take pot shots at Chimunthu's challege

Chimunthu throws down the gauntlet
BENJA: Why is it anathema in DPP for someone to challenge Peter Mutharika to be the party's 2014 torch bearer? Why should all sorts of conspiracy theories be postulated just because someone has dared to throw his hat in the ring?

DANISO: I'm surprised you're surprised. You should know that the 'D' in their name is just there for cosmetic purposes. Scratch beneath the makeup, and you'll find the real Kaliati, ... er, I mean the real DPP.

BENJA: [Laughter]. Kaliati, eh! I'm sure it was your talk of makeup that got you lost in Akweni's image in all her made up glory.

DANISO: I think so. But the truth is DPP is democratic in exactly the same way as the Democratic Republic of North Korea.

BENJA: So maybe they should just drop the 'D' and be known simply as Progressive Party.

: Progressive! There's nothing progressive in DPP's bone. Each day that passes they're reverting more and more to form. Already we've seen the violence that used to be synonymous with party rear its ugly head again.

BENJA: Just as well considering that there's party that's already known as PP.

DANISO: Maybe they can change to TPIEITP instead?

BENJA: Now that's a mouthful. But what would it stand for?

DANISO: This Party Is Entrenched In The Past.

BENJA: Hey! There's no way they would accept that name. Anyway, talking of challenges, why is Chimunthu pursuing this thankless task? DPP's 2014 candidacy is firmly in Peter's hands. Anyone who thinks he can wrest it away from him is either deluded or high on weed.

DANISO: Well, there's lots of weed where he comes from, no? But in my opinion I think he's just a masochist out to enjoy the pain of experiencing a waste of his time and resources.

BENJA: You think there are virgins out there for people who commit political suicide?

DANISO: I've never been a politician so I wouldn't know.