During Ngwazi I’s reign in Malawi…er, excuse me, let me rephrase that. During the very long reign of the original Ngwazi, rumour—whispered very carefully in case it accidentally wafted into a wrong but eager ear—had it that when Kapichila Banda was about to read his speech at an international meeting, he enthusiastically raised his arms and bellowed: “Kwa-a-cha! Kwa-a-cha! Kamuzu! Kamuzu!”
However, there was no response from the audience. But then there couldn’t have been considering the venue of the meeting. Manila, Philippines.
Force of habit? Perhaps, but then again he may have been totally ignorant of the fact that the original Ngwazi’s sphere of influence didn’t extend beyond Malawi’s borders. Not very surprising, sorry to say, given that the IQs of some of his ministers were, to be polite, so-so. Otherwise, we would be hard pressed to explain why Katola Phiri, then minister of Agriculture, used to stamp “Approved” and with flourish append his signature onto thick documents almost as soon as they got into his in-tray.
The documents would be marked, in big bold letters: “FYI’.
Now do you remember the parliamentary sessions in those days? Ministers and members of parliament would try to outdo each other in praising Ngwazi I. They would spend months in parliament competing in concocting the best praise, the best vote of thanks.
Fast forward to his clone’s tenure. We see similar competition in cowering before Ngwazi II. Instead of parliament being a forum for conducting meaningful debate, it’s once again a platform for the members with frothing mouths to outshine each other as they praise the president to the high heavens. In their eyes, the man is practically infallible. His achievements are being blown into mythical proportions.
That is not to say I see Twitter being inundated with “Chala m’mwamba” tweets from our tech savvy ministers any time soon. However, who would bet against the “Raise your finger” phrase (some suspicions of obscenity there, don’t you think?) slipping into ministerial speeches delivered during openings of the mostly pointless international workshops held at our lakeside resorts? After all, it’s a phrase that’s been etched onto their brains because it keeps being repeated and repeated like a broken record.
And while the current crop of ministers may have above average intelligence, they’re really not much different from Ngwazi I’s cabinets. All our present ministers are struck by an irresistible urge to praise anything to do with the reincarnated Ngwazi. But their tongues are forever numbed into silence whenever criticism is called for.
Incidentally, I love averages. You know that at a recent golf open, the average age of the players was higher than normal because Tom Watson was playing. I also know that whenever some of you hurry into Kaya Lounge to take advantage of Happy Hour, the ages of the clientele shoot up exponentially.
That’s the law of averages for you. But I’m by no means intimating that one or two of the new ministers have IQs that are weighing down the ministerial average.
In any case, that isn’t the point. The fact of the matter is that almost everything that were the hallmarks of Kamuzu’s era are being photocopied, retouched and fed to Malawians. Thus, while I don’t expect to live to the day when political and traditional leaders again kneel, roll and grovel before the new Ngwazi, we may soon be listening to male ministers and MPs spending their time in parliament belting out, in deep baritones, a photocopied and remixed version of “Inu Ndinu Ayani?” It might go something like this:
Female ministers and MPs : Inu ndinu ayani, ayani nanga?
Male ministers and MPs : Ife ndife amai-i!
Female ministers and MPs : Mwangoona?
Male ministers and MPs : Tangoona nyumba ya Ngwazi Yamangidwa Ku Ndata a!
You don’t believe me? Just take a listen to the so-called parliamentary debates. Switch back to the Independence Day celebrations. Do you remember that traditional dancers from all the districts were singing about one man and one man only? Have you already forgotten that most of the relics were recycled and remixed?
With the way things are going, it wouldn’t surprise me were we to dust off and photocopy the most hated relic of the original Ngwazi’s rule, vis-à-vis the life presidency. Already there are rumours doing the rounds that a task force has been formed to work on the modalities of extending Malawian presidential terms to seven years.
But please, do be careful. Sure, you can continue hoping from one Happy Hour joint on a Monday to a different one on a Tuesday, and yet another on a Wednesday, and so on till you see the week out without ever buying a beer at its normal price. However, keep clear of any political rumours. At the very least be careful into which ear you repeat them.
I understand not all the women you see at drinking joints go there to merchandise their bodies. Granted some women go to these joints to enjoy their drinks. But a few frequent drinking joints with the sole purpose of catching any anti-photocopy whispers doing the rounds.
As for me, I don’t want to be caught with my pants down, or rather with non-blue blood. Who doesn’t want to be a royal? Consequently, I’ve started practicing singing “Zonse Zimene” whenever I shower. The only problem is that since I practice only in the shower, it may be a while before I can confidently sing to an audience comprising a bevy of inebriated female undercover agents intent on whisking me away to go and “explain” rumours I may have been heard passing on.
Showering is nowhere on my priority list at the moment. In fact, I mostly keep the same distance from the shower as one former president I know used to when avoiding libraries.
From the look on your face, I can see you’ve never heard the story. Let me tell you.
The original Ngwazi had a morning routine whenever he was at his Sanjika Palace. He would wake up, do his ablutions then go into the library to take in some intellectual nourishment until mid-morning when he would go for his breakfast.
It was a totally different story when our immediate past president assumed office. Throughout his tenure he gave the palace library a very wide berth. Instead each morning, once he had roused himself from his presidential slumber and done his bathroom rituals, he would dash into the TV lounge, dive for the remote and settle into his favourite couch. He just had to have his morning shot of sports before breakfast.
But you and me know that Skysports is not Jack Mapanje let alone Plato.
By the way, do you think the lightweight mental equipment of our immediate past president adversely affects the average IQ of our presidents past and present? I’m curious. But let’s leave that for another day. Instead, let’s go back to what I was talking about: my showers, or rather the lack thereof.
The fact is it’s so bloody cold I can’t sweat even if I wanted to. So why bother to shower daily! After all, with Escom’s power supply as erratic as it is, one can’t guarantee finding warm water in the shower. The mere thought of a cold shower gives me shivers. It’s like I’m being water- boarded, you know.