For one thing they demean us. We as a nation can't afford them so every time we need to hold them we've to stifle our sovereign pride, kneel and stretch out our begging arms to donors who only dole out funds on condition of the fulfillment of a long list of conditionalities. But perhaps more importantly, why hold elections when we can't really guarantee their results despite all the machinations we put in place to ensure they go our way?

We have chiefs representing us, not so? Yes, chiefs are the only accurate barometer of what the majority of forward looking Malawians want. We would all breathe easier if these true representatives of the people were expressing our collective will by picking who goes to State House, parliament, district and town assemblies.

Simple. Fast. Cheap.

But wait a minute. Do we really need MPs? Can't we just do away with them? Can't we just continue not having councillors? We don't need them. Our chiefs make them redundant, unnecessary leeches on our meager resources. The money saved in salaries and allowances can be used to pay for some of our dreams. The Greenbelt, for example.

Isn't it because chiefs expressed our wishes that we enjoyed a spell of life presidency in Malawi? Of course, whenever necessary the Young Pioneers would be trusted to rain blows on the skulls of the few chiefs who dared hold views contrary to those of their people. To unblind them so they could clearly see the errors of their ways, you see. It also isn't lost on the current crop of chiefs, particularly the newly created government beholden ones, that dissenting chiefs were not only locked up but also had their chieftaincy stripped from them.

As for the 1993 referendum, I've absolutely no doubt that if the government had consulted the chiefs instead of holding a totally unnecessary referendum, we wouldn't have this pesky multipartyism that made life so uncomfortable for you during your first term. Instead of suffering the yoke of tenancy at State House you would still be enjoying your life in exile, right?

But let's for now ignore the fact that you could very well still be wallowing in luxurious exile if Malawi were still a one-party state. Instead let's imagine that last year you were somehow at the helm of the country's only political party and, by default, the country's president. Were that the case, there would've been no need for you to put up with the inconvenience of a long campaign period during which you were subjected to sleepless nights and aching muscles from miles and miles racked up on bumpy gullied cattle trails that often serve as rural roads visiting god-forsaken places that no sane person voluntarily wants to visit; places whose people have never before seen a vehicle let alone a whole convoy of them led by a coach and a fleet of Hummers. Instead your boy Thotho, our information minister, would've got our views on who we wanted as president simply by 'consulting' the chiefs. His pockets wouldn't have minded, either.

Yes, chiefs are the answer to elections. And referendums.

Need to change the flag? 'Consult' the chiefs.

Need to go through democratic motions and find local councillors (though for the life of me I can't see their use when we've chiefs)? Simple, 'consult' the chiefs.

Tired of running the country and want someone manipulatable to take over? What can be simpler than 'consulting' the chiefs?

That's why I don't understand backward looking Malawians complaining that they weren't consulted on the urgent necessity of changing the flag. I know most of them aren't that sophisticated in their thinking but surely one wouldn't be mistaken in thinking that they should at least be able to grasp the simple reality that each chief represents the views of a million Malawians. If these unfortunate Malawians have never seen let alone talked to their chiefs in their lives, that's their problem.

In any case, what these imbeciles don't understand is that a national flag is like a mileage marker on a road. It records a country's progress in history, the same way that a mileage marker records how far along you've progressed on the road to your destination. So, needless to say, after 46 years of plastering a few roads with thin layers of tarmac (and patching and repatching them, time without number), we've to celebrate with a new flag. A few years down the line we'll toast the delivery of the port City of Nsanje with another flag; one with a different colour of the sun perhaps. We can again randomly shuffle the background colours.

Once the five new universities are all up and running, it'll be time to bring out the bubbly again as we unveil another flag to reflect the big stride we'll have made on the education front. And when your brother takes over from you as president, we'll mark the historic moment with yet another flag. In fact, this would be the opportune time to add blue to the flag. After all, it's the nation's favourite colour. Yes, you misguided cynics, blue is the colour of our most favourite natural resource, the lake. The fact that blue also happens to be the ruling party's colour will be a very welcome but coincidental bonus.

Understandably, we'll reserve the biggest celebration of new flags for the year after Malawi makes it out of the group of the world's 10 poorest countries. Since this will be the mother of all achievements, we'll celebrate with a new flag per month. In place of a glaring sun, we'll have a full moon followed by others depicting various stars such the Southern Cross. Yes, stars for a star nation!

So Mr President, keep on NOT listening to the incoherent voices of those who oppose the much needed flag change. Don't they know that at your age you're a bit deaf in the ears, much as you want to listen to them? Forget the nincompoops who say the full sun will be focusing, symbolically, uncomfortably bright light on our poverty. Pay no attention to the retards who say the glaring sun will spotlight our glaring underdevelopment that's otherwise hidden in the weak light of the rising sun. Take no notice of the dimwits who say the full sun will cast its angry glare on the poor hungry folks and enhance their pangs of hunger. Ignore the fools who say the full sun will highlight the plight of the children who have to glean their education out in the open due to lack of classrooms. As for the colour blind idiots who can't see that replacing a red rising sun with a full white sun isn't adding any new colour to the black, red and green, I only have one question: when did white become a colour? I think they need eye tests. They're free, after all.

Then there are those morons who think you cheated Malawians by not telling them of your intentions to change the flag during the recent campaign. Mr President, just let them stuff the old useless flags up their you know what.

Our progressive chiefs spoke on the flag issue. By extension it means that all Malawians spoke as one. So let there be no more complaints.

By the way, Mr President, when are you laying the foundation stone of the soon to be required museum of old Malawian flags?

Mum, it was mid-morning Thursday, 22nd July 2010 when your major organs conspired to walk off their jobs. Efforts by doctors and nursing staff to persuade the striking organs to go back to work were all for naught. Therefore, after having clocked 77 years 35 days on the age meter, the hospital staff gave in and declared you deceased.

It may shock many sensitive souls to hear me say that in a way I was happy when you drew your last breath. How could I not be when your last year of life was spent being shunted from hospital bed to hospital bed in our increasingly desperate attempts to keep you alive? It was a year in which you didn’t have any life away from your sick bed; a year in which you suffered immensely but could rarely voice out the suffering. It was a year during which I cried a river for you but dared not display my sorrowful concern whenever I was in your presence; a year in which I never ceased to reminisce about the person you were before you became terminally ill.

Mum, you morphed into a poor shadow of the woman I remembered; a woman who was always full of laughter, and full of energy. You were a woman who was always up and about; one minute conducting a choir, the next coaching a youth drama group. You never shrunk from taking part in community development projects. On the contrary, often you were the fulcrum around which they revolved.
I remember you as a woman who was generous to a fault. It's true that in your later years you were of very modest means because you depended primarily on my malnourished pockets for your upkeep. Yet you never hesitated to help anyone you deemed less fortunate than yourself. Even though each one of the people you were helping was a relation of one form or another, the fact that you had lots of them meant that per capita your generosity compared with Bill Gates' and Warren Buffet’s.

By the way, mum, how many people were you related to? There were times when I wondered whether there was anybody in Malawi and eastern Zambia to whom our family wasn’t related. Many a time we would meet a person I considered a total stranger, from a different ethnic group even, but you would effortlessly proceed to narrate family trees that would connect us as cousins or some other permutation of relationship.

I wish you and I had met Bingu before he became Malawi’s First Citizen. I’m sure using your vast archive of family trees you could’ve conjured up a cousinship of some sort, once removed perhaps. And you know what that could do in Malawi where the political landscape is chiselled by nepotism.

No wonder there was only one meeting point in your community the day of your funeral. Everything else came to a halt. People walked from miles around to see you off. The church ceremony had to be moved to the school grounds because there were so many people they couldn't all be accommodate inside the church building.

With your love of music, I know you could've enjoyed the choral music sung during during the vigil. The dirges sung during the church ceremony, including your favourite hymn, were beautiful and moving. Your influence was manifest in the Women’s Guild's singing and dancing. The Women's Guild were also the pallbearers. The reverend and church elders got hold of shovels and helped bury the coffin bearing your remains, something I've never witnessed before. Many women couldn’t help wailing at the agony of their loss. Men were, not surprisingly, more in control of their emotions. Nevertheless teary eyes were testimony that even they were silently mourning your passing. All the eulogies touched on your verve, your zest for life, your generosity, your spirit of non-segregation, your never being bothered about one's tongue or one's skin colour and lamented the chasm that your death had left.

Mum, I would like to donate something to the Women’s Guild because of the memorable farewell they gave you. I would also like to contribute a little something towards the new church your community is planning to build. I know my tattered financial situation can’t really take more battering right now; I need a few months to sort out all the debts incurred during and after your long hospitalisation. But if I wait until I recover enough to be able to afford charity, it may be months before I can do something on your memory. You wouldn’t want me to wait that long, would you?

That's the least I can do for a friend. Yes, mum, you were one of my best friends. Our bond was beyond a mother-son relationship. Hence, my penchant for using your first name rather than the more normal 'mum'. You taught me most of my culinary skills. I sing passably well because of the hours and hours of coaching from you. It never bothers me where somebody comes from because it never bothered you. I never tired of watching you as you enacted one event or another. I never got bored when you narrated such stories as King Solomon’s Mines, The Merchant of Venice, The Arab and His Camel, Robin Hood and Around the World in Eighty Days. When I read the books, I was amazed that you had remembered not only the names of the main characters but also the ones for the lesser know ones.

I also enjoyed the real life snippets you enjoyed recounting. Who can ever forget your enactment of an unpopular teacher asking school girls for a dance. When all the prospects had turned him down, he looked at the last one and let forth insults that could've made an angry Arab applaud in envy.

Much as I enjoyed these stories, though, my favourites were always the folk tales that you narrated so beautifully; folk tales most of which extolled the virtues of selfless generosity. How I loved the songs that interspaced your narration. Mum, you had talent. You should’ve been in show business, you know.

Do you remember how you and me could chat and laugh late into the night? Laughing at each other’s expense was a favourite pastime of ours although a few close relations were also game. A never failing source of laughter was us watching football together. Even though you learnt to root for Liverpool because you knew I loved the team, somehow you never got used to the fact that replays of goals scored weren’t actually new goals but repeats of the same ones. At each replay you would yell, “Wow! They’ve scored again!”

My mock booing would alert you to the fact you had goofed again and we would both end up collapsing into laughter.

You always got your own back, though, didn’t you? How you enjoyed miming a stammering me trying to explain the yamminess of strawberry jam to a cousin newly arrived from our village back home in Malawi. I’ll also never forget that when I was younger you never stopped teasing me about girls. You would often deliberately invite girls home and goad me, “Look at her! Ain’t she pretty. I want her to be your wife.”

I would grow warm under the collar. Mercifully, my dark skin ensured that the embarrassment I felt didn’t project itself onto my face. By the way, mum, I never confessed that I fancied those Zambian girls. From a distance! But I was too shy to do anything about it.

Which reminds me how hard you laughed when I told you the story of my love for Jean Chilinda, a love that overpowered by habitual shyness. Mum, I'm still not sure I've ever stopped loving that girl although I've never seen her since I left Mzalangwe after my grandpa's transfer to Kafukule Health Centre all those years ago.

I was in Standard 7 and she was a class lower. I was a grandson of the man charged with running Mzalangwe Health Centre whereas she was the daughter of a well to-do retired Clinical Officer. Her mesmerising beauty and dressing had me hooked. Coincidentally, the written proposals from me and another boy reached you around the same time. My rival promptly received a reply although not one that he craved. Jean replied that there was no way she would accept a proposal from a boy who was "as black as the underside of a pot." Being similarly dark I feared a similar fate but no reply came. Apparently that was enough for everyone in the school because soon everyone was teasing us about the affair. I suppose, whoever coined the phrase 'silence means consent' knew his beans.

She knew she was my girlfriend, whether by choice or by public consensus, but we never talked to each other. Not once. I was too shy to even hazard a greeting. I expressed my love in various ways. For example, one of her teachers had so much faith in my intelligence he would give me their assignments and tests to mark. Little did he know that I would use a blue pen to make one or two subtle changes to her answer to enable me, with a clear childhood conscience, mark it correct.

Mum, you listened silently as I narrated the story. But you laughed uncontrollably when I told you that even though I used to steal surreptitious glances at her at every opportunity, each time I saw her coming in the opposite direction I would promptly make a u-turn and, when necessary, run. You laughed harder still when I told you of the day she accompanied a friend to the health centre and how I hid in the house while ensuring that I could look out of the window. How else could I make certain of feasting my eyes on her as she left?

I don’t know whether you knew that I've never outgrown my shyness. Even today, I’m not exactly at ease in the company of the female of the species. This may also explain why I've never been one to express my emotions in public. Unlike you.

You remember that after my primary school exam I gave myself an extended holiday. I didn't want to hurry back to school because I was going to repeat the same class anyway. According to convetional wisdom Standard 8 was like a broken record; no matter how intelligent you were you would never be selected to secondary school until you had repeated the class at least once. So despite my excellent performance in class at Kafukule Primary School when the selection results were announced, I never even bother to go and look at them. Without the telegram from my grandpa, I would've been blissfully unaware that I had been selected to Mzuzu Government Secondary School, then one of the most prestigious post-primary institutions in Malawi.

Yes, I didn't know anything until you, telegram in hand and cheering, came charging to give me a congratulatory hug. Hug me? In public! No way! So I ran and you chased me around the village assisted by a whole battalion of cheering relations. Passers-by must have wondered whether the whole village had gone bonkers.

I would be lying if I said there’s nothing on which we didn’t see eye to eye. Taking baths or rather the timing of them, for instance, used to be a contentious issue during my childhood. You always wanted me bathed by mid-afternoon, a time I found most inconvenient. Taking a bath meant being grounded. And being grounded mid-afternoon when my friends were still out playing wasn’t, understandably, exactly my cup of tea. There was another reason for my abhorrence of these mistimed baths. You see, when beautiful young women returned from work, we would sit in strategic junctions and watch them as they passed by. We would quarrel over which young woman belonged to whom.

But never mind the reasons, suffice it to say the ‘disagreement’ inevitably led to many chases in the streets of the Zambian copperbelt town of Kitwe, some of them with the help of my corrupted friends. Promises of bounties of toffees were too irresistible to the sweet toothed Judases. But I was never ever caught except once when you sneaked up on me from behind and dragged me home, to an orchestra of mocking laughter from my friends.

I tried to pull one over you, though.
Having been dragged to the shower, I made sure that I was out of reach of the water jets from the shower faucet. I stood on the toilet seat where I plotted my escape. I thought I had you fooled. I didn’t realise you were watching me from the window until you yelled, “Dannie, what are you doing there!”

I was catapulted off the toilet seat but not into the shower. No way! I stood in a corner as far away from the shower’s reach as possible and out of sight of the window, of course. But I hadn’t planned on you being so cunning, and so persistent. You came in, grabbed me and shoved a still clothed and still shoed me into the shower's epicentre. I had had years of practice playing in the rain so that wasn’t too uncomfortable. The uncomfortability arose from the fact that you forced me to undress and take off my shoes before scrubbing me like I’d never before scrubbed myself. That was one hell of a shower.

I should’ve latched the door.

Dad was never spared from your humour as exemplified by this exchange during one of your joint visit to my Lilongwe home.

“Dannie’s dad,” you drew his attention.

“Mmm …” dad looked up from his reading his favourite Time magazine.

“Pray that you don’t fall so seriously ill you need to be hospitalised.”

“Why? Everybody falls sick.”

“Your friends wouldn’t recognize you. They pass by your bed, move from bed to bed looking for a patient with black hair but your hair dye would’ve worn off.”

Mum, if there's a heaven out there, I know you entry is guaranteed. And I know that with angels as your guide, there's no way you would get lost. It was a different story here on earth, wasn’t it mum. Your sense of direction was even worse than Captain Slow's on Top Gear. Before I came back to Malawi, you used to rely on me as your guide around Kitwe. The irony is that most of my knowledge of the town had been honed by countless shower chases and escapes..

Sit around me. Move close. Real close. I’ll have to whisper because I don’t want what I’m going to say gusting into the wrong ears, ears that are ever pricked these days.

No, no, it’s got absolutely nothing to do with whether I’ve decided to chop off my long sleeve to better amour myself against contracting HIV. You think if it was just a matter of a sleeve, to keep it long or cut it short, I would’ve bothered whose ears heard me? No way! What I’ve to say has nothing to do with sleeves. In fact, it’s got nothing to do with me at all.

And there lies the danger.

One can never be too careful in the present climate. Our government, despite its stifling majority in parliament, has become so paranoid it often swats its own humongous shadow. One day you hear a member of the ruling party speaking out against some government policies, the next you hear that he’s been arrested for treason. You wake up to headlines of ruling party MPs criticising the government, you sleep on headlines of their suspension. When you get news that an NGO has condemned the government on a position it has taken, you know that in its wake will come news that its leaders have been carted away on charges even the local newspapers can’t agree on.

Through various subtle and not subtle means, threats – overt or otherwise, rewards or lack thereof, the government is slowly but surely strangling our freedom of expression. Any guesses anyone on why the police have been sent out into the NGO community to sniff out those with non-traditional sexual inclinations?

I hope you now understand why I would rather whisper. But even may be  dangerous. Let’s talk about something else instead. Yes, let’s talk about the wedding. Yes, that wedding. But even that is now banana skin territory because some misguided trade unionists have complained that the wedding date clashes with Labour Day and would thus detract from their planned activities.

Some people! Can’t they just feel proud of the fact that our president will marry a woman so elegantly beautiful Southern Bride would happily feature her on its cover? I know a number of men of a certain age who are envious of the president and would happily switch places with him.

However, despite its newsworthiness, the wedding isn’t what I wanted to talk about. What would I say about it that you don’t already know? I’m scared to say what I really planned to say because tomorrow you may hear that I’ve been arrested for being gay. After all, I’ve said a thing or two about letting gays be. Were that to happen, the irony would be that I would be locked up in one of Malawi’s gay havens for … wait for it …my own protection! I shiver as an image flickers across my mental screen. The orifice that hitherto I’ve used exclusively for expelling solid waste is being caressed by a panting burly prisoner who then takes his swelled…his … No! I click off the image.

What was I saying, by the way? That image of me on all falls with my pants down still has me rather flustered.

Ok, I remember. I was explaining the reason I’m feeling nervous about voicing out what I wanted to tell you. You see, if I tell you some unwelcome ears may hear it and I may end up being arrested for my wont to once in a while mount my significant other from behind. Or for sometimes contorting my body into impossibly unnatural positions during and for the act. Or for using my lips and tongue on parts of her anatomy other than her mouth and succulent breasts. Or they may haul me in because whenever I’ve been suffering under conjugal sanctions for one reason or another, maybe for contravening my Friday boys’ night out visa conditions and ending up home too early—well, dawn of the following morning is too early, isn’t it?—I’ve had no other option but to engage in DIY. A bit of self-help relief, if you get my drift.

Yes, for being foolhardy enough to blurt out my opinions, the government can throw the book at me for making love in ways other than the missionary position. And there would be no protests from the general Malawian public because they believe such foolery between the sheets isn’t condoned in the Bible, the Koran or our tradition. By the way, when did those holy books become an integral part of our tradition? Didn’t we use to invoke the spirits of our ancestors?

Anyway that’s a story for another day. For now I’m just sorry I can’t tell you that the ruling party is doing all it can to turn all of us into grovelling sycophants. You won’t hear me say that the government wants us to be singing the president’s praises even when he misspeaks or missteps or both. You won’t hear a twit out of me about the government’s desire for all of us to be its members so that Malawi returns to being a one party state by default.

Most people claim the president has a stubborn streak. They say once he makes up his mind there’s no shifting him. But not me. I believe the president shouldn’t be knee-jerking to every morsel of drivel coming from the ignorant public. I believe he’s within his rights to have a select group of people to listen to. A posse of carefully vetted bootlickers.

I wish I was at liberty to reveal that as expected these people have their own thin hides to protect. As a result they tell the president only what he wants to hear. Oops! I almost let out that these people support the president even when it means cooking up some spicy corroborative statistics for him, or bending the truth here, panel-beating it there or completely stretching and distorting it into various impossible contortions.

I hope you’ve heard, because I’m not going to say a word, about the Mzuzu Corner comment that had people who have trodden the halls of Chancellor College shaking their heads in mirthful disbelief. Could he by any chance have been talking about SS Corner at Mzimba Boma?

I’ve so many things to take off my chest but can’t out of fear. For instance I would’ve told you that these poodles, excuse me Tony Blair you’ve may have some distant cousins here, wag their tails whenever the president bashes people from the region 99% of whose votes were cast for him. The region that has only two tarmac roads considerable parts of which snake unpopulated areas. The region that doesn’t have a Sunbird resort on its shores. The region  that doesn’t have a campus of the University of Malawi, Malawi College of Accountancy, College of Health Sciences, or National College of Information Technology. The region that’s so lacking in industrial development a large part of its population has to trek to other regions or other countries to find jobs.

These people frothed at their mouths trying to out praise each other when the president refused to attend Mzuzu University’s graduation ceremony and his education minister chose to attend the graduation ceremony of a private school instead. They applauded when he announced that the criteria for doling out youth loans wouldn’t be the merit of business plans but DPP membership. Their faces lit up when he ordered the government not to be advertising in a pesky local paper. They praise his vision for seeing what we ordinary folks couldn’t see in a millennium: the necessity to urgently change our flag.

They are quite happy that the anti-corruption drive is jaundiced against low-level civil servants. They rejoice at the nepotistic trend public appointments have taken. They see no evil when government resources are used for party functions. They nodded their heads in approval when nursing school fees were raised perhaps because a presidential jet had to be bought and money had to be set aside to massage obligations spawned by our ambitions to lord it over the AU. And they frown upon anyone with the gal to lament that the quota system of university selection punishes some deserving students. They scowl at people who dare to scoff at the stupidity of paying even higher sitting allowances to MPs for doing exactly the job they’re paid for, vis-à-vis sit in parliament.

My friends, I’ve so many things to say but I’m too terrified to voice them out because the police may pick me up on some tramped up charges guaranteed to keep me quiet for a very long time.

Is that a knock I heard? I’m not expecting anybody, certainly not at 2.00 a.m. Well, they may have come for me now but tomorrow they may come for you too.

A man staggers to a bedroom window, or rather the square hole in the wall that pipes in fresh air and filters in some light, and  howls, “Woman, open up!”

His wife, wrinkles prematurely sculpted onto her face and the mop on her head greyed not by age but too much labour and deprivation, had her ear outside, as Malawians would say. She promptly rises from her mat and hurries to open the door.

The man staggers in, the stench of beer and rarely brushed teeth in his wake, and heads for the stool by the wall. He sits, his back leaning against the mud plastered wall and waits for the wife to prepare fresh food for his dinner.

Considering that it is way past midnight she shouldn’t be doing any cooking but her husband wants his dinner freshly prepared. Like the majority of African men, he’s a firm believer in the wisdom that beating a wife is what glues a marriage together, that it’s the ingredient required to make ‘till death do us part’ a reality. Over the years she’s been the unwilling recipient of various physical chidings and has the scars on her person to remind her. Thus, she has learnt that no matter how late (or should that be how early?) her husband staggers in, he has to have his dinner freshly prepared.

As she cooks, she has to feign interest in his drunken monologue, punctuated by hiccups, occasional smelly belches and her muttered acknowledgements. Otherwise, he will tattoo new memories onto the living canvas that’s her body. Mind you, she has to maintain this feigned interest because he jabbers on even as he eats.

The woman takes away the dishes before following her husband into the bedroom. But wait, her day isn’t done yet. She has to suffer one more chore, arguably the most important one in her life as a typical African woman. You didn’t think she would sleep without giving the husband his marital desert, did you?  Please understand that there can be no headaches in her bedroom life. Absolutely none at all.  

Thankfully for her, there’s no foreplay so it isn’t long before she has rocked, jiggled and gyrated the husband into satiated sleep, a big smile on his face. A symphony of snores soon bears testimony to the depth of his sleep even as his hand subconsciously continues to play with the beads around her waist, and a river of drool cascades its way down his left cheek.

An African woman’s feelings don’t come into the equation. She doesn’t even think about them. She’s been schooled to pleasure her husband. And to procreate. A bigger brood silences derisive whispers about barrenness from her in-laws.

Just a couple of hours or so later, long before the sun thinks of getting out of bed and glaring at her part of the world, she’s already taken her passport-size bath (involving washing the face and a gargle or two) and is up and about. Last night’s dishes have to be done; the kids have to be woken up, their beddings taken out to dry, bathed , given breakfast and packed off to school. All this before she goes to the family patch of land for a bit of farming. Her hangovered husband will follow later. Much later after he has taken his own passport-size bath and breakfasted.

As midday approaches she accompanies her husband back to the village. On the way she has to stop at the well to draw water for her husband’s full-body bath. While the husband takes his bath, she dashes back to the well to draw more water. She makes two more trips before going to fetch firewood. Afterward she has to go and gather some wild vegetables that are the main ingredient in the sauces that accompany the family’s starch heavy meals.

She prepares lunch in time for the children’s return from school. After lunch, the husband disappears with the boys and the children go out to play. This gives her the opportunity to take her bath. Of course, she has eaten. Many an African woman is of necessity a Mulyawima. She has learnt to eat on the go as she butterflies from one task to the other, day in day out.

Mid-afternoon, after a short respite, the woman goes to join her colleagues to practice song and dance. A big political honcho is coming to the community to launch the tree planting month. The women will put up a show for the guests, distinguished or otherwise. The women love these practice sessions. They provide a welcome diversion from the dreary routine of their lives. They also offer a perfect opportunity to catch up on the village gossip.

 “Nyamusangechi’s husband is marrying a second wife.”

“Nooo! Why?”

“Need you ask? She can’t bear any more children.”

“Only three children, imagine. How sad.”

“I understand it’s her choice. You know these educated women.”

“Maybe she wants to start prostituting herself.”

Regrettably, the practice session comes to an end. Some of the women have to attend a meeting for their income-generating group. The women took a loan from a micro- lender and the monthly payment is due. Speaking of which, the woman is deeply worried that her family will lose the few possessions it has.  You see even though her only education has been obtained by seeing, listening and experiencing, she’s the treasurer of her group and therefore the custodian of its cash. Unfortunately, one fine day her husband discovered the hidden coffer and had helped himself to a pay day he had never had in his life.

Many were the drunks who sang his praises that day.

She prepares the evening meal for herself and the children. Once the tired kids retire to their mats, dirt and all, she goes to join her colleagues in the village compound to pound and winnow the kernels of corn that will be milled into flour after a few days of soaking.

Two women, each with a pestle, alternately pound into one mortar with the precision of a juggler. The processed kernels are emptied onto a big mat, the mortars refilled and the pounding resumes. Afterward, the twelve women sit around a big mat and winnow the chaff from the broken kernels. Like the pounding, the winnowing is very musical.

In one evening, corn for four families is processed. This not only lightens the burden on the women but also provides a forum for gossip mostly about their men. The moonlit night resonates to the sounds of gossip woven into beautiful laments sung to the rhythm of the pounding and winnowing. The pounding and winnowing done, the woman walks back to her house. She lies down and drifts into some light sleep. She has to keep vigil until she hears the drunken voice of her husband call out through the opening in the wall.

Oh, the numbingly routine life of an African woman. It would be worse were it not for church or mosque services, weddings, funerals, dances and political events that server to break the monotony of her life.

Yet this is the life she’ll bequeath to her girl children unless politicians stop working for their own aggrandisement and instead channel their collective energies towards plucking these children from the suffocating embrace of ignorance and poverty. I hope African politicians make commitments for 2010 to do something before these girls are serenaded into a never-ending tango with this two-headed beast.

As were their mothers.
Acres and acres of screen space flickers at me and taunts me to populate it with words. Not a patchwork of words, mind you. The screen is daring me to fill it with words strung together to convey to you exactly what’s missing in my life at the moment.

There the problem lies. Tell me, where and how do I find the verbs, adjectives and adverbs to make you feel what I feel? Being no poet, I’m at a total loss for suitably descriptive words. All I can say is that presently my life is in the jaws of an emptiness that’s a prototype …no, that has some connotations of a work still in progress.

Let’s see … ok, let’s say this void is the template on which emptiness in a person’s life is calibrated; the criterion against which loneliness is measured. The …will you help me out here people? 
<Sigh>…I give up. After all, my failure to adequately describe the gnawing longing in my heart doesn’t mask the fact that she has me hooked. What’s that cliché? Hook line and sinker, right? It isn’t just a fleeting feeling either. The fact is she’s had me hooked for more years than I care to remember.

Yes, I’m completely taken by her despite the major flaw she has. No, it isn’t a physical flaw. There’s no noticeable chink in her appearance. It’s her character that I’ve problems with. You see, just a few days after coming to visit me she disappears only to reappear a month later. She’s never offered an explanation. And as the years have gone by, I suppose I’ve become used to not expecting any. I’ve grown to accept that I can’t tame let alone completely own her.

Banish her out of my life! Are you certifiably out of your mind? I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t love her but then my very existence depends on her, you see. She may not be my raison d’être but she's probably the reason I'm still alive. Am I making sense?

So life grinds on. Once every month, she sends me a note. Oh, don’t even bother begging because I’m not going to reveal their juicy contents. Suffice it to say that a few days after her note, she appears and everything reverts to normal.

Boy, when she’s around life is good and fun. We go out shopping. We go out visiting places of interest. We go dining and wining. We go out either on our own or with friends. We have friends visit us. Once in a while we even throw parties. Our fisted palms open up resulting in smiling relatives and grateful street beggars. 

But without fail as suddenly as she appears she vanishes without even a word. Sure, I can feel it when she’s about to go. First the shopping and the outings phase into a dribble before completely drying out.

Perhaps she doesn’t like my lifestyle. You see, when she’s around, I hardly give her some quality home time. We’re either out some place or we’ve friends over at my place. Or maybe she hates my philanthropic nature. But what can I do when I’ve relatives who think I’m a charity organisation.

They’re really funny people, my relatives. They visit without notice and dictate when to leave, irrespective of the day of the month. When they’re ready to leave, they not only expect to be given the return fares. No way! The fares for the trips here are borrowed and the lenders expect their monies back immediately they see my heavily laden relatives arrive back in the village. And I hope you know by now that even when I give them the return trip fare, my relatives can’t leave if I don’t give them money for their wish lists that include soap, sugar, salt, cooking oil, fertiliser and school fees for some young cousins of mine whose faces I can’t even remember having met

I don’t know why she disappears. I really don’t. All I know is you can swear by the regularity of her monthly visits and her an unannounced departures just a few days later

Talking of which, late last month she came. Besides other things she helped me shop for curtains and other furniture items to replace the ones my landlady is planning to take away. We even stocked up the fridge and the pantry. But I suppose the shopping was so tasking she refused to go out with me even once. In fact, she disappeared soon afterward.

And now I’m like a drug addict in the grip of severe withdrawal symptoms. To be frank the days can’t fast forward quickly enough. I’m longing for her next note. Each of her notes always whets my insatiable appetite for her, you know. Just getting that note into my hands, even before I open and read it, would assure me that she would fulfill her monthly visit. It would also give me an indication of how long her stay is likely to be. I can then plan accordingly.

Oh, I forgot to let you in on a secret. For whatever reason she insists I call her monthly missives Salary Slips. She’s crazy, if you ask me. She even has a name for her arrival days, imagine. She calls them pay days.

Monthly Salary, wherever you’re now, I hope you know I miss you so much. Life is dull without you. Being not very good with words, it’s hard for me to explain how unbearably hard life becomes when you go away. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for the few days you spend with me but I would prefer that you never had to go away.

My Monthly Salary, I don't enjoy your absences. Not at all. I'm human
so even though I don't have a roving eye, I'm still prone to temptation. Just the other day I almost dated Small Business. Luckily for you, she said I lacked a quality she referred to as capital.

Otherwise ...

September the 18th.

Years back, so many rains ago, this is the day that I, having outgrown the confines of a young woman’s womb, squeezed my way into the world and proclaimed my emergence with a nice little howl.  A howl that was music to the woman who had painfully just evicted me. A howl that soothed her pain and brought smiles to the audience of hospital staff around her.

At least that’s how I imagine the moment of my emergence into the world. Remember there were no video cameras then to record that historic event. Of course, there were still cameras. So a visual record should’ve been possible. But back then cameras were huge beasts requiring strong shouldered men to lug them around.

And there lay the problem. Unless a man was a member of the hospital staff, he was persona non grata in a labour ward. I understand to this day bold “No Men Beyond This Point” signs still serve to chaperone men out of the majority of labour wards in Malawi.

So the only record of my grand entrance into the world was as a statistic in the hospital record books. And, of course, my arrival is forever etched in the memories of the woman who had lovingly given me refuge for nine months.

For nine months I had happily lived in a wonderful world, all on my own. I really enjoyed that solitary confinement! Hidden from disapproving adult scowls, I could do whatever took my fancy. I could suck my thumb, swim, somersault and just for the kick of it, do a few playful bicycle kicks to draw the attention of the landlady who was giving me shelter.

For nine months I didn’t have to scream to have nourishment or suffer inefficient waste management.  What a fabulous nine months. Nine months. Mmm? Wait! Wait! Wait! Do you see what I see?

You don’t, do you? Well, let me tell you.

When you count nine months backwards from September you get to January, right?

Now picture a young couple tethered in the shackles of temporary poverty fathered by Christmas and New Year celebrations. Paint incessant rains onto this already dreary January landscape and it shouldn’t be too hard to imagine a generally bored and miserable couple. Except when night fell. Then they would find solace in each other’s company. The young man would retrieve his guitar and strum some intricate tunes while his beloved wife’s lead vocals serenaded some of the tyranny out of that cruel January.

And here is a couple in the privacy of their home, soft love tunes in the air. What do you think would follow? Honestly, I don’t know. Anyway, let’s spare ourselves the details, shall we. Suffice it to say that one of their nocturnal acts of song and naughtiness spawned one joyous bundle of statistic now known as Dannie Grant Phiri.

Thank you mum. Thank you dad. The pair of you is proof that it really takes two to tango. By the way, I love you both so much I forgave your melodious January mischievous shenanigans the day I came into this world.

18th September. What a blessed day! January. What a blessed month!

It was very quiet as was usually the case at that time of a weekday morning. What with everyone trying to catch up with their e-mails and leftover work from the day before. Then out of the blues someone shattered our morning routine by shrieking: “Who has dropped this thing in the corridor!”

We all rushed and crowded around the woman who had raised the alarm. We jostled and craned our necks in order to see what all the hullabaloo was about. There really was something on the corridor floor.

No, it wasn’t a string of beads. Neither was it a packet of rubber. You and your lewd mind! On the floor lay a tiny beaded pillow. Someone had dropped a chithumwa, a tiny parcel of charms. Some smart pants promptly dubbed it a flash disk humana. Not an entirely surprising moniker in this age of miniaturised electronics.

Someone was at that particular time feeling the “nakedness” of being without their trusty totem. That much wasn’t in doubt. But who? There had been no visitors that morning, official or otherwise. So there was no question that the flash disk belonged to one of us. Yet we all kept pushing each other for a better view. I think each one of us wanted to be seen to be trying to satisfy their curiosity.

Questions were thrown around at nobody in particular but no answers were forthcoming. With our curiosity (genuine or feigned) not yet satiated, we milled around until someone gathered the courage to go and burn it.

Even though we couldn’t establish its ownership, the motive for acquiring the flash disk could easily be deduced. Our organisation was at the time undergoing a rightsizing exercise. One has to have protective armour against pink slips, you know.

Why waist time daily striving to put in an honest day’s work when we can as well use charms to protect our jobs and get promotions? Why should our employers expect us to go to our offices on time? Don’t they realise that we take longer than necessary in bathrooms so as to “wash properly” according to instructions issued to us by medicine men. Never mind that the said medicine men are living museums of poverty.

If things aren’t going very well on the work front, perhaps because some nosy auditors have discovered that we’ve been helping ourselves to too many pay days each calendar month, we rush to our villages to go and bid proper farewells, or as we say in our local lingua, kukasanzika. We return from the villages with our bodies laden with tattoos against any eventuality, including potential court cases.

When our marriages hover over jutting rocks, we don’t seek counselling. Why should we when we can consult witchdoctors who can prescribe concoctions with impossible ingredients? An ant’s heart is but one example. Whatever their ingredients, these potions are formulated to spark romance back into our marriages and steer well clear of divorce courts.

Instead of us sleeping to recoup our energies in readiness for the following day’s work, we jig about at crossroads in the dead of night, in our birthday suits no less, chanting nonsense to the four winds. Who needs gym membership to achieve fitness?

My fellow Malawians, let’s wake up. I know every culture in the world has been bequeathed its own beliefs and superstitions. But it’s the proportion of the Malawi population holding such deep-seated beliefs that’s alarming. For our own good its time we disabused ourselves of our entrenched belief in sorcery.

Otherwise our low life expectancy will remain low. You see, besides the obvious reasons attributable to poverty, our low life expectancy results from the fact that we go to hospitals only after the prescriptions from sing’angas have failed. What’s more, in some of our villages old people are “assisted” to die because longevity is equated to guruness in witchcraft.

There’s almost no natural death in Malawian villages. Of course, that woman didn’t die of ovarian cancer, you dim wit! She died because “…our daughter was doing very well at work. In fact she was a mzungu. She was going to get promoted so her colleagues implanted something into her stomach.”

In Malawi accidents don’t happen because of bad roads, drunk driving and other factors. No way! They happen because one or more of the people involved get bewitched. The high number of accidents at some spots on our road network can be easily explained. Witches have established sacrificial grounds at a number of spots along our roads.

Instead of wasting time working on plans to boost our businesses towards their IPOs, we spend resources on charms and lotions administered by medicine men who are themselves infested by abject poverty. Without charms, our earnings get spirited away through a technology called chitaka. As every Malawian knows, the chemistry of Malawian business economics is the direct opposite of osmosis. Money flows from a business without talismans to the one equipped with them. As simple as that.

Would our football be entertaining without what some fools think are farcical pre-match rituals. Our tattooed players have to clamber over stadium fences. They have to get off their buses and cross bridges on foot. They have to do all this is to neutralise their opponents’ spells. Football coaches are a total waste of money, if you didn’t know. Our teams’ losses can be easily explained: their opponents had more potent juju. Or some members of the losing teams didn’t follow all the instructions prescribed by the witchdoctors.

Even basketball can’t be played without consultation. A story is told of a basketball team that went to a sing’anga to proof itself against defeat. The team was assured that it would triumph 2-1 as long as all its members faithfully subjected themselves to all the rituals that had been prescribed!

How I wish we could purge the Malawi nation of such beliefs. Sadly, they won’t go away in a hurry because local media houses are doing all they can to preserve and ratchet up our fears of the unknown. Our newspapers and radios are full of bizarre stories. One day the headlines scream about trade in human body parts, the next it’s about crown jewels that have been locked into impotency because of missing passwords. One day the buzz is about a woman who has been made to deliver a stone, the other it’s about a witchdoctor who has brought back a man from the dead. And on yet another it’s a foreigner who’s been spirited away on Mount Mulanje.

We’re inundated with stories of magic planes that plummet onto yards and roofs armed with herbal anti-aircraft missiles, HAMs for short. In fact, some of you may recall Malawi’s biggest air disaster. A few years back a nocturnal plane was reported to have been plucked out of the sky in Ntcheu killing all three hundred sorcerers on board. Of course, we never questioned why there was no national mourning despite the demise of such a large number of Malawians.

That isn’t all. When we go to our homes in the evenings, we relax by watching Nollyhood fares that are usually witchcraft themed. Our children watch with us. They marvel at the wizardly. And what they see on TV they believe.

On Sundays we go to churches where our pastors’ sermons revolve around the children who were being taught witchcraft but whose parents had decided to seek spiritual help. The sermons over, we go into nonsensical recitals, “speaking in tongues” in churchspeak, to exorcise the evil spirits out of these young innocents. The kids’ redemption attained, we break out in song and dance. While dancing we’ve to tightly clutch onto our flash disks in our pockets, purses and on our bodies lest they embarrass us by dropping onto the floor. Don’t be naïve, you think deaconship is just bestowed.

My fellow Malawians let’s be serious. Is this the culture we want to pass on to our children? Be honest now, what pestilence would plague Malawi were we to cleanse ourselves of this unhealthy belief in sorcery? What would happen to you if you didn’t indulge in those rituals you do every night? Would you be fired if you didn’t have those tattoos? Would your marriage crumble if you didn’t use those potions or apply those lotions? Would people not elect you if you didn’t have those amulets?

If there’s any trait that parents would rather not pass onto their children, it’s bedwetting, occasional or otherwise. Hey, you former bedwetter, come on out of the closet and back me up here, will you? OK, I give up. I should’ve known better.

Be that as it may, if it were all left to me, I would rather children turn their beds into Jacuzzis night after night than have their generation blighted by a strong belief in witchcraft.

By the way, if you’re a witch don’t bother casting spells on me. I can assure you they won’t work. You see, I’m armed to the teeth against them by a very healthy dose of scepticism. In fact, I’ve a fair idea of what I'll probably die of. Lung cancer is one possibility. Zijazi is another.  Do I really need to spell it out that I mean those illness that are related to something else that is itself not a disease but a mere decrease of something in our body?

Incidentally, given a choice, I would want to expire the same way Sani Abacha. But only one would do for me, not two as was the case with the late Nigerian Military dictator. Phew ... two of them! That was an overdose of happiness, if you ask me.

This talk of bangida has put me in the mood to attempt to die happily. Let me put off this cigarette right away. There are more important matters at hand.

Where were we, honey bun? Mmm …mmm …

Witches please don’t bother visiting me right now because I’m too busy trying to die a happy man.

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-photocopywhispers 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. Or Plato, for that matter.

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 e shivers. It’s like I’m being water-boarded, you know.


A friend and I were facebooking when he said he was off to watch Barcelona. I thought I had an idea what he meant but I couldn’t resist asking him whether he planned to watch them in practice. Otherwise how was he going to watch Barcelona without watching United at the same time.

Incidentally, I need not have asked. As Jose Mourihno would say, I too saw only Barcelona. Where was Machester United, the pre-match favourite? I know the Mancunians were there somewhere on the pitch. It’s just that I couldn’t see them except in the first ten minutes. Those first ten minutes gave me false hopes that I could make it in football punditry. Hopes that were to be rudely punctured as the night wore on.

In those first ten minutes Barcelona couldn’t get out of their half as Christiano Ronaldo and company launched one attack after another. Then came the sucker punch. Out of the blue and totally against the run of play, a dazed Barcelona somehow negotiated its way out of the siege, the ball homed onto Andrés Iniesta’s boots who ventured forward before threading a pass to Samuel Eto’o who in turn charmed his way past Nemanja Vidic, brushed off the attentions of Michael Carrick before nursing a shot past the despairing arms of Van de Saar.

Exit Manchester United. Enter Barcelona.

Iniesta and Xavi Hernàndez, the two puppeteers in midfield,then assumed complete control. The mesmerising feet of Messi waved one magic wand after another that hypnotised the Red Devils into spectating zombies. Almost every silky pass that Barcelona wove homed onto a Barcelona foot, chest or head. All United could do was butterfly from one shadow to another. Thought the ball was here…no there…no, no, there!

So nobody was surprised when Xavi floated a tantalising ball into the box and a height challenged Messi soared into the air, hang there in defiance of the laws of physics, leaned back and with his temple plucked and nodded it into the net. Yes, the same Messi who had never before scored against an English club. What a way to break his duck.

It was game over. There was to be no repeat of 1999 when United came from behind to beat Bayern Munich in the last three minutes.

What went wrong? Had United grown lethargic because eleven days had passed since their last match? Had Alex Ferguson’s over the top praise of the midfield maestros, Iniesta and  Xavi, got to his players? Had the fact that Barcelona was missing several key players and Iniesta and Henry were just returning from injury lulled United into corkiness? Was the weight of history and experience that favoured United make them complacent?  Were Ferguson’s tactics wrong? Did United miss the suspended holding midfielder Darren Fletcher? What went wrong?

I don’t know. I just don’t know.  All I know is that on this particular night Barcelona was just too good for United. I also know that a season that had started with United’s harbouring dreams of a quintuple, was going to close with both the FA Cup and Champions League having eluded their grasp. Their hopes of retaining the Champions League and keeping their record of never losing in a European cup final had been put to the sword.

As for me, Wednesday night made me realise that the confidence that I could make it in football punditry was misplaced. I’m therefore doing the honourable thing, unlike some people I know, and tendering my immediate resignation as a rookie football pundit.


All those who knew that Bingu would win by a gaping chasm, please raise your hand.

You see what I mean? Everyone rooted in reality knew that John Tembo would be buried by a Bingu avalanche. Except the pundits. Or so they made us believe.

Personally I'm rather skeptical that they didn’t know Tembo had no chance of flooring Bingu. I’m totally convinced they knew but were just too chicken to voice the truth. Not that I blame them.

You see, polls, no matter how scientific, are anathema to Malawian politicians. Remember the criticism that accompanied the polls that predicted that Bingu would win by more than sixty percent? Yet polls are based on facts except, of course, when conducted by a totally biased entity like TVM. So what chance does a pundit’s unscientific opinion have? Whereas a pollster can take cover behind his statistics, a pundit and his opinion are totally exposed to elements of criticisms of bias.

For a change Rome’s Stadio Olimpico will host a contest that’s really too close to call, at least on paper. The teams meeting in the Champions League tonight have locked horns on nine previous occasions producing four draws, three wins for one team and two for the other. Therefore you’ve to be either a very brave man or a fanatical supporter of one of the two teams to willingly predict tonight’s result.  

Manchester United versus Barcelona. Ronaldo versus Messi. A dream final from the sound of it. Incidentally, for these teams it’ll be 1991 all over again. Of course, in this round the stakes are much higher than the Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup they were fighting for then. That night the Red Devils beat Barcelona 2-1. Will they repeat the feat?

I think so. Yes, I know I said the match is too close to call but I don’t remember saying that was my opinion, or did I? In any case, I’m no football analyst, or any other type of analyst for that matter. My reputation isn’t on line here. Thus I’ve no fear revealing that my gut feeling is that while Barcelona will have the majority of possession, Manchester United will carry the day.

Hey you, Sir Alex Ferguson is old enough to be a father to Guardiola’s father. In terms of experience, it’s no contest. Don’t they say what a young man can see standing up an old man can see sitting down? In any case, if Guardiola dares to stand up, his view will be obstructed by the many cups Ferguson has won over the years. These include three European cups that Machester United have one, which is one more than their opponents in tonight’s mouthwatering final.

Secondly, Barcelona isn’t at full strength. This is especially so at the back were three of their key players won’t be on the pitch. Rafael Marquez is injured while Eric Abidal and Dani Alves are suspended. Their midfield too might be a bit iffy without Andres Iniesta who has been out injured. Should he play tonight, he might be a mere passenger. So too Thierry Henry who when fully fit has been one third of a deadly trio. As for the other two assasins,Eto’o has been out of sorts recently and Lionel Messi has hitherto not scored against an English side.

Even more ominous for Barcelona is that Manchester United has won all the three finals they’ve played. Barcelona has played in four and ended up losers in two of them.

So to call a spade a spade, Ronaldo will end up with the winners’ medal with Messi as his bridesmaid, if you see what I mean. But my crystal ball is a bit murky so I can’t predict the scores.

Not very good news to a Liverpool supporter like me. But hey, the truth no matter how painful, is the truth.



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    Children, too, can have profound thoughts
    The Three Little Hills (Phiris)