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.




 

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