The folks during the Blantyre protests two weeks ago looked almost celebratory, some openly brandished pangas while others peddled grass bottles.
Actually, one of the beer-bottle peddling folks rushed to Blantyre Flea Market, whereupon he started grabbing merchandise from a hapless vendor who was out to make a living, an honest one at that.
As if to stress the point that he was enjoying the whole ‘show’, the bottle-yielding man deliberately threw to the ground— the ground, in this case, being the hard surface we call tarred road— and, realising that what remained of the bottle were sharp ends, took the remains and took aim at the honest vendor.
What followed was a loud cry and, before long, the red stuff we call blood oozing out of the vendor’s forehead.
The bottle-wielding man had, by now, been joined by seven others. They laughed aloud as the vendor screamed and wiped the blood-smitten forehead with the T-shirt he had planned to don the whole day.
But the people whose decisions the grass bottle-wielding folk and his friends were protesting against were not there. And they were not related to the vendor; not at all.
As this was panning out at Blantyre Flea Market, at Old Town Hall, some 200 metres or so from the market, people that were against demonstrations were tussling with those that were for demonstrations.
Stones were being thrown around like free-of-charge cakes. Knives, some of them hidden in black plastic bags, were being ‘unveiled’ and brandished without fear of tomorrow.
Needless to say free-for-all fights ensued, right in the presence of Malawi Police Service (MPS) agents, who just this week celebrated 100 years of tireless service to the nation. October 4 1921 is such a long time, really.
Of course, Homeland Security Minister Richard Chimwendo Banda hit all the right chords on that occasion, congratulating police for unwavering commitment to law enforcement work while chiding some bad apples for giving law enforcers a bad name.
He said, for instance, that while the MPS had sparked by, among other things, providing quality and professional services within and outside the country, there had been instances where the good work was overshadowed by underhand dealings.
He cited corruption and the tendency of some law enforcers, who join bandits in criminal activities, as flashes of unprofessionalism.
Maybe the government is to blame, too, for failing to equip police to the teeth.
I mean, as MPS Inspector General George Kainja rightly put it, the service uses outdated equipment, notably in the Aviation and Marine departments.
Indeed, while MPS used to have a fully-fledged Aviation Department replete with helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, that is history for, without a functional plane, there is no Aviation Department.
It was painful to see, Dear Pain, what used to be a lively helicopter being ferried to the venue of the MPS 100-years-of-service activities in a lorry. Literally. There is no pain greater than the sight of a ‘hapless’ helicopter in a lorry, but this is Malawi!
That MPS used to have good boats that were patrolling on Lake Malawi is a topic for another day, for, even if I am used to the painful reality that Malawi is a recurrent joke, I cannot stand the sight of obsolete Marine Department boats. Not in this day.
Whatever problem the October-4,-1921-established facility might have, there was no indication of that at the Blantyre demonstrations, and even protests that were organised in Lilongwe last week; for teargas canisters floated freely on protests days, sometimes landing at distances far from the demo venues and giving asthmatic people who were attending to their own business problems.
In Blantyre, up to 10 women collapsed and had to come to after being washed wet with dirty water.
It was painful to see women, who were selling cooked food stuffs at Blantyre Flea Market, collapsing simply because some trigger-happy police agent had directed a teargas canister at them.
If truth were to be told, money spent on teargas canisters can buy one helicopter or patrol boat for the Marine Department.
In Lilongwe, protesters were showered with teargas canisters, too.
But, like in Blantyre, the leaders the tear-gassed people were protesting against were not there; they were wining and dining in well-guarded gates.
Which reminds me of the story of the adulterous woman in the New Testament of the Holy Book. When they found her in the act with the man, they apprehended her and took her to Jesus Christ.
They, surely, wanted him to direct them to stone her; of course, to death.
It was as if it was them, and them alone, who were entitled to life and not the woman.
But Jesus Christ had a good test for them. He simply asked them about the whereabouts of the man and, one by one, they disappeared.
And, Dear Pain, I ask today: As protesters were ‘breathing’ teargas in Blantyre and Lilongwe in late November this year, where were the national leaders they were protesting against?
Better still, when the protesters were at it last month, where were the leaders of the protests that were being organised in the countries cities in the post-May 21 2019 and pre-June 23 2020 presidential elections era?
They were in high places, dining and wining because they just used the people, the masses, as fuel for their personal wishes.
Sure, Dear Pain, some mass battles are personal; too personal.