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Brevities on matters public and private

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At the recent Gonapamuhanya Tumbuka celebration in Rumphi, one man praised the President for assenting to the law concerning the land statute. The Paramount Chief and some of his fellow traditional authorities were not amused; they denied that they were happy with this law.

The Themba la Mathemba is not the only traditional authority to have expressed misgivings about the law or deny they and their people had been consulted.

This situation reminds me of two similar occasions. During the Bakili Muluzi’s United Democratic Front regime, the religious syllabus of the Junior Certificate and Malawi School Certificate of Education had been modified. Those who had rewritten the syllabus alleged that they had consulted representatives of all religious bodies. The Catholic Secretariat denied that it had been consulted. The syllabus revisers may have talked to men or women who were Catholic but who had no mandate from the Catholic Secretariat. As far as I can remember, the revised syllabus was withdrawn.

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The second occasion was the change of the national flag. President Bingu wa Mutharika’s men and women went all over the country to sell the idea of changing the flag so that the sun emblem would be at the centre of the flag not the periphery. It was asserted that Malawi having that year achieved its gross domestic product rate next only to Qatar in the world, it had developed and deserved a flag that reflected its new status. I reminded the zealots that the countries of the Far East had experienced high growth rates for at least 20 consecutive years before they were confirmed as industrialised. I doubt if anyone took cognizance of what I said. But a year later, the reversal started. We are still in the shadow of the economic decline.

When the Joyce Banda regime decided to reinstate the old flag, none of those who had vigorously campaigned for the change came in the open to resist the reversal. This gave me the impression that those who had been campaigning for the change had been doing this to please the president.

Land matters are extremely important. They concern people’s lives and welfare as few other things do. It was because chiefs in southern Malawi in the 19th century entered in to hasty bargains with white farmers that one day they woke up to find they had sold some of their people to Thangata serfdom.

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Currently, maybe millions of people have not fully understood the content of the new land law because all they know are brief commentaries in the media. The media comment on what is important to them which may be different from what some people and their chiefs hold as crucial.

No statutory law is sacrosanct, the land law may have to be revised if there is evidence that it is resented by a substantical part of the population. To make sure that most people understand the objects of the law, I suggest two things be done. First, copies of the law should be reproduced, put in bookshops and offered for sale. Those who really care about the matter will buy the copies provided they are reasonably priced.

Secondly, the statute should be translated into Chinyanja and chi Tumbuka. I wish I could say into all the languages that are used by the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) but this would be incurring unnecessary expenses. Most Yao, Lhomwe and Sena-speaking people are equally fluent in Chichewa while in the Northen Region all grown-up people understand chiTumbuka very well even though they have different mother tongues.

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There are people who having failed to do anything to make them great and famous are in the habit of writing or saying rubbish about people whom most people revere.

A friend of mine, a Jehova’s Witness, recently gave me a pamphlet titled Awake in which I read of documentary proofs that 2,000 years ago, there lived in Israel a man called Jesus. The authors of the pamphlet referred to source outside the Gospel which testified that Jesus had existed. Those who allege that Jesus did not exist are trying to draw attention to themselves by being notorious.

Many years ago, I read of a Scottish novelist called Comptom who confessed that he had voted in general elections only once though he was now an old man. He said the only time he went to vote was when a man who claimed that the 37 plays attributed to William Shakespeare had actually been written by someone else, possibly Francis Bacom. Compton went to vote against that man. If it was Bacom or someone who wrote those plays, why did he allow Shakespeare to sign his name on them?

During the year that Bingu wa Mutharika started his presidency, a man called X visited me. He said he had just founded a church of his own which was against what John Chilembwe had done. He said Chiradzulu District had failed to develop because Chilembwe had ordered the killing of William Jarvis Livingstone at Magomero Bruce Estate and that God had put a curse on Chiradzulu because of this. His church was going to atone for it by reconciling with living descendants of Livingstone.

A month or so ago, a man visited me saying he had heard some young man saying that Chilembwe had made a mistake by expelling the British. He should have waited until they had developed this country. Behold they left Malawi too soon and that is why we are so poor. When I heard this, I wondered whether our schools are teaching correct histories of our heroes.

Some years ago, a Zulu woman married to a Malawian asked me whether it was true that Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda was not a true Malawian but a West Indian or American Black. I answered her in chiNgoni baya qamba manga; they tell lies.

At the beginning of the multiparty era, a Malawian residing in North America sent circulars into this country that the man we call Dr Banda was actually Armstrong and that the genuine Banda had already died. This is the sort of stuff that should be dismissed by everybody as rubbish but I came across some gullible people who took it seriously.

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