Brevities on soldiers, other matters
The death of soldiers on Thursday last week at Mapanjila in Mzimba has reminded me of a similar tragedy thereabouts 10 years or so ago. A lorry carrying members of a Christian sect from the Central Region to Mzimba overturned and killed about as many people or more out of the 50 passengers on board.
To most of us who have heard of the tragedy, it is on accident as usual. We hear of accidents almost every month or two in Malawi. But to the parents and other relatives of those soldiers, the trauma will be unbearable for weeks to come. The soldiers’ deaths were as undeserved as those inflicted by suicide bombers in some countries in the horn of Africa and beyond.
When accidents of this magnitude occur, perhaps the driver was tired. A driver in a normal state of mind would drive near Mapanjila at greatly reduced speeds.
Since the whole terrain before and after Mapanjila is a death zone, what extra warning signs have road authorities erected there? Would they consider putting red lights plus a speaker that repeatedly warns drivers that they are approaching a zone of tragedies?
On the whole, the standard of driving in Malawi is below international standards. Just board a minibus in Blantyre or between Blantyre and Zomba and experience the anxieties the driver exposes passengers to. If they remind the driver that he is overloading the bus, his response is frightful. Drivers who survive accidents in which passengers die should have their licences withdrawn for many years and if caught driving without a licence, should be jailed rather than fined.
About a month ago, a judge and the Director of Public Prosecutions rebuked journalists and editors for putting words into the mouth of a court witness.
This I found interesting because sometimes I have noticed in my articles that the editor has altered words or added his own opinions to the extent that though the article bears my name, I am not solely responsible for what is found there.
Sometimes, in the articles I have made references to someone without actually mentioning their name-only to find that the editor has inserted a name. Many years ago, I wrote an article in which I said “President Kenneth Kaunda is not ashamed of his Malawian origins”. The article that came out “is now ashamed of his Malawian origin” which was a very different matter and could be a defamatory. I had to write the editor to correct the error.
In another case, I wrote an article about Martin Luther. The editor added King so that the name was Martin Luther King. He did this at two different occasions much to my embarrassment. Obviously, he did not know the difference between the 16th century German religious reformer and the campaigner for civil rights in the United States in the 1960s. Once more, I was embarrassed.
Perhaps managing editors should guide their editors to what extent they may modify a contributor’s article. In case the editor is in doubt, he or she should telephone the writer or just omit that particular sentence. Turning to what is right to something wrong is not what editors are expected to do.
Do Malawians read? If so, what do they read? As I struggle along the streets of Blantyre to take a seat in a minibus, someone greets me by name and tells me he or she enjoys reading my column. The last thing they say is “Don’t give up”. This is, of course, very sweet. But wait for the contrast.
One day, a young man called at my office and brought me a copy of the book he had just written and published. He told me he had been told I was a columnist for both The Nation and The Daily Times. He wondered what a column was and how I had got the assignment.
“Have you read any of my articles? I asked.
He answered he did not read newspapers and that man recently graduated from one of the State universities.
The other day, I was at the bank where I keep my accounts. A young lady greeted me by name and said she used to read my newspaper column.
“Do you still write for newspaper?”
I advised her to read that day’s copy of The Daily Times. The two young persons made their confessions about not reading newspapers with as clear conscience as I do have when I refuse the offer of a glass of an alcoholic drink.
I thought it was the prices which deterred these young people from buying newspapers, but, apparently, that is not the case. A few days later, I met a wealthy businessman who is an avid book collector.
“Do you still write for newspapers?” he asked. “I have not been reading newspapers for sometime.”
Perhaps I ought not to have been shocked. For the past 20 years or so, I have never been to any stadium to see a football match and do not feel sorry. People are entitled to have their own interests. But a nation where people shun reading newspapers and books is bound to be a nation of ignorant people. Ignorant people do not develop a country.
A vibrant writer who gives a great insight on hot topics and issues