For once, I have realised that people can be angry, very angry. This anger is not that of jealous spouses or overzealous husbands who have, at one point or another, chopped off limbs of their wives out of jealousy. This is something else.
Men and women of this social environment are bitter that some people out there want to tamper with their drinking habits. And what has ignited the ‘high-voltage’ anger of these people is a very short sentence by this man who claims to be a big shot at Capital Hill.
“Comrades-in-arms at drinking; are you aware that we, in the corridors of government, are drafting a bill to regulate beer drinking? Tangomweranitu pano zisadasinthe (make hay while the sun shines by drinking big time before the restriction comes into force),” he says as he throws a round to about 10 patrons at this popular joint around Devil Street in Lilongwe.
“Mwati chaaani? Kani n’zoona kuti mowa akufuna kuletsa (what are you saying? So these rumours are true, that the authorities want to ban beer production and drinking?),” chips in some huge muscle-load of a lady, who appears to be very authoritative at this joint.
“Take it or not but, in a few months’ time, pubs such as this one will only be allowed to open around 4pm and be closed by 9pm. The authorities believe that the only way to make Malawi prosper economically is to sanitise citizens’ drinking habits,” says the boss from Capital Hill, with pomp.
A young man, who is busy serving patrons with roast beef (braii) ignites the wraths of the patrons when he supports the Capital Hill fella.
“Sakulakwitsa ayi, enanu mumangokhalira kumwa mu Devil Street tsiku lonse (the government is very right on that one; some of you just loiter around Devil Street drinking the whole day),” says the kanyenya seller, adding that the move would help curb crime cases.
From nowhere, some young man grabs the kanyenya seller, swearing as he punches him twice. “You fool, if those people say bars must open as late as 4pm, where do you think we will get the money to feed our families? Do you think we will make more sales if bars open only for a few hours? Get lost young man, and you, the Capital Hill man, tell your bosses that we, citizens of this country, are tired of our parliamentarians and government forcing bad policies down our throats!”
We later realise that this man is one of those that own many kanyenya selling points around this ‘Red District’ centre of Lilongwe.
For his statements, he is honoured with a grand ovation from the bulk of the bar’s patronage. Some overzealous youngsters carry him up to appreciate his sentiments.
“The guy is right, these authorities just sit in their offices and, because their pockets are loaded with cash from numerous workshops they attend and foreign trips they make, they don’t think of the direct impact of some of the policies or laws they impose on us,” says some lady, sipping her beer at supersonic speed.
She pauses and, after two other sips, says: “What would happen to us, ladies, who ply here? While those fat-bobs of Capital Hill are busy making policies to impoverish us, we make money between day break and sunset around here— some of the same ‘authorities’ sneak from their offices and get us to do some ‘extra-massage’ on them and, from what we make from the sex trade, we feed our children and pay their school fees.”
And many people bash the Capital Hill guy for being part of a system that wants to create a Malawi which is only friendly to the already rich.
But some old man, donning a very expensive suit, joins the debate. He says: “When making your laws, do you realise that there are numerous young people earning their living by selling cigarettes, eggs, clothes, and many other things around these small bars during the day?”
The guy from Capital Hill apologises, saying he was just testing the waters; and that there is nothing like a bill pending to bar or regulate beer production and drinking.
He says: “I was just trying to see how people would react if someone suggested that the government should regulate our drinking habits through, for instance, banning beer and controlling drinking hours. I have seen that this is why Malawi is not Qatar – we can drink all our money out and even injure anyone who comes close to suggesting that we should be responsible when drinking beer!”
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