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No home for Gandhi

With Marcus Muhariwa:

In one of my articles a few weeks ago, I wondered what happened to the issue of erecting a bust or statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Ginnery Corner in Blantyre. Since some concerned citizens from Blantyre obtained an injunction against the development, there had not been any news.

But at last, the silence was broken last week when it was reported that the bust will no longer situate prominently beside Masauko Chipembere Highway but will be allocated space inside the yet to be constructed Mahatma Gandhi International Convention Centre in the commercial city.

Before I delve deeper into this, allow me to detour a bit and express support for two friends and colleagues in the news media, Golden Matonga of Nation Publications Limited and Gladys Nthenda of Kulinji. com who were shamelessly attacked by some criminals masquerading as protesters in Lilongwe on Wednesday.

It is obvious that these criminals simply wanted to steal from the two journalists who were on duty to keep the nation informed. I join the Media Institute of Southern Africa in condemning the attack. I salute Golden and Gladys and the entire media fraternity for the superb job you do to keep us abreast of the goings-on during these ongoing protests.

Now, back to the Gandhi controversy. I am surprised that the decision to relocate the bust has been made while the issue is still in court. The argument put forth by those in favour of the development is that the injunction that was granted and still stands was to stop the erection of the bust at Ginnery Corner but not anywhere else.

While I see the point in this argument, it looks to me like the proponents of the bust are missing an important point in this whole disagreement. These concerned citizens are not simply against having Gandhi honoured at Ginnery Corner, they are against honouring the Indian activist anywhere in Malawi.

What this means, the way I see it, is that the fight against Gandhi’s bust in Blantyre will not end because it is relocated. Those opposed to the idea want the whole Gandhi recognition in Malawi to be shelved for good.

I will not be surprised if the next demand by these citizens is that the international convention centre should also not be named after Gandhi. I would suggest that all concerned should prepare for this eventuality now and have some other names on the ready.

It is a pity that many times our city authorities avoid consulting residents on different developments they plan to bring to the people. I believe that if Blantyre City Council (BCC) and whoever else is in on this had brought this Gandhi business to residents, a less embarrassing way forward would have been found.

I am curious to see what the BCC will do with the area at Ginnery Corner which had been prepared for the Gandhi bust. The pillar on which the bust was supposed to sit on had already been constructed and it is currently just standing there, looking like someone waiting for a date who is not showing up.

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