What is wrong with Dedza South MP?
Soliloquys have become commonplace in Chikwawa District, where I visited Tropical Cyclone Freddy survivors last week Friday.
This is because, in the Nchalo area, for instance, people’s household property has been washed away.
And, not understanding what has befallen them, some people have resorted to talking to themselves—all to some power. But individuals are talking to themselves.
I went to Naotcha and Manja cyclone survivors’ camps in Blantyre on Sunday and I saw evidence that some people have caught the soliloquy bug.
In Ndirande, the Matope area, devastated people are still shaking their heads. There must be one-way traffic communication taking place in their heads.
After all, their world has been turned upside down.
In Phalombe, where musician-of-the-moment Gibo Pierson was nearly swept away by the raging waters, some people cannot believe that their loved ones are gone— needless to say forever— after being swept away by cyclone-induced floods.
As the World Food Programme has put it, Southern Region districts that have been affected by the natural phenomenon are 10.
We all know what has happened. It is devastation all over the affected districts.
I am not surprised that, among those that have lost property, houses and loved ones— we are all losers in this case, for public infrastructure has also suffered some damage— soliloquys have become a coping mechanism.
So serious is the situation that President Lazarus Chakwera appeared in Parliament on Wednesday, when he briefed members of Parliament (MPs) on the damage done and way forward for Malawi, which has a long way to get back to normal life.
When the President made his appearance in the august House, it was business from the word go, as lawmakers offered suggestions that may be helpful in the recovery process.
For instance, Lilongwe South lawmaker Peter Dimba and Lilongwe Mpenu MP Eisenhower Mkaka asked Chakwera to plead with the country’s bilateral and multilateral lenders to grant Malawi debt relief for the economy to have some breathing space in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Freddy.
We must remember that Malawi’s public debt hovers at K7.9 trillion, with the government expected to cough K914.86 billion in interest repayment in the 2023-24 national budget.
On his part, Nkhata Bay South East lawmaker Noah Chimpeni said time was ripe for Malawi to call for climate justice, saying that would be the right thing to do because climate change is leading to the escalation of natural phenomena such as cyclones.
The President himself described Cyclone Freddy, which has, so far, claimed over 500 people and injured over 1,300 others, as a national catastrophe.
Chakwera said the cyclone has also displaced half a million people and washed away over 100,000 homes.
The President said another source of anguish is the fact that there are still over 530 people missing and unaccounted for.
“In this dark hour, we cannot afford to entertain political rhetoric and finger-pointing that send us down the useless rabbit trails of unhelpful petty interests, interests that add no value to what this moment demands from all of us.
“The only questions that matter in this moment are: What has this cyclone done to our country and people? And what must we each do to meet the challenge until we rise from this calamity?” Chakwera said.
He was on point, more so because over 40 roads and bridges have been cut off.
Ironically, while the President himself said “In this dark hour, we cannot afford to entertain political rhetoric and finger-pointing that send us down the useless rabbit trails of unhelpful petty interests, interests that add no value to what this moment demands from all of us”, one lawmaker seemed to be doing just that.
Maybe the lawmaker in question, realising that, with the President in the august House— and covered live on Malawi Broadcasting Corporation and Times Television— he was suddenly on a big stage with a big spotlight, started making unnecessary interruptions in the name of utilising the ‘Point of Order’ provision.
I am talking of MP for Dedza South, Ishmael Ndaila Onani.
At one point, a fellow legislator lambasted him for commenting on issues related to Malawi’s beautiful scenery instead of giving Cyclone Freddy issues the seriousness they deserved.
What riled me the most was when the Dedza South Constituency legislator stood on a Point of Order and, when Speaker of the National Assembly Catherine Gotani Hara gave him the floor, he accused Zomba Chisi MP Mark Botomani of failing to thank Chakwera for his swift response to the Cyclone Freddy crisis.
Credit to the Speaker for telling Onani— who probably wanted to impress the President that he loves the party more than anything else, and that he can do the ‘dirty’ work in Parliament by disrupting serious business with irrelevant questions— that Botomani has a right to address issues using his own style.
Surely, Onani did not impress me. Instead of representing the people of Dedza South Constituency well, he embarrassed us.
Yes, ‘us’. And this is why I am picking on him. I happen to be one of the people whose father and mother come from the same village, same traditional authority, same councillor, and same MP in Dedza South.
I am talking of Kauye [formerly Kantchito] Village, Traditional Authority Kamenyagwaza, in Dedza.
The constituency is really deprived. In my village, we cover a kilometre just to fetch water from a borehole at the dambo. The road from Bembeke Turn-off to Bembeke Cathedral, and I can even say to Ngononda, has been dusty forever. Instead of ensuring that it is a tarmac one, Onani spent time disrupting other lawmakers on Wednesday.
I cannot even talk about markets. They are not there. There was a need for a modern market at Bembeke Turn-off and one close to Bembeke Demonstration Primary School. In fact, a proper one in Msesa and areas thereabout.
How I wish the Dedza South lawmaker were more serious on Wednesday.
After all, Malawians are mourning and have no time for jokes.
Maybe it is the downside of having parents who come from the same village. There is no running away— to another constituency.
This, Dear Pain, is time of reflection. The work ahead, namely rebuilding Malawi, is mammoth.