When the Circus ends: Recollection


Nine years ago, I wrote in The Daily Times about impermanence. This was the time the then president Bingu wa Mutharika had just died. This piece was published then and it was, to me, a generous advice for those in power and had and have the belief that they will remain in power for ever. This is also a warning for those who are in power today because time, changes.

Death will never be timely. Even Methuselah, that patriarch who evaded the sharp fangs of death for nearly a millennium until he met death at 969 years, can be said to have had an untimely death, and so sudden.

The lasting legacy that Bingu wa Mutharika (Now forever resting in his grand marble mausoleum at Ndata) left to Malawi is not, the unfinished coloured-later-turned-blurred dream. Rather, the lessons learned from his abrupt departure.


After his sudden and untimely passing (for death is never timely) those with threads of sanity intact in their heads begin to accept that time is indeed a savage forever whirling us to unexpected destinations, sashaying our hope to despair to hope and to despair again while turning things and our status upside-down-inside-out-left side-right.

But the dead must be left dead, to rest in their peace while those left behind must be reminded that life is a circus and most times, unfortunately, there are no trumpets to announce an end to it.

And when the circus ends, thoughts in abundance race into your mind while a torrent of memories suddenly come flooding as you recall the bitter taste of an era gone, and think about what lies ahead.


When the curtain to a circus abruptly calls, you remember how someone, by mere accident of nature, being a President’s brother, became a sort of presidential crone flying in presidential jets, travelling with an exaggerated motorcade with sirens blurring.

When the last scene of a circus is performed you can’t help but remember that arrogant and uncouth personal assistant to the wannabe president.

You remember how he grew multiple wings flying an extra ordinary pitch. You really recall word by word how he, without an iota of decorum, called you the other day remonstrating against you over an innocent story challenging how dare you taint the image of someone untouchable who would be the next President of this gentle nation while reminding you how little you earn as a green scribe at the same time pampering himself that he deals with people with names not small chaps like you.

Today you ask yourself and wonder what happened to the dream and to whom is that presidential-aide-to be venting his fermented arrogance and frustration packed in unprintable ranting.

After the circus you begin to think about that good writer, yes the learning post of analyses, who after testing the blue notes became another sell out stuttering to analyse and defend executive mishaps while turning against colleagues in the field and exposing a pathological aversion of people from one part of the tiny nation; blaming them for standing between the fallen president and his coloured dream.

When the time keeper of a circus abruptly signals time up, you recall how one man became the only merchant of the land; owning every business, harassing and grabbing land from benevolent hearted women.

An end, especially a shocking one, to a circus is always accompanied by ironies and cosmic comeuppance. When it comes you remember that woman, yes that erstwhile Cabinet Minister we all began to believe was assigned to lie and insult us, threatened to fire all “unruly” civil servants whose only crime was to ask for a small raise to their small perks and when the end comes she was the first to be fired.

Really, there are times you wonder how the end comes. And when it comes, you come to think of that man who become a de facto anchor of news on the state owned television peddling lies, refuting, counter refuting and then struggling to correct some uncorrectable carelessly uttered executive slips of the tongue.

When the merry-go-round is ended sad memories of how eight months of university students’ life was wasted, never to be recovered, while the perpetrators went about being adorned with medals of honour for being the best ever this, the best ever that.

When the mad season closes, you look at the past and remember how terror reigned, unpunished and condemned. You think of the cooked up, hastily written suicide notes of a student’s gruesomely committed-suicide. You wonder what is racing in the minds of the masterminds of that heinous act and silently pray for truth to be out.

You recall the traumatising wails of the twenty dead in a violent meeting of bullet and flesh in a desperate pursuit of freedom.

Whet the circus all of a sudden comes to a close you are reminded that political chameleons, parrots and scavengers will always be on the prowl changing from one political party after another, always parroting what the President says.

A poignant feeling grips you when you look at how even some self acclaimed civil society leaders have become praise singers, wearing party colours, palpably asking to be considered for positions in the new government; and you can’t help but be suspicious whether their past call for change was for all of us or for their purse.

When the circus ends you learn and accept that the dancing arena remains the same while masquerade come in different masks, yesterday in yellow, today in blue and tomorrow in orange.

When the cavalcade is hastily brought to a halt you see how characters change. You are surprised how party members who, just a few days ago, were masters of arrogance, exuding legendary smugness become a miserable lot quickly apologising for sins they have not even been accused of and you really ask: “are they the same?”

You know, when a festival is over, that no party in the country is rooted on principals and politicians are a bunch of comedians, as fickle as the plebeians of the Julius Caesar’s time shifting allegiance quicker than the blink of an eye.

The end of a carnival is a pool of lessons in change. You look back in time and wonder that these people who were tossed from one prison cell after another now drive in ministerial Benzes with the national flag dancing to the change of the wind while the detainers go hope with broken hope and fractured souls unsure of what will happen to them now that they have become the wretched of the earth.

When the last line of a badly written play script has been performed you only hope those who now sit on the ivory tower of power have drawn lessons from the sudden end that they too might find themselves in the position where the DPP minions now find themselves.

When the circus ends you sit down trying to coin words coming from a fractured heart in an attempt to remind the nation that the world is indeed a parade which at the command of time, the master, the first become the last while the last before the first.

As we buried the conductor of that orchestra you know in the blue-back depth of your psyche that he is not alone buried in his grave, but along went people’s careers, hopes, hauteur, tribalism and the death of the purse.

When the Orchestra is finally muted, only the faint notes resonate in the memories while we attempt to recall the sad lyrics of the songs.

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