Behold the image of our office guard, Mr Chiwaya standing proudly in front of the car, wearing cropped white pants and multi-coloured striped socks. Behold the slightly protruding belly and just visible outline of a white vest underneath the shirt. Behold the spectacles, functional status unkown. This my dears, is the portrait of a Malawian Man. A juxtaposition of tragedy and flair, hope and misfortune, all with served with a cheeky dollop of humour.
The cropped pants represent the inadequacy repeatedly exhibited in the Malawian man. You see we never really manage to do anything quite right. It’s an inland port without barges, it’s a presidential jet that is not sold, it’s failing to conduct an election that’s already been held three times, its passing laws about farting in public. It is repeatedly a case of close, but no cigar, always the bridesmaid, never the bride… just ask the Flames.
The specs are a no-brainer. We are a nation of keeping up appearances, impressions and facades. Protocol is king. It’s about having Presidents who have 10 prefixes- professor, doctor, imperial highness, ngwazi, grand pumba, you name it. The substance matters not as much as does the perception. Drivers will bow, ministers will crawl, men will feel important and will let nobody forget it. That you are actually useless and incompetent at your job, nobody cares as long as you drive your Prado.
The white vest beneath the shirt represents the false sense of security we all employ as Malawians, fooling ourselves that it’s really all right, were actually doing ok and its all going to be fine. This is the ‘aBwana, aBiggy, aStogo’ phenomenon at work. No Sir, you are not a boss you are a loser getting drunk on Rider sachets every day. Why are we calling each other bosses when we are clearly losers? This false sense of security stops us from seeing the truth and improving. The moment we recognize the truth we might just do the unthinkable and refuse to keep living in mediocrity. We might just hold the people in power into account so they start creating jobs and generating wealth for the people. Till then, your man’s just gonna keep thinking he’s the man.
And yet. Aaaaaaaand yet. Those multicoloured striped socks peaking out proudly underneath the pants. A glimmer of hope? A side-serving of grit? For all my belittling and disappointment with ourselves, I cannot help to feel like we will rise up, we will not and cannot stay this way forever. Once the oldies are phased out I see a generation with ideas, hunger and chutzpah. I personally refuse to live out my life in this same rubbish and I dare say my peers with me. Dare we give Malawi a chance?