It is 17th December, 2010. Ben Arous, Tunisia. A worn-out and distraught vendor and cart-pusher walks in the middle of traffic. There is a canister in his right hand. Unknown to the spectators is its content – gasoline. The 26-year old raises the vessel and douses himself that every square of his small body is covered in the flammable liquid.
“How do you expect me to be living?” he shouts that his body shakes to the hopeless exit of his words. He then strikes a match and sets himself alight.
The air instantly gets chaotic. One spectator rushes with a bucket of water and pours on the burning man. The flame burns even angrier. Another man grabs a fire extinguisher, removes its pin and squeezes the lever. It is too late. As the fire dies, 90% of the fellow’s body is covered in burns.
The national TV covers the story. The state is confused. BBC, CNN and Aljazeera picks it up. The world is equally stunned. Humans should be incapable of such horrendous acts, not in their frenzying anguish or distemper, never in their confused minds. No one wills such a painful death. We are not wired in that way. There should be dignity and a calculated fear of suffering exposed even in our methods of suicide.
About to be blown by the wind just paces from the scene is his suicide note. It reveals a story beneath the story. The story familiar to every follower of world politics. The story of Mohamed Bouazizi.
Minutes earlier Mohamed, the chap who set himself on fire, had his wares that he was selling seized because he had no permit. He was slapped and humiliated by a municipal council. Mohammed said enough is enough. He recalled the injustice throughout his life. He recollected the prejudice rendered to his friends and family by the state. He stroke a match and burned himself in protest of the government’s brutality. His death inspired the nation. Five-thousand people attended his funeral. Protest began and spread out throughout the nation. President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who ruled Tunisia for 23 years was forced to step down. This inspired other countries and 15 plus countries protest until today in what is now called the Arab Spring.
It started with one unknown vendor on the streets of Ben Arous. He is today known as a Tunisian martyr. The Times called him man of the year in 2011. He has since received many posthumous awards and he is honoured by being on a Tunisia’s postal stamp.
The story of Mohammed Bouazizi is not a story of Tunisia. It is a story of the world. It is a story of Malawi. The injustice faced by Bouazizi are not restricted to Tunisia. Bouazizi was confiscated his wares like the many vendors who are brutalized by the city and town assemblies. He was slapped and humiliated like those brothers at Dzalamanja Forest who were recorded being stripped naked and their buttocks flogged into a dull red by the Malawi Defence Force.
The struggle of individuals over the state’s carelessness can be seen almost everywhere.
Kumbo, an orphan and ICT student in Lilongwe who saved money from January 2015 for her December exams could not write because just when she was days away from payment, to an international examination board, Comptia, the Kwacha went mad. Until today, she is struggling to raise an additional K43, 000. For Mutharika, it just as simple as the Kwacha struggling, for Khumbo it is countless weeks of hard farm work in people’s gardens.
Regina cannot feed her four kids in Balaka. Countless families are in a stampede and sleeping outside an Admarc Market in Karonga. The cost of living has gone up and salaries the same. The donors are systematically leaving the nation. The president brings no hope.
President Peter Mutharika has the country abuzz since he developed cold feet on the Access To Information bill and spoke in frenetic bursts defending his decision even when donor were breathing down his neck. Surprisingly, he brought out his illegal moratorium and suspended anti-gay laws at the direction or in fear of the same donors. Him as a constitutional lawyer knows the constitution like a malaria patient knows his dose. The executive has no such power. The legislature has. Such a contradiction brings about two conclusions. One, there is something in the ATI that he does not want implemented. Two, the President is playing neutral card on homosexuality – protecting gay rights at the same time not to outlaw criminalisation of homosexuality.
Let this not be misconstrued as being in support of Ken Msonda hate speech that we all go in the streets and detach the heads of all homos. Msonda without doubt is a deranged fellow. By now he should have known what the world already learnt long ago that our gay brothers are never deterred by death.
Just last year 600 plus gays were killed by the Americans. Brazilians have killed 2,680 of those brothers since 1980. To us, heterosexuals, it’s a matter of two people screwing each other in the ass; to them, it’s a fight for their birth right, at least in their thoughts.
That is why Eric Samisa came out this other day with all the poise he could gather in his small chest and challenged the nation to accept homos or kill them all and have a barbeque braii off their flesh in our homes. Nonetheless, it is funny how quickly he went into hiding immediately he heard about people with Msonda’s mind ready to fulfil his wish to be sent back to the creator with haste.
Mutharika should grow a pair and face the problems Malawi is facing head on.
Frankly, Malawi does not deserve a president who can just stabilize the economy but one that can improve it. Does not need that who can just make maize available at Admarc but one who can ensure that the small farmer fends for himself. The old man in the village needs vegetables, beans, chambiko, chevon, to send his kids to school and have some change for his beer. We give him just maize and assume we have honoured his desires. We need a president who can lay down structures to ensure that Gogo Nasibeko do this for herself. The man in the village is tired of charities.
Bingu understood this but he, his dreams and arrogance are buried somewhere in Ndata and somehow within this pile of mess we found ourselves stuck with his clueless brother.
For a nation at the bottom of every list of good news and at the top of every list of bad news, growth should be a necessity. Any president who provides anything less is inadequate. We cannot afford presidents whose lone purpose is to maintain our poverty.
The situation for Malawi is dire. Sooner or later, even the very China that we are staunch believers in might kick us to the curb. The economy of China has registered the lowest growth in GDP for the past 25 years. Experts are of the mind that this fall will continue. The World Food Programme Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin, already announced this week that the organisation is in critical funding challenges to handle the Malawi hunger situation. Believe you me, people, we are in deep shit! Even DPP, that party with four cobs of maize on its logo and none in its silos seems confused. It is a grave picture to paint but a true reflection of our sombre state.
Like Mohammed Bouazizi, the only question I can ask the president in all this is how the hell he is expecting us to be living.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :