We, The Timau Crew, are a properly groomed people. To put it in the vernaculars:
“Ndife wana woleledwa bwino” (Chichewa) or Tilikulangika makola (Tumbuka).
Being a people well brought up, we want begin by thanking our host, lest by the end of this grueling tale, we fail to find the words with which to say:
“Yewo Chomene, tamuwongani!” or “Zimatha Abiti Mtila!” or plainly speaking, thank you Ma’am!
We do not want to thank our host, Her Excellency the CEO of the Warm Heart of Africa Tour Operators in worship tone as many are doing, but nevertheless, our gratitude is perhaps more profound than that of the many praise singers afoot.
Her Excellency the CEO of the Warm Heart of Africa Tour Operators out of her goodwill invited us to the Kamuzu Palace, the headquarters of this 15 million strong company for a ride onto the ‘Economic Recovery Motorway’ (ERM).
“Although you say I do not like the media,” read the invitation, “come – one and all – to witness and experience the ride of your life as I take you through the ERM.”
There are times when one can be nosy and fussy about invitations, but on this occasion we decided to take this invitation head on, in respect to the CEO – especially since everyone in town was heaping praise on her.
Our appointment was scheduled for 10 a.m. but us being us, we arrived at the grand Kamuzu Palace at exactly 10:05am.
The CEO, for those who did not know is “English”, punctuality-wise. She was personally at the car port by the appointed limousine and standing there with her, was tour guide Atupele Muluzi who according to recent appointments would be by the CEO’s side as a co-pilot on all rides onto the “Economic Recovery Motorway.”
For some unfathomable reason, Matilda Katopola was also there. We did not ask why or how because, the Kamuzu Palace being sort of national property, anyone, we thought, can be seen loitering there – as long as they have been duly invited and have not outlived their invitation.
“ZachiMalawi zenizeni, (typical Malawians) is this the time we agreed?” queried the CEO. The three of us sheepishly jumping into the limousine, mumbled our apologies.
There being several routes towards ERM; it was up to the CEO to decide based on the tour guide’s recommendation.
Before the journey could start, the presence of Matilda Katopola came to the CEO’s attention. For some reason she was a stigma. The CEO directed that Matilda Katopola did not belong on this tour and should be offloaded forthwith.
Chimunthu Banda, who was with us, was tasked to persuade Matilda Katopola to do the honourable but she refused to drop out. The CEO had an ace up her sleeve.
She rang Ralph Kasambara, the company’s enforcer, for help. Kasambara advised the CEO to dump Katopola in boot of the roomy limousine, where doing nothing and seeing nothing she would soon be bored to death and quit.
And lo, the plan worked. Katopola was bundled into the boot, to wait for her fate. This victory, especially the celebration that followed, was sad to say, short-lived.
Calamity soon followed. Before we had made any progress worth writing home about, the CEO said we should stop for something to eat at Mangochi Inn.
And here were Khumbo Kachale and Uladi Mussa, already at it, munching some snacks.
The minute these two hombres saw Atupele, they started laughing uncontrollably. Sarcastically they mocked him;
“Toddler! Baby! Nthumbidwa! Papa’s boy! Liar! Tell us your true age boy!”
Atupele went yellow, and told the CEO that he was not going on with us to the “Economic Recovery Motorway” any more.
“I quit!” is what he actually said.
And, contrary to the jibe that he was only a boy not fitting in a man’s world; Atupele proved otherwise.
Instead of running to Papa, he rang his wife to come and pick him up and within minutes the good lady was there, complete with a not so small limousine with escort to the colours (a convoy) and off went Atupele.
We overheard Kachali telling the President;
“Mkaziyu anali paKapoloma pompa nanga wabwela bwanji msanga chonchi.”
Change of Plan
With Atupele’s premature withdrawal, the CEO decided that we should drive back to Kamuzu Palace to concoct a new stratagem.
She disappeared into the huge palace, which by the way is fit for a whole village, while we waited in the car.
When she came out, she had, somehow, conjured Goodall Gondwe, and there he was on her sleeve.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I am pleased,” she said, “to announce that good old Goodal has agreed to be the new co-pilot as we chart our way onto the “Economic Recovery Motorway.”
Funny how when you have survived a crisis, you suddenly realize that you have been hungry for a while, without realizing it!
And boy, were we hungry!
Of the several options available two commissioned diversions pleased the CEO. At either commissioned diversions, if we could afford the cost, reasonably delicious food could be had.
The first one we sampled was the “Nyirenda Commissioned Restaurant”. When the meals were served, the CEO noticed that the beef was overdone and the soup, too salty.
We left our food unfinished. But for whatever reason, the CEO insisted on picking the full tab, and what’s more tipped the Chef, the waiters, and even the garden tenderers – a fortune by the standards of the Warm Heart of Africa Tour Operators.
Although our jaws visibly dropped, we held our peace. This, after all was all about the Economic Recovery Motorway – we had to expect the unexpected.
And so, we drove on and hit the second option, the reputed “Singini Grill and Braii Commissioned Tasty Foods” where they serve perjuries, treason and such other delicacies especially to people seen at Likuni, buyingbonya.
Upon arrival, we were greeted and sat by none other than the Chef-cum-owner the Great Chef Singini. Soon menus popped up and as we were browsing them, two plain clothes policemen came and nicked poor Goodall Gondwe.
“Why are you are arresting him?” we all cried out.
The old man, shocked beyond belief, collapsed. We later learnt that he was allergic to the “Singini menu” or something to that effect.
The road to the Economic Recovery Motorway tour was now becoming a bit bumpy. Goodall, naturally, called it quits.
A bit weary with these inconveniences and getting bolder by the day, we questioned the CEO as to the wisdom of recruiting Goodal Gondwe, when she suspected all along that he could be allergic to the “Singini menu”.
She never uttered a word.
In fact in the silence that ensued, you could hear a pin drop!
“Why did you choose Singini Grill and Braii Commissioned Tasty Foods?”
She ignored us, picked her “Orangeberry” and called up someone to brief Ralph Jooma on his new assignment as the new co-pilot on the road to the Economic Recovery Motorway.
Economic Recovery Motorway – a mirage
When one uses Google maps or these other gadgets, the route advised by the CEO’s consultants a firm called the International Motorways Facade (IMF); seems to be an inviting motorway, free of hazards etc.
But after our experience, it is not a route you should voluntarily venture onto.
To kill time and perhaps to hide her own nervousness, the CEO started chatting us up:
“When I became CEO on April 7th, 2012 this company was facing serious challenges such as shortage of foreign exchange, scarcity of fuel and many other indescribable tribulations.”
“Some sections were operating below capacity due to inadequate imported raw materials and others literary closed down. In my Hokoyo Take Cover Address delivered during the opening of the 2012/2013 National Budget, I highlighted these challenges.
“To deal with these problems, with input from the International Motorways Facade (IMF), we hatched this great idea of a journey towards the Economic Recovery Motorway.”
A bit irritated at the pointless talk, we politely excused ourselves, citing this and that, boarded off the limousine – which was no longer comfortable anyway – and waited for matola or hopefully a bus to take us home.
Enquiring from the people on the stage we were at, there were reportedly three buses coming.
One with yellow stripes and sporting Registration “Agenda for Change”; another one in blue, emblazoned in white with “DPP” and one by-stander also told us there was an old bus with a black cock insignia.
The problem with the third one, the bystander said, is that the driver is quite old for such a rigorous drive and worse judging by the premature demise of the CEO of the Warm Heart of Africa Tour Operators; he might not complete the journey.
Looking forward and pondering these options, one truth dawned upon us. We knew that it was going to take ages before any tour company took us to the Economic Recovery Motorway.
Again it became clear that much as we had been made to believe that the passenger seats on the limousines were padded for the impact of potholes, it was only the CEO’s and co-pilots seats that were padded.
The rest of us were thrown up and down as the limousine dove into pothole after pothole. We were now wiser, much wiser.
Last time we checked the projected cost of the tour – all things considered – was said to be 1billion US dollars. But when disembarking, we overheard the new co-pilot telling the CEO that the tour would cost a whooping 4.8billion US dollars!
By gosh, what a farce and a waste of time!