Last Friday, at 12 o’clock midnight my good friend Zikomo Matope and I, ‘2012 Midnight 2 of the Year Award’ recipients, were still perched on the stools beside the mahogany counter at the mighty Sports Cafe in Mzuzu.
Just as other revered patriotic citizens of this country would do, we asked our beloved and duty-conscious barman, Tholo, to lower the volume of the gumba-gumbas in the club for the sake of our brothers who died doing nothing wrong during the anti-Bingu wa Mutharika regime demonstrations on 20th July, 2012. In fact, as my good friend Zikomo always reminds me, one of those who were shot dead by the Malawi Police ‘Disservice’ in Malawi’s commercial capital ‘Bulantayala’ was his direct cousin.
So, for the first time in five years, at least in my experience as a dedicated imbiber, there was calmness at Sports. For the first time in my 10 year old ‘comradeship’ with Zikomo I noticed my colleague gulping down what he always calls his ‘first love’ with a gloomy, pale face. And; get it from me, Zikomo isn’t the type that misuses Fridays anyhow.
Noticing our emotional inclinations, probably, DJ Fresh dished out music that even made us sadder. Music that welled up tears. Music that appealed to the heart. Music that was supposed to be music that night. The playlist on repeat was simple. It was Lucius Banda’s Life, Billy Kaunda’s Mwapindulanji and Akumidima, Evison Matafale’s Poison So Sweet and back.
And; deep down our hearts, we really got touched. We really cried.
“How I wish that man was never born,” Zikomo broke the ice, emptying his eighnth Carlsberg Green.
Zikomo hammered on the counter with his fist, calling for the attention of Tholo who was busy serving other customers. With the soft music, almost everyone in the pub turned towards our direction.
“Don’t talk as if you are a stranger in Jerusalem,” Zikomo returned. “You and I know that Bingu’s arrogance made the 20 July anti-government demonstrations possible. If Bingu hadn’t been president in July 2012 Chisomo, my cousin, would still have been alive today.”
“That’s a fallacy,” I said opening my eleventh Green.
“That’s why you will never hit it big in your life,” Zikomo almost shouted at me. “You don’t know to distinguish between fallacies and facts. What I have said is fact. Bingu caused the deaths on July 20, 2012!”
“But,” I spoke up. “It was said during your cousin’s funeral that your cousin was a thief. Didn’t they say he had a sack in which he packed goods he stole from looted shops at the time of his death? That courageous kinsman of yours said it all. Deny it?”
“It was the work of our enemies,” he said with no much emphasis. “Those who brought up the allegations were not even at the scene of my cousin’s death. My cousin died doing nothing wrong. My cousin died a courageous young man.”
“Who are you protecting?” I found myself asking.
“I should be asking you,” Zikomo said. “I am protecting my cousin. I want justice to to take its natural course. I want those who ordered the shootings to face the long arm of the law. There was surely someone at the top, not the juniors who simply carried out orders. Who’re you protecting?”
I was quiet.
“You may paint your Bingu white,” Zikomo returned. “Christen him with the best names on earth but one thing remains crystal clear; Bingu was a bad dictator, he caused the deaths on July 20, 2012. If only he had not been temperamental, my cousin and his 18 colleagues would have been alive today-drinking with us.”
“Zikomo!” a voice called from behind.
It was Fyaupe, the Karongian night-queen we had met at Club Elusion the other week.
“What are you doing here?” Zikomo asked.
“Following greener pastures,” Fyaupe spoke with a bewitching smile. “You did it better than any man has done in my eight years as a commercial sexual pleasure consultant.”
I walked away.
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