My good friend Zikomo Matope and I, are in Karonga. It isn’t the Karonga that I used to know half a decade years ago. The Uranium town, as it is populary referred to now, is home to the Kayerekela Mine-one of, if not, Malawi’s largest mine.
It is a mere stop over. We’re on our way to Mzuzu. There was a relation’s funeral in my village, Chitipa district. Much as Zikomo Matope pointed out that a ‘funeral is a funeral’ and insisted on accompanying me, deep down I knew his sympathy was not genuine.
I knew he simply wanted to get himself a visa to be out of home for some time. His wife, Marita, is a problem when it comes to giving ‘exits’ to her husband for outings. But since a ‘funeral is a funeral’ even Marita hadn’t any strength to deny her husband, Zikomo Matope, the visa to escort me.
Fortunately for us, we’d had our perks deposited into our bank accounts the day prior to our departure. I must confess; my going to the funeral, while it brought smiles to my kinsmen, it wasn’t in good faith. I justed wanted to spend some time away from home, so did my good friend Zikomo Matope.
Soon after the burial ceremony, we left, of course after some handouts to my kinsmen-just to blind them. We were loaded with the devalued currency of this land. And we did blind them, they didn’t ask us to stay longer as per our tradition.
Being a Friday, and I didn’t want to stop over in Karonga, but Zikomo Matope insisted. I wanted to spend in the usual bars of Mzuzu.
We hunted for real fun for some time. All those places I used to enjoy some five years ago, no longer have life. Planet, LuliLo Bottlestore and Big Five are all dead, very dead.
And then we found real fun.
As we gulped down our bottles of Kuchekuche at Club Elusion, Zikomo Matope and I couldn’t stop marvelling at the quality of merry-making our brothers and sisters in beer have in this part of the country.
Men with old fashioned jackets, probably primary school teachers, were showcasing their dancing antics to us all. And the girls, of all shapes and colours, were there too. Shaking their hips like there’s no tomorrow.
“Look at that one,” Zikomo almost shouted. “How can she bring a baby in a bar?”
“What’s your business? Do you want to become a Madonna and adopt the baby?” I asked under the influence.
But before I even finish saying so, Zikomo Matope left and came back with her.
“I don’t understand what she’s saying,” he complained.
“I’ll try to interpret for you. Ngamu yako yo na?” [what’s your name?] I asked.
“Fyaupi,” she said with a wry smile.
We asked her why her baby doesn’t reflect the seed of a Malawian and she told us why. She eloped with an Australian national who’d once worked at the Karonga Uranium Mine. The guy got her pregnant and then vanished into thin air.
“Ntha nemwene hayi, tuli bingi,” [I’m not the only one, we’re many], Fyaupe told us.
Zikomo Matope told me that he liked the girl and wanted to marry her.
“But what about Marita?” I asked.
“She’ll be my Mzuzu based wife and Fyaupi my Karonga-based.”
“Fya,” I turned to Fyaupe. “My friend would like to marry you.”
She shook her head.
“Why? Are you already married?”
Unfortunately for Zikomo, Fyaupe nodded. She said she is married but her husband is in prison. He continued to smuggle maize to neighbouring Tanzania even after government had issued a ban until she met the long hand of the Malawi Police.
The police, so Fyaupe bragged, is too corrupt. Her husband was arrested because he couldn’t manage to pay the bribe the police had demanded.
“Mughanile fiyo,” [I love him so much], she said.
We bought her beer, and she left.
“This town needs deliverance man! Do something as a journalist.” Zikomo said.
“Can’t you see that you’ve a story here,” he continued. “We’re complaining as a nation that we’re getting no returns from the Kayerekela Mine yet the guys who work there seem to be benefitting.”
“How do you mean?”
“Can’t you see they are taking away our women,” Zikomo returned. “Impregnating the likes of the Fyaupes and then vanishing into thin air. So, fatherless babies are what we are getting from Uranium at Kayerekela?”
“And didn’t we hear this afternoon that fish is dying on its own in Lake Malawi? It could be because of the same uranium, what do you think?”
“That’s your opinion my friend,” I countered him. “The fisheries department is investigating the case.”
“That’s why you will never be an award winning journalist,” Zikomo told me. “You’re always sitting on best selling stories. I prophesy unto you this evening, the investigations might take years and years.”
“Amen Prophet Zikomo Matope!”
Just then, another woman with well-ballooned behinds passed by. Zikomo stopped her. He trailed her and; when he came back, he demanded we should be going.
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