In Malawi, cocaine has always been a mystery drug, priced out of the common man’s reach. We grow a lot of marijuana in this country, which makes it very cheap to sustain a marijuana addiction than a cocaine addiction. I always thought cocaine has little importance in our society, until a routine cocaine dealer let me in on his dealings. Please note that the cocaine dealer’s name is fictitious, but the story is fact.
It was early Sunday evening and I was in the mood for some expertly made Mang’ina (Boiled lower legs of cattle) so I found myself at Club 47, probably the best place to get Mang’ina in Lilongwe. Bwandiro is an interesting scenery during early evenings between 6pm and 8pm because you get to witness a wild beast migration, as prostitutes, fun seekers and all kinds of small scale vendors selling cigarettes, and condoms start flocking the place from all directions.
Enjoying my mang’ina, I watched on as the main Area 47 road slowly filled up with scantily dressed women, and fancy vehicles picked up one after another. Range Rover, BMW, Mercedes, Government Vehicles, I sat there like an enthusiastic kid counting how many fancy cars would pick up prostitutes by the time I finished my Mang’ina. 15 minutes later something caught my eye. A Nissan Tiida rolled up and parked next to my iconic Toyota Duet, facing the main road, but nobody came out of the car. At first I thought it was just some voyeur weirdo who came to see the high quality chocolate thighs on display along the road, but I noticed that every 5 minutes or so, a young man would walk up to the driver’s seat, transact in something then leave.
I realized that he was the middle man in some kind of scheme, which excited the detective inside me, and I decided to follow the middleman closely. On his next transaction, my eyes followed him to a fancy Prado parked on the People’s convenience store car park where he delivered something and got a bank note in return. I immediately made it out that the Nissan Tiida guy was a dealer and the Prado guy was one of his buyers. I was interested to see more, so I bought a green – inevitably – and sat back to watch the show. It wasn’t a long time before finally the dealer got out of his car. A tall, well built black-asian half cast totting a pipe. He walked up to one vendor and bought a cigarette, tossed the pipe aside and started smoking. Then the middle man came again, they went to the car together and transacted, this time a small package was given to the middle man and the drug dealer drove away. The middle man went to Third World, another drinking joint and ordered some food and started drinking.
To keep a close eye on my guy, I decided to shift over to Third World, which I did and started eating some Braii at the entrance while watching proceedings. By this time my alcohol gears were shifting like a race car. After a little while, a prostitute walked up to my middle man and called him Antonio, so I got to learn his name. I put my braii on a plate and sat closer to the two, pretending to mind my own business. The prostitute took out quite a few bank notes from her purse and Antonio gave her a small “ball” made of aluminium foil, that’s when I knew what was really going on. The prostitute ran out in frenzy and Antonio, looking calm, went about his business. He left third world looking a little drunk about 45 minutes later, having made 7 transactions, mostly with prostitutes.
By the time Antonio left, for me the night had already turned into a drinking night which would end up at Chez Mtemba, where I would find Antonio again, now well intoxicated and well paid. The 9 bottles of Carlsberg that I had taken by this time gave me the courage to walk up to the cocaine dealer and try to make a friend, because after all, several rounds of drinks and roasted sausages is all that it takes to make a man a friend, and indeed we hit it off. In our drunken state, and after lots of football jokes, a totally stoned middle aged woman walked up to him and squarely asked him if he had more crack in his car right in my presence. He laughed the lady off to keep up appearances with me but I pounced on the moment by drifting the conversation towards cocaine. I told him that sometimes my friends get overpriced cocaine from prostitutes at as much as MK10000 per small ball but we don’t know who their original source is.
Immediately a drunk Antonio trying to do business removed all his passwords. He showed me his stash of about 16 balls which he told me were going at MK7500 each. Apparently, he is one of several small time dealers that are supplied by the larger ones. To stay relevant, I made up another lie about how one prostitute mixed her cocaine with some stale white powder to sell more. He retaliated by saying his team sells the highest grade we can find in this part of the world, his main customers being tourists who he claims know their cocaine well and cannot be cheated. He marketed his product saying they get it from a better route in Beira, Mozambique which comes straight from South America. He said most cocaine in Malawi is poor because people get it from Zimbabweans who get it from South Africa.
South African cocaine goes through many crooked people who mix all kinds of white powder stuff to bring up their volumes, he continued. I would give you a hit of mine to see for yourself but you have to buy because I have strict targets, he offered. I gave the excuse of not having money to which he laughed and said as more Malawians get hooked onto this stuff it’ll become cheaper. You see all these prostitutes? Most of them are hooked, but that’s exactly why they are still poor. They sleep around with rich men all day and go home with ten thousand kwacha a day but the very next morning all that money comes to me because they can’t keep up this life without my product. Some of them even team up and contribute money just to buy a hit that will at least take them through the night. Cocaine might not be too big of a problem now to the government, because they don’t know yet that together with weed, it is the fuel that keeps these whores burning.
That day, I went home feeling nauseated at every thought of what the future holds for Malawi. At the same time I felt like I should win a Pulitzer award for some quality unintended investigative journalism.