SPARE A THOUGHT for the people who live under Traditional Authority Phambala, in Ntcheu. In December last year, hyenas in this area killed a woman. As if this was not enough, four children survived attacks, sustaining injuries and were scarred for life in the process. Livestock has not been spared as well. All this in a day’s work.
Ntcheu has a reputation for hyena attacks. It would seem, however, that every single year, authorities appear unprepared to deal with such and inspire confidence by saving lives. That hyenas keep outsmarting humans for many years would be laughable (sic) were it not so tragic. Yes, there is only so much that can be done and casualties will always be likely but is enough being done to ensure that minimum standards of safety and security are met in such areas as T/A Phambala’s?
It would appear as if nothing is being done at all! Reports say the rangers who were deployed to deal with hyenas only lasted three days and went away. Apparently there was no money to keep the rangers in the area for longer. So, being the thinking and imaginative Malawians we are, what was the best solution? Remove the rangers and leave the people in the area exposed and vulnerable to attacks. What is one life lost, anyway?
But, one Malawian life lost – especially as needlessly as in it being taken away by a hyena – is a severe loss to the nation. We lose out on human capital; we lose out on possible positive contributions that could have been made by that citizen. Beyond that, we have a family plunged into pain; a community thrown into mourning and fear. It is not normal and we must not normalise such losses of life, no matter how little we feel about such cases.
Yet, that is the fate of most Malawians – ever-present death because the country they live in cannot allow them to live in dignity, with respect for their lives. In a sense, therefore, being Malawian is nothing short of a being born into a geographical error. It is a curse, hardly a blessing. Can you imagine this: you are born Malawian so that a hyena can take your life away. Surely, there should be more to life and it is the duty of those who claim to govern us to ensure that every Malawian is afforded decent and dignified living in which their safety and security is not compromised.
Save to say, the Ntcheu hyenas are not alone in their mission to destroy Malawian lives. In Lilongwe, at Capital Hill, sits a cackle of hyenas of similar prowess and purpose to harm. Since 1964, these hyenas have consistently conspired to undermine the citizenship and dignity of Malawians, many of whom are suffering as a result. Those of us outside the realm of power (control of the state) have fallen victim to the machinations of successive governments, whose principals and associates have – and continue to – laugh all the way to the bank, their reward for helping themselves to the national cake.
We see all of this unfold. We speak about the pain it causes us to see resources that should be helping in getting our lives better being diverted to powerful and connected elites. Occasionally, we cry foul and demand justice. Some rangers are appointed to deal with the prowling hyenas but before they actually do anything, they are withdrawn with no clear explanation being given. As a result, the hyenas are left to do as they please; they are left to continue their plunder and their killing with impunity. The poet, Tanure Ojaide, must have had these hyenas in his mind when he wrote the poem, ‘The Fate of Vultures’:
O’ Aridon, bring back my wealth / From rogue-vaults; / Legendary witness to comings and goings, / Memory god, my mentor, / Blaze an ash-trail to the hands / That buried memories in the bowel / Lifted creatures of cash into their closets
It’s an excerpt worth reading over and over again, especially in light of our own Malawian context, where we have seen those entrusted to run government affairs plunder the wealth of this country, stashing it in their ‘rogue vaults’.
Yet, beyond the wonder and amazement of who has stolen what billions or what maize and who will not be arrested because they are powerful, we need to pause for deep reflection as a nation. What is really going on? What has happened to us? What has happened to this great country? What has happened to Malawi’s soul?
While current issues require attention, we must not fall into the temptation of losing sight and forgetting that beyond some of these thieves – those who unashamedly steal from the nation, kill national development and destroy people’s confidence in our systems of governance – Malawi is not going to go anywhere. Malawi and her people will remain.
Pity the fate of flash millionaires / If they are not hurled into jail, they live / In the prison houses of their crimes and wives / And when they die, of course, / Only their kind shower praises on vultures.