Monday, October 11, 2010

The tale of a Malawian civil servant

I decided to go to Blantyre Main Market over lunch today. There, an old friend (no, the guy is in his late 50s) popped up, holding what appeared like the head of a small bird. It (the head) was as small as a Yao-Namwali’s mkanda!
It has become a common sight at Blantyre Market (not in Blantyre Market; for these heads, and their ‘murdered’ bird-owners, are laid down, in typical pelete fashion, outside the market along the Kioshikia.. -something, something road; as we go towards Inde Bank in Blantyre Top Mandala) to find women selling these ‘full-chickens’.
The guy is a well-meaning civil servant. He has worked for the government of Malawi from 1972. That was a time government was a big orphan in the Southern Region, without an office of its own. Yes, government was a tenant then, and its offices lay like abandoned feathers in Vanmali, Chibisa and other houses.
And this guy was there, being tossed around like a stubborn stone.
When the Bakili Muluzi administration set about constructing the ‘plastic’ building that is the New Southern Region Government Offices, the guy- a driver- was there to bear witness. He had hopes, too.
No more.
Things, he said, are not Okay in the Civil Service.
He had ready examples. He has just secured 15 hectares of land in Chiradzulu for rent. The cost, to an ordinary citizen, is fair: K6000 per growing season. All that stretch of land!
But the guy is complaining, saying he cannot manage to pay K6000, buy farm inputs (since Civil Servants with a big stomach like him are wrongly perceived to be well-to-do!), and pay casual labourers. He said he wishes he could do the farming himself, but it’s to hot out there. Again, he will be robbing government of its time.
That is the problem with God-fearing Civil Servants. They know that theft is as serious as murder, fornication, abortion…you name it.
All these years working for the government and he is still poor; can’t afford life’s basics.
I felt sad, seeing him ‘finishing off’ that head of a small, innocent bird, a head with no other tangible use but to ‘serve’ Malawi’s civil servants and other low income earners.
It felt even sadder seeing him going back to work, since it was now 01:20pm.
He said he had more work to do, to serve his government.
He loves the government; but the government doesn’t love him.
Why give him peanuts, after all.
There has been this talk that most civil servants are lazy; that they spend much time adoring women’s bottoms; that they deserve what they receive; that they are government’s little thieves. And many more.
This is not true.
We have civil servants so honest, hardworking and accountable.
Such people deserve better.
Thanks our Civil Servants. You have done a lot. Continue to do a lot.
Let The Government give them their just reward.
I rest my case, but my head: It remembers that honest civil servant.
In my mind, he will always carry a bird’s severed head.
We never know; perhaps, if he manages to source K6000, he may be able to ‘kill’ his own birds- in his own rented munda (garden, field, farm). In his mind, he has won his wishes; on the ground, poverty. As hard as nothing; as hot as intimacy.
Should I say, 'May His Soul Rest in Peace'?
No. He lives.
But he lives in poverty.

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