Nobody saw dark wings,
Advancing to reach him there!
A day, this
When the track to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital was green and fair!
Before, against the tide of healthy will, death advanced,
And the M'mbelwa tree, one upon which Ngoni hopes bloomed, felled!
No, death is not the stranger he met once,
He had never heard his hollow voice!
No, that man death he never knew and named,
For him, mad death, to throw us in this hot furnace, his sad wings overspread!
On a soaked, dreary February 14th day without wings,
In a room of small corners and imaginnings without wings.
There, the place of no known wings;
Yes, at the wingless Mwaiwathu Private Hospital in Malawi's Commercial city, Blantyre- A great man with great beginnings humbly from life resigned:
Unlike someone who had been on the throne since February 1984!
In the hospitable room at Mwaiwathu Private Hospital,
A room devoid of the chief's throne-
Though, in his heart, he was the throne-
The king and the throne,
He lied there as the one he had always been: The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV, Zwangendaba's great grandson, the warrior king of the Ngoni people of Mzimba, proud father, custodian of culture, great supporter of the government-of-the-day, the only chief to have a whole District Council named after his chieftaincy- even the M'mbelwa District Assembly.
He was a man, The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV, who was more than a man.
He was a 'man'.
He was 'things'.
So many things to so many men!
The great grandson of Zwangendaba who, himself, lies silent and still
Somewhere on the fertile land where The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV rests.
His day ended on Tuesday, February 14th. Oh, who can forget 2013?
All his life. All his great travels. All the development initiatives he introduced for his people. All the children and subjects he loved. Everything he stood for- especially culture- he was only waiting for the early hours of February 14, 2013.
He died. Stolen by the events of that single day which, with its darksome wings,
Flapped the spirit of a man who stood by what he beleived in.
A man who told leaders of the Livingstonia Church of Central Africa Presbyterian to leave his Ngoni people alone; yes, he told the church leaders to let Ngoni culture prevail over Western ideals of Christianity.
Said the man who speaks no more: "Do not renegade on the agreement the (C.C.AP.) church made with my ancestors. That is, let my people continue to drink their beer. Let my Ngoni people marry as many wives as they like. But still recognise them as 'full time' Christians."
About this, the great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV stood up and spoke.After the statement, The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV sat down.
Satisfied that his voice was audible enough. To be heard.
His voice was heard.
Nobody challenged him on culture. He loved his roots. The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV.
His departure is a blow to Egalaweni and its mowing cattle. It muffles the voices at Edingeni. And silences the children at Embangweni. There is no happiness at Ekwendeni.
Why? The trip The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV took to Lilongwe Central Hospital- which trip saw him proceed to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital for further treatment- has ended in sorrow.
Zwangendaba Jere- that's his real name; the name his parents gave him- laughs no more. Smiles no more. But forgets not his roots, still!
And his legacy has rebuffed death. It lives on.
The legacy. Unblown by death's everyday winds.
What's the legacy, that refuses to be blown by the winds of death? He stood firm against the demarcation of Mzimba, the only home he ever knew. He told the church, in broad day light, not to interfere with Ngoni culture. The people, the Great Ngoni People, should continue guzzling their beer. And continue taking as many wives as hey wanted. That is pure Ngoni culture. The great culture.
Of course, one thing, in relation to beer, he always said: "No alcohol abuse. I will not tolerate alcohol abuse. Don't drink excessively during the rainy season. Go to your gardens and cultivate as many crops as possible. Don't forget to rear cattle and other domestic animals. In them lies the great Ngoni culture. Let men feed their families. Let everyone fend for themselves. Don't allow your families to starve. That is real Ngoni culture."
He was a sensible king. A king who was hated by Vice-President Khumbo Kachali.
By Khumbo Kachali?
Here is how.
In September last year, The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV was traveling from Salima when, some three kilometres before Dowa Boma, there came Khumbo Kachali in his motorcade. Silens blowing the ears of the ordinary people.
The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV, so obedient to authority, parked his vehicle along the road, paving the way for Khumbo Kachali who, by coincidence, happened to be his subject as one of the Ngonis from Mzimba.
What did Khumbo Kachali, ever pompous, do?
He passed the The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV without even waving bye. Then,after traveling for some 500 metres, he phoned The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV. He said, and I quote, because Richard Chirombo was in the company of The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV, and was in The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV's vehicle at that particular point in time:
"Have you seen me passing by with my small convoy?" Khumbo Kachali asked, rather impolitely. "Yes," answered The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV. "I hope that," said the big-headed Khumbo Kachali, "shows you who is bigger (between you and me)".
Khumbo Kachali cut his phone and went on his own way. Disrupting traffic as he went. Silens brazing! This is true. It, really, happened. And Khumbo Kachali knows it is true. He knows it in his heart.
However, and this is the most surprising part, Khumbo Kachali- the Vice President who discrespected The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV during his life time, and despised him without second thoughts- has been one of the people who have followed M'mbelwa's body everywhere.
He was there at the College of Medicine Mortuary.
He was there at Mtunthama. He was there in Mzimba.
As if nothing wrong never happened.
As if he respected the The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV.
It must be the highest form of hypocrisy.
Worse still, insurbonination.
A Vice-President who never honoured The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV in his life time. Only to show plastic sadness when The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV lives no more.
It is the tragedy of power. The accident with accidental politicians!
Anyway, people like Khumbo Kachali are found far between. The majority, people like The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV's maternal uncle, the Very Reverend Professor David Sibande, will always remember The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV for what he was: a great man! Because he was great, Malawis first president, Ngwazi Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Kankhwala Banda entrusted The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV to manage his Lower-Shire ranch. That happened after The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV completed his Malawi School Certificate of Education at Mzuzu Government Secondary School.
These are, hopefully, the traits The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV has left in his children, namely: Mswati, Mkosi Jere, Emtusani Jere, and the only female,Hluka Jere. As Mkosi takes over the reigns, he is likely to maintain his father's legacy.
Of course, he is a new king. A new man. With the same Ngoni blood, of course. The same Ngoni roots.His roots are no different from those of Inkosi Mpherembe, one of the chiefs of the Zwangendaba Jere clan, the rulers of Mzimba.
His blood is like that of Inkosi Kampingo Sibande of Eswazini. When everything is over- which started with burial of The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV today -millions of people will no longer mourn Inkosi ya Makosi M’mbelwa IV but celebrate his life when they visit Edingeni, the headquarters.
People, especially women, will no longer visit Edingeni clad in black -the colours of mourning- and choke under uncontrollable wailing, as they did during the viewing of the The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV's body.
In deed, as some people said, they will never have time to, again, see The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV ‘squatting-in-state’ (in tandem with the Ngoni tradition of setting the dead figure in a squatting position in the belief that, because Ngoni people are warriors, even the dead do not rest from the labours of war.
In those days- and those days are now-, his corpse, The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV's body, will no longer be seen in a casket draped in Malawi’s national colours of black, red, and green.
The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV will be a his final resting place, observing and fighting wars on our behalf.
Wars against culture he will win.
Wars against beer drinking he will win.
Wars against excessive drinking he will win.
Wars against the demarcation of Mzimba he will fight.
In his squatting state!!! And it will be said, that that, that Chewa Chief Kalonga Gawa Undi from Zambia- who brought Gule wa Mkulu from Zambia- did not attend the funeral in vain.
It will be said, then, that Inkosi ya Makosi Gomani from Ntcheu was not there in vain. They will remember, then, that Vice President Khumbo Kachali returned from the funeral repentant. Just like that.
That time, people will only remember that there once was The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV.
That he died at Mwaiwathu private hospital in Blantyre, and was buried on Saturday, 16th February, and that he was buried with full military honours- a state funeral mingled with Ngoni traditional rites.These rites, for starters, involve such things as putting the body in a sitting position, wrapping it with nguwo (cow hide) and placing a cattle gallbladder on the body to symbolise the power of the dead chief.
People, the Ngoni in particular, will remember that, after the body was lowered into the grave on February 16, Mkosi Jere- the first born son of late M’mbelwa IV- stood beside his father’s grave and inherited the arrow his father was using as a symbol of his ascendancy to power. Of course, they will remember that President Joyce Banda, Malawi's first female president, attended the burial of M’mbelwa.
But what they will remember more is that, unlike her predecessors Ngwazi Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Dr. Bakili Erickson Muluzi, and Ngwazi Professor Bingu wa Mutharika, Dr. Joyce Banda spoke at the funeral. Yes, she did not play the usual presidential song that she was so shocked by the dead of the said chief, and could not speak. No, Dr. Joyce Banda did not delegate. She spoke herself.
It is a first, this.
A president speaking, in person, at the funeral of an individual the president said was loved beyond measure.
But 'firsts' have become so familiar in Malawi.
Dr. Joyce Banda is Malawi's first female president- though she is not the first president to be awarded an honorary doctorate degree- and she is the first sitting president to speak at the funeral of someone she claims sho so loved!
Firsts, it seems, keep reapearing in Malawi's political scene.
There, before our own lies, ends the story of a chief whose reign started in jubilation in February 1984- sparked, in part, by his installation by Paramount Chief Mpezeni- and ended by celebrating his life on February 14, 2013. His real journey, though- the journey of life- started on 15 August 1954. That year, Zongendawa Jere was born.
Though storms have raged,
Our walls of faith shaking,
At our feet The great Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa IV lies
A skeleton he is not,
Slow effacement he rebuffs.
A legacy he carries,
A legacy he hides,
Where none may scan or shun,
As they trod over his his resting cage,
A recent grave.
The legacy: He keeps not in his resting place,
Or his aged recent grave.
Or those limbs,
Bent on a culture-stratagem,
Or rusty bones as they lie low,
Supporting the weight of the modern world.
His legacy is Mkosi,
The man who has revealed himself to us!