Blantyre's Mount Soche hotel was grubby. Blantyre was festooned with bunting and posters praising His Excellency, President Hastings Banda, who supported Dutchmen's delusions of national groups. Banda sent Malawi men to work on SA mines. On SATV, white politicians wore Richard Bucket style suits and hats, while pinning medals on troopies' chests. Gloating politicians swaggered fascist fat-arses, while inspecting guards. Their fascist, fat-arsed wives wore Hyacinth Bucket dresses and hats, while troopies died. But I digress.
At Blantyre government tourist shop, Leah and I bought ebony statues of an Af mother and child, and an Af man with a hoe. At a street-market, Af male tailors sewed clients' clothes on treadle sewing-machines. We bought two ebony carvings of Af male and female faces, with thick lips, flat noses, droopy eyelids, pierced ears with earrings, long heads with high headdresses. We bought an "ebony" Masai head. Years later, black boot-polish wore off, showing dark brown wood.
I drove us eastwards in a hired car to Mount Milange tea estates, then drove north to Ku Chawe Inn, Zomba Plateau, then Nkopola Lodge on Lake Malawi shore, with lake views to Mozambique. And ghosts of Af slavers enslaving Afs, then selling them eastwards across the lake. Leah had gyppo-guts. Again!
At Monkey Bay, Af fishermen mended nets. They hand-turned thousands of fish on wooden racks, drying fish in the sun. Bigger fish hung on wooden bars. Trekking north-west, we passed kraals and corrugated-iron stores, with Coca-Cola signs and faded Indian proprietors' names on top. In the mid-seventies, President Banda, copying Amin's 1972 exiling of Ugandan Indians, had cast Malawi Indians out of their rural stores to do business only in towns. Malawi Afs took over rural Indian businesses, and failed.
We waved to sweaty Af cyclists, peddling overloaded bikes. Smiling, saronged wives sat on crossbars, clutching bags of groceries. Other groceries were tied in sacks above mud-guards. Bush was like Zululand's bush savannah. At Lilongwe, an Af cop gave us directions. His Af prisoner, handcuffed to him, scowled.
We bought grass mats from roadside stalls. I swam in Lake Malawi near a buoy, where a white yachtsman yelled, "Out of my way!..."
Leah and I stood on the shore, watching a darter diving for fish, while an Af fisherman paddled by in his pirogue. A fish-eagle sang, "Kaaa! Ka-ka-ka-ka-kaaa!..." A SATV cameraman asked whether we'd ever return to Malawi. "No," I said. "'The Warm Heart of Africa' is like South Africa - degraded, ignorant, poor, violent."
Trekking south-east, on Malawi's eastern border, we stared across red sand and a bush-cleared area - no border fence - into bushy Mozambique. Years later, Malawi would have 650 000 Mozambiquan war refugees. (Guy Arnold, Africa A Modern History, Atlantic Books, London, 2005.) At Blantyre airport, our ebony carvings made our luggage overweight. An Af hostess let our luggage through.
Unrest: 1978 Info Scandal: Asmals' and Robert's Reconciliation Through Truth, David Philip, Cape Town, 1997, reported on PM Vorster, minister Mulder, and Information department Baas Rhoodie wasting millions of Rands trying to control the English language press and some overseas English newspapers. Vorster resigned, succeeded by securocrat Botha. Mulder also resigned, and Rhoodie was briefly gaoled. Regarding security forces' funds, Boss of Vorster's security police, general Van den Bergh at the Info Scandal enquiry commission said, "I am able with my department to do the impossible... I have enough men to commit murder if I tell them. Kill!... I don't care who the prey is." SA at the time was making atom bombs. (Arnold, Ibid).
In Cry Amandla, Holmes & Meier, London, 1984, Jane Goodwin reported that in 1978, "there were 261 people detained under security laws; 50 people banned; 149 people shot and killed by on-duty police; over 100 prisoners awaiting trial who died in police custody; 403 wounded by police gunfire; 76 political trials; people hanged, one every fourth day."
Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.