1995: The Civil War of Malawi

malawi village

Prologue: Where Women Collide

The story starts in the village of Kaigwazanga, T/A Mkanda of Mchinji District:

Nyamuskani sat on the verandah of her house. She was relaxed on a hot afternoon of September. At a distance, she noticed a puny whirlwind carrying with it old leaves and dry grass. Little children yelling on top of their voices, chased the whirlwind until it vanished from her sight.

She picked up a ground nut, cracked it and tossed it haphazardly into her mouth. A house fly landed on her knee. She tried to slap it but missed it. She cursed out loudly, “zintchentche izi, ase!” I hate house flies!

malawi villageShe rose from her bamboo mat, allowing a monotonous scream “amayi ine” as if her mother heard her.

She entered her house, reached for the mug on top of the clay pot which served as the drinking water storage.

The water tasted cold and dealt with the thirst induced by the hot weather and dryness of the groundnuts.

When she went back outside, Namponya was waiting for her. She did not smile. There was disgust in the look about her.

Each time Namponya visited, she wanted something. What was it today, salt or nsinjiro, groundnut flour? She wondered.

“What do you want today?” she said as if she was just repeating her thoughts only out loud.

“Eh why are you so angry? Of course I want a spoon of salt,” Namponya replied in an unapologetic voice.

This actually angered Nyamuskani. She should be remorseful and shameful about it, she thought. She went on a rant. Why don’t you work hard? Is your husband a lazy man? Do I have to be the one feeding your kids? My husband works hard to buy these things; or are you his second wife?

“What did you say you gullible tumbuka!” Namponya said before launching a loud scorn. But it wasn’t the scorn that had sparked the fire. It was the insult on her and her tribe, tumbuka.

“I did not hear what you said. Repeat it you fat pig!” Nyamuskani said tightening the wrapper around her waist.

“I said you are a very gullible tumbuka pig!”

Before she even finished her sentence, Nyamuskani had jumped on her. She pushed her to the ground.
The commotion had attracted neighbors and soon the entire village was congregating.

First it was the little children watching helplessly as Nyamuskani pulled Namponya’s hair and dragged her on the dirty ground. Somehow Namponya wrestled free and pulled her opponent to the ground. With her fat body she fell on top of the tiny Nyamuskani and landed blows on her. Blow after blow.

The spirited Nyamuskani wasn’t giving up. She managed to raise her head and maneuver through the raining blows to Namponya’s nose. She bit it with all her oomph at the first go and held on to it. She felt the blood in her mouth but she was not letting go.

Namponya was crying out loud. She had stopped with her blows. She called out for help. Help! Help! The first to intervene in the fight was Mayi M’busa, the wife of the reverend of the local church of central African presbytery, CCAP.

She was shouting, “You two stop it! Stop it now! Look there are children here!”

She was pulling Namponya but as she did so, Namponya screamed further because below her, the blood faced Nyamuskani wasn’t letting go of her nose. Then all of a sudden, Namponya just stop screaming and fell on top of Nyamuskani.

The crowd; the children, the women and the men who had been trying to stop the fight, sometimes cheering, gulped on the empty air and like a choir fell to silence at the same time.

“Andiphera mayi anga! Mtumbuka uyu wandiphera mayi anga!” from the multitude of the villagers a young voice rang out. It was Chifundo, Namponya’s daughter crying out loud, “She has killed my mum! This tumbuka woman has killed my mother!