Talking Blues: Once beaten twice shy? No, it’s worse than that

Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera and vice president Saulos Chilima

In a town far far away, lived an engineer. The economy was in bad shape, and he was unemployed, and since everyone was struggling, there weren’t even opportunities for ganyu (part-time jobs) to sustain him.

Not one to wallow in self-pity, he looked around. Soon, he observed that while engineering was not a priority and given the hostile economic situation they had been back-burnered, only one profession was trending.

This was the provision of health services.

When people or their kith or kin fell sick, they were still paying to see a doctor. Hence the economic downturn notwithstanding, clinics were bustling with business, and medical practitioners were thriving.

What to do then? Inspiration hit the engineer. He, too, would open a clinic.

Being a late entrant on the market, he needed to aggressively market his clinic. He soon stumbled on the perfect pitch. The welcome banner to his humble clinic, which was conveniently located on a busy street, read:

“Get treated for USD500; if you are not healed, get a refund for USD1,000!”

One prominent doctor in the town was not amused with this.

It was bad enough that an engineer was degrading the profession by playing doctor. However, as if this was not enough effrontery, the pretender wasn’t giving even a gram of heck about ethics! What kind of doctor advertises, let alone promises to reimburse untreatable cases double the fee?

The doctor, not known for shying away from taking matters into his own hands, decided to visit the phoney clinician.

While he was at it, he said to himself, why not make himself an easy USD1,000?

He arrived and entered the clinic. The doctor-playing engineer welcomed and asked him,

“What can we do for you, Sir?”

“I have lost all sense of taste,” he responded.

The engineer immediately barked instructions to the nurse:

“Sister, fetch medicine from box number 22 and administer exactly 3 drops on the patient’s tongue.”

Although the doctor suspected that the engineer knew as much about medicine as a decent pastor knows how to negotiate a prostitute’s fee, he kept his cool. When the nurse brought the drug and asked him to open his mouth, he complied.

Even before the second drop had hit his tongue, the doctor spat out, got up and in a fury, exclaimed,

“This is gasoline!”

To which the engineer, as cool as a cucumber, responded:

“Congratulations, Sir! You have fully recovered your taste; that will be USD500.”

Looking and feeling very foolish, the doctor paid while inwardly vowing to his ancestors that he would find a way to get his money back.

Soon enough, he came calling again.

After the greeting routine, he explained his illness,

“I have lost my memory, I can’t remember a thing,” smug with over-confidence that this time he had the damn engineer by the balls.

The engineer nonchalantly called out,

“Nurse, bring medicine from box 22 and administer 3 drops in the patient’s …

The engineer had barely finished issuing this instruction when the doctor burst out:

“You fake doctor, that is gasoline!”

The engineer:

“Congratulations, Sir! Your memory is back. That will be USD500.”

The doctor was, of course, furious with himself for not seeing this coming. He paid and angrily exited the clinic.

But he wasn’t done with the pseudo-doctor.

“One day,” he mumbled to himself, “this charlatan will taste his own medicine.”

After a few days, he returned.

“My eyesight has become weak.”

“How bad?” asked the engineer.

The doctor pulled out a receipt from his pocket and said,

“I can’t even make what’s written here,”

The engineer, with a look of resignation, said,

“Well, I don’t have any medicine for this. But as per our policy, herewith your USD1,000.”

The doctor didn’t need to look twice to see that the engineer was trying to con him by paying him USD500 only.

“You dirt-eating piece of slime,” he barked, “this is $500 short!”

The engineer, to the manner born, responded:

“Congratulations, Sir! Your sight is back! That will be USD500.”

Once bitten twice shy, twice bitten never try, thrice bitten go and die, off rode the doctor into the sunset.

Now, you are wondering, what is Mapwiya Muulupale up to?

Let’s cut to the chase. The doctor is us, the hapless Malawian voters.

The engineer(s) are these self-serving fakes that come high on promise during campaign time, but by the time they are through with our oppressive taxes, they are overnight millionaires, at our expense.

Because space is a challenge, I will only go as far back as 1994. Those old enough will recall the promises that propelled first multiparty president Bakili Muluzi to Sanjika.

All the promises can be summed up in the free pairs of shoes promise which, when reminded of, Bakili retorted,

“If I promised you pairs of shoes, when and where did you give me shoe sizes?”

Which kind of makes sense.

I mean, if a benevolent uncle promises a kid shoes, it is incumbent upon the promisee to give the uncle their shoe size. Or else, how would the uncle buy the right shoe?

In 2004, came late Bingu wa Mutharika. First-term was filled with the stuff that dreams of people living in poor countries are made of.

However, the second term was the gravy train for Bingu and his cronies and hell on earth for the rest.

Providence intervened. What followed was a two-year caretaker presidency that started with promise in wonderland and ended in cashgate.

2014 came another Mutharika with promises of a reformed Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that had, as we were told, learnt from its 2009-2012 debacle and would do better.

The reality was different. In fact, it was so horrible that about 60% of voters blindly rallied behind a dubious alliance shrouded in a secretive coalition pact, and as they say, the rest is history.

Apart from some hardcore party hacks who have substituted the hitherto DPP cadets, and apart from the hitherto not-so-rich cabinet ministers who were paupers before July 2020 but are swimming in millions today, and of course, apart from the new royalty, no one unconnected to the powers and the party that be has anything to smile about.

Kubuwula mokweza (weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth) all over the place.

If you count, Bakili, Bingu, Joyce, Peter and Lazarus today, the doctor from the tale above was lucky. He was only deceived three times, whereas we were conned (1994-2004), swindled (2004-12), duped (2012-14), scammed (2014-20), and as we speak, a ruthless Naija style 419 is in play.

For us, the adage once bitten twice shy, twice bitten never try, thrice bitten go and die needs extending. As it is, it makes a mockery of our woes.

What rotten luck!