For many that Malawians that have traveled, lived or visited other countries, the first identity they always bear is that of a Malawian. Nobody readily identifies himself or herself by his tribe, home district or ethnic orientation. The diversity, that's what I call the various tribal or ethic orientations of Malawians, including 9 in Chitipa district alone, has been a great source of pride than division.
The crowded nature of our cities, intermarriages and movement and resettlement's across all the 29 districts, has diluted the ethnicity of a particular area. Attempts to shift teachers from other regions to the North in the late 90's saw the majority of schools in one region almost close. The policy, myopic as it was, was short-lived.
The majority of Malawians, in the major cities and towns, rarely live with their ethnic-like identities as neighbors, they are from all over the country. The fact that they have lived together, worked or schooled together, many have become best of friends, others have married and others literary have become brothers and sisters through our community extended family system.
Many have lived together that their communities even forget where they came from and have looked at their competences and sent them even to Parliament, as their representatives, without looking as where they are coming from.
People like Chambo Kalua, from Rumphi is now MP for Mangochi North Constituency. Others before him include Late Elizabeth Aipira for Mangochi Northwest, Gift Mwamondwe for Blantyre City Central, Henry Mpofu Shaba for Blantyre Bangwe, Moses Kunkuyu for Blantyre City South, Billy Kaunda for Blantyre City East, Late Mary Kaphweleza Banda for Lilongwe City Central and Samuel Kaphuka for Blantyre Kabula.
The quality of Malawian non discriminatory attitude, when you look at Malawians of different origins getting elected to represent the ordinary black indigenous Malawian. These include Jan Jaap Sonke for Kabula, Jacqueline for Rumphi West and David Bisnowaty for Lilongwe City Central.
This proves that to ordinary Malawians place of origin, and ethnicity or tribal alignment is secondary, perhaps its our politicians we should be asking, why the bring the issue as a key issue instead of taking a cue from ordinary voters.
The tolerance of Malawians is well documented beyond even religious boundaries. A predominantly Christian nation with as high as 75 to 80 percent professing and practicing Christians, many forgot their religious inclinations and sometimes outright campaigning by some religious leaders for a particular candidate-Malawians have voted before for a Muslim President and later a Muslim Vice President. It tells you religion really does not matter in our choices.
This should bring us to examine our past. Those that before us were called to Service of Mother Malawi. Were they too selfish to identify regions, tribes or ethnicity or even religion to make decision or decide what role they would play to their country?
The answer is an overwhelming no, they served Malawi and its interest first and never at any time did they think of how their region or particular tribe first, but they thought of Malawi, they were pride of their country and they came together for a cause.
This generation of politicians, commentators and even businesses can learn from those that were called to serve in all capacities who served Malawi first, its interest and its cause. There are many but the following can suffice to say they were true Malawians and served our cause:
Reverend John Chilembwe, who protested the inclusion of all NYASA's not from his village alone, in the First World War. He did not specifically ask for people from Mbombwe or Chiradzulu to be exempted. He knew he had a platform and voice and spoke on behalf of all Nyasa's.
Then we had Levi Ziliro Mumba, James Sangala, Lali Lubani, Kanyama Chiume and Orton Chirwa, Masauko Chipembere, Yatuta and Dunduzu Chisiza and many more, who despite their huge differences, came together at different times from 1935 to 1964 to stand up for what will become Malawi.
I am sure when they were deciding to recall Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, tribe or ethnicity was not part of their thoughts. Their thoughts were to liberate the future Mother Malawi. Self determination does not include tribalism or splitting of areas, it includes ability of like minded and love of ones land to succeed.
What has gone wrong, that every jim and jack wants to put tribal label on everything about Malawi. Who is serving Malawi and why is suddenly everybody so much in a hurry to acquire a certain label.
When Masauko Chipembere heard that his colleagues including Orton Chirwa, Yatuta Chisiza and others had rebelled against Kamuzu Banda, he did not think of where they came from, he thought of the service to Malawians-he quit in solidarity to his colleagues.
Yatuta Chisiza picked guns and was killed trying to save Malawi, Masauko Chipemberes rebellion was about Malawi.
When people like Attati Mpakati, August Bwanausi, David Rubadiri, Amunandife Mkumba, and later the Chakufwa Chihanas, ArchBishop James Chiona and colleagues. Dr. Silas Ncozana and many others, they have stood up and spoke for Malawi, they have worked to serve Malawi.
How may today have been called to service of Malawi and are serving the interest of Malawians? That is a great question each has to ask. Does the solution lie in splitting or entrenching regionalistic systems instead of building on how others, from political podiums crossed regions and won seats in areas they would not call home tribal or ethnically?
Are there lessons to be learnt from our past heros, why did they not look at a tribe or region to fight for a cause, they demanded within Malawi and got what they wanted?
The colonialist mentality was to keep different tribal groups against each other, that worked well until people like Levi Ziliro Mumba, James Sangala and Lali Lubanis refused to be bound by tribal lines and worked for the country. Kamuzu kept Malawians guessing of each other, people like Chihana rose for Malawi and mobilised a unity of purpose to spread the gospel of change!
Some peoples legacy will go as quick as they open their mouth, serving their bellies and mouths, than the larger and true calls of mother Malawi.
Just as there is enough room for all of us to stay together, there is enough room for all diverse group to demand changes or more, without trampling on the united country we have been for years. Perhaps we should look from the past and learn how they did it...........it should be service to Malawi first!