For the project, we need to have some Zambians that frequent the Malawian markets participate in my research games. Thus, while we won’t actually be doing any research in Zambia, we needed to get clearance from local authorities before including any Zambians. This meant that we had to travel into the district capital of the Zambian district that borders Malawi, a small town called Lundazi.
I had to travel there last year, and did not love the place, so we planned to go and come back in the same day. The guys preferred this as well, since they said they feel uncomfortable in a foreign land, no matter how much they claim that they are “all one.”
So, on the morning of August 23, we left Nkhamenya at 6:30am, and drove 2.5 hours on dirt roads to the closest official border crossing at Mqocha (a Zulu/Ngoni word that has a click sound at the Q). The guys got border passes, while I had to pay $50 for a visa, and $20 more to register the car to drive in Zambia. Then, we drove almost an hour more to reach Lundazi.
Unfortunately for us, the 23rd was the day after the election results came out in Zambia, and the day that the party in power was changing. MDD had been in power since the start of multi-party democracy in Zambian in 1991. Ruphia Banda, the incumbent, lost to his long time adversary Michael Sata. The election was very close, and there was some scattered violence while the votes were being counted.
This timing was bad for us because it meant that things were a little unstable and also that the district commissioner we wanted to talk to had just lost his job (DC is an appointed post, and changes with the party in power).
On the first count, things didn’t feel so tense, even if there were parties going on all over town. We did see one large group march through, in a mock funeral for the MDD party, complete with fake flowers and a fake coffin wrapped in the party’s colors.
On the second count, Lundazi is lucky enough to have a very professional DC that actually showed up to work despite the situation. He remember me and Paul from last year, and gave us the go ahead to do our work.
We also wanted to meet with the senior chief on the Zambian side, Chief Mwase Lundazi, a man I met last year and really enjoyed. He is much more powerful than chiefs in Malawi, with official uniformed guards and a “palace”. People refer to him as His Royal Highness, and his word is the rule of law outside the town. Unfortunately, His Royal Highness was very gravely ill in a hospital in the capital, Lusaka, and there are rumors circulating that he is dead. Instead, we met with one of his ministers, who gave us preliminary approval until the chief could be consulted. It was good enough for us, so we set off back toward Malawi.
We decided to enter through the less official border post near Chimaliro (within my fieldsite) so that we could invite the first two Zambian villages on the way home to come to the game on Monday and Tuesday. This meant another 3+ hours on dirt roads.
As an aside, apparently the rubber seals in the Rav 4 don’t’ work very well, so buckets of dust were billowing in through the back door the whole time. Since I was the only one in the car not being paid, I took the front seat as compensation, and put Augustine and Paul in the back. While we all 4 got dusty, the two in the back really suffered.
With my hair windblown and full of dust, the guys commented that I was starting to resemble a nyau dancer, from the traditional Chewa dance, Gule waMkulu. I don’t see it myself.
We finally made it back into Malawi after dark, with still another hour drive on dirt roads to get back to our much needed (bucket) showers. As brown as the water was going on me, it came off much browner.