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  1. The date is 19th May 2014; Malawians just finished casting their votes in an intriguing and one of the most nerve wracking election. Now, hours later, the entire nation is glued to the radios. They have to know who is taking the Holy Grail home.

    Francis Phiri, mid 60′s, always has an overwhelming audience where ever he goes. He has been a human rights activist since early 80′s.*Not the tallest of men, but his intellectual capacity stands out tall as the savannah baobabs in the soils of Mwabvi reserve.

    He speaks with authority and eloquence. His smile, which could be referred as ‘winning’, compliments his socio-economical arguments. People love him- their version of a ‘super-being’, a Martin Luther JNR, perhaps.

    Of late, Francis’ NGO, Malawi Human Rights Organisation, has received billions of funding. It has just relocated to an exquisite five storey, newly built MHRO house. Things are looking up.

    “How is John Tembo faring?” asked Francis, settled calmly into a leather couch, lighting a Benson and Hedges, “do you think he will win?”

    “You will be surprised.” Replied Raymond.

    Raymond Bwanali is a top notch business man. He started his career as a bank clerk of Rational Bank of Malawi. Today, twenty six years later, he owns an empire of companies worth a billion kwacha.*He is an ambitious young man, handsome and classy, in a suit that looks executive. His cuff links bear his initials, ‘RB’.

    He gazed on his Rolex and said, “I guess Rosie is running late.”

    Francis, Rosie and Raymond have a common vice, a vice as addictive as heroin- Gambling. They vowed to keep their ‘little secret’ away from the public eye. It was not an easy task. If any bad press came out it would mean doom to their careers and personal lives. No one of them had a flawless mechanism to handle shocks of such a predicament. The only means was hiding it in their closets.

    They have been waiting for Rosie for some time now. Seconds turned into minutes, 19:04, the Johnny Walker keeps downing, still no sign of Rosie. 19:13, a sound of heels against the Italian tiles comes to life. Door opens. There she was, Roselyn Khan, one leg in front of the other, head tilted up like she was sniffing the air. Her long hair tied back, the red lipstick matching her see-through short dress, her Gucci guilty breathing life to the room.

    “Sorry to keep you gentlemen waiting.” she adjusted herself on the couch and grinned.

    It was alleged that her father was a wealthy Abu Dhabi investor, but nobody really knew the truth behind such rumours.

    “Wine?” Francis asked.

    “Yes, please,” she replied, a fake smile painted on her face, “gentlemen, just as a reminder, we are putting K700 million each. The winner walks away K1.4 billion richer”

    “I’m placing my bet on Atupele Muluzi, Raymond you chose to go with John Tembo and Joyce Banda is Rosie’s.” Confirmed Francis.

    Raising his glass as high as possible, Raymond shouted, “May the best man… I mean person, win.”

    “Cheers!” a choir of gamblers sung.

    This is how it begun, on 19th April 2013, Raymond at a dinner made a tempting offer to his friends. An offer that tonight, 19th May 2014, would make one of them even richer.

    “How about we gamble on this upcoming election?” suggested Raymond, “we always argue about who will win. Talk shouldn’t be cheap. Let’s bet on our candidates. It’s called putting your money where your mouth is.”

    It would be absurd for any of them to decline such an intriguing bet. They loved to gamble. However, this time around the stakes were high. If you lose, that was it for you. No more whiskeys, flashy cars, sassy outfits and camera lights.

    Francis Phiri had placed his bet on DPP until he read an article on which shed a little bit of light to the issues which wrecked the party. It read:

    On 7th May 2012, Joyce Banda rose to the highest office. Her ascendance to power was shambolic to the DPP.*

    DPP top officials were vexed by the state of affairs- going to opposition benches in parliament. It was fatal. They knew it would be a tall order to get back to power. So they searched for loop holes in the constitution to maintain power. The following was what the DPP Bwanas were afraid of:

    crudely put, DPP members (most of them) were a greedy lot, a bunch of unprincipled politicians. They would be on your side as long as you were controlling the state coffers. Will they stick to DPP now that they were not the governing party?

    DPP lost the public trust it used to enjoy. How long will it take them to earn it back without MBC and other state assets at their disposal? Was it going to be before 2014?

    Among other things, the above forced the Bwanas to hold onto power. They worked around the clock to deter JB’s constitutional right, orchestrating a failed coup d’état. She had to be stopped at all cost. Fortunately, sanity and constitutional order triumphed over greed: Africa had her second female president.

    Right after reading this, Francis had to change boats. He believed the UDF could do the trick for him. Raymond, on the other hand, was an MCP die hard. He called them a ‘pride of lions’. Unlike the DPP, these guys were disciplined to some extent.

    Raymond used Plato’s tripartite theory of the soul as his centrepiece to define MCP members.

    “Plato in his treaties the republic argued that the soul is composed of: reason, appetitive and passion,” Raymond would say, “you are healthy if your soul is dominated by reason. Only a handful of our members’ reasoning is subordinate to greed. The rest are loyal and dedicated to the party. That’s why we still stand the test of times.”

    “I hope your ‘pride of lions’ stand JB’s heat. She mitigated the fuel and forex situation and the donors are back. I think all the other parties were counting on that predicament to score a political mileage.” Rosie counter attacked.

    They defended their political beliefs until every single fact was exhausted. Then a session of discordant followed.

    “I think Joyce Banda and her PP, that includes you Rosie, don’t have any convincing long term solutions to our problems. What policies is PP formulating to make sure we, as a country, will never slide back to such a ridiculous situation we were buried in?” Francis asked.

    Rosie laughed, trying to discredit Francis’ statement, “You’ve just reminded me of a book titled Back from the brink- 1000 days at number 11 by Alister Darling.” She spoke on top of her voice, more like Patricia Akweni Kaliati, the only difference of course, was that her arguments were at least substantial, “Mr. Darling, former chancellor of the exchequer, said ‘your first question to answer during a crisis is how to stop the queues. You can’t resolve a problem until you quell the sense of crisis. You need time to work out the best solution in a calm atmosphere.’ “

    “Our short term objective was to make sure Malawians were not sleeping in filling stations anymore. Now that we have achieved that, give us some room to formulate long term solutions. It is called procedure, Francis. You don’t cross a river before you approach the bridge.” She fumed.

    Her eyes moved up to Francis’ face. “I think you and your UDF should spend your time efficiently rather than attacking a government you were privy to. How do you accept a cabinet position just two years to an election? What a political joke?”

    The faint announcement from the radio ceased the arguments almost immediately. “We have the results, unofficial results, of 2014 general election”

    Was it going to be JB or JZU? Maybe against all odds, Atu would do it for Francis?

    You would see their legs shaking, litres of sweat rolling down their restless faces like they just came out of an intense cardio. This was it.

    “Joyce Banda…”

    Before the presenter finished, Francis busted out off his seat, infuriated and full of adrenalin. He was gasping for air, a gun in his right hand.

    “I… I will not accept this. I won’t. If I lose I’m done. My life is over. I’m done,” he cried, “It’s either John Tembo wins…” He pointed the gun at his friends, “… or we all die.”

    “Calm down, Francis.” Raymond pleaded, Rosie confused and helpless.

    “But he placed his bet on Atupele Muluzi? What’s happening? Was this a set up?” she thought. This was not important now. She had to get out of that lavish office, 20 feet from earth, or else, she was dead.

    Raymond pressed the alarm button under his couch. Automatically, the lights went out. Horror of total darkness descended on the room immediately.

    “I will kill you all… Then I will kill myself.” Francis screamed.

    Raymond’s security detail was coming up. You would hear the sound of men in heavy boots running. They broke in. Two loud gun shots immediately polluted the air.

    “As I said earlier, Joyce Banda…” a voice resonated from the radio, “…did very well, so did John Tembo. We didn’t tally the results of five districts against each candidate. We will not be able to announce the results now. Sorry for any inconvenience.”

    Power came back. The fluorescent tubes blinked to life. The floor was full of blood.

    Who died? Was it Rosie? Maybe Raymond? Francis stood there like a child who just lost his mother, his gun breathing out smoke.

    Watch out for PART TWO.