I was thankful when Mike Wood wrote this blog about Joseph, the Malawian cyclist who was run over and killed last Friday. Too often, the personal aspect is overrun by the situation.
I have great respect for Malawians i’ve worked with. They work damn hard, their primary goal to support their families. It’s enrages me that they have experienced xenophobia in Knysna. The fact that they seem to have taken over gardening in our town is not theft of jobs (as they’ve been accused of) but owed to their reliability and dedication. Importantly, at least the men i’ve known, they don’t subscribe to Knysna’s rampant alcohol addiction.
This saga was more personal because my landlord’s gardener, Steven, is close family of dead Joseph. Last weekend, he cried when he told me what had happened. I may have only recently come to know him but by sheer coincidence i have known his uncle and cousin for almost 3 years and once hired his other uncle to work at a concert. Small world, indeed.
Local Malawians bear the burden of paying for funerals for their people. It’s admirable how they bond together. Unfortunately, these are tough times so there will be shortfall which the closest family members must pay. Poor Steven may lose his annual pilgrimage home because of the burden he will bear. It is expensive to send a body back to Malawi.
My sympathies to his family!
Here is what the other Mike had to say:
Last Friday it was wet. That was good, wasn’t it. We still need all the water we can get. But one unfortunate man was not so chuffed that day. Because now he’s dead.
JOSEPH MOYO, 21, was riding to work on his bicycle. He hailed from Malawi (a nation unafraid either of work or exercise and therefore a different species to the heavyweights one often sees fronting frequent toi toi demonstrations in SA). Being from that neck of the woods he displayed the national characteristics of endeavour and industry on behalf of his family back in Nzimba. Just like the thousands of other Malawian nationals here from Nkhotakota, or Kasungu, Zomba or Monkey Bay. Wherever. On Friday 18 May Moyo met his end, doubtless thinking he enjoyed the safety of the cycle path which runs alongside the lagoon all the way to White Bridge. What happened? A speeding car driver (Lwandiso Cetyiwe) lost control of his vehicle, swerved right across the road, mounted the pavement and smashed through the protective barriers. Our Malawian just happened to be in the way.
So what are the consequences? Well, first of all, we must feel sorrow for the man’s relatives, now deprived of their breadwinner (Mayor Gerolene Wolmarans seems to think we should feel sorry for the car driver too – see her quote in this week’s Knysna Plett Herald – but I do not subscribe to her view). All we should feel for that speedster, is contempt.
Malawians have long sought a living in the relatively prosperous giant to their south. When I was leaving Blantyre in 1975 (the first of two spells there), my then ‘houseboy,’ at 60 years of age, stood weeping at the garden gate. ‘Now I will go to South Africa to find work,’ he said. ‘But Rabsoni,’ I replied with concern, ‘how will you get there?’ ‘Master, I will walk.’
That last conversation underlined the determination of a people, seemingly at any age, to ensure that their children would in due course enjoy a better life than they themselves did. But that goal has been put back another generation for the Malawian family of Moyo – the man who came to Knysna in search of prosperity.
And what of the speeding driver, Cetyiwe, who killed Moyo just as surely as if he’d put a gun to the cyclist’s head and pulled the trigger? The incident will be described in court as an ‘accident’ of course. In fact there is no such thing as an accident when you think about it. Only human foolishness, which in the right combination of circumstances ends in tragedy for someone – perhaps many people.
How will a poor, unempowered, now dead, hitherto bicycle-riding foreigner stand up against a car-driving national of South Africa when it comes to the question of compensation? Indeed will the question even be asked? I think I know the answer. Somehow the driver of the car will succeed in blaming the weather rather than his own recklessness. Already commentators are talking about the unsatisfactory ‘skid resistance’ of that part of the road. Pah! We might have been in the middle of the Speed Festival, but this was not a signal to all and sundry that speeding on public roads was a God given right.
Or we might hear in due course that the vehicle suffered some malfunction. The ‘accident’ certainly wasn’t the driver’s fault. Of course not! It doesn’t bode well that Cetyiwe is already free on a pittance of R500 bail.
By the time Moyo’s body has reached Lilongwe, amidst the howls of anguish from family who are there to meet his coffin, the lawyers here will doubtless already have begun to work their magic. While presently charged with murder (most welcome) the driver’s escape from serious prosecution is only a matter of time. His admonishment in due course will amount to little more than a slap on the wrists. There’s no justice in this world. Not for the poor anyway.
Michael Wood lived in Malawi for several years, most recently from 2001-03. He published his first novel, ‘Warm Heart,’ in 2008 based on his experiences there, and has since published ‘Somali Kiss.’