So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him: “Do not marry a Canaanite woman. Go at once to Paddan Aram, to the house of your mother’s father Bethuel. Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother.” Genesis 28:1-2
Growing in Malawi among the Southern region Ngoni tribe, I’ve come to witness the extent to which all Malawians are tribalists. I first come upon this tribal heatwave as a child when an elder relative (type of relation withheld) told me frankly: “When you marry, make sure you marry someone that is either from Lilongwe down.”
I was just a nine-year old girl then, happy to play my hopscotch and house and other little girl games. When I asked my elder relative for clarification, what I got was that while we are all Malawians, I should scratch out from my list of possible husbands anyone from Kasungu up or Thyolo-Mulanje, and Chikwawa-Nsanje in the south.
In their defense, people in the northern region districts, are not generally fond of marrying girls from the south because “they don’t have manners. The southerners don’t want their children to marry northerners; northerners also do not want their children to marry northerners.
One day a girl brought in the name of a possible suitor.
Relative (type withheld) asked: “Is he from the north?”
Girl: “I don’t know.”
Relative: With a name like _________!”
On the northern side, young boys and girls are chided when they marry girls or boys from the south. Apart from the manners issue, northerners also insist on the bride price whether it is a boy or girl marrying in the south: they insist on it, overpowering the southerners.
Despite these differences, today all families are littered with cross-cultural marrying. There are in-laws from the northern, southern, Chikwawa-Nsanje, Thyolo-Mulanje boys and girls at the table: it is not possible for families to unleash their tribal stereotypes.
We have all inter-married and the dinner table mix makes tribal-bashing often offers tongue-in-cheek moments as elder relations are reminded that some of the tribes being discussed are in-laws.
Last week a report carried by The Maravi Post held that the Northern region had rejected VP Chilima and his United Transformation Movement. And it seems, they also have problems with the MCP and the DPP.
This is the typical or proverbial northern region view of political parties.
But my response is “how can the north reject their own sons or daughter?” The question is blurted out with tongue-in-cheek because of the blaring obvious ironies.
- How can the north reject UTM, their daughter is the prospective First Lady? Mrs. Chilima comes from Mzimba and is a member of the Chibambo clan; which is a powerful lineage.
- How can the north reject MCP, their daughter is the prospective First Lady? Mrs. Chakwera is also from Mzimba.
- How can the north reject PP, their son is the prospective First Gentleman? Former Chief Justice Richard Banda is from Nkhata-bay.
It is a flight of fancy to make the claim that the north would reject these three political parties. In fact, the opposite is true: any time any of the leaders hold meetings in the northern region, the support is overwhelming and supportive. The leaders of these parties are welcomed with open arms and with much love and respect. Imagine: a win for any one of these political parties, will lead to a First Lady or First Gentleman from the northern region.
There is no question of the north rejecting UTM, PP or MCP.
There is no question of the center rejecting UTM, PP or MCP.
There is no question of the south rejecting UTM, PP or MCP.
The three parties embrace peoples from all the regions and the regions love the parties.
It is tempting to call this possible rejection as tribalism. But there is no there is no more ”kasankhana mitundu!” There has been inter-marriages and the in-laws are among us. Malawians can no longer afford to be tribalistic.
I propose we start embracing tribalism for what it really is: this is tribal pride.