Editor’s Note: This is an “autoeulogy” from departed Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika, as told to his witchdoctor, Mfiti wa Mutharika, the only person capable of having a postmortem conversation with him.
When I first learned that a cardiac arrest was coming for me, my first reaction was something like, “Does this Cardiac guy know who I am? I’m President Bingu wa Mutharika. No one arrests me. I arrest people. More accurately, I get poorly paid cops to do the dirty job for me. And I don’t think anyone in Malawi has enough petrol to get to my palace, let alone escape.”
Then I learned that cardiac isn’t some Malawian dissident sent by Lucifer, pardon me, I mean, Her Excellency Madam President Joyce Banda, to arrest me. (She is giving me a dignified funeral next to my Ethel, so I have to remember to be gentler than I was in life). Cardiac arrest is another name for a heart attack. (Sort of like my family members called me Brightson Webster Ryson Thom).
Even then, I did not flinch. I know a guy in the United States of America, Dick Cheney is his name, who has survived five heart attacks. I say, “has survived” because I haven’t seen Cheney here in my home after death. (I’m not going to give you the satisfaction of knowing whether I’m in Heaven or Hell. I’ll leave that to your imagination).
Anyways, I thought I had as many chances as Cheney. My plan was to post bail for the first cardiac arrest, then board my private jet and head West for the best medicine money can buy. As this funeral suggests, I didn’t get to do that.
I died – God knows when.
I was furious! A heart attack is such a freaking racist thing, I thought. You laugh, but what am I supposed to think when a heart attack spares a white vice president – five times! – but kills a black president with only a single strike?
Was I not as wealthy in life as Cheney? I owned a country, of Christ’s sake! And have you seen my Ndata Farm White House in Thyolo? It has a nuclear bunker like the one Cheney hid in on September 11.
I didn’t get to reveal this, but according to dossier from my Malawian CIA, after I told Western donors to “go to hell” and repeated, “Go to hell!” the imperialists threatened to unleash nuclear warheads on Malawi.
My CIA conducted further espionage into the plots of the evil empires, and established that after they hanged Saddam Hussein, Malawi replaced Iraq on what our son Obama’s predecessor dubbed the “axis of evil.” I acquired Saddam’s stockpiles of nukes and built a bunker to safeguard them. (That’s why the American CIA couldn’t find them in Iraq). I know you don’t believe me, but think about this: Do you think I’d have had the balls to expel the British idiot of an ambassador if I didn’t have nuclear weapons?
Anyways, I don’t care anymore. If Malawians have decided to desecrate the State House by turning it into what my Callista would call “Mandasi House,” so be it.
Since I died, however, I’ve had a change of heart, though not literary like Cheney. I no longer think heart attacks have racist tendencies. In my short life in death, I have run into a lot of dead cardiologists, who’ve educated me a great deal. I thought I’d share what I have learned with Africa’s sexagenarians, septuagenarians, and octogenarians, so we may never again lose another big man in such an undignified manner.
The faster you get to the hospital after a heart attack, the more likely you are to survive. The hospital should be well funded and equipped, or doctors will just stand by and watch you die the way those MDs at Kamuzu Central Hospital did when I arrived there.
For decades, we African leaders have raped the economies of our countries, and shipped all our wealth abroad, leaving our people begging foreigners to give the same money back to us as loans and aid. (I can reveal the secrets now that I’m no more. What are they gonna do, kill me?) What the heck was I thinking? Did I expect Madonna to adopt all the children of Malawi to save them from poverty and disease?
I hope my sudden demise has taught African leaders that death will not always give us big men enough notice to jump into our jets and head overseas for treatment. I hope they will learn that we too are susceptible to sudden natural death.
I know some of you old men still believe that death in Africa comes only by malaria or witchcraft. (I bet many of you are wondering how a powerful man like me – who was “healthy” the day before he died – could drop dead on the following day).
Let me assure you, my friends, it’s not witchcraft. The much-envied improvement in African quality of life has not come without a cost. As we move from huts to mansions, so do our taste buds. The mostly vegetarian food we grew up with becomes inferior, and is replaced by expensive, processed, delicious crap most of us can’t even pronounce. Every bite increases vulnerability to heart attack – a disease neither mosquito nets, nor sacrificing goats can prevent.
Quality of life diseases, as they have come to be known, are the reason people in the West have hospitals and health clinics on every corner. They also have ambulances staffed with trained personnel, who begin responding to medical emergencies the moment they arrive, rather than wait 10 minutes to get to the hospital.
I know you are probably saying that we Africans don’t have money to build hospitals. Have you seen our offshore bank accounts? Maybe you think we are too corrupt to run such intricate emergency response systems. Let me tell you that there is no place more corrupt than the West. Believe me; I got my Ph.D. there. What makes their citizens tolerate corruption is the fact that Western politicians spend most of the loot they steal in their home countries so that it benefits local economies. As a result, most people in Western countries can rest assured that in the case of a medical emergency, they will be minutes away from lifesaving help. Undoubtedly, that is the reason Cheney is alive today, and I’m not.
I looted my country without mercy. And where is my money now? Why didn’t anyone remind me that Africans don’t bury you with money to spend in your death?
I will, however, deny to my grave charges that I had a joint offshore bank account with Robert Mugabe. What would my Bob and I say when a Cayman Islands bank manager – upon hearing two elderly African gentlemen announce that they want a joint account – says, “I didn’t know gay marriage was legal in Africa?”
Now that I have been so honest, may I rest in peace?