Let me begin by apologising to ardent followers of this column who missed it on Monday last week. I offer my sincere apologies to you all.
Allow me to brief you on what happened, probably I may get a quick forgiveness from you. To begin with, I always strive to get a clean slate of my work schedule, but it was not practically possible on Sunday last week when I usually file my article. I had travelled up to a rural area in Mzimba to celebrate the New Year's Day with my parents, relatives and friends. But alas, technology let me down.
The place is just 34km northwest of Mzuzu city and yet access to mobile phone network is a daily struggle. Network is as precious as foreign exchange in this rural part of Mzimba.
To get just two bars of network on your phone, you either have to climb to the top of an anthill, or climb a tree or get to the roof your house. The place is so close to the city, yet so far away in terms of technology.
My humble appeal to mobile phone network providers is not only to expand, but strengthen their networks in rural areas where their services are badly needed. Quality network should not just be the privilege of only urban dwellers whose environment is infested with network towers in almost every township.
While in the village, a couple of elders gathered around me and asked me my views about the economy, politics and other matters. They wanted to find out what had caused the sharp rise in prices of commodities. One elder even questioned whether the inflationary pressures are due to a "female" president who is now in State House and probably things would be different if we had a man there.
In the first place I explained to them that the hardships had nothing to do with the gender of the president. In short, I told them the rise in prices of goods and services is as a result of differences in approach to the economy between the late Bingu wa Mutharika's government and that of the incumbent.
I said the late president used to fix the kwacha and vehemently opposed devaluation of the currency. However, I told them that Amayi had done the opposite.
She had not only devalued the kwacha, but also liberalised the exchange rate so that the currency attains its market value. They listened attentively but they were not convinced. In fact I suspect they didn't understand me.
In the end, one of them, who hardly saw the inside of a secondary school classroom, said: "Ise tikukhumba shuga, sopo na feteleza wakutchipa. Mzimayi uyu watipweteka chomene (We want cheap sugar, soap and fertiliser. The president has caused a lot of suffering.)
At that point, I recalled what President Joyce Banda told the international media that the tough economic reforms she has undertaken are a huge gamble that could cost her political career. I seriously doubt if these elders of my village will offer Amayi a vote in 2014, whether she has taken the right reforms or not.
Having said that, let me turn to the issue of consumer rights activist John Kapito, who is Executive Director of Consumers Association of Malawi.
At the mention of Kapito's name, many a president would have their intestines rolling. Kapito has been a consistent critic of Malawi presidents. He fiercely criticised former president Bakili Muluzi, then engaged his third gear on the late Bingu, but he now seems to have pressed hard the last cruise gear, Gear 5, on incumbent Joyce Banda.
Through his activism, Kapito has earned quite unflattering adjectives and nouns. Some people have called him an extremist, others say he is an opportunist, yet others too say he is a frustrated man after he was left out of lucrative government positions.
But I chose to differ with all those labels. Kapito is such a courageous man and sometimes we need such characters among us for certain things to work. The problem I observe in Malawi is that there is generally lack of tolerance of opposing or divergent views. It doesn't matter whether it is a church, a political party, a village, a club or an association.
The 30 years of one-party rule seem to haunt us. In most circles holding an alternative view is a taboo. It is either you are with them or you are against them. Those who hold opposing views are usually frowned upon and if it is in politics, they are shown the exit door sooner than later.
I am therefore not surprised that Kapito has suddenly become the bad boy of Malawi for championing a demonstration slated for January 17, which is Thursday next week.
He is being vilified left, right and centre by some ruling People's Party (PP) officials, self-styled youth organisations and some individuals.
However, I have a word for Kapito's opponents; please show him some love and tolerance. In a democracy, you can disagree with Kapito, but do not disparage him. After all, he is merely exercising his rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi.
The beauty about democracy is that it allows even a fool to have his or her voice heard. I for one do not agree with some of Kapito's arguments, but I have no right to get a court injunction to block his demonstration on January 17. I have no right to write defamatory statements against him on social media. I have no right to slander Kapito on national television. I actually have no basis to pelt stones at Kapito and his fellow marchers along the Chipembere Highway on January 17.
I have to respect his wish, just as Kapito ought to respect my rights too. In conclusion, I say, let us accord Kapito all his rights and freedoms, even if we disagree with him.