aside Screw the banks – My 2017 Cash Policy

If you are reading this, I can only assume that you have made it into the New Year in one piece. Enanu ndikuziwa kuti mwadya ma boyilo mu December; time to pay for your sins with that 30 day PEP dose. Amene mwalimba mtima osamwa nawo, tikawonana ku chipatala after 3 months. Pano ka HIV kaja kakhazikike kaye. Either way, Congratulations on making it.

Boy is it good to start a new life chapter. Out with the old – in with the new. I am not one to really fuss about resolutions. It has never made sense to me kuti why a person cannot just make life changes whenever they want rather than waiting for the last digit on the calendar to change. However ma experience amene ndakumana nawo last year andipangisa kuti I should seriously reconsider some positions.


As I indulged in the forbidden fruits of this world last month, I had high hopes for our banking systems. Over the years, tawona ma ATMs akuyikidwa in strategic positions (achina Mbowe), improved VISA services, mobile and internet banking, integration with Airtel Money, and so on and so forth. For me, one thing was for certain; access to money was not going to be a problem.

Just like most Malawians, I am an all-out festive spender. Bola kunyumba kukhale matemba ndi nyemba, magesi ndi madzi zolipira, komanso emergency money yamahule a January ikhalepo. The rest is history. Problem with me is that I do not like to travel with ridiculous amounts of money in my pocket. I find it unnecessary and uncomfortable. Besides, what is the point of having digital banking if you can’t depend on your phone and ATM cards? Koma nde December ndanya!

As customary to most employers during the Christmas month, salaries were remitted earlier than usual (unless ndiwe civil servant wa boma la Malawi). By Mid-December, the banks were flocking with clients ready to empty their accounts in the name of the season. Ife nde tinalibe nazo phuma. Ndalama zinali mu account. Tikafuna shopping, VISA swipe. Zamowa nde timadalira ma ATM akumowa konko (enter Bwandiro). Ma house bills nde airtel money ndi mobile banking. PASAVUTE AMWENE! I simply did not see the point of joining in on long ques waiting for physical interaction with an underpaid cashier taking her time to give me MY money.

The early signs of my overconfidence in the system did not take long to manifest. 19 December, 2017: MK2,000 makes its way into circulation – Malemu Chilembwe waponyedya kumbali yolakwika). On this day I decided to pass by the ATM to check out the new note and maybe grab some cash for a decent lunch. Ife kuyika card mu machine. To my surprise I am given the option to take 80 grand at once. Though this was against my ‘cashless’ policy I figured why not right?

Chilemwe – OFFSIDE

Insert noise of ATM machine making that sweet money counting sound (here)

The noise goes on for a few seconds then it suddenly stops. The machine restarts the count (that is never good by the way). Then it stops again. This time the screen goes back to normal like I am not in the middle of a transaction at all. Like my flippin card is not even in there. Yep! It swallowed it. What the f***.

As usual, tinalowa mkati. Kukayankhula ndi anthu aku ma query. Kutiyendesa ma desk awiri atatu. Kwinako kudikira pa corner penapake before getting the card back. Obviously no explanation or apology. Just ‘khadi yanu iyi abwana’. Like I should be thanking him for some favor he just did for me. Panyapake.

I should have figured from that moment that it was going to be another year of banking hustles this season. BUT NO! My faith was too strong. I rationalized the experience as an isolated incident. 4 days later, I was off to the lake. Kukawona matako. I told MG1 that it was a work related event and that she was not invited. MG2 was going through that time of the month. So I had to settle for MG3. Big Ass but not so blessed with a face.

I gassed up using my PUMA fuel card (cashless) and had less than 30 grand on me for gate entry, snacks, roadside drinks and all that. Timaziwa kale kuti ku hotel ya Sunbird, suungavutike ndi VISA Card. Grave mistake. Let’s just say that the manager and I had a lengthy ‘discussion’ on how clients expect a ‘prestigious’ establishment to ensure that all payment options for services remain functional at all times. Yathu ija yolalata.

Network Down

Tinasiya Katundu pa reception kukatenga ndalama pa boma. Network ya main bank yanga inali down, so I had to go for my savings bank which had a loooong ass line. Nde uganize mu humid heat yaku nyanga. MG3 wangokhala mugalimoto kumvesera Nigeria. Luckily I was able to take advantage of the boma trip to buy some morning-afters for her.

By then, my trust levels in the banks had finally waivered. Cashless system was not working for me and New Year’s Eve had not even arrived yet. On my return from the ‘work related’ lake trip, I changed strategies. I went out for 3 consecutive nights looking for functioning ATMs to max out my limit. 10 days later, ndalama zina zikadali mu shoe box.

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