I remember a time as a child growing up when my friends and I, would mock the neighbourhood mad person. We called him 'chofunta' (mad person) and we would laugh at him as he roamed the streets in tattered clothes and picked food from the garbage while he talked inaudibly to himself. We teased each other that we would be like 'chofunta' when we grew up. I think of that time now and shudder in disgust at the naïve, insensitive little boy I was. I did not understand what mental illness was, and did what everyone did and some still do. Laugh it away. This is why when I see the way Alex Muliokela is being paraded for our entertainment, it brings back memories.
This whole fiasco initially began as a joke, when Alex Muliokela was the 'president' of the Poor Peoples Party and would contest the by-elections that resulted from the death of president Michael Sata. His campaign strategy was to give every citizen K1,000 and how he was going to do this was to print more money. It was then revealed that the Poor Peoples Party was neither a registered party nor did he have the finances required by the Electoral Commission of Zambia. He was not on the ballot paper. This is where this Alex Muliokela drama should have ended. Instead it only grew stronger.
Muvi TV had him on their The Assignment programme, people took photographs with him and posted on Facebook, vendors cheered for him in the streets. He had developed a false celebrity status. People where not celebrating him because of his achievements or a hit song he had released. No, people did so to see how far his ridiculous statements could go. And he duly obliged asking people to write his name on the ballot papers and mark X. The elections are over but still Muliokela continues to garner unnecessary attention. He is claiming that the UN told him he won the elections.
Alex Muliokela has become everyone's laughing stock like a man at a circus for our amusement. We know the right buttons to push to get the responses we shall share on Whatsapp. He is the living comedy show that entertains us. We have selfishly turned this man's woes into our daily dosage of enjoyment. We have filled him with the false impression that he loved, and yet as soon as he is done making us laugh we shall move on with our lives. Where will that leave him?
There are many like me, who believe that rather than fuel this Alex Muliokela theatre, he should be helped. I am not a specialist, but Alex Muliokela may have a mental problem. He needs to be treated and assisted. Rather than people finding more ways in which the man can humiliate himself, they should be the hand that help him to recovery. The government, social workers and non-governmental organisations should look into this matter. We cannot allow Muliokela to continue being paraded for our pleasure. This is a human being for crying out loud, and he deserves to be treated with dignity. This brings me to another aspect of our current society, we do not consider mental problems as illnesses. We do what we have always done, laugh it away. Until we begin to realise that mental illness is a serious problem, we shall always think that it can be waved away with a wand. He may need to be helped to ascertain whether he is mentally ill or not. If he is, the right medication or assistance to be provided. Alex Muliokela is a joke that isn't funny anymore. He should never have been a joke in the first place.