Thursday, November 22, 2018

Death in The Water: Malawi's Hippos Suffer Mysterious Deaths

Malawi's hippo population is in danger from an unknown 'beast'.
The worst part is that there is no safe haven for them; for even places hither to considered safe have been death traps.

NATURE'S GIFT: A hippo-- Picture courtesy of Parade

While Malawi's hippo population is not known, the country has lost 22 hippos in death from October this year to date, with Department of National Parks and Wildlife indicating that carcasses of the hippos started floating on October 10.
Sadly, the hippos died in Lake Malawi National Park, the safest place in Malawi.
More worrying, the cause of death is unknown,. although Director of Parks and Wildlife, Brighton Kumchedwa, is of the view that climate change could have played a role in the death.
But the issue is getting complicated, as Deputy Director in the Department of Animal Health and Livestock Development in the Ministry of Agriculture, Julius Chulu, is of the view that over-concentration could be to blame.
During the dry season, water levels recede and the hippos have nowhere to hide, literally.
And, as investigations as to the cause of death continue, they remain refugees of death in Liwonde National Park, the safest place they can ever get in Malawi.
One hopes more do not die.
And one hopes locals do not eat the dead bodies.
Malawi is facing a faceless crisis.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

What is in a name?

When a musician or actor’s name weighs as heavy as a lone cross, the process of adopting An artistic or stage name comes easily— like getting out of a white shirt into a pick t-shirt. Whatever that means.
Hence, there must be proper reasons some Malawian artists changed their names from, for instance, Armstrong to Onesmus; Limbani Banda to Lambanie Dube; Young Kay Hyphen; Code Sangala to C.O.D.E. to CO; Dan Lufani to Dan Lu; Big Lu to Bigger Lu; Charles Sinetre to The Reggae Ambassador; Chiyanjano Muheziwa to Anne Matumbi; Fatsani Kalonda to Blakjak; Otis Chilamba to Blasto; among others.
Having looked at some of the local names that have taken this path [of name-change], we analyse some of the reasons that prompt some artists to effect name changes.
According to, “names have meanings – historical, geographical, occupational, and so on – that transcend the individual, and while people do occasionally change their names to match their characters, the most intriguing hypothesis is that they change their characters to match their names. There is plenty for psychologists to get their teeth into”.

In fact, the site lists name change as one of the most important processes in an individual’s life.

It says, among other things, that names “capture and shape the individual”, “making it reasonable to say, as is done in English, German, Mandarin, and other, though not all, languages, not just ‘I am called Nicholas’, but ‘I am Nicholas’. This identity of name as self suggests that it is worth looking for correspondence between names and the characters of those who hold them. There is no shortage of research doing just this. 
 This aside, there are a number of reasons that prompt an artist to keep their original name separate from stage name, including the need to ensure that the real name remains unsullied, innocent, and uncontaminated by goings-on in the creative industry.
Hence, the story of artists is littered with decisions of name change, often done to ensure that the name fits the cap of the creative [is it imaginary] world the artist purportedly inhabits.
For, if the truth be told, when an artist – be it musician or actor, among others— is associated with a particular style, people soon begin to link the artist’s name to the issues he raises in creative work; so that, over time, no artist really escapes the impact of their names on their artworks.
It is like, in serving others, the artist only serves himself.

However, according to, in an article tilted ‘Six Reasons a Stage Name Might Be’, not every artist— actor, musician, among others— deserves to change a name.

Reads the article: “Not all actors need or use stage names but, for some, it is the right way to go. Some actors choose to legally change their names in court, but many can use and register stage names without ever having to legally change it. In fact, some actors choose to simultaneously use their real names and stage names to keep their work and personal lives separate.” 
The website says artists change names for the following reasons: to avoid confusion; if an individual has a popular or common name; if someone famous is already using the name; if one’s name does not represent who they are; if a different name will be easier to use and understand; and if an individual needs to protect his identity.
According to, for urban dancers, it is more common to receive a name as a sign of respect and acceptance— so long as the name fits “the individual’s physical, psychological or technical characteristics”.
Whatever you decide, it must be a natural fit. Otherwise you will seem foolish…. Finding out what is unique about yourself is crucial, but you have to be aware that whatever you do to manipulate that vision of yourself should be something that you believe in and are fully behind. If changing your name will give you more confidence, change [right] away,” the website indicates.
Another website,, indicates that names, either stage or names given at birth, can be turned into trademarks.
Celebrities or other famous people can easily create trademark rights in their names by using their names in connection with products or services that are related to the reason for their fame. There are thus certain easy brand extensions: for example, celebrity chef sells cookware or opens restaurant; famous home designer markets furniture; musician sells branded instruments.
“In these situations, it will not take much effort to educate the public that the line of cookware they are buying under the Famous Chef brand comes from a single source of origin. This is particularly true because the consuming public to which the marketing is directed already likely knows and loves Famous Chef. If you represent a company that is considering using a celebrity’s name in its marketing (and your client is not associated with the celebrity), be worried if the celebrity is well known and markets products or services that relate to his or her fame. 

“Other brand extensions are a bit more of a stretch: … musician creates line of perfume. Even in these situations taking simple steps to advertise the relationship between the celebrity and the product can sufficiently educate the public that the perfume is marketed by the Mod Musician they know and love,” it says.
However, the site warns artists to guard against unauthorised use of their names.
“Often, the product is marketed to the Mod Musician’s existing demographic first, to take advantage of the reputation that the musician has created in that industry. Indeed, it is in this demographic that the musician’s name will carry the most weight—and thus reap the highest dollar rewards. As a result, unauthorised use by a third party of the individual’s name can result in allegations not only of a right-of-publicity violation but also of a trademark infringement claim,” it observes.
In the African setup, the practice of changing names proliferated with the advent of genres such as hip-hop. Which means, in a way, African artists copied from their American or European counterparts.
In the African Studies Quarterly (Volume 13, Issue 3 | Summer 2012), Msia Kibona Clark-  Assistant Professor in the  Department of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles [with a research focus on African migrations, Africa/African American relations, and African hip hop expressions] notes that  in African countries such as Ghana and Tanzania, hip hop has had a huge influence, a development that has see it being used
as a social commentary.

By widely using hip-hop, the new generation of African musicians has not only commented on social ills, but also sought to re-define themselves.

No wonder, Clark observes that  
hip-hop’s origins lie in its use as a tool of self -expression and self-definition.

“Today, each of Africa’s metropolitan areas has a 
hip hop community, a community that includes rap emcees, producers, DJs, graphic designers,musical performances, and in many cases radio stations, dancers, and fashion designers”.
Not surprisingly, some of these people [rap emcees, producers, DJs, dancers] are at the heart of the practice of changing names. 

In the end, while artists change names to reflect their new status, they can use the same names to generate funds through endorsements.
It turns out, it is not only the music and artwork that matters; the name can be capital, too— so long as the artist does not show signs of being heartily ashamed of changing a name when they are already grown up!

Friday, November 2, 2018

NBS Bank is an embarassment

NBS Bank is a big embarrassment.
Recently, the bank started updating customer accounts. People flocked there, not to be overtaken by events. I went too.
Today, after staying in the banking hall for four hours, I am told my account is blocked because I did not update it. The truth is that I did; two months ago.
Are NBS Bank people serious/
They are jokers.
Big ones at that.

Go to a banking hall at, say, Ginnery Corner. You will find that there is no water for customers inside, except mid-month, when they know that the banking hall is not filled to the 'brim'.
And the stench.

NBS Bank is an embarrassment.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Zomba District People's Struggle for Potable Water

Zomba is supposed to be Malawi's first capital.

No. Zomba is Malawi's first capital.

There is Zomba City and Zomba District.

It is a historic place. A place of memories.

But people who live in Likangala and other areas along the Lake Chilwa Basin have no reason to smile.

Lake Chilwa, one of Malawi's lakes-- apart from lakes Malawi, Malombe, Kazuni and Chiuta-- has been drying up, thanks to climate change.

Cholera is an established disease. Between July and September 2012, for example, there were 160 registered cases of cholera in the district. The records are there at Zomba District Health Office.

In 2013, between November and December, there were 210 registered cases of cholera.

In 2014, between October and December, the registered cases were pegged at 300.

In 2015, between February and April, 120 cases were registered.

In 2016, 2017, there were no such cases because, according to Zomba `District Health Office, cholera cases increase every three years.

This year, there are fears that cholera could be back, especially because people have no access to tap water. All they know are boreholes, and open sources such as wells, rivers and swamps.

The pictures below attest to the fact that the struggle for potable water is real. Of course, some non-State actors have stepped in, introducing water dispensers at water points such as boreholes and wells.

Teachers' may soon be rich in bluff meals

Against poor infrastructure in schools: Msaka (second from left)
That Malawi's education sector faces a plethora of challenges is public knowledge.

Poor infrastructure. Demotivated teachers due to poor pay.

Teachers' anger arising out of the fact that the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has been 'refusing' to give teachers who have upgraded their fair dues.

There are many problems but none beats that of poor infrastructure.

Earlier this year, innocent learners at Natchengwa  Primary School in Zomba died after a wall of what was supposed to be a classroom collapsed on them.

It is a problem with a deep surface because the solutions cannot be found in the village but Capital Hill, the seat of the Malawi Government in Lilongwe.

Surprisingly, Education Minister Bright Msaka has said the government is preparing a circular; it is banning the posting of teachers to schools that have poor infrastructure.

This, to say the truth, cannot work. It cannot work because it is not the responsibility of school management to construct school blocks.

It is the duty of the ministry and everyone knows that the ministry has been failing in its duty. It, as Central Government, does not provide enough resources to Local Government and then blames the latter for failing to erect structures that meet standards.

It is hypocrisy of the highest level and teachers should not read much into Msaka's recent pronouncements.

The Central Government should provide enough resources first and enforce its new rule.

It is as simple as that.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Melania Trump's Footprint

It is something learners, who sat and shook the United States First Lady Melania Trump's hands, will take years to appreciate.
Why? Most of the learners who were visited by Melania do not have access to television or radio sets and, so, do not know the value of the woman who sat among them.
Whatever the case, it is good that Madam Trump was here, to appreciate the work America is doing in the education sector, and whether resources are being put to good use.
Please come again.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

TONGUE TIED: Malawi's vernacular languages sentenced to death!

The loss of some aspects of language may, from a point of view of those not well-versed in it, seem like the shape of nature itself.
In other words, corruption of a language or its death all together may be regarded as an extension of bush rule, which is premised on survival of the fittest.
However, for Botswana-based linguistics scholar Evance Fred Kapwepwe, any loss of aspects of language is bad for posterity, as “future generates may have nothing to cling on, in terms of language, and stand prone to shaking with every puff of air thrown at them in the name of foreign language.
“Whatever happens, language has to be preserved.  That is why I will forever feel sad that one of the bodies that critically analysed one of the languages in Malawi, namely Chichewa, closed shop. I am talking of Chichewa Board.
“Of course, I understand that, in the name of fairness, we needed to have bodies that look into aspects of all languages in Malawi— notably Chichewa, Ngoni, Tumbuka, Lhomwe, Nkhonde, Tumbuka, Sena, among others— the way tax-funded Malawi Broadcasting Corporation broadcasts news in languages such as Tumbuka, Lhomwe, Sena, among others. That is what we need,” he says.
In the absence of such a board, or boards, language gets sacrificed on the altar of modernity, so that it is common to hear an announcer on many radio stations in Malawi read “mauthenga”, instead of ‘uthenga’, celebrate ‘maufulu’, instead of ufulu, invite azimayi and azibambo to phone during a phone-in programme instead of extending an invitation to amayi and abambo, among others.
“That is true. The new generation is pronouncing words anyhow, sometimes using words that do not exist long enough that they become part of lexicon. If course, language is dynamic but that should not be at the expense of syntax,’ he says.
The issue of Chichewa Board, and like boards, has been debated including by Gregory Hankoni Kamwendo of the University of Zululand who, in an abstract, submits: “A language academy, known as the Chichewa Board, existed in Malawi from 1972 to 1995. Its three functions were: to compile a Chichewa dictionary; to produce a standard orthography of Chichewa; and to contribute to the general development of Chichewa.
The then President of Malawi, Hastings Kamuzu Banda, was very instrumental to the establishment and execution of the functions of the board. Following the defeat of Banda in the 1994 elections, the Board was dissolved and replaced by the Centre for Language Studies. This article is a critique of the Board and its successor. Whilst the Chichewa Board worked in the tradition of language academies (and served as the highest authority on Chichewa in Malawi), its successor (the Centre for Language Studies) is a research unit at the University of Malawi and does not carry a prescriptive tone.”
It could be this lack of “prescriptive tone” that is responsible for confusion lingering over Chichewa use.
Other tongues may be facing a similar predicament, notably Chichewa, although some traditional leaders, including Inkosi ya Makhosi Gomani and Senior Chief Kachindamoto, Inkosi ya Makhosi M’mbelwa have been making efforts to revive the language. 
Whatever the case, the truth is that there has always been a mother tongue; sometimes neglected and forgotten, sometimes remembered and preserved through orthographies.
Mother tongues were there when the colonialists made the long trip to Malawi. Mother tongue is not a language but a way of life.
No wonder, then, that organisations such as Malawi Pen have been promoting writing and reading in mother tongues. It is a way of linking literature to the people.
For example, Malawi Pen recently initiated a programme aimed at promoting reading and writing in disadvantaged schools. Three schools such as Chichiri Reformatory School at Chichiri Prison, Ntcheu Community Day Secondary School and Nkhamenya Girls’ Secondary School benefitted from the same.
WORRIED: Kishindo-- Picture by Richard Chirombo
Under the project, Namisu Women’s Reading Club was also included. Pen International website indicates that this was done “as we felt the move required specialised attention in the field of literature. Our support fits the group’s aims because the starting point for the reading club participants is the reading of literary materials before including other reading materials on HIV and AIDS, farming, environment, gender, climate change and health.”
It is common knowledge that groups such as Namisu Women’s Reading Club did not need literature materials published in English, hence the importance of mother tongue.
The sheer joy of communicating in mother tongue outweighs everything else.
No wonder that colonialists did everything to suppress the mother tongue, and made all attempts to treat their own language – the invading language—as a potentate, even if it was a language loaded with words from Latin, French, Portuguese, among other borrowed words. They simply could not tolerate languages such as mother tongues spoken by African natives.
Unfortunately, the gulf between the mother tongue and official tongue, which is often looked down upon, stays unabridged.
From time to time, steps have been taken to suppress the mother tongue, in the rush to the so-called civilisation.
But the ceiling of respect for mother languages such as Chichewa, Tumbuka, Tonga, Lhomwe, Sena, Yao, among others, dropped so low in 2014 that mother tongues were booted out as media of instruction in schools. It is official. Malawians are an English-speaking people.
Those who value mother tongues emerged from the year 2014 to face a falling sun. Their beloved mother tongue was still there, yes; but had been declared unofficial in a country where the speakers are called natives.
It is clear, looking at such developments, that the country’s education system is full of the scars of colonialism and imperialism.
The issue of mother tongue is, of course, haunted by another battle— the battle for supremacy among mother tongues. But that is another story.
Professor Pascal Kishindo, University of Malawi language and linguistics lecturer, observes in a paper titled ‘ Language and the Law in Malawi: A Case for the Use of Indigenous Languages in the Legal System’ that the use of looking down on mother tongues by embracing, for example, English, is as old as the soil we step on.
He cites the use of English in the legal system.
The abstract reads: In Malawi's legal system, English is used as the language of legal proceedings and records. In cases where the plaintiffs/defendants do not speak English interpreters are provided. However, there are two factors which militate against this state of affairs. First, Malawi is a highly non-literate country with an estimated non-literacy rate of 48 percent. Second, English is not the vehicle of communication for the majority of the Malawian population.”
The paper therefore argues that the legal system should make use of indigenous languages; “not only will this facilitate communication but also eliminate the need for court interpreters. It will also give the feuding parties the confidence that they are not being misrepresented. Since communication is only successful when the receiver can interpret the information the source has put in the message, there is need, therefore, to render the law into the languages(s) that is/are familiar to the receiver. This will save citizens from being poorly defended, misjudged and unjustly condemned.”
Kishindo is not the only one to bemoan the fact that indigenous languages seem to be neglected in the country, as Themba Moyo, in an article titled ‘Language loss and language decay of Malawi's indigenous languages’ puts it crudely that Malawi is reeling from the problem of language decay.
The article indicates that, with the exception of Chichewa, almost all of Malawi's indigenous languages face imminent “decay”.
“The languages facing loss and decay have been suppressed, neglected and not developed, particularly since Malawi attained her independence in 1964. This is a crucial matter in issues of national unity, group identity, language choice and community culture, all of which impact considerably on nationhood, state democracy, equality in language use and in the general development of a country,” Moyo observes.
He argues that the neglect of such languages is evident in printed materials.
“This article contends that, in effect, the rest of Malawi's indigenous languages are facing considerable loss and decay with regard to their development. This is particularly in print, where none of them appear as instructional languages in early education, mass communication or in literary publications such as in novels, short stories, poems, plays, etc,”
Moyo then calls for “equitable recognition of linguistic diversity and development of all languages” to act as “a unifying force for the overall development of the country's national life”. 
LEARNING IN VAIN?: Learners like these at Namikasi Secondary School in Blantyre can only learn local languages for knowledge sake; nothing else 
However, in a move that can best be described as a blow to indigenous languages, the Education Act passed in Parliament in November 2013, which former president Joyce Banda assented to in 2014, means government’s policy is that the English language is the only medium of instruction in education institutions.
The Act in question introduces the [English as a medium of instruction] policy as follows: 78. Language of instruction. (1) The language of instruction in schools and colleges shall be English. (2) Without prejudice to the generality of Sub-section (1) The minister may, by notice published in the Gazette, prescribe the language of instruction in schools.”
Malawi Pen president, Alfred Msadala, is bemused with the development.
He, however, observes that the bill was passed when election fever gripped Malawians in 2014, a development that culminated in the bill escaping close scrutiny.
“As it is, Malawi is an English-speaking country. Actually, I was surprised to learn from the Commonwealth Secretariat that Malawi no longer recognises mother tongues,” Msadala says.
So, local languages may exist but are not recognised in the books that matter. It is the final nail on local languages’ coffin.

Permaculture: the panacea to climate change

Agriculture is a world of contradictions. Certainty, uncertainty, balances, imbalances, progression, retrogression have been part of agriculture for ages, rendering it ‘acceptable’ to embrace years of bumper yields along with those of scanty.
This variation in conditions has, in effect, made it natural to refer to materials used in plant and animal production as ‘variables’.
However, this shadow of positives and negatives, enthuses Peter Mazingaliwa- Acting National Coordinator for Malawi/US Exchange Alumni Association (Museaa) - offers room for improvement.
“We can, through science, devise means aimed at changing the status quo. Through science, we can sustain the positives while taming the negatives,” says Mazingaliwa.
PUTTING KNOWLEDGE TO USE: Learners at Namikasi Secondary School
To do this, the world needs such ingredients as favourable policies, unfazed
commitment, continuous research, and responsive communities.
“One of the means to achieve food sustainability, for example, is to promote
permanent agriculture, or permaculture,” says Mazingaliwa.
The term ‘permaculture’ is itself a challenge to agriculture- an area
long-associated with the eternal flux of opposites- because it introduces new approaches to natural systems.
For one, it is premised on the idea that, through paradigm shifts in agricultural systems’ theory and holistic organic ecology, a world balance and, therefore, stability can be achieved.
This is why Museaa, as a platform for Malawians who have learned life’s lessons from the USA, has strengthened the technical;-know-how of communities to address livelihood issues that hinge on agriculture.
“One of the issues is that of climate change. Climate change is contributing towards global food
insecurity. The good news is that permaculture can be used to address climate change issues,” says Mazingaliwa.
Museaa has- with US$23,900 (about K3.8m) funding from the US State Department, Alumni Affairs Division- been running a climate change programme that tools permaculture as a panacea for climate change.
Through it, people have come to understand the concept of climate change, its causes and effects, and human activities that gives it fertile ground. These include deforestation, urbanization and desertification.
Agriculture extension workers, field supervisors, smallholder farmers’, secondary schools’ permaculture clubs have all become part of the stepping stones to food sustainability. It is all because permaculture is an enemy to overdependence on rain-fed agriculture and befriends only water-harvesting methods. Mixed cropping is preferred over mono-cropping, along with the utilization of local materials such as organic manure.
“However, real stability depends on young people, who are better-placed to absorb new
knowledge and change their world.
“For your information, Malawi has not yet attained food security, despite pronunciations to that effect, and this is because we depend on rain-fed agriculture and one type of crop, maize. We are, therefore, more vulnerable to climate change,” he said.
He, however, urges Malawi to continue being part of international community efforts on climate change. Mazingaliwa notes that, so far, Malawi has been a keen participant at international meetings, a process that started some 17 years ago and reached a climax in November 2009- when world leaders met for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climatic Change. In December 2011, leaders met again in South Africa, and the International Conventional Centre in Durban became the focus of world attention on climate change.
Climate change refers to conditions characterized by persistent shifts in the general patterns of the elements of weather. These shifts may be observed as clear trends for some of the elements including temperatures, but may also become random or unpredictable. A good example is that of the onset of rains.
Unpredictable rainfall patterns have spurred Namikasi Secondary School students in Blantyre into action. Students are now planting fruit trees where once bare land lay exposed to the sun and rain water.
“We want to help reduce the impact of climate change. In fact, the best way to encourage people to tame climate change is by encouraging the planting of fruit trees because, apart from anchoring the soil, and absorbing toxic air, people will be able to eat the fruits and boost their immune system,” says Kennedy Lowa, patron of the Permaculture club at Namikasi.  
However, Mugove Walter Nyika- one of local climate change experts, and senior official at the local NGO Rescope- notes that climate change is as old as the planet earth itself, but says current climatic changes are uniquely different from anything that has been experienced before.
“In the past, climate changes were associated with natural cycles such as sunspot activity. The sunspot activity is a change that takes place in the chemical activities on the surface of the sun, which determines the amount of energy that the sun sends outwards to us.
“(But) other climatic changes in the past have been less predictable. These include changes caused by the impact of meteorites smashing onto the earth, or the impact of massive volcanic eruptions, both of which sent clouds of dust into the atmosphere which blocked part of the sun’s rays,” says Nyika.
 Meteorites are large pieces of rock that are moving in space and which, at times, may collide with the planets. In the past, this blockage of the sun’s rays by dust clouds led to drastic drops in global temperatures.
Nyika is afraid: “Previous climatic changes had a large-scale impact on life. Some changes led to the extinction of some forms of life such as the dinosaurs. Some changes led to the cooling of the planet, resulting in large ice sheets covering the surface of the earth.”
He notes, however, that current changes in climate are due, mainly, to human activities’ impact on the earth. For example, the industrial revolution, fuelled by such fossil fuels as coal and oil, has propelled climate change for ages. Other activities, like deforestation and chemical farming, have also accelerated climatic changes.
But it is the later activities that have started to feature prominently locally. This could be attributed to recent findings by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) that, while the main source of global food remains the soil, the climate that influenced rainfall patterns has really changed- the sort of change that honours no human boundaries.
WMO indicates, for instance, that the year 2010 was the warmest on record. It also says that the years between 2000 and 2010 have registered the warmest period in time since records began. Among others, communities from across the globe are experiencing unusual weather patterns and more frequent incidents of extreme weather events.
“All these will impact on agriculture productivity,” he says.
That is where permaculture, as one form of climate smart agriculture, comes in. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, climate smart agriculture entails activities that increase productivity, resilience, removes greenhouse gas emissions, and enhances national food security and development goals.
Among other approaches, this is achieved by revolutionizing the management of soil, water, landscapes, technologies, and genetic resources to ensure higher productivity and resilience, while reducing the greenhouse footprint, according to Bunda College of Agriculture
Environment and Development expert, Dr. David Mkwambisi. Mkwambisi openly hopes for a balanced world that will reduce the trade-off between productivity (output) and emissions per unit of agricultural product.
“Global experts on environment and development have realised that agriculture can be a critical tool to solve problems associated with climate change and weather variability in many countries,” says Dr. Mkwambisi.
What is clear, in the end, is the fact that climate change has sired a son called hope: the hope that, while climatic patterns may change, at least agricultural productivity cannot!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

African Mythology As A Form Of Discourse

By Richard Chirombo

African Mythology constitutes a discourse because myths, by their nature, are narratives that serve to connect individuals to their culture by explaining nature and supernatural phenomenain a carefully structured manner that conceals real meaning.

Michel Foucault, who is variously regarded as a philosopher, social theorist, cultural historian and an historian of political thought, captures this  aspect very well when he implies that mythologies and other forms of narratives are forms of discourse in the sense that there are subtle rules and, therefore, hidden meaning below the surface of their seemly harmless message, observing thus: “They (ordinary people) have probably found it difficult enough to recognise that their history, their economics, their social practices, the language (langue) that they speak, the mythology of their ancestors, even the stories that they were told in their childhood, are governed by rules that are not all given to their consciousness (…)”2. In other words, “things and events” will only become discourse “in the unfolding of the essential secrets. Discourse is no longer much more than the shimmering of a truth about to be born in its own eyes; and when all things come eventually to take the form of discourse, when everything may be said and when anything becomes an excuse for pronouncing a discourse, it will be because all things having manifested and exchanged meanings, they will then all be able to return to the silent interiority of self-consciousness”3.

In fact, the link between mythology and discourse becomes more pronounced when the term ‘discourse’ is defined. For instance, Bertrand and Hughes (2005) define discourse as an organised series of statements about the natural and social world which have, over a period of time, become formalised into ‘rules’ which govern the behaviour of members of a social or cultural field, operating through architecture, habit, practices and ethics to permit or constrain behaviour thereby shaping the individual sense of self4A Dictionary of Cultural and Critical Theory, on the other hand, defines discourse as ‘talk’ or ‘conversation’ with the hint of a ‘didactic’ purpose5, acknowledging, however, that  this definition rather contradicts the word’s etymology, going back to the Latin verb discurrere, which means ‘to run about’, ‘range widely’, ‘wander off course’, among others. In both cases, language is used to deduce meaning.

More importantly, mythology shares the features of discourse in the sense that the narratives’ arrangement is not arrived at by chance, but is purposefully arranged to control people. For example, Seymor Chatman6captures this aspect well when he proposes that a narrative must have both story- which he describes as the content, the events and existents it talks about, the ‘what?’- and discourse, “the way in which it is told, the selection and ordering of events and existents, the ‘how’”- further observing that, “For, though a narrative must have a beginning, a middle and an end, they need not always be presented in that order. From this perspective, story is potential, discourse is actual; story elements (plot, functions, characters) are predictable whereas discourse provides variety/surprise. Indeed, literary critic Mark Shorer emphasises this point by analysing the function of myths in society, observing that, “Myths are the instruments by which we continually struggle to make our experience intelligible to ourselves. A myth is a large, controlling image that gives philosophical meaning to the facts of ordinary life”7.

However, it must be borne in mind that it is not always true that all narratives are discourse. For instance, while a number of scholars and theorists have described narratives as a form of discourse, this school of thought is not always true because some narratives have varied meanings in various societies. “There is no fixed meaning to any narrative, therefore, and it is always open to multiple interpretation”8. Therefore, to brand all narratives as discourse is to deny the “plural quality” of various writings.

Additionally, even Foucault himself recognises the fact that there is “false” and “true” discourse when he observes, thus; “A division emerged between Hesiod and Plato, separating true discourse from false ; it was a new division for, henceforth, true discourse was no longer considered precious and desirable, since it had ceased to be discourse linked to the exercise of power”9. It must be noted, however, that Foucault used ‘true’ and ‘false’ in the ironic sense, by which he means that ‘false’ discourse which is not linked to the exercise of power.

More importantly, to always link the term discourse to the exercise of power constitutes flawed reasoning because it presupposes that power only invoke discourses as a covert means of cultivating, or exercising power. To the contrary, some myths relate to sacred history; that is, a primordial event that took place at the beginning of time, ab initio10.

This, notwithstanding, both mythology and discourse share similar attributes. For example, myths have the attribute of discourse in the sense that discourse is the form myths use to portray a message, while the combination of words in the narrative is, in no way, haphazard. They are, in fact, carefully woven. Discourse, too, shares the same attributes. Foucault aptly observes thus, “I am supposing that in every society the production of discourse is at once controlled, selected, organised and redistributed according to a certain number of procedures, whose role is to avert its powers and its dangers, to cope with chance events, to evade its ponderous, awesome materiality11.”

However, it must be noted that discourse often takes the form of ideology, dogma or doctrine. In analysing the impact of doctrine on  ”subjects”, Foucault notes that doctrine, as a tool of exercising power, effects a dual subjection, that of speaking subjects to discourse, and that of discourse to the group, at least virtually, of speakers12. This implies that subjects are not in control of their lives; instead, they are “determined” by language, referring to how “(…) historically and culturally located systems of power/knowledge construct subjects and their worlds”13. Indeed, the use of language to subtly convey dominant ideologies and imperialistic goals has been a topic for debate for a long time.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o, for example, observes that every language has two aspects. “One aspect is its role as an agent that enables us to communicate with one another in our struggle to find the means for survival. The other is its role as a carrier of the history and the culture built into the process of that communication over time.14” This holds true for Africa, where former colonial powers lay hold on the continent by imposing their ideologies through language. In fact, ideology assisted in reproducing “colonialist relations through the strategic deployment of a vast semiotic field of representations- in literary works, in advertising, in sculpture, in travelogues, in exploration documents, in maps, in pornography, and so on.15

Therefore, it is imperative that, in order to recapture the culture and history carried by Africa’s original “culture and history carried by these languages (…) thrown onto the rubbish heap and left there to perish”16, literary works such as narratives taking the form of myths should be revived by being told in their original languages. This brings us back to the point that African Mythology constitutes a discourse, more so when the ‘subtle’ agenda behind revitalisation of such myths is to ‘reclaim’ the culture and history that were thrown onto the rubbish heap.

Moreover, myths, more than the other narratives has the unique characteristic of being composed by a number of individuals, thereby cementing the possibility of their utilisation as a discourse. More so because, “Unlike a story composed by a single author, a myth always stands on its own, with a  plot and a set of characters easily recognised by those who listen to the story-teller, poet, or dramatist making use of it”17, thereby bringing “divinity into focus. And their subject matter inevitably touches upon the nature of existence, the world over which the gods rule”.

Therefore, myths can be a powerful tool in reversing the cultural and historical damage inflicted on Africa by the ‘invisible’ hand of language. It goes without saying that disciplinary power “is exercised through its invisibility; at the same time it imposes on whom it subjects a principle of compulsory visibility”18. In the case of Africa, this compulsory visibility was achieved through ideologies imposed in the choice of national language imposed by the conquering masters.

However, turning myths into an ideological vehicle in Africa faces the inevitable challenge that, as in all cases where ideologies are being passed through narratives (discourses) such as myths, there are always differences in expertise over a subject among people. In which case, “members are able to speak or act (only) on the basis of the acquired ideology, but are not always able to formulate its beliefs explicitly”19.

1. Arthur B. (1995) Cultural Criticism: A Primer of Key Concepts (vol. 4.) Sage Publications : California.  P. 122
2. Michel F. (1972) The Archaeology of Knowledge and The Discourse on Language. Tavistock Publications Limited: New York. P. 210-211

3. Ibid, p. 228

4. Ina B., and Peter H. (2005) Media Research Methods: Audiences, Institutions, Texts published by Palgrave MacMillan. New York. p.166
5. A Dictionary of Cultural and Critical Theory (2nd Ed.) (2010) Wiley-Blackwell. West Sussex
6. Seymour C. (1978) Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film. Cornell University Press. Ithaca (Cited in Bertrand and Hughes, ibid, p.212)
7. Arthur Asa Berger, ibid, page 122
8. Stuart S., and Borin L. (2004) Introducing Critical Theory. Icon Books Limited. London. P. 56
9. Foucault, Ibid. p. 218
10. Berger, ibid. p. 122
11. Foucaultp. 216)
12. Foucault, p. 226
13. Gubrium, J.F. and Holstein, JA (2000) Analysing Interpretive Practice in Denzin and Lincoln (eds) (2000) pp. 487-508 (quoted in Bertrand and Hughes. P. 167)
14. Ngugi T. (1993) Moving the Centre: The Struggle for Cultural Freedoms. East African Educational Publishers. Nairobi. P. 483
15. Ashcroft, B., Gareth H.T. (1995) The Post-Colonial Studies Leader. Routledge. London. p. 47
16. Ngugi T. ibid. p. 50
17. Arthur C. (2005)World Mythology (1st Ed.) Paragon Publishing. London: p.5
18. Arthur C. ibid. p.6
19. Foucault, M. (1995) Discipline and Punish and The Birth of the Prison. Vintage Books. New York. p. 187

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Dying of HIV unknowingly, quickly

Noises of jubilation fill the air whenever a baby is born in the areas of traditional authorities Mchiramwela and Mkhwethemule in Thyolo District. For some households, however, the sense of elation is soon replaced with sadness as children, billed as leaders of tomorrow, succumb to death, thanks to the HIV virus that, not known to the babies and their parents, eats them from within. But, as RICHARD CHIROMBO writes, this state of affairs could be short-lived.

It could be by fluke or design, but the truth is that there is a piece of art that hangs on one of the mango trees leading to Ndalama Nursery School, Traditional Authority (T/A) Mchiramwera, in Thyolo District.
The artwork depicts a baby, perhaps between the ages of six months and one year, trying to jump into an endless lake.
HELPLESS?: Public hospitals like these

Whatever thoughts impressed the mind of the artist who came up with the work of art, what comes clearly is that the artwork portrays the human being as— although touted as the master of the earth— a diminutive creature, dwarfed by the vastness of natural phenomena such as lakes and mountains the size of Dedza, Mulanje or Zomba.
Shora Kauluka, technical assistant at a community-based organisation called Chipembere Communty Development Organisation (CCDO) in the area, is one of the people who have been impressed by the artwork.
“I think a lot of thinking went into that work,” Kauluka says. “At the same time, I think the artist was short-sighted, in the sense that he or she promotes the idea that the only things that cast man in the light of a diminutive creature are physical features such as lakes, mountains, elephants and things of that nature.
“What visual artists often, and sadly, forget is that some things that cast man in the light of a diminutive creature are tiny. I am talking of viruses and bacteria. In T/As Mchiramwela and Mkhwethemule in Thyolo District, for example, the real giant has been HIV, a tiny, invisible virus that causes Aids. People, especially children, have been succumbing to it without knowing it. HIV is the giant of our time, and not lakes or mountains.”
Kauluka , therefore, treats the artwork with an almost good-humoured contempt.
The truth is that the creator of an artwork never really knows how people will interpret it, or whether it makes any difference in society.
But Kauluka could be right on HIV being the tiny giant that eats through the fabric of good health, slowly but resolutely.
In the areas of the T/As in question, a sense of oppression is everywhere. Just that there is no physical force, like a lake or mountain, that is responsible for this state of affairs; it is something from within; something that cannot be felt through the sense of touch. That something is HIV.
At first, according to Kauluka, HIV created a sense of fear among people of Thyolo District. Those were the days of stigma and discrimination which, in the past, and according to Health and Population Services Minister Atupele Muluzi, were [stigma and discrimination] being fuelled “by ignorance”.
In those days, the days of stigma and discrimination, the individual living with HIV instantly became a prisoner of conscience.
As such, the individual living with HIV felt isolated, haunted by the fear of being ‘found’ out. Even among his own family members and peers, the individual never quite belonged.
“But this changed. Those with HIV are no longer subjected to stigma and discrimination. Treatment, in form of antiretroviral (ARV) therapy, is commonplace. These is no reason to be ashamed of one’s HIV status,” Kauluka says.
However, having passed the stage of stigma and discrimination, having passed the stage where ARVs were not free and in short supply, the people of Thyolo find themselves in a precarious condition.
The enemy, this time around, is ignorance of one’s sero-status, a development that has seen dozens of children die of Aids-related complications without knowing it.
At the moment, two community-based organisations that are working on an HIV and Aids project targeting children in Thyolo District have bemoaned increased cases of children who are diagnosed with HIV and Aids “too late”.
CCDO, which is implementing the ‘Accelerating Children`s HIV/Aids Treatment Initiative’ in T/As Mkhwethemule and Mchiramwela in Thyolo District, has, meanwhile, urged stakeholders to intensify efforts aimed at promoting identification and continuum care for children whose parents are HIV-positive.
CCDO is implementing the project in consortium with Umodzi Youth Organisation (Uyo). Shy Ali, Executive Director for Uyo cites laxity, in terms of sensitisation campaigns, as one of the factors that have led to people failing to know their HIV sero-status, hence increasing cases of preventable deaths, especially among children. 
Kauluka says it is disheartening that cases of children who are born with HIV without knowing it abound in the Southern Region district.
These are the sentiments he raised during a Paediatric HIV/Aids Awareness Campaign Open Day at Ndalama Nursery School, T/A Mchiramwela, in Thyolo.
“Although Malawi has made great strides in ensuring that those who are HIV infected have access to ART (antiretroviral therapy), there has been slow progress in terms of the number of children accessing ART services,” Kauluka said.
A Ministry of Health and Population Services report indicates that less than 40 percent of HIV-infected children in Malawi are accessing ART.
Kauluka adds that HIV infection tends to be progressive and fatal among infants and children who have no access to ART.
According to the Department of HIV and Aids, approximately 20 percent of HIV-infected infants die by the time they clock three months, a development attributed to failure to access treatment.
It further says 50 percent of infants and children die before reaching their second birthday while 75 percent die by five years of age, all this because they either had no access to ART or discovered that they needed treatment “too late”.
“In an effort to reduce paediatric HIV and Aids-related deaths among infants and children, CCDO, under its health programme, is carrying out the ‘Accelerating Children`s HIV/Aids Treatment Initiative’ through which we seek to identify HIV-infected children and link them to care and treatment in health facilities in Malawi, particularly in Thyolo District.
“Our organisation— in partnership with various stakeholders— wants to reduce the mortality rate among HIV-infected infants by as much as 75 percent upon ART initiation. The project is directly working with 20 community-based organisations and 10 Health facilities in targeted areas,” Kauluka says.
The National Aids Commission indicates that Thyolo is one of the districts with the highest adult HIV prevalence rates in Malawi, now pegged at 22.4 percent.
“Sadly, children are ignorantly dying of Aids-related complications because their parents do not take them for HIV testing, hence getting wrong treatment in their localities. Parents believe in getting treatment from herbalists, thereby putting lives of children at risk,” says Marcus Chonde, one of the community members in T/A Mchiramwela.
Mkhwethemule has, meanwhile, lauded the impact of the project, saying it has sparked health-seeking behaviour among residents of the district.
“We all have a role to play to ensure that no life is lost to HIV,” Mkhwethemule says.
The traditional leader says it is not “on, especially because we have made strides in ensuring that people have access to life-prolonging drugs, know their HIV sero-status, among other things”.
As part of the project, community volunteers have received bicycles for use in their community outreach programmes.
One only hopes that, moving forward, HIV will not put spanners, such as ill health and even death, into the wheels of progress.
That is the only way those affected can travel back to normal living.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Madonna fights for rights of people with albinism through this pose!

American pop star Madonna poses with Malawi's folktale banjo musician, Lazarus, at Chilembwe Primary School, Kasungu District, in Malawi, the Warm Heart of Africa.

People with albinism have been facing challenges in Malawi. Some of them have been abducted, while others have seen their body parts being chopped while alive.

At the moment, Joseph Kachingwe, a 12-year-old boy with albinism in Phalombe District of Southern Malawi, went missing on July 6 this year and police are yet to recover his body.

National Police spokesperson,  James Kadadzera, says six people have, so far, been arrested in connection with the suspected murder of the boy.

And, against such a background, Madonna's pose with Lazarus serves as a condemnation of people who attack albinos.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Madonna jovial as she visits Malawi

  • I came here to check on activities
  • Reveals plans to establish football academy 
American Pop singer Madonna returned to what has become her home away from home-- Malawi-- on Monday afternoon, where he toured facilities at Mercy James Centre.

On July 11 last year, Madonna was back to Malawi on a trip that saw her open her heart to the children of Malawi, who she aided by gifting the Mercy James Centre.

The centre, located at Malawi's major referral hospital of Queen Elizabeth Central, has, since its opening last year, helped Malawian children access treatment that would, otherwise, not be available without Madonna.

On a cool afternoon, when the weather hovered between 8 and 12 degrees Celsius, Raising Malawi Executive Director, Sarah Ezzy, could not be blamed for being on top of the world.

Ezzy said, in a well-crafted statement: "Madonna has returned to Malawi, where she has worked since 2006 with her charitable organisation, Raising Malawi, to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Mercy James  Centre for Paediatric Surgery and Intensive Care (MJC).

"Located on the campus of Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH)-- the largest referral hospital in the country [of Malawi-- the Mercy James Centre, which opened on July 11, 2017, includes Malawi's first paediatric intensive care unit, three operating theatres dedicated to surgery in children, a dy clinic, and 50-bed ward."

Truly, it has been a tremendous first year for the patient-focused team at Mercy James Centre, who have skillfully: performed 1,690 paediatric surgeries; admitted nearly 300 patients into the paediatric ICU; seen 2, 300 patients in the outpatient clinic; admitted nearly 1, 500 patients into the ward.

In fact, the Mercy James Centre has doubled the capacity of the paediatric surgery team, which averaged 700 surgeries per year in their old facilities. Last month, the team made history in Malawi by masterfully completing the first successful separation of conjoined twins in Malawi.

Ezzy said: "The Mercy James Centre represents the expansion of Raising Malawi's work at QECH since 2008 with Professor Eric Borgstein, one of four full-time paediatric surgeons in the country. Through the partnership with Raising Malawi, Professor Borgstein has developed a paediatric surgical training programme at QECH, which trained the first Malawi-born paediatric surgeon, Dr Tiyamike Kapalamula, who is now working at the Mercy James Centre.

"Raising Malawi built and donated the two-storey, free standing building to QECH and, as a part of its commitment, will continue to work with the Ministry of Health to help support operations. 

"Madonna founded Raising Malawi in 2006 to address the poverty and hardship endured by Malawi's orphans and vulnerable children. Raising Malawi partners with local organisations to provide Malawian children and their caregivers with critical resources including education and medical care."

On her part, Madonna was ecstatic, saying: "I am thrilled to see that the Mercy James Centre has become a centre of excellence in Malawi in just one year and I am grateful to the many partners, including the Ministry of Health, who have worked with Raising Malawi to make the MJC so successful. Our achievements have exceeded our expectations, and we will continue with our mission to better serve the children of this country."

Madonna indicated that she has plans to establish a football facility for youths, citing progress made by her son David James, who plays for an academy in Spain.

Madonna was in the company of all the four Malawian children she has adopted, including twins she adopted two years ago, namely Stella and Esther.

David looked like a giant he never was when he was under the care of Malawian guardians.

Mercy is growing into a young woman; smiling, forward-looking and out to show that, given a chance, the girl-child can go all the way.

Stella has become clever girl; one who is wary of the paparazzi. Just like Esther, of course. 

They seem so grown up already that they dodged cameras.