Saturday, April 28, 2018

Same, old electoral hurdles

Malawi— meaning, the state— is no different from a human being; they both breathe.
While a human being breathes every now and then— taking in the so-called breath of life called oxygen while expelling puffs of carbon dioxide— Malawi the nation state has fallen, since the multiparty elections of 1994, into the habit of taking political breaths every five years.
This is because— five presidential elections later, five national parliamentary elections later, two local government elections later— it is written that Malawi has to hold elections every five years, as one way of giving the electorate the opportunity to express themselves so that, in so doing, political leaders can be given a fresh mandate or get banished from national politics altogether.
Over the years, public media have taken a crucial role in elections, giving competing political parties – do not mind their lack of clear ideologies— the platform the articulate their policies.
This is well-articulated by Catherine Musuva, who wrote in Chapter 7 in Denis Kadima and Susan Booysen (eds)’s Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa 1989-2009: 20 Years of Multiparty Democracy, thus:
“The PPEA [Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act, 1993] states that every political party is entitled to have its campaign reported on by the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and in any newspaper in circulation in the country. Furthermore, the Act commits the MBC to neutrality in the reporting of news.
“The Act also empowers the Mec, by arrangement with the MBC, to allocate time on the radio to political parties. Although the Act prohibits political parties and candidates from making commercial advertisements for campaigning in the MBC, all political parties either placed commercial advertisements with the MBC or complained of a lack of financial resources to do so in the run-up to the 2004 elections. At the time, neither the MBC nor the political parties seemed to be aware of the law in this regard.
“The electronic and print media coverage of electoral campaigns in Malawi has generally been extensive. However, concerns over unbalanced media coverage and the unfair use of the state media, namely the MBC and Malawi Television (TVM), have been raised in all four elections held from 1994 to 2009. In order to ensure better-balanced media coverage of the 2004 elections, a number of steps were taken in collaboration with political parties, the Mec, CSOs and the donor community. Most importantly, a media monitoring unit was established within the Mec. Nonetheless, in the 2004 elections the MBC coverage was biased towards the incumbent party, the UDF (Rakner & Svasand 2005).”
However, while the role of MBC has been extensively highlighted, it is not always the case that the institution lives up to citizens’ billing.  Musuva aptly captures this aspect of MBC.
“The Mec once again accused the state-owned media of bias and not abiding by the media code of conduct. The MEC chairperson berated the state media for failing to level the playing field, adding that the MEC's hands were tied in dealing with the situation as the law does not provide it with any significant power (Kasawala 2009).”
While observers such as human rights activist Billy Mayaya observes that the 1994 elections were “fairly” covered by MBC, in that all political parties were given the platform, it can be said, without fear of retraction, that this was not the case in the 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014 elections, as ruling parties enjoyed more pieces of the cake than opposition political parties.
Ironically, the 1994 elections, which observers say were well covered, saw the then ruling Malawi Congress Party lose the elections to the United Democratic Front, whose presidential candidate Bakili Muluzi bought his ticket, courtesy of the ballot, to Sanjika Palace.
The only other time a ruling party – of course, there are questions over whether the People’s Party was really a ruling party, knowing, as it were, that the party found itself in the driving seat using the back door— lost presidential elections is in 2014, but Mec suggested in its media monitoring reports that the elections were no fairer than those of 1994.
Which brings us to the issue of the role of public [read, State] media in elections.
Same old script
Malawi’s post-1994 elections have been predictable in some aspects, notably conduct of public media and voting patterns.
Since 1994, when Malawians transformed the political landscape to a magnitude that signals nothing less than a fundamental mutation in the national character, the conduct of elections have been predictable in terms of regional voting patterns and ruling parties’ conduct over state-run media.
Let us start with regional patterns. In 1994, Malawians voted along regional lines. This is evident in the fact that the eventual presidential winner, Muluzi, got 42.2 percent (South), Kamuzu Banda 33.5 per cent from his Central region stronghold and Chakufwa Chihana (Alliance for Democracy) with 18.9 per cent, mainly from the Northern region.
This was almost repeated in 1999 when Muluzi got 51.37 percent in the South, the Malawi Congress Party/Alliance for Democracy coalition 44.30 per cent in the Central and Northern region, respectively, and Kamlepo Kalua who got 1.43percent of the national vote.
This was further repeated in 2004, when UDF presidential candidate Bingu wa Mutharika chalked 35.89 per cent in the South, Malawi Congress Party’s (MCP) John Tembo 27.13 per cent and Gwanda Chakuamba of the Mgwirizano Coalition 25.72 per cent.
To cut a disappointing story short, this was further repeated in 2009 and 2014 and, possible, will be repeated in the 2019 elections.
Add to these two challenges factors such as the legal environment in which the electoral body operates, budgeting constraints, complex processes leading to voter registration and voters roll verification, transportation hitches as well as registration periods corroding with the farming season or rains and we have another disaster in the making in 2019.
Perhaps the only positive— which, again, has been challenged— is that data gathered by the National Registration Bureau will be used in registering voters in the 2019 elections, which could solve some of the challenges that affect voters roll credibility.
But some of the challenges may remain because, according to policy analyst Rafiq Hajat, both ruling political parties and the opposition have vested interests in, say, public media.
“There was time, I remember, when the opposition were in majority in Parliament but never
amended the Communications Act, thinking they would go into government and take advantage of the situation,” he said.
So, again, this is just a circle— like breathing in and out— and some of the challenges will, really, never go away because they serve defined purposes.

Political parties’ shelved, living dreams

Before the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections, the country’s political parties— be it the then ruling People’s Party (PP), the then opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP),   and even the National Salvation Front (Nasaf), Chipani Cha Pfuko and the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Malawi Congress Party— were flying high on the wings of hope that this, perhaps, could be their year.
Come elections’ day, with the subsequent news that the DPP had carried the day, the hopes were doused in the waters of disappointment. Maybe their day will come, one day.
Surprisingly, some of the vanquished  political parties seem to have buried their campaign promises, some three years into DPP’s reign. It is as if the ceiling of hope has dropped so low that the political parties cannot even master to repeat what they were saying during campaign period.
One of the areas some political parties focused on in the 2014 elections was road infrastructure, as each political party articulated policies it hoped would sway the public.
In this article, I bring to life some of the issues some political parties raised, in the hope that, should the issues crop up again in the 2019 elections, we may know which of those are a replay of a script that was sold in 2014.
Malawi’s road infrastructure is over 20 years behind, with unnecessary congestions, leading to Malawi having one of the highest road traffic accident rates in the Southern African Development Community region. Public transport is also expensive and unreliable. Nasaf’s vision is [that of] a Malawi that has a modern, safe, fast, efficient and affordable public transportation system.
(Our) objectives are to revamp the National Road Traffic Directorate in order to make it corrupt free and be proactive; expand the offices of National Road Traffic Directorate to accommodate increased and better clients’ care; strengthen and eliminate loopholes in the procurement procedures of a driver’s licence in order to eliminate [cases of] insufficiently-trained drivers; empower the National Roads Authority to eliminate all unauthorised use of national road reserves; widen all major intersections on all M roads to reduce congestion; expand the bitumised road network across the country; regularly maintain all gravel roads; construct bridges on all secondary roads that are impassable during rainy season such as the Mangochi-Makanjira Road, the Lilongwe-Kasiya-Bua Road and the Rumphi-Chitipa Road via Wenga and Nthalire to mention but a few.   

Chipani Cha Pfuko presidential candidate
We believe that developing the rail industry is the hallmark of development. We will, therefore, ensure that we improve our rail network by rehabilitating the current network so that rail transport can become the main means of transporting goods, including agricultural produce, in the country.
But our programme of action will not end there; we will make sure that we develop new railway networks which will be integrated with the national and international networks to ease transportation problems. We believe that railway transport is the gate-way to the outside world, and that an improved railway network is key to bringing the cost of goods down, thereby impacting positively on national development.
We believe that there is nothing new that can be done to improve the national road network which has not been done, hence our focus on railway transportation. While taking cognisance of the fact that water, air and road transport are key to national development, we will make railway transport our focus of development.  
We shall revive the Nsanje World Inland Port Project which will cut transportation costs by 60 percent.  Our commitment towards Malawi roads, railways, airline, postal and telecommunications services can at best be described as our flagship. Improved operations and efficiency of transport and communications infrastructures support increased production and trade.
In addition, the DPP will develop new inter-modal infrastructures to support our agriculture, industry and energy so as to ensure that these sectors help to sustain new levels of growth of our economy. In this regard, the following will be given top priority:- Construct a new and comprehensive network of rural access roads and trunk roads to serve the remote agricultural areas so that produce can reach the urban markets safety and efficiently.
Upgrading, maintaining and repairing roads, bridges, airports and lake harbours to enable them to support our new vision of development. We will complete the Nsanje Inland Port and operationalise into a canal to use barges from the Indian Ocean.
This will support national development programmes and to develop inter-state links with Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania as well as Sadc, Comesa and the rest of the world. Upgrade and maintain Kamuzu and Chileka International airports, and develop international airports in Mangochi, Nsanje, Mzuzu and Karonga.
Improve the railways, which continue to be the main means of transportation for Malawi, through more efficient management on a commercial basis. We shall rehabilitate existing railways and develop new railway networks for integrating with regional networks and harmonise railways policy, administration practices and procedures to ensure that railways networks are compatible with other modes of transport.   

Infrastructure investments form the backbone of Malawi’s economic and social reforms. Malawi has long suffered from an infrastructure deficit. Agriculture reforms are also dependent on adequate road access and marketing infrastructure. Transportation is cited as one of the key obstacles to private sector investment.
Delays at ports and border posts, unduly complex customs and regulatory and non-tariff barriers along major routes all contribute to higher than necessary transport costs, making it harder for Malawi to integrate into the regional and global economy. Road safety is also a major issue that requires solutions that address institutions, attitudes and physical infrastructure.
Rail transport is underutilised as a lower cost alternative to road freight due to poor condition of rails, rail-beds and shortages of rolling stock. Weak trade supporting infrastructure is profound as
Malawi ranked 73rd out of 155 countries in 2012. Malawi must improve its development prospects by strengthening its hard and soft infrastructure in order to better exploit trade opportunities. Unit costs for transport inside Malawi are at least twice as high as in South Africa as a result of long distances to ports and the low backloads.
The UDF will unlock Malawi’s potential as the transit route for the increasing volume of minerals being produced, including initiating PPP agreements between the Government of Malawi and private sector especially in rail transport; re-establish the Beira Rail Way link as a matter of urgency; strengthen regional development corridors to improve trade facilitation, reduce cross borders and travel time in infrastructure back bones, especially power, IEC and transport; strengthen the capacity of key transport sector institutions including Ministry of Transport.
While opposition political parties are yet to get their days in the sun of governing this country, the DPP has had its chance. Has it lived up to the dreams?
Next Tuesday, I will highlight where the DPP has fulfilled its campaign promises, and where it had failed big time.


The barbed wire covering the big part of Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa District can only do much in terms of restricting his physical movements. More so when, as one of the people living in a restricted area, a gate-pass is the only temporary way to the world beyond Dzaleka.
Fortunately, the barbed wire does nothing, if anything at all, to hinder Levi Pro’s wandering mind; a mind so fertile that one would not think he is only 20 years old.
Levi Pro, real name Levis Ndayishimiye, has, in the past three years, been one of young men who have shone during the Tumaini Festival, an annual celebration of culture and creativity that brings people from far and wide to Dzaleka.
“In life, one should have no limits,” says Levi Pro.
It is Friday, March 23, and Weekender is at Dzaleka Refugee camp.
As is the case sometimes— except when there are special occasions or people are having one or two drinks at any of the drinking joints at the camp— the scene is silent and still. Of course, some children, aged between seven and 15 years, create fun by the mere gesture of throwing dust in the air, or at each other.
Unknown to the fist-time visitor is the fact that there is a lot of activity— activities bordering on fun— in the mind of another young man who is, visibly, silent but silently active. In the mind, that is.
It is Levi Pro, the producer who has spent the better part of his life at Dzaleka, having come to the place many call home away from home in 2006. In this home away from home, Levi Pro has, in the past three weeks, been preparing for mock examinations. Before the year ends, in this home away from home, Levi Pro will sit examinations; not as Levi Pro, for that is a name associated with his trade as an artist, but as Levis Ndayishimiye.
I find him in the course of studies, which he combines with business because his guardians run a small grocery, saving other residents of the camp from the trouble of travelling a distance of between 300 and 400 metres to buy groceries, maize flour, rice, tomatoes, onions, fresh and dry fish and whatever tickles their fancy at the bustling market in the camp.
“I call it multi-tasking; studying, selling merchandise, producing music for choirs and individual artists, praising God, in my capacity as a Catholic, and helping children who show interest in the arts with the necessary knowledge,” says Levi Pro, who is fluent in Chichewa, English, French, among other languages.
He says this as we sit in his make-shift studio. It is dark inside. Blackouts have hit again.
“You see, as a producer, I get interrupted by power outages because, sometimes, they come just when you were about to save the work or when a brilliant idea has struck you and you are about to execute it. Sometimes, especially when you are working on deadlines, power outages can make you appear unreliable to people who seek your services. The thing is, I have no backup power,” Levi Pro says.
Well, I first heard of the name Levi Pro during the Tumaini Festival last year, although the soft-spoken artist has performed there three times— meaning, three years.
The artist has over 20 songs to his credit, including ‘Atakamapenzi’, ‘I am Born Again’, ‘Life ndi Yovuta’, ‘You Are The Reason Why’, ‘Anything I do’, ‘Ndinu Nokha God’, I Believe in Christ’, ‘Natakatuwe Pamoja [Ndikufuna Tikhale Pamodzi]’, among others.
He is a hip hop artist, which is not surprising because Levi Pro is a fan of American artist Eminem. But, to serve the interests of R&B lovers, the artist also delves into the same, making him a master of both.
“Since I started taking music seriously in 2014, I have been into hip hop. I have a brother, JB Extra, who is into reggae and dance hall. For the most part, I sing about God because I regard myself as born again, in the sense that I shed off my past and embraced Jesus Christ,” says Levi Pro, who feels at home when playing with instruments or none at all, when performing free style or as programmed by those responsible for organising an event.
He fits in all worlds, or so it seems, because, in his world— a world that sets physical limits despite its failure to arrest the mind— flexibility is the name of the game.
“I may say I am secular but I like the gospel of Jesus Christ. As I have said, I am born again,” he says.
He then delves into the issues of staying at Dzaleka, where the body’s freedom is, to some extent, limited but the mind is always free; so free that, even when wars are still ravaging one’s home country, the mind is always free to take the individual person back home, where the individual can revisit places that were, and are, dear to them.
But only in the mind.
“Of course, if you talk of life here [at Dzaleka], it is tough, especially when it comes to getting money; even when it comes to getting singers. But, then, life does not place a ceiling on our heads. One is free to do whatever they like; so long as they have life. So, I am free in as far as life is concerned. I am free to be creative. I am free to help others. And I am free to being helped.
“What do I mean by saying I am free to being helped? I mean, as an individual, I need things that I may not be able to get on my own. For example, I need a professional studio; a room with buffers, a nice computer, monitors, mid-piano, sound card, mixer, among other things,” says the 2018 Malawi School Certificate of Education candidate.
But, as he waits for a day the sun will shine on his life, a day that will transform his hopes to reality, the wheels of life continue to roll. As usual.
Talking of life, what is life, to Levi Pro?
“Life is a season. That is why I divide my time into seasons. I have a season for recording and producing songs for choirs and a season for producing songs for individual artists. When one realises that life is, simply put, a season, it becomes easy for them to divide the activities they spend much time doing into seasons. That is what I do. The only thing that has no season is any action that borders on reaching out to others, helping them. That is why I am always at the service of those around me. When they give me a task, like selling things in the grocery, I do them,” says Levi Pro.
So far, he has produced songs for 30 choirs, some of them have come from as far as Mponela in Dowa District.
In terms of individual artists, he had produced songs for JB Extra, Ranking, RED, among others.
From time to time, Levi Pro finds himself engaging those responsible for the camp on the need for a gate-pass, and that happens when artists have asked him to travel to their base to record songs or when exigencies of duty demand that he should venture out to look at life from the angle of a new comer.
“You see, sometimes, when I am producing songs for a group of six or more people, it becomes cheaper for me to travel to their base, because it is cost effective, in terms of transport costs, than for them to come here [at Dzaleka] because that means incurring more in transport costs [on their part],” says Levi Pro.
His hope is that, in his small way, even when surrounded by barbed wire, he can contribute to the economy of Malawi— the country he calls home away from home.
“What I can say is that, once artists are supported financially, technically and otherwise, they can propel the economy. The arts industry is part of the economy, in the sense that there is the possibility of generating income, creating employment, among other things. There is no ceiling as to how much the arts industry can contribute to the economy. All we, artists, need is support,” says Levi Pro.
At that point, one of the residents at Dzaleka knocks at the counter of the grocery— which is connected to houses in the place Levi Pro calls home—from outside.
“I am coming,” says Levi Pro.
That is what it means to be of service to humanity. One has to combine business with service, especially because helping out has no demarcated seasons.

Women land with ‘A Grafted Tree and Other Stories’

Again, women have abandoned their monologue.
After taking to books to express themselves following the re-advent of multiparty politics in 2003, it has been relatively quiet in the creative department of women, especially when it comes to publishing works collectively.
No more; perhaps because women have realised that speaking to oneself is akin to speaking on top of one’s voice on a windy day. The voice will, most likely, be swallowed up by the winds, leaving the speaker wondering as to whether the message has landed home or not.
Winds may not be such a good medium of communication.
A book, on the other hand, is.
Why? “Because people are able to articulate issues and there are no fears about information getting lost because [when you publish] it [the message] is in permanent form,” says Sambalikagwa Mvona, Malawi Writers (Mawu) Union President.
With 13 books to his credit— and counting— Mvona is not speaking from a position of ignorance. He has been there. He knows the book publishing landscape in Malawi like the palm of his right hand. He is right-handed, after all.
And, so, Mvona— Cultural Fund of Malawi through Hivos and others who value the arts— asked women to submit short stories for inclusion in an anthology. Those who were successful attended workshops funded by the Cultural Support Scheme and Cultural Fund of Malawi.
A Grafted Tree and Other Stories: An Anthology of Women Writers in Malawi is the product of those efforts.
Mvona says the anthology is part of the efforts to revive story-telling in Malawi.
“For many years, story-telling has always been associated with women— grandmothers telling age-long stories to their grandchildren around a fire-place. Stories have been told of kalulu’s [hare] cleverness, of the forest creatures, napolo— that snake which triggers floods— competitive chimtali and mganda dances, the great tireless journeys to copper, diamond and gold mines surrounding our country and many more that knighted our great heroes.
“But, with time, such stories are sadly diminishing as more of such story-tellers are phasing out and others are increasingly migrating to urban centres. But women, because of their status, do not fall short of awe with stories that grip their bodies and sidestep their paths to success. This makes us believe that women are natural story-tellers no matter the conditions they are entangled in,” Mvona says in the introduction.
Demetrina Herman Banda opens the chapter in the anthology with her piece, ‘The Bargaining Chip’, a story that revolves around a girl called Chifatso Gamaliyele from Sangani, a rural district.
Through hard work and dedication, she finds herself at Kabula University. Being the Gamaliyeles’ only child and one of the education ‘survivors’ in an area where cases of school dropout and early marriages are rampant, she defies the odds to scale greater heights.
After sailing past stumbling blocks such as peer pressure, Chifatso faces a block more challenging than those she has faced before— a professor [Kazukuta], bent on establishing contact that may lead to romance with her, fails her in examinations. After failing the calculus, she has to know why she has failed and that means meeting the professor.
The story becomes intriguing at this point and forces one to read on so that they may understand how it ends.
‘Smooth Operator’, a story by Matilda Phiri, starts with a bad day for the protagonist, Ethel, after a thief steals her handbag in Limbe, Blantyre’s commercial centre.
She lost her mother to breast cancer while in university and goes on facing one form of challenge or another.
In a way, ‘Smooth Operator’ is a story of love because, along the way, Ethel and Frank fall in love. In the mix of emotions, love and recklessness, she gets pregnant.
Coincidentally, Ethel’s sister, Linda, falls pregnant and it is Frank, too, who is responsible.
The protagonist cannot stomach it.
In ‘Destiny’, a story by Nancy Phiri, Destiny, a poor girl, young and helpless, is left shocked after learning that her fate and that of her sisters is to be decided by her uncle’s family.
“Destiny felt a pang of fear. They were gathered in her mother’s bedroom. Her uncle, his wife and the two remaining sisters. How could these people be so heartless? Planning her life as if she was a bag of potatoes. The cheek of it all in the deceased bedroom…” paragraph six of the story sums the gist of the matter.
But, as her name suggests, she is destined for greater things. She manages to attain an education and, finally, marries the man of her choice.
What is more? She even forgives those who wronged her on her way to success.
‘Napolo’, a story by Patience Chilinjala, starts with a persona promising to live by his words. What are the words? Writing a letter to the daughter who, apparently, was close to his heart.
After those words, as the author puts it, she breathes with ease as she watches him get in a boat.
“Carefully clutching his small bag that was tightly fit in his waist, he helped himself up on the port size of the boat. Oars in the hand, he pushed the boat further from the shore,” reads part of the story.
It turns out that the father is involved in fishy business and the daughter is bent on finding out.
There are many other stories, including ‘The Night Owls’ by Dalitsani Lucy Anselmo, ‘Nanyoni’s Fate’ by Thokozani Kasiya, ‘Revenge Has A Bitter Taste’ by Fiddy Lundu, ‘Giselle’ by Natasha Munde, ‘The Eclipse’ by Victoria Kalaundi, ‘The World is Round’ by Mwayi Sambalikagwa Mvona.
Other stories are ‘Guilty’ by Grace Sharra, ‘Murderer of the Village’ by Roseby Gadama, ‘A Grafted Tree’ by Tikondwe Kaphagawani-Chimkowola, ‘The Landlady’ by Clara Honester Chikuni, ‘Tainted’ by Charlene Matekenya, ‘My Mother’s Daughter’ by Maurlin Madukani, ‘Chongo’ by Edith Kalawo, ‘Moments of Life’ by Mercy Pindani, ‘That Girl Is You’ by Precious Nihorowa, ‘For Francis Soul’ by Alinafe Olivia Gundo and ‘Rumours’ by Norah Mervis Lungu.
The only blip in the anthology could be that there is no colouring of language, and those wishing to add some words to their vocabulary, or be surprised by the weaving of words, will be disappointed.
Otherwise, the stories are full of themes, giving readers a chance to, at least, get a piece from the cake that is creative writing.      
So, while, in other spheres of life, the talk is about women empowerment through the door of politics— as Malawians prepare for the 2019 Tripartite Elections, namely Local Government, parliamentary and presidential elections— Mawu seems bent on sending home the message that women can also dominate the arts.
This point will be emphasised today, during the launch of A Grafted Tree and Other Stories: An Anthology of Women Writers in Malawi at Jacaranda Cultural Centre.
If a bunch of books is evidence of readiness, then Mawu is ready— for books upon books graced Mvona’s Blantyre office when Weekender visited it on Tuesday. The books are ready for launch, not just at Jacaranda but in people’s hearts— so long as they connect to the stories.
Twenty-one stories litter the book with their myriad themes.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Bakili Muluzi Still Hates Sam Mpasu

Even after the winds of death swept across Mudi in Blantyre, taking with them diplomat, author and politician Sam Mpasu leaving Malawi's landscape dry and one soul less  the term forgiveness still does not exist in Malawi's president Bakili Muluzi's his vocabularly, especially when it comes to Mpasu [sorry for the long paragraph].
Mpasu, in case some do not know, fought for multi-party democracy in Malawi, after joining the underground movement that, later, after the Catholic bishops had paved the road with that famous Pastoral Letter– in which they condemned the excesses of power and appealed for sanity, spiritual or otherwise– took on the name United Democratic Front (UDF).
Mpasu was one of the people who settled for Muluzi as party leader, even though Muluzi was an outsider of sorts in the UDF. Well, Muluzi rode his luck and the rest is history. History that stops at Muluzi's unsuccessful  attempts to vie for limitless terms of office and, when it became clear to him that that was not going to happen, third term. Again, in vain.
At the heart of those who resisted Muluzi's undemocratic overtures is Mpasu, who as Speaker of the National Assembly Muluzi was re-positioning to extend his extend his term beyond the constitutionally sanctioned two, five-year terms– connived with UDF insiders to frustrate Muluzi.
No wonder,  Muluzi appointed Mpasu Minister of Trade and Industry at the height of calls for Muluzi to contest in the 2004 presidential election for the third-term. Mpasu openly defied Muluzi by refusing to take up the post.
Public broadcaster went on overdrive, accusing Mpasu of being full of himself. How dare he challenge the president? Around this question traditional leaders were castigating Mpasu,. along with political analysts with questionable credentials.
Mpasu, facing political winds from all directions on the campus, finally succumbed to pressure and accepted to 'pick up' the post of Minister of Trade and Industry. During Muluzi's time, it was called the Ministry of Trade and Industry; it is Malawi's third Republican president, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, who declared that the ministry should be called that of Industry and Trade, to reflect his renewed focus on industrialisation.
 By appointing Mpasu Cabinet minister, Muluzi hoped to work behind the scenes to bring in someone [to the position of Speaker of Parliament] who would lick his boots. Someone who would be game to the idea of Muluzi running for a third term.
But, somehow, thanks to condemnation from Catholic bishops, political commentators and UDF insiders who were working behind the scenes to frustrate Muluzi, sanity prevailed. Muluzi was defeated and, in a bout of panic and shame in equal measure, he announced– rather reluctantly– that he would not stand again.
And, in a fit of shameless abandon, Muluzi abandoned the truth and started peddling lies. Whatelse could he do, when he was caught pants down trying to rape the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi?
Muluzi started lying, in broad day-light and sometimes at night, that it was UDF supporters who were drumming up support for a third term; continuing, rather shamelessly, that he had nothing to do with the third-term campaign.
Of course, this was a lie and Muluzi knew it.
Muluzi wanted a third-term. He wanted it badly. So that, at his behest, those who opposed it were tortured. A democrat-turned-animal on the loose.
Malawi's democracy was in silent crisis.
Examples, of people who were tortured, abound. Mark Mezalume, who once dined with the National Democratic Alliance of Brown Mpinganjira – a political chameleon who was once Malawi Congress Party [during the one party regime everyone was a member], once UDF, once People's Party, once National Democrat Alliance, now Democratic Progressive Party– was harked at Clock Tower in Blantyre during demonstrations against the third-term bid.
The hackers, sent, of course, by the so-called democratic UDF, hacked Mezalume, rendering one of his eyes dysfunctional. He had to undergo an operation.
Surprisingly, Mezalume later joined the UDF. Oh, forgiveness at best.
But the fact is that he will never have his eye back – in its original form–although he did suffer a change of heart.
'HOME' Mpasu
Anyway, all these points serve to show that Muluzi loved the idea of the third term with his whole heart, and was ready to punish those who were against it. One of those who were against it is the man Mpasu; a man who stood for the truth no matter how painful. So long as he did not suffer the pain himself, of course. 
And Muluzi has never forgiven Mpasu for that, even as Mpasu lies peacefully, but breathless anyway, under the red soils of Khuzi Village, Senior Chief Kwataine, in Ntcheu District.
That is why Muluzi– well-known by his fans as 'Oyenda m'maliro [funeral-monger]', a moniker he loves so much that he would pay anything to have that moniker preserved– did not attend Mpasu's funeral [and burial] in Ntcheu on Sunday, February 19, 2018.
Muluzi is still angry.
And Muluzi does not want to forgive Mpasu.
Muluzi loves his third-term.
You see, thinking that the past was gone, and that he would rekindle his third-term dreams, Muluzi attempted to register in the 2009 presidential elections and, when the Malawi Electoral Commission made it clear that that would be impossible, since he had served the maximum of two five-year terms as Malawi's president, Muluzi went to the courts.
The courts, as expected, rebuffed Muluzi, saying he had ran his course. 
Shamefully, even without Mpasu playing the role of antagonist, Muluzi lost again.
He spends his days at BCA Hill drowning in the shame of his unsuccessful attempt to get a third-term he did not deserve.
He spends his days at BCA Hill hating on Mpasu, even as Mpasu rests peacefully, but breathless anyway, in the Ngoniland away from Lake Malawi.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Bakili Muluzi's headache

It is not often that confusion reins in former Malawi president Bakili Muluzi's house.
Not the kind of confusion that seems to be reigning after one of his self-acclaimed son, Francis, declared that he would contest as Member of Parliament in the 2019 Tripartite [Local Government, Parliamentary and Presidential] Elections.
Now, there is nothing wrong when an individual declares that he or she wants to vie for public office. Indeed, as a self-confessed "democrat", the former president pretty well knows this.
The problem, though, is that Francis, who is often seen standing behind Muluzi's other son, Atupele, has declared that he wants to contest on the ticket of the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP). Which is surprising because, to begin with, the former president, like those who ventured into politics during the one party regime, started his political journey in the MCP. But, in a twist of events, Muluzi joined those who were agitating for multiparty politics in 1993, stirring the political waters when the United Democratic Front (UDF) was an underground movement.
In so doing, Muluzi started spewing venom at the MCP, discrediting it and its leadership in public. At every available opportunity, he could scandalise its leadership.
Of course, Muluzi formed a 'strange' political relationship with the MCP in 2009, when the courts made it clear that he could not contest as president in the general elections of that year, having served two five-year terms between 1994 and 2004.
Caught between a limitless sea and hard rock, Muluzi dined with MCP presidential candidate John Tembo by telling the electorate to vote for the MCP.
Of course, Tembo, speaking on Zodiak Broadcasting Station a week ago, denied ever being in a political alliance with the UDF or Muluzi in 2009.
But, if Muluzi's public pronouncements on the MCP are anything to go by, it does not make sense for his son Francis to contest on an MCP ticket in next year's elections.
Francis wants to contest in Blantyre-Kabula Constituency.
Secondly, it does not make sense for Francis to contest on an MCP ticket when Atupele, his other brother, is the leader of the former ruling UDF. 
It is like there is confusion in the family and the centre cannot hold.
But, then, this is democracy. People have a right to contest in public positions on whichever ticket tickles their fancy.
Just that, in the case of Francis, his choice is Muluzi's headache.

MISA Malawi concerned with attack of MBC reporters by MCP supporters

Statement for immediate release
The Malawi Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA Malawi) would like to condemn the action of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) supporters for attacking reporters from Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) who had been assigned to take aerial visuals of City Centre in the Capital Lilongwe on Sunday, January 28.

Reports indicate that MBC crew Prince Donda and Elias Chauluka were taking aerial visuals of the City Centre using a drone when MCP supporters attacked the crew on suspicion that they were filming an MCP National Executive (NEC) meeting which was allegedly under way at the MCP offices in the area.

The crew managed to escape without injuries but the drone is apparently with the MCP supporters.

Lingadzi Police Station Public Relations Officer Foster Benjamin confirmed the development to MISA Malawi Monday, January 29 saying the law enforcers were overpowered when they tried to retrieve the drone. He said the police are still investigating the matter.

MISA Malawi would like to remind people that the ‘media has a right to report within Malawi and abroad and to be accorded the fullest possible facilities for access to information.’ We believe taking footage of the City Centre or even coverage of the MCP meeting is no exception.

The MBC crew clearly failed to do their work because of the conduct of the MCP supporters.

The supporters created a hostile atmosphere for the journalists to undertake their assignment. The conduct of the MCP supporters was not only an interference with the work of the media but also a threat to the lives of the crew.

Efforts to speak to MCP officials proved futile.

We would however like to call upon MCP authorities and leadership to arrange for the return of the drone and ensure that the matter is investigated and the culprits disciplined. MCP should also take measures to prevent any future attack on the media.

Attacking reporters and treating them as criminals is barbaric and retrogressive. MISA Malawi would like to caution the general public against any form of attack on journalists in their line of duty. Journalists have a responsibility to report and inform Malawians on developments in the country. Any form of attack on journalists is an infringement on not just the media’s right to gather and report but also citizens’ right to know.

In the same vein we would like to call upon all media outlets and practitioners to be professional and impartial in their work. Only a professional media sector can safe guard our nascent democracy and facilitate socio-economic development of our country.

Teresa Ndanga
Chairperson, MISA Malawi

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Catherine Kawawa’s paycheck

The hope, for the most part, is that money flows naturally. I mean, if one is creative enough to compose songs, they must, surely, have sticky pockets that can attract money from all over the place.
It follows, therefore, that, because people think that nothing is out of the reach of artists— who, traditionally, are considered the lynchpin of everything creative— artists who cry foul over exploitation are sometimes regarded as unreasonable.
This line of thinking could, perhaps, be to blame for creating a tableau of bliss in the creative industry, when the truth is that this is not always the case.
Which is why people have to work hard— sometimes sweating blood— to get a fat cheque in the creative industry.
Maybe gospel artist Catherine Kawawa had a real picture of the situation when she decided to dedicate her life to God through music.
After all, she did not just start from the top, but had to start from the ground, working with this artist or that. I am talking of artists who were relatively established the time she decided to venture into the music industry. Even when she did not participate in events as the headliner— getting, instead, satisfied by any role relatively established artists could throw at her— those in the audience could not escape the impact of her contribution in their lives.
I say so without fear of contradiction because, once or twice, I happened to be part of the audience when Kawawa backed Favoured Martha at one point in time; before I happened to be where Maggie Pangani was having a performance and Kawawa had to, as I knew better, back her.
Surely, both cases qualified for those moments when people lead from the back, stealing the show from those who attract all the cameras because they are the main actors.
Which was not bad because, if she were someone else, Catherine, [who at the time of making her foray into music had a close relationship with money, having served as payroll officer at G4S] would have let the sadness that clouded  her life after her father’s [Mr Kananji] death in 1999 distract her from her goals.
You know how, sometimes, people are taken aback when they lose those they care for.
But Catherine, surely, encouraged by the light that is Jesus Christ, moved on with life.
In her faith, she started backing the likes of Favoured Martha and Maggie Pangani while learning the ropes.
And, then, boom! She rushed to the studio, where she started recording the album Afuna Iwe.
The album went to the market, tasting the waters I should say. Maybe weeks went; no real income.
A month. The money not coming.
Which is contrary to the perceptions of some people, who feel, as I said earlier, that artists can do anything— even when what they have to do is out of their power.
Take, for example, someone who releases an album. They expect to get something because, in the end, they eat and drink and hope and dream. Like us.
And sometimes the money does not come as expected; or when we want it.
Catherine waited.
And, then, boom! She started selling CDs of the album Afuna Iwe. She kept on hoping for the best; for a sunny day.
And, then, as she said [herself] on January 20 2013, when she was 34, she wanted to shed the tears of joy when she counted money she had in her hands and discovered that it amounted to K40, 000. The first chunk of money from her first album.
Her efforts had paid off.
No wonder, it was a happy moment; moment of relief, for there is more work ahead.
Her happiness lied in the fact that, with patience, she had waited and waited, until she saw the burden of anxiety laid down forever, under the ‘heavy’ weight of a bunch of notes amounting to K40, 000.
And K40, 000 was a lot of money then!