Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The year that was 2009

Manganya Strategises on Piracy
By Richard Chirombo
Comedian Michael Usi, aka Manganya, says he has put in place stringent anti-piracy mechanisms ahead of the release of his latest movie, ‘Living on Poison’.
‘Living on Poison’ is set to be premiered next month, August 1, at Comesa Hall in Blantyre- a development Usi describes as a life-time opportunity for Malawians to choose their favourite episodes for inclusion in the final product.
Usi says he has leant a bitter lesson from what happened to his ‘Dr. Manga’ film, which got into the wrong hands and is now out of his control. ‘Dr. Manga’ continues to be shown on various international Airlines, yet the talented comedian has got nothing to show for his talent and sweat contributed towards that acclaimed film.
This has prompted Usi to put in place stringent measures aimed at arresting piracy long before the release of ‘Living on Poison’.
“This time around, we have become cleverer in that we have put in place stringent measures aimed at preventing piracy. We are building from our experience with ‘Dr. Manga’ film; a lot of people got arrested because of pirating that film. This time, we have increased monitoring mechanisms and are ready to take those caught pirating to book,” said Usi.
A soft-spoken Usi, resting his right leg over the left in his office in Blantyre, promised that ‘Living on Poison’ would be a record breaker for Malawi, as he has become more and more inquisitive about human behaviour in the film.
“I have always been fascinated with human behaviour: why do people behave the way they do? This, and many more, forms the thesis of this film,” said Usi.
The yet-to-be-released ‘Living on Poison’ has episodes that tackle various real life experiences- a cheating husband, an inner political cycle that happens to be a lying lot in a bid to impress the President, and prisoners convicted on grounds of reformation, only to be turned “from criminals to beasts” because of the poor treatment they get at prison.
The short of it all is that people pretend to be what they are (cosmetic living)- which Usi equates to living on perform, as an individual’s natural scent gets enveloped in perform and fellow beings live a lie about such an individual since they merely get the painted side- when they are far from it.
“Living on Perform’ is an ambitious film. That is manifest in the fact that it represents, at least, four nations: Sweden, Burundi, United Kingdom and Malawi. These nations are represented by the people who play their roles in the film, adding the much needed flavour, experience and solidarity to the Malawian production.
Usi would also wish to involve the Malawian public, that those who will trek to Comesa Hall on August 1 and partake of the feast will be in for an entertaining surprise.
There will be an assortment of public competitions-all funny, really. One will be about overalls; who will dress quicker than the rest?
Nsima, too. Who will eat his mountain load of Nsima faster than the other?
Laughing: Who will hold the vocal chords a little longer. Who will laugh a little longer?
“There will be many interesting things,” he said.
Usi became the first Malawian to receive international recognition when, in August 2008, he was honoured with a plaque for his outstanding service to youth ministry in West-Central African Division. The event took place in Calabar, Nigeria.

‘Dr. Manga’ piracy case lingers on
By Richard Chirombo
Comedian Michael Usi has so many unanswered questions about his first film, ‘Dr Manga’.
When he set out to release ‘Dr. Manga’ some four years ago, he had a clear vision. He wanted to take Malawi’s film industry to the next big level.
That happened because the film found itself in such countries as Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania and United Kingdom. The film even flew on acclaimed international Airlines free of charge, in both the economy and business class segments.
It was with the same spirit, wishing to make it big for Malawi, that he sought the services of a merchandise film, which promised it would reproduce ‘Dr. Manga’ and make it available to as many as possible. Usi, too, would get more money for his sweat.
He never did.
And the film is no longer in his hands.
What happened?
Usi could not say much, for fear of pre-empting what has been lined up for the courts. He could only reveal, however, that: “In fact, that issue has gone to court, and my lawyers have advised me against speaking much about it, as it remains a sensitive issue. All I can say is that that issue is now in court.”
Usi hoped that he would come to the root of so many unanswered questions. He, and Malawians, may also get to know how the ‘Dr. Manga’ film grew legs and found itself being shown in world acclaimed Airlines.
He, and the nation, will also learn how ‘Dr. Manga’ film went to the airport, booked a ticket, and……..boom, found itself in the United Kingdom, Nigeria and other countries.
No that he loathes success and fame, who would hate that? It is a question of benefiting from one’s sweat.
“A lot goes into producing a film. So much money that you need something back. Justice, too, is another issue. Piracy harms innocent people,” he said.

MPS pays up
By Richard Chirombo
The Malawi Police Service (MPS) has paid the K5.7 million fine meted by the Super League of Malawi (Sulam) for the unceremonious way they withdrew Eagle Beaks from the league.
MPS announced recently it would not allow Eagle Beaks, one of the two sides it sponsors in the league, to continue plying its trade in the country’s prestigious league. Instead, MPS was for merging of the two sides into one team.
This irked the Super League of Malawi, which threatened to penalize sponsors of the two sides. MPS would be required to cough half of the league’s running costs, amounting to over K25 million.
The figure was later reduced to K5.7 million following some mitigation from MPS, which included the point that off loaded players would still be well taken care of.
Williams Banda, Sulam General Secretary, confirmed today MPS had paid the fine.
“The money will help us off set some of the costs incurred in preparing for the league. We will also modify the fixture we have released to accommodate the team that will replace Eagle Beaks,” said Banda.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that NCIC, formerly Pakeeza United, will replace Eagle Beaks.
A Sulam meeting held this week resolved to bring Pakeeza back into the league, owing to its league position the time it got the boot from the TNM Super League last season.
The team slided back to the Central Region Chipiku Football League alongside Michiru Castles, which is now playing in the Southern Region Arkay Plastics Football League.
Banda asked other teams, such as Michiru, not to despair as their time would come in future.
Initially, Sulam planned to organize play offs amongst Michiru and Pakeeza following the withdrawal of a Northern region side on grounds of financial incapacity.


Comedian Tackles Malawian Politicians in New Film
By Richard Chirombo
Michael Usi, aka Manganya, has prepared a timely concoction for politicians in his ‘soon-to-be-released ‘Living on Perform’ film.
‘Living on Perfume’ will be premiered at Comesa Hall in Blantyre on August 1, a development Usi says will accord Malawians film lovers an opportunity to critique and suggest episodes to be included in his final release less this year.
Malawi is still leaking of the May 19 Presidential and Parliamentary elections scent, elections widely acclaimed for their peaceful conduct.
Usi says he had included an episode tackling politicians because he wants the newly-elected President, and all other world presidents, to know that there are inner cycles in political administrations who tell the president outdated realities.
These people feed the president with barium meal because they want to protect their jobs, a trend that disadvantages the voting public because the leader they elected ends up leaving in a cosmetic world- a world and far from present realities, he says.
‘Living on Perfume’ is an episode-centred production tackling various other issues, apart from politics. These include the barbaric treatment of prisoners in Malawian penitentiary institutions when the basis for convicting such individuals was ‘reformation and rehabilitation’.
“It is like living on perfume, living the cosmetic side of life. Instead of being reformed, as prisoners are made to believe, our people are turned from ‘criminals’ to ‘beasts’. That is living on perfume.
“It’s the same with our politicians: We elect them for what they tell us during campaign, believing, as they do, that they will fulfill their part of the promise. The next thing is that the president meets an inner political cycle of advisers that tells him things not reflective of the situation on the ground. The president starts living on perfume,” said Usi.
He asked presidents to be careful, if they were to be in touch with realities on the ground. That will save them from ‘living on perfume’ and getting out of touch with the electorate.
Usi has produced two films so far, films that made international in roads. These include ‘Dr. Manga’ and ‘Manganya in Action’.
He was last year in August honoured with a plaque in recognition of his outstanding service to youth ministry in West-African Division, at a ceremony held in Calabar, Nigeria.
His main concern, however, remains piracy of his films.
Usi doesn’t understand how his films have found themselves on international Airlines. ‘Dr. Manga’, for instance, continues to be shown on various international Airlines.
‘Dr. Manga’ can also be found in Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, Mali, and Zambia, among other countries, yet he did not contract any production company there.
Malawi’s film industry is in its nascent stage, though talk of the country’s own Mollywood version has recently been on film lovers lips.

We are here, opposition
By Richard Chirombo
Opposition political parties have assured voters they will not abandon their checks-and-balances role over government actions, putting to rest fears Malawi has a lame-duck opposition following the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) overwhelming victory on May 19.
The opposition now has a combined 44 seats, against DPP’s official tally of 114. The majority of independent Members of Parliament has declared their allegiance to the ruling party, waving the development tag for their sudden change of heart.
The country’s largest opposition, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has 26 seats, though it has fired former party Publicist Ishmael Chafukira from its membership ranks, reducing its tally to 25.
Chafukira still seats on the opposition benches.
United Democratic Front (UDF), the second largest party, now has to make do with 16 MPs as independent MPs stole the show from the political parties and got more MPs as a block. They got 36 in the 193-member parliament.
Parliamentary elections never took place in Blantyre City Central following the death of National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) candidate Masautso Mbewe. A by-election will take place on July 31, though the Narc- the party that caused failure of the polls- has indicated it will not feature any candidate.
The opposition has surprised political observers by showing it still had teeth to bite, though the bite would be less fatal than during the past five years- when the opposition dominated parliament and made government business python-some.
It all started with MCP president John Tembo after Finance Minister, Ken Kandodo Banda, presented his budget Friday. Tembo said the budget was not pro-poor and would not benefit the ordinary voter in the village.
Tembo faulted the budget for reducing the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) allocation, a development described as sad and inconsiderate since the ordinary person has been allocated a smaller cake as large business players feast.
“I am rather disappointed that our people will not benefit much from this, though the budget is a mixed bag,” said Tembo.
Political analysts said Tembo’s sentiments indicated that he could still rise above internal party squabbles to speak out on crucial issues. Tembo’s Leader of Opposition position is currently being disputed, changing him from de facto opposition leader to mere backbencher in parliament.
The issue has been referred to the newly-instituted Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament for deliberation.
The surprise came through Ibrahim Matola, Leader of the UDF in Parliament.
Matola surprised the ruling side by describing the country’s economic achievements as a “fruit tree that bears no fruit”.
Malawi has been described by the United Kingdom based Economist Intelligence Unit as the second fastest growing economy in the world after oil rich Qatar.
Matola said this was merely opium smoke because ordinary Malawians were yet to benefit from the economic growth.
“There is nothing on the ground; commodity prices continue to rise. Where is the logic? Malawi is currently a fruit that has not borne fruit. The same thing applies for the so-called economic achievements,” said Matola.
In separate interviews, Tembo and Matola vowed to press on with their role as opposition leaders. He said that was the only way Malawians could have faith in the opposition.
“Let me dismiss fears that there will be no real opposition this time around; we are here. But we will not just oppose, we will make constructive criticisms and contributions,” said Tembo.
Matola, on his part, said UDF was committed to complimenting government’s development efforts, a task he said could be well done through constructive criticism.
“Let me say here that we have a vibrant opposition. Our wish is that the government side will be considering our legitimate concerns. We all want Malawi to develop,” said Matola.
President Bingu wa Mutharika has promised to make it easy for the opposition, saying DPP will not abuse its majority in Parliament- the way the country’s opposition abused its majority during the last parliament and made government business tough business.

Alliance Partners Take Low Profile
By Richard Chirombo
Alliance partners to opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) have been conspicuously quiet after the May 19, Parliamentary and Presidential elections, keeping people wondering about their next move.
UDF/MCP alliance partners were vocal before the elections, following UDF National Chairman Bakili Muluzi and MCP president John everywhere they went. These parties included the Congress for Democrats, Malawi Democratic Party, and Malawi Democratic Union.
It was the same case with Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) electoral partners in the names of Peoples Progressive Party and Peoples Patriotic Front. These parties have also been conspicuously absent from the scene.
Some of the party leaders have been seen, mainly in the commercial city of Blantyre, attending to private business issues, presenting a cool picture miles and miles away from the vocal politicians they were.
One of the party leaders, Malawi Democratic Union president Amunandife Mkumba, said the parties were now strategizing on the next move.
It is time for political reflection and, there after, you will learn of our next move,” said Mkumba.
However, some of the leaders said they were now attending to their private businesses ina bid to improve on their parties’ financial position.
Most political parties in Malawi are funded by their founders, a development that has been blamed for inculcating the ‘founder’s syndrome as it became difficult to replace such leaders in cases where they are not willing to relinquish power voluntarily.

Two grounds against World Bank’s K3b. loan
By Richard Chirombo
The World Bank has come under a spate of criticism from Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) experts, who accuse the bank of playing hide and seek over repayment terms and leaving out a corresponding infrastructure development component necessary to increase universal access.
This follows the decision on June 25 by the bank’s Board of Executive Directors to approve a US$20 million (K3 billion) International Development Association (IDA) credit for Malawi. The initiative is part of the Regional Infrastructure Project which aims at reducing the countries connectivity problems to international communication services, and is envisaged to reduce connectivity charges for the population.
The project also has a component that facilitates the review of policy and legal frameworks currently in use in the ICT sector, apart from strengthening the enforcement capacity of the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority’s.
However, Information, Communication and Technology Association of Malawi (Ictam) has warned that the project could end up being too costly for the country for its oversight of two crucial development components.
Ictam Publicity Secretary, Tobias Kumwenda, said in an exclusive interview this week Malawi stood to lose more than it could gain, in terms of financial obligations, if the issues of repayment terms as well as a corresponding infrastructure development project funded by the same IDA facility were not addressed.
“We feel that the government made a fundamental mistake in not conducting comprehensive consultations with ICT experts, including their mother body, Ictam. This had led to the exclusion of two crucial components, namely: corresponding infrastructure

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