Have you ever touched hands with History? No..,here is how you saw History, and never really saw it!
Women and Child Development Minister, Anna Kachikho, says Malawi cannot develop if policy makers overlook the needs of women and children.
Kachikho said today in Neno when the Association of Progresiive Women (APW) launched a shelter for orphans the aged women, policies that excluded the needs of the two groups were efforts in futile.
"Women and children are a crucial component of national development: they feed our nation, because they do all the farming, and also tender for our sick; yet society is prive to their needs, their plight. It cannot be denied that such attitude throw spanners in the work of developing our nation," she said.
Kachikho said, however, things had begun to change with the current administration of president Bingu wa Mutharika.
"Now our women, especially the aged, are taken as citizens of this country. In the past, we had common cases of the aged being tortured or their houses burnt on suspicions that they were practicing witchcraft. How can a normal child work up today and accuse the very woman who tendered them to grow of practicing witchcraft? Why, if that were the case, couldn't she just eat them when they were young? That is nonsense," said Kachikho.
APW Executive Director Reen Kachere, who used her personal finances to construct the shelter, located in Southern Malawi, described the aged as "walking libraries" whose services should be utilised for the benefit of posterity.
"In old people we have our past with us, today. Let us take care of them, let us not accuse them of practicing witchcraft, let us give them fertiliser subsidy coupons because they are still active citizens of this country," said Kachere, who pledged to continue uplifting the lives of the aged in Malawi.
She said the shelter would not be the last, as APW planned to construct more shelters in Mwanza, a neighbourly district to Neno. Mwanza and Neno used to be one district, but the Bakili Muluzi administration declared the later a district before he handed over the reigns of power to Mutharika.
Todate, perhaps reflecting the hasteness of that fateful decision, Neno has no tarred road- perhaps the only administrative centre in Malawi without the black staff on top of its red dust.
There are, however, developments taking place now, what with former United States president, Bill Clinton, in partnership with Scortish anthropologist Thom Hunter, constructing a hospital that is billed to be one of the best in Southern Malawi.
Francis Mkandawire, Bingu Silver Grey Foundation executive director- an charitable organisation owned by Mutharika- said it was time Malawians treated the elderly better.
"In fact, we say life begins at 60, and that is true. Those below 60 are tied up by work, their wives, the battle for every day survival; while those at 60, and above, have all the world to them, they are free.
"It becomes as a bad omen, therefore, to find people accusing these people of all sorts of things, most of which are aimed at making life at 60 the beginning of a bad end. Accusations of witchcraft, exclusion in societal activities, among others, yet these people are a treasure to all nation, a library, a gold-mine of experience," said Mkandawire who, at over 60 years of age, has just started her life.
Neno has 3450 aged men and women, and 10,690 orphans who look up to them for survival. That is, food, school fees, shelter, and advice- having lost their parents to HIV and Aids or road accidents, Malawi having one of the highest incidences of road accidents.
But, according to former Member of Parliament (MP) for the area and aspiring DPP, Joe Manduwa, the aged are left out during distribution of subsidised inputs like fertiliser and maize.
"Yet, these are the people who are nurturing our children into productive citizens. But it is true that the Mutharika administration is doing fine in taking care for the elderly," he enthused.
His statement could emanate from the fact that, apart from having a ministry for the elderly, Bingu's Silver Grey Foundation has so far disbursed items worth over K30 million to the elderly in Malawi since its establishment.
What's more: plans are in the offing to construct shelters for the elderly through out the country, a move that has drawn criticism from opposition parties, fearing the shelters would act like Nazi concentration camps since the elderly will be taken from their places of residence and communities and put in secluded places.
"Waiting for what? Death?", asks John Tembo, the leader of opposition in Parliament.
To which Information Minister, Patricia Kaliati, responds: " Tembo himself has failed to look after his grandparents properly; so when we want to give them a decent life, what is wrong with that?".
A question for a question. And, still, the question remains: Arguing over what?