Thousands go through the gates in the morning, not knowing if, after the natural light for that day is switched off, they will be there the next day, to work their sweat out for these peanuts that come at the end of 30 days.
I am the solution: President Bingu wa Mutharika
At retail chain store, People's Trading Centre, in the textiles industry, in the informal sector, and elsewhere except bureaucratic government, people are losing their jobs.
From February 2009, 4000 people have bid bye to their textiles industry jobs- though unofficial figures indicate that 10, 000 have gone home for all the bad reasons: firing, retrenchments, forced leave.
The companies cannot afford to pay them.
It all started, this sad journey people do not want to start or finish, when Malawi's Chief Executive Officer, Bingu wa Mutharika, came up with this mad formular called Zero-deficit Budget.
People, including those two global thieves namely the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, were puzzled.
A budget that runs on the wheels of what you have? They wondered. What if what you have is not enough to carry you through present uncertainties?
Mutharika, like a curios seller, has stood by his product, the so-called Zero-deficit budget.
Now companies have added one more piece to their crumbling infrastructure on their structures: the tears'-outlet, in place of the chimney.
Of what use is the chimney, anyway, when the smoke that keeps it relevant with modern society, as well as the Malawi Government's policy-goal to turn the red Katondo soils of The Lower Shire, Hewe, Khombedza, and Kamenyagwaza into food production machines. The hope (which the president mistakes for a vision) is that Nyasaland may keep up to the promises that turned its name into Malawi in 1964, and produce enough food for its people, cattle, goats, chickens, pigs, hyenas, the Lower Shire and Linthipe River-addicted hippopotamus, lions, tigers, Nyala, domestic cats, mice, and dogs.
Not only that. Malawi's CEO is an interesting fella. He wants the clouds to produce enough water (read, rain. He believes he is a 'rain-maker' of a kind, too- a false attribute that made him shake his head in agreement when musician Joseph Nkasa sang 'Mose wa Lero' in Mutharika's honour. Mose wa Lero is a song that came close enough to praising the president for the good rains Malawi has been receiving for the past seven years. Nkasa, somehow, just fell short of thanking Mutharika for the sun's continues rising and setting everyday, and for the sun's rays, too. Since President Ngwazi Professor Bingu wa Mutharika became our fearless leader in 2004, the rains have continued to fall in time, there has never been a day when the sun missed a day, and (a day when) darkness never covered the whole lake-ful land after 08:00 pm. The winds,too, have continued not to forget to bring enough supply of oxygen. Sleep also comes to conquer our eyes every day, though we have some among us who sleep with their eyes open. All these goodies come courtesy of President Bingu wa Mutharika, the economic engineer. That's what Nkasa wanted to say in Mose wa Lero. He would have said all these if he was given 20 minutes to yap his soul out in that visionless song. He would have warned, even, that all these goodies will cease to rain on us if we discard off this fearless frame of a human being come 2014, when that animal called tenure-of-office calls aloud, to be denied not, in 2014. Or, worse still, that these goodies may continue to rain on us, only if we vote for Peter Mutharika, the professor with students. We all know that Bingu wa Mutharika is a professor without students!).
The truth is that things are not this rosy. That is why we have this 'tears' outlet' coming in, to put our tears in their rightful place, far away from the President's eyes.
This new invention will be used to carry all the burdens, misgivings, pains and tears we may have away- away to the ocean where the president does not stay, there to disappear as if they never existed, while the Zero-deficit budget continues unabated.
Mutharika was at it again last week, as usual. Telling donors to shut their beardful mouths up, and see him perform wonders on the economy. Mutharika, ever confident, ever resolute, asked everyone, including the stubborn development partners, to give him three years!
Within those three years, he said, he will develop Malawi beyond recognition.
He claims to have developed the land already, developing it beyond recognition.
He says that, as testimony that he has done just that, people who left their home villages six years ago will not know their original homes (the homes having transformed (themselves?) beyond recognition and beyond the carpenter's measure), and that they will end up going back to South Africa, Germany, United States of America, Switzerland, Republic of China, the People's Republic of China, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia- in the hope that they will feel at home there.
Mutharika talks of food security, and points at the Farm Input Subsidy Programme. He feels that the programme has been a wonder-kid for Malawi, and that hunger and famine no longer reign in the land of the lake.
But everyone knows that food security entails more than having enough food in the granary, a bloated stomach. There must be good nutrition, too. The people should feast on all the necessary varieties of food.
But Mutharika only talks of Nsima. He says Nsima, Malawi's stable food, means food.
Forget about cassava flour (kondowole, kandoole, kondoole). Count not rice. Discard now Sweet potatoes. Think Nsima, dream Nsima, live Nsima, die Nsima.
It is a surprise that the President does not have a sense of his own contradictions.
Last year, when he introduced the Zero-deficit Budget to unsuspecting Malawians, he said it would transform the social and economic landscape beyond recognition. He asked people to give him a chance, and see the difference it would bring within one year.
Now, mid-way through the 2011/12 National Budget, there is nothing but pain to show for it.
What's more? The rains have come tough this year. In Nsanje, Chikhwawa, and even Blantyre (in Chigumula where I am coming from right now; a suburban township that has witnessed the fall of 300 houses since January 06, 2012) houses (of mounds of clay people call houses- no electricity, portable water, and hope, too) have fallen on people in the dark of night.
This has piled more misery on the hopeless wars of life in Malawi.
And the tears therefrom have added on to the river of misery arising from the mountain of fuel, forex, and food shortages. Nobody understands.
All the people are just hoping now; that tomorrow, timeless tomorrow, will be fine.
But they do not know when this tomorrow will come.
What with Mutharika changing tune.
The president has now changed tune. Now he has twisted his tongue, and is talking of three more years to turn things around.
This contradicts Finance and Development Planning Minister, Ken Lipenga.
Lipenga waxed lyric last year in November, telling Malawians the problems (their problems) will be through by 2012.
He was talking of fuel shortages, forex shortages, and other shortages too common to take note of.
Lipenga, in his poetic self, said, surely, the problems would be as dead as the 17th century by the end of this year.
But Mutharika had other plans. He is talking of three years.
Three years of companies and ordinary people crying.
Both have been over-taxed.
The difference is that over-taxed people's tears fill all the house; companies' tears fill the ocean.
It could be better for companies, though. If they feel short-changed, they simply close shop, and go somewhere else- where it will be profitable to ply their trade.
For human beings, what happens? Does the disillusioned citizen close-down their own souls and ...what?
Normally, no. The human being fills the pain. The human being suffers the pain.
Malawians are in pain.
The funny thing about three years is that it will be 2015 when people will have judged Mutharika on the workability of his Zero-deficit budget, a year after he closes his New State House Shop- a year Malawi will, following tenets of the Republican Constitution, have another president.
Probably a shorter president. People think 'tall' makes a bad ending.
Mutharika is tall.
Taller than the average Malawian.
He started well.
His first term.
But look where Malawi is, now?
Tall makes a bad ending!
That's what some twisted-mind people are thinking.
Because of all this madness in Malawi.
Because of all these shortages.
So, what does it mean, giving President Bingu wa Mutharika three years to turn Malawi from what we now see, know, and believe in, into whatever corpse he wants this country to become.
How will that be possible when, by the time he runs the last mile of his tenure of office in May 2014, it would be a year later than his State House (the symbol of his troubles) tenancy?
This is not a puzzle. Mutharika is window-selling his brother, Peter. Peter the Foreign Affairs Minister.
Peter is a strange fellow. He has broken government's policy to cut down on foreign travel 10 times now.
Nothing happens to him.
He is untouchable.
He is a State before the State (before he comes president).
He uses the Presidential chopper sometimes, when the lavish spirits are on him.
That's what he did three months ago. He used the Presidential chopper to address a political party (read, ruling Democratic Progressive Party) meeting in the Northern region city of Mzuzu.
He has assumed presidential powers, too.
Between March 18 to December 14, 2011, he used the term 'my government is aware of this" on Malawi Broadcasting Corporation television seven times.
It is all in his blood.
The sign of a man who is elected before the real elections come. A man who is ruling when the chair is already occupied.
There is trouble in the land.
Peter is a strange fellow. He enjoys dual citizenship in a country that calls it illegal.
He has an American green card, too.
He goes outside the country more often than he stays at his house.
Such a strange fellow.
More trouble is brewing for the country.
With everyone talking of strikes (industrial action).
The strike by junior judicial staff is now in its forth week.
There is no end in sight.
Justice Minister, Ephraim Chiume, told Parliament on Tuesday the striking workers do not deserve a pay rise. The rise recommended by Parliament in 2006 was for the 'real' judicial guys.
Chiume, in effect, is saying that the striking workers deserve no pay nor sympathy.
Malawi Law Society (MLS) president, John Gift Mwakhwawa, has said that the strike is negatively affecting lawyers' work. They are being denied the right to economic activity.
Everyone knows how lawyers charge. They charge a leg and an arm.
They want an exclusive world, too.
Lawyers pretend to suffer with the common people, too.
But the reality on the ground is different. Lawyers do not want to mix with people.
They closed access to the MLS library and resource centre in Blantyre by introducing a K200 fee last year.
Poor people used to go there and read newspapers. Malawi's daily newspapers, The Nation and The Daily Times, , sell at K240 a copy. Most Malawians cannot afford this.
So, apart from going to National Initiative for Civic Education, National Library Service, and Islamic Information Bureaus, people were also going to MLS resource centre to read the newspapers.
But, ever since Malawian lawyers decided to become openly selfish (rather, showcase their long-held selfishness in public) by introducing a K200 entre fee to their resource centres, only lawyers visit the resource centre, it having become too expensive for ordinary Malawians.
Malawian lawyers, like fellow lawyers round-about, charge K10, 000 consultation fee per hour. By Malawian standards, that is a filthy figure. An obscene figure.
Didn't someone say that lawyers dispossess thieves, murderers, the corrupt and bad guys and guyesses in society, among other, of stolen and violently-obtained property; and, then, keep such filthy materials for themselves?
But the strike, we hear, has affected them greatly. This is understandable. They have been forced to stop reaping more, for so little work.
Former Justice Minister, Henry Phoya, (that Malawian form whose father was a well-known Malawi Congress Figure; that father who happened to have a son, Henry, who ended up being a member of the United Democratic Front, Democratic Progressive Party, and, now, Malawi Congress Party. Henry Phoya has gone back to his roots in the former ruling Malawi Congress Party. But people feel that this is strange because the party's president, John Zenus Ungapake Tembo, is still interested to run for president- for the umpteenth time- come 2014. What is Phoya up to? Time will tell) told Parliament on Tuesday that the strike by junior judicial workers is depriving lawyers of their right to economic activity (read, their right to 'steal' from the public).
Phoya appealed for a quick solution.
This is understandable. Henry Phoya is a lawyer-cum-politician.
Now, civil servants are also talking of going on strike.
Very recently, G4S workers (the 10, 000 workforce) was on the verge of going on strike. Their union, the Textile, Garments, Leather, and Security Services Workers Union (TGLSSWU) entered into remuneration negotiations with G4S on August 4, 2011.
However, by January 30, no agreement was reached because the company said it was ready to up salaries by 9 percent while the union maintained that it wanted a 20 percent increase.
The security services giant then upped the stakes, and offered to raise workers' pay by 10 percent. The union stood its ground, saying a 1 percent increase from 9 percent to 10 percent would, in fact, translate into a 0.2 percent increase.
The union's reasoning was simple: inflation is already at 9.8 percent. a 10 percent increase, therefore, means, in effect, an increase by 0.2 percent because the 9.8 percent in 10 percent is for inflation.
TGLSSWU Deputy General Secretary, MacDonald Chuma, Wwas of the view that the increment was for 'company workers' and not 'inflation' because Mr. and Mrs. Inflation do not work for G4S.
The workers' union promptly served G4S with a notice about its intended strike on February 9, 2012, after the expiry of nine days.
Fortunately, Labour Minister Luscious Kanyumba has tongued the company and its workers into an agreement of sorts.
Instead of a 20 percent pay rise, the two parties have agreed on a 15 percent pay rise effective January this year. The deal was struck on Monday this week.
This means that, because January is already past and gone, workers will receive the rise in arrears.
This nation, this patient nation, is truly in pain.
The tears will be counted when all this is over for Mutharika.
When 2014 will come and pass.
Only if the sun that brings famine will dry the tears up.
Only if we will be there in 2014, on our way to 2020, as we pursue our common vision: Vision 2020.
It started so well (Vision 2020), when people contributed views between 1994 and 1996.
Let not Mutharika be the frame that sets this common vision ablaze.
Because the opposition is dead, and only alive on fortune-seeking.
There surely is trouble, real trouble, in the land.
Mutharika, always alert- or, always pretending to be alert, and aware of the goings-on in the land, seems to be conscious of the challenges facing Malawi.
That is why, coming from the African Union summit a couple of weeks ago, Mutharika declared:
"I am the solution".
Now, people want the solution for speak for other solutions. Not only speak, people want Mr. Solution to invite fellow solutions and end the trouble in the land.
Most people say he is the trouble: President Bingu wa Mutharika