Saturday, December 28, 2013

What is a Bachelor's Degree? The Tale of Village Without A Holder of a First Degrees

Men, it is believed in Malawi, are so selfish that educating a boy is akin to educating a snake: Njoka siyenda ndi mwana (snakes don't move with their young in tow)!

As if extending this line of thinking, Malawians are fond of saying that, "When you educate a man, you have educated an individual. But when you educate a woman, you have educated a nation". Nobody knows where this saying originated from- may be it's now a Malawian thing (saying) at all; may be it is. Who knows? We are a nation that does not value records.

As one Desmond Dudwa Phiri- the Malawian historian- has said time without number, the best way to hide information from a Malawian is to publish it in a book!

The gist of the matter is that women are held in high esteem in Malawi, and are regarded as the best people to play custodian over national resources. This is true. I have my own personal experiences. After I got my Malawi School Certificate of Education, the men who were in well-paying jobs and would have helped pretended to be busy.

They were too busy to help out. I had just lost a father that time, having lost my mum five years previously. And I could see that, looking at the situation, I would end up having a simple Malawi School Certificate of Education the rest of my life. I could not see myself making it to college. There was no choice.

May be, before I continue, I should add that in my home village (my father made the 'mistake' of finding the love of his life in the same village as his, separated by a distance of 40 metres. His was a decision that has meant that I have had one home village only. Others have two: The mother's place of birth. The father's parents home. Not me), there is no one with a degree.

The whole village, which has 1286 people, has no individual with a first degree. And it has become the habit among children in the village to look at their gardens as their only source of hope and survival. So, they grow maize, cabbage, tobacco, sweet potatoes, irish potatoes, cassava, and what have you.

Well, it is embarrassing but I am one of such people- the people from the village where no one has ever 'earned' a first degree. It could have been worse, for me. I would have ended up with a Malawi School Certificate of Education for ever.

And, guess what, Leader of Opposition in Parliament, John Zenus Ungapake Tembo- he who recently handed over the button of leadership in the Malawi Congress Party to Rev. Dr. Lazarus Chakwera- has been the Member of Parliament in this constituency since...I don't know when. He has been the Parliamentarian forever. 19 years ago, his constituency was so big and he was the chief over the chiefs. Then, the United Democratic Front led administration changed all that and created two constituencies: Tembo's Dedza South constituency, and Dedza Central Constituency.

I was talking about how I nearly ended up with a Malawi School Certificate of Education qualification forever. But here is how that possibility failed. While I wandered about town- no, it's not a town; it's a city I am talking about. Blantyre is a city), this wonderful thing happened. (Allow me to say something about Blantyre before I talk about this 'wonderful' thing that happened).

Blantyre has been my city forever. I was born here. And I was lucky to have been born at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, thanks to the United Kingdom, of course. At Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, you are assured- at least in those days of the good Ngwazi Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda- that you will receive the medical attention you so desire. And I was born there!

Being born in the city- where my father had moved to some three years after Malawi received independence from Britain in 1964- was a good thing. A sign that you were destined for greater things. A sign that, at least, the lucky stars were within your orbit. But, of course, this is not wholly true. And they say if it is not wholly true, it is not true!

And I was born in the city. And I remember that we were staying in Chitawira Township. Our house was House Number 11. During the day, we could go places- including visiting Blantyre's commercial hub of Limbe. It is through such visits that I learned that the name Limbe is derived from the name of a Malawian of Indian origin. His name was Limbe. Thanks India. Your people have been an integral part of Malawi's development. But they are our people now. We will try to find a way to delink them from India. The term 'Malawians of Indian origin' doesn't sound right. It is like we are disowning them. No. We love them.

It is from the city that I would, in the company of my parents- before they decided to have enough of me and my four siblings and go up-high for that eternal rest- travel to the village. My home village has always been some 340 kilometres from Blantyre Central Business District. The village where nobody- including me- has a degree.

Well, I think I have talked of the city. Let me talk about the 'wonderful' moment.

The moment did not end up as anticipated. It originated from a single decision" To visit my cousin who works somewhere in the city. And visit I did.

She asked me so many questions. It had been a year since I saw her. Yes, her. In the course of the discussion, she learned that I was keeping some relatives at home, providing for them without complaints.

"Oh," she said at last. "I can see that you are responsible enough. Some people said you are selfish. Just yesterday, one of them told me you have never thought of staying with any of our people, and that you are not even responsible enough to pay school fees for some of the relatives, or buy a bag of fertiliser for the old people in the village," she continued.

When people like us meet, we talk of school fees and fertiliser, and visits to the village. These things bind people together. So, I listened as she talked. I did not interrupt her. I managed to do this despite the pain in my heart; I felt some people went too far with lies. Like the thing about being selfish.

But, somehow, my patience paid. The decision to keep quiet bore fruit.

"You see, Richard. I am convinced, and always have been, that you are a good man. I will send you to school. Go, study for a diploma. I will pay everything. If you struggle to settle your rental bills, I can do that for you. For the time being, I am ordering you to stop whatever you have been doing- stop whatever work you have been carrying out and, for the next two years, concentrate on school," she said, adding:

"I am told, and this I know, that you are an intelligent guy. You learn something once and don't bother to go over the material, the notes, again. Now, put all your energies into education, and I think I will have given you a starter pack in life. A diploma will make it easier for you to get a degree. May be you will work very hard after getting the diploma and study for a degree. Good luck," she said.

Again, I did not speak.

Then, we parted.

And I found a school. Is it college? And I schooled? Is it colleged? For two years. And got the diploma.

And the year I went to school is 2009. how time flies.

The diplomas are out. I am feeling lazy and do not feel like going to pick mine. Well, on January 6 I will go and pick it up.

What am I saying? It is true that once you educate a woman, you educate a nation. My cousin, a woman, decided to educate the nation one individual at a time. God bless her.

Women are, really, the great changers in the world.

But I still come from a village where nobody has a degree.

Will I get one, someday? I don't know.

Will it take a woman to make it happen? I am saying, and I repeat, that I don't know.

But you have said that it is your cousin, a woman, who facilitated your going back to school, others may ask.

In which case, my answer would be: All I know is that, in the African set up, women are more understanding than men. The other thing I know is that my beloved village cannot go on like this: Whole village, no First Degree?

But, believe you me, this story is true. And it pains. May be it is high time we started helping each other in my village. Evoke that communal spirit that makes Malawi the Warm Heart of Africa.

I will get that First Degree and, then, the second!

This village! You want to know the name?

For Ralph Makondetsa, The Police Publicist Who Went Before A New Year Could Catch Him

Death came calling on Christmas Day, pulling the warm-hearted Chiradzulu Police Station spokesperson, Raphael Makondetsa, to a lonesome grave: Cold, quiet, and isolated.

Zachimalawi remembers him thus:

It's a great loss; Ralph Makondetsa going.

Especially because I, twice or thrice last year, spent some hours at his new-found home (after that transfer from Mulanje) in Chiradzulu. Though I went there to get the official side of Chiradzulu Police Station on a story we were pursuing, he still had time for his beloved Chibuku. Oh, now he will miss Chimera, too; the Chimera recently
discovered and tasted by Ralph Ten. May be he tried it already. May be not.Everything borders on 'may be' now.

And, between sips of his favourite Chibuku, he delved into petty village talk. He was the kind of man who spoke very little about his past (meaning, his service at Mulanje Police Station, after which he tumbled and fell onto the hard surface of the floor called General Duties. In the Malawi Police Service, people who somehow fail to hide
the whole truth by being "too" honest and media-friendly always fall back onto the hard, General Duties, floor. And Makondetsa had his turn on such a floor. He would have risen -from the floor- it was expected- but he has departed and ascended up-high, or wherever they go, instead). The floor will no longer hold him captive.

He was a man who let bygones be bygones. No bitterness over his unceremonious transfer from Mulanje- or the fact that the Patrick Murama issue along with that of the once mighty Mullis versus philanthropist Mary Woodworth pulled him into the centre of the storm- pushed him to pursue his, supposedly great, ambition for power. He humbly provided the much-needed information from the floor. His dream, he said between sips of the Chibuku opaque beer, was to be able to work hard and just provide. He found the greatest pleasure in the small things in life- the ability to be of service to all and sundry.

He, really, was a great man. Especially because he did not wield his police background as a club to inspire guilt or fear in the neighbourhood. He was a good neighbour. Which is why, within the one hour we sat on the cracked floor of his Chiradzulu house while waiting for the Chiradzulu Police Station Officer to get to the office and give him the go ahead to provide the information we needed, neighbours
who held him in high esteem brought five packets of Chibuku so he could 'quench' the waiting away.

They had all learned of him- about how good he was- through passing comments- or from fellow police officers. He was not one to tell stories about himself. He talked of people.

If his honesty attracted people to him, it must so be that his humour pulled many to him, too. And sometimes he could be gentle and chiding, too. A case of hard love.

But all these things not many know. And he will 'rise' into oblivion now. His voice did so sometime back. It (the voice) did so when it became husky. There must have been something wrong with his vocal cords. So, even before he passed on, there were things people were missing in Makondetsa while he still partook of the common oxygen:The voice.

But he, in much the same way as he did overcome the hardness of the General Duties floor, got over this, too. It was the message (he delivered to the media and members of the general public) and not the voice (or sound of that voice) that mattered. Oh, Makondetsa!

The positive thing and the comforting aspect is that Makondetsa has found yet another home. A new home without hard floors. As he learns the tricks of settling there, he will be remembered for a while. And, then, grass will be allowed to conquer his dwelling place, outgrowing the dust that kept memories about him afresh among those left above the dust. Those people in the village. Those who still cared.

Maybe his relatives will, once in a while, kneel or bend down to clear his
grave of grass, dust and dirt. So long as, in the process, they do not erase the good memories about him, too.

Long after he is gone.


Executive Director of the NICE Trust,

Chairperson of the Malawi Editors Forum

MEC staff

Editors and all journalists,

Ladies and Gentlemen;

It gives me great pleasure, for me to stand before you. These are rare moments when you meet with editors who are the gatekeepers in the newsroom. You are always busy people but the fact that you have come here signifies the importance of this meeting and I should thank you all for coming.

I should also thank National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) who have provided funding for this meeting to take place. NICE have been nice throughout the whole period of registration. When we started registration most of the accredited NGOs were not on the ground. MEC and NICE together did a lot of work to fill the gap until some CSOs joined us in the later phases of voter registration. No one can talk of success of the voter registration without the mention of NICE.

We applaud NICE because they have not been limited in their approach and strategies to ensure that the 2014 Tripartite Elections are a success. They have also looked into building the capacity of stakeholders and in a special case, the Malawi Editors Forum (MAEF).

The MOU with MAEF is a commendable endevour because in most cases interventions have been limited to the traditional workshops on reporting elections. After that there are no follows ups or a platform for engagement. The MOU with MAEF is just coming to fill that gap and provide an effective platform for interaction.

Editors are gatekeepers and if they are left out media interventions, which have always targeted reporters because they are the ones who write the news, can be undermined. Editors decide what goes and what does not go into the newspaper or on air. As such they are very crucial if we are to achieve the desire to have an independent, free and impartial media as we approach 2014 elections.

As MEC we did at one time train media managers on elections and the media. Some of them are here and we hope the knowledge gained from that training they are using it in their respective newsrooms and will also be sharing with fellow editors, managers.

As MEC we will remain committed to working with the media by providing as much as information as possible. We hope media practitioners will also take time to always crosscheck with us before publishing whenever there is an issue of interest to MEC.

We are approaching a season of rumours and hearsays and we would urge you media managers to be on the lookout for such issues. Without encouraging self-censorship, we would urge you editors to always exercise your editorial judgment before publishing. Some of the issues will be doing more harm than good and our urge is for you to always establish their authenticity. We have a media code of conduct which the Malawi Editors Forum is a signatory through the chairman, Mr Clifton Kawanga. Take it to be your bible for reference anytime you “subbing” an elections story.

Before I resume my seat allow me to congratulate all editors in Malawi for resuscitating the grouping. This is quite commendable and it is our sincere hope that it has come to stay. In other countries the editors forum is well established with a fully-fledged secretariat. I hope your vision is towards that. Have a big vision and put all your effort to accomplish it. I have also noticed that the whole executive is very youthful. This is your opportunity to show that you can also deliver if trusted with a responsibility.

With these few remarks allow me to open this meeting and wish you fruitful deliberations. Malawi Electoral Commission has come to listen and we will listen and contribute. All ideas are good and welcome.

Thank you

Sunday, December 22, 2013

No rest for cash-gate investigators – DPP, ACB

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) have dismissed fears that investigations into the looting of public resources at Capital Hill would be negatively affected following the leave of absence granted to civil servants and public workers.

The government granted civil servants a leave of absence from December 16, 2013 to January 3 next year, raising fears that the development would cripple public services including on-going investigations into the plunder dubbed ‘cash-gate’.

DPP Bruno Kalemba indicated in a written response on Thursday that officers assigned to the issue would continue working around the clock.

“We have not stopped working, nor have the courts, police. Our operations have not been affected,” Kalemba said.

On the issue of property seizure warrants issues on people suspected of having a role in cash-gate, Kalemba said the warrants extend to movable, immovable property, and bank accounts.

He said his office was working in collaboration with the Malawi Police Service and would issue a report of seized property once it gets a report on the same from MPS.

“The police will issue a report to us and we will, in turn, report to court (and) that is when we will have the actual figures,” Kalemba said.

Meanwhile, the ACB has also said that it continued to work on all pressing issues, and that the leave of absence would not hamper its operations.

“There are people who are working. In fact, those who want to report issues to the ACB can visit our offices and will be assisted because there are people who are working there. Not all members of staff go on leave on absence and this is what we do every year when there are such holidays; it is not the first time we are doing it,” Ndala said.

Institute for Policy Interaction executive director, Rafiq Hajat, said allowing officials involved in investigating cash-gate on leave of absence could send wrong signals to the outside world, and portray the government as lacking seriousness.

“It would be discouraging to see people who are investigating the issue go on leave of absence, especially when people like the British forensic experts who are helping the government with investigations continue to work on the issue. The information I have is that these people continue to work in spite of the holiday. The government should be seen to be serious,” Hajat said.

When Dust Becomes The Fuel of Creativity: The Case of Chileka Musicians

...The dust that powers music from Singano Village

The brown dust has the tendency to rise from the ground and settle on people’s eyelids whenever The Black Missionaries Band plays on open ground at Mankhokwe Ground in Chileka once a year.

Sometimes, the name of the show changes. Last year, it was the Evison Matafale Memorial Show. This year, it was the Chileka Memorial Show. But the dust does not change its colour, and still clings to people’s faces in the heat of the dancing moment.

“Everything that happens here happens for a purpose. The dust, when it rises, inspires us that, though we have lost grandparents, parents, uncles, brothers, cousins, nieces, nephews and relatives who happened to be great musicians, we will forever be inspired by their death and keep their mission in music going,” Moda Fumulani says.

It is Sunday afternoon, and Moda has just had a great music performance as part of the activities marking Chileka Memorial Show.

His sentiments reveal how the dust of Mankhokwe has become a symbol of death and rejuvenation. The dust keeps Singano Village’s dead, including talented musicians such as the late Robert Fumulani, Arnold Fumulani, Musamude Fumulani, Gift Fumulani, Evison Matafale, among others.

However, it is the settled dust that keeps the dead because, according to Moda, the meaning changes when it rises.

“When it (the dust) rises, it becomes an instrument of hope, assuring us that we can still realise the aspirations of all those great people we miss. It is upcoming musicians from Singano (Village) that epitomise this hope,” he says.

Moda says new generations of Chileka musicians have managed to keep the mission afloat through unity. He says Chileka would have lost its status as the jar of music had musicians chosen the easy path of selfishness.

“This (spirit of unity) started a long time ago. During the time of my father, Arnold, who was a master of the bass guitar while with Likhubula Jazz Band, he could play alongside Sailesi Fumulani and others. You never heard reports of quarreling.

“In fact, what The Black Missionaries Band does, by giving all of us the platform to perform, is what used to happen in those days. It has always been part of the Chileka music tradition for elders to incorporate children, and for the children learn from those with experience. That is how we have managed to weather the storm of death and carry on with the music project,” Moda says.

Moda says, in the same spirit of going on with the music tradition, he feels duty-bound to “finish my brother, the late Gift Fumulani’s dream”, citing his (Moda’s) efforts to continue the late brother’s music projects.

He said he has been trying to immortalise Gift’s albums namely; ‘Ndikuyimba, ‘Mphamvu Yake’, and ‘Stephano’.

“When Gift was in hospital, he used to tell those who visited him that he would release a fourth album, ‘Loto la Farao’, once he got out of hospital. So, I have tried my best to ensure that his dream is realised in his absence though things have not always worked according to plan,” Moda says.

Mission on

However, the challenge with inheriting the work of others is that one runs the risk of being accused of copying. In fact, some people have suggested that Toza Matafale Mona sometimes sounds like his brother, Evison.

What does Mona say?

“That is not true. It is easy to carry the mission forward without sounding like you are copying, and that is what I do. Please set the record straight to people who have been making such allegations that, while I am committed to continuing with the mission of Evison, I have never tried to copy him,” Mona says, adding:

“Actually, if you listen properly, you will realise that I have my own unique voice. May be because we (Evison and I) are brothers, somehow people think our voices sound the same.”

Like Moda, Mona says he is determined to keep Evison’s name alive, saying, as part of that wish, he has already composed a number of songs which will be compiled into an album next year.

While agreeing with Moda that the Matafales and Fumulanis of this world teach their young the basics in music, he says that some children have in-born talent.

“What I mean is that not every child born in Singano Village turns out to be a musician. It is those who have in-born talent that flourish. Music is a call, and, fortunately, most of us in Singano Village happen to be called. And then we are lucky because we have all these musicians who teach upcoming talent the skills,” Mona says.

In fact, as part of passing the skills to new generations, The Black Missionaries Band has a youth band that nurtures Chileka youths who have exhibited traces of ingenuity in music.

Band Leader for The Black Missionaries Band, Anjiru Fumulani, says the idea is to oil the legacy of those long-gone, and hand the mantle over to new generations when the brown dust calls.

“This is one way of investing in the future. The most encouraging thing is that those who are part of The Black Missionaries Youth Band have shown that they have talent, and mesmerise fans when given the opportunity to perform live,” Anjiru says.

One of the youths who has shown potential is Davie Tambwali, 21. He mesmerised music-lovers during the Chileka Memorial Show when he performed ‘Ndalama’, a reggae song that advocates for a return to barter- the exchange of goods with goods.

In the song, the persona bemoans that the greatest loser after the introduction of money is love- and recollects problems whose root can be traced to money.

Another member, 20-year-old Vincent Kanthu, has also composed a number of songs, including ‘Chikondi Chathu’, ‘Watsikira Konko’, ‘Chikondi Chake’, among others.

The two, both of whom hail from Singano Village in Chileka, were identified after they released a single, ‘Udzingosekerera’, in 2006.

“The future is bright. The platform is there for us; we just need to master the instruments we are being taught,” Tambwali says.

That is how the music tradition has become part of a cycle- call it the Chileka Musical Cycle. Once every year, the sleeping dust proclaims rejuvenation when it rises from Mankhokwe ground. And, in its wake, nobody weeps any more as happiness punctuates the whole place.

There is happiness in the dust. Happiness is the dust.

Lest We Forget: Black Missionaries Band Declared Two Weeks' of Mourning in July

And I wrote thus:

The energy that makes the Black Missionaries tick on stage has been swept by the winds that brew away the life of patriarch, Enock Robert Fumulani, who died peacefully in his sleep around 2 am last Thursday, prompting the Chileka-based music outfit to declare two weeks of mourning.

The Blacks’ Band manager, Rasta Ray Harawa, said in an interview Tuesday that, without Enock, life could simply not go on for the Blacks.

“And this means that we have cancelled all live performances until after the mourning period. He was a pillar for the family. Now that the pillar is no longer there, we need to honour his life,” Harawa said.

Enock, a renowned composer, gave up the ghost on 12 July, pulling the breaks on 96 years of productive life that started in Chileka’s Dambo Village (modern-day 10 Miles) on August 19, 1916.

Under his mentorship, he saw most of his kinsmen turn into, or give birth to, musicians of national repute. Though most of his children died over the long years, they include Robert (Anjiru’s father), Dalford, Cresta, Silas, Arnold (the late Gift’s father), Eli, Mercy (Anthony Makondetsa’s mother), Jersey (Yanjanani Chumbu’s mother), Lewis and Levison.

Then came a host of talented grandchildren that include Anjiru Fumulani, Chizondi Fumulani, Moda Fumulani, Gift Fumulani, Anthony Makondetsa, and Alex Chumbu. In all, he is survived by 123 grandchildren and great grandchildren.

“Because most of the Black Missionaries Band members are connected to him, we could not go on with our scheduled shows. Actually, the day Enock died, we were scheduled to perform in Kasungu but we called off the show,” Harawa said.

Harawa said fans should not panic as the cancelled performances would be rescheduled.

The Blacks had a litany of performances this week, starting with Salima on Saturday and Lunzu in Blantyre on July 22. In Salima, the show was organised by the Lilongwe-based Phindu Promotions.

“We will honour the shows, but only after July,” he said.

No rest for cash-gate investigators – DPP, ACB

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) have dismissed fears that investigations into the looting of public resources at Capital Hill would be negatively affected following the leave of absence granted to civil servants and public workers.

The government granted civil servants a leave of absence from December 16, 2013 to January 3 next year, raising fears that the development would cripple public services including on-going investigations into the plunder dubbed ‘cash-gate’.

DPP Bruno Kalemba indicated in a written response on Thursday that officers assigned to the issue would continue working around the clock.

“We have not stopped working, nor have the courts, police. Our operations have not been affected,” Kalemba said.

On the issue of property seizure warrants issues on people suspected of having a role in cash-gate, Kalemba said the warrants extend to movable, immovable property, and bank accounts.

He said his office was working in collaboration with the Malawi Police Service and would issue a report of seized property once it gets a report on the same from MPS.

“The police will issue a report to us and we will, in turn, report to court (and) that is when we will have the actual figures,” Kalemba said.

Meanwhile, the ACB has also said that it continued to work on all pressing issues, and that the leave of absence would not hamper its operations.

“There are people who are working. In fact, those who want to report issues to the ACB can visit our offices and will be assisted because there are people who are working there. Not all members of staff go on leave on absence and this is what we do every year when there are such holidays; it is not the first time we are doing it,” Ndala said.

Institute for Policy Interaction executive director, Rafiq Hajat, said allowing officials involved in investigating cash-gate on leave of absence could send wrong signals to the outside world, and portray the government as lacking seriousness.

“It would be discouraging to see people who are investigating the issue go on leave of absence, especially when people like the British forensic experts who are helping the government with investigations continue to work on the issue. The information I have is that these people continue to work in spite of the holiday. The government should be seen to be serious,” Hajat said.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Your Excellency Mr. Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa;

Madam Gracia Machel;

Mama Winnie Madikizela- Mandela

The Mandela Family;

Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government, and Heads of Delegations;

Distinguished Guests;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

I stand before you today to join you, the people of South Africa, and the world, to mourn the loss of a great leader: Nelson Rohlihlahla Mandela.

I join you, the people of this rainbow nation, to celebrate a life of one of Africa’s unique leaders who gallantly fought for freedom and peace for this great country and the world.

The first time I was privileged to meet Mandela was during his visit to Malawi in 1990, after his release from prison, when he came to meet the late President Kamuzu Banda. I was amazed with the humility in this great African leader.

In 1996, I was further privileged to be invited to visit Robben Island together with a team from Malawi.

After the tour of Robben Island, I was greatly touched by the life and story of Tata Mandela and since then I sought to know and understand this great son of Africa.

In 1997, I met Tata Mandela at a Conference for Smart Partnership in Kasane, Botswana. I was inspired by this great leader who was focused, calm and collected.

In 2011, I had an opportunity to visit Tata Mandela at his home in Johannesburg. We had a very moving conversation. I was deeply touched by his spirit of forgiveness, his passion to put people first and courage. These attributes have greatly influenced my life.

After three years of isolation, humiliation and name calling, I found myself in a situation where I had to work with those who had desired to prevent me from becoming President of my country. I had to forgive them without effort.

Tata’s courage, determination, love and passion for his people inspired me on my journey to becoming the first elected woman President in my country. I learned that leadership is about falling in love with the people and the people falling in love with you.

It is about serving the people with selflessness, with sacrifice and with the need to put the common good ahead of personal interests.

Today, I stand before you, on behalf of our regional grouping and family, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), to extend a collective hand of comfort to the Mandela Family, the Government of the Republic of South Africa, the African National Congress and to all South Africans on this irreplaceable loss of one of its true sons, Tata.

The passing on of Tata Mandela is not only a loss to South Africa, but also to the SADC Region, and indeed to the world.

As we celebrate the life of this icon, it is also time to take stock of the things that Tata taught us during his time with us.

I know that much has already been said about Tata by those whose lives have been touched and inspired by his works.

The SADC region will remember him for his wisdom and statesmanship; his humility and sense of humour; and his servant leadership style.

Tata Madiba believed that all people are created equal.

The way he conducted himself, he saw no boundaries between and among the countries of the region. He championed the freedom of not only South Africans but also all Africans.

Tata Madiba taught us that even when the challenges of life seem insurmountable, with courage and determination, we can overcome the evils of our societies.

The struggle Tata Madiba led against the apartheid system was not just a struggle against racial inequality, but a struggle against all forms of oppression against humanity; a struggle for democracy and human dignity.

It was the struggle for the emancipation of the youth. It was a struggle for the social security of children.

It was a struggle for the participation of women in politics, in commerce and in high offices.

It was a struggle to overcome poverty. Yes, it was a struggle for Africa’s freedom.

We in the SADC Region will remember Tata as a great reformer who championed the cause of humanity, deepening democracy and dedicated his life to selfless service,a man who worked tirelessly to promote national, regional and world peace.

We in the SADC Region, whilst mourning his death, we also see this as an opportunity to celebrate the life of a great Statesman, an icon from our region. The life of Tata Mandela will continue to inspire those of us left behind, promote peace and security,
deepen regional integration and work to support one another as it was during the fight against apartheid. We will strive to emulate Tata Mandela’s stature and spirit so that his legacy can live on.

The ideals of political, social and economic emancipation that he stood for will inspire us forever as a Region.

In conclusion, I believe I am speaking for many within the region.

Tata’s words are still echoing in our minds, his call to get millions of our young people in the region decent jobs. His call to get millions of our women and men out of poverty, deprivation and underdevelopment. His call to get food for the hungry, to eradicate preventable diseases, to let people find their voice, and restore their dignity. These words will inspire SADC long after Tata Madiba is gone.

Our Dear Father and compatriot, Tata Nelson Mandela, fought a good fight and he finished the race well.

As an African woman and leader, I wish to acknowledge Mama Winnie Madikizela Mandela for her efforts and steadfastness for standing with Tata Mandela before and during Tata’s imprisonment and for being in the forefront of ANC’s struggle for liberation.

And to you, Mama Graca Machel, I wish to thank you for your visible love and care especially during Tata’s last days.

To both of you, the love and tolerance you have demonstrated before the whole world during the funeral has shown us that you are prepared to continue with Tata’s ideals.

I wish to therefore appeal to all South Africans to remain united and continue to be a rainbow nation for this is what Tata Madiba cherished for. It is our hope and prayer that South Africa will remain a country of all people regardless of race, colour, religion and tribe. SADC will stand with you and look forward to a continued engagement in our joint efforts to deepen democracy and regional integration.

It is now up to us as leaders, as citizens, as a Continent to continue from where Tata Madiba left, so that his legacy lives on, so that what he stood for, should not die.

May his soul Rest in Peace!

I thank you.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Malawian Civil Servants Given 19 Days Holiday

The Government of Malawi has accorded civil Servants a 19-day leave of absence from Monday, December 16,2013 to January 3,2014, as part of Christmas and New Year celebrations.


Guest of Honour ,Minister responsible for Good Governance ,Dr Chris Daza

Chairperson of the Malawi Human Rights Commission

Cabinet Ministers here present

All Ambassadors and High Commissioners present

Political leaders here present

Representatives of the Religious groups

Representatives of Civil Society Organizations

Members of the Press

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning.

I am very delighted, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, to make this keynote address as we commemorate International Day of Human Rights today. It is an important function because of its theme: “FREE AND FAIR 2014 TRIPARTITE ELECTIONS: MY RIGHT AND MY RESPONSIBILITY” as you all know that the country will have tripartite elections on 20th May next year.

Guest of Honour, Ladies and Gentlemen, the International Human Rights Day falls on December 10 every year. This day crowns the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. On this date in contemporary history, the nations joined together to try and bury once and for all, the specter of genocide raised by the Second World War. This declaration further aimed to form a basis for human rights all over the world and represented a significant change of direction from events during the World War II and the continuing colonialism that was rife in the world at the time.

Malawi joins other nations worldwide to remember those who have been affected by violence and abuse in one way or the other. In this way, we demonstrate our commitment of building a compassionate, caring and just society as espoused by the values of the Republic of Malawi Constitution.

Now, allow me our Guest of honour, Ladies and Gentlemen, to go back to theme for this year which is: FREE AND FAIR 2014 TRIPARTITE ELECTIONS: MY RIGHT AND MY RESPONSIBILITY. The local theme for this year is a continuation of the theme for the 2012 commemoration that focused on “participation rights”.

In this regard, this year’s theme is focusing in particular on one of the most important events in Malawi that has a fundamental linkage with “participation rights”, i.e., the Tripartite Elections slated for 20th May, 2014. The area of focus presents a timely opportunity to continue the discussion that commenced last year on the nexus between Elections and the fundamental Human Right of participating in political decision making. Under the theme, a number of key messages having a bearing on “participation rights” will be highlighted, including, the right of every citizen to participate in the conduct of public affairs, to vote and to be elected, and to have equal access to public service, and the aspect of inclusion. Section 40 of the Republic of Malawi Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) legally guarantee and protect these rights.

Our guest of honor, Ladies and Gentlemen, participation rights also flow directly from UDHR which emphasize Articles 19, 20, and 21 providing (i) the right to freedom of expression and opinion; (ii) the right to freedom of assembly and association; and (iii) the right to take part in government, either directly or through freely elected representatives. Elections are a vital conduit for participating in political decision- making and are the key vehicle towards the realization of human rights. Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) legally guarantees and protects these rights. According to the ICCPR, which sets legally binding obligations upon 167 States Parties, the right to participation in the conduct of public affairs applies to “every citizen without exception”.

With this year’s focus on participation rights, Malawi Electoral Support Network invites people to re-affirm their right to voice their opinion, to take part in public discourse, decision-making processes, including the right to vote; as essential elements in achieving the full range of Human Rights. This is more so as Malawi is gradually approaching the year of elections which are an important component in the discourse of participation. The commemoration therefore, serves as an opportunity to highlight the significance of greater inclusion, participation in public matters and provides for individuals to influence the decisions that shape their communities, demand accountability from elected leaders including government.

Guest of Honour, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to urge Malawians that qualify for nominations to come out in their large numbers to contest for any of the positions in the tripartite elections. In the same vein, I would also like to ask political parties to put in place deliberate affirmative action that would encourage women and youth to come out and participate in the primaries. I call upon aspiring women and youth not to give up easily as there are many opportunities for them if they are determined to take up leadership roles and be part of decision making processes in our country.

In the same vein, I would like to encourage the youth to take up their rightful role in society by among other things stand up as aspirants for Members of Parliament and ward councilors and refuse to be used as agents for political violence. The 2014 tripartite elections should provide an opportunity for the youth and women to unleash their potential in nation building. This commemoration, should also serve as an opportunity to highlight the significance of greater inclusion of marginalized sections of society, participation in public matters and reminding Malawians of their responsible role in influencing the decisions that shape their communities.

Guest of Honour, Ladies and Gentlemen, MESN would also like to commend Parliament for harmonizing some electoral laws in preparation for the 2014 Tripartite elections. These include the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act no. 31 of 1993 as amended (PPEA) and the Local Government Elections Act no. 24 of 1996 (LGEA) in order to ensure a smooth conduct of elections.

However, MESN is saddened by the fact that Members of Parliament will be voting members at council level and at the same time councilors will be working as volunteers. We feel this will hugely compromise quality service delivery at local level and this also will defeat the essence of effective decentralization. We therefore call upon government to revisit this aspect of councilors’ salaries and MPs as voting members at council level. Parliament is urged therefore, to pass the remaining amendments before the May 20 2014 elections.

May I take this opportunity to thank development partners who are supporting the electoral process by providing funds to MEC through UNDP and to CSOs through institutions like NDI, Dan Church Aid , the Norwegian Church Aid, the NGO-Gender Coordination Network and NICE. Government too should be commended for remaining committed to providing funds to MEC for the elections. We call upon both development partners and government to maintain steady flow of funds to the partners who are implementing election activities on the ground. May I call upon all recipients of these funds to make proper use of the funds and account for each and every penny used.

Our Guest of Honor, Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to thank this Government under President Dr. Joyce Banda for granting Malawi Electoral Support Network permission to use the name Malawi. It was a battle that we fought for so many years only to be won this year around October. Using the name Malawi makes MESN more visible and acceptable both locally and internationally.

With regards to the tripartite elections MESN through its membership will continue providing civic and voter education messages in general and issue based voter education in particular. Time has come for citizens to make electoral choices from an informed position.MESN will also continue with its role of observing the electoral process and plans to run Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) during the forthcoming elections as it successfully did in 2009 elections. PVT will enhance the credibility of the elections. Allow me therefore to commend MEC for encouraging those with capacity to run a PVT.

Lastly, I would like to acknowledge the great work done by the Malawi Human Rights Commission and other stakeholders involved in this year’s commemoration. As part of the commemoration of the day, MHRC in collaboration with various partners have conducted sensitization meetings on the theme of Free and Fair 2014 Tripartite elections.

These were done in eight selected districts of Mzimba and Karonga in the North, Ntcheu and Salima in the Central, Mangochi and Machinga in the East and Phalombe and Mulanje in the South. The Commission also visited the Prisons in Mangochi, Ntcheu, Mulanje and Mzimba where eligible voters are serving sentences. This is a commendable step in the right direction by the commission in ensuring that every eligible Malawian is accorded equal opportunity to participate in the our nation’s affairs.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Suspension of re-opening of registration centres in Chikhwawa


The Malawi Electoral Commission is informing all electoral stakeholders and the general public that re-opening of registration centres in Chikhwawa has been suspended until further notice.

The decision has been made to review the situation on the ground.

After the review, the Commission will advise all stakeholders and the general public whether there will still be need to re-open the centres or not. The centres were supposed to re-open from the 14th December, 2013 for one day except for Kakoma Centre which was scheduled to open for two days from 14th to 15th December, 2013.

Justice Maxon Mbendera, SC

Commissioner Rev. Ambassador Emmanuel Chinkwita Phiri, Chairperson of the Electoral Services Committee

Speech by Commissioner Rev. Ambassador Emmanuel Chinkwita Phiri Chairperson of the Electoral Services Committee of the Malawi Electoral Commission During the Commemoration of the International Human Rights Day On 10th December 2013

Theme “Free and Fair 2014 Tripartite Elections: My Right, My Responsibility”

Your Excellency, the State President of the Republic of Malawi, Dr. Joyce Banda,
Your Excellency, Chief Justice Rtd, Honorable Richard Banda,

Your Honour The Vice President of the Republic of Malawi, Mr Khumbo Hastings Kachali,

Your Honour, the Chief Justice, Honorable Justice Anastazia Msosa, SC.

Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Henry Chimunthu Banda

Honorable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,

Members of Parliament

Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Mrs. Thandiwe Dumbutshena

The Chairperson, Malawi Human Rights Commission, Ambassador Mrs. Sophie Kalinde,
Commissioners from Malawi Human Rights Commission

Commissioners from Malawi Electoral Commission

Distinguished Leaders of political parties

Paramount Chiefs and all Chiefs

Distinguished participants

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is with great honour that I am standing before your Excellency and distinguished guests today to make some remarks on this important day as Malawi is commemorating the International Human Rights Day.

Your Excellency, the commemoration of the Human Rights Day this year has come at a better time as Malawi is preparing to hold the first Tripartite Elections in the history of the country. Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Tripartite Elections which will take place on 20th May 2014, will accord an opportunity for voters in Malawi to vote for Councilors who will represent their Wards, Members of Parliament who will represent their Constituencies and a President who will represent the nation. Therefore, Your Excellency, the Malawi Electoral Commission finds the theme for this year’s commemoration for the International Human Rights Day entitled “Free and Fair 2014 Tripartite Elections: My Right, My Responsibility” quite suited to our constitutional mandate.

Your Excellency, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the Malawi Electoral Commission together with the other stakeholders cannot begin to talk about conducting free, fair, transparent, credible and cost effective elections without the issue of participation rights. Participation of people in all electoral processes is a critical component to achieving acceptable elections.

If I may be allowed to quote a report of the UN Secretary General of 1991: Elections in and of themselves do not constitute democracy. They are not an end but a set up, albeit an important and often essential one, on the path towards the democratization of societies and the realization of the right to take part in the governance of one’s country as enunciated in major international human rights instrument. It would be unfortunate to confuse the end with the means and to forget that democracy implies far more than the mere act of periodically casting a vote, but covers the entire process of participation by citizens in the political life of their country.

Your Excellency, our understanding is that for us to sustain democracy as a nation, we need to conduct periodic free, fair and credible elections. However, the periodic elections need to be accompanied by the right of people to participate in choosing their leaders at local and national level and the right of people to continuously participate in political life before and after the elections. Effective full participation in a free and fair election is an essential element in the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights.

Your Excellency, the Malawi Electoral Commission as one of the Democratic Accountability Institutions in Malawi, works alongside other institutions upholds human rights. The Commission has and continues to abide by the legal instruments that govern the conduct of elections in Malawi namely: The Constitution of the Republic of Malawi , the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act no. 31 of 1993, the Local Government Elections Act no. 24 of 1996 and the Electoral Commission Act no. 11 of 1998.

Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Commission also ensures that the various Codes of Conduct that regulate the conduct of various stakeholders such as the Media, Political Parties and Civil Society are developed by the stakeholders themselves to so that their rights are not violated and those of other players are not violated. We also uphold people’s rights by continuously ensuring that we provide information to the public to enable them to participate in the various electoral processes such as registration of voters, nomination, campaign, polling and announcement of results through civic and voter education programmes.

Your Excellency, the Malawi Electoral Commission also provides information and spaces for political party representatives and individuals to contest in elections as Councilors, Members of Parliament and President. Through such information and spaces people are accorded their rights to participate in elections as enshrined in the Constitution.

Your Excellency let me emphasize that we all here as stakeholders have a role to uphold the rights of people in the forth-coming elections. The Commission will play its role by ensuring that the elections are accessible to all, however other stakeholders also have a role to play.

Civil Society Organizations. Your Excellency, the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have a role to monitor and observe the entire electoral processes to ensure that the rights of citizens to participate are not violated and that people have access to the various electoral processes. The CSOs also have a role to provide adequate, quality voter information and education to the masses and candidates to ensure that they participate meaningfully.

Political parties. Political parties have a role to play by ensuring that they campaign peacefully promoting their manifestos and attracting voters to vote for their candidates. The parties should uphold the people’s rights by featuring both men and women, the youth, disabled and other vulnerable people as candidates in forth coming elections. Political parties need to emphasize on issue based campaign that can give people a platform to make informed choices thereby upholding people’s rights to full participation. Political parties should desist from hate speech, violence, smear campaigns, bribery in order for them to attract more candidates and voters in the next year’s elections. Your Excellency, Political parties should realize that voters have a right to political choices and this is fundamental.

The media. The media too has a role to play in ensuring that voters are well informed in order for them to meaningfully participate in the elections. The media should not be used as tool to scare people away from the elections but rather attracting and motivating people to participate as candidates and voters. The media should create a conducive environment where people feel free and secure to exercise their right to participate in the various electoral processes including the actual voting and ensuring peace and calm after the announcement of results. The right to freedom of expression and opinion should be upheld at all times by the media.

The voters. Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen, the voters have a right to participate in the elections to choose their leaders and to participate in public life beyond the elections. The voters have a right to continuously engage their leaders at local and national levels. It is the wish of the Malawi Electoral Commission to see to it that as many voters as possible are motivated and turn out to exercise their right to participate in public life by taking the first step in voting for leaders of their choice.

You may also wish to note Your Excellency that the Commission is also working closely with other democratic governance institutions such as the Anti Corruption Bureau, Malawi Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman, Centre for Multi Party Democracy to ensure that they coordinate wherever voters feel their rights have been violated. The collaboration also extends to provision of voter information to voters top allow full participation in the electoral process.

In conclusion let me thank the organizers of this year’s event and implore all of us to consider our different roles in upholding our rights to participation in the various electoral processes. Let me also encourage eligible persons in Nkhotakota and Salima districts, Mzuzu City, Mzimba South, Mzimba Solola, Kasungu North, Kasungu North-West, Kasungu South and Kasungu South-East constituencies to go and register so that they are able to exercise your right to choose leaders come 20 May 2014.

I thank your Excellency, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.

May God Bless our Nation,

Thank you very much.


For immediate release

09th December 2013

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Malawi) Chapter would like to condemn in strongest terms sentiments by a People's Party (PP) official at a presidential function held in Ndirande Township, Blantyre on Sunday. The PP deputy Secretary General, Mrs. Ireen Chikuni, said government should consider withdrawing advertisement from some media houses and also threatened that the party will deal with some journalists who write or broadcast what she called insults to President Joyce Banda.

According to Chikuni, journalists from certain media houses were abusing media by insulting the president on a daily basis.

MISA Malawi does not only find these words disappointing but also retrogressive considering the strides the country has made to entrench the culture of democracy. Elements such as Madam Chikuni, who get excited on a political podium to please their master, are a danger to a democratic Malawi.

Madam Chikuni needs to be reminded that the Republican Constitution guarantees media freedom and freedom of expression in case she has forgotten and that as an organisation, Misa-Malawi will always strive to ensure that media freedom is defended from overzealous politicians such as her.

No amount of intimidation and threats will divert the media in the country from its critical role of being a watchdog for society. People who contest for public positions should be ready and open to public scrutiny. The media in Malawi will not relent in holding those in public offices accountable to the people of Malawi.

MISA Malawi would like to remind Madam Chikuni, and other party zealots who share this type of thinking, that some media houses and practitioners suffered during the previous Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government because they were seen as sympathisers of President Joyce Banda when she was embattled Vice President of the country. It is very unfortunate that the same media houses and practitioners are attacked like this now that Banda is the President.

We would like to appeal to Malawians of goodwill and those that love democracy to join us in condemning Madam Chikuni and the PP for trying to take the country backwards.

If the ruling party does not share Chikuni's sentiments, let it come forward and condemn her and dissociate itself from her words. We also call for the resignation of Madam Chikuni and that if she is not able to do that voluntarily, the party must fire her from the position because her remarks clearly demonstrates that she is not fit for a position of a deputy Secretary General of a ruling party.



Saturday, December 7, 2013

Developing Netball At The Grassroots' Level in Malawi

One of Malawi's netball stars, Mary Waya, is promoting netball at the grassroots' level in Malawi as can be seen in these pictures taken by Richard Chirombo