Thursday, March 19, 2015


“Media statement in solidarity with our fellow Malawian brothers and sisters with albinism” 
The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) as a social justice and advocacy arm of the Catholic Church in Malawi is appalled with the current abductions and killings of albinos being fuelled by an eschewed desire for wealth and riches. CCJP is saddened and at pains to note that some people, be they Malawians or not, believe albinos have, due to their status, mystical or magical powers in their body parts, that would make someone rich, and in some cases that would make someone cleanse him/herself from HIV and AIDs. Whilst CCJP acknowledges the efforts being made by various stakeholders, especially the media, local leaders and local security personnel, CCJP is worried and unsatisfied with the deafening silence and passivity from other key stakeholders, who in our considered view, seem not to see the contemporary problems faced by albinos as genuine problems to cause much national worry and coordinated interventions and responses. Therefore, CCJP is calling upon government and its relevant ministries (Home Affairs and  Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare), FBOs, CSOs, CBOs, local leaders and communities to take up various actions to stop this public menace and defend the plight of our albino brothers and sisters.

  1. CCJP is worried that the Human Dignity of albinos is being denied as they are being reduced to an exploitative functional value of being a source of wealth for some people. Yet regardless of their albino status, which has clear biological explanations, just like many other physiological disorders or disabilities, they are normal human beings and need to have their human dignity upheld and respected by all.
  1. CCJP is similarly worried that the belief in sanctity of human life for all people is being denied from albinos with the belief that their body parts can be a source of wealth or healing powers.
  2. CCJP is further worried that in the contemporary world where science and biology have already given us many positive strides, we are failing to see that there is no difference between the body parts of an albino and non-albino. This is so even if we claim in many spheres of life that due to these, we are better civilized than our preceding civilizations. The emerging belief that albinos, due to their status, have inherent mystical or magical powers to make somebody rich or get healed is very surprising and inconsistent with our general hopeful and civilized outlook.
  3. CCJP has painfully noted that closer relatives and communities of albinos are also abusing the albinos by not providing proper care and in some cases are accomplices inthe abduction cases. We, in CCJP, wonder where our umunthu, our sense of community life and our sense of concern are gone.
  4. CCJP is extremely worried that in some strategic leadership quarters of this country, there is deafening silence on the ritual killing of albinos. This commission of silence and omission of action is morally wrong and sinful as it is contributing to the escalation of the human rights abuse of albinos who are no longer feeling safe and are lacking protection from the relatives, communities and the state.
  5. CCJP observes that the unshaken foundations of lethargy among loud Faith Based Organizations, Civil Society Organizations and International NGOs that tackle Human Rights issues for citizens is hypocritical and to a large and surprising  extent lacks solidarity with our fellow Malawians of albino status.
  6. CCJP realizes that poverty and the struggle to get out of it  is claimed to be leading to  a passive sponge approach of adopting every foreign belief that people hear. CCJP whilst recognizing the debilitating and dehumanizing capacity of poverty, does not, however, believe that ritual killing of albinos is a get way to riches and success. Rather, CCJP places this squarely on the human choice towards insatiable appetite for quick riches, hence the adoption of beliefs like ritual killings of the albinos. Therefore, it is a personal choice and not due to poverty that a human being takes an immoral and sinful decision to kill another in the name of seeking riches. It is a zealous and blind desire and worshipping of riches that is the source of these albino killings.

  1. CCJP recognizes and acknowledges the already existing roles of various stakeholders to stop this menace in our society. CCJP further realizes that it is not a responsibility of one person or institution but rather we need a collective and national action to completely root out this problem in our midst. We further contend that riches and wealth are only acquired through hard working, financial management discipline and investing and there are no proven linkages between the beliefs in magic or mystical powers to income generation. As such, no one should be fooled to take another person's life for the intention of getting rich. As our Social Teachings of the Church attest, a basic moral test of society is how it treats its most vulnerable members and that the poor have the most urgent moral claim on the conscience of the nation; in this case, our albino brothers and sisters have an urgent moral claim on our conscience to take action. Therefore CCJP is appealing to the following stakeholders for their prompt and immediate active engagement:
  1. Relatives to albinos:  As direct relations, your primary duty is to protect albinos who are becoming more vulnerable than before and must report of any strange developments to authorities in your area. You must desist from succumbing to this belief that your albino brother or sister has any source of mystical or magical powers for quick riches.
  2. Traditional doctors, Healers and Herbalists: You must go beyond condemning the ritual killings of albinos in Malawi by stopping cheating desperate people of ways to get rich quickly. Killing people has never and will never be a way of getting rich quickly as proven by your failure to get rich quickly whilst you continue to ply as traditional doctors.
  3. The Judiciary- From Traditional Courts, Magistrate Courts to the Higher Courts: You are requested to offer stiffer punishments to those caught in this inhuman act of abducting and killing albinos. Stiffer penalties will send lessons that will deter would be law breakers.
  4. The Police: You have been told time and again that there are a lot of Traffic Police Officers than General Duties Police Officerthat could help to combat crime. This misplacement of human resources is, among other things, contributing to the security lapses that are currently taken advantage of by criminals. We appeal to you to redeploy more personnel into crime combating and prevention from the road. We appeal to you to work with communities to build effective alliances for community security and in this case, the protection of albinos whose lives are in danger now than before.
  5. The State: We appeal to the Executive from the Office of the President, the Ministry of Gender, Child Welfare, Elderly and Disabilities and the Ministry of Home Affairs to categorically condemn these killings and make a public appeal that mobilizes the nation and various stakeholders to take action on the killings of albinos. Our government must give us the sense of direction and the commitment to deal with this menace once for all, as we in CCJP strongly believe it has capacity to do so. Our appeal to the state is emanating from our understanding of the Social Teachings of the Church on the role of the state that " Because we are social beings, the state is natural to the person. Therefore, the state has a positive moral function. It is an instrument to promote human dignity, protect human rights and build the common good".

  1. CSOs/FBOs/CBOs: Whilst committed to other interventions, our voice on this problem affecting albinos, our communities and country cannot be left to clean itself up. We need to be proactive, act in solidarity and raise the alarm, the voice, and the actions that will contribute to the national efforts of stopping this menace. As platforms for citizens voices and promoters of Human Rights, we CSOs, FBOs and CBOs cannot close our eyes and ears on this problem as that will smack hypocrisy of the highest order as in what we claim to fight for in our wider society; if not for the marginalized, the abused and those afflicted. Action now is needed.
CCJP has issued this media statement in support of the good work that the media and other stakeholders have already embarked on in highlighting the plight of the albinos.  In solidarity with the rest, CCJP seeks to go beyond these mere reporting into activism. CCJP, however, realizes that for the killings of our albino brothers and sisters to stop, the nation needs multi-sectoral collaboration, effective criminal and justice systems as well as tightened security in our communities and our borders.  All these efforts need to be inspired by the love of humanity, the respect of human dignity, the respect of human rights and the acknowledgement of the sanctity of life in all human beings. CCJP firmly believes this can be seen and taken as an emergency to a very important part of our society therefore actions now than later are needed from all of us.

Chris Chisoni- 18th March 2015

On behalf the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Lilongwe, 16th March 2015:

Entrepreneurship and its role in supporting the growth of the economy is a topic of much debate in Malawi. As unemployment continues to be a major challenge for many Malawians especially young people, the British Council in conjunction with the British High Commission is working with Malawian organisations active in the area of entrepreneurship to raise more awareness of it amongst young Malawians and help them to recognise the potential entrepreneurship holds as a viable and attractive alternative to seeking formal employment by others. Through Zitheka! they are offering a free workshop on Thursday 19 March in Lilongwe where young people with an interest can learn from the experience of others and pick up new business skills to support their aspirations. The one-day programme will also feature a panel discussion, featuring distinguished guest speakers to discuss the question: Entrepreneurship in Malawi: Challenges and Opportunities – How can we make it happen?

Reena Johl, Director of the British Council in Malawi, says youth employability is critical to the success of the economy and overall wellbeing of society in Malawi and many other countries. “We are all aware of the challenges young people face in seeking gainful employment and want to help highlight how entrepreneurship can harness the potential and talent evident in young Malawians. There are undoubtedly challenges, but also there are many organisations already working hard to overcome these.” She says. “Through the Zitheka (Make it happen) project, we will be bringing together young people and organisations working in entrepreneurship to examine the existing challenges and look at possible solutions. We all have to encourage young people in Malawi to look at self-employment as a credible way to earn a living for themselves and in time to provide employment to others.  Ultimately, working with our partners we hope to strengthen and support long-term job creation in the Malawian economy and Entrepreneurship among the youth is one of the best ways to achieve this” Says Reena Johl.

This project is part of the ‘Entrepreneurial Africa’ campaign being launched by the British Council to further  support entrepreneurialism  in Sub-Saharan Africa where a quarter of all young people are out of work and not in education. This number is set to grow as populations grow if the problem is not addressed through collective action.

On 19 March 2015, Zitheka! Will host a workshop in Lilongwe at Gateway Mall for 200 young people who will attend ‘Master classes’ in subjects essential to starting a new business. These are business planning, resource mobilisation, product marketing and self-management and people skills.  Interested individuals between the ages of 18 and 35 years old may register by texting their name, age and gender to 0997 99 29 04. 

Through the panel discussion and ample networking opportunities the Zitheka! Programme provides, the 200 registered participants, access to a number of experienced entrepreneurs and experts who will share their knowledge as to how they can overcome business start-up challenges including financing, which is one of the problems young entrepreneurs face in Malawi.

The British Government is committed to supporting efforts in Malawi to increase youth employability and promoting economic growth, says British High Commissioner to Malawi Michael Nevin.  “A high level of unemployment amongst young people is a global problem which we all face. Working with young Malawians to improve skills, encourage entrepreneurship and promote social enterprise, we believe can help enable them to realise their potential and become active and effective agents of change in strengthening the country’s economy and society’s well-being” Says Nevin.

About Zitheka! Project

Zitheka! Is a new initiative to raise awareness of entrepreneurship amongst young Malawians and to encourage them to consider entrepreneurship as a viable route to employment for them and others.  Zitheka! Seeks to provide a forum to explore ideas, learn business skills, network with those who can provide support and above all motivate people to taking action!

Led by the British Council and British High Commission this first event will be delivered in partnership with Small and Medium Enterprise Development Institute (SMEDI) and the Jubilee Trust and supported by FDH Bank. 

About the British Council:

  • The British Council is the UKs international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.

  • We work in more than 100 countries and our 7,000 staff  including 2,000 teachers  work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year teaching English, sharing the Arts and in education and society programmes.

  • We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A publically-funded grant-in-aid provides less than a quarter of our turnover which last year was £781m.  The rest we earn from English teaching, UK exams and services which customers around the world pay for, through education and development contracts and from partnerships with other institutions, brands and companies.  All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and creates prosperity and security for the UK and the countries we work in all around the world.

For more information, please visit: . You can also keep in touch with the British Council through 

For media enquiries: please email

Sunday, March 15, 2015

For Edward Chitsulo

...From the heart of Richard Chirombo

His counsel was interesting because it often was accompanied by a good cut of jokes.
A joke here. A lesson there. His journey in life thrived on these stepping-blocks.

No wonder, then, that his name never disappeared from the list of influential journalism teachers and mentors in the country, except, of course, when people were talking of bad teachers and misguided mentors.

Additionally, while we all have weaknesses that, sometimes, burden others like a memento of dead flowers, it is wise to remember that the manuscript of Atate Chitsulo did not type itself through imposition: Only through good works, professionalism, dedication, and an undying love for anything good did Atate Chitsulo manuscript of quality get deposited into our hearts and minds. And there it shall remain, especially now that he will no longer grace us with his physical presence, forever.

Those of us who were trained by him will forever feel like guests who arrived for his dinner party in time: So lucky in the sense that we got the dish of his wisdom while it was being served hot. It is up to us to keep the dish hot for those so unfortunate that they have arrived when the cooker of hot dishes is fleshly-gone.

No doubt, Atate Chitsulo was an interactive, interesting, even laudable character who, when compared to the other professionals of his ilk- the majority of whom are too selfish to share their knowledge with others-  or columnists- most of whom yap common sense without adding value to discourse- he was the closest thing to a perfect being.


In the course of teaching a gullible individual like me (I am talking about the Advanced News Writing Course for which he was my lecturer), he was the only one capable of- when teaching about brevity; keeping it short, that is- telling us who he was, and what he wanted from us, and how he wanted us to do what he wanted us to do, and how we could get it right, and what it would mean to him as a mentor once we got things right, and what it would mean when we got, or did not get, what he wanted IN A MINUTE! Yes, he could say all this in a MINUTE.

Oh, what lessons in brevity!

Lessons in brevity were lessons in life, too.

Then, he could look up at us (you know he was short; like Albert Sharra or Ephraim Nyondo) from his desk and clear his throat. "Listen..." We lean forward, hungry to hear. Now it will be said, now we will hear the thing we long for.

“We do it this way…” he would start. He was not a negative person; he was unlike those amateurs who start with, “We don’t do it that way…” No. Atate Chitsulo always started from somewhere to nowhere; from something to nothing. Just like that.

That’s what great teachers do. They start from something. They start from somewhere. There is always somewhere. For example (this is what a certain teacher-friend of mine told me the other day), a Standard One Mathematics teacher starts from 1, 2, 3, 4…(maybe up to 9) before introducing 0 (zero) because zero is a negative number. And because Zero is needed when introducing TEN (10). 

Otherwise, Zero is a negative number. When you want to teach people something for the first time, you start from something- and Atate Chitsulo always started from something.

So, without him, how do we start from NOTHING? How do we start from Zero?
No. We can’t understand this.

He was too good a man. He, somehow, seemed to have the power to make dance the dullest minds!
Using this power- is it expertise?- he could make dull minds such as me shine and become part of the gravity of knowledge. He could revolutionalise a simple idea by sharpening the details, adding colour and momentum, and telling those who were willing to listen how to do things the proper way. He could ponder over an issue before colouring it with his knowledge. He could colour everything in its own different way.

Need I say something about his writing style? No. It spoke for itself. It speaks for itself.

Death might have ‘thought’ that it would pull a fast one on us by exiling Atate Chitsulo to eternal rest, never on earth to be seen again. It was wrong. His philosophy. His way of doing things. His (author’s) voice. They all have remained. With us.

As we plan to escort him to his last home in Chiradzulu (is it Chiradzulo?), let us not allow his motivational spirit to go with him, or get lost in time. Instead, let the lessons served from his hot dish stand pure and unsoiled by unethical journalism.

In celebrating his life, and remembering the good things he did, we shall have no grounds for shrinking under the shadow of death. We shall not let the shadow of this painful death colour our countenances.


That will be akin to starting from nowhere.

Atate Chitsulo always started from somewhere.

The last time I met Atate Chitsulo in person, he said three words. “Go to school”.
That’s the teacher in him, not so?
And these were the last words.
And I go to school.
Living those words!

He may be a cadaver today (in body, that is); his words live on, though. And I can’t differentiate words from the spirit. Because both live after us. As we go to school, for example.


For immediate release, March 15, 2015

The Media Institute of Southern Africa – Malawi Chapter (MISA-Malawi) has learned with shock and sadness the death of veteran and renowned journalist Edward Chitsulo. Chitsulo died at Blantyre Adventist Hospital in Blantyre this morning, Sunday March 15, 2015 after a short illness.
MISA-Malawi sincerely condoles Chitsulo’s wife, children and family, his employers Nation Publications Limited, where he was Managing Editor until his death and the entire media fraternity, and joins them in mourning the loss of this inspirational and monumental professional.
To most media practitioners, he was not only a senior and respectable colleague but also a mentor, trainer and father figure.
Chitsulo will be remembered by journalists and Malawians in general as one of the champions of media freedom, freedom of expression and democracy as he led the media fraternity in its transformation to liberalisation between 1991 and 1994 as the country transitioned to multi-party system of government. 
Chitsulo was one of the pioneers of newspaper publishing during the transition period when he, alongside another journalist Grey Mang’anda, established GE Publications Limited which produced popular newspaper titles in the name of Michiru Sun and The Star which were key in the fight for multi-party democracy, constitutionalism, respect for human rights and liberalism in Malawi.
Chitsulo was one of the founding figures of MISA at regional level and contributed to its establishment in Malawi way back in 1997. He also played a leading role in the establishment of other key media institutions such as the Journalists Association of Malawi (JAMA), the Malawi Institute of Journalism (MIJ) and the Media Council of Malawi (MCM).
He had unwavering standards of professionalism and was a furnace that shaped the media profession in Malawi. 
In Chitsulo’s death, Malawi’s media has lost a pillar of strength, an icon of media freedom, a model of professional journalism, a fountain of wisdom and a caring senior colleague.
May the soul of Edward Chitsulo rest in eternal peace.




His Excellency the State President Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika has learnt with deep shock the untimely death of Mr. Edward Chitsulo, who until his death on Sunday, 15th March 2015 at Blantyre Adventist Hospital was Managing Editor for the Nation Publications Limited (NPL).

The President joins all Malawians in expressing his condolences to the bereaved family, the NPL, the Media Institute of Sothern Africa – Malawi Chapter, the entire media fraternity and the Malawi nation for the loss of a journalist par excellence.

Mr. Chitsulo was not an ordinary media practitioner. He was a patriot who, through his writings, fought for and shaped democracy in Malawi. As a media trainer, he helped in the growth of the industry not only in Malawi but in the entire region. As an editor, he helped in the development of Malawi by sensitising our people regarding their rights and responsibilities.

He will be missed for his charm, his courage, his zeal, his skills and his willingness to share his ideas with all.

May the Almighty Lord sustain the bereaved family during this difficult time, and may his soul rest in eternal peace.




The Nyika Media Club joins the media fraternity in expressing shock and sadness at the passing on of Mr Edward Chitsulo, who until his death was Editor-In-Chief for Nation Publications Limited (NPL).

Nyika Media Club reckons how instrumental Mr Chitsulo was in shaping up the media landscape in Malawi through various contributions.

Mr Chitsulo was at some point a publisher championing pruralism and diversity in the media landscape, providing an opportunity for a number of the current leading practitioners to enter the journalism fray.

For years, Mr Chitsulo was also in media training transferring his unparallelled journalistic knowledge to a team that is not only the current shining light of the media landscape but also the future and institutional memory of the same.

As editor, Mr Chitsulo is remembered not only for mentoring and provoking thoughtfulness in the
journalists both young and old, but also in fearlessly campaigning for an independent media landscape, regardless of the political diversity, through authoring columns.

Nyika Media Club, with several members being those that drunk from Mr Chitsulo's fountain of knowledge, reckons that death has robbed it of someone whose acumen is obviously hard to replace.

We grieve with the family and the media fraternity generally and NPL in particular.


Karen Iron Msiska - General Secretary

Chimbizga Msimbuko -President

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Blantyre City Council Arrests Three People for Littering

13th March, 2015
For immediate release

Blantyre City Council is informing members of the public and Blantyre residents in particular that it has arrested three suspects and handed them over to Police for littering as one way of enforcing bylaws governing the City.

On Thursday, Council security officers arrested two suspects for emptying garbage bin along the road in Limbe while another suspect was arrested on Friday for dumping waste at Chitawira Cemetery.

The suspects are Haji Yusufu Yakiti, 28 from Machemba Village, T/A Chowe in Mangochi, Issa Osten, 22 from Nsuwo Village, T/A Kalembo in Mangochi and Dickson Linyenga, 42, from Mlomba Village, T/A Machinjiri in Blantyre.

The three suspects are in custody at Limbe Police Station and will appear in court soon to answer a charge of littering.

Meanwhile, the Council is appealing to all residents and people in Blantyre to avoid littering anyhow and make proper use of the bins placed around the City.

The Council warns that it shall take action against any person who litters or being an owner or occupier of premises that accumulate waste on their premises or dumps the same on places not designated as dumpsites.

Take note that no waste or refuse shall be collected by the Council’s collection service unless it is deposited in an approved receptacle.
A clean Blantyre is Possible. It starts with you.


Anthony Kasunda

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Malawian Poets Struggle to Earn What is Theirs

For the Malawian artist, the completion of an art project - be it a mural, painting, portrait, or a poetry and music album - marks the onset of challenges - like a journey travelled half-way through.  This is because, in most cases, instead of jubilation, it is anger and longing for justice that follow, forming a gritty residue of frustration and helplessness. Not to mention a labyrinth of regrets, of course.  Take the issue of poets, for instance. For all their marshaling of words, their masterly at crinkling their lips into a smile or mourn after a masterful performance, and the tedious task of fixing their monocle-bare eyes onto the faces of the expectant members of the audience in the course of a live performance, they find it difficult to let their unified voice penetrate the concrete walls of the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma)'s mind, an institution that was supposed to play hen-mother to them.  
“Cosoma, which is supposed to protect all artists, has been refusing  to protect us. We have even been told that Cosoma can only protect the interests of musicians, and we feel this is not on,” says Felix  Njonjonjo Katsoka, Poetry Association of Malawi's president.   Katsoka says poets' call for consideration has not borne the desired fruits, merely passing over Cosoma officials' heads into the windy distance of nowhere.   Poets, he says, now feel that the institution that is key to protecting and safeguarding their works has become a  master of delivering poetic justice.   They also feel that they have been left at the mercy of unknown  devices. This, he says, has not impressed the poets because Cosoma, despite being armed to the tooth by the laws of the land, and despite having a vast fund of experience in planning and carrying out anti-piracy programmes, has been up to its, sometimes, snap judgments.   “We have tried to talk and reason with them on the need to protect our works to no avail. This is one of the reasons we have been calling for the institution of a Culture Policy. We, really, need a culture policy because, apart from looking at issues like these, artists in the country will benefit from government's funding, as is the case with sports associations under the Malawi National Council of Sports,” Katsoka says.  Katsoka says the poets cannot understand Cosoma's current stand as, by forming their own association instead of working in isolation, they had hoped that life through one voice was less constrictive than that of isolated minds.   Cosoma's offensiveness has, therefore, troubled the poets, he says. 

Given a chance, he enthuses, they would have liked to be behind the steering wheel in safeguarding the intellectual property rights of poets, goading the fight against those who reap where they did not sow. As it is, they can only sit stiffly, and fume.   For the time being, however, now that their belief that Cosoma was there to protect musicians, poets and all the other categories of artists have been defeated; the poets will have to fend for themselves.   As reality would have it, however, Cosoma is not without reasons.  Responding to the concern in a written response, Cosoma's senior licensing officer, Rosario Kamanga, says, “It's difficult for me to understand what is meant by Cosoma ('s) refusal to offer royalties to poets” as protection hinges on proof of exploitation.   Said Kamanga: “What seems not to be appreciated is what royalties are. Royalties are, by their nature, given to individuals or rights holder associations whose works have been exploited and in their case their works need to be reproduced through photocopying, downloads or similar reproductions.   “Currently, the (poetry) association is already benefitting from a grant provided by the Royal Norwegian embassy through the cultural support Scheme and, should it be established that their works are being exploited through some of the means outlined above, then, the association is bound to benefit from royalties corresponding to the degree of exploitation.”   Film Association of Malawi vice-president, Ezaius Mkandawire, says his association also has problems with Cosoma, especially when it comes to getting intellectual property owners paid.   Mkandawire says, while Cosoma has been providing holograms on DVD films, protecting the owner of the art work goes beyond the provision of protection on DVD sales.   “We are looking at protecting the interest of all filmmakers including  those that make development films purposes for instance. These films get used on television however MBC asks for exorbitant fees before telecast. The correct way was that MBC needed to be paying for such uses,” Mkandawire says, adding:   “Cosoma has not done anything in making sure that owners of the work get paid their dues. The film Association of Malawi is, however, planning a stakeholders' meeting where, among other things, there should be a discussion to map the way forward regarding such issues. I am sure it is only here in Malawi where products on television which is run on tax-payers money get to be used for free by the nation while production houses pay tax in creating the works.”   Mkandawire says there is need to put in place strategies aimed at protecting the interests of all filmmakers, including those that make development films purposes for instance.   “These films get used on television. However, MBC charges exorbitant fees before telecast. The correct way was that MBC needed to be paying for such uses (but it doesn't),” Mkandawire says.   Book Publishers Association of Malawi executive director, Andrew Chisamba, says all original works were, “in principle”, entitled to protection.   However, Chisamba adds that, for such protection to be extended to works of art, art work owners are obliged to fulfill some obligations.   “For example, the originator of the work is supposed to deposit an original copy with Cosoma so that you may be protected. Cosoma also provides security features such as holograms on DVDs, music  (products); so, may be the poets don't buy holograms,” Chisamba says.   Adds Chisamba: “But, in principle, Cosoma has no limitations when it comes to protecting intellectual property and I don't see the reason why they would not want to protect the poets when they produce original work.”   In the end, however, looking at the poets and Cosoma's responses, it is clear that Cosoma and poets are merely swapping punches in the presence of the enemy - violators of intellectual property rights - to the advantage of the common enemy, but without working out any plan that is visionary.   While poets want Cosoma to state what its plans - and not views - are, when it comes to protection issues, it's only views that are coming out.   The warped logic of it all makes Katsoka laugh. The forced laughter of a man struggling to be impressed and happy!  The laughter fashioned by a sad mind. It is all because, for the time being, seeking Cosoma's protective hand is like looking for a needle in a haystack!

Adaptation of Foreign Plays: Creativity or Quandary?

They recount stories that have made Europe and other continents merry for centuries on foreign soil that is Malawi, hundreds of kilometres away from the play wrights’ birth-place.

They learn from foreign literature and history books and, then, redeem the accounts through humour on the local theatre stage.

They- local playwrights and theatre groups- then, cultivate fame for something that is not their original work, for it takes very little fire to generate the smoke of fame nowadays.

And, in the name of doing adaptations for plays created in foreign lands, local theatre groups such as Nanzikambe Arts have found themselves adapting plays such as La storia della tigre ‘The Story of the Tiger’- a play authored by the 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature winner, Italian Dario Fo- African Romeo and Juliet, Hendrik Ibsen's Doll's House adaption, Breaking the Pot, among others. In fact, since its inception in 2003, Nanzikambe Arts has done adaptations of several foreign plays.

Solomonic Peacocks, another renowned local theatre group, has also staged an adaptation of the French play L’ecole des femme (School of Wives) at the finals of the French Drama Schools Competition.

While the practice of adapting foreign plays is common in the world of theatre, and some theatre-goers find no problem with the practice, some observers have expressed reservations over the trend. They argue that, when a country’s theatre industry finds itself in this sort of situation, there is always someone behind the scenes who starts such a ‘game’ in order to win at the adapter’s expense!

For instance, theatre devotee Bruno Matumbi expresses reservations over the practice, observing, through his Facebook page, thus: “This trend of redoing plays written elsewhere is making me sad. Was Du (Chisiza Jnr.) the last Nyasaland playwright? I loathe adaptations done for no special reason but for lack of (creativity) or laziness of some sort.”

Matumbi says another disappointing aspect is that the quality of original local productions is poor, reiterating Ben Okri’s sentiments that, “African literature gets praise from its content and not quality”.

He observes, for instance, that some plays are created for the sake of it. “A play about Cashgate becomes a good one but (is) without any artistic value. There are activists’ plays and not artistic ones. I am a purist.”

One of the people who organise marketing seminars for artists, Michael Mutisunge N. Phoya, concurs with Matumbi on the issue of poor quality, observing that this is one of the factors influencing the practice of adapting foreign plays.

“(Creative) works in Malawi are shoddy, with most of their (the works) creators more interested in appearing in newspaper articles that are shoddier (than mature productions). Still, I am baffled by us, Malawians: So poor (materially and spiritually) but so proud, almost to a fault. Our works are unfortunately a reflection of our disposition. The good news is that we can come to peace with our need to learn/grow and then build from there,” says Phoya.

Quality versus content
Charles Shemu Joyah, in his response to Matumbi’s observations, observes that a number of factors also influence the trend of adapting foreign productions.

“The biggest problem I have with the Malawian plays is their quality on one hand and a not too demanding audience on the other,” says Joyah.

Joyah further observes that the problem goes beyond content, “it's the manner in which the content is presented. A play like ‘Sizwe Bansi is Dead’ is steeped in anti-apartheid content, but present it a manner that is very artistic in terms of language and imagery.”

But Mbene Mbunga Mwambene, who has become the local face of ‘The Story of the Tiger’ by performing the one-man act in Malawi and abroad, says issues of funding also influence the trend of delving into the world of adaptations.

“There is another practical dimension to explain why we find ourselves doing adaptations. Apart from being just classics
with great quality, we are so much influenced by the source of funds. Specific funders only fund specific projects. The artistic freedom is
limited. As long as you try to (be artistic and) are out of the area of confinement, the question of getting funding becomes irrelevant,” observes Mwambene.

However, Joyah does not believe that money issues are the only factor at play.

“While I understand the issue about financiers, I still think that we do not have outstanding writers. Can you give a list of five outstanding plays by Malawian playwrights in the past ten years? We can broaden that to other genres of ...See More”, observes Joyah.

Drop in the ocean
However, other playwrights observe that not all local theatre groups specialise in adapting foreign plays.

Dikamawoko Arts director, Tawonga Taddja Nkhonjera, observes that there are more original plays produced locally than foreign adaptations.

“There are very few theatre groups that do adaptations. Solomonic, Lions, Kwathu, Dikamawoko, Rising Choreos, Chancellor College Travelling Theatre and many others are producing original scripts but perhaps you do not get to see them, or to hear about them. And, since the death of Du Chisiza, there have been so many plays that have been written and produced. Perhaps they lacked mass appeal for one reason or another, but there have been produced nonetheless,” says Nkhonjera, adding:

“The difficult thing about theatre these days is that it faces so many challenges, one of them being competition with other forms of entertainment, an example being television. The other problem is advertising. Du Chisiza advertised on MBC Radio and in The Daily Times and everyone got the message. These days if we advertise on MBC TV, you could be watching Times TV, or more likely, DSTV. If we advertise in The Daily Times, maybe you only read The Nation. If we advertise on Capital FM, maybe you only listen to Zodiak (Broadcasting Station). If we advertise on Facebook, maybe you are not even in the Theatre Malawi group. There are many challenges.”

But Nkhonjera observes that the country still has a horde of creative playwrights.

“I went to a Kwathu (Drama Group) performance a few months back, and Steers Garden (in Blantyre) was packed and, from the audience reaction, you could see that the play was relevant. So, no, maybe Du was the last Nyasaland playwright but certainly not the last in Malawi. Charles Mphoka, Smith Likongwe, Thlupego Chisiza, Manasseh Chisiza, Joel Mkandawire, Joyce Mhango Chavula and many others are writing. I can even throw my name in that basket,” says Nkhonjera.

Mwambene cannot agree more.

“Talking of local playwrights, positive slides have been made recently. I personally wrote and directed a play last year in Austria for a festival,” says Mwambene.

Solomonic Peacocks’ director, MacArthur Matukuta, says the issue of doing adaptations should not be a cause for concern because there are more local productions than foreign adaptations at any given time.

“For example, in our case, we have done only one adaptation (of a foreign play) in our 15-year history, and that is L’ecole des femme. This was part of a project promoting French lessons among students. This can, therefore, not overshadow all the good work we have done in coming up with local creations,” says Matukuta.

Matukuta adds that doing adaptations should not be interpreted as a manifestation that playwrights have run out of ideas.

“Theatre is diversity, after all. In fact, it is not wrong to do adaptations. It is a way of trying to taste what other parts of the world have to offer. We should just avoid falling into the trap of doing them time and again.

But theatre devotee Muthi Nhlema chooses to differ.

“The problems of audience access to theatrical products, be it high quality or otherwise, are influenced by far many factors than just quality. In fact, the creative industries (if I dare call them that) suffer from one bundled problem - Marketing (promotion, distribution, product and price),” says Nhlema, adding:

“Do we have a product that people want? Do we provide value for money? Can people easily access it? Do people know about it? Each strand is a basket case of questions (but), sadly, artists seem to think it boils down to just having a shoddy article in the newspaper. It’s far more than that. Furthermore, to downplay the impact of new media and more media outlets, relative to Du's day, would be a mistake.

“Du was born in ‘easier’ times when there were fewer media outlets, fewer homes owned a TV, let alone DSTV and there was a hunger for political dissent (but), currently, the citizenry is numb to political activism unless it has got to do with their pay check. Oh! And trust me! There are people who are very comfortable to watch poor quality productions just for a laugh.”

Facing the future
National Theatre Association of Malawi (Ntam) President, Manasseh Chisiza, says the future of theatre would be incomplete without drawing on lessons from the past, hence he sees the practice of doing adaptations being an integral part of the future.

“To begin with, playwrights do adaptations in order to appreciate great works of the past. You will observe that standard plays written by great playwrights such as William Shakespeare are the ones mostly adapted because they are classics and help one appreciate art,” says Chisiza.

Chisiza adds that what makes adaptations irresistible is the fact that the stories that are told and retold have become global (universal).

The Ntam president says adaptations should not be a cause for concern because there is a remote possibility of them overshadowing local productions.

“We have a lot of creative people in the country, as well as untapped potential. Therefore, there is no need to worry,” says Chisiza.

In other words, local productions remain a sphere of deep homogeny steeped in their own self-sufficient order, hence reducing chances of foreign adaptations becoming macabre souvenirs of time bombs that tick away over the local theatre industry to zero!