Saturday, April 30, 2016

Abortion and Its Cost to Malawi

A self-conscious woman must, most likely, be in a tight spot when she decides to terminate pregnancy and part ways with a would-be baby before touching its nose.

Still, some women go ahead with the decision and part ways with would-be ‘babies’ before they are born. Others, however, die in the process— like a teenage girl from Zomba whose case of health complications was referred from Ngwelero Health Centre to Zomba Central Hospital last year.

Travelling from Ngwelero Health Centre, which is located 45-plus-kilometres away from Zomba Central Hospital, is no mean thing, according to Franstone Duwa, a clinical officer in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Zomba Central Hospital.

One health worker in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Zomba Central Hospital said on February 25 this year that the would-be mother did not make it, and died despite the health workers investing their best efforts in the task of saving “her dear life”.

“The woman who was referred to us from Ngwelero terminated her pregnancy unsafely [at home] around 9 o’clock in the morning, was rushed to Ngwelero Health Centre from where, after medical personnel observed some health complications, she was referred to our facility [Zomba Central Hospital]. She arrived around 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Unfortunately, there was no blood in the bank and she died,” said the health worker.

Costly affair

The extent of cases and costs associated with treating health complications arising from unsafe abortions at Zomba Central Hospital was, however, brought into the picture when Duwa cited statistics in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Zomba Central Hospital.

“At the Gynae [Gynaecology] Clinic, we recorded 1, 150 admissions between July 2015 and December 2015, of which 544 – representing 47 percent— patients were admitted for post-abortion care,” said Duwa.

Out of the 1, 150 patients,21 were girls aged below 15 years [representing 3.8 percent], 109 were teenage girls aged between 15 and 19 years [representing 23.1 percent], 345 patients were married women aged between 20 and 34 years [representing 63.4 percent], and 69 patients were aged 35 years and above [representing 12.6 percent].

There was one case of death: That of the Ngwelero, self-conscious, woman who might have been in a tight spot to decide to terminate pregnancy and part ways with her would-be baby before touching its nose.

The situation is not very different at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre where records indicate that, in the month of November 2015, 344 admissions were registered, out of which 93 patients needed post-abortion care services. Of these cases, 8 patients were below 19 years, 54 patients were aged between 20 and 30 years, 31 patients were aged between 30 years and above, among other findings.

In December, 255 admissions were made, of which 82 patients were treated for post-abortion care. Out of these patients, 18 were aged below 19 years, 53 were women aged between 20 and 30 years, 11 patients were above 30 years, among others.

In January this year, 301 admissions were recorded, of which 74 patients required post-abortion care services. Of these admission cases, 24 patients were aged below 19 years, 31 patients were aged between 20 and 30 years, and 30 patients were above 30 years.

There was one death.

“This is [the case of] a 20-year-old woman who was breeding heavily. A plan for MVA [Manual Vacuum Aspiration— a medical procedure that results in removal of retained body products of child conception] was made. While in the MVA room, the woman had hypertension, shortness of breath. Then, the mother went into cardiac arrest and we administered CPR for some time but, unfortunately, she died,” said one health worker at Qech on February 26.

The news from another reputable health facility, Mwanza District Hospital— which serves patients from Chikhwawa, Mwanza and neighbouring Mozambique— is, again, not pleasing to the ear. It is the same, old story of self-conscious women who, finding themselves in a tight spot, decide to terminate pregnancy and part ways with their would-be babies before touching their noses.

Records indicate that there are 30 to 40 unsafe abortions registered every month, and the affected women report to Mwanza District Hospital to access post-abortion care services.

Statistics indicate that, between January and December 2015, two patients were referred to Queen Elizabeth Central hospital due to complications related to the use of unsafe abortion tools.

Such tools, according to Dr Francis Kamwendo, Associate professor Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the College of Medicine, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, include alligator pepper, chalk and alum, bleach, Bahaman grass, cassava sticks, among others. These are weapons of death.

However, the 30 to 40 women who have been admitted to Mwanza District Hospital in the past two years must thank the private sector for timely intervention.

Mwanza District Health Officer, Raphael Lawrence Piringu, said the district used to struggle to get MVA kits before Vale Logistics bought the kits and donated them to the hospital. Other districts, like Neno, are not very lucky. In fact, Mwanza District Health Office donated 15 MVA sets to Neno, which did not have any, early this year and these are enough to serve Neno women and health workers for one year, according to Piringu.

“Generally, between 15 and 20 percent of cases registered in the female ward and maternity wing have to do with [the provision of] post-abortion care services. We sometimes register four to five post-abortion care cases or those related to miscarriage. In fact, most abortion cases are induced [not natural],” said Piringu, adding:

“In the case of those who induce abortion, we ensure that we quickly stop the breeding and, within 24 hours, take the patient to the theatre. Sometimes, we face the worst case scenario where we have to remove the uterus. In 2015, we surgically removed two uteruses and it is not a nice experience,” said Piringu.

Keeping pregnancy to term

Not that all women terminate pregnancy when circumstances surrounding conception justify such a course of action, though.

In Mwanza District, a 13-year-old girl decided to hold on to the foetus and successfully delivered at the hospital despite being a victim of rape.

And, in the last week of February this year, a 23-year-old rape victim chose to deliver when others would have embraced the option of terminating pregnancy.

These are cases of women who, finding themselves in a tight spot, decide to hold on to the pregnancy in order not to part ways with their would-be baby before touching its nose.

Dangerous terrain

Dr Chisale Mhango, one of the commissioners for the Special Law Commission that was established in 2013 and given the task of reviewing the country’s abortion laws, said unsafe abortion is one of the factors that contributed to Malawi’s failure to meet the Millennium Development Goal on reducing maternal mortality rate to 275 [deaths] per 100, 000 live births.

According to the 2010 Malawi Demographic Health Survey (MDHS), out of every 100, 000 babies delivered in the country’s health facilities, 574 have to die! This means— pending announcement of the latest MDHS findings— Malawi is on tenth position in terms of countries with the highest maternal mortality rates in Africa.

An analysis of World Health Organisation statistics revealed that Chad, with 1, 100 maternal mortality rates per 100, 000 live births, tops the list of countries with the highest Maternal Mortality Rates. Somalia is second, with 1, 000 cases per 100, 000 live birth, followed by Sierra Leone [890], Central African Republic [890], Burundi [800], Guinea Bissau [790], Liberia [770], Sudan [730], Cameroon [690], and Malawi on tenth position [574].

“Seventeen out of every 100 maternal mortality rate cases in the country are a result of unsafe abortion. In fact, complications of unsafe abortion are the forth commonest cause of maternal deaths in Malawi, after breeding, sepsis [infection] and hypertension. This is complicated by the fact that research findings indicate that the proportion of girls [aged between 15 and 19 years] having their first sexual encounter is increasing. In 2004, it was 48 percent and in 2010, it [the rate] was at 56 percent,” said Chisale.

Chisale, who once headed the Ministry of Health’s Reproductive Health Unit before joining the College of Medicine, added that the situation is compounded by the fact that only 59 out of 100 women use contraceptive methods in Malawi.

Legal path

Mhango observed that the current law on abortion only allows health officials to terminate pregnancy on medical grounds. Sections 149, 150 and 151 of the Penal Code address issues of procuring abortion, penalties applicable to those who play a role in procuring it and women caught in the act.

Punishments range from monetary fines to custodial sentences ranging from three years to 14 years imprisonment with hard labour.

The proposed law proposes that rape, incest, medical grounds such as severe malformation of the foetus and the need to safeguard the life of the mother, be embraced as justifiable grounds to terminate pregnancy.

Head of the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Department at Gogo Chatinkha Maternity in Blantyre, Dr Phylos Bonongwe, observed that Malawi is losing millions of kwacha by sticking to the “old laws on abortion”.

“Research findings indicate that, after shifting to safe abortion, over K300 million could become available to spend on other healthcare needs in public facilities in Malawi. Mind you, it was discovered at the time of analysing the costs associated with unsafe abortion that the country could save US$250, 000, which is more than K300 million now considering that the kwacha has lost its value against the United States Dollar,” said Chisale.

Mulanje Mission Hospital-based nurse and midwife, Keith Lipato, said Malawi’s abortion law is “gender insensitive”. Lipato observed that a “restrictive legal environment’ was to blame for high maternal mortality rates in Malawi.

“It [the law] is basically unfair because it does not put the man in the picture. It punishes only women and, yet, it takes two [people] to tangle. We are being unfair to women. What if a woman has been raped and does not want to take the pregnancy to term?” queried Lipato.

In 2008, gender activists opened a can of worms when they proposed that rape cases that take place in the marriage set up [dubbed ‘marital rape’] should be penalised. But, while observing that it would be a violation of women’s rights to deny them the right to terminate pregnancy in cases of rape, human rights lawyer Chrispin Sibande said the concept of marital rape applies only when couples are on separation, and that it would be difficult to enforce the law on marital rape when couples are in good books.

Monday, April 25, 2016


Officially Malawian but with very little to identify with Malawi’s local languages in his lyrics, it has been easy to paint artist Theo Thomson as a mysterious figure hiding behind a stained glass-window.

This picture has not been helped by the fact that his songs— early songs, that is— have been dominated by R&B. Maybe he concentrated on such a genre in a bid to appeal to everyone in a globalised world.

But, still— especially to the culturally-sensitive music lover— his lyrics seem to coil back and again, trapping the listener in a mesh of genres perfected by foreign artists.

The solace, over the years, has been that, to the attentive listener, Thomson’s message has been very easy to understand— often not requiring a complicated listener with an eye for hidden details.

But Thomson seems to have outlived the stage when a youth is attracted by everything that prompts a would-be-musician to develop a magnetic attraction to the first genre he comes into contact with. He says he believes it is high time he changed course and became “more available to everyone”.

The journey

It must be ironic that, for someone born in Blantyre, it had to take a group from England, the United Kingdom, to convince him that he had a life in music.

“My music development came from being in a group in England where I underwent dance tuition as well as song writing lessons. I am inspired by artists, other musicians, nature, people— anything that triggers an emotion in me is inspiration to write and artists like Justin Timberlake, Prince inspire me a lot musically,” Thomson says.

Despite being inspired by the likes of Timberlake and Prince, Thomson has always wanted to keep tabs on his culture. Starting off with ‘Gypsy’ as his first studio album, it was clear that Theo wanted to remain connected to his Malawian identity, as evidenced by the fact that the ‘Gypsy’ album included songs such as ‘Kutentha’. The others were, as expected, in English and they included ‘So Amazing’ and the title track itself, ‘Gypsy’.

Now, he has gone back into the recording studio and the product is ‘White Elephant’, marking his second foray into album-release business.

Surprisingly, Thomson says he wants his music to appeal to everyone— unlike in the past when his lyrics were deemed too classy, if not detached, to appeal to the tobacco farmer.

The Chinese say the ‘falling leaf goes back to the leaf’, but Theo wants to get back to his roots while on his way to the top [and not the roots]. In other words, he wants him and everyone to rise up together to the top— which may be the international music market that has proven elusive to him over the years.

He says his strategy [of reaching out to all manner of people] is simple: “By simply being present, making music and myself accessible is the intention with this project.”

He, however, says this does not mean he will be into ingoma or Manganje or mganda. He will remain very much the Afro-R & B singer, though he wants to appeal to the uncomplicated music lover on the local scene.

Thomson says: “I don't feel I have gone very far from that. [Just that] the album has something for everyone. It is multi-faceted just as I am. So, no matter where you are from, what era you relate to musically, this is our story, all of us.

“I stick to my strength [by singing in English]. I have never felt too pressured about that [aspect of singing in local languages]. To me, good music is good music.”

On why he has not been available for performances, Thomson has a quick fire response: “I felt, when there were shows, I was being excluded.”

The White Elephant

As if living up to his multi-faceted billing, Thomson seems to have searched far and wide just to come up with the album title ‘The White Elephant’. Actually, the title is drawn from an old tale in Thailand.

“It is basically the story of the white elephant in a room’. It’s a tale about two villages in Thailand. Roughly, the story goes thus: A small village gave a big village an elephant and the elephant attacked the big village, leaving the big village vulnerable to attack from the small village,” Thomson points out.

Some of the tracks in the 15-track album are ‘Magic’, ‘Where do we go’— which depicts a situation of quandary, which happens in life often when one is not sure where to go.

The other one is ‘Maybe Tomorrow’. The refrain is memorable because of its localized accent— probably because Faith Mussa collaborated with Theo in the song. In the lyrics, a persona tells a lover to come closer. Forever. Never to go away.

Another track is ‘Awake’ [featuring Fatsani Kalonde] and ‘Wings’, a love song that addresses the issue of empowering women every time.

“It [‘Awake’] also talks of my own battle with music itself,” Thomson says.

But, then, why are Thomson’s music videos not played internationally?

“They say [foreign television stations] the colour [in the music videos] is not in line with time. They talk of pictures. They say big journalists are not talking of them [his songs].”

Health advocate

Talking of battles, he has started helping out on health problems, specifically cancer. He admits that “I was affected by situations previously”.

He elaborates: “My grandfather passed away due to cancer. So, we go to the cancer ward [at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital] often. We are raising awareness on cancer. I know of a little boy from the village who has cancer. He needs about K40, 000 every two days to access treatment and he cannot afford.”

Retracing steps

Thomson’s brand manager, Prince Chikweba, says Thomson has set his eyes on being available while being relevant.

“In general, Theo used to use the genre Afro-R&B; like the modern R&B guy. Now, he is trying Afro-fusion. My role entails planning how to reach the goal we want to reach,” Chikweba says.

Chikweba says rebranding entails reaching outside as part of corporate social responsibility.

“That is why Theo is thinking of going to rural areas to reach out to rural masses,” Chikweba says.

It remains to be seen whether, as what used to be a somewhat detached Thomson stretches into a more available musician, he may not dilute his original touch in the soup of relevance.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Is President Peter Mutharika a Lame-Duck President?

There must be something terribly wrong with President Peter Mutharika, a man who does not exude confidence in the manner he stands up, walks, makes speeches, or responds to public issues.
His knack for making decisions very late seems to be a symptom of impaired judgement; or, rather, his late decision-making impairs his judgement. It is not clear which is which because the man does not make himself clear.
Two incidents attest to this.
Recently, when Mutharika was opening the Tobacco Auction Flours, it took him a whopping one minutes, 40 seconds to 'remember' the words "msika" [market]. The President meant to say, in vernacular Chichewa, that "Ndi mau amenewa, ndatsekulira msika wa fodya" [with these words, I officially declare the Auction Flours open".
Well, somehow, the President seemed unable to catch up with the words 'msika' and could not gather his thoughts to remember what he wanted to say.
Well, the cheer ladies interrupted him and when he resumed speaking, he went straight into his speech [written in English] before coming back to his senses on Chichewa. Well, a sign of a man with wangering thoughts perhaps.
On April 12 2016, the President showed, yet again, that he was a man out of touch with current affairs by declaring a state of disaster a tad too late.
Organisations, including the Civil Society Agricultural Network, had been on his neck as early as November last year, asking him to declare Malawi a food insecure nation because maize production levels [maize is the staple food] had fallen by 30 percent.
But, shielded by the neck-high walls of New State House in Lilongwe, the President could not 'see; the reality, and dilly-dallied in making the long-awaited statement.
Only for him to declare last week, when the truth that he had nowhere to hide availed itself in front of his face again, that Malawi was short on food [meaning, maize].
And it did not read very well when the President was forced to say thus:


12 April 2016
My Fellow Malawians

As you are aware, the 2015/2016 season has been greatly affected by strong El Nino conditions, resulting in erratic rains across most parts of the country.
Reports from the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services indicate that cumulative rainfall performance from October, 2015 to end March, 2016 has been below average in most parts of the Southern and Central Regions of the country.

Average to above average rainfall amounts were only received in the Northern Region of the country. The season has been characterized by late onset of planting rains, between three (3) to four (4) weeks for the Southern Region and 2 to 3 weeks for the Central Region.
After the late onset of the rains, most areas, especially in the Southern Region, were receiving sporadic rains, interspaced with prolonged dry spells resulting in the drying, scorching and permanent wilting of crops.

These prolonged dry spells have resulted into severe crop failure, particularly in the Southern Region and parts of the Central Region. The situation is slightly better in the north although some areas there have also been affected by the dry spells.

My fellow Malawians,
as you may all recall, the 2014/2015 growing season was one of the worst seasons in the country. The country experienced the worst floods in living memory which were followed by prolonged dry spells in a lot of districts. This resulted in a sharp decline in maize production rendering 2.8 million people in 25 districts food insecure.
While government, with support from development partners and other stakeholders, has been responding to the 2.8 million food insecure people, the country has experienced yet another severe prolonged dry spells during the 2015/2016 growing season due to the strong El Niño.

Most of the affected districts are the same districts that were affected by the 2015 floods
later on by the prolonged dry spells. The second round Agricultural Production Estimates Survey which the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development undertook between mid-February and March this year, estimates maize production for the season at 2,431,313 metric tons (mt), representing 12.4 percent decline in production as compared to the 2014/2015 final round estimate of 2,776,277 mt.

The major contributing factor to the decline is the unfavourable weather conditions for crop development resulting from dry spells the country experienced during the season, particularly in the Southern and Central Regions of the country. The country’s maize requirement for human consumption, seed, stock feed, and industrial use is currently estimated at 3,205,135mt.

This being the case, it is projected that the country will face a maize deficit of about 1,072,461mt.

My Fellow Malawians,
I would like to indicate that the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development will ascertain the actual deficit after the third round production estimates in June, 2016, whose results will form a basis to compute a comprehensive national food balance sheet. However, basing on the weather pattern and the fact that the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services has projected early cessation of the rainfall season, the Ministry is convinced that the projected maize production will not change significantly.

With the increased maize deficit, it is expected that an increased number of people will be food insecure and will require humanitarian relief assistance for the whole 2016/17 consumption year. The actual number of food insecure people will be determined by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee in due course when the annual vulnerability assessment is undertaken.

However, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has estimated that due to the partial or complete loss of crops through El Nino induced dry spells, the affected population will require about 790,000mt of relief food.

Considering the magnitude of the projected maize production deficit, and the resultant food insecurity that the country will face, there is need to re-stock the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) with about 250,000mt as buffer stock during the season.
On the other hand, the Ministry’s projections show that ADMARC will require a total of 250,000mt of maize to sell to the general public and effectively stabilize maize prices in the 2016/2017 season.

Taking into account the above requirements, that is, re-stocking the SGR, restocking ADMARC, and providing adequate relief food for the season, the Ministry projects a total maize requirement of 1,290,000mt to avert a food crisis in the season.

In the circumstances, it is very clear that we have food shortage in the country which will affect a considerable number of our fellow citizens.

Accordingly, and in accordance with powers conferred upon me by Section 32(1) of the Disaster Preparedness and Relief Act, I declare a State of National disaster effective from today, 12th April, 2016.

I fully appreciate all the previous assistance Malawi has been receiving when affected by disasters, including support for the on-going humanitarian response programme.
However, I appeal for humanitarian relief assistance from the International donor community, the relevant United Nations agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations, the private sector as well as all fellow citizens of goodwill,so that, together, we can contribute in alleviating suffering on the part of people who have been affected by the food shortage. Donations in cash or in-kind should be sent to the Secretary to the Vice President and Commissioner for Disaster Management Affairs, Private Bag 336, Lilongwe 3.
Indeed on our part as Government we will make sure that all affected people are taken care off.

Government will cash its drought insurance to start off the relief process.
Secondly, Government will use its remaining part of food items to distribute to the affected people.

I would like to assure all our partners that Government will see to it, that all the relief assistance received is channeled to the affected people in the affected districts.

My fellow Malawians, I thank you for your attention. May the Almighty God Bless you all and our country.

Well, there is nothing wrong when a president makes a statement like this. Just that, it came a tad too late!

The Vincent Wandale menace

As if these times are not bad enough for the President, People's Land Organisation leader, Vincent Wandale, has been tearing into the President's flesh with calls for secession.
At first, Wandale declared that the people of Mulanje and Thyolo -- the President's strongholds, would grab land from estate owners if they did not make back-dated payments for taxes.
"These people took our land for free," Wandale told Zachimalawi on Tuesday. "And we want, not the land, but the money they owe us back."
By the way, who made Wandale Malawi's tax-collector when the Malawi Revenue Authority has been doing a commendable job-- squeezing minority tax payers dry while ignoring the majority.
The surprising thing is that the President has kept conspicuously quiet on the issue, instead of whipping Wandale.
Maybe the President is a student of the 48 Laws of Power and wants to put Baltasar Gracian's words that "There is no revenge like oblivion. It is the entombment of the unworthy in the dust of their own nothingness" to good use.
But such treatment of Wandale is exposing the President to ridicule, putting him in the position of a leader out of ideas, and out of sorts.
Statements are not enough.
Statements from the Government spokesperson are not enough. I mean statements like the one below:

For Immediate Release


Government has noted with interest the observations made in the Daily Times of Tuesday, 12th March 2016 by Mr Rafiq Hajat calling on Government to act decisively and swiftly on the so-called declaration of an independent state in Thyolo and Mulanje by a man called Wandale purportedly on behalf of a group called The People's Land Organisation. Mr Hajat's observations were the subject of an editorial comment in the same paper where the editors urged Government to resolve the issue of landlessness in Thyolo and Mulanje once and for all.

What both Mr Hajat and the editors of the Daily Times agree on is that Mr Wandale is a misguided and irrational individual who is seeking cheap popularity by taking the futile, bizarre, illegal and unconstitutional step of declaring Thyolo and Mulanje as an independent state. Government applauds both Mr Hajat and the Editors of the Daily Times for making this correct and important observation about Mr Wandale. Indeed, Mr Hajat correctly observes that Mr Wandale's declaration of an independent state within the Republic of Malawi is treasonous. However, while not restricting itself in future action, the present position of Government is to leave Mr Wandale alone. This is so because of the extent of the futility and the degree of irrationality of Mr Wandale's declaration. In fact, if Government prosecuted Mr Wandale for treason, the prosecution will be the significant action; not the declaration of independence. It would seem that this is what Mr Wandale hopes Government would do, so that he achieves fame, martyrdom and popularity. Government will not, for the time being, oblige Mr Wandale's wishes.

Leaving aside Mr Wandale's bizarre, irrational and illegal behaviour, Government would like to agree with both Mr Hajat and the editors of the Daily Times that the issue of landlessness in Thyolo and Mulanje is a grave matter and requires timely attention and resolution. Government, however, disagrees with Mr Hajat and the editors of the Daily Times in their assertion that Government is doing nothing about the matter. Seemingly unbeknown to Mr Hajat and the editors of the Daily Times, but certainly known to the traditional leaders of Mulanje and Thyolo, the other civic leaders of both Mulanje and Thyolo, as well as all leaders and members of the People's Land Organisation, Government is fully engaged in this matter and is committed to finding a durable solution to the problem.

To this end President Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika has personally met various stakeholders involved in finding a solution to this matter. At times the President has sent his Ministers and other officials to engage other stakeholders in the matter. These discussions are progressing well. Government is confident that the issue of idle land in tea estates in Mulanje and Thyolo will soon be resolves to the satisfaction of all those concerned. As a matter of fact, in the Daily Times article in which Mr Hajat appears, one of the civic leaders in this matter, Hon Bon Kalindo, expressly acknowledges the involvement of the President in this issue, and his confidence that a solution will be found.

This is obviously a weighty and delicate matter. It requires the attainment of a proper balance between our fundamental national interests, the law, and people's legitimate expectations. In resolving this matter, therefore, Government will not be acting in response to Mr Wandale’s bizarre and futile declaration of Independence. Government will be acting with a view to finding the best outcome for all our people and for our nation. President Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika, by reason of his eminent legal background, his experience in similar disputes, and his calm temperament, is best suited for this task.


14THAPRIL, 2016.

Statements like these are not enough. Take action on Wandale.
And all of us will realise that we are equal before the law.
Otherwise, the impression created is that when people from the Northern Region call for the introduction of a Federal System of Government, they are separatists. When Wandale, from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party stronghold of Mulanje, makes similar-sounding stataments, it is normal.
Maybe it is the President who is weak!
What else can Malawians say when Wandale has declared that Thyolo and Mulanje have finally made the big break from Malawi? It points to weak leadership!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Panama Files and man in stained glass-window

Hypocricy, a word many abhor, seems to run through development partners’ blood like a thick thread:

Come to think of it. For many years— or, in other words since Malawi gained independence— development partners have taken advantage of their position as institutional, bilateral or multilateral donors to practice politics of patronage.

If not sounding like a concerned patron intent on instilling good morals in the ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ that is Malawi through strings that are, often, more painful than the economic or social ‘disease’ they seek to cure, then, it is the suspension of support. The support, whatever name it may be given, is often reduced to three forms: technical, moral and financial.

It turns out all the holier-than-though attitude exuded by the so-called strict development partners is a form of public display designed to hide the development partners shoddy dealings. It turns out the haloed figure called the development partner has only succeeded in painting the picture of a deceitful figure who has relatively succeeded in hiding weaknesses behind a stained glass-window.

The Panama Files— as revelations of politicians, sports personalities and business tycoons’ shoddy dealings through offshore accounts has become known— offer a clear picture of the game of hypocricy the so-called holier-than-though development partners have played on us over the years.

But their world came crushing down last Sunday when a year-long investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and 100-plus other media houses brought to the fore what people we have been looking up to as the epitome of fair dealing have been up to all these years.

We have learned, perhaps for the umpteenth time, that a global version of Cashgate has been playing out in the world, to which the development partners who are so nosy when it comes to sniffing the scent of our sins, have paid a blind eye.

But the truth— as shown by, we are told, over 11.5 million financial and legal records that expose shoddy dealings through secretive offshore companies— cannot be hidden forever, thanks to whistleblowers and alert media houses.

The presence of whistleblowers offers us hope that, no matter how long it takes, justice has a way of finding itself in the public domain, offering, yet again, the lesson that what is hidden can be unhidden.

Which is why I get surprised by public officials’ reluctance to introduce legislation that protects whistleblowers. Even the United States is jittery about the role of whistleblowers, if the way it handled the issue of how it tapped into phones of some of the world’s leaders is anything to go by. We need laws promoting and protecting whistle-blowing in this country.

Not that the egg has rotten in Europeans’ basket alone. That is not what I am implying. After all, it has come to our attention that that, at least, 140 politicians and public officials from around the world are part of the rot. Not just that, we also learn that, more than 214, 000 offshore entities, connected to people— including prime ministers, presidents and kings — in more than 200 countries and territories are part of the beneficiaries.

Surprisingly, the often vocal development partners have been quiet, opting to adopt a wait-and-see approach as events unfold. It is unlike the way they have handled Cashgate— the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill in Lilongwe— which they condemned from hill tops from the word go.

To date, the aid taps remain closed and direct support to Malawi’s budget remains anathema to their ‘clean’ way of doing things. Of course, President Peter Mutharika and kitty-man Goodall Gondwe have suggested that it is not only Malawi that is being treated as a leper, and that the donors are withdrawing their support from all over the place.

Sure, but they are doing it when countries such as Malawi still need a financial push regularized through direct budgetary support. The good thing about direct support to the National Budget is that all the people of Malawi— through their Members of Parliament— participate in it and authorise the utilisation of the funds once the National Budget is passed in Parliament.

But— when the development partners support key sectors such as education, health, agriculture, energy, among others— their off budget support is not subjected to much scrutiny. It is like the support has been channeled to an offshore institution’s account!

Of course, others are of the view that Malawians should not read too much into the Panama Files. They say Malawians cannot point fingers at development partners and blame them for what has transpired offshore— or whatever activity takes place in offshore accounts by people out to, like everyone else, make a good fortune.

They say, unlike Cashgate— which entailed the siphoning of public funds that did not belong to us [a large part of the financial resources came from development partners], in the first place— those implicated in the Panama Files have stolen their own money by avoiding meeting legal requirements and paying taxes.

But, then, a wrong is a wrong. In fact, the best way to look at it is through the moral prism. Morally, I think, it will be self-defeating for development partners to talk of fair dealing, transparency, accountability and honesty without shooting themselves in the foot.

This moral dilemma will disturb the world order of doing things for years to come. But, as they say, the ‘real’ thief is the one caught with his hands in the jar.

For the time being, our European, Asian counterparts will remain holy by, among other strategies, drawing our eyes to the dangers of terrorism in Nigeria, lack of democracy in the Central African Republic, or how Cashgate has made the poor more poor in Malawi.

Call these the ‘fair’ dealings of a man in a stained glass-window!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Malawi’s Leaders Should Pick a Leaf From Kunda Group

Around the beginning of the sixteenth century, something of historical importance took part in Central Africa.
According to Derek Wilson, in the book ‘A History of South and Central Africa, “considerable political turmoil” in a certain part of Central Africa took root as the “population increased and bands of warriors led by chiefs roamed the country seeking new places to settle”.
One such group, the Kunda group, invaded Songye Empire [do not mind, this empire is no longer there. It died with the winds of old], overthrew the Kongolo Dynasty [the Kongolo Dynasty had established itself as a most influential dynasty at this point in time] and established a new dynasty, “BEING CAREFUL TO TAKE OVER THE RITUAL AND POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS OF THE OLD DYNASTY”.
Well, my interest has been drawn to the way the Kunda group made sure that they inherit some of the rituals and political institutions established by the Kongolo Dynasty.
This is the beginning of the sixteenth century, by the way.
To begin with, I am not suggesting that we must adopt everything we chance upon in life. No. But, at least, there are always some things we can redeem from the pile of discarded material and, for the Kunda group, such things included rituals and political institutions.
This aspect – of realising that not all things we find along the way are bad— is what has been lacking in post-independence Malawi. Maybe we can overlook first post-independence president, Ngwazi Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda [as he used to be known, then] and his 31-year rule under the banner of the Malawi Congress Party. After all, he ruled without interruptions and changes at the top for 31 years.
Our interest, should, instead, be on post-1994 heads of state and government, starting from Bakili Muluzi himself, whose rule spanned 10 years— from 1994 to 2004— Bingu wa Mutharika [2004 to April 5 2012], Joyce Banda [April 7 2012 to May 30, 2014]. Out of the many things these leaders did, contradicting the Kunda group principle, I will pick out one issue or example.

Bakili Muluzi
Leadership came as a surprise to Bakili Muluzi, who had served as Malawi Congress Party secretary general in the 1980s.
Riding on the wings of excitement, Muluzi was clearly on a mission to wipe Kamuzu’s name from history. As part of the scheme, he went about dismantling the legacy Kamuzu had worked so hard to build of 31 years of hard work.
His first step was to change the names to some of the monumental infrastructures associated with Kamuzu. Just in the nick of time, Kamuzu International Airport became Lilongwe International Airport, Kamuzu Highway became Masauko-Chipembere Highway, Kamuzu Stadium was to be called Chichiri Stadium.
It was as if then name Kamuzu brought a sense of nausea to Muluzi’s digestive system.

Bingu wa Mutharika
Bingu wa Mutharika was not a stranger to Malawi politics. Just that he had built a reputation as a poor loser.
In 1999, for example, he stood as presidential candidate for the United Party and lost with ‘flying colours’. He amassed the least votes in the elections and went into hibernation. No, he did not go into hibernation; he disbanded his political party and joined forces with the United Democratic Front.
Well, when Muluzi wanted a third term but the likes of former Speaker of the National Assembly, Sam Mpasu, stood in his way, he fronted the rank-outsider Mutharika, campaigned for him, and Mutharika became Malawi’s second democratic leader in 2004.
Taking the cue from Muluzi, he abandoned the Starter Pack Programme – a Muluzi initiative through which farmers were given 5 kilogrammes of farm inputs. Just in the nick of time, Starter Pack became the Fertilizer Subsidy Programme. He also reversed some of Muluzi’s decisions on names of infrastructure.
Chichiri Stadium became Kamuzu Stadium. Lilongwe International Airport became Kamuzu International Airport. There was a new leader in town.

Joyce Banda

When Bingu wa Mutharika won the 2009 elections with a landslide, nobody— not least his Vice-President, Joyce Banda— expected him to die.
But the inevitable happened on April 5 2012 and Joyce Banda— who had been ostracized— became Malawi’s ‘accidental president. The Constitution of Malawi stipulates that, if a leader dies with less than two years of office remaining, the Vice-President takes over. Malawi was set to go to the polls in May 2014 when Bingu died in April 2012. There was no need for elections.
Banda went flat out avenging. She introduced the Economic Recovery Plan in place of Bingu’s hesitancy. Bingu had been at loggerheads with the International Monetary Fund, which wanted his government to stop managing the Malawi Kwacha and devalue it.
Bingu was adamant.
And the International Monetary Fund suspended its Extended Credit Facility Programme in Malawi. Malawi was in a loud crisis.
When Banda inherited the cloak of power, she bowed down to International Monetary Fund and devalued the Malawi Kwacha by a whopping 49 percent. She went a step further, and introduced a programme through which the government was constructing houses for under-privileged people.
Well, Malawians rejected Banda during the May 2014 elections. Defeated, she flew outside Malawi, from where she is yet to return.

President Peter Mutharika

In her absence, new ‘boy’ Peter Mutharika has replaced Banda’s house construction programme with ‘Malata Subsidy’ Programme.
In her absence, Mutharika has abandoned the Economic Recovery Plan.
If not for political convenience, it is because the Kunda group principle does not work in Malawi!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Why The Western World Wants Malawi, Africa to Scrape Off the Death Sentence

It is impossible to hear people , either as individuals or organisations, talk about the necessity of abolishing the death penalty without a creeping wonder: What is in there for them?
And this line of reasoning [or is it questioning] is natural and very much an integral part of that ancient force of nosy behaviour called curiosity.
You see, any new idea, suggestion or proposal is like a mountain top or valley: it is impossible to ignore because it rises above, or falls below, the normal and the familiar.
And, so, it must not hit you as the subject of a creeping wonder [or point of surprise] that I am raising an alarm against the persistent -- and gradually successful-- campaign to have the death penalty scraped from our statutes.
To begin with, nothing happens by chance, especially in the world of project implementation. Designers are behind the curtains, strategically doing everything that may lead to successful implementation of an initiative while, at the same time, ensuring that it [the initiative] gives the impression of natural progression.
I am thinking along these lines as I tackle the issue of the campaign to scrape off the death penalty from our statutes. I am also thinking as a Communication and Cultural Studies student, too. I think outside the box and, often, I think about power relations.
Well, the campaign to abolish the death penalty from our statutes started deceptively after 1994.
Ironically, it was the then 'Son of a poor man' and 'Soldier' Lucius Banda who was 'used' [or, rather, abused] in this case. He 'composed' Keseli kwa Ndende in which he implored Malawians to be considerate of those convicted for murder.
Lucius -- I mean, the persona is Kuseli kwa Ndende equated the state machinery to a 'murderer' if it hanged those sentenced to death.
It must be said that Lucius did wonders in terms of imagery, as he put a human face to the issue of hanging people convicted on murder charges.

Kudikira imfa
Kuseri kwa ndende
Kuli maka-ko oo!
N'pomwe adzaphedwe momvetsa chisoni
N'pomwe adzaphedwe momvetsa chisoni

Dziko lathu likanangomva
Kulira kwawo o!
Poti wena amangophedwa
Osalakwa aaa!
Chigawenga n'chowuma mtima
Chinapha muthu u
Koma ngati boma lichibwenzera
Zasiyana pati-i!

In summary, the personally is putting the listener in the position of a prisoner waiting to be hanged. The prisoner waits for days on end-- uncertain of what may come next.
The prisoner is certain that death will come, yes; but is in the dark about when it would come. People have talked of situations where individuals die a thousand, million, times before their actual death. This is one such scenario.
The persona in Lucius' song goes on to say "A dangerous criminal murdered a man. If the government reiterates [by hanging the murderer], how different are the two?"
But, then, there are contradictions in the lyrics. The convict is a "dangerous" murderer, after all. It has been proven in court. Why should the murderer be sustained, on the state's bill?
Of course, there are other murder convicts who had nothing to do with the murder. They found themselves at the wrong place at the wrong time. They are constrained, resource-wise, and did not get the best legal representation they could, otherwise [resources permitting], get.
And, so, they find themselves behind bars-- waiting for a death that is not theirs. There are such cases, yes. And it is sad that such cases are there.
But, then, we have suspects who actually killed, willingly, and do not want to pay the price of death.
When Atupele Muluzi, a lawyer, was Legal Affairs Committee [of Parliament] chairperson during the late Bingu wa Mutharika's regime, the committee members went outside the country to appreciate how other countries were fairing on the issue [of the death penalty.
On return, Atupele said: "Malawi is not ready to abolish the death penalty."
And, since then, the scrape-the-death-penalty advocates have gone into mute mode. But, time and again, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation executive director, Timothy Mtambo, wakes up from his deep slumber to talk about the importance of scraping the death penalty from the statutes.
And, then, he goes back to the comfort of his silence again. And days go by.
In the background, the campaign goes on.
Now, going back to the issue of the reasoning behind calls to scrape off the death penalty from our statutes. I think [as a Communication and Cultural Studies student] that someone wants the world to rid itself of the death penalty in readiness for another holocaust.
I suspect it will take place in Africa this time around. And there will be nobody to hold accountable and hang for the senseless murders that are to take place. Call it my conspiracy theory but, surely, this thing will take place.
And, then, people will realise the sheer folly of scraping the death penalty from the statutes.
We will all have helped in clearing the ground for murder and no one-- not the next generations, at least-- will forgive us for letting this things happen.
But we can prevent this thing by saying 'No' to suggestions that we scrape the requirement to hang those caught with their hands in the jar.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Marital Rape: Dusted, But Sleeping, Debate

A mass of tangled hurdles, mainly stemming out of cultural inhibitions, stood in the way of the campaign to have marital rape recognised in the statutes in Malawi.
And, in the end— judging by the silence of hither to relentless campaigners – the majority who opposed the suggestion seem to have won, yet another indicator that gender activism faces various windings before gender equality principles could become entrenched in Malawi society.
But, according to gender activist Emma Kaliya, it is just unfortunate that a significant number of Malawians” misunderstood the whole concept, a development that culminated in people pouring cold water on the suggestion.
“But the essence [of the suggestion] was to ensure that human rights are protected, irrespective of gender,” she says.

Uncharted territory
Today, marital rape remains an uncharted territory in Malawi, though other Southern African Development Community (Sadc) countries have taken that route, most notably South Africa.
According to Solidarity Helping Hand Women in Action, South Africa holds the title of “rape capital of the world” with reports that “a woman is raped every 17 seconds”.
This, says the organisation, is in spite of the fact that South Africa’s laws make rape an offence. It observes that “The situation is even more dire regarding marital rape – a form of rape that is arguably the least recognised of all forms of rape. One wonders whether the law is enough to deal with what appears to be an attitudinal problem more than anything.”

Attitudinal problem
An October 2012 paper titled ‘Marital rape in South Africa’, published by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (Osisa), indicates that marital rape is “one of the most serious violations of a women’s bodily integrity”.
Yet, according to a 1997 report by the South African Law Commission, it [marital rape] “is a term that many people still have a problem comprehending, with some still describing it as a ‘contradiction in terms’, adding that “The attitude of many – not just in South Africa, but also in Southern Africa, and perhaps the whole continent – is that it is not rape as long as the perpetrator is one’s husband, or known partner”.
Ironically, marital rape is recognised in the definition of gender-based violence given by the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women which states that “violence against women shall be understood to encompass…marital rape”.
According to the Osisa paper, “Marital rape is any unwanted sexual acts by a spouse or ex-spouse, committed without consent and/or against a person's will, obtained by force, or threat of force, intimidation, or when a person is unable to consent”.
The paper then cites a 2006 World Health Organisation study on domestic violence. The study found that intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence in a woman’s life – “much more common than assault or rape by strangers or acquaintances”.
According to a Human Rights Watch report titled ‘The costs of marital rape in Southern Africa’, the Sadc Protocol on Gender and Development obliges member states to amend their laws to ensure equal rights for women across a wide range of issues.
Sadc countries include South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
However, the report, compiled by Dr Nada Ali, researcher in the Women’s Rights division of Human Rights Watch, observes that there are many cases of resistance in terms of recognising marital rape.
Ali observes: “This stark picture shows exactly how a lack of commitment to fighting domestic violence, marital rape and gender inequality could make fighting the HIV pandemic harder – and could cost Sadc countries universal access to HIV prevention and treatment. This is why women’s groups must continue to press governments to do more to combat domestic violence, until the idea that marital rape is a contradiction in terms becomes a thing of the past.”

Can marital rape work?

According to human rights lawyer, Chrispin Sibande, there are cases where marital rape becomes a straightforward issue in countries where it is criminalised.
“For example, when a husband and wife are on separation [and one of the parties still wants to exercise conjugal rights], it [marital rape] becomes a clear-cut issue,” Sibande says.
Otherwise, the ‘Marital rape in Southern Africa’ report indicates that it is a tall order for marital rape to become a part of the laws in Sadc countries, including Malawi.
“Malawi, for instance, only defines rape outside of the marriage context despite the fact that 75 percent of married women in the country have admitted to being raped by their husbands,” the report says, quoting a 2001 British Broadcasting Corporation report.
Yet another indicator that the road to recognising marital rape in Sadc is winding and half lit.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

When a Principled Man Falls, His Stock Only Rises: The Case of Allan Chiyembekeza

It was clear, from the moment he was appointed Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Minister, that Dr Allan Chiyembekeza would live under the shadow of anxiety.
Chiyembekeza is,to begin with, a professional who sticks to professionalism, and seems unwilling to sacrifice his principles on the altar of political maneuvering.
This was clear at the height of the Mulanje-Thyolo land wrangles.
A Civil Society Organisation in Mulanje was leading a crusade against tea estate owners, with the aim of grabbing back land from the tea estate owners if they did not pay back-dated 'taxes'.
Led by People's Land Organisation and Mulanje Central Member of Parliament, Bon Kalindo, the crusaders gave President Peter Mutharika 90 days to act on their demands, or face the embarrassment of seeing tea estate land being divided among the locals.
Well, the President did not bulge and it seemed that it is the people who were behind the crusade that were taking two steps backwards.
Other members of Parliament in Thyolo, led by Charles Mchacha, launched an offensive, castigating Kalindo and People's Land Organisation in a press statement signed by all Thyolo members of Parliament except Chiyembekeza.
It must be borne in mind that Kalindo is a ruling Democratic Progressive Party Member of Parliament. He was, therefore, seen to be acting against party principles.
I once attended a meeting addressed by Mchacha in Wilson Village in Thyolo, and one of the topis was the debate on land. Well, Mchacha made it clear that he was not part of the scheme and that Kalindo-- who he accused of sending him threatening messages-- would not make it in the 2019 parliamentary elections.
Well, 2019 is very far away but the Democratic Progressive Party is said to be grooming someone to replace Kalindo in Mulanje Central.
What we learned from the land debate, though, is the fact that Chiyembekeza-- who has just been relieved as Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Minister-- is not a man who sails by the wind. He refused to be dragged into the land debate, choosing, instead, to concentrate on less divisive issues.
Again, Chiyembekeza showed that he could be in the canoe but sail in a different direction when he addressed the issue of irrigation and its relevance to Malawi. He said, among other things, that there was need to take irrigation to another level as there was little to show for previous efforts due to mis-application of irrigation technologies.
Unfortunately, as happens sometimes, the media quoted him out of context by reporting that he had poured cold water on irrigation policies.
By the way, there are differences between 'quoting out of context' and 'misquoting'. When you quote out of context, it means you have taken out words that suit you, leaving behind words that form the gist of a sentence or paragraph to suit your interests. So, a source ends up saying what they did not say. The undiplomatic way of putting it is 'twisting words'.
When you 'misquote', on the other hand, it means attributing words one did not say to that individual. It may be that someone said the said words but, then, to attribute to the wrong person.
In Chiyembekeza's case, reporters removed some words and connected words that would originally have been words apart.
Again, it was like Chiyembekeza did not want to sail with the winds while taking his ride in the blue [Democratic Progressive Party canoe]. He was with them but [as Jesus Christ put it the other way round] not of them-- a costly thing for all intents and purposes.
To begin with, irrigation has been one of the scorecards for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. Indeed, former president, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, introduced the Greenbelt Initiative in a bid to revive agriculture in the country.
He must have taken the cue from initiatives such as the Kasinthula Irrigation Scheme, which has shown that, tooled property, irrigation can be the saviour that has never visited Malawi.
So, to talk ill of irrigation is akin to scratching the President's back with a knife.
And, on the premise, Chiyembekeza had to go.
But, then, his stock can only rise after the fall. After all, he never contaminated his, otherwise, good record with the dirty waters of politics.
And, surely, away from the hassles of being Minister-- which go with the business of being misquoted and quoted out of context-- he could be plotting his next move.
He would not want to fall as Minister and, then, fall as Member of Parliament.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Battle of Giants: Jessie Kabwila versus Patricia Kaliati will rain snakes and frogs
President Peter Mutharika must have had Malawi Congress Party (MCP) spokesperson, Jessie Kabwila, in mind when he shuffled his Cabinet today.
Kabwila, we all know, has been giving the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) a tough time in both Parliament and the media.
It is as if Kabwila has no match.
Of course, DPP Member of Parliament, Patricia Kaliati, has been there to defend her party and attack Kabwila. So vocal have the two women been that gender activist, Emma Kaliya, has chided men [not the two women] for letting the two women tussle, for days on end.
Kaliya feels that men cheer the two women on, in a bid to present women as too-good-for-nothing and too noisy.
Men, like Kenwilliams Mhango, have, on their part, wondered why women themselves cannot douse the fire, instead of blaming men for watching on and cheering the two women.
To say the truth, Kabwila had no match in Information Minister Jappie Mhango. Mhango was pulled this and that way by Kabwila that Kaliati was the only 'natural' selection.
For beginners, Kaliati is a friendly-at-heart, no nonsense woman. She seems to have all the answers to all the questions. Of course, her responses are often without substance, but she gives reporters something to write about.
Kaliati will, perhaps, be remembered for her comment [as Information Minister] when Malawi severed ties with Taiwan. Apparently, some Taiwanese officials had, predictably, reacted angrily to former president, Bingu wa Mutharika's decision to abandon the Republic of China ship for that of the People's Republic of China.
Taiwan had been Malawi's friend for years, the official opined, to be abandoned in mid air like that.
But Kaliati, the ever more loquacious, had a quick fire response: "What are they complaining about. Is Malawi the only country that benefited from the relationship? Let them [Taiwan] return our frogs and snakes!"
That is Kaliati for you.
Now, with her appointment as government spokesperson, Kabwila has more than a match and Malawians should expect -- not fireworks-- but frogs and snakes to run for cover!
That-- despite the fall of Africulture, Irrigation and Water Development Minister Allan Chiyembekeza-- is the master-piece of Mutharika's cabinet reshuffle.

Republic of Malawi



His Excellency the State President, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, in exercise of the powers conferred upon him by Section 94 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, has made some changes to the Cabinet with effect from today, 7th April, 2016.

President of the Republic of Malawi and Minister of Defence: His Excellency Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika

Vice President of the Republic of Malawi: Right Honourable Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima

Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development: Honourable Goodall Gondwe

Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development: Honourable Dr. George Chaponda, M.P.

Minister of Labour, Youth and Manpower Development.: Honourable Henry Mussa, M.P.

Minister of Information and Civic Education: Honourable Patricia Kaliati, M.P.

Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare: Honourable Dr. Jean Kalilani, M.P.

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development: Honourable Kondwani Nankhumwa, M.P.

Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development: Honourable Atupele Muluzi, M.P.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation: Honourable Francis Kasaila, M.P.

11. Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism: Honourable Joseph Mwanamvekha, M.P.

12. Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining: Honourable Bright Msaka, SC

13. Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs: Honourable Samuel Tembenu, SC

14. Minister of Education, Science and Technology: Honourable Dr Emmanuel Fabiano, M.P.

15. Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security: Honourable Jappie Mhango, M.P.

16. Minister of Sports and Culture: Honourable Grace Obama Chiumia, M.P.

17. Minister of Health: Honourable Dr Peter Kumpalume, M.P.

18. Minister of Transport and Public Works: Honourable Malison Ndau, M.P.

19. Deputy Minister of Education, Science and Technology: Honourable Vincent Ghambi, M.P.

20. Deputy Minister of Defence: Honourable Agrey Masi, M.P.

George C. Mkondiwa


7TH APRIL, 2016

Dumbo Lemani: Missed Multifaceted Figure

He had a way of conveying information in such a way that his mannerisms always compensated for the disturbance of spending minutes trying to make sense out of his words.
Those on the opposite side of the political divide always had a bone to pick against him, for, to say the truth, he had a way of plucking feathers here and there.
In the sports world, he wore the crown of such adjectives as flamboyant, outspoken, carefree and others too many to be attributed to one man.
And, then, he was a pastor. The Reverend Dr Dumbo Lemani.
He was a man of so many faces.
When his time to bid farewell to the country, and the world, he so loved was nigh, he was still fighting battles for himself and others he, in his wisdom, perceived to have been wrongfully treated.
And, then, when the government failed to send him abroad for medical check up, he succumbed to death-- another bright star plucked from the skies.
Since then, Malawi has had no other version of Dumbo Lemani: The politician, the preacher, the sportsman, the peacemaker, the freethinker, the father, the husband, the-many-things-to-so-many people.
As someone who learned the art of journalism at the UDF [United Democratic Front] News between 2003 and 2004, I had, on several occasions, bumped into Dumbo Lemani several times at the UDF headquarters in Limbe. And, from those encounters, I learned that he was a man who could relate to everyone.
Hidden behind tinted chroma lens, a joke never escaped his lips.
I remember one day, when I bumped into him while chewing sugarcane outside the office, he said: "Kamfana iwe [little boy], why are you eating sugarcane as if you are a bushman? Those are not for human beings!"
Before I could think that that was a bad joke, Dumbo Lemani gave me a package of assorted biscuits, saying: "From today, develop the habit of eating these [biscuits]. They will facilitate the decay of your teeth and you will no longer need sugarcane!"
However, two days later, I found Dumbo Lemani eating sugarcane with automobile mechanics behind the UDF office. The garage I am referring to is still there. It has always been there.
Well, Dumbo Lemani was not one to be embarrassed. He was the approachable type. The easy-to-mingle-with type. Not wanting to let that moment go, he invited me using the name he had come up with [for me]. "Iwe Kalombo [Hey, Kalombo -- for Chirombo], do not think I have become poorer than an opposition politician. Here is K1,000 for your lunch."
That was Dumbo Lemani, for real.
One day, when Malawi Distilleries Limited was launching Tropical Cathy Light Spirits at the Blantyre Sports Club, I joined the party. Being new in Malawi journalism, I got excited when I saw Malawi Distilleries Limited officials inviting people to drink free-for-all beer, liquor, wine and what have you.
Well, what happened thereafter, after taking one to many, is a story for another day. But someone wanted to take a picture of me without my knowledge and Dumbo Lemani-- the father figure-- alongside Kenneth Nyahoda his trusted lieutenant, threatened the photographers. "If you capture his [my] pictures without his consent, I will shoot you."
Everyone knew he meant it. And nobody dared take the pictures.
With Dumbo Lemani around, I was safe.
People may remember Dumbo Lemani as someone who was so close to Atcheya [former president Bakili Muluzi] that they were like brothers. True. Their relationship was special.
One of my favourite file photos in the UDF News pictures library [actually, what we called a pictures library was a big carton the size of Malawi Zebu] was a picture of Dumbo Lemani in tinted glasses looking directly into Muluzi's eyes. There was no bodyguard and it was Dumbo Lemani who was more intimidating than Muluzi. The bond between them was thick!
Remember, when the United Democratic Front won the 2004 presidential elections after featuring former president, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, it was Dumbo Lemani who addressed members of the press a year after the elections and, while the sun was baking trees in midday, said: "We rigged the 2004 elections."
Of course, the words sounded like the lament of a frustrated man who has nothing to lose. And, because it was Dumbo Lemani, nobody took him seriously. He was not even arrested by the Mutharika administration.
Malawians may also leave to remember that day Dumbo Lemani started moving around with a blanket, toothpaste and a toothbrush. When asked, he said: "I have heard that the government [of Mutharika] wants to arrest me. So, I have prepared these items in readiness for a stint in prison. I am ready to go to prison!"
People thought he was joking. He was not.
During one of those days, I met him at Escom Power House in Blantyre and asked him: "Chief, are you, really, serious about going to prison. Why can't you give the shoe-shiners the toothbrush. They have perfected the toothbrush into a shoe-shining too, you know?"
But Dumbo said it was no time for jokes. These people are taking Malawians for granted. Where were they when we were fighting for multiparty democracy?"
I did not continue the discussion. I knew he was serious. And that he was serious because he was angry. And sad.
I did not know Dumbo Lemani much as a reverend. So, I will not about about that.
But I can talk of Dumbo Lemani as a sports man. And these are accounts I got from my father, Leviano Simon. Now, my father was a staunch supporter of Hardware Stars Football Club, and cared little about Mighty [now Be Forward] Wanderers and Bata [now Nyasa] Bullets.
But he remembers Dumbo Lemani, who used to be a Wanderers' team doctor in the 1980s.
My father [May His Soul Rest in Peace] fondly said of Lemani, a man he hardly knew: "Player wa Wanderers akavulala, amwenye onse ankakuwa kuti: Alowe a Dumbo Lemani! Alowe a Dumbo Lemani! [Whenever a Wanderers' player got injured, Malawians of Asian origin could shout: Let Dumbo Lemani get onto the pitch [to pay medical attention to the player]!"
Such was the magnetic nature of Dumbo Lemani!
He was so many things to so many people and will be remembered for many years to come.
As Parliamentarian for Zomba Thondwe Constituency, Dumbo Lemani did not beat about the bush. His radio jingles were accompanied by the following lyrics from the Nangalembe Brothers:
Mukanena za ine mutopa
Mukanena za ine
Za ine mutopa
Mukanena za ine eee
Za ine mutopa!

Tazingogwirani ntchitozo
Tazingogwirani ntchitozo
Mukanena za ine
Za ine
Mukanena za ine
Za ine mutopa
[the task of talking about me will just tire you out! Concentrate on work!]

But, then, who are we not to talk of Dumbo Lemani?
Who are we not to remember him?

Surely, we ain't gonna get tired!

That giant heart, the white beards: Those were stilled by unappreciative death that day, leaving us stranded between fond and sad memories.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Prophet Mboro Has Got It Wrong on Malawians Mocking His Name

... There is no word called 'Mboro' in Chichewa
South African preacher, Paseka Motsoeneng, popularly known as Prophet Mboro, is in the news for his purported visit to heaven.
But that visit is not the focus today.
We are not evening talking of him selling the pictures apparently depicting him in 'heaven'.
For starters, Mboro is the leader of Church of Incredible Happenings. Recently, [and this is March 30 this year], the church's spokesperson is quoted by the BBC as saying that "the prophet did go to heaven" during an Easter church service and that while there "he took pictures" using his smartphone.
Mboro has gone to the extent of asking those who want the pictures to make a donation of 5,000 rand.
Well, as we said, that is not the issue today.
The issue is about Prophet Mboro complaining that Malawians are mocking his name which, as some foreign media put it, mean the private parts of a man in Chichewa, the most widely spoken language in Malawi.
Well, that is not true. Mboro does not mean private parts of a man in Chichewa. The Chichewa equivalent of the private parts of a man is 'Mbolo' [penis].
Actually, some people have tried to play around with my surname, leaving the Chi at the beginning of my surname and then juxtaposing the ro-mbo, making it 'Mboro'.
In their view, they think they are being sarcastic but they are not. The word 'Mboro' simply does not exist in Chichewa and has no meaning.
So, Prophet Mboro should rest assured. Theere is nothing wrong with his name. In fact, it is an innocent name.
It is the word 'Mbolo' that is a problem and an obscene word.
Rest assured, Mboro!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Why Do Women Dump Babies?

A woman from Chiwembe Township, for whatever reason, decided to wake up in the middle of a lonely night on Friday [last night], grabbed her newly-born baby [two days old], she did not breast-feed the baby.
Instead of giving her the mother's warm milk, she took the baby to Limbe River. Yes, the polluted river in he middle of a lonely night on Friday.
The baby must have thought that it was in the hands of its lovely mother. Safe, warm and at ease. Well, the other had other plans.
She travelled a kilometre to Limbe River, threw the baby in the polluted waters, and-- without thinking twice-- rushed home.
Nobody knows what went on in her head-- that woman.
She had a baby. People, including her relatives and neighbours in Chiwembe, saw her with the baby and rejoiced.
But, then, the mother takes the baby to Limbe River, maybe thinking that all these people would not realise that there was a kid missing in the house, threw the baby home and, as cool as, I do not know what, went back home to embrace peaceful sleep.
Well, around 2pm on Saturday [today], people realised that there was a baby missing. They cornered the woman and the woman stumbled on her own words. They call it a confession.
She told them where she dumped the baby: Limbe River.
So, people from Chiwembe have been combing the river. To no avail.
They think the baby is dead.
Village Headman Chiwembe has just called the police.
When the police intervene, Zachimalawi will make the details of the mother available.
Back to the question: What factor would motivate a woman to dump her own baby?
Definitely, not love.
It must be pain-- great pain-- that forces women to dump their own babies!

Friday, April 1, 2016

ESCOM Playing with Customers' Rights

The Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) has embarked on an exercise aimed at hooking all customers to its pre-paid metre system.
The initiative is a welcome move, considering that some people like to use electricity but see no need to pay for it.
We have cases where some customers have tortured ESCOM officials whon have been sent to disconnect power due to non-payment. I remember a Naperi Township man in Blantyre who used to threaten ESCOM officials with his pistol.
However, ESCOM is failing its customers by just changing metres, even when the customer is not there, and leaving no information about the next steps to be taken by the customer.
In my case, I had a pre-paid metre that run out of units on Tuesday. So, I went to buy the units in Blantyre Central Business District.
However, when I returned home around 9pm, I discovered that my metre was nowhere to be seen. I slept in the dark.
The next day, my neighbour informed me that the ESCOM guys had brought a new pre-paid metre. My hope was that I would be able to use it that evening. It was never to be.
The pre-paid metres did not work and kept telling me that my transactions were invalid.
I slept in the dark for two consecutive days.
On Thursday, I went to the ESCOM branch in Limbe, where I was told to go back home, take my new prepaid card for 'opening'. I had to go back home and ferry the card. Actually, I spent half the day being taken through this process.
It's only yester-night that I had electricity back.
However, when I told the ESCOM officials that I had already bought 'new' units since I was a pre-paid customer, they said I could not get my units back. It is like I have put a drop of water in the ocean that is ESCOM.
In the first place, I find ESCOM's approach to be childish. They should inform customers about the next steps. After all, it is ESCOM, and not the customer, which has replaced our prepaid metres.
Secondly, I think ESCOM is practicing thievery. Why can't the rich ESCOM give back my units? I am not asking for money, but units, after all!
I do not think K5, 000 is peanuts for me to lose my units like that. ESCOM needs competitors!