Opinion – The Nation Online http://mwnation.com Top Malawi Breaking News Headlines Fri, 17 Nov 2017 17:12:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9 Of tribal associations and politics in Malawi http://mwnation.com/tribal-associations-politics-malawi/ http://mwnation.com/tribal-associations-politics-malawi/#respond Fri, 17 Nov 2017 12:51:59 +0000 http://mwnation.com/?p=222463   It has now become fashionable in Malawi for ethnic groups to form tribal associations. Following the first tribal associations – Chewa Heritage Foundation, Mulhakho wa Alhomwe and Mzimba Heritage Association—smaller ethnic groups have also formed their own tribal associations. Examples include the Nkhata Bay Cultural Heritage Association, Karonga-Chitipa Cultural Heritage, Chiwanja cha Ayawo and…

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It has now become fashionable in Malawi for ethnic groups to form tribal associations. Following the first tribal associations – Chewa Heritage Foundation, Mulhakho wa Alhomwe and Mzimba Heritage Association—smaller ethnic groups have also formed their own tribal associations. Examples include the Nkhata Bay Cultural Heritage Association, Karonga-Chitipa Cultural Heritage, Chiwanja cha Ayawo and more recently, Mgumano wa Asena na Amang’anja.

These associations are formed to advance wide-ranging purposes. Some are designed solely to promote and preserve their cultures—often interpreted superficially as dance and language. Others are established, in addition or alternatively, to promote and facilitate socio-economic development through education, basic infrastructure and business.

Typically, these associations are driven by the elite who work in cahoots with chiefs and village headmen. Their main activities seem to be hosting discussion fora, fundraising and organising the so-called annual cultural heritage spectacles.

Do these tribal associations have a meaningful role in Malawi’s burgeoning democracy or are they an impediment to unity and the consolidation of democracy?

This question obviously invites a pros-and-cons analysis. On the pros-side of the scale, is the promotion of the value of cultural diversity to which tribal associations no doubt contribute. Except Chichewa, all vernacular languages in Malawi have existed largely in oral form and developed largely informally. These languages remain to be fully studied linguistically, socially and historically. They also have not benefited from sustained formal literary or artistic development.

Due to increased human mobility and enhanced cultural osmosis enabled by globalisation, information technology, television and other media, these cultures face potential extinction in the foreseeable future. The cultural activities that tribal associations are promoting can thus help to preserve these cultures.

Connected to cultural development is socio-economic development. There is a growing awareness that the state of development in the country is dire and that urgent action needs to be taken to assist the state in its development efforts. Unsurprisingly, some associations see themselves as a vehicle for ethnic-based cooperation and mobilisation to solve some of the development challenges encountered in their ethnic-defined geographical areas.

In fulfilling these roles, it could be argued that tribal associations derive their legitimacy from key constitutional rights such as freedom of association and the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural activities of one’s choice.

However, on the cons side of the scale are significantly weighty concerns. Mobilization along tribal lines is intrinsically exclusionary and often results in discrimination based on ethnic or social origin, language or birth status. Such discrimination can occur at the level membership or intended beneficiaries of the charitable causes the associations champion.

Cultural and ethnic diversity, as we have seen in Africa, can be both a blessing and a curse. Some think that cultural and ethnic diversity promotes originality, authenticity and tolerance. Others think that cultural diversity promotes intolerance, hatred and discrimination. Whichever position one takes, the African experience shows that while there are many benefit of cultural diversity, national development has been severely impeded by a pre-occupation with ethnicity and tribalism which tribal associations tend to foster either intentionally or indirectly.

How tribal associations contribute to the curse is that they provide a means for the elite to mobilize and exploit ethnic cleavages for political gain. The political problems Kenya has faced in the last decade have arisen largely from the predominance of tribal pacts in national politics. Tribal associations also serve as a means of distributing and entrenching tribal systems of patronage.

Evidence abounds in Malawi of the troubling links between tribal associations and politics, patronage and tribalism. Every government since 1964 has linked itself to a particular ethnic group, whose culture and people it has promoted. The MCP government raised the Chewa above all other ethnic groups. Muluzi’s government promoted the Yao, although he was generally pro-South in general. The DPP government has tended to promote the Lhomwe.

In general, the tribal association linked to the ethnical group of the incumbent president enjoys greater patronage and disproportionate state support. This not only includes the amount of state resources that are given to the association but also the increased recruitment of its members to public positions.

The negative effects of tribal associations mean that their intended role is often overshadowed. Malawi, like all other African states, needs to develop a strong sense of national belonging so that all her citizens feel equal before the law and free to contribute to the socio-economic development of the country as a whole. To do this, there is no reason why non-ethnic based associations cannot fulfill the positive functions of tribal associations. An association can promote a particular culture or particular cultures without its membership being limited to members of a particular tribe. More importantly, it is the state’s primary function to promote all cultures equally and refrain from discrimination on any ground.

In conclusion, the inevitable politicization of tribal associations and their link to patronage make tribal societies a uniquely improper means of facilitating socio-economic and cultural development in Malawi.

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All Karonga chiefs speak, read and write English http://mwnation.com/karonga-chiefs-speak-read-write-english/ http://mwnation.com/karonga-chiefs-speak-read-write-english/#respond Fri, 17 Nov 2017 12:21:29 +0000 http://mwnation.com/?p=222454 This week our tour guide for Karonga,  Mwangi Msukwa, completes the rich history of this great lake valley district whose people are as resilient and as hard-working as Mangochians. They are also amongst the most politically alert and educated people in Malawi. “Karonga is a title for Chief Judge or Minister of Justice,” our guide…

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This week our tour guide for Karonga,  Mwangi Msukwa, completes the rich history of this great lake valley district whose people are as resilient and as hard-working as Mangochians. They are also amongst the most politically alert and educated people in Malawi.

“Karonga is a title for Chief Judge or Minister of Justice,” our guide started. “His Lordship! Kalonga in the Chewa setting is a Ruler (King). Here Mwanafyale is King. Karonga was/is the legal arm and a subject of Mwanafyale Kyungu. Hence you do not find a geographical area for TA Karonga. The chiefs under Kyungu were given different roles and job descriptions.  He was recognized by the British and was later crowned a TA by modern politicians who did not understand the Kyungu dynasty. Administratively, it is a personal to holder title.

“Tradition and politics do not work at same level. He is Chief Judge in the supreme court of appeal for Karonga and Chitipa chiefs who fall under the jurisdiction of Kyungu. Kyungu established his court at Mbande near Bwiba, five kilometres to the south of the Boma.

“Trespassers like Mohashoi and his crew would be dealt with accordingly here. The current Karonga is Mwamatope, a highly respected man.”

“So Karonga is the chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Kyungu!” Mzee Mandela summed up.

“Yes Mukombe!” our tour guide said.

“Mukombe?” Jean-Philippe wondered.

“It means Mwanafyale or Majesty,” our guide said.

“From today address me as Mukombe Alhajj Mufti Jean-Phiippe LePoisson, SC (RTD),” Jean-Philippe joked.

We laughed. And Abiti Joyce Befu, MG 66 and Mega-1 called for a fresh round of drinks on Jean-Philippe, of course.

“Continue Mwanafyale,” I said.

“When Kameme and his young brother Chungu (turned Kyungu in Karonga) came to Mwabulambya, they were accompanied by their sister Ngabo.  They had come from Zambia. Mwabulambya gave them a place in Chinunkha still known as Mwenechungu to date. However, later they requested to move on further east to Ngusa. Mwabulambya allowed them to move on. They left a pregnant Ngabo under the care of Nyondo. She later bore a son known as Mwamuswero who was given a portion of Ifumbo land along the Kaseye River to Ilondo bordering Tanzania. They eventually came to a place known as Mbande. It is about 18 kilometres from Karonga Boma to Chitipa near Muzgoka/Filaule.

“From the hilltops they saw the lake and valley below. They went back to report to Mwabulambya. This interaction between Mwabulambya, Kameme and Kyungu tells a lot about their relationship. Chungu went back to Mbande Hills and settled in the fertile soils of South Rukuru River. Ngusa, the Kyungu’s Newfoundland!  Kameme (Simkonda) stayed in Bulambya but was redirected North West and occupied the Kameme, Ipenza, Njerengwa and Bupighu areas.

“While at Mbande Hills, Chungu married a number of wives from the Ngonde royal families from whom he bore many children. They scattered down the valley following the South Rukuru River to the Lake Nyasa! The Kyungu dynasty is so democratic in that the chieftaincy rotates around the male children from the wives of the original Kyungu by seniority.

“I humbly stand to be corrected by His Majesty Paramount Chief Kyungu at Kasoba. The resting place (Masheto) for all Kyungus is at Mbande Hills to the present day. Being kings, they are buried at night.  Mbande Hills is a national heritage site. A majority of the village headmen in Karonga Central are children of Kyungu and Nyondo. The Tumbuka village heads under TA Kyungu are Lalika, Kayunga, Bwana Chizindile (Modeccai Gondwe), Mabelera, Chifwafwa Mhango and Gwebe Nyirenda  just to mention a few.

“Mohashoi, in as much as you praise Chitipa as home to great mathematicians, Karonga is a role model to Chitipa on education. Should you find a chief or village headman in Karonga and Chitipa who cannot read, write or communicate in English, I will offer my two beautiful daughters: Towera wa Sikabembo and Anganile Jane Namukwala to you free of charge. You have to ‘bribe’ me first if you want to know why we have places called Kaporo and Malungo near (Kambwe Port) in Karonga.

Twakumphira, Twawaulupi kwa Mwalafyale Kyungu. May the spirits of Kyungu Kyabala and Mwakabanga be with your expedition! I am retiring to my mother’s land,” our guide said, leaving his seat.

“If we find just one chief here who cannot communicate in English, your daughters will become Mrs Mohashoi!” I joked.

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Gensets and climate change http://mwnation.com/gensets-climate-change/ http://mwnation.com/gensets-climate-change/#respond Fri, 17 Nov 2017 05:12:36 +0000 http://mwnation.com/?p=222340 Most Malawians living in urban areas are frustrated with Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) and the power supply issue has been covered widely by the local media. The most recent article that triggered much debate is the K587 million operating cost for the Mzuzu gensets per month. One might ask if this proposed solution…

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Most Malawians living in urban areas are frustrated with Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) and the power supply issue has been covered widely by the local media.

The most recent article that triggered much debate is the K587 million operating cost for the Mzuzu gensets per month.

One might ask if this proposed solution of installing diesel-powered generators is sustainable or if it is environmentally friendly.

According to the article that appeared in The Nation of Monday, November 13 2017, 500 litres of fuel is needed to run one genset per hour. The amount translates to 1 500 litres per hour for the three gensets which are expected to be installed.

Considering that it has been planned that the gensets will be running for 16 hours per day, it means 24 000 litres of diesel will be required per day.

Studies have shown than one litre of diesel produces 2.6 kilogrammes (kg) of carbon dioxide with complete combustion, hence, 24 000 litres of diesel will produce 62 400kg of carbon dioxide per day.

This is not different from unsustainable charcoal production that a good number of Malawians are practising in the rural areas as a source of livelihood. It is the same 62 400kg of carbon dioxide which is produced from 13 866.7kg  of charcoal or 395 bags of charcoal as standard bag of charcoal weighs 35kg produced from cutting down of trees on 0.97 hectares of land.

The analysis is only limited to three gen-sets that will be installed in Mzuzu city but we know that most government agencies, pathetically including Escom, organisations and companies are using gensets on a daily basis which means more carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

Though Malawi is a net emitter of greenhouse gases, both charcoal production and use of diesel powered generators result in environmental degradation, mainly air pollution, through the release of carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases which cause global warming and climate change.

Environmental problems are trans-boundary and climate change has emerged as a major impediment to effective planning and development in Malawi. It is severely impacting on people’s livelihoods through adverse climatic hazards, including dry spells, seasonal droughts, intense rainfall, river line floods and flush floods.

However, Government of Malawi has been implementing various projects and programmes such as National Climate Change Programme (NCCP) that aim at enhancing the adaptive capacities of the vulnerable communities and resilience to climate related shocks, as such, the installation and use of diesel powered generators is in conflict with government initiatives on climate change management.

Let the Government of Malawi organise itself on the issue of providing gen sets to the country. There is a need for more consultations and strong collaboration among government agencies and key stakeholders involved in energy sector. In this article, Government of Malawi refers to civil and public servants not a ruling party.

The following are suggested ways on how the government can deal with electricity challenges: Government through Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) should partner and support local engineers that have managed to develop mini-hydro power plants such as Turbines Energy Company run by Hastings Mkandawire who have installed 100kw power plant from Nkhokoma River in Nkhatabay, Kasangazi Hydroelectric Power Plantrun by Cored Nkosi who has installed 600 volts power plant from Kasangazi River in Mzimba among others.

Also, government should conduct capacity needs assessment and feasibility studies to upgrade the mini-hydro power stations to guide further steps that should be undertaken. Additionally, further areas in Malawi should be explored in which mini-hydro-power plants can be installed to support the main grid.

The government should also remove tax and if possible subsidise all solar-powered equipment in order to reduce demand on the use of electricity. These proposed solutions will save K7.04 billion which will be needed to purchase 8.6 million litres of diesel per year. Let us implement solutions that have long term benefits than short term benefits. n

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Consider energy-efficient buildings http://mwnation.com/consider-energy-efficient-buildings/ http://mwnation.com/consider-energy-efficient-buildings/#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 12:28:00 +0000 http://mwnation.com/?p=221982   Incessant power outages continue to haunt the country. As the dry season holds, the water levels in the Shire River dwindle– significantly lowering the output of Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) output in the process. Over the years, this problem is becoming ever more distinctively seasonal. This trend is not only unsustainable but also works…

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Incessant power outages continue to haunt the country.

As the dry season holds, the water levels in the Shire River dwindle– significantly lowering the output of Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) output in the process.

Over the years, this problem is becoming ever more distinctively seasonal.

This trend is not only unsustainable but also works against the country’s development.

The urgency to keep it in check cannot be overemphasised.

Ideally, increasing production through major infrastructural investment should be the solution of choice.

Considering the intricacies of registering such a long term commitment as this one would be, it may be important to explore means of ensuring that the available power is put to use in an efficient manner at all cost.

A quick starting point of exploration would be the building industry.

Research has shown that buildings consume significant amounts of energy, about 40 percent of the available final energy.

As standards of occupied building space continuously go up, so does the buildings ‘energy consumption’.

This energy goes towards heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, domestic hot water heating, food preparation, refrigeration, lighting, electronics and others.

If the country found a way of ensuring efficiency in the buildings’ energy consumption, some power would be saved and the outages would at least be fewer and far apart.

Elsewhere, there are building energy codes to ensure the efficient consumption of energy in buildings.

Studies have shown that these codes can yield up to 30 percent in energy savings.

Building energy codes constitute enforceable minimum requirements for energy-efficient design and construction of new and renovated buildings. Typically, such codes cover several aspects, including the outer shell of the building and the services.

Codes ensure that the building is designed and constructed in such a way that the building interior environment is maintained at acceptable conditions with the usage of very little to no energy at all.

The amount of heat, air and moisture allowed to pass through the building envelope is carefully regulated by the codes.

A reduction in the amount of heat passing through the envelope into the building interiors translates into a reduction in the amount of energy consumed by an air-conditioning unit to cool the space.

Building services refer to all such amenities that are added to the building structure to enhance its habitability.

The services of particular importance to energy consumption include heating, ventilation and air-conditioning as well as hot water heating.

The codes set minimum energy requirements for these systems. In most instances, compliance forces the designers to exploit local site conditions in reducing the services’ energy consumption.

In this way, they may consider coupling natural ventilation with mechanical ventilation instead of just using the latter. This saves energy.

They may also consider employing natural lighting and hot water heating instead of active energy consuming systems.

Intelligent systems may also be called upon. These automatically control services, supplying them with energy only when need arises.

Presently, a lot of energy goes to waste in the country’s buildings, especially in banks and government offices whose energy consumption is already inherently higher than in homes.

In these buildings, whose outer shells are not insulated, air-conditioning system sizing and design is not appropriately done.

For the most part, a contractor will just buy the air-conditioning units off the counter and install them without undertaking any calculations for the heating and cooling requirements.

This leads to unnecessarily oversized systems.

Sometimes, windows and doors into air-conditioned spaces are left open while the air-conditioning unit is on, This unnecessarily overburdens the system. Electric lights remain switched on during day time due to inadequate natural lighting. n

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Economic revolution in Malawi http://mwnation.com/economic-revolution-malawi-3/ http://mwnation.com/economic-revolution-malawi-3/#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 09:54:03 +0000 http://mwnation.com/?p=221967   On 16th September 2017, I attended a session at Jacaranda Cultural Centre in Blantyre, where I was introduced as a historian, economist and writer. I was then invited t read a paper for the audience to sample a bit of what I know and do. My paper consisted of summaries on the history of…

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On 16th September 2017, I attended a session at Jacaranda Cultural Centre in Blantyre, where I was introduced as a historian, economist and writer. I was then invited t read a paper for the audience to sample a bit of what I know and do.

My paper consisted of summaries on the history of ancient Egypt, the Malawi economy and the art of writing. I had to speak briefly on each of these because I was not sure which of them would appeal to the audience. Most of them asked what can be done to transform Malawi from a poor country to a prosperous one. People are tired of hearing now and again that their country is one of the poorest in the world.

Since when has Malawi been categorised as the poorest I don’t know. In 1924, there arrived in this country he Phelps Stokes Commission or education in Eastern Africa from the United States and United Kingdom one of whose members was Dr James Aggrey from Ghana known as “Aggrey of Africa”. The Commission summarised its report on Malawi as follows:

“The inevitable conclusion of the fact concerning Nyasaland is first that the colony has great resources which have not been adequately developed and second that the million and a quarter native people with capabilities above the average have not been able to take full advantage of the unusually effective type of mission education provided for them almost entirely intended of government aid. Nyasaland with greater possibilities than any African colon of equal size is, therefore, the lowest in output and the poorest colony in Africa.

For this wretchedness, the commission pointed out two reasons: first poor transportation facilities, especially no reliable railway systems connecting the country with sea ports in neighbouring Mozambique; secondly, the government had done little to make use of the people educated by the missions who were to develop the country. The commission reiterated an old maxim.

“Everybody’s responsibility is nobody’s responsibility”.

It appealed to Britain statesman concerned with colonial affairs to do something about the situation in Nyasaland. Did they respond? In 1926, for the first time the Nyasaland government established a department of education headed by a director of education. Hitherto according to the Phelps Stokes Commission, the government had been spending more money on the prison department than on African education.

Economically, the policy had been prescribed by Harry Johnston, the first governor with the title of commissioner and consul general. The administration of the country was to be in the hands of Europeans, the development by Asians while Africans were to provide labour. There was no policy of introducing Africans to cash crop growing.

Contrast this with what the British did in other colonies. In the Gold Coast (Ghana) they encouraged cocoa growing and Africans prospered as cocoa farmers. In Uganda and Tanganyika, they encouraged coffee growing and there also Africans prospered as coffee farmers. In Tanzania, the Chagga of Mount Kilimanjaro were among the most prosperous and modernised people in Africa.

In Malawi, the Misuku Hills have always been suitable for coffee growing by peasants, coffee was not introduced there until after independence. Tea growing could have been grown by African smallholder in Mulanje and Thyolo, but it was a monopoly of white farmers. The government saw Nyasaland as a source of cheap and hardworking labour for their mines and farms in the Rhodesians and South Africa.

Four or five years ago, the World Bank issued statistics which implied that Malawi had not just remained one of the poorest countries of the world but had become the poorest of that lot. This nearly a century has passed since the Phelps Stokes Commission noted that Nyasaland was the poorest colony. If we do not discover exceptional leadership that can revolutionalise Malawi’s economic development, we will continue to be the poorest nation for another hundred years. Development does not come about as a matter of good luck.

In the field of economic transformation, I have three heros: Margaret Thatcher former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; Charles de Gaulle, former president of France and Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore. Whoever is contemplating of entering the presidential race in 2019 should get hold of the autobiographies of these three great people and try to learn something about their achievements.

The common thing among these leaders was that they understood the critical excuses of their countries problems; they went out of the whole hugg to attack the stumbling blocks to economic recovery or in case of Singapore, transformation.

When Margaret Thatcher took office in 1979, Britain was being called the sick men of Europe. One of her predecessors, Harlod Wilson, of the Labour Party had to send his minister to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to ask for loans just like a developing country. n

 

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Is it okay to marry someone with same surname? http://mwnation.com/okay-marry-someone-surname/ http://mwnation.com/okay-marry-someone-surname/#respond Sun, 12 Nov 2017 07:52:08 +0000 http://mwnation.com/?p=221900 Dear BMW, A few months ago, I fell in love with a beautiful girl. I asked her out and, fortunately, she accepted and we have gone out on several occasions and in no time I met her mother, who happened to like me so much that she started calling me ‘son-in-law’, inviting me over for…

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Dear BMW,

A few months ago, I fell in love with a beautiful girl. I asked her out and, fortunately, she accepted and we have gone out on several occasions and in no time I met her mother, who happened to like me so much that she started calling me ‘son-in-law’, inviting me over for lunch and supper. So far it has been great and our plans of getting married are right on track.

Now, during the entire time of taking her out and getting to know her, I never bothered to ask her surname, I only knew her by her first and middle name. It was after two months that I realised that we shared the same surname, Munthali, even though all this while she knew and she also assumed that I knew. Mind you Biggy, I don’t really mind us having the same surname.

I have heard of couples sharing the same surname tying the knot. Now, the problem that I am facing is that of my family; it seems they are having a difficult time to accept that I should be with her (reasons best known to themselves), but they think we are related, somehow. To the best of my knowledge, I am sure that we are not related in any way—only if we can trace back to a hundred years maybe.

Biggy, a few members of my family are really against all this, but my girlfriend and I are really in love and we want to go ahead with marriage plans. Help me Biggy, what should I do in this dilemma?

Munthali via WhatsApp, Lilongwe.

 

Hey bwana Munthali,

At first glance, yours seems like a complicated case, but it is not. ‘What is in a name,’ so said our dear Bard of Avon, Shakespeare. That which we fondly call a rose, he continued would by any other name remain sweet. I mean just that dear friend: a sweet and beloved lady, would by any other name remain sweet and beloved.

It becomes complicated when the names mean that you are related. Then, the long arm of the law will be on you for incest. But as you put it, you are not related then why not follow the passion of your heart?

I know you may be seeing how queer it may be on your wedding cards. The family of Mr and Mrs Munthali of Village A and the family of Mr and Mrs Munthali of Village B would like to invite…. Queer it would be. But, isn’t love a queer thing? If it were not, you would not find a lady so light-skinned being in love with a man dark in complexion as a blackout! Love is very queer.

Or maybe you are worried about your future kids. You may be thinking that their teachers will think you married your sister? You are imagining their teacher asking them their father and mother’s names, only to get Munthali.

Then, maybe your worry is that your wife, supposing she is Grace, will have to tag herself as Grace Munthali-Munthali. Again, your fears are not worth the trouble.

Marriage is not about names. I know of people who have been married in spite of sharing surnames. Love conquers all things.

Follow your heart akulu, and forget the detractors. Enjoy.

 

BMW Feedback:

Dear BMW,

I read one of your articles where a lady complained that her husband was not working and instead of looking for job he just stays at home watching TV up to midnight and his performance also has dwindled on bed.

I read your comments which you criticised the husband and that you asked the lady to come back to you if there will be no change. I have diffident views if you may welcomes’ them.

I know Biggie women are very interesting people, if a woman doesn’t work and the man is the one supporting the family, you never hear the husband complaining.

A big number of women in Malawi don’t work, their families are supported by their husbands, and there are no complaints from men; their families move on smoothly, but when it is a woman’s turn to look after the family, there are so many stories, this I feel is not fair.

Women must understand the fact that their husbands ‘Do not want’ to be in that situation it just happens and it can happen to anyone the good thing is it doesn’t last forever. Tomorrow the husband will find a good job after she has already dumped him what is she going to do? Persuade him? Is she going to tell him sorry I didn’t know what I was doing anthu anandinamiza and is the husband going to understand that?

The lady said she will leave her husband if the situation continues. This, on its own means she already might have found a spare-wheel somewhere. Can ladies not have the spirit of tolerance in families? The word of God says a man will leave his father and mother so will a woman these two will unite and become one body therefore this body is inseparable. Anyone separating it is committing a sin. Thank you for taking your taking time.

Kamuchimba via WhatsApp, Mzuzu City

 

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‘Sconed’ Malawian activists http://mwnation.com/sconed-malawian-activists-3/ http://mwnation.com/sconed-malawian-activists-3/#respond Sat, 11 Nov 2017 17:08:01 +0000 http://mwnation.com/?p=221876 There is a popular saying in Malawi that has become a catchword in political circles as well as in everyday life. The vernacular phrase, wadya sikono (literary meaning as eating a scone) is often used to describe someone who fails to speak out against the ills that are happening in their community, workplace and indeed…

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There is a popular saying in Malawi that has become a catchword in political circles as well as in everyday life. The vernacular phrase, wadya sikono (literary meaning as eating a scone) is often used to describe someone who fails to speak out against the ills that are happening in their community, workplace and indeed in government.

When one deliberately fails to speak out against the wrongdoings of those in political positions and other positions of authority in society, this phrase usually comes up. It is similar to the popular English phrase; don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

In the case of ‘eating the scone’, it loosely means that one is not supposed to talk while they have food in their mouth, but its associated meaning is; someone who has been politically bought and can no longer act against his/her political masters even if it is against their conscious They just play along.

There seems to be a new breed of activists now, the ones that are easily stuffed with scones to shut up and they do shut up. This new breed also somehow suffers from selective amnesia. These activists pick and choose what rights to fight for and what rights not to. Forget that they call themselves ‘human rights activists”.

I have in mind the gay rights and women’s sexual reproductive health rights and the sticky issue of abortion. I have seen how divided Malawian activists have been on these issues. If you claim to fight for the rights of the people well, then get your act together and do exactly that.

I have painfully observed in recent times how this breed of activists—who also happen to be unprincipled, fails to speak out and against the ills happening in our society which are mostly brought about by failures of those in political positions. In some circumstances, you can actually hear these activists worshiping and praising politicians for doing nothing. They call it ‘constructive criticism’.

Many of the vocal activists that kept the politicians on their toes are now either board members of some parastatal, are advisers to the president or simply wining and dining with politicians while paying a blind eye to problems rocking the country and at the same time, failing to remind those in authority of their responsibilities. I am all for constructive criticism, but that should not blind you from doing your activism work for the good of all Malawians. I have a problem with activists who accept government positions.

Some of them have argued that they accept such positions because it gives them a vantage point for their activism—to fight from their inside. But, we all can bear to testimony to what happens when they are handed the poisoned chalices and their mouths are full fluffy floury ‘scones’. They forget about the people and lose their integrity and trust the people have in them. They don’t want to look like someone with no table manners who speak with food in their mouth.

I have little respect for some of the activists who I know easily change colours just to suit their situation. I am in no way saying you should be sworn enemies with government or politicians, but be cautious how and what you do with them. Your activism will be compromised if you become bedfellows. This country needs people to constantly remind and keep our leaders in check. For those of you already stuffed with scones, I say chew it up, take a glass of water and then leave the table. It’s not too late to rediscover yourself. n

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Latter-day prophets http://mwnation.com/latter-day-prophets/ http://mwnation.com/latter-day-prophets/#comments Sat, 11 Nov 2017 17:07:55 +0000 http://mwnation.com/?p=221875 This country is not short of comedians or even soothsayers. And in this hour, when a myriad national challenges make citizenship of this country a painful reality, theirs is a welcome relief. Otherwise, we all risk of dying of broken hearts and helplessness. Vincent Wandale jokes about establishing a new State within our boundaries but…

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This country is not short of comedians or even soothsayers. And in this hour, when a myriad national challenges make citizenship of this country a painful reality, theirs is a welcome relief. Otherwise, we all risk of dying of broken hearts and helplessness.

Vincent Wandale jokes about establishing a new State within our boundaries but can be forgiven if the courts determines his statehood aspiration are driven by insanity.

But let’s not allow every bad joke to go unchallenged. Jokes like promising us electricity, everywhere, at all times, all within a mind boggling 48-hour period are not funny, they are insulting to Malawians desperate for electricity at the moment.

Cruel jokes remind us that even in comedy, there are lines of decency you shouldn’t cross.

By now, we all know that Prophet Shepard Bushiri was comical when he said the other day he could end the country’s nightmarish electricity outages within 48 hours.

It could’ve been simply hyperbole or slip of the tongue. But when you organise the media to listen to your message, you have a certain confidence in your message. If a hyperbole goes too far, you can quickly clarify the exaggeration to ensure the core of the message is not distracted. It’s not what Bushiri did.

Yet, any reasonable thinking person would surely have anticipated the backlash of such outlandish suggestion unless the aim was generating such backlash in the first place. Many a latter-day prophet, thrive on cheap publicity.

For prophets, one can imagine, they could even be forewarned by divinity on the consequences of such an action.

Perhaps, we should give the prophet the benefit of doubt. Perhaps, the prophet was misquoted. Let’s say the prophet only suggested that his magic wand could simply end the blackouts within “a few days.”

In such a case, “a few days” could still be considered a questionable proposition and highly disingenuous. It could also be sign of hubris; a character at odds with divinity gift of humbleness.

The question of power generation and supply in the country has eluded successive governments for decades and is a painful reality to Malawians. Even with foreign interventions such as the US energy compact, it has only been eased at times but never totally dealt with.

To simply downplay this crisis with outrageous bombast, for whatever ends—be it political or commercial— at a time millions of Malawians are reeling from its impact, is a gross symptom of out-of-control egotism.

But today’s prophets hardly care. They crave cheap publicity and endlessly churn out stunts. Yet this is beyond galvanising church goers.

From Bushiri’s interface with the media, we further get a hint on what the man of God is up to. If there are any prophets of the old reading this, Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Ezekiel, Daniel, it’s time to look away!

Bushiri wants to strike gold! And soon after making his business pitch to government for contracts in the energy sector, we learnt how far he is willing to go. Bushiri let loose a ringing endorsement for the DPP government. Coincidence? Forget it. In our system of patronage, only those connected to the ruling party gets government business. Often, as an analysis of Escom’s state of affairs would show you, they make a mess of the contracts leaving Escom a cash cow for politicians and their friends in business, but crippled to solve the electricity nightmare we have landed ourselves into.

Hence, asked on his political allegiance, Bushiri had no hesitation explaining that if elections were held today, he would vote DPP.  Now, in case you are a stranger in our blackouts-plagued Jerusalem, DPP is the out-of-sorts party currently lording over Capital Hill. The recent by-elections suggest majority Malawians are unamused by its rule. Social media, beer talk and any other platforms betray a reverting anger by those governed towards those governing them.

On the contrary, Bushiri sees a visionary and dynamic leadership, words scripted straight from the ruling DPP’s propaganda machinery. Words, though, have consequences. They surely must prompt questions.

Would the prophets of the old, for example, whose time on earth was spent speaking truth to power, identify themselves with such commercial-driven flirting with power? What about the shameless manipulation and craving for publicity?

I am not Elijah. But I can hazard a guess: They would see prophets at odds with the truth, themselves and, perhaps, God. n

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An axe to grind http://mwnation.com/an-axe-to-grind-2/ http://mwnation.com/an-axe-to-grind-2/#respond Sat, 11 Nov 2017 16:52:18 +0000 http://mwnation.com/?p=221871 If you missed Atupele Muluzi’s Twitter debut, there are mitigation factors. Either thanks to the endless power outages, your phone or computer was down or you are among millions of Malawians who, in this day and age, have no access to internet let alone are on Twitter. Witnessing the young Muluzi’s debut on US President…

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If you missed Atupele Muluzi’s Twitter debut, there are mitigation factors. Either thanks to the endless power outages, your phone or computer was down or you are among millions of Malawians who, in this day and age, have no access to internet let alone are on Twitter.

Witnessing the young Muluzi’s debut on US President Donald Trump’s platform of choice, though, was an illuminating experience. He was at his usual graceful best but that didn’t stop other Twitter users immediately trolling him and delivering some home truths.

“You are in this for your dad,” ventured Vitumbiko Chinoko. “Why does the UDF Muluzi family feel entitled to UDF leadership? UDF has weakened to despicable levels…Not that I wish it was different.”

At this early stage, it’s important to state that the young Muluzi, son of a two-term president Bakili Muluzi—currently and perennially facing corruption charges emanating from a decade in power, which  Emmie Chanika and Adamson Muula aptly described as a ‘lost decade’,—was once a source of hope for millions of Malawian youths.

His forgotten Agenda for Change campaign once seemed a plausible blueprint to ease our suffering when the administration of former president, Bingu wa Mutharika, hit the self-destruction button.

Until Mutharika’s sudden death in office, and Joyce Banda’s subsequent ascendancy as successor—and appointed Muluzi in her cabinet—Agenda for Change was the buzzword for hope; hinting at possible political genius yet unearthed.

Even after botching up the agenda, thanks to political prostitution that has seen UDF bed the ill-fated Cashgate-plagued PP administration and now the incompetent and out-of-sorts DPP—Atupele returns gifts, subtle and obvious, that mark him as a leader and a gentleman.

Certainly nowhere near the eloquence of his father, he skilfully still  engages each demographic with ease, especially the youth that he has always hoped will one day aid him in following his father’s footsteps in State House. His eagerness to listen and engage is what made him join very small team of Malawian politicians currently on Twitter in first place.

President Peter Mutharika has an official account but, you guessed right, hardly uses it. Opposition lawmaker Juliana Lunguzi is active thanks largely to her previous career as an international civil servant in the UN system.

People world over uses social media, put it mildly, to settle scores with their powerful representatives, as Atupele found out on his debut. And in this country, at this time, many a citizen, whether youthful or elderly, in cities or villages, have a grievance with politicians whom many rightfully deem have betrayed the promise of this country.  For far too long, the men and women in charge, have left the country reeling, plunging from one crisis after another.

The citizens have been passive interlopers in their own affairs. Today the citizens are calling out those culpable for the nation’s malaise. Such holy anger may eventually be channelled towards genuine change.

While in the past Atupele’s hereditary leadership easily guaranteed him a base among his father’s loyalists, the recent by-election results have betrayed a re-alignment of the electoral map in ways we had not seen coming nor anyone had predicted—making it far too difficult to predict what awaits us in two-years’ time when every Malawian, aged 18 and above, will have a chance to choose the country’s new representatives.

If this was a war to reclaim the country’s destiny, ordinary Malawians are emboldened. They’ve seen their government only waking up to their plight after election shock. They’ve realised their destiny is in their own hands. And this is where it will be tough for recycled politicians like the young Muluzi to convince the populace that they still have their plight at heart.

Youths who have seen their social media activity and serious business that put bread on the table such as barber shops paralysed by a nagging power crisis that is crippling the economy and homes will not be easy audience. And they are as tired as mothers restless over where to get the next firewood and charcoal to prepare meals for their families; men tired working soils that no longer guarantee bumpy harvests or businessmen who have seen shop after shop close because people’s buying power continue to wane. Nobody is short of an axe to grind.

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Surprise office visits by the President, not productive http://mwnation.com/surprise-office-visits-president-not-productive-2/ http://mwnation.com/surprise-office-visits-president-not-productive-2/#respond Sat, 11 Nov 2017 16:52:15 +0000 http://mwnation.com/?p=221870 Basically, there is no better way to describe the Malawi economy than to simply say that it is very poor.  Sugar coating it with some positive statements about imagined future successes can hardly reverse the situation. In fact, there is nothing which can cover up the abject poverty that Malawians are facing. There are countless…

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Basically, there is no better way to describe the Malawi economy than to simply say that it is very poor.  Sugar coating it with some positive statements about imagined future successes can hardly reverse the situation. In fact, there is nothing which can cover up the abject poverty that Malawians are facing.

There are countless reasons as to why Malawi is in such a poverty predicament.  But they all boil down to lack of money for the government to achieve its promises. When President Peter Mutharika came into power in May 2014, one of his main promises was to deal with corruption which includes cashgate.  Now after more than three years both corruption and Cashgating have become worse.  The President and his government have failed and even more so to prove that the Joyce Banda administration championed Cashgate.

Indeed corruption and Cashgate are deep rooted in Malawi. Fraud cases are reported in the media every now and again. These are huge large sums of taxpayers money. Most Malawians have been looking forward to government reforms to seal the loop holes. But this too has failed. At the rate the government is being ransacked expecting an improved economy soon is just a wishful thought. What the country needs now is a serious government with strategies of controlling and monitoring the use of tax payers’ money. Currently, this is missing. If it were available frauds would be discovered and exposed much earlier instead of waiting for billions to miss.

Naturally, people would expect positive results from close supervision and monitoring of government departments and other agencies.  But not much should be expected from surprise office visit by the Head of state as President Mutharika recently did by visiting Escom headquarters.  With all due respect, that was a very unproductive visit in terms of reducing the current serious load shedding the country is going through.  The President’s visit was more or less like a familialisation tour.  In fact, a one off office visit cannot help.  The government might be saying that people should appreciate that after the visit the President promised that after 18 months the electricity situation will improve.  But the government should sympathetically look at the businesses which have been lost on the way.

The other thing to say is that most problems that Malawi is facing can easily be sorted out if politics is taken out of government business. Malawi is blessed with so many learned people full of technical know-how. Therefore, if jobs were being given accordingly, without political affiliation, there would be success in most sectors. It is so disheartening to see some people holding positions of which they have no clue about except that they belong to the ruling party.  Most parastatals have not been performing well just because the board members are appointed on appeasement basis.

This country needs a meaningful think tank instead of waiting for a presidential appointed ‘task force’ after a disaster has happen. This is unproductive.

Above everything else, the country needs a listening government which takes note of what whistleblowers are saying and what the ordinary Malawians want.  When President Mutharika came into power, he said poverty is his greatest enemy. But by and by, he seems not to be fighting poverty, but his critics.  Hence, poverty seems to be winning the battle.  With this state of affairs, there is no hope for a better future.

Other unfortunate thing now is that due to the coming 2019 elections, the government will mostly be busy with the election preparations and very unlikely that solving current problems will be a priority. The situation might getting worse until 2018.

One can only appeal to government to concentrate on productive action rather than window dressing exercises like the President’s visit to Escom office. n

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Civil society taking things too far http://mwnation.com/civil-society-taking-things-far/ http://mwnation.com/civil-society-taking-things-far/#respond Fri, 10 Nov 2017 21:37:07 +0000 http://mwnation.com/?p=221844 It has been an important role of civil society in Malawi to raise concerns about the abuse of power by the state and advocating for various freedoms among them entrenchments of the fundamental rights to political participation and access to information. But as Malawians slowly forget the system that brought about civil society in this…

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It has been an important role of civil society in Malawi to raise concerns about the abuse of power by the state and advocating for various freedoms among them entrenchments of the fundamental rights to political participation and access to information.

But as Malawians slowly forget the system that brought about civil society in this country, briefcase organisations with no clue of their role in democracy have sprouted all over and CSOs that have sold their souls and integrity to the government in exchange for fattened purses.

These briefcase CSOs are growing at the same rate as the propaganda campaigns of the government widespread using the airwaves of the taxpayer-funded Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).

But there are few that have remained to represent the interests of the people, be it in agriculture and food security, budget monitoring and tracking, health and education have their integrity seemingly intact and people look up to them.

These have played their role very well, most importantly putting a check on powers of the state, because as we have seen politicians have the uncanny ability to completely disregard the rights and freedoms of citizens when power corrupts them.

If the events of 2003 and 2011 are anything to go by, Malawi has a vibrant civil society which unfortunately is narrowing by the day, particularly on matters of governance.

In the interests of the citizens of this country, civil society vigorously led the protests against the third term in 2003 and unsuccessfully but not without effort challenged the impunity of the administration of Bingu wa Mutharika when they introduced oppressive laws like the Injunctions Act and amended Section 46 posing a danger to press freedom.

But the narrowing civil society space has left few whose role it has turned out is to propose outlandish actions and issue threats and ultimatums to the state that in the end benefit no one.

There is absolutely no joy or merit that comes out of being described as ‘vocal’, in fact it should be insulting to the civil society.

This week Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) and Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) proposed to the political parties, opposition presumably, to boycott the Parliament meeting if the government fails to bring to the House the electoral reform bills as promised.

How such an action would ensure that the interests of the citizens are represented, only the two CSOs know.

It is certainly not in the interest of the citizens that Parliament should not meet and deliberate over crucial matters that concern the majority of them.

Much as Parliament is there to enact laws, its other oversight functions, which have a more direct impact on the ordinary person out there cannot be ignored.

Sure, politicians would love to be seen to be powerful by boycotting this coming session but such an action would not be in their interest.

This government knows for sure that time for playing with Malawians is long dead and buried at Ndata Farm.

This DPP administration can dare not table those crucial electoral reform bills that will change the landscape of elections management in this country for the better.

Instead of calling for a boycott of an important tenet of democracy that is the legislature, the CSOs should stop clutching at straws and devise other mechanisms to ensure the bills are tabled.

CSOs should be using Parliament as a forum for lobbying the government on issues that concern the special interest groups that Cedep and CHRR represents.

It is sad that instead of promoting political participation of citizens, CSOs should be in the forefront denying the same citizens that right.

You cannot influence decisions of the state when you boycott crucial avenues of dialogue and advocating for change like Parliament.

Its high time these civil society organisations stopped hiding behind lengthy press statements that few people read and actually take action: action that does not involve being ‘vocal’ or walking the 1.2 kilometres length from Area 18 roundabout to Civic Offices to present a piece of paper that is discarded the moment the crowd disperses.

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Cabinet has no choice on 50+1, other electoral reforms http://mwnation.com/cabinet-no-choice-501-electoral-reforms/ http://mwnation.com/cabinet-no-choice-501-electoral-reforms/#respond Fri, 10 Nov 2017 21:31:39 +0000 http://mwnation.com/?p=221840 Recently Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu assured Malawians that government will table the 50+1 Bill alongside other proposed electoral reforms in November. The proposed electoral reforms will immensely benefit the country. But having come this far on the reforms, Cabinet now has no choice. Key among the benefits of the reforms as…

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Recently Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu assured Malawians that government will table the 50+1 Bill alongside other proposed electoral reforms in November. The proposed electoral reforms will immensely benefit the country. But having come this far on the reforms, Cabinet now has no choice.

Key among the benefits of the reforms as proposed by the Special Law Commission and being championed by the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) are acceptability and legitimacy of the candidates. When a president has the support of the majority it becomes easy to govern. No one should worry about the cost of holding a re-run in the event that the first round of voting fails to produce a president. Government should plan for such an eventuality. There has never been a shortage of well-wishers to support a good cause. As a matter of fact, government has never on its own funded a presidential and parliamentary election.

Just as democracy is expensive—which we all accept as a good system—a perfection of the electoral system has many positives for the country. It should, therefore, not be a question of whether or not the Cabinet will accept the system. Was it not Cabinet itself which mandated the Special Law Commission to consult and advise on the 50 + 1 electoral system? Why should the same Cabinet now give the impression it could turn round and ignore the Commission’s recommendation? By mandating the Special Law Commission to consult on this issue, Cabinet put itself in a trap. It now has an obligation to follow the expert advice and will of the people.

But we know Cabinet’s cause for apprehension on the issue. President Peter Mutharika was chosen by a paltry 36 percent of the electorates—meaning that the majority of voters—64 percent—wanted other candidates for president. The fears originate from the fact that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) may not be too sure if it has done enough since the last elections to turn the tables. This is especially so with the United Democratic Front (UDF) president Atupele Muluzi’s tell-tale signs he might walk out of his coalition with the DPP.

The clear questions at the back of Cabinet and DPP members are: Can the economy turn the corner in the next 18 months to sway voters; and secondly; can the swathe of votes that UDF represents be guaranteed as a ready catch for the DPP candidate in the next elections? Both are not affirmative. DPP will obviously be looking up to the gods to give the country good rains for a second year running to guarantee a good harvest. But as we have seen this year, that is not also enough to put money in people’s pockets. Government policies matter as much. Apart from people harvesting enough maize and other crops, government’s policies—such as the ban to export maize—has left millions of Malawians poorer. Although government raised the price of maize to K170 per kilogramme (kg), the majority of them are still selling the grain at K75 per kg or less. They cannot wait for Admarc which is nowhere to be seen to come and buy the maize. Result? Never in the history of this country have Malawians been so poor as they are now.

The point I am making is that what Tembenu is telling the nation that there is political will to table the 50 +1 Bill and other electoral reforms is no longer an issue now. Cabinet has no choice but to let government table the Bill.

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Why APM may change tune on 50+1 http://mwnation.com/apm-may-change-tune-501/ http://mwnation.com/apm-may-change-tune-501/#respond Fri, 10 Nov 2017 21:31:31 +0000 http://mwnation.com/?p=221839 Hon. Folks, there’s no denying DPP spectacular loss in the October 17 2017 by elections has sent a chill down APM spine. He no longer can take for granted victory in the forthcoming 2019 presidential race. But for a president who’s known for flip-flopping—he reneged on a campaign promise to reduce presidential powers—the loss  could…

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Hon. Folks, there’s no denying DPP spectacular loss in the October 17 2017 by elections has sent a chill down APM spine. He no longer can take for granted victory in the forthcoming 2019 presidential race.

But for a president who’s known for flip-flopping—he reneged on a campaign promise to reduce presidential powers—the loss  could as also be the reason why a bill meant to reform the system for electing the President from first-past-the-post to 50+1 is held up at the Cabinet level despite promises that it would be tabled at the current sitting of Parliament.

Although analysts argue the 50+1 system raises the barrier of entry to the highest elected political office for all contestants, the truth is that for APM it’s a double-whammy. At stake here for him alone is the incumbency.

If a runner-up can get most of the votes in the re-run—except for the 2009 polls, opposition has lost simply by splitting the for-change votes among many presidential candidates—that means end of the road for APM.

But in our democracy loss for an incumbent comes with a package of misery. Kamuzu Banda lost what he thought were his assets and was put on house arrest and later, lengthy trial. Bakili Muluzi is up to now weighed down by a K1.7 billion corruption case and ACB nearly pounced on his BCA residence and Keza property.

Joyce Banda was at the helm for only two years but, since she lost to APM in 2014, she’s been on run, moving from one metropolitan city to another, a fugitive.  Those in government today don’t hide their eagerness to see her in the dock, answering for Cashgate and any other real or imaginary cases.

Acrimony between the two sides of the political divide renders loss of power through the democratic process unattractive, if not scary, for the incumbent. The best they can hope for is to enjoy trappings of power for the maximum 10-year tenure then pass on the baton to a successor within their own political party.  Losing to the opposition is like losing a war to an enemy. This may explain why rigging mars the electoral process.

Ironically, despite that all those who have tasted the presidency know the cost of nurturing acrimonious relations between the two sides of the political divide, they’ve all in practice done little, if any, to seek unity in diversity and ensure harmonious co-existence—an insurance for their peaceful retirement. They deliberately stir the mud by playing rough while in office.

Take APM, for example.  He just unfairly invoked the power of incumbency last Saturday when responding to MCP leader Lazarus Chakwera’s remarks, describing APM as a “pathological liar” in light of his statements on how government is managing the power outage crisis rocking the economy.

APM said by calling a State President a “liar” Chakwera committed an offence according to the laws of Malawi for which he could be arrested. APM said Chakwera was pushing the President to arrest him so he could win voter sympathy by playing the martyr.

Ironically, APM in the same breath disparaged Chakwera by alleging he has fake academic credentials. Could defamation be bad if directed at the President but good if the President directs it at his rivals?

Don’t the electorate have the right to know if an elected president is a liar or does the law APM was referring to assume a president can’t be a liar? Amazing how some archaic laws meant to insulate oppressors from being held to account for their actions were imbued with absurdity!

Imagine, a President lying through the teeth and expect to use agents of the state to arrest anyone who calls him or her a liar. Then how shall good, honest citizens avert incarceration for telling the truth?  Should they probably say the President was being economical with the truth?

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On politics and violence http://mwnation.com/on-politics-and-violence-2/ http://mwnation.com/on-politics-and-violence-2/#respond Fri, 10 Nov 2017 18:18:19 +0000 http://mwnation.com/?p=221824 Politics and violence seem to enjoy a rather healthy matrimony in Malawi. Our history, since independence, as a matter of fact, reveals that violence has, with varying levels of intensity and sophistication, always been part of Malawian politics. Think about the First Republic, for starters. As soon as independence was secured, the wisdom of the…

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Politics and violence seem to enjoy a rather healthy matrimony in Malawi. Our history, since independence, as a matter of fact, reveals that violence has, with varying levels of intensity and sophistication, always been part of Malawian politics. Think about the First Republic, for starters. As soon as independence was secured, the wisdom of the day ensured that we quickly became a One-party State with a life president. Many people have written about the brutality that became synonymous with the One-party State and I will not belabour the point. However, the only sense in which many people remember the Malawi Young Pioneers and the MCP Youth Leaguers is probably tinged with spectres of the violence that these entities perpetrated. I actually doubt if there has been an authentic and comprehensive accountability process for all the atrocities that were perpetrated during the One-party State—for now, let’s keep this discussion for another day.

Our transition to a multiparty democracy did not, sadly, banish the demons of political violence in the country. No sooner was the Second Republic in office than the nation was introduced to a cadre of thugs politically referred to as ‘Young Democrats.’ Well, I am not sure whether these fellas were indeed young but they certainly weren’t very democratic. Newspaper reports, from the time, are replete with stories about the violence that the Young Democrats inflicted on those whose political views they did not approve of. Looking back, it is clear that the Young Democrats were simply a continuation of the Malawi Young Pioneers and the Youth Leaguers rolled into one entity with a democratically beguiling name.

As it has turned out, however, the Young Democrats were not the end of the story. Somewhere along the way, there was a change of government and the nation was introduced to yet a different level of thuggery. This time the hoodlums have been trading as ‘Youth Cadets’, so I am informed. Although another deceptive moniker was again used, I am not so convinced about the youthfulness of these so-called cadets but in terms of methods, they aren’t that different from the Young Democrats and by extension there’s little to differentiate them from the Malawi Young Pioneers and the Youth Leaguers. If you can get my drift, you will note that there has been a troubling continuity in the relationship between violence and politics in the country.

Over the past 20 years, thugs masquerading as the youth wings of various political parties have, with a measure of impunity, perpetrated violence across the country. In some instances, civil society leaders have found themselves the victims of the violence largely for voicing critical views about the government. In other instances, opposition leaders have been targeted. In many of these cases, the Police Service has demonstrated its compromised position by failing to conduct meaningful investigations and/or prosecutions. The result has been that as long as the thugs belong to the party in power at the time, violence on political opponents has gone unpunished. At the one level, this is a very sad reflection of the State of professionalism within the police service. At the other level, the continuous resort to violence suggests a failure to embrace the demands of multiparty politics. A failure to countenance divergence of opinions and views and to permit political competition to be premised on ideas. The continued affinity between violence and politics also reveals the shallowness of our democracy.

As we are heading into the next general elections, the relationship between politics and violence in Malawi will again become prominent. It is not by default that violence has been ubiquitous in our politics. This is a result of cold-hearted calculations by gullible politicians. Violence, however, is not necessary to political competition. We can have political competition devoid of violence. This, however, must start from the top. Political parties, being the dominant players in our politics, need to disavow all forms of violence. Look, if a political party establishes a youth wing that by itself is not a bad thing. If, however, the political party establishes a youth wing simply as a means for organising thugs to terrorise political opponents, this is not only retrogressive but a waste of youthfulness. Political parties, therefore, need to focus on creating ways in which their youthful followers can participate in democratic processes without undermining the very values that allow for political plurality. Just by way of illustration, ‘cadetship’ presupposes preparation for a calling, what calling are the Youth Cadets being prepared for?

Violence should never be allowed to characterise our politics. Violence distorts political competition. It shrinks the space in which political competition can be defined by the merits and demerits of particular ideas. Is the resort to violence a way of stating that a political party does not have confidence in wooing supporters simply by the power of their manifesto? I wonder! Violence can only breed more violence. We truly do not want to get the nation on that slippery slope.

By way of conclusion, let me reiterate some truisms which should inform our thinking in a multiparty democracy. The political pluralism that we re-introduced in 1994 entails that we cannot all belong to the same political party neither can we hold the same views. This is the very essence of a multiparty democracy. The political space that we have created must be allowed, actually encouraged, to support different views and persuasions. Violence cannot be the response to the holding of different political views and opinions. Leaders of all political parties must ensure that their rank and file, walk the talk of non-violence in politics. They must unreservedly condemn any violence perpetrated in their names or in the names of their political parties.

*Associate Professor of Law, University of Malawi

 

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‘Chitipa, Karonga people are cousins of the Yao’ http://mwnation.com/chitipa-karonga-people-cousins-yao/ http://mwnation.com/chitipa-karonga-people-cousins-yao/#respond Fri, 10 Nov 2017 17:40:19 +0000 http://mwnation.com/?p=221843 We have dedicated this week to learning about the tribal history of Karonga. Because of the searing heat here we decided to camp at Club Marina in the Old Town. Club Marina faces the lake and gets some cool breeze which makes your life somehow comfortable.  While we spend the nights at Nyazeleza Hotel, we…

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We have dedicated this week to learning about the tribal history of Karonga. Because of the searing heat here we decided to camp at Club Marina in the Old Town. Club Marina faces the lake and gets some cool breeze which makes your life somehow comfortable.  While we spend the nights at Nyazeleza Hotel, we pass the evenings along the lake of stars. From last Thursday, our royal escort and tour guide in this lake valley, Mwangi Mwamkenge Msukwa, is dishing out the history of Karonga.

“Let me start by saluting our Paramount Chief Kyungu, Clement Kapote Mwakasungula. My father’s home at Kasoba (Mwakasungula village) is just 50 metres away from the royal palace. Joseph Ntchelere Msukwa (Mwenechibula) trekked from Chibula in Misuku to Ngonde where he settled in the late 1800s. He married Janet Nanyondo, daughter to Chief Mulyavibombwe Mwenebwisi of Zambia from the Samphala Mwabulambya group. Joseph Msukwa bore William (Scotson) who ‘created’ my father Robert Msukwa from Mercy Sichone (Namonje, a Mambwe). Come along Mwanafyale.

“The Karonga story is very interesting, if not complex. This lake valley area occupied by the Ngondes was first inhabited by one Ngusa, probably a Nyakyusa. Ngusa Kyala literally means Pull Me God. Chiuta Niguza in chiTumbuka or Nishike Mkono Mungu in kiSwahili. It’s like you are in a pit and asking for God or someone to hold your hand and pull you out. Karonga is mainly made up of the Nyakyusa, Tumbuka, Mambwe (In Kasisi) and Ndali.

“You may be surprised why I do not mention the Ngonde (Nkhonde) who dwell in the bigger central area? The Nyakyusa came from the highlands of Tukuyu and Kyela in Southern Tanzania. They are descendants of the Kikuyu in Kenya. Those in Tanzania are called Bamwamba (they are in the highlands). Those in Karonga under traditional authorities (T/As) Mwakaboko, Mwangulukulu and Kilupula speak pure Nyakyusa.

“Due to proximity to Tanzania, their Nyakyusa accent is intact. The Swahili and Ndali are also found here. The Nyakyusa under Kyungu are called Bankhonde (Bangonde). Ngonde means valley. They are along the lake valley in the land of Ngusa. If you are a Nkhonde, you are automatically on the reverse side of the same coin with a Nyakyusa.

“The ChiNyakyusa (Kyangonde) of Karonga is lighter because it has been soiled by other languages. If one is in Chitipa we say you are in Bulambya and if in Karonga you are in Ngonde (Lake Valley). Let me remind you that before the British came, Chitipa was under Karonga.

“The Traditional Authorities (Chiefs) of Karonga are Mwakaboko, Mwangulukulu and Kilupula to the North, Kyungu covers the Centre and North West, Wasambo (Mwafulirwa) and Mwirang’ombe (Mkandawire) to the South.  The last two are Tumbuka Chiefs. No doubt they drifted down to the lake at Chitimba, Fulirwa, Wovwe and Hara through the North Eastern sides of the Nyika plateau in Rumphi. The Hengas are also Tumbuka.

“They are found in Henga valley in Rumphi (Western side of Livingstonia) down to Mlowe, Chiweta, Chitimba, Chilumba and Fulirwa. Those who crossed the lake from the East (Tanzania) decorate their names with Mlowoka. The other big names in Karonga are Mwakabanga, Mwanjasi Mwakikunga, Mwakamogho, Mbemba Mwangonde, Mwambande, Mwenitete, Mwanjabala, Mwakifwamba (Nyondo), Mwafongo, Mwangomba, Mwangolera, Mwagomba, Amon Mwenitanga,  Mwafilaso, Mwahimba, Kafikisira, Mwambelo (Mwamphepo), Mwasanyila and Mwamatope. Don’t you relate the last name to Nachitipa, the marshy stream? Mwamatope owns the mud! Mwa or Mweni denotes ownership.

“If you listen carefully to people speaking chiNdali, chiLambya, chiNyika, chiNyakyusa and chiNkhonde (Ngonde) you hear a lot of Yao words in these dialects. The words and meanings but save for pronunciations. Chitipa and Karonga people are cousins of the Yao.

“A branch of the Yao that went into Tanzania from Amakonde in Mozambique to Songeya, Mbeya, Tukuyu,  Kyela then into Malawi through Karonga and Misuku messed up their language due to  inter marriages. Just like the Ngoni of Mzimba and Ntcheu, they conquered the land but lost the language. Ndali and Ngonde or Nyakyusa is broken Yao! Those who came down to Mangochi, Machinga and Mulanje stuck to Yao women and kept their Yao language.

 

…Continues next week

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