MALAWI PRESS REVIEW August 2008
From Centre For Social Concern (see our house)
News clippings with analysis
From the Major newspapers
Compiled by the
Center for Social Concern (CFSC)
Box 40049 Lilongwe 4
Next to St. Francis Parish
Tel: 01 715 632
LIST OF NEWSPAPERS REVIEWED
Daily Times, Malawi News, The Weekly News, The Nation,
The Weekend Nation, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Chronicle,
Nation on Sunday,
After some months of verbal wars parliamentarians passed the 2008/2009 budget. As usual talk about the Section 65 dominated the budget sitting of parliament. The sitting was also full of other issues ranging from fights outside the parliament house to insults, but the good thing is after all this the budget has been passed.
The intention to sign the free trade area agreement has left people wondering what is to happen to small businesses in Malawi. Can such small indigenous producers compete with the others from countries with a better economy than Malawi's?
The Government indirectly admitted there might be shortage of food in the country. The mere fact that maize exports have been banned means the country itself does not have enough therefore it is not proper to feed others when you cannot feed yourself.
The Centre for Social Concern CfSC and other civil society organisations launched a document called the People's Manifesto. The Manifesto seeks to give guidelines to politicians what the people, who voted them into power, need.
As some Malawians despise their culture others living abroad are preserving it. Malawians living in the United Kingdom are preserving the Malawian culture despite being far away from home.
If 15 % of the Malawi Schools Certificate of Education Certificates that were checked are fake then something is terribly wrong in the education sector. The examinations body should look into the issue more critically. It means a number of people are where they are by fraud.
Perhaps involving the Police and forestry officials would be the only way to deal with encroachers. People no longer feel responsible for their action in looking after the environment.
Women are geared up to finally make their voices heard in the next general elections. Perhaps this time the size of female representation will be increased in the National Assembly.
The nation mourned the death of a prominent politician Respicious Dzanjalimodzi. The former shadow finance minister and Member of Parliament in Lilongwe passed away in Bedfast Garden in South Africa after a short illness. The MP's death is not only a loss to the Dzanjalimodzi family and Malawi Congress Party MCP but to the nation. Dzanjalimodzi is famously known for maturely handling the committee of supply when former speaker of the National Assembly Rodwell Munyenyembe died. Dzanjalimodzi was also Malawi Congress Party's right hand man who was rumoured to be groomed as the party's next leader. The late Dzanjalimodzi, an economist by profession, served the government in several positions before joining politics.
Voter registration exercise started slowly but caught up later. As people went to register their names observers noted that there are a lot of hic ups that the Malawi Electoral Commission MEC needs to look into. Problems ranging from solar panels that kept breaking down to low turn up of people. While observers think the format that MEC has chosen where only a few constituencies are registering is confusing. At the same time some people feel the 2 weeks period is not enough for all the people to register. In this regard added another week following a recommendation by the opposition MCP. This was to allow those that failed to register in the two weeks to do so.
As the general elections draw closer a lot of things happening in political circles. Currently there seems to be trouble in the ruling democratic progressive party DPP as regards the issue of parliamentary aspirants. Already there are reports of in-house fights among some heavy weights as they battle for constituencies. It is still not yet certain whether the party will hold primaries because there have not been any official announcements. Political analysts have noted that the party is bound to face a tough test during the primaries. It can only emerge a very democratic party if all the aspirants are given equal opportunities and are allowed to contest. It is with this in mind that some people feel the party, might split if the concerns of all aspirants are not addressed.
Recent directives uttered by president Bingu wa Mutharika have left some observers with more questions than answers. On several occasions Mutharika has given deadlines for parliament to pass the 2008/2009 budget. As if this is not enough Mutharika also threatened to order the military to deal with parliamentarians if they failed to conclude business as quickly as possible. Others have noted that such directives have very bad implications on the current government especially at this time when we are getting closer to the 2009 general elections.
Honourable John Tembo amazed observers when he appealed to opposition members of parliament to stop flexing their muscles and instead they should concentrate on passing the budget. Tembo called for a cease-fire among politicians in the house as too much time was being spent on trying to show off who has more powers in the house. Tembo who is famously known for teaming up with the opposition to frustrate some of the proceedings in the August house had a sudden change of heart and announced the that time was over for verbal wars. Tembo's statements were made at the right moment considering the time it has taken for parliament to debate on the budget.
Although some political analysts have condemned the strong opposition as the reason for political instability in the country, some people have other views. According to some Scottish visitors a strong opposition is good for democracy. Without a strong opposition there is no way that the voice of other opposing views can be heard. At the same time the ruling government can operate in an almost transparent manner and gives room for advice from opposition when it is strong.
At last members of parliament passed the 2008/2009 national budget. After weeks of debating and discussion Malawians now have a budget. The government side had to bow down to opposition demands and promised to withdraw all injunctions on Section 65 by 14 September. At the same time parliament has to reconvene at the end of September. Finance minister Goodall Gondwe tabled the K229 billion budget in May and it has taken parliament over 2 months to pass it. President Mutharika closed parliament on several occasions and threatened to involve the military to make sure that members of parliament pass the budget. Some observers noted that the continued delay in passing this year's budget would affect some of government programmes like the fertilizer subsidy.
It seems the non-refundable K50,000 that the Democratic Progressive Party DPP had set for spirants that want to contest in the party's ticket in the parliamentary race has been received with mixed reactions. Some people feel the amount is too much considering the number of aspirants parties have in any constituencies. To add insult to the injury the K50,000.00 is non refundable. Some party officials have disclosed that the amount might be revised downwards.
As the tobacco-selling season continues press reports have disclosed that despite the good prices producers are still making loses. This is because of high transport costs. Ever since global prices of fuel increased a number of goods and services have also gone up drastically. This has also had an impact on the tobacco industry. Farmers have to pay a lot of money for transporting their tobacco to the market. Farmers are now feeling the pinch because when they sell at good prices they are faced with high transport costs. It should be noted that tobacco earns over 60% of Malawi's foreign exchange.
Banks in Malawi have very strict loan conditions that hinder people from accessing loans. It is common knowledge that people always go to banks to access loans but analysts have disclosed that the stiff conditions have left people with no option but to go to lending institutions. This is the reason that the Minister for Economic Planning and Development Dr Ken Lipenga advised the local banks to change in line with the current economic needs. With the growing economy more and more people want to make investments hence the need for banks to soften their loan conditions.
The news that Malawi's imports cover is going down is a dismal situation. Reports disclosed a decrease in the foreign reserves from 1.8 months to 1.5 months. This means that Malawi has foreign exchange enough to buy goods and services from outside the country for only 1.5 months. According to economic experts a country needs 3 months imports cover to be on the safe side. The foreign reserves are used to import things such as medicine, servicing external debts and other machinery. It is surprising that Malawi's foreign reserves are going down when the tobacco-selling season is in progress. It is common knowledge that during this season there is a lot of foreign currency around because of the sales of tobacco.
Economic analysts have noted that the SADC free trade area that Malawi intends to sign might not benefit the country. While it is a good thing to have such an agreement, observers have noted that Malawi is bound to lose revenue through such an agreement. Malawi as a small economy has less capacity to produce goods. Therefore importing goods from other countries will only monopolize the local producers with their goods. It remains a raw deal to Malawi because of its economic status.
Delegates at the SADC meeting in South Africa praised president Bingu wa Mutharika for managing the country's economy very well. Leaders from this region thanked Mutharika for his economic policies that have gained Malawi a good image among donors. As a result Malawi has had its international debt cancelled since Mutharika came to power, and increased funding from various donors. This is good for the country's economy because financial assistance from international organizations means more development.
Although some officials continue to hide the fact that there is a food shortage in the country, other people go hungry day in day out. Naturally some areas are always hit by annual food shortages and this year is no exception. These coupled with other areas that were faced floods seem to have no food at all. Press reports have revealed that some households have resorted to eating maize seeds. It is not known what damage this will cause the people because the seeds are treated with chemicals. At the same time households are reducing the amount of maize they will be able to plant in the next growing season.
Following the Centre For Social Concern's CfSC recommendation for the government to fix the price of the maize the government announced that the price of maize is now K2,600 per 50-kilogramme bag. CfSC recommended that the government set the price after a monthly survey on cost of living had shown escalating prices of the grain at different markets. With the shortage of the staple grain private traders were dreaming up with any price they wished. This has been a disadvantage to the buyers who are finding it very hard to find maize. Although some people have welcomed the move to have a price band observers have noted that the whole issue should have been done after thorough consultation.
On the same note president Bingu wa Mutharika announced that it is only ADMARC that is going to sell and buy maize. This directive has not gone down well with a number of food experts who feel ADMARC does not have the capacity to do this job. With the financial problems that the company is facing it closed some of its markets especially in the rural areas where there are no tarmac roads. Now it is still not clear if these markets are going to be opened. At the same time it has been the practice for people to sell their maize to private traders because they are sure to be paid on the spot. On the other hand ADMARC at certain times buys maize but fails to pay the sellers. Now this might cause some problems.
An earlier report had shown that Malawians eat less meat. The report further indicates that an average family consumes a kilogram of meat once a week. This is not the case with other countries where meat is part of the meal everyday. Observers have attributed the situation to the current shortage in the supply of cattle. This scenario has forced up the price of meat. Now it is no secrete that more than 60 % of people in Malawi are poor. The fact remains people cannot afford to eat meat frequently.
CIVIL SOCIETY AND RELIGIOUS GROUPS
It has been a month of mourning for not only the Catholic community but for the Malawi nation. The death of Bishop James Chiona of the Catholic Church came as a shock to many Malawians. Chiona has been described as a national hero and a man of high integrity because of being one of the people behind the political change in Malawi. In 1992 Chiona and his fellow bishops wrote a pastoral letter that criticised the then Malawi Congress Party government listing the evils that were happening at that time. Malawians will always remember Chiona as a man who fearlessly brought change in Malawi. Late Chiona died at Nguludi Hospital in Chiradzulu at the age of 85 and was buried at Limbe Cathedral.
In August Civil Society organisations launched the People's Manifesto in Lilongwe. The group felt because politicians have their manifestos that look at different issues there was also a need for the NGOs, who are the country's watchdog, to have one. The document looks at issues that the people need in different sectors. People want to have a government that is transparent and one that has the welfare of the people at heart. This calls for all concerned politicians to look into what the needs of the people are as we get closer the campaign period. Political analysts have commended the documents, which they say could act as a guiding tool to some party leaders.
Press reports have disclosed that a number of people are finding it very hard to cope with life because of rising cost of living. The Centre for Social Concern, which publishes the Basic Needs Basket, revealed that prices of some foodstuffs have gone up extremely. Maize has gone up because not too many people are willing to sell their maize. It should be noted that as the cost of living continues to rise, the amount of money that a number of people receive continues to go up. The price of bread has also been adjusted upwards from K130 to K150 per loaf.
Media reports have disclosed that although parliament last year only allocated K1 to state radio and television station Malawi Broadcasting Corporation MBC and Television Malawi TVM the two institutions still got their funding without the knowledge of parliament. This is against parliament's wishes and such funding is illegal. It is reported that this year parliament gave the two institutions K2 each. MBC and TVM are accused of using the funding that has been given to them in the past for ridiculing the opposition. Civil society has asked the government to explain why the government funded the organisation when almost no money was given to TVM and MBC.
SOCIAL AND CULTURAL LIFE
Although issues of human trafficking are not well known among Malawians it is happening. Some people are not aware that their relatives are being trafficked because they do not know what trafficking is all about. A survey conducted by the Centre for Social Research of Zomba disclosed that there is a lot of trafficking happening in the country and that a number of trafficking victims are being exploited. The report further indicates that a lot of women and children are being sexually exploited. One wonders why the traffickers target children.
August has been a sad time because of events that happened one after the other. To begin with a 24 members of Last Church in Kasungu died in a road accident at Mapanjira in Mzimba District. President Bingu wa Mutharika gave his condolences to the bereaved families and government organised the burial and transportation of the remains. It is such shocking experience to lose a 24 people at one go.
Claims by some chiefs in Machinga District that couples are forced to be tested for HIV should give human rights organisations food for thought. When going for testing is voluntary the chiefs claim people are being forced to do so. It has always been the case that every citizen has his rights and now to have somebody force a human being to do a test in unheard of and it should be discouraged. This scenario should be a wake up call to all stakeholders in raising awareness to the masses.
The Angoni in Mzimba celebrated 100 years since the district became a British Protectorate. At a function which was attended by President Bingu wa Mutharika the Angoni Chief Inkosi ya Makosi Mbelwa IV pleaded with the people to keep their culture. According to Mbelwa some of the practices like wife inheritance should follow procedures like HIV/Aids testing. Despite some people's views on the Malawian culture, Mutharika noted that it is not primitive. Still on the issue of preserving culture press reports have disclosed that Malawians living in the United Kingdom are doing just that. It is encouraging to note that people overseas have time to practice their cultural values when some living in the country do not. Such ambitious projects should be encouraged.
The ministry of education in the month under review released the findings on the last year's leakage scandal. The press let the cat out of the bag when they disclosed that some of the 2007 Malawi Schools Certificate of Education MSCE papers were being sold on the markets. To begin with reports of cheating among students during examinations are not new, but the fact that papers were being sold on the market some days before the exam was a shock. Recently the ministry responsible released the findings of the inquiry on how the exam papers were leaked. Among other things the ministry accused a South African printer called UNIPRINT. Surprisingly the company has pushed back the blame to the Malawi National Examinations Board MANEB. Whatever the case there is need to look into the problem and find a solution if the education sector is to save its face.
Abuse on the Malawi Schools Certificate of Education MSCE continues to haunt MANEB. Press reports have shown that 15% of the certificates are bogus. This is quite alarming because people should get a certificate on merit. One has to work hard to earn a qualification. But in this case it seems anyone can access a certificate even if they do not sit for an examination. The revelation calls for concerted efforts if we are to save the standards of education in the country. Just this month the Teachers Training College expelled some students who had fake MSCE certificate. And last month television personalities Lekeni Kafwafwa and Augustine Mauwa were arrested for possessing fake MSCE certificates.
The introduction of free primary education came with some problems, which include congestion in classes. This also has resulted in a shortage of teachers. On the other hand some teachers leave teaching for other jobs. It should be noted that teaching in the government schools means less pay. Therefore people prefer to join private schools or look for greener pastures elsewhere. The Ministry of Education in the month announced that it needs 43,000 teachers by the year 2015. Malawi is expected to meet one of the Millennium Development Goals MDGs which is education for all by the year 2015. Now it is still not clear if Malawi will achieve this if the problems of shortage of teachers persist.
Government in the month flushed out illegal students from some of its secondary schools. It is reported that some government schools are congested because of the illegal students. In some secondary schools it is difficult to have access to learning materials because there are too many students. Against this background the ministry carried out a cleaning exercise in some secondary schools where 130 illegal students were flushed out. Some of the schools that were visited are Madisi and Kasungu. Secondary Schools. According to officials at the ministry the exercise is on going.
Observers have disclosed that there is need to continue raising awareness among people on the dangers of Malaria. Although the disease has been around since time immemorial, some people still overlook the fact that there are ways to prevent it. Evidence has shown that even when people are given free treated mosquito nets they are used them for other activities. Some people use them for gardening while others use them for catching fish. Surprisingly malaria is one of the major killer diseases in the land. It makes one wonder why people refuse to sleep under a mosquito net. The minister of health Honourable Khumbo Kachale condemned the tendency in strongest terms.
News that Malawi will be making Anti Retroviral Drugs ARVs has come at the right time and is sweet music to many people's ears. With the rising number of HIV/Aids cases Malawi certainly needs a lot of ARVs within its reach. Now to have the ARVs made in the country is an advantage because there will not be need for transport costs. This is a good project considering the country's economy which is still lagging behind many countries. Therefore budgets for transportation of the drugs will be minimised. This will also mean the drugs might be cheaper. It will at the same time create jobs for some Malawians who are currently job hunting. The unemployment levels will go down because of the ARV manufacturing companies if it starts operating.
On several occasions the media has disclosed stories of people suffering in hospitals and others losing their lives in the hands of some health workers. Some health workers tend to neglect their duties and in such cases some patients lose their lives. A case was reported in the press where midwives ignored a woman during delivery. The patient lost her baby. Against a background of reports of negligence among health workers some organisations want such workers to be punished. It should be noted that medical personnel take an oath to serve and save human life at all times. Therefore it is sad to note that after swearing some tend to act differently. It would be exemplary if they do as they pledge.
Press reports in the month under review have disclosed some shocking news about babies in Thyolo. It is reported that 70 % of babies born in Thyolo are HIV positive. This is a deplorable situation, which has left people wondering what the future of such babies is. According to reports the district has high HIV/Aids cases and this means the babies are being infected. Even health officials have noted that this figure is on the higher side
In order to minimise the cutting down of trees government banned exports of hardwood. Trade liberalisation concept brought in a lot of new businesses and a lot of changes. Curio business is one of the businesses that expanded. Now the concern is where do the curio sellers get all the wood for their merchandise. One thing is clear that the natural forests in Malawi are being depleted of their hardwood. Against this background government has banned the exports of any hardwood products. This announcement however has not pleased some quarters which feel government should not have banned the exports without coming up with an alternative. There are so many questions that have been asked as regards the future of curio vendors. On the other hand environmentalists feel this is the right step in safeguarding the natural trees.
Although Malawi has a lot of natural resources that would attract tourists and make it known to other countries press reports have proved that this is not the case. It is reported that Malawi is famous for the adoption of David Banda. Pop star Madonna adopted 2-year-old David last year and Malawi made headlines in many countries on this issue. Some people in the world would not have known there is Malawi in Southern Africa if there was no adoption case. Surprisingly Malawi has a lot of natural resources that could boost the country's tourism. Now that people are aware of existence of Malawi perhaps the Ministry of Tourism should use that as a plus to market Malawi and its beautiful natural resources.
Issues of environmental degradation have been appearing in the press and so there seems to be other solutions in sight in the near future. Examples have been appearing in the press of people who have abandoned their land to settle in mountains. One such area is in Blantyre at Soche Mountain where people have built houses and are farming. This has robbed mountains of their beauty as people cut down trees to clear the land. Therefore police and forestry officials announced that they would flush out any encroachers.
Malawians experience warm weather in the month of August but this year the trend has changed. The Month of August saw some areas receiving showers and cold to very cold weathers. In some days the weather was warm. This however kept changing every now and then. Meteorological Services Department announced that Malawians should expect erratic weather in the month under review. This is a new phenomenon that has come about because of among other things environmental degradation. The more inhabitants deplete the earth's natural resources the more the climate is changing.
The Clerk of Parliament Matilda Katopola was dismissed for illegally awarding her company a contract worth K150,000.00. Katopola who has not been the darling of many members of parliament was suspended some time ago but president Mutharika reinstated her. The fact that the members of parliament have been baying for Katopola's blood has left gender activists wondering why the MPs, the majority of whom are men, enjoy victimising women. It all started with Mary Nangwale when they refused to approve her appointment as Inspector General of Police. Other activists have come to realise that the ambitions to empower cannot be met if some of the women are victimised.
For the first time more than 400 women are expected to contest in parliamentary elections next year. It is good news to activists who are now advocating for a high number of women participation in politics and other circles. To have 50% of female members of parliament would work to the advantage of women because issues that affect them directly would have a better chance of being discussed in the house. Evidence has shown that a male dominated decision making body make it a priority to formulate policies that benefit men. The aspirants only need support from fellow women so that they make it to parliament. Time has come for women in Malawi to use their numbers in voting fellow women to parliament. It should be noted that many voters are women and they make more than 50% of the country's population.
There is still confusion on exactly what gender is all about. The gender concept to some means anything to do with women. As a result they just have to include a woman anywhere even if the women does not qualify. This is the reason why men who were present at a gender workshop in South Africa got the shock of their lives when none of them was incorporated in the steering committee. It was an all women committee. Now it seems there is confusion because the men should have been given some of the posts in the committee. The participation of men at that meeting seemed not to have counted at all. What one has to bear in mind is the fact that there can never be talk about gender equality if there are no men involved.
Fr. Bill Turnbull
Center for Social Concern (CFSC)
Box 40049 Lilongwe 4
Next to St. Francis Parish
Tel: 01 715 632
Website : http://www.cfscmalawi.org