MALAWI PRESS REVIEW April 2009
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,
Malawians will again exercise their right to vote in the presidential and parliamentary elections on 19 May. This is the time people choose a candidate of their choice to lead the country and the constituency for the coming 5 years. The media reports of April give a good idea of how the parties have been squaring up to each other in preparation for the vote. There have been many political twists and turns that make the outcome of the elections difficult to forsee.
The last 5 years could perhaps be termed as very tough for the incumbent president Bingu wa Mutharika. Mutharika who won on a United Democratic Front (UDF) ticket ditched the party to form the Democratic Progressive Party DPP. This did not go down well with the UDF who felt cheated; hence they used their numbers in parliament to give the Mutharika administration tough time.
Political analysts during the 5 years at times commended the strong opposition in parliament was good but at certain moments they felt the opposition was taking advantage of their numbers just to pass their ulterior motives.
Now that the elections are closer religious groups, civil society and other stakeholders are in the forefront playing their role. According to both the Catholic Church in Malawi and Nkhoma Synod of the Church of Central African Presbyterian CCAP the choice of a good leaders lies in the hands of the people. Both churches published documents that gave some light to the faithful on what to look for in a leader.
All that was to be said has been said because even the contesting parties and individuals have campaigned day in day out just to make sure they are voted into power. Now the onus is on the electorate. It is up to the voters to make their dreams comes. That is May 19 when people will choose their leaders. It should be noted that every vote counts and therefore everyone who registered should go and cast the important vote.
Barely some days after political parties signed a peace agreement with each other in the presence of the African Union representative, Mozambican president Joachim Chissano, the gurus are at it again washing each other's dirty linen in public. Some observers have noted that although the talks gave hope to peaceful coexistence among people of different political affiliations what has been happening since the campaign started seem to be a set back. Others have actually said the talks were a waste of time because the party leaders are busy castigating each other.
Former president Dr Bakili Muluzi was again making headlines after a series of appearances in the courts of law. Muluzi whose bid to come back as president of Malawi has met several obstacles, finally made an announcement that he was going to support John Tembo. The Malawi Electoral Commission e.t.c rejected Muluzi's nomination paper and that Muluzi said his party is going to support the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) a move that has raised a lot of debates among Malawians. Muluzi is currently facing several cases of corruption and has appeared in court for several times.
Recent reports have shown that the MCP and UDF will share cabinet posts by 55 to 45% respectively. It should be noted that this would happen only if the alliance makes it during the general elections. There are some concerns over Muluzi's hasty decision to join the MCP when in the past he made it clear that he cannot work with John Tembo. People are keeping their fingers crossed to see if at all there is a future in the alliance.
Press reports have disclosed that Bakili Muluzi is not on the ballot paper. This is not a strange thing because MEC had already announced that it had rejected Muluzi's nomination papers. Muluzi who had earlier on challenged MEC's rejection in courts gave up and formed the UDF/MCP alliance. It has always been Muluzi's dream to topple the incumbent president Dr Bingu wa Mutharika his last hope is the coalition with the MCP. It should be noted that Muluzi vowed to do anything possible just to make sure that Mutharika is beaten during the May general elections.
Following the announcement that Dr Muluzi is not going to be in the presidential race some UDF loyalists have vowed never to vote. According to press reports some people have actually said without Muluzi they will not vote. Observers have noted that this will increase the number of people that do not vote. Therefore people should expect voter apathy.
Section 65 of the Malawi Constitution that made headlines in parliament in the last National Assembly. Even some people who had no idea what exactly the Section was all about now know. But to the people of Lilongwe Mpenu constituency have a better idea of the constitution because they want Section 64 to come back. The constituents feel that if any Member of Parliament for the area fails to deliver what he promised during campaign the electorate should be able to recall them. Evidence has shown that a number of MPs are only seen in their constituencies during campaign time and dump their areas once elected to the National Assembly. Against this background the people of Mpenu want Section 64 (the Recall provision) back.
The future of Gwanda Chakuamba in Malawi politics seems to be in limbo after the UDF formed an alliance with the MCP. Chakuamba who was formerly MCP president dumped the party to form the Republican Party but later on disbanded it to join the ruling DPP. Some months later Chakuamba left the DPP to form the New Republican Party. To date Chakuamba is in an alliance with the UDF. Now that UDF has paired with the MCP Chakuamba has been left out in the cold because Tembo, who is the MCP leader according to observers, cannot work with the former MCP, RP, and NRP leader. It is not yet known if Chakuamba is recognized in the MCP/UDF alliance. Some reports also show that Chakuamba had begged the DPP to take him back at a whooping MK150 million.
April saw the opening of Kayerekera Uranium mining in Karonga. President Bingu wa Mutharika opened the mine and with this the mining of uranium has started. According to economic experts the mining is going to improve the circulation of forex in the country. It has always been the sales of tobacco that have been bringing in a lot of foreign exchange now the mining at Kayerekera will for sure ease the problem of forex shortage.
Although president Bingu wa Mutharika had set a minimum price for the buying tobacco, reports show that prices are still on the lower side. Much as the farmers had high hopes on the outcome of their crop. Reports have disclosed that there are conflicting views coming from the farmers and buyers. As the farmers are insisting that their crop is not good enough to fetch the best prices, they still insist the leaf is of high quality. Mutharika had earlier on threatened to deal with any buyers who might deliberately decide to dupe the farmers. It has been a common practice for the buyers to do as they please with the tobacco regardless of the quality of the leaf. As Malawi's main forex exchange earner what happens at the market needs to be guarded so that the farmers enjoy the fruits of their labour to the maximum.
In the month under review civil society and the private sector asked government to start pre-budget consultations despite the fact that Malawi will be going to the polls in a couple of weeks. According to observers the consultations are a vital exercise as they include the views and ideas of other important players such as civil society, the private sector and individuals. It has always been a tendency by the Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe to have such meetings across the nation where he gets ideas and suggestions on what to include in the budget.
Good maize harvests and large volumes of tobacco that were available last year have been attributed as the reason for Malawi's stunning economic growth. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Malawi's economy has grown by 9.7%. This is said to be an extraordinary growth because this is a once in a lifetime achievement. The IMF further advised Malawi to try to maintain the economic growth. Economic experts have commended government for the economic growth which they say is a true reflection that the economy is doing well.
The Malawi government in the month under review announced the prices of crops. After reports of exploitation the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security announced new prices of selling and buying crops mainly maize, which is Malawi's staple food. According to the ministry this move is to help stop unscrupulous traders from exploiting the poor farmers. The ministry has set the prices at MK55 per kilogramme of maize. This is the price that farmers have to sell their grain.
Although there are other reports indicating that nearly half a million people will have no food. Reports have shown that over 511,000 people will starve because of some reason or another. Some areas always have food shortages year in year out. For some areas it is because of the floods that they experienced and the crops were washed away. Now in a time of plenty of food it is a pitiable situation to learn that some people have no food. It all goes to authorities to look into these reports so that quick decisions are made.
For a long time there have been complaints from farmers that fertilizer is very expensive although transport costs have now gone down following the slashing of fuel prices globally. In April the Agricultural Trading Company (ATC) came up with sweet music to the people' ears when it announced reduced prices of the farm input. The company slashed the prices of fertilizer by almost half. For instance Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) is now at K4,330 down from K7,200. Observers have commended ATC and asked other companies who sell fertilizer to emulate this example.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Agriculture announced that almost all the work involving cropping is almost ready. According to reports the ministry made it known that about 320,000 people will benefit from the winter subsidy. Reports have shown that the distribution of coupons for winter cropping fertilizer subsidy has not yet started. Reports show that winter cropping is also one of the sources a lot of maize.
Although government announced the buying prices of maize recent reports have shown that the national grain marketer ADMARC is not yet ready to buy maize. According to ADMARC, there is still a lot of moisture content in the maize. It should be noted that some farmers do harvest their maize when it is not fully dry. Authorities at the grain market feel buying the maize right now when it is not dry will end up destroying the maize because it is kept for a long time.
Agricultural analysts have noted that with a lot of farmers harvesting their maize the prices of the grain are now going down. Scores of people are selling the grain at very low prices. Reports show that a bag of 50 kilogram is now being sold at MK1000.00. In recent months people were selling the same quantity at MK4000.00. Some observers have noted that the price of maize will go down further because a lot of people have not yet started harvesting their gardens.
CIVIL SOCIETY AND RELIGIOUS GROUPS
Christians all over the world in the month of April commemorated the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a normal practice for the Roman Catholic faithful to take part in the way of cross but again this year the Pentecostal churches also had their own way of the cross just like last year. Previously the way of the cross was Catholic thing but later the Anglicans joined and Pentecostal churches followed suit.
Some observers have noted that although there is a will to pass the tobacco tenancy bill, there are still a lot of hiccups that are hindering its passing. Among other things observers have come to realize that politics is one of the reasons the bill is still gathering dust on the shelves. Observers have noted that it is becoming a problem for members of parliament to table the bill because a number of them are estate landlords. Therefore the same law they are to pass will haunt them. Although this is the case the Centre for Social Concern wants to see better working and living conditions of the tenants. CfSC hopes the next parliament will pass the tenancy bill.
Still on the same issue some civil society organizations have noted that there is a lot of child labour being practiced on estates because of the absence of the Labour Tenancy Law. It is a daily sight in tobacco estates to see children of school going age working. Reports have shown that many people enjoy having children work in their farms and estates because they are cheap and can easily be exploited in whichever way. It is against this background that organization like CfSC would want the next parliament should pass the labour tenancy bill so that these children are protected.
Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace CCJP in the month under review analysed the deeds of parliament from 2004 to 2009. The commission found about that parliament failed to do its duties to its full potential in the just ended National Assembly. Much as people expected a lot from their members of parliament, their sittings were marred by use of foul language and high emotions. This delayed some of the serious business that was supposed to be discussed. At the same time parliament lost its credibility because people could listen to the live broadcasting of deliberations.
The country commemorated 100 years of Dr David Livingstone's work in Malawi. The Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) commemorated the centenary in a colourful ceremony that was held at the Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre. It should be noted that it is missionaries like David Livingstone who helped in the elimination of the slave trade in some parts of Malawi.
Just like the Roman Catholic Church who came up with a document that enlightened people on their choices as we go closer to the general elections, the Nkhoma Synod of the CCAP has also done the same. In its statement called "Choosing the Right Leaders" the Synod advises its faithful to choose leaders that will bring development and ensure that there is food security. The Synod however did not mention any candidate in particular but left the choice to the people.
SOCIAL AND CULTURAL LIFE
Although every Malawian has a right to get information during political campaign so that they make informed choices before voting, reports have shown that political parties are not reaching out to the deaf. According to the Malawi National Association for the Death (MANAD) parties have not targeted its members. Among other things MANAD feels members do not have an idea of what is in the party manifestos, therefore they might just vote for the sake of voting. It is sad to learn that although the deaf registered their names they have are not aware of the parties manifestos.
Government in the month under review closed some of the shops in the city of Blantyre that were being operated illegally. The Ministry of Trade Commerce and Industry announced the closure of some shops that were being run by refugees. It is common knowledge that refugees are not supposed to run shops and if they do they should have the right permits. However a recent checking exercise proved that some refugees own a number of foreign shops. Surprisingly in many countries refugees stay in camps where they get all the daily necessities. Against this background government closed some of these shops.
Press reports in the month of April have disclosed that although Paladin Africa owners of Kayerekera mining promised to do a lot for the communities in the area. To the surprise of traditional leaders the mining company has not yet fulfilled some of its promises to the people around the mines. Reports show that Paladin had promised to give portable water to the communities but have not yet done so. To make matters worse the traditional leaders in Karonga are bitter with Paladin because they do not show up at meetings. Against this background the chiefs want to see Paladin fulfill its obligation by doing what it promised the people in the area.
As it has always been the case traditional leaders are supposed to be non-partisan so that they handle their duties in the fairest manner. This is because once they involve in politics there can be conflict of interest resulting in chiefs being biased in their daily duties. Against this background the Catholic for Commission and Justice and Peace (CCJP) asked chiefs to be nonpartisan.
Reports that the National Aids commission is struggling to get funding from its donors so that it gives out to students on bursaries. The revelation came when schools were about to open for a new term. Media reports have shown that the some of the student risk being chased from schools if they do not pay what is required in good time. The students are still keeping their fingers crossed so that they can continue their education.
The Malawi nation learnt with dismay the removal of 67 students from the Polytechnic a constituent college of the University of Malawi. The students were weeded after under performing in their studies. It should be noted that everybody expects students at the University of Malawi to be star performers; now this revelation has left people wondering how the college admits students. It should also be noted that it is at the same college where students recently demanded the removal of their Principal Mrs. Margaret Longwe. The students said they wanted the registrar removed because she never had their welfare at heart. Could the failure of student be attributed to lack of discipline among the students?
Government in the month under review announced that it plans to make girls education easier by building more hostels for female students. Among other problems observers noted that girls face a lot of challenges when they are on a safe boarding or day scholars. Unlike boys, girl students can easily fall prey of any mischievousness if they are not on school campus at night. Against this background government plans to build over 40 girls hostels in various schools.
Still on the issue of girls education readers got the shock of their life when press reports had announced that 55 girls at Koche School in Mangochi dropped out of school. According to observers the figure is on the high side and it threatens efforts to reach some of government's goals of education more women. At the same time others have noted that girls sometimes lack role models who can motivate them. Similarly other girls feel they should also follow what their parents who are prostitutes do especially in Mangochi, which is a fishing district and a tourist attraction destination.
A cloud of doubt is still hovering on students who were on bursaries from the National Aids Commission (NAC). Reports show that students might be chased from schools because they have not received anything from NAC. According to NAC they are still not too sure whether they will get funding from their donors, which in return could be used as fees for the students The situation has left students who are on NAC bursaries in an awkward position. The revelation came when schools were about to open for a new term. The students are still keeping their fingers crossed so that NAC get the long awaited funding so that in return the students problems are solved.
Some observers have noted that although the focus is on other diseases like Malaria and HIV and AIDS there are still some that are neglected but are also claiming a lot of people's lives. Veteran politician Aleke Banda who is also a trustee of the Cancer Center Project noted that although cancer is not being given the much-needed attention and resources a number of people continue to suffer from the disease silently. Banda, who also has cancer, noted that the treatment is very expensive that many Malawians cannot afford. Therefore Malawi needs a center that would give treatment and care to cancer patients.
Now that the rainy season is over, reports have shown that cases of Cholera are under control. According to reports the rainy season brings a lot of issues one of which is the cholera outbreak. A number of districts reported an increased number of Cholera cases during the rainy season. Recent reports have shown a change in the pattern. Among other things good hygiene has also been attributed to the drop in the cases of cholera.
Malaria continues to be one of the major killer in Malawi. But there is good news as the University of Carolina (UNC) will soon start trials on malaria vaccine. According to the UNC, which will run the Goerge Joaki Centre, the trials are expected to attract a lot of participants in Malawi. But this is not the case in Kenya and other African countries where only 11 sites for the trials have been lined up. The trials seek to wipe out the disease in children who are under the age of 17 weeks. This announcement came when the world was commemorating World Malaria Day in the month of April. It should be noted that "Every 30 Seconds a Child dies in Africa". This is a big number and the commencement of the vaccine trials gives hope that perhaps deaths caused by malaria will become a story of the past.
There are still a lot of issues surrounding HIV/AIDS. Although a lot of awareness has been raised people still come up with funny ideas and myths about the deadly disease. Recent reports have disclosed that students at Chikala zone in Zomba City have attributed such beliefs to the continued spread of the disease. Among other things that came out of a debate titled Youths can Abstain some felt the fact that people watch a lot of pornographic material and peer pressure have also increased the number of people who practice unprotected sex. This results in the number of people who catch the disease.
Press reports in the month under review have disclosed that people should expect changes in the weather during the month. Therefore it did not come as a surprise when it became very cold during Easter when in normal circumstance we do not have cold weather during the month of April. It should also be noted that globally a number countries are facing different patterns in the weather.
Still on the same issue, the Meteorological Department announced that in the months that Malawi would experience some cold weather and showers. This would come about because of the airflow called Congo bumping. But at the same time some areas experienced a continued dry spell when others had cold rains and showers. Reports have shown that areas like Mulanje received a lot of rains and at the same time Blantyre is reported to have received continuous rainfall for some days in the month of April.
Much as it is every citizen's wish to have a lot of investors recent reports have disclosed that environmentalists are very mindful of what the companies do to the environment. Press reports have shown some doubts that Malawi is ready to deal with the effects of such investors like the mining industry, which might exploit the environment. Evidence has shown that although an Environmental Impact Assessment is done before the commencement of such projects, it still remains a mystery if all the assessments are comprehensive enough to deal with what exactly might happen if the projects start. One wonders if at all the long-term effects to the environment and the people living around the area are considered. Perhaps the only thing that people have in mind is the money that comes with the projects and not what will happen to the environment.
For instance reports have shown that although there are good returns from the quarry people in Zomba and Limbe have always bitterly complained of the dust that cover the crops. Similarly a lot has been said on the Kayerekera mining and what the activities at the mine might do the environment.
Although Malawi is one of the countries that has made strides in making sure that there is gender balance in all the things, reports have disclosed that it has not yet signed the Gender and Development Protocol. According to experts the situation will only damage Malawi's reputation. Surprisingly almost all the countries in the SADC region have signed the protocol it is only Malawi and two other countries that have not signed. Experts have also noted that despite the efforts made by Malawi in its 50-50 campaign it does not give a good reason why the country is delaying to sign the protocol. Meanwhile the ministry of gender and children's welfare has announced that it will sign soon.
As election day draws closers some organizations have noted that some bad practices have hindered progress in the 50-50 campaign. Civil Liberties Committee (CILIC) observed that because some parties give out money to aspirants and chiefs those that do not have resources are therefore facing stiff competition. At the same time some traditional leaders refuse the women use of venues for campaign if they do not give out a little something. These are some of the reasons the women aspirants find it difficult to campaign effectively. Surprisingly the same chiefs are always ready to help aspirants who dish out money. It still remains a tough job for the female aspiring members of parliament to host campaign rallies because some cannot afford the MK5,000 that some chiefs demand for the use of a ground every time they want to use it.
President Bingu wa Mutharika in the month of April kept his promise to honour women in Malawi when he named a road in Mzuzu city after veteran politician Rose Ziba Chiwambo. She was the first female cabinet minister in Malawi. Chiwambo is one of the women who fought for Malawi tirelessly for the independence from colonialists in Malawi. Among other women who should also fought for the same cause are Margaret Banda, Vera Chirwa, Getrude Rubadiri and Violet Mlanga. The road was named the Rose Ziba Chiwambo Crescent.
A man in Thyolo in the month of April was recognized for his efforts in the fight against gender violence. Henry Mponda of Chibalo village, Traditional Authority Thomas, received the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) 3 Champion Torch for advocating strongly in the fight against gender-based violence in his Area. It should be noted that President Bingu wa Mutharika received the torch last year in Oslo Norway at a green revolution conference. Mutharika received the torch for a advocating for the empowerment of women in the country. For people like Thomas receiving the torch is a morale booster for a job well done and it can also motivate others to do the same.
Fr. Bill Turnbull
Center for Social Concern (CFSC)
Box 40049 Lilongwe 4
Next to St. Francis Parish
Tel: 01 715 632