MALAWI PRESS REVIEW July 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,
The Malawi nation is still experiencing political instability. Ever since president Bingu wa Mutharika ditched the United Democratic Front Party, which ushered him to power, the atmosphere has not been good. This has It has been a lesson to future leaders to sit down and plan carefully before dumping the party that brought them to power.
President Bingu wa Mutharika's administration has been finding it hard to have a proposed national budget pass through the National Assembly. Just like last year the opposition legislators are demanding for the discussion of Section 65 before the budget. On the government side people want the budget first then any other business. This scenario is what is causing the delay.
It is still not very clear on the real situation of maize shortage in Malawi. Is government only trying to save its face when it says there is plenty of food? Are the opposition parties only trying to destroy the government campaign when it says there is a food shortage?
People should expect a number of announcements as we draw closer to the general elections. Even men of God are joining politics to serve their flock better as members of parliament.
The revelation that some celebrities are using fake Malawi School Certificate of Education MSCE Certificate should give the Malawi Nations Examinations Board MANEB some food for thought. It means more and more people are still abusing the certificate
The number of people who die of malaria in a year is quiet alarming. Therefore there should be massive civic education so that people sleep under a treated mosquito net every night of the year.
How do women make use of the next general elections to achieve more than 30 % of female representation in decision-making positions? This is the question that needs to be answered now as women are preparing for 2009 general elections.
The Malawi nation marked 44 years of independence during celebrations that happened in Mzuzu City. As usual the opposition was conspicuously absent. This however is not the case with some countries where both the opposition and the ruling parties mix to celebrate such days. The opposition party leaders blamed the ruling Democratic Progressive Party DPP for politicising the celebrations, which was a national function. Party colours of the DPP dominated the function. But the DPP blamed the opposition for failing to show up despite receiving invitations. It should be noted that this is not a new phenomenon, because during the United Democratic Front UDF era the party's colours could be seen in times of national celebration. It was easy but not strange to think that the function was a political rally and not a national celebration.
With just some months to go to the general elections, major parties are still not mentioning who they are going to field as running mates. It is obvious that the UDF will field former president Dr Bakili Muluzi but his running mate is not yet known. Although media reports in July disclosed that Brown James Mpinganjira is the plan B for the UDF, the party has dismissed such reports. It is not only the UDF that does not have a known running mate as both the DPP and the Malawi Congress Party MCP are also in the same boat. It seems the parties are biding their time as regards the issues of running mate. The sooner they decide the better because the electorate want to know who they are going to vote for.
Press reports have disclosed that Honourable Justin Chimera Malewezi will not stand again as a member of parliament for his area in Ntchisi. It is reported that Malewezi will concentrate on other things other than politics. He was the country's first vice president for 10 years during the UDF era. Reports have shown that Malewezi served Malawi for 40 years as a civil servant. This is an example to other politicians who feel they have contributed to the country politically. Surprisingly this is the opposite of what Malawi is currently witnessing. It seems some people never want to retire. The whole idea of new blood will always be a dream if the old timers do not pave the way by retiring.
If there is a famous section in the Malawi constitution it is Section 65. Each passing day the press carry at least one or two articles about this well known section. The latest comment is on who exactly is affected by the section. Msaiwale Chigawa, a law lecturer at the Chancellor College, has chosen to differ with other people's views. Chigawa feels the only Members of Parliament whose seats should be declared vacant
are those who crossed the floor after the Section was upheld. This means that only a handful of MPs will be affected because not too many legislators have left their parties to join the DPP.
Although there were efforts by the clergy to end the political impasse, their work seems to have borne no future because the two conflicting parties are failing to bide by what the clergy came up with. The clergy as mediators advised government and the opposition political parties to resolve their differences by discussing both the national budget and section 65. Reports have shown that the government is not willing to deal with the issues together. Against this background the government would like to have some of the things changed in the MOU.
Press reports have disclosed that there is confusion among people in the Lower Shire because of the friendship that exists between New Republican Party NRP and United Democratic Front UDF. Leader of NRP Gwanda Chakuamba is reported to have told people that the party will not conduct primary elections because it is a new party. Mr Chakuamba wants to impose an MP on the people in Chikwawa. What he apparently is not aware of is the fact that people now need to make their own choices when it comes to somebody who is going to represent them in the National Assembly. Some experts have warned that parties should learn from the 2004 general elections when voters were not voting for a party but an individual. This is evidenced by the fact that the then popular party UDF lost seats in some of the areas where they were popular.
There are signs of trouble in the Democratic Progressive Party DPP camp in the Northern Region. To date the ruling DPP has not shown any signs that it will hold primary elections. This has left sitting MPs who were formerly AFORD members but joined the DPP to feel insecure. This is the case because in the same areas there are some aspirants who are purely DPP member but want the same seat in the 2009 general election. For this reason incumbent MPs are accusing the DPP's National Governing Council NGC of trying to manipulate the people in the Northern Region before the primary elections. Others have alleged that the NGC wants people that are close to the committee to have an upper hand over the incumbent MPs. However experts have advised the DPP to tread carefully to avoid dividing the party
During July Members of Parliament got the shock of their lives when their salaries were not deposited in their accounts. Government's excuse was that the legislators had not passed the budget. Observers commended the action saying it would put enough pressure on MPs to pass the budget. Others also felt it was only a fair decision because members from both sides of the house received the same treatment from government. It only showed that government wanted to give all the MPs the same punishment.
As the global prices of fuel continue to skyrocket the International Monetary Fund IMF has released funds to the Malawi government. The IMF gave Malawi US$79 million to be used in cushioning some of the commodities whose prices have gone up. Among other things the US$79 Million is also expected to help government to make payments on fertilizer whose price has also risen. Government will also use the money in other projects such as building houses and hostels for the University of Malawi and University of Mzuzu. The IMF's gesture only shows that the international body has confidence in Malawi's economic performance.
During the month the Centre for Social Concern CfSC told the press that the taxes people pay according to their income favours the higher wage earner. It should be noted that in the proposed 2008/2009 national budget, the amount of money that people receive is tax-free is raised from K7000 to K9000. CfSC notes that those with large incomes will automatically gain more from the change in Pay As You Earn PAYE. This scenario is not good for the low-income earners who are already struggling to cope with the ever-increasing cost of living.
Although it is a tradition to have an annual International Trade Fair, this year the function generated fewer funds than expected. Press reports have shown that the number of business deals has also decreased this year. Others have noted that there was low patronage during the fair. On the same note the number of companies that displayed their goods and services also decreased. Some observers have speculated that the severing of diplomatic relations with Taiwan also had an impact on the Trade Fair proceeds. It should be noted that the Taiwanese companies used to exhibit huge amounts of goods and services at the Trade fair every year.
Malawi is currently running without a budget despite being in a new financial year. Members of parliament failed to discuss the budget because of a wrangle between the two sides of the National Assembly. But then government still needs to spend money for some of government operations to continue. Press reports revealed some contradicting reports on the situation. Some say finance minister Goodall Gondwe might be arrested for illegally drawing money from the consolidation funds because he is doing it without parliament's approval. On the other hand some are saying the finance minister only needs to inform parliament on how much was withdrawn and used during the time government ran without budget.
It is still not clear what exactly the situation on maize is like this year. Press reports have disclosed different views on the food situation in the country. Other reports have shown the whole issue of maize has been politicised. The opposition members of parliament think the government is deliberately running away from the truth by pretending there is a lot of maize in the country to score a point. At the same time the government feels the opposition want the current administration to be proved wrong in its fight to make Malawi a hunger free nation. Whatever is the case there is still need for assurance on the availability of maize, which is the staple food for Malawi.
Press reports have shown that this year Malawi will not sell maize unnecessarily following reports that there might be a shortage of the grain. Last year Malawi had a bumper harvest and sold some of the surplus to Zimbabwe and the government also donated maize to Lesotho and Swaziland. This situation has left some people wondering why government did this when some of its citizens are sleeping on an empty stomach. Against this background government made a statement that it will not sell maize unwisely. It does not make sense to sell the grain to other countries when Malawi does not have enough maize.
It was also reported in the July press that the rumours on shortage of maize have left traders playing with the prices of the staple grain. Because there are conflicting reports about the maize situation, some traders are of the view that there is a shortage. As a result they have raised the price of the grain. A monthly research on the Basic Needs Basket done by the Centre For Social Concern has shown that the price of a 50-kilogramme bag is increasing in some cities. This has also contributed to the rising cost of living every.
Malawi's fertilizer subsidy programme seems to have impressed some international bodies. According to reports Malawi has managed to change things in making sure the country enjoys good harvests. Currently government managed to cut the amount of food it was importing to Malawi. In this regard the World Food Programme WFP observed that Malawi's format is working and it needs to be emulated by other countries. Some countries should take Malawi as their role model in the way it has managed to upset the tables in the agricultural sector. Experts have revealed that Malawi needs support from the donors on the continued progress of the programme.
CIVIL SOCIETY AND RELIGIOUS GROUPS
A number of civil society organisations in July voiced their concerns on the way the Malawi Electoral Commission MEC has planned events. Among other things the electoral body announced that it would conduct registration exercise in phases. This means that some areas will register earlier than others. At the same time training for some station supervisors has been faced with irregularities on allowances. Observers have noted that lack of funding has greatly affected the electoral calendar. With such a result civil society has spoken over the need for MEC to put its house in order in readiness for the 2009 general elections.
President Bingu wa Mutharika's public announcement that he will be forced to conduct a referendum met the NGOs wrath when they bashed the proposal. Mutharika's administration has been finding it tough to pass bills in the national assembly hence the delay in passing the 2008/2009 budget. The opposition political parties refused to tackle the budget unless the Speaker of parliament declares vacant seats of legislators who crossed the floor vacant. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party DPP is bound to lose a lot of its sympathisers once Section 65 is invoked. This forced Mutharika to that he would call for a referendum if the current situation continued. For some reason some NGOs feel it is not necessary to call for a referendum.
The current political situation in Malawi is reported to have caused concerns among some regional Catholic Bishops. On the political scene things seem to be going from bad to worse each day. The government and opposition political parties are failing to agree on how they can conduct business. At the same time the relationship between President Bingu wa Mutharika and his predecessor Dr Bakili Muluzi are conspicuously at loggerheads. This has left people wondering if at all parties will ever work together for the benefit of the people. As religious leaders the bishops feel the situation in Malawi should be taken care of as soon as possible.
Press reports have disclosed that the Reverend Daniel Gunya has joined politics. Gunya who is well known for publicly rebuking former president Dr Bakili Muluzi is set for the 2009 general elections. Reports have shown that Gunya is ready to contest for the seat either in Zomba or Blantyre on a United Democratic Front UDF ticket. Gunya also served the Blantyre Synod of the Church of Central African Presbyterian CCAP church as the Secretary General for two terms.
SOCIAL AND CULTURAL LIFE
Despite all the efforts in fighting human trafficking, which is modern day slavery, some people still think selling people is their only source of income. The media disclosed that even the people that we trust for our security are at times involved in human trafficking issues. According to sources the refugees in Dzaleka camp in Dowa are at great risk of being trafficked because of their situation. It was reported that some Police and immigration officers facilitate this trade because by their complicity. Therefore it is easy for trafficked persons to go through the borders because it is believed that some immigration people are involved.
Just when people expected a church to lead by example the conduct of some church leaders has left people wondering where religion is going. More and more stories of wrangles between religious leaders continue to appear in the press. Several months ago some members of the congregation of the Church of Central African Presbyterian CCAP at Mkombezi in Rumphi demolished a church because of some disagreements. Recently villagers in Ntcheu are accusing a certain church of acquiring land illegally. According to reports the dispute has been going on for some months and one would have expected the church members to settle their differences amicably
Newsreaders woke up to another sad story of pure gender based violence in the month of July. Media reports disclosed that a husband in Mzimba dumped his wife because she had borne him a disabled child. Observers reported the woman who was staying at her husband's village was told to leave because the child she bore had two noses. The in-laws of the woman felt all the misfortunes that the family was facing were coming because of the birth of such a disabled child. The situation has forced the non-governmental organisation Everychild to intervene so that the woman's rights are not violated. At the same time the organisation wants the woman go to where she belongs, her husband's home village. Still in the same district cases of people killing each other are now becoming common. Press reports have disclosed some increasing of people committing suicide.
Observers have noted that although the right to choose a president during general elections is open to Malawi residents who have been in the country for a number of years, reports have shown that the minority groups do not go to vote. Among others some Malawians of Asian origin do not go to vote and yet they are eligible voters. The duty to choose leaders lies in every citizen's hands and some who do not go to vote give room to a candidate who was not supposed to win to emerge the winner. Against this background some experts have urged all minority groups in the country to consider participating in choosing leaders through an election.
If there is a profession that in the past people used to admire it is teaching. This admiration has changed with time, as teachers seem to be some of the civil servants whose good work is not appreciated. Reports have shown that a number of teachers have to endure the cold weather as they teach under a tree and the situation is worse during rainy season. Others teach in remote areas where there are no teaching and learning materials. It should be noted that teaching is regarded as a noble profession but the salary that goes with it leaves a lot to be desired. This is one of the reasons that well qualified teachers leave the government sector. With this in mind government is reported to have allocated an amount of money called hardship allowance in the proposed 2008/2009 national budget. This is one of the initiatives to keep teachers in the private sector.
Education experts have disclosed that it is good to send children to school at an early age because it prepares children for primary schools. The experts feel going for Under-five education makes them sharper in class. Therefore sending young children to school should be considered seriously by parents.
As education standards continue to go down in Malawi a number of reasons have been mentioned. But a collection of things could be the reasons. If schools have good infrastructures it makes students feel good and this could contribute to their progress in class. Dilapidated structures are a cause for fear in students as a result it might be difficult for them to concentrate in class. Reports that some schools have no toilets are what no one expected this time and age. Perhaps Biwi Primary School in Lilongwe is just an example of the many schools in both rural and urban areas that have not been reported. One wonders if the ministry responsible District Inspectors of Schools DIS that used to visit the schools are still in their offices. The fact that the press has carried out such reports should encourage the ministry of education to deal with the problem.
The Malawi Schools Certificate of Education Certificate still remains the most abused certificate in the land. It is the same examination that people are awarded with MSCE certificate that have been facing a lot of hiccups in Malawi's history. Surprisingly all the problems with the MSCE certificate seem to be far from over because people still use the fake certificate to get the best jobs. It seems some employers never mind whether one has a valid certificate or not. Unknowingly the image of such institutions continues to have a bad reputation because of the unqualified workforce. Perhaps the arrest of Television Malawi personality Lekeni Takomana Kafwafwa for using a fake certificate will be a wake up call to the Malawi National Examinations Board MANEB. This is evidence that the certificate is still being abused.
Experts have noted with great concern what people are doing in slowing down the fight against the deadly disease of malaria. It is reported that even when people are given free treated mosquito nets; they do not use them for the intended purpose. Government's efforts to prevent malaria are being hindered by the fact that some people use the nets for fishing and gardening. Such people would rather use the mosquito nets to prevent their families from hunger than mosquitoes that transmit malaria. Although people are aware that they can prevent the disease by sleeping under treated mosquito nets, they choose to put their lives at risk by using the nets for other things. It should be noted that Malawi registered 7,000 deaths caused by malaria last year. Perhaps it is time to raise an awareness campaign on the dangers of malaria and educate people on the need to use treated nets every night of the year.
The revelation that 250 Malawians are being infected by HIV/AIDS each day is quiet alarming. To begin with 250 is a very big number for a poor country like Malawi. Because AIDS patients need a lot of care and in the end a lot of money for medication and food, the rate is just too much for Malawi. Observers have noted that although Malawi's on the right track in the fight against Aids there is still a lot that needs to be done to minimise the number of people that get infected by the deadly virus.
Cases of drug shortages are not new in the Malawi government hospitals. Some people other have argued that the shortage comes about because of the congestion in hospitals that in the end demands more drugs to be used per day. While this could be true some observers have noted that drug theft is one of the reasons why there are these shortages. Late last year the courts dealt with a businessman called Hassan Goba who was answering charges of drug theft. One tends to wonder how government drugs find their way to such businesspeople. The Medicines and Poisons Board has blamed the Medical Stores the place where drugs are kept for having some loopholes that have contributed to theft. The fact that some people sell the drugs locally on the market is evidence that drugs leave the medical stores illegally.
The proposal to have all women screened for cervical cancer is something that should be commended. Government in the month under review announced that it was going to propose that all women who visit government hospitals should be screened for cervical cancer. Experts have disclosed that not many women are aware of the existence of this type of cancer. Therefore it would be difficult to realise they have it if they have no knowledge. In this case screening them is the only solution in sight that would help in finding the disease in its early stages.
The press seem to devote most of the time writing about politics. No newspaper goes on the market without stories of politics on the front page. In a Malawian setting even readers are used to seeing such stories on the front page and that is what makes news. Surprisingly other topics, which are equally important to people's daily lives like environment, are being left out. In this regard it is very rare to find a story on the environment making it to the front page. At the same time it takes some days before one can read of the environment. This has been the case in the month of July where only a few articles appeared in the newspapers.
The problem of deforestation is not only affecting Malawi but other African countries as well. According to some geographers a number of lakes are shrinking and forests are on the verge of extinction. Now if the lakes and rivers continue to shrink one wonders what will be left for the future generation. Poverty remains the main reason why people are depleting the natural resources. According to geographers some of the events are happening because of continued cutting down of trees, which has left some mountains bare. Even the good species of fish in the shrinking rivers and lakes are also not easy to find these days. As a country Malawi needs concerted efforts in making sure that the natural resources are well looked after.
Environmental activists have observed that high population and poverty are some of the reason why there is degradation. Because the same piece of land that used to support few people now has a larger population to support. This increasing number of people has to use the same trees and rivers. With time the country is experiencing some of the things that come about because of this. This is the reason why experts want to increase awareness on environmental issues.
As the world is experiencing climate change, Malawi has not been spared. Notably there are some areas that used to get good rains that enabled inhabitants to grow a lot of food and cash crops, but now the situation is different. It is reported that rains are not dependable. Sometimes these areas receive more than enough rains, which result in some of the crops being washed away. For this reason some of natural fruits and mushrooms that come with the rainy season fail to grow in such harsh conditions. At times the rains stop earlier than expected and crops wilt away. This is one of the reasons why environmentalists and agricultural experts are looking for solutions to the trend.
With the next general elections around the corner women in the country are trying anything possible to make their dreams come true. The women are leaving no stone unturned in fighting for equal opportunities with men. Reports have shown that women want to have the same number of female members of parliament as men. Although this failed in the last general elections the women feel this is the time to upset tables, thanks to some organisations that have pledged support to women aspirants. Some have actually asked government to declare some seats just for women. The women on their own are also demanding 50% of political participation. But should the women be given the position and political participation just because they are women? It would be nice if they worked very hard to get what they want in life not because of their sex.
Although there are all these efforts to empower women, some observers feel Malawi is not doing enough in these circles. It might be true that Malawi signed the SADC gender protocol that gave member states the powers to improve women participation in decision-making positions to 30%; government is far from achieving that goal. The current number of women in decision-making positions in the present government is not good enough. Observers have noted that out of the 27 High Court judges only 4 are women. Now it is over 10 years since the SADC protocol was signed but Malawi is very far away from realising its dream of making 30% of female representation in decision-making positions. As a country we need concerted efforts from all stakeholders so that as a country we make it and be a role model to other countries.
The recently conducted primary election by the United Democratic Front UDF in some parts of the country came with shocking results as only three women made it. Now if at party level only a handful women manage to go through primary elections, it means there is a lot of homework for Malawi. It is time Malawians took the initiative in making sure that the women's representation in the National assembly increases. Evidence has shown that since there are not many female members in the August House, it is difficult to formulate policies that would benefit women. People are only waiting patiently hoping the pattern will change in the remaining seats where primaries have not been conducted yet.
A recent case monitored in the electronic media disclosed that a man in Nkhotakota chopped his sister- in-law's hands and the woman's battling for her life in hospital. At the same time Marietta Samuel who is also a victim of gender-based violence is reported to be suffering silently at her home in Dowa. Samuel lost both hands when her husband chopped them for suspecting that she was going out with somebody. She is reported to have told the media that her mother passed away. Now Samuel has to take care of herself and her child.
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