MALAWI PRESS REVIEW November 2008Malawi
From Centre For Social Concern (see our house)

News clippings with analysis
From the Major newspapers
in Malawi


Compiled by the
Center for Social Concern (CFSC)
Box 40049 Lilongwe 4
Area 25
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,

PREVIEW

Observers have given the ruling Democratic Progress Party (DPP) very slim chances of winning the 2009 presidential and parliamentary race; did the primary elections contribute to this feeling? A lot of anomalies were reported and some areas are still under tension because of disagreements within the party. DPP needs to look into all the problems thoroughly if it is to save the party from total defeat.

There is good news from government on its stand on signing the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs). The Malawi government will not sign the agreement because it will not benefit the country.

President Bingu wa Mutharika received another award for his efforts in making Malawi a food secured nation. The world food body Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) awarded Mutharika with the Agricola award for a job well done in turning Malawi from a food insecure nation to being food secure.

The claims by the FEDOMA that some minibus operators abuse people living with disabilities should give all stakeholders some homework on what should be done to avoid such occurrences at all costs. Just like any Malawian, people with disabilities have a right to public transport.

Finally the issue concerning which system the University of Malawi (UNIMA) was going to use when choosing candidates to start first year in all the colleges came to rest when the much talked about quota system was discontinued. Instead UNIMA used the same old system. One can wonder who is behind this? Another form of centre ruling over the periphery?

Faith leaders came together to discuss climate change. What role should faith leaders play in talking to their faithful about climate change and its effects on the environment? They command masses and therefore are well placed to communicate to their congregation on the urgency of halting environmental degradation. We all need to be part of the solution!

The availability of funds in the 50-50 campaign should give women more encouragement that this time around we might have more than 50% of female members of parliament in the National Assembly.

POLITICS

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the month under review held primary elections in preparing for the 2009 elections. A number of complaints and squabbles came about in the process. It all started with other members complaining that some regional governors were giving members of the party's national governing council an upper hand even way before the primaries were conducted. During the elections some aspiring candidates complained of intimidation and other anomalies that led to them losing. Meanwhile some analysts have noted that if the disputes that are coming up are left unresolved DPP might be giving a chance to the opposition to dominate parliament again.

Meanwhile some aspirants who have been frustrated with the way the primary elections were conducted have threatened to leave the party together with their supporters. This is what most people expected because according to reports some aspirants were not given an equal footing with the favoured aspirants. In the meantime there are still some areas where the primary elections have not been conducted because of other disagreements and were postponed. Surprisingly up to date the DPP has not set another time for disputed primaries.

With just some months to the general elections the opposition are leaving no stone unturned in making sure that they make it to the 'hot seat'. Press reports have disclosed that although the two major opposition parties the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and United Democratic Front (UDF) would want to form an alliance there are still some issues that both sides are failing to agree on. The two parties are failing to come up with one stand on who exactly should lead the coalition between president of MCP, John Tembo, and Bakili Muluzi leader of the UDF. Observers have noted that both leaders have great ambitions of becoming president; therefore it is not going to be easy for one of the two to give up. Against this background the future of the alliance still looks blurred.

Still on the issues of the general elections the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), announced that it will no longer have District Commissioners as returning officers. This development has pleased the opposition because they have always alleged the bias that the DCs have always shown during elections. Opposition members have alleged that almost every election the returning officers had a hand in helping the government of the day to rig the elections. Now the announcement that the DCs will not be taken on board seems to be good news to the opposition.

In the month of November the main opposition party MCP chose leader of the party Honourable John Tembo to lead the party in the 2009 general elections. The party chose Tembo at a colourful convention held at Natural Resources College in Lilongwe. Despite Tembo's assurance that he is a changed person some of the general public and the government still has some doubts over such utterances. Honourable Tembo is noted for being behind some of the atrocities that happened during the one party era. Now the DPP led government feels Tembo is only trying to save his face when he says he has changed. To prove this he should just quit politics. The MCP won most of the parliamentary seats in the Central Region during the last general elections.

Some observers have noted that who elsewhere would be considered elderly statesmen, still are the top most brass is still controlling political parties in Malawi. Despite having members at all levels, the grassroots in almost all the parties in the country do not make decisions. Evidence has shown that all the decisions are made by the people at higher level of the party leaving the grassroots with no choice but to just follow blindly. At the same time evidence has shown that the leaders also own political parties. For example one would safely say the MCP is owned by Honourable John Tembo and Dr Bakili Muluzi UDF. This according to observers is not a good situation in as afar as democracy is concerned.

The relationship between president Bingu wa Mutharika and his predecessor Dr Bakili Muluzi is far from being good. The two who were very good buddies to the extent that the later got sick after tirelessly campaigning for the former. Now the situation has gone from bad to worse with the senior citizens openly exchanging bitter words. The press disclosed that the former leader and the incumbent blasted each other in letters about each other's sickness. Muluzi claimed Mutharika is very sick and Mutharika answered by saying it is Muluzi who is sick and keeps going for medical check ups. He added that everyone is aware that Mutharika is in good health because he plays golf when he has the time. But some observers have noted that as leaders the two should not be talking about each other in the press because such tendencies cannot improve the situation if anything it will only deteriorate.

ECONOMY

Malawian motorists might soon start enjoying reduced fuel prices. This according to experts could come about because of the reduced fuel prices globally. The Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) noted that government might decide to cut the prices of fuel. Could this mean that people will now be paying less when they want to buy fuel? Such development is welcome news to most Malawians who are struggling to make ends meet.

As the civil society organisations continue asking government not to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement ( EPAs), the private sector thinks otherwise. The civil society is advocating for a no to the EPAs because they feel, as small economies African countries might not benefit from signing the agreement. Against this background the civil society organisations including the Centre For Social Concern (CFSC) continue to enlighten all stakeholders why Malawi should not sign the agreement. Government is appreciating the work of these civil society groups as it has made it clear that this country will not sign the EPAs. It should be noted it is only Zambia, which signed the EPAs interim agreement in the whole SADC region.

The Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) in the month of November made it known that Malawi should improve on its exporting capacity so that the forex reserves are improved. This follows the fact that the import cover for Malawi continues to be on a lower side year in year out. During his inauguration speech president Bingu wa Mutharika encouraged Malawians to produce more goods of good quality so that they can export to other countries. Mutharika spoke of turning Malawi into a producing and exporting nation. Evidence has shown that although there are some efforts to realise that dream, there is a lot that needs to be done. According to RBM Malawi sometimes relies on donor inflow to maintain its forex reserves but this cannot be fully relied on because donors might decide to stop giving Malawi the much-needed aid. Therefore Malawi should find other means of maintaining its forex reserves.

Although many reports continue to paint Malawi's economy as being on the right track, luck of employment continues to haunt the country. Evidence has shown that employment needs in Malawi are on a higher side as even a good number of graduates roam around the streets searching for employment. Against this background the Institute People's Management Malawi (IPMM) noted that Malawi is creating less jobs compared to the number of people who are looking for work. Statistics show that Malawi creates only 35,000 jobs per year when it is 350,000 new people who are looking for the same jobs annually. The 350,000 people join some people who did not get jobs the years before. This means there are a lot of people looking for employment.

Development could easily be noted if people's levels of poverty are going down. But this is not the case because according to Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN) has observed that in recent times poverty has continued to spread among Malawians. MEJN has noted that despite the good efforts in improving the economy the status of many people is still below the standard.

FOOD SECURITY

Although some reports show that there is plenty of maize (the staple grain) available in Malawi, evidence has shown that this is not a true picture of the situation on the ground. Latest reports continue to show that there is a shortage of the grain at the moment. In some districts the situation is worse than last year. During last year's season it was reported that there was plenty of food but some people were still starving to the extent of eating treated seeds. Some food analysts feel government should not be carried away by reports that are painting a too optimistic picture of Malawi being food secure. Instead authorities should address the situation before things get out of hand. In the same line the press disclosed that there is no maize in some ADMARC depots forcing the authorities to temporarily close the markets. Now if ADMARC has no maize one wonders where it can be found.

Surprisingly there seems to be plenty of maize in the Northern Region. Although some districts in the Southern Region are at risk of starvation everything is rosy for the Northern Region. According to the district commissioner of Mzimba there is a lot of maize. This means that the region will not need any food from other districts. Surprisingly an earlier report had shown that Mzimba is among other districts does not have enough maize.

It is sad to learn that four years after the introduction of fertilizer subsidy programme in Malawi there are still some problems that remain unresolved. Every year there complaints that either the coupons are being abused or the coupons are not enough. The same problems are faced every year and it seems they are not resolved. Whatever happens the programme should be monitored closely to avoid the reoccurrence of these problems that are marring what is a good initiative.

Still on the same issue some reports have shown that people have a gone a step further in trying to cheat in order to access more fertilizer subsidy coupons. A case is reported in Dowa district where people are registering ghost villages. These people include some the Ministry of Agriculture officials, villagers and traditional leaders who would want to benefit more than others. Against this background authorities need to deal with such unscrupulous officials. Meanwhile some recipients of the subsidy coupons have complained that there is sand in the feltilizer. No comments from the allegations have been made so far.

Although there are reports of food shortages locally international organisations are still impressed with the way things are in Malawi in terms of food security. Press reports indicate that president Mutharika has been awarded yet another award on food security. This time around it is the world body Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). According to media reports FAO is impressed with the way president Mutharika has managed to maintain food security in the country. The Food Organisation has awarded Mutharika with an Agricola award for all his efforts. This is good news to all Malawians.

CIVIL SOCIETY AND RELIGIOUS GROUPS


The Moslem community held hands together in praying for the rain. As the rainy season has just started one might not be too sure if the rains might continue or not. For this reason the Moslem community felt there was need to ask for divine intervention. The coming of the rains in good time means Malawi should expect another bumper harvest if the gardens are taken care of. In this regard the Moslems urged other faith leaders to encourage people to care for their gardens because with plenty of water but no care for the plants people will harvest poor crops.

Press reports have revealed that some donors who fund NGOs have partially lost confidence in some organisations. According to reports the donors released funds that were supposed to be for increased women participation in the next general election. This led to some heads of gender NGOs to aspire for parliamentary seats in areas of their choices. What has surprised some observers is that the gender organisation leaders announced their political ambitions and resigned from their jobs barely some days after their companies got funding. It should be noted that the donors released the money so that the organisations would fight for more women in the National Assembly. The confusion is whether the organisations will do their job fairly with the ex-bosses being some of the beneficiaries.

As the country is getting prepared for the next general elections in 2009 the Civil Liberties Committee (CILIC) advised parties to be tolerant. It has always been an issue before and after elections in Africa people fight for positions. A lot of things are said during campaign and can easily provoke reactions. This is the reason why there are so many political conflicts among politicians worldwide because politicians are not prepared enough to be on the losing side. At the same time CILIC observes that if the parties continue to be violent it might create fears among voters forcing them, to stay away during voting. It is all up to the parties to take it seriously so that there are less cases of voter apathy next year.

Still on the issue of elections the civil society have again been trusted with the duty of civic educating the masses before the elections. As it has always been the case the voters need voter and civic education so that they know what exactly is happening. Some civil society organisations did the job in previous elections and made sure that people knew when to register and the importance of going to vote. The electoral body Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) recently picked only 34 organisations that are expected to do civic education despite accrediting 75 organisations previously. The poor availability of funds has restricted MEC to allocate funding to the 34 organisations to do the civic education. Reports have disclosed that previously MEC was doing the civic education on its own. At least the coming in of the NGOs will ease MEC's job.

 

SOCIAL AND CULTURAL LIFE

Press reports in the month of November disclosed that there is still an increase in murder cases in Mzimba district. Reports have shown that a number of people have lost their lives at the hands of fellow citizens. It is also possible that some cases might not have been reported and the number could even be more than what appeared in the press. But the Police have attributed the killings that happen in Mzimba district to the people's culture. The people in Mzimba are of the Ngoni tribe and therefore move around with knives and pangas. With these tools at hand they are easily accessible when an argument arises. But the Ngoni traditional leaders have denied such allegations.

Minibus operators came under attack in the month of November when the people living with disabilities complained of harassment they face when boarding the buses. According to the Federation of Disabled Persons in Malawi (FEDOMA), minibus drivers and conductors are still harassing some of its members. It is reported that some conductors force the people living with disabilities to pay a double fare. The second being for the walking aids. Sometimes the minibus operators refuse to carry those that are visually impaired. Now the rights of the visually impaired people are being violated. Just like anyone else they have a right to travel using public transport. It needs concerted efforts from all stakeholders

Although there are other negative reports about Malawi on child welfare, the African Child Policy Forum has ranked the country as one of best in child friendliness. Malawi is on position 10 out of the 52 countries in Africa. Now such a position should give Malawi encouragement to do more in other areas on children. Many children still do not have access to education and protection. Children's needs in Malawi require serious attention.

On the same note some non-governmental organizations in November managed to rescue 8000 children from labour employment. It is common knowledge in Malawi that people prefer to use children in their farms and estates because they are cheap. Children can easily be deceived by not paying them at the end of the month but the situation is different when one employs a full-grown man or woman. Against a background of poverty among Malawians a number of children are not in school but instead are employed. For this reason the Creative Centre for Community Mobilization (Crecom) together with the Integrated Child Labour Elimination Project (ICLEP) are sensitising the communities to send their children to school and not working in estates.

The press also covered the issue of alcohol abuse among people in Malawi especially the youth. The youth drink heavily to the extent that government has concerns over the issue. According to the minister of Home Affairs, the tendency of drinking heavily and drug abuse deters economic development. However it is good to note that government intends to set measures to curb the habit of heavy drinking and drug abuses.

EDUCATION

Although there were hot debates on the reintroduction of quota system during selection of candidates to go to University of Malawi colleges, reports show that some members of the senate wanted to impose it. Despite a number of people not being in favour of the system, some members of the university council wanted it. The quota system allows each district to have an equal number of people going to the university which means that some with high rates of performance would miss out. It also means that a measure of democracy is applied to the selection process. Now stories of the reintroduction of the system appeared in the press and various members of the society spoke against it and finally it was not used. Students this year were admitted to the University of Malawi on merit and not using the quota system. Thus democracy failed to influence the access to higher education. It was also misrepresented that those from districts would not have to fulfil some minimum basic requirements. A mature discussion should be held as to who profits by what system. It could be that the 'centre' actually won the argument to the loss of the periphery.

The ministry of education in the month announced that it would like to go back to the old school calendar. In the previous calendar a school year would start in September and end in July the following year. This calendar had its advantages as students wrote their final examinations in cool months. At the same time observers have also noted this calendar allows students to do their practicals in the gardens because a good part of the growing season the students are still in school. Similarly the agriculture practicals are easily done because of the availability of rains during part of the terms. However some observers have advised the ministry to take extra care in trying to implement the changes. Currently the school calendar runs from January to October the same year.

With just some years to the 2015 when Malawi is expected to meet one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) some experts have discovered that education should be declared compulsory to all. The experts feel it is only by making education compulsory that Malawi can achieve Education For All (EFAs) by the year 2015. Education for All is one of the MDGs that countries need to achieve by the year 2015. According to the Limbani Nsapato of Africa Network Campaign for Education For All the network plans to lobby to make education compulsory to all children and those with special needs.

The Moslem community in the month of November announced that it was going build a university in the country. The announcement according to some experts has come at the right moment when school leavers are failing to go to institutions of higher learning because of shortage of places. It should be noted that other Christian denominations like the Catholics and Presbyterians have universities that give tertiary education to students from different religious affiliations. The plans to open a new university have given hope to the education sector in accommodating more students in institutions of higher learning.

HEALTH

The beginning of the rainy season always comes with water borne diseases cholera being one of them. Press reports have disclosed that Chikwawa district, which lies in the Lower Shire, is at a higher risk of having a cholera outbreak. For this reason the ministry of health launched a campaign against the disease. Chikwawa district recorded 102 cases of cholera last year. It should be noted that almost every year the people in Chikwawa district are exposed to cholera because of the floods that the area experiences. With this campaign the ministry of health expects to have a cholera-free area by the year 2015, which would mean fewer deaths in Chikwawa.

Chikwawa district seems to be on a health crisis with cases of a number of diseases reported in the month of November. With the rainy season around people in the district are exposed to a lot of mosquitoes that end up spreading malaria. Reports have shown that the district reports 11,000 malaria cases every month. It should be noted that malaria is one of the major killers in the world. Currently the ministry of health is running a campaign to encourage pregnant women and children to sleep under a mosquito net. Some of the nets are being sold at a reduced price of K50.00 to all expectant women.

For a long time people in Malawi have complained of dilapidated structures and worn out equipment in hospitals. Just recently press reports disclosed some theatres in government hospitals failing to operate on patients because of lack of equipment or damaged equipment. But Malawians can now afford a smile because the ministry responsible promised the nation that government might soon start rehabilitating these equipments. According to the ministry of health shortage of equipment is one of the reasons the sector is losing its professionals.

It is common knowledge that the AIDS pandemic is still a headache to many nations. The Malawi nation has not been spared from the problems that have come about because of HIV/AIDS. Many hospitals are always full because of some people who are suffering from HIV/AIDS related diseases. This means that the small number of medical personnel has to attend to the congested wards in hospitals. Similarly because of the congestion, the medical supplies easily run out. It also results in loss of resources as hospital budgets shoot up because of the increased number of patients.

The Malawi nation observed an HIV testing week in the month of November. Just like the previous year the week involved voluntary testing so that people are aware of their sero status. It also involved counselling the people especially couples. According to the ministry responsible they expected to test over 250,000 people. The target was mainly married couple, the youth and those that were wishing to get married. This is the third year for government to conduct a National HIV testing week. And has received recognition globally for the efforts in fighting HIV/AIDS.

ENVIRONMENT

Some residents in Blantyre, Neno and Lilongwe have had the feel of this year's heavy rains when their houses were blown off. According to reports residents in the Malawi Housing Corporation newly built houses at Gulliver in Lilongwe had a rude awakening when they were made homeless after a heavy downpour. Surprisingly these are new buildings. This is not the only incident. Bearing these incidents in mind some observers have noted there is need to have more ground cover so that when heavy winds blow there is less damage to life and property.

With so many complaints about the wanton cutting down of trees government and other stakeholders are advocating for other alternatives to the use of charcoal as a form of energy. Evidence has shown that the country is losing its trees at an alarming rate. This is evident by the fact that there are mountains and forests that used to be green but is now almost bare. All this points at charcoal, which is burnt from the trees. The charcoal sellers continue the trade because they know they have a ready market in almost each and every home. Against this background government wants to vigorously campaign for the use of briquettes as an alternative to charcoal. Surprisingly reports show that this is good trade where they earn plenty of income but there is no tax attached to it because it is still illegal.

Centre For Social Concern (CFSC) a faith-based organisation hosted a workshop for religious communities on the environment. The workshop aimed at sensitising the faith communities of the environment and climate change. Among other things the people present sought ways in which they can control climate change but at the same time avoid being controlled by it. Observers have noted that with other stories making headlines in the press issues on climate change are rarely covered making it difficult for people to understand. Perhaps more coverage on climate change would make people aware of what is happening in the environment.

Weather experts in the month under review spoke of the expected rainfall for Malawi. As the country has started receiving some rains the Department of Meteorology has assured Malawians that the country will receive good rains. The announcement is good news to all farmers as it means another bumper harvest if the gardens are taken care of. This expected scenario is completely the opposite of what happens in some years when the rains would change patterns making it difficult to plant other crops. Therefore the expected good rains are a blessing to Malawi.


GENDER

Newsreaders in the month of November woke up to some shocking revelation that a man had his private parts severed by his wife. The newspapers had an article of a man who claimed his wife had cut his private parts after he came home late. The victim further begged the nation to give some attention to men who are suffering from different forms of domestic violence. According to some observers the focus has always been on women and children. Against this background a lot of awareness campaigns gave a different picture that it is only women and children who are victims. As a result most of the cases reported always portrayed men as perpetrators. The reported cases reported always portrayed men as perpetrators. While men are sometimes victims, it still remains true that it is women and children who are the main victims of gender abuse.

Malawi being one of the member states in the SADC region is leaving no stone unturned as it fights for women empowerment. The SADC region would want to have 50% of women in decision-making positions. Against this background Malawians have vowed to try all ways possible in making sure that the 50% is achieved during the next year's general elections. For this reason stakeholders came up with a campaign called 50-50 to make sure that during next year's general elections half of the members of parliament are women.

The plea to have female candidates, as running mates seems to have caught some political parties attention. Some political parties have taken note of that and have incorporated women as their running mates. Stanley Masauli and his executive of Republican Party (RP) chose a woman Sophie Kuthyola who is the party's vice president. The Maravi People's Party (MPP) also tried its luck to lure Margaret Mbilizi to become the party's running mate. Mbilizi turned down the offer because she is busy with her career in the United States of America. Despite Mbilizi turning down the offer the effort by MPP's president Uladi Mussa should be applauded. Other parties should emulate these good examples.

Malawi in the month of November joined the rest of the world in commemorating 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. This year's theme is Human Rights for Women, Human Rights for All. During the 16 days government, activists and other stakeholders advocate for a violence free period. With the ever-increasing cases of gender based violence and human rights abuses, all stakeholders sensitise the masses to shun abuses against women. As it is the case in a number of countries women continue to be victims as they suffer silently. In some cases women's human rights are violated without the female citizens' knowledge. Therefore a lot has to be done in making sure that the victims and the perpetrators are both aware of each other's rights.


Bill Turnbull
Fr. Bill Turnbull

Center for Social Concern (CFSC)
Box 40049 Lilongwe 4
Area 25
Next to St. Francis Parish
Tel: 01 715 632
billturnbull@cfscmalawi.org
Website : http://www.cfscmalawi.org