MALAWI PRESS REVIEW October 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,
Some political analysts still think it is unwise for the Democratic Progressive Party executives to take it upon themselves and endorse President Bingu wa Mutharika as the party's presidential candidate without a convention. The analysts feel this is not the democratic way of choosing leaders.
Selling season of tobacco came to an end in October with good figures recorded. For the first time ever farmers came from the Auction floors with happy faces because of the good figures the ir tobacco was fetching on the market.
On food security, it is not clear whether reports in the international media that Malawi is a food secured country represent the real situation on the ground. This follows reports of food shortages in some 6 districts in the country.
The civil society organisation applauded government for showing some interest in the plight of tobacco tenants. Though tenants are at the helm of the country's economy their working and living conditions are very pathetic.
The Lomwe tribe has been blessed with the launch of a heritage centre at Chonde in Mulanje. They want to preserve their culture.
Finally the wrangles about what system the University of Malawi would follow when choosing students to go to various colleges seem to have ended with the selection of students. It seems not too many people are in favour of the quota system.
Some organisations continues to misuse funds that are meant for raising AIDS awareness. Government warned such organisation in the month of October that such organisations would face the law if they are caught.
Women have gone a step further in looking for success in the 2009 general elections. This time around the women would want to reach the Required 50%. Women would want to use their numbers to vote for each other.
The ruling Democratic Progressive Party DPP in the month surprised many people when it announced that some executive members of the party have endorsed president Bingu wa Mutharika as the presidential candidate for the party. This announcement has come at a time when the party is preparing to hold primary elections in constituencies in all the districts. Now if the executive committee decides to automatically hand pick Bingu without a convention it is something that has left people wondering as to why the members are taking it for granted that their views are the same as those of every member of the party. It should be noted that it is only the opposition United Democratic Front UDF that held a convention where members chose their presidential candidate.
Opposition United Democratic Front UDF in the month under review brushed aside allegations that the party is planning to field its candidates during the DPP primary elections in November so that they split votes. The DPP is set to do its primaries in November in all the constituents. According to reports the UDF will invade the primaries just to confuse the voters. It is common knowledge that the DPP and UDF do not see each other eye to eye as a result the former feels the later is capable of doing anything.
All is not well a regards the financial situation of the once mighty UDF. The party that used to boast of being economically stable with too much property now has resorted to begging from former leaders of the world. Reports have shown that the party's chairman and presidential candidate for the party in the 2009 general elections Dr Bakili Muluzi has gone a step further in searching for funds for the party. Muluzi who is also former president of the Malawi nation is reported to have gone to former president of neighbouring Tanzania Benjamin Nkapa to look for funds. Like any other stories the party has refuted the claims saying the national chairman has no intention of going to the said country .It should be noted that recent media reports disclosed that the party's international donors have stopped funding the UDF.
Press reports have disclosed that the Malawi Congress Party MCP has no other candidate who will challenge John Tembo who is going to contest for the position of president of the party. Unlike at the UDF national convention where members had two candidates to choose from, the MCP will just have to rubber stamp Tembo as its presidential candidate for the party in the 2009 general elections. It is reported that some members of the party openly declared that there is no other person who can lead the MCP other than Tembo himself. Some observers have crushed this belief, which they say promotes the old blood syndrome.
All seems to be set for the Democratic Progressive Party's primary elections. With just some days to the commencement of the primary elections reports have shown that the party has raised close to K9 million. The money has been realised from the fees that the aspirants paid the party to enable them contest on the party's ticket at primary level. According to some political analysts the primaries will be the real test to check if at all the party is democratic enough.
Some observers still think the Ngoni in Mzimba should not have given the title Ngwazi to president Bingu wa Mutharika because it only belonged to the late Dr. Kamuzu Banda. Being the first president of Malawi and the only person who broke the federation and brought Malawians independence the late Kamuzu Banda was indeed the right person for the title. The opposition Malawi Congress Party MCP whose founder is the late Kamuzu have condemned the Ngoni tribe in Mzimba for giving the title to Bingu. On the hand some political analysts have other views because they feel the late Kamuzu was a dictator and now giving the same title to Bingu is like likening his works to those of Kamuzu. Now this is most scaring because as a democratic country we are not supposed to have dictators.
However some observers feel Mutharika deserves to be called Ngwazi because of the way he is running the country.. Mutharika has turned the economy of Malawi beyond recognition that donors now have confidence in Malawi. At the same time Malawi's policies on agriculture have left some countries to wonder what happened to the country that used to beg food every year. Malawi now boasts as one of the countries with enough food to feed its citizens and donate the surplus to other countries.
The firing of Dr Hetherwick Ntaba as the Secretary General of Democratic Progressive Party has left many questions unanswered. Honourable Chimunthu Banda who is the minister of Transport has replaced Ntaba who was enjoying his political career and has been left with the job of political advisor. To the president just for the records Ntaba was dropped from the cabinet in a reshuffle some time ago and he is also not a member of parliament. The man who is famously known as the computer lost his parliamentary seat in 2004 but now wants to comeback.
With the close of the tobacco season in Malawi the press has disclosed 2008 was one of the best markets ever. It is reported that the gold leaf earned more than K75 billion. This according to economic experts is a good because it can contribute greatly to the country's economy It should be noted that this is the first time that tobacco prices were slightly good with an average of K370 per kilogramme.
A recent survey by the Centre For Social Concern has shown that poverty in the urban areas is increasing. As cost of living is o the in increasing a number of goods and services are also following the same trend. This is contrary to the amounts of money people receive as salaries. Another thing that has been observed is the cost of housing, which the monthly survey has disclosed, that is also going up. It remains a mystery as how people manage to make ends meet with the meagre salaries they get. Reports have shown that the cost of housing has gone up by 133% in the last 8 years.
Press reports have disclosed that Malawi will not cut down the prices of oil although this has happened on the international market. The situation will not be the same with Malawi finance minister Goodall Gondwe who has openly said Malawi cannot afford such cuts because the country is poor. Gondwe who has been praised for his prowess in running the most important ministry in the land also feel Malawi might not be directly affected by the economic crisis in the West.
Although reports continue to indicate that the kwacha has gained some strength, media reports have shown that Mozambican traders are shunning the currency. Foreign currency bureaus are refusing to change kwacha's because currently the Mozambican meticals has strength and the traders are not aware of how many kwachas can be to a metcals.
Despite an announcement that the country's economy is on the right track scores of people are still poor. This is evident by the structures that people live in. According to economic experts Malawi's economic performance should translate with the situation on the ground. Observers have discovered that the gap between the rich and poor is very wide. Living in the same country but it is only few individuals who are rich the majority are poor. A number of people live below the poverty line the figures show that more than 60% of the people live in dire poverty.
Just like any other year's subsidised fertilizer coupon programme this year has also not been spared from controversy. Earlier in the month of October analysts accused some ministers of politicising the coupon distribution. According to the press deputy minister Ellock Maotcha Banda is reported to have instructed the District Commissioner of Machinga district to sideline all opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) members. This sparked a lot of controversy with observers wondering why the programme, which has earned praises in other countries, should be politicised.
Following the misconceptions that some people had on the Fertilizer subsidy programme the deputy minister of agriculture and food security honourable Frank Mwenefumbo clarified the issues. The programme according to Mwenefumbo is supposed to benefit all those that are poor. Those that cannot afford to buy the fertilizer need the coupons so that they buy it at a subsidised price of K800 per bag. In the same lines the minister made it known that the coupon distribution should be accessible to all people without looking into their political and religious affiliations.
As the fertilizer coupon distribution has started there have been a lot of issues that have come up. A number of traditional leaders have asked government to consider increasing the number of coupons that has been allocated to villages. It seems there are a lot of people who need the coupons but the allocation is far too little to accommodate everybody. In some districts chiefs refused to take the few coupons in order to force government to increase their allocation. Such chiefs were only told to receive the little they were provided with lest they lose everything. It is still a doubtful if the programme is going to be a success on the ground.
Government in October banned selling of meat in all the shops especially beef that came from the lower shire districts of Nsanje and Chikwawa. The ban saw some families running without beef especially in the commercial City of Blantyre. The ban came following reports of foot and mouth disease. The situation made some shops lose business because some customers visit the shops only to buy meat and in the course of buying beef they buy other necessities. Now the scarcity of meat meant loss of business to some people. The good news is that the government uplifted the ban after some days.
Press reports have disclosed that although there is talk of Malawi having plenty of maize the parliamentary committee of agriculture revealed that some districts are facing a food shortage. According to a report by Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac) the committee chair honourable Vitus Dzoole some of the worst hit areas are in Mulanje, Mzimba, Thyolo, Zomba and Phalombe. It is believed that over 1.5 million people will face food shortage. Now it makes people wonder why Malawi is being recognised internationally for ending hunger when some citizens are sleeping on an empty stomach.
CIVIL SOCIETY AND RELIGIOUS GROUPS
The Muslim community in the month of October urged its members to be united and forgiving. Speaking at an National Ijtma Prayers where former president and presidential candidate of the United Democratic Front UDF, was in attendance speakers emphasized on the need for Moslems to be united. The advice could not have come at the right time especially when Bakili Muluzi and his vice former vice president Dr Cassim Chilumpha are not seeing each other eye to eye. Now the preaching of unity is just what exactly the 2 need.
Finally the Malawi Council of Churches have spoken on the famous wrangle Nkhoma and Livingstonia Synods of the Church of Central African Presbyterian church. The 2 sister synods have been in a wrangle over border with one accusing the other of encroaching into the other's area. This battle has been going on for some months and other churches have not commented on the issue so far. After such a long time the council of churches chairman Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe spoke of the need for the 2 synods to dwell in preaching unity and reconciliatory messages other than hate messages. Could this be a right step towards the right direction?
There was some good news for the Malawi nation in the press in the month of October. Some international organisation rated Malawi was recognised as one of the improving countries on governance. The Mo Ibrahim foundation found out that although Malawi maintained its position at 11 from 48 countries the country has managed to improve marginal national performances. The foundation is reported to have recognised the potential for Malawi'. This revelation should give Malawi should perhaps give the authorities the morale to continue in improving the economy.
The Malawi Law Society has condemned in strongest terms president Bingu wa Mutharika's attacks on lawyer Ralph Kasambara. Mutharika in his statement threatened to deal with Kasambara for his involvement in a case in which he is representing a milling company that has taken the president to court. Mulanje Milling Company challenged Mutharika's ban on selling of maize to bigger traders. Against this background the Malawi Law Society has condemned Mutharika's outbursts as they say it does not upheld the respect of the rule of law. It should be noted that Kasambara once served government as an Attorney General and the president appointed Dr Jane Ansah to replace the young lawyer.
After years of advocacy work on the tenancy bill government seems to have decided to do what is right for the tobacco tenants. The Centre For Social Concern CFSC has for some years been pressing for better working and living conditions of tobacco tenants. One of the steps was to ask government through the members of parliament to pass the labour tenancy bill, which has been around for some years to everybody's surprise the people behind the production of Malawi's main forex earner tobacco, are living in inhuman conditions. Now the news that government intends to protect lives of tobacco tenants is sweet music to organisations like CFSC. The battle to fight for the rights of tenants is now showing a green light
SOCIAL AND CULTURAL LIFE
President Bingu wa Mutharika officially launched a Lomwe heritage organisation called Muhlako wa Alhomwe at Chonde in Mulanje. Evidence has shown that not many Lomwes know their language therefore the new heritage centre will help in preserving the cultural beliefs of this tribe. Similarly the new Lomwe generation will be able to know their cultural beliefs because of the existence of the Centre. Some observers have however noted that all other tribes should follow this example so that the future generation is kept abreast with their cultural beliefs, At the launch of the centre senior chief Nkhumba of Phalombe was crowned Paramount Chief of the Lomwe tribe. That done some opposition party gurus have criticised Mutharika saying such a move is tantamount to tribalism.
There has been a great concern over the way authorities treat indigenous Malawians when approving children for adoption. Observers have noted that government is favouring foreigners when dealing with adoption. A number of people continue to face hussles when they want to adopt a child. Surprisingly foreigners always have it their way when they want to adopt a child. Memories are still fresh on how the civil society made noise when government approved pop star Madonna's adoption case. The civil societies were against the adoption of the One-year-old David Banda whose mother died after giving birth. The famous Madonna adopted David Banda after seeing him at an orphanage in Mchinji.
Malawi's prisons continue to be congested because of the suspects that are currently in the cooler. Observers have noted that the prisons continue to be congested because of the large numbers of suspects that are still on remand. Evidence shows that a number of people are still in prison and have not yet been brought to court to be proved guilty or not guilty. Reports have shown that after the press had written an article on a suspect who had been on remand for 17 years the suspect was released. Analysts have also attributed the congestion in prisons to the high number of people who are on remand and have not faced trial. Here one is tempted top ask why prison authorities do not inform the government about the overdue.
Mwanza district has always been haunted with a number of shocking news about people dying sudden deaths. It is in the same district where the famous accident happened where 4 cabinet ministers were killed in 1983. Reports also disclosed that a man and his wife stabbed a heavily pregnant woman and took away the baby. Such stories in Mwanza are not new. Just in the month of October another herbalists gave a concoction to people and ended up killing 3 people. The unlucky 3 were being accused of teaching children witchcraft. The herbalist is in custody. Perhaps such experiences should teach people to avoid any unknown concoctions. It is reported way back in 1967 a well known herbalist Bwanali ended up killing eight people after forcing them to drink Mwabvi. (A concoction believed to kill wizards and witches)
Press reports have revealed that there has been an increase in the number of children who are in prostitution. It is reported that even very young children practice prostitution because of poverty. A number of people claim they are commercial sex workers because of poverty and they take prostitution as the only way to make ends meet. Girls as young as 12 are involved in the trade. And one wonders what the future holds for such children in our country.
The Malawi Nations Examinations Board MANEB in October announced that there were less cases of cheating during this year's Malawi Schools Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations This is contrary to what happened last year when exam papers were being sold in the streets. The executive Director of the MANEB Mathews Matemba came under fire with scores of people demanding his removal. The Board had to prepare other exam because the first were heavily leaked. However this year the story is different because there was a lot of security. Could this mean Malawi has managed to contain cheating? It should be noted that a number of people continue to use fake MSCE certificates to find jobs. A recent case was that of Malawi Broadcasting Corporation MBC reporter Elita Nkalo. In recent months Television Malawi personalities Lekeni Kafwafwa and Augustin Mauwa were netted after they were caught with fake certificates.
The media in the month under review disclosed that the 2009 MSCE examination will be printed in South Africa.. This announcement has left some people wondering why MANEB is settling for South Africa after what happened last year. MANEB blamed last year's exam leakage to the fact that a South African printing company UNIPRINT contributed to the scandal. Some analysts still blame MANEB for settling to print national examinations in South Africa in order to cut costs. But in the end the exam body ended up wasting far too much money when it had to re examine some of the papers that were leaked. Press reports have shown that this year's MSCE were printed in the United Kingdom and it has been discovered there were no reports of a leakage. It remains questionable if at all the idea of
Reports that over 5 million Malawians are illiterate are disturbing and should be food for thought. It makes one wonder if at all the country will achieve the Education for All EFA by 2015. Surprisingly access to education is one of the issues that Malawi needs to achieve in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Reports have shown that the number of literate men is higher than that of women. This means that more women are illiterate. It should be noted that women make more that 50% of the country's population. Now this revelation should give stakeholders some homework on how the illiteracy levels can be lowered.
For some time the press carried articles of debates on the introduction of quota system when selecting possible candidates to the University of Malawi. Some observers were of the view that the quota system is discriminatory because it denies deserving students a chance to have access to a place in the institution of higher learning. On the other hand others feel the quota system should be applied so that each district has an equal number of students admitted to the college. At the end of the day the 2008 first year students were selected without using the quota system. May be this mean the issue is finally over.
The media has disclosed that there are plans to reduce the size of pupils in class in Malawi. Evidence shows that there is a lot of congestion in primary school classes and it becomes difficult for teachers to instil discipline in the pupils because they are too many. At the same time concentration on the part of the pupils becomes disturbed. With shortages of teachers and infrastructure the dream to reduce the size of classes will perhaps never materialise.
Government in the month complained over the way some organisations are misusing funds meant for AIDS. Press reports have disclosed that some organisations fail to use the funds they receive to fight AIDS. Instead the unscrupulous organisations are using the funds to maintain their lives. This is the reason why the secretary responsible for Nutrition and HIV/Aids in office of the president Dr Mary Shawa warned such organisations and individuals to take care because they risk facing the law if the trend continues.
There have been complaints from people who are HIV positive over the way they are being treated. Just when people thought Malawi should fight the stigma at all costs some people in Kuntaja in Blantyre are facing the challenge. Although government's fertilizer subsidy programme is an entitlement to all who cannot afford to buy fertilizer some of the HIV positive people are being denied coupons for the cheap farm inputs. This is contrary to what the programme is supposed to achieve. According to reports the same people are not accessing loans because they are being told point blank that with their status they might not be able to repay the loans because they will die anyway. Observers have condemned such acts because they only dent government's image as the coupon and some of the loan scheme are meant for the needy and the HIV positive people are some of them. Malawi as a God fearing nation should be in the forefront in avoiding discrimination at all costs
The Medical Council of Malawi did its homework to the full when it closed 200 illegal clinics. To begin with medicine is a career that needs well-qualified citizens who have the knowledge to save and serve people. Now in these times when trade is liberalised even those that have no medical qualification think they can make a few kwachas by running clinics. Others are running the clinics without a practicing licence from the medical council. All these reasons prompted the council to look into the issue so that the safety of Malawi citizens is taken care of. . According to the council it is only qualified medical personnel with a licence from the medical council that are allowed to operate health clinics in Malawi.
There was some shocking news about an AIDS researcher in the month under review. Indeed it has been some years since experts started to find a real drug to cure the deadly AIDS but to no avail. It is some years ago when the researchers came up with the antiretroviral drugs that only prolong life but do not completely cure the disease. In the month of October the press carried out an article of a researcher of Tanzanian citizenships whose medication killed 6 AIDS patients in Zomba. The researcher is reported to have put the patients on trial of his medication without their consent. To add salt to the injury the Tanzanian researcher was not a cancer specialist and yet he went ahead with the AIDS patients who had cancer. Reports further revealed that the drug he was administering was not registered at the Central Medical Stores. In these times of great need for treatment people need to be careful about what kind of medication they are given.
There have been great concerns over the way fires are happening in Malawi. Almost in the past 10 years a number of markets caught fire. In the course of the fires property is lost in millions. It is also by God's grace that most of the incidents that happened no life was lost. Environmentalists have again and again raised concerns over the rate at which markets and hospitals catch fire. Recently Dedza Hospital caught fire and patients had to be transferred to Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe On the environment part such fires also pollute the air that people breathe.
Still on the same issue of fires press reports disclosed that it is still unsolved on why some of the big forests catch fire. An example is that of Chikangawa forests, which has watchtowers, and control men who are supposed to do their jobs in making sure that the trees are not burnt. Despite the presence of these men the forest caught fire last month. Recent reports have also disclosed that Zomba Mountain had a good part of its trees burnt because of the fires. One wonders why such fires are left to damage a good part of the forests? It is common knowledge that not too many people plant trees. Now if the trees that are already there are lost in this fire one tends to wonder what the future of trees is in Malawi.
When people say the natural resources that Malawi has now might soon vanish if we do not care for the environment they really mean just that. This is evident by the shortage of the rare specie of fish in the Lake Malawi called Chambo. Reports have disclosed that as the years go by the Chambo is becoming scarce.. It is taking time for families in Malawi to have the delicious fish on their table. The scarcity of the fish has been caused by other factors like over fishing. The number of fishermen has gone up considerably. In response to such a scenario there have been several initiatives that would make the Chambo regain its former status
Observers have noted with great concerns on the way people litter the cities. Despite the good work that city assemblies do in making sure that cities are clean some citizens think other wise. Reports have shown that waste disposal even in the locations leaves a lot to be desired. For this reason a youth organisation in Zomba has refuse bankers that would help in making sure that residents dump their waste. According to reports in the refuse bank the waste is going to be sorted and some of it is turned into organic manure. This is a good project that will ensure that the beauty of the city is maintained.
The fight for gender equality continues as Malawi prepares to go into the next general elections. A number of women have shown interest to participate in the parliamentary elections. Surprisingly no woman is reported to have shown interest of contesting as a presidential candidate. Even parties are not showing any signs of including women as running mates. Currently there are less than 30 female parliamentarians in the August House. Press reports have shown that the number of women aspirants has gone up to 400. Perhaps the more aspirants we have the more likely Malawi is to have a bigger number of female representation in the National Assembly. It should be noted that although Malawi signed the SADC gender protocol in 1997 which stipulates that member states should have more than 30 % of women in decision making positions, 11 years after signing the protocol Malawi is far from reaching the required 30%.
With just some months to the general elections some women organisations have urged women in the country to turn out in large numbers to vote for female candidates. Evidence has shown that women who make more than half the country's population have greatly contributed to the success of men who are now holding respectable positions in Malawi. Therefore if the women showed the same support to fellow women who are going to contest in the next general elections more female aspirants would be able to make it in parliament. The gender organisations would want to use the numbers of women to help women succeed. Therefore it is up to the women voters to help all the women aspirants excel in the general election.
Some months after passing the Domestic Violence Bill, some people are still not aware of its existence. Press reports still continue to carry articles of victims of gender based violence. Reports continue to show that it is not only women and children who are falling victims of domestic violence but men as well. To the surprise of many a number of people believe the law is only applicable to men who victimise women. But evidence has shown that there are some men who are also victims and should use the same laws.
Media reports have revealed that a group of women in Chiradzulu district is running a campaign against gender-based violence. Chiradzulu is on record to have higher cases of gender based violence. Against this background a group called Tadzuka Women's Forum is raising awareness to the people on the forms of gender-based violence. Evidence has shown that some people are victims of gender based violence but do not know. At the same time some people do not report cases of domestic violence instead they hide and protect perpetrators of violence. These are some of the issues that the group could want to deal with. The work that the group is doing is a commendable job that other organisations should emulate.
On the same note the reports have shown that even in the workplaces people think gender based violence is all about men victimising women Surprisingly some women also victimise men. In this regard there should be a lot of awareness raising on the gender-based violence. One can safely say the whole confusion came about perhaps because of the approach that people took before the bill was passed. Almost all the organisations that made noise for the bill to be passed. were gender organisations and all the cases that appeared in the media portrayed women and children as the only victims. For this reason people still think this whole issue is all about women and children. There certainly is need to have new ways of sensitising the nation on the whole issue of domestic violence.
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