MALAWI PRESS REVIEW September 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

The search for running mates is getting harder and harder because currently there is no party that has one. It is only the main opposition party MCP that is showing signs of trying to identify one. The faster the people know a running mate for their party the better.

Malawians briefly breathed a sigh of relief when the MCP president John Tembo said section 65 wrangles would be a story of the past. Surprisingly it is the same Tembo who was insisting that the issue should be sorted out once and for all.

Reports that there are so many delays when one wants to open a business should give authorities food for thought. With so many procedures that have to be followed when setting up a business it becomes frustrating and one might just give up on the process. This may lead to the loss of many potential investors.

It seems the food status in Malawi is attracting the interest from international organisations, with some rewarding the Malawi government for enabling the country to be a food secured nation. May be the fertilizer subsidy programme is a good project after all.

Civil society organisations commended Zimbabwe's leaders for finally agreeing on a power sharing deal. The political situation was becoming more and more deplorable following the tension between the opposition and government in that country. The world and Africa in particular are eagerly waiting for Zimbabwe's leaders to come up with a lasting political solution.

September media reports have shown that more teens now go for HIV testing. This is the opposite of what was happening in the past when a number of teens feared to know their sero status.

Could people safely say examination cheating is now decreasing? Reports show that there were less cases of cheating during the Junior Certificate Examination and Primary School Leaving Certificate examination this year. Perhaps students have realised that cheating is a waste of time.

Just when people expected leaders to lead by example in managing the environment some are actually assisting those who deplete the forests. Where then can one expect to get advice from and avoid deforestation?

POLITICS

It is now evident that the issue of a running mate in the main opposition party Malawi Congress Party MCP is an important that needs to be tackled with urgency. This is the case not only for the MCP but also for other political parties. Just recently the United Democratic Front UDF announced that it still has a lot of time to identify a presidential running mate. Unlike the UDF the MCP is currently searching for one. The MCP is trying to make hay while the sun is shining. Reports have disclosed that MCP president and candidate for the 2009 general election honourable John Tembo has allegedly approached some people to be his running mate. Rumour has it that he met the sole Alliance For Democracy AFORD legislator Loveness Gondwe for a possible alliance. Gondwe denied the meeting took place. Tembo is also alleged to have approached Peter Kaleso and Mark Katsonga to become his running mate.

It was a month of surprises for newsreaders in the political circles. The Malawi Congress Party MCP announced that it has finally given up on Section 65. After months and weeks of cat and mouse chase over the issue with the government MCP feels it should stop pursuing the matter. The party, which is the main opposition party in the National Assembly, announced it would rather concentrate on the 2009 general election. According to the party it is time to give attention to the campaign. To the ruling Democratic Progressive Party DPP this is good news as it is the same MCP that vowed not to rest until the Section 65 was tackled. Surprisingly the MCP has lost less than 10 MPs to the defections.

Political analysts have commended the ruling DPP's plans to hold primary elections in all the constituencies in the country. This announcement has come at the right moment when political observers warned the party over the controversies that have come up because of the issue. Earlier press reports had disclosed political tension within the DPP as some members felt the party is going to treat incumbent MPs with a kid's grove so that they have an upper hand in the 2009 general elections. Therefore the revelation that all aspirants are going to be treated equally is good news for democracy. So far it is only the opposition United Democratic Front UDF that has held a convention to choose a presidential candidate and primary elections.

Just like last year it seems government once again might not keep some of the agreements it made to pave way for the passing of the 2008/2009#. With the opposition members of parliament making the majority in the National Assembly they wanted to deal with Section 65 as their priority. However the government and opposition sides of the August House struck a deal so that the other issues could be dealt with at a later stage. According to press reports this might not happen because one of the things that both sides agreed on has already been violated. It is still not clear if at all the promised seating will take place.

Unlike some politicians who think they are inseparable with politics veteran politician Aleke Banda proved such people wrong when he announced his retirement this month. Banda who is president of the opposition People's Progressive Movement PPM has done what many politicians do not dream of. This is a good example that should be emulated by other politicians to give room to new blood.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party DPP seems to be sailing in troubled waters, as we grow closer to the elections. A number of squabbles among aspiring candidates in several constituencies have been reported. In Blantyre the tussle is between reigning parliamentarian John Bande who is also deputy minister of information and presidential political advisor Francis Mphepo. It is reported that supporters of both camps stoned each other some time ago, a thing that might cause divisions in the party. The situation is not different in Mwanza where Minister of Labour Davis Katsonga and party's publicity secretary Nicholas Dausi are fighting for the same constituency. The earlier these problems are solved the better.

All does not seem fine in the UDF camp as regards its relationship with the New Republican Party NRP. Reports have shown that there was some agreement that the UDF should not field candidates in areas where the NRP has a candidate and the same applied to the NRP. Now it is confirmed that the NRP has fielded candidates in the areas that where the UDF is strong, a thing that has not amused the later. This has also caused an unnecessary feud between the 2 political bedmates. The future of the relationship between the 2 parties has been soured slightly as a result.

ECONOMY

This year's tobacco earnings could be described as one of the best following the good prices the leaf was fetching on the market. At the same time the volume of the gold leaf was very high. This is what General Manager of the Tobacco Control Commission TCC disclosed in the month. With this scenario reports show that tobacco has fetched a lot of money in the country this year. Although the tobacco season is not yet over the average price of the leaf stands at K233.00per kilogramme. This is on a high side compared to what was happening in the previous growing season. One can only hope that the tenants who worked very hard in the tobacco estates are also enjoying the fruits of their labour after a successful tobacco season.

Despite the fact that the tobacco-selling season is still on reports have shown that there is a shortage of foreign exchange. It is commonly known that during the tobacco season there is a lot of forex. Again it is in line with the sales of tobacco because it is done mainly in United States dollars. To have shortage of forex in a country like Malawi is a deplorable situation because we mainly rely on imports. To import goods from other countries a country needs a lot of forex. A number of companies still need forex to import things for manufacturing their products. Even the hospitals need foreign exchange to operate effectively because some of the equipment has to be imported.

Motorists found it very hard to conduct business in the month of September because of the fuel shortage that Malawi is experiencing. As if the increase in price of fuel was not enough the motorists had to run up and down searching for fuel. In other cases business was interrupted because of the shortage. In big cities commuters were made to change from one bus to the other after the previous one had run out of fuel. Does the shortage mean there is poor planning somewhere?

Economists have learnt with great concern the news that Malawi continued to fall on the World Bank business index. Reports have shown that would-be investors find it very hard to do business in Malawi because of the environment. The procedures that one has to go through when they want to open businesses are cumbersome. One has to fill about 11 documents unlike in Tanzania where only five are filled. On the other hand the inconsistent power supply and theft are some of the things that make it a bit difficult for inventors to start business in Malawi. Out of the 181 economies, Malawi is on 134 on the list of its flexibility in doing business. Last year Malawi was on position 127. This revelation calls for intervention from all stakeholders if we re to improve. Relevant authorities need to look into the issues of concern so that Malawi can continue to attract more investors.

FOOD SECURITY

The Center For Social Concern CFSC in the month under review added its weight to government's move in setting up a price for maize. Having spoken on the need to have a standard price for maize CFSC advised government to do so to avoid unnecessary hording and shortages. Now the price of maize is at K2, 500 per 50-kilogram bag. The concerns on the shortages of maize and exorbitant prices seem to have been solved because buyers are now aware that there is a price band for the maize they are buying. This makes it easier for consumers to question traders who sell the grain at higher prices than the government set price.

Although government came up with the price band for the staple grain some observers feel the price is still very high. Some observers feel that the price set at K2, 500.00 per 50-kilogram bag means that there is not much grain in the country hence the high price. If there was a lot of supply of the grain in the country the price would have been a bit lower. At the same time some analysts feel the price is too high for an ordinary Malawian. It is going to be difficult for some low-income earners to fish out K2500 every month just for maize when other basic needs in the home have not been acquired. This could possibly mean that some families will have no food in some months especially during the lean period of January and February.

Government in the month under review lifted a ban on the sale of maize it had imposed on grain traders. In its bid to control maize trade government announced that it would only allow ADMARC the national grain marketer to buy and sell maize. This is a move that did not please a number of local traders who felt they were not consulted and that ADMARC would not manage to do the job. Other observers noted that ADMARC would not have managed to do the job because financially all is not well with the statutory company. At the same time some of its markets are in the most remote areas therefore it is difficult to reach them. Now that government lifted the ban consumers can buy the grain anywhere.

In recognition of President Bingu wa Mutharika's achievements in making Malawi a food secured nation, the Food and Agricultural Natural Resources Policy and Analysis Network FANRPAN awarded the first citizen with an Annual Food Security Leadership Award. This is no mean achievement for Malawi as it is the first country to receive such a prestigious award. If Malawi is being recognized by such a big organization it should be a morale booster to all stakeholders to yearn for more by working hard. On the other hand some analysts have questioned where the outsiders get the information that Malawi is a hunger free nation when some people are actually starving. The situation on the ground is normally not always exactly what the outside world thinks. It is good picture of Malawi's food status. This is the trend that some observers feel should be observed at all times.

CIVIL SOCIETY AND RELIGIOUS GROUPS


The Muslim community in the month under review celebrated the holy month pf Ramadan. The holy month is one of the main pillars of Islam. During the month people are expected to fast from dawn to dusk. All Muslim faithful are expected to refrain from immorality during the month. Ramadhan is supposed to last the whole month and they break it at the sighting of a new moon. This is when the fasting ends with celebrations across the globe.

A number of civil society organizations in the month opposed government's plans to allow genetically modified GMOs products in the country. Among other things organisations feel there should be thorough consultations on the safety of GMOs. Reports have shown that some African countries have said no to the importation of GMOs. Some people feel the GMO seeds are expensive because they cannot be recycled because after harvest the seeds cannot be used the following year. Now for an ordinary farmer this scenario is not practical because people would want to save some money by not buying seeds every growing season. At the same time some observers feel GMOs are capable of causing some hiccups in the environment.

The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation CHRR in the month applauded Bingu wa Mutharika for his efforts in uplifting the lives of women in Malawi. Mutharika's government could possibly be best described as the government that has on several occasions given some women high positions progresses in society. This is what the members in the SADC region are also advocating. As the fight to have more than 30% of women representation in decision making positions the present government is doing all it can to meet the required percentage. What remains is the support from all stakeholders.

As the political tension in the neighboring Zimbabwe seems to have eased the NGOs in the country have commended the latest development. The opposition leader Morgan Tsvangarai and president Robert Mugabe signed a power sharing deal. In the historic deal that was chaired by South African president Thabo Mbeki , Mugabe is the president and Tsvangarai is the prime minister. Against this background civil society has commended the move that it is in the right direction. It should be noted that the opposition and Mugabe have not been seeing eye to eye, and now that the tension is over, what remains is the leaders to concentrate on developing the country.

With some months left to the general elections observers have noted that there are still some problems that need to be dealt with. Press reports have disclosed that some organizations would have wanted intensive voter and civic education before the registration exercise. Experience from the past elections has shown that although a lot of people register for the general elections some abstain from voting. Other observers have blamed the electoral body Malawi Electoral Commission Mec for the delay in accrediting organizations that will perform voter and civic education. This delay according to experts is what has left some people wondering if at all people are aware of the registration exercise and the importance of registering.

 

SOCIAL AND CULTURAL LIFE

Civil Liberties Committee, a local Non Governmental Organisation in the month of September urged Malawians to support each other economically. According to the Executive Director of the organization Mrs. Emmie Chanika, it is high time Malawians changed their tendency of pulling each other down. Observers have noted with great concern that a number of people would rather buy goods from foreigners at the expense of fellow Malawians. It only takes people with a changed perception to appreciate and buy locally made goods. This has to be changed if we are to uplift fellow Malawians in their businesses.

A survey in the month of September as shown that more and more teens have now opened up in going for HIV testing. This is contrary to what used to happen some years ago. HIV testing was a word that many people did not want to hear. Now that the youth have decided to know their sero status it is a commendable thing. At least if Malawi has a future generation that is aware of its status it gives more opportunities for the youth to make informed choices. At the same time those who educate people on AIDS and HIV will know where to start from when raising awareness on the issues.

There has been some good news about Malawi from the world's body that looks at the transparency and corruption status of countries called Transparency International. Last year the body rated Malawi as one of the countries where corruption is rampant. This is contrary to people's expectations because Malawians wanted to see some changes under the Mutharika administration that had made a lot of noise in fighting corruption. People still have a clear picture of what Mutharika promised when he was being inaugurated as the president of the Republic. Mutharika made it clear that he would have a zero tolerance on corruption. Now what is happening on the ground is on the contrary. Last year the same organization's research had shown that Malawi was on the higher side of corruption. This year the report shows that the country is again miles away in the fight against corruption. Reports have shown Malawi is now on position 118 on the corruption index. According to experts this is the step in the right direction but still not far enough.

It seems the fact that there is liberalized trade in Malawi has left some consumers with more problems than ever. Minibus business is very famous among local entrepreneurs who have left no stone unturned in making sure that they make use of every space in their buses. This trend has been an inconvenience to people with disabilities who use wheelchairs. Reports have shown that these people are finding it very hard to travel in minibuses because they are made to pay in some instances twice. The minibus operators demand twice the fair because of the space occupied by the wheel chair. Against this background the some organizations that look into the welfare of people with disabilities would want to have laws on minibus charging. The organizations would want to have a far treatment in terms of fares that the people with disabilities are charged.

 

EDUCATION

Although many Malawians welcomed the introduction of free primary education with a lot of hope, it did not take much time for their expectation to wear off. A number of parents expected things to change for the better but according to educational experts, free primary education has its own sets of problems. Among other things the free primary education increased the number of enrollment. Now with the increased number of students quality of teaching has been compromised. This is one of the reasons why the ministry has pushed the blame on dwindling standards of education to the introduction of free primary education. Could this mean the problems that came with free education outweigh the benefits? There is a need for concerted efforts in making sure that the project bears fruit.

One of the problems that continue to haunt the education sector is loss of property through vandalism. A number of schools have lost some of their property to vandalism. In some instances the students run amok to break what is their own equipment over petty issues. In these times of economic hardships parents have been forced to pay something for the damages caused by their ward as the students are either dismissed or suspended. This is the reason the ministry of education condemns acts of vandalism among students in schools.

As government and all stakeholders are fighting to have many girls in school, some students are finding it hard to cope because of abuses they experience. The girl child is exposed to all sorts of gender-based violence that go unreported for fear of being laughed at among other reasons. There have been so many questions why the performance of some intelligent girls continues to decline as they grow up. Observers have noted that as male teachers are sexually harassing the girl students they are affected psychologically resulting in poor performance in classes. It is high time the future of the girls is safeguarded. Reports have disclosed that it is the girls who are mostly victims of gender-based violence in schools.

Standard 8 students in the month of September sat for their Primary Schools Leaving Certificate Examinations. Although there were some problems here and there the examinations body Malawi National Examinations Board MANEB seems to have done its homework nicely because there was no case of cheating reported before the exam started. In the same month Junior Certificate Examinations were written. Apart from reports of candidates writing their examinations whilst sitting on the floor, the examinations seemed to have gone smoothly. As secondary students wait to write their final examination (Malawi Schools Certificate Examination MSCE) there is need for MANEB to make sure that there are reduced or no cases of cheating this year are rapidly reduced or do not happen at all.

HEALTH

The fact that four nurses die every month is very disturbing news for a country like Malawi. Already the health sector has a shortage of medical personnel and to have four nurses dying every month mean the country is losing 48 nurses per year. To imagine the resources that are spent to train nurses so that they can save Malawians, the sector is indeed losing heavily. The health sector has been faced with problems of shortage of medical personnel because a number of nurses and doctors have left Malawi to work in the United Kingdom. If we continue losing nurses at such a fast rate, we might as well walk into a hospital and find no nurses at all one of these days.

Ministry of Health announced that although it has been affected by the brain drain, it has managed to reduce the number of people who leave the sector from 500 per year to 30. How did the ministry manage to reduce the brain drain by 83%? Reports show that the sector has worked out in place some incentives in order to keep the staff in the country. Among other things the ministry intends to build better houses for its staff and upgrade the positions of medical staff. This is good news to the medical staff that in recent years have resorted to leaving government to work in the private sector and outside Malawi. Working in the government at that time was something that never attracted many medical personnel. Now to have a good number of doctors and nurses working in the government hospital is a good thing that needs to be commended.

People in Mulanje woke up to shocking news when some of the residents in the district ate rabies-infected meat. In recent months stories about rabies has appeared in the press every now and then and one would have thought that people are aware of the deadly disease. A story appeared in the press recently where a young girl died of rabies after a rabid dog bit her. The hospital could not treat the girl because there was no medication, which they said, is very expensive. It is sad now to learn that over 800 people ate meat from dead rabies infected cow. Reports further disclose that the 800 are now receiving treatment. Rabies is a disease that should be avoided at all times. Even the animal health department insists that animals should go for vaccination more often.

The fight to reduce child mortality seems to be gaining ground. Reports have shown that Malawi is doing a good job in as far as reducing the child mortality rate is concerned. As one of the requirements for fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals the country is leaving no stone unturned in reducing child mortality rate. A survey has revealed that the number of children who die before reaching five has dropped from 76 to 72 per 1000 live births. This should be commended as organizations find more ways of reducing the rate.

ENVIRONMENT

In normal circumstances legislators are supposed to lead by example. One would expect some people to learn from legislators who are lawmakers. But recent events have shown that even the lawmakers themselves are finding it hard to keep the same laws they made. An example is that of Honorable Henry Fwataki whose lorry was caught for the wrong reasons. Reports have shown that a lorry belonging to the Member of Parliament was impounded with charcoal. This is a deplorable situation because it is against government's efforts to minimize cutting down of trees.

Although charcoal selling is illegal press reports have disclosed that the trade has taken ground in the country because there are no real alternatives to charcoal people to use it. Similarly the sellers continue to burn charcoal because they have no other means of getting an income. All this is happening at the expense of our forests. A recent survey by one environmental organization has disclosed that it would have been better if the trade were regulated so that government could make money from the sales. According to the researchers, government is losing a lot of revenue from the sale of charcoal because the sellers do not pay tax. Government could be making more than K1 billion a year. This is a lot of income that needs to be collected and put to good use.

Government in the month under review backtracked from an earlier statement about hardwood exports. The Ministry of Trade banned all exports of hardwood as one way of keeping the country's forests. This however did not please curio vendors who use hardwood in making their merchandise. The vendors actually sell their products to tourists and export some to other countries. To the vendors this is their source of income so much that when government's earlier position to ban hardwood products it was a big blow to the vendors.

Press reports in the month under review have disclosed that management of Raiply, which owns the Chikangawa forests, is worried over the rate at which forest fires are occurring in the plantation. It is reported that employees at the plantation burn some parts of the forest when they are angry with their employers. Not only does the company lose money because of the bush fires, but the country's beauty is also lost. The fires also do more harm to the environment. The smoke that comes from the fires pollutes the air and the burnt soil again loses its fertility making it difficult for other things to grow. Against this background the management at Raiply appealed to the workers to come forward with any of their problems rather than resort to burning the forests.

GENDER

As the 2009 general elections approach, gender activists are leaving no stone unturned to make sure they fully prepare women for the race. Press reports have shown that more and more women would want to make it during the election. For all this to happen it needs preparation. Press reports have disclosed that more than 400 women are going to compete with men in the next general elections. This is the first time for such a big number of women to compete in a general election since Malawi became an independent state. Perhaps this is the time Malawi can reach the required amount of 30% of women representation in the National Assembly.

Some analysts have warned that women need to work their way up in the society when they want to be recognized. According to reports there is no way people will offer women jobs on a silver platter in the name of achieving a balance between men and women. There is a tendency among some people that they will always find favours because of their sex. This trend has at times worked for others in some organizations. But this has not been the case for organisations that care so much about their corporate image. It should be noted that deputy minister of education Richard Msowoya also advised employers to offer jobs to only deserving people and not for the sake of achieving the required amount of female representation in decision making positions. Now that women are aware that there are no easy jobs, it is time they started working very hard to be considered for any job.

The fight to have many girls in schools seems to be facing a lot of problems one being early forced marriage. Press reports have disclosed that some families still believe educating a girl child is a waste of time. Such families only want their daughters to know how to read then they force the girl-child into marriage. This scenario is always common in families where there is extreme poverty. Such families feel by educating a girl child they will waste their hard earned resources so it is better to let males who ask her hand in marriage to do so. Forum for African Educationists in Malawi FAWEMA condemns such tendencies because it deprives girls of a bright future. This trend is a wake up call to organizations to continue raising awareness to communities on the rights of children. It should be known that any child regardless of their sex has a right to education.

The month of September saw President Bingu wa Muthraika being awarded for his work in women empowerment. Mutharika received the MDG3 Champion Torch in Oslo Norway in recognition of his work in empowering women. Ever since Mutharika came to power he has appointed some women in high positions, a thing that has been commended by many local and international organizations. But some analysts still feel there is a lot that Malawi as a country can still do in achieving gender equality.


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