Sunday, December 28, 2008

Memoirs of 2008!!!MALAWI

Folks I must admit that I have been inactive in the blog world since July 2008. My job is just too involving and has had barely time to blog except for routine face book chats. Besides, making a transition from being a student to a fully fledged professional is not a simple thing either. Nonetheless I thank God for wonderful achievements and a rich professional life that I have enjoyed in 2008. If there is any cynic, bring them on, and will testify gracefully about the wonder and power of our Lord Jesus. Happy New year to you all. God first.
Despite the many great things that have happened in my life in 2008, it is important to reflect on the great challenges that our country, MALAWI still faces. Malawi and its underpriviledged people means much to me than my individuality. In 2008, lots of our women have lost lives giving birth...lots of babies have been dumped in latrines, young girls have been defiled...many lives have been lost from illnesses otherwise treatable but medication has not been available in the very remote parts of our country. Our young people continue to be used as instruments of violence amongst selfish politicians who will do anything to get elected. We still have children that have to walk long distances to school simply because certain fraudster contractors never built schools despite getting paid from the public purse. So slow moves the wheels of justice to the benefit of corrupt moguls...I would even call them our version of oligarchs!!!Most of our rural people are still going hungry and a teacher has a responsibility of 200 children. Our nurses frustratingly work over night to save lives in conditions that have no respect for their own health...Remember the slogan Health for all by 2000!!! A wonderful chorus...a vision 2020 that seems more of a titanic portrait!!!
Yet the acclaimed economic growth seems not to be trickling down. Food prices have hit us to the extent that even the so called middle class...who often take a huge burden to acre for our extended families barely seem middle class enough. Poverty continues to worsen and livelihoods keep fast sliding into the valley of death...Come 2009, we will never learn lessons as country men. Our reason will be put to test but as usual the political masters will come and sing lies and convince the unsuspecting poor voter with heaps of slogans that promise heaven just like former US President Hoover with his “chicken in every pot and car in every garage” slogan.It never worked and the Great Depression happened. We gnash our teeth later. They will use and dump us as usual...they will divide us..they will let us fight each other while they dine and wine together..smoke designer cigars as we bury our own mothers dying giving birth, we weep they celebrate, as our blossoming hopes get plucked away by their vicious bees to make them more honey...we walk down tailed like a thieving dog towards a valley of premature death!!!
Let 2009 be a year of reckoning and seeking of divine intervention in a way that enlightens forces that determine our livelihoods, put aside their egos and spare us more suffering. Putting the faith in our Lord Jesus should reign over any lip, mind and soul in our MALAWI of 2009….that we jealously fought for. We need a better deal for our children, women and generations to come!!!Why are we still the least developed country in the world after years of many crazy political slogans and biblical quotes in the NATIONAL BUDGETS?

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Tribute to a Mother

Its been a month that I published an article. Pressures of being an "adult" student and work have been so taxing on me. I feel relieved now and look forward to other things. The Lord has been wonderful to me. The end of my study coincides with the 17th anniversally of my late mother who was called into the glory of the Lord on 17th July 1991. I was away to a boarding schooling and never saw the last moments of her life and what she could have said to me.

Its a painful experience to loose a parent, a mother for that matter. It is even worse when it happens when you only clock 15, young, immature and in dire need of parental care. The last day that I saw my ill mother was on 14 May 1991, in the company of my friend Martin..It was Kamuzu day..I have one photo with Martin..we were the small boys of our class then...interms of looks. It was the day that I cried for my mother while she was still alive. I thought she was loosing her battle with life. She consoled me as a brave woman with authority over her son. It was an emotional moment but she assured me she will be fine. My own father, who was taking care of her put on the face of a brave man and both them told me not to worry and concetrate on my studies. Both were teachers..and teachers want the best of their children.

It was taxing moment for me. Very emotional one. I went into prayer for my mother on a number of occassions with prayer mates, Haxwell and other friends in our SCOM group. It was such a beautiful Wednsday, July, 17, 1991..that i was so much into my books and had been preparing for my form 1 History exam. Evenets began to unfold. After class..I was asked to see the headmaster and they put me in Government White Landrover to see my late uncle Chipundwe in Rumphi town...we never found him...end of story i thought until in the middle of the night when the unexpectec happened. All my roommates were awakened except bags packed while I was asleep. It looked like I was a mad person on pills and my tenders not sure how to handle me. When I woke up..the face of my uncle and my mums boss in the middle of night was evidence that my dear Jerine was no more...I have a few recollection...I know what has happened...Life was not be the same. Getting into that MG 347K lorry in the middle of the night, next to the coffin of my mother, in the cold of the night, as we meandered through the dusty roads of Kazuni, Mpherembe, Kafukule up to Hannock Ngwira Village has never escaped my memory. Jerine was no more. It was real. No jokes. The sight of my siblings, much younger that me at 15, added more pain. The thought of an elder brother who had to kept out of the know to finish a Junior exam..put much burden on me. I couldnot handle the situation. So we laid her to rest in the afternnoon of July 18, 1991 at our Hannock Ngwira home. Death is painful.

As I recall the events surrounding my mothers passing away, today I celebrate what a great person she had been. From a humble upbringing, being raised by brothers, after my maternal grandparents early death, my mother had been a symbol of resielence. The spirit that i borrowed and I live with it. It is now to celebrate her beautiful life and the never gave up spirit that I feel i got from her in the fifteen years that she had for me. The only thing, that sometimes exerts pain, is that she has not been able to see the fruits of her labour. Dear mother, I will live your dream...and become a son a mother can be proud of.

If you have a mother,celebrate with her. I miss such a thing. I wish she was still here to celebrate my successes. What the Lord gives, he takes away as well. Lets cherish every second of life with family, friends and loved one.

Rest in Peace Jerine Lonely Kundabene!

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Harare Basket

African politicians are so adept in ignoring human rights abuses perpetrated against their own citizens. Having skillfully mastered terms like sovereignity and neocolonialism, often they shoot their eyes with a bun...and ignore the plight of the suffering masses. Zimbabwe is such a situation..African leaders have not been keen to publicly rebuke a regime that will not stop at nothing to stay in power.

Some few excerpts from Robert..." anyone advocating for a devaluation of the Zim dollar is a saboteur and an enemy of state"...a simple economic fundamental that Simba Makoni, Minister of Finance was trying to do in a bid to fix th woes that had bieseged ZIM...."Zimbawe was won through a war..we wont let this country go by a stroke of a pen".... this he says to drive home a point that no matter what happens during the elections, he wont allow MDC rule Zim. He goes on to issue threats of war against his own people. for a different party..a basic democratic right. Now I agree with Morgan "winning elections in Zim is one thing just like getting power is another"

These threats and the actual butchering and battering of innocent Zimbabwenas are not noticed by African leaders. There is no information available to them. After all we live in a world that ties good governance to evidence based policy making. So they say, Zimbabweans must take control of the situation themselves. Yes they have to..the mechanism is a does exist. But wait a minute. I deplore such blindness. One Robert is threatening war if he looses and I quote "We are prepared to go to war if we loose the way it happened this other bllody night". Zimbabwe does not operate in a vacuum....its a country reduced to a basket but still a major economy in the region...I dont know whether our leaders have considered this. Businesss in our various countries with links to Zimbabwe are facing in tough. Malawi is not spared.

Why is it taking so long for Africa to act as Zimbabwe ceass to be a basket case but fast turning into a banana republic? Where is the moral voice of Madiba? Now if the guys goes in the bush..what does it mean for the region? Maybe until they shoot someone in our countries. I dont know.

Its funny how memories of our leaders get short. I guess Mugabe can learn some experiences from other leaders like Charles Taylor. He will be haunted one day like late Slobodan Milosevic....dictatorship is not fashionable..not even in my village...Mr Hannock Ngwira, my village headman, exercises some civility in how he runs the village. I am honored to sit in the governing council responsible for teenag affairs. Village teenagers are more notorious than their twon folks..atleast in my native Kabondwe...they carry axes on their shoulders...its part of a ngoni fashion.

Africa lets wake up and save Zim. Its time he left the scene. If you read this, no matter your briefs, say a brief prayer for our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe that face a ruthless government that is killing its own. Why get a whole Biti in leg irons?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Unsung heroines: Malawian grandmothers and rural women

We are a very ungrateful society at all levels. In our homes, communities, social gatherings, workplace and even at the political playing field. Notwithstanding 52% of Malawian population, our service to the suffering of grandmothers and the rural women is awful to say the least.

The rural woman deserves a very big pat on which ever part you can think of. She has come of age and maintained our existence as a nation that continues to struggle with corrupt male chauvinism. Not forgetting the ageing grand mother who is now burdened with costly decisions of their children in the light of AIDS. A 2005 poverty study shows that some households in rural Malawi are as big as 27 and its the women that are taking care of such households. No one seems to care and most often we think this normal

Despite all these burdens the rural woman moves on. I imagine the ever increasing number of orphans that rock our country. As we go enmasse to the graves, the rural woman seems to bear the most burden. She still has to walk long distances to fetch water. She has to give birth in dangerous circumstances often without the help of a trained medical practitioner. She has to walk long distances to access a poorly stuffed clinic to vaccinate her baby. No one seems to care. She has to farm while the males are drinking kachasu and expecting to be fed as if its their right to do so. She has to endure abusive husbands who for some reason have been programmed to think beating a powerless woman is cultural. The women suffer in silence and they dont faulter. They still lead us.

Come election time. They are ferried in lorries all over the country to sing for ungrateful corrupt politicians with their big bellies. Politicians who pride themselves in riches aquired through unorthodox means. The rural woman is then told to vote..they are the ones that put politicians in power.

Rural women are the biggest voting block in Malawi. They make people Presidents and MPs....and they are the ones least served by them. Whither Malawi! I cry for the rural woman and the grandmother! What a nation! Very ungrateful.

Encounter with Bingu and his Cotton Economics

I must admit. I have meant Bingu once as Minister of Economic Planning in a Mangochi resort as a team of taskforce economists on the Malawi Growth Strategy in 2003. Something that i remember is his belief in cotton as a wonder crop to fix some of the problems Malawi is facing. Mining also featured highly and if i recollect myself, he said "I dont want a strategy that says we should be exprting sand" but some thing of value.

In today's discussion I look at cotton and revisit some of the beliefs Bingu had. For me it was an opportunity I cherish to talk directly with a person who i thOught was likely to be president in few months.I WAS was so cops and all those folks that put on those dreaded helmets brandishing various military hardware that i have seen on TV. This is not the point. Some humour? Maybe. After all we are on cotton while on top of the Kabondwe Table mountain in my home village. No vipers and mambas..winter is fast cool unscary chat.

Cotton prices slumped in the mid 1990's and our production has never peaked or atleast reached the highest record we had in 1986. Yet it offers the best opportunity for our farmers who for some reason have been cornered to believe that no maize no life. The rise of the textile industry in Asia has given hope. The African growth opportunity Act (AGOA) is offering more incentives for us to exploit the market in the US.

Yet, somehow I belive that authorities have somehow faultered. I am not competent to talk about the privatisation of Mapeto...i still belive it was the right thing to do except for the controversy. However, I have read in recent media reports that Mapeto is finding it hard to get the amount of cotton that it requires. I think there is something fundamentally wrong but very easy to address. Action from the Malawi government has not been strong enough to revive fortunes from this cash crop.

My synthesis is that there are lot of opportunities in this crop. The action that I have seen from governement is price regulation. There have been contracted battles about prices yet easy solutions are available and yet we are still in our slumbers. We have been slow in adopting it genetically modified varieties. If you have problems with GMOs on cotton, perhaps this is the time to rethink. GMO cotton varieties have been proved to be high yielding, resistant to diseases and weeds....and no known environmental and health effects....its not food after all......and therefore requires no chemicals. Our current cotton varieties require heavy use of chemicals that often pollute the environement. Remember RIPCORD? Very deadly chemical used in cotton! Professor Kym Anderson, an eminent trade Economist, has shown that countries in Africa are likely to gain if they adopt GMO cotton varieties currently in use in China and the US.

Given the pace at which trade negotiations are going under the Doha Development Agenda, it will take many years for the US and the EU to remove subsidies to cotton. This means that our farmers will find it hard to compete fairly. Adoption of Cotton GMOs would lessen the costs farmers incur particulary on chemicals. GMO varieties on cotton are the sole domain of biotechnology firm, Mossanto, which is opertaing in Malawi. Why are we still in the slumber? It is time to move as quickly as possible and give those farmers in Nsanje, Chikwawa, Balaka, Salima, Rumphi and Karonga a new lease of life while giving the cotton user industry a locally sourced material and save some forex for drugs?

Lets get out the mountain. Its cold but pick any bush fruit as you descend save for a cobra bite.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bingu and Bakili on Economic Philosophy

I try to see the resemblance in the minds of Bingu and Bakili on economic philosophy and draw contrasts.

Bingu and Bakili in the first instance are subjected to common external economic forces like need for structural and stabilisation thinking of World Bank and its cousin, the IMF. How they have reacted to these forces and reformed our economic system reflects their differing philosophies.

Bakili has hard a tough ride with the IMF and World Bank. On paper, though he did what any politician could do for diplomacy sake. However, Bakili is a left wing politician and it is very difficult to implement IMF ideals. You know Chavez? He too is a left wing politician. I would classify Bingu as a centre right politician and so are his economic credentials.

The fundamentals are that Bakili yielded to what was privatisation, a belief that the world bank will defend to the last line. Some success stories have been cited like Dairy board as well as questionable privatisation of Railways. Bakili is a left wing politician who through the poverty reduction strategy, championed welfare of the underpriviledged by direct provision of services to them. Give them money, give them free fertiliser. In other words Bakili's economic philosophy is not really pro-growth economic growth. I reckon his thinking is that growth does not reduce or put it simple, rarely improves the welfare of the marginalised. His current speeches do point to this philosophy in how an economic system should operate. Populits left wing ideas....displaying commodities and massive public shopiing at Metro! Some have argued that Bakili being a business person his ideas are pro-business, I disagree. He is a workers' and marginalised mass grouping folk.

Bingu, is in sharp contrast and i call him an economic liberal. If you follow Asutralian politics, I would call Bingu, John Howard and Goodall Gondwe Peter Costello. The striking difference between the two is that Bingu is more pro-business than Bakili . His belief in the Zambezi Shire water way and committent to cutting budget deficits are ideals of a liberal economic philosopher. Bakili and Bingu differ on how they engage the poorest person in the economic process. By clinging to a starter pack, Bakili is an economic conservative. On the other hand, Bingu and his subsdies stand in the grouping of liberal economists that belive in engaging households in the economic sytem through some effort. Getting them to work to afford a subsidised bag of fertliser. Thats the story.

Well it is difficult to discern which philosophy has an urge over the other. I reckon the ecology in which an economic system operats is crucial. The efficiency of the judicial system, property rights and non-discretionary policies in management remain crucial to successful outcomes. These, to my knowledge, have remained the same and Malawi is still stagnant.

What is the best way? Well, lets reserve it for the "thoughts of the native son" as he goes to the table mountain in a moment.

Thoughts of a native

Some folks have commented on my blog and its always interesting to hear them. I get encouraged to come up with pieces that are insightful to rock the mind and offer some hope. Today I go on top of Kabondwe table mountain as I pass the Kaphikhulas in my native Mzalangwe village in rural Mzimba-Malawi. I did not know that my village is home to the only table mountain in Malawi. I learnt about such mountains in high school geography. My own uncle Japhet t he used to call it "Table Monkey". I never figured out what he meant until high school days. Its a table mountain...if you have been to Cape Town then you know what I am talking about.

Lets cut this story short. I am on top of the mountain and thinking aloud about Malawi--or -a country that I call home. On the mountain we think and brainstorm while enjoying bush fruits in matwatwa, matunduluka, mahuhu, etc. But what baffles my mind is that since we got the British out in 1964 things have not changed..perhaps they continue to worsen. I simply dont understand and I am looking for solutions on the mountain amid malauding puff adders and other dangerous snakes that feel their habitat encroached. They are charging hard like a gorgeous but angry robin displaying that marvelous virgin breast.

We hav been cheated in this country for long. The political rhetoric has corrupted our minds since 1964 and the mind of a typical us remains static. A culture of silence has been systematically cultivated. Political and social vultures have taken control right from the workplace, to the family home and even in our prayer houses. Somehow our self belief has been compromised by forces that be and cancerous ideas cultivated in our brains. That now we think about today and nothing else. So sad.

Who is going to save this country from systems that poison our self belief. The journey has never taken off since 1964. The mind of everyone continues to rot while colleagues in and around our borders match ahead and Nyasaland continues to struggle with a booming coffin making industry. Cry beloved Malawi. Are we a banana or a coffin society? We continue bickering and busy calling each other wakumwera or mpoto forgetting that in each of the regions north or south do exist. We are all in the middle of the North and South Poles. What is all this fuss about? Culture of poverty or what? Give me a break!!! We continue to derive hapinness in the suffering of others. Our leaders in whatever organisations have not been spared this malaise and we revolve in the same mediocrity of a caged chicken unaware of a butchers knife.

Malawi has to move forward or else it will soon perish! I am no sadist but at the top of the mountain i can feel the pain of native sons. Dreams of a country that are fast cementing their positions in cemetries. Thoughts of native. Really?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Individual Decisions Exploding into HIV Crisis: Malawi on cliff

I dont want to bore anyone of you with my economics though that is what life means to me. Whatever people say about the economics profession I agree with them because everything is right and wrong at the same time. Economists rarely agree with one other and think their view is the best solution. Its normal. Similarly if you dont agree with what I want to say, no problem just like i have no problem with you agreeing with me. Take time though to appreciate my thoughts . I am not thinking aloud but desiring so.

But I want to state that in quest to satisfy wants, societal decisons are collective individual decisions . This can be said about the HIV crisis in Malawi that we have failed to contain since the first case in 1985. Perhaps I am not sure how the first person contracted HIV but its been known that over 90 percent of the cases have been through sexual intercourse. My reasoning therefore premises that sexual decions are key to HIV containment.

That is why I say we must look at decisions that each one of us has made since 1985 regarding sexual behaviour. I was not yet 10 though and I am not asking for anything. Firstly, some politician in those days of Nyakula, thought talking about sex is a taboo, decided that HIV/AIDS be called magawagawa without elaborating the mode of transimmission. Another one called it a disease of " matenda awa ni apa Mphasa". Some folks called it Kanyela and that sing'anga Yakobe could cure it (Some HIV Video that i watched while in Secondary school...short at Chanco).

Then someone thinker or call him an expert decided that the best way to solve the problem was a piece of latex/rubber called a condom be the solution. These actions are not sequential by the way. Then the church, government,chiefs, uncles, sibwenis, malumes, elders, ngo's agreed and disagreed. These are all individual decisions that have been made. So from a 0% HIV rate we now have 11.4% if use th official statatics. But we are not doomed nation. There is hope.

So how have these individual decisions worked? Well one can think about agents as we, in the economics profession call them, just like scientists call them subjects or clients if you belong to the professions that God loves most( I WILL NOT SAY WHICH! ITS A JOKE FROM NYASANET).The point is, after all these actions, as individual persons, either out of ignorance or crazy courage, MAKE decisions that LEND ourselves more vulnerable to this disease. I reckon, that a human being is so rational but somehow we have missed the point in our country to contain the problem.

Behavioural change is paramount but what I see ARE ineffective stratagies, beautifully crafted and in public office shelves. But what I want to advance is that th campaign for behavioural change should happen to an individual in a style of a door to door style. This to me is more effective and would help most of us to make proper wise decisiosn about our sexual lives. Its not to say that the human mind or soul of a Malawian is stubborn but to understand that in a million, it is natural that one thinks this concerns them but not me. Just like some of us think we will never die but them.

The strategies that the National Aids Commission has taken are not workable. But I dont suggest a dissolution of NAC but I believe they have too much money for HIV but do not know how to use it. They can do better than what they are currently condcuting themselves. I have always seen organisations, NGOs that have received NAC funds to fight AIDS calling for expressions of interest in our local media..they want to us part of the proceeds to buy furniture and refurbish their offices. AIDS/HIV is serious business and this nonsense must stop. I would want the fight taken to individual households through villge or community counsellors and encourage the spirit of volunteers. I would want the approach similar to the Measles and Vitamin A campaigns that are undertaken once in a while.

Just to borrow some few tricks from Obama and Clinton campaign style....the guys have been knocking on the doors of voters delivering the message that they have.Similarly, I have been meant to believe that to sucessfully campaign for an MP must under the cover of darkness go door to door and convince voters in this country. It works. A politicina friend confided in me. If this is the approach we can take then we will help our society through proper decisions making regarding sexual choices. I am not putting a blame on NAC but suggest that all organisations need to incorporate such approaches. The messege that a Church pastor carries in the church on HIV is different if he/she visits one of their folks at talks about social issues in the home of their belivers. When did your pastor visit you? We also have to accept that we have a problem and we are all part of the solution.

All I can say, is that, a messege delivered to an individual person is more effective that a Chishango Billboard along Zalewa Road or a Radio play or TV soap by Winiko and Manganya. Its the individual that makes the decision about sex and collective decisions add to what we end having as a problem. So if the individual is equiped, we are building a better Malawi. Statisticians have primary sampling units to get data about issues.........these units are the individual persons.

This is how I see it. What do you reckon?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Public Health on Alcohol and Smoking

There is an interesting story that happened in 2001. The Minister of Finance (Mathews Chikaonda)in his budget speech just announced that surtax on beer was reduced and this resulted in ereduced beer prices. Amongst gazzlers, Chikaonda was the best minister. Well his decision was a sucessful lobby by Carlsberg Brewery who said that they were to fire 700 people because of a poor economic climate. The only way to protect those jobs was through reduced taxes on beer.

The issue I raise now is the role of public health in sensitising our society about the dangers of alcohol and smoking. I think those mandated to lead us in public health have always given us a raw deal. The dangers of alchol and smoking are many but somehow we have turned a blind eye.

Most public health officials believe that their job is to tell people to wash hands before they eat something, wash hands after going to the toilet, or to encourage vaccinations. This is a good thing to do but I believe much has to be done to sensitise communities especially our young people on the dangers of alcohol.

I would want public health officials talk about complications to the liver and the brain that arise due to use of alcohol. I would want them to talk about how families break down due to alchol. I would want a public campaign about deaths from accident induced by alcohol. I would want them to talk about starving children in families due to alcohol expenses by the head of the family. I would want public health consider how people have lost their jobs due to alcohol. I would want public health highlight the dangers of alchol use to the mental ability to unborn children. That they talk something that a child born to alcholic mother is mentally challenged and may have lots of health problems than children born to non-drinking mothers. I would want our public health go falt out and highlight the dangers of smoking and how it leads into lung cancer. I would them talk about implications smoking and alchol has on people with conditions such as diabates and high blood pressure. These need be part of the menu besides the seasonal cholera song.

Similary, faith groups need to highlight the social consquences of alchol use in preaching. The practice with our religious leaders has been to threaten people with hell but this need be the point. Much as they are various doctrines and religions have different views, I would want faith leaders incorporate the social costs that alchol brings to the family. The love that is usually lost as children rarely see the father, inability to take care of the family as a result of money bing spent on entertaining beer friends. The chucrh should move in thos this one. Given techonlogioes like radio and telvision, it allows them to reach out to many a people that are not necessarily members of their flock.

So, all I can say is that we have a social and health problem in alcohol and smoking that is not being addressed as a public health issue. We must act as soon as we can and fight this!

Nepotism, croynism and Malawi job market

The Office of President and Cabinet (OPC) has moved so swiftly to invalidate results of interviews for Accounts Assistants to work in the Accountant General's Department. It has also dissolved the Appointments and Disciplinary Committee in the Department. This is a very bold step that governmnet has taken and I wish they could move even further to various departments that draw resources from tax payer funds.

This thing of recruiting your children, girlfriends, relatives, comrades and home boys has become so rampant in our public services. It appears to be the first qualification to get a public job followed by one's papers. I would rather let OPC take even more punitive steps and the rules of public service apply to curtail such a malpractice. The same applies applies to how people are promoted in the civil service. One can simmply attest to the high staff turnovers in the public service due to unfairness in the way staff are rewarded. All these cancers must be put to a stop if this country is going to move an inch forward. Such practices belong to the uncivilised and mediaval candevers and have no place in 21st Century Malawi.

The main cost of nepotism in its various forms, is that it rewards mediocrity and condemns ability. It smacks unfairness because eligible Malawians are denied a job opportunity or a promotion because they dont have a relative or some other rousy connection in the system. The civil service is not a family business but for all of us as Malawians and no pig headed fool must think they own it. Rewarding mediocrity by recruting or giving favours to cronies affects productivity through staff morale, unquestioned absenteesim and more important depriving the public service of more qualified and technically sharp brains.

Just like the Daiy Times notes in its comment, organisations like the Police, Army and Prisons are family organisations. You would rarely get into these insitutions if a family member has never worked in them. This is what we must stop and it is happening in almost all civil service organisations. People manadated to do the recruitment have never declared interests. This must apply just as it does in the Public Finance Management Act and Procurement Laws. It must be halted.

As a country we need to move forward and become so open to talk about these malpractices. We need to blow whistles where ever we can. The main winner if such practices are put to a stop is a prosperous Malawi for our children and grand children as they will have the incentive to work hard in class.

This practice is also very rampant in the privatr sector and civil society organisations. The costs to our country are too great to be ignored.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Who is failing the HIV Fight?

Ever heard of HIV? Kachirombo? Kachibundu? Magawagawa? Well if you dont undrstand any of Malawian langauges dont worry. Its the virus called HIV and leads into full blown AIDS. It has killed lots of our people and its scale can only be linked to the 1912 flu pandemic. Simple facts, in Malawi official estimates show 14.4% of our pouplation is infected. In the whole of Sub Saharan Africa, according to UNAIDS, 25.6 million of the people are infected......we in Sub Saharan Africa account for 10% of the world population but we have the highest HIV prevalance at 65%.

Now let me present my own crude statistics manufactured in my kitchen. Prove me wrong if you can but I have no doubt that I am correct. In Malawi we are all affected by HIV. If you are not HIV positive for sure you have lost a relation, friend due an HIV related complication. Is this not correct? Well effectively, I am just trying to expose how acute the problem has become and see who is failing the fight.

Now I start my story. The first case was diagnosed in 1985. I remmber as an 9 year old boy listening on my father's Mitsushita radio at Ngerenge in Karonga that there is new disease called magawagawa...and I said what the heck this was all about. Just like many kids I used to be so inquisitive but parents just brush off.

Well, this is how io heard about disease and came to know more about it as i grew. Twenty three years gone and one has become a million plus..what a trigeomtric explosion of a killer disease. Very sad as we loose oiur lives. But who is failing us in the fight against HIV? What should we do?

These are very questions with simple answers to a yet killer disease. We know that over 90% of the cases are through sexual transmission..with other cases of blood transfusion, needles as well as mother to child transimission.....but the culprit is sexual transimission. We all know it.

There has been what i call the "condom solutio". The rationale has been that if you cannot resist a sexual encounter then trust a piece of rubber...for which you have no idea of who manufatured it..let alone the quality standards. Still the cases have risen just showing that the condom solution is another fail. It is time it was abandoned. Men of God hav had their ideas often conflicting and have not helped. Use of ARVs, well good idea but this after the virus has been contracted. Nevirapine therapy, well it works tp protect th unborn child from an infected mother.

I am just trying to see who should we blame. Not the Malawi government of course. Not churches of course. Civil organisations not. Even consipirators who think HIV was manufactured in lab to wipe balck people. Not even the Congo chimp.

In Malawi behavioural change is key to fighting HIV. If we are not changing our sexual behaviour, we is true of course, then we bare the blame as individuals. This is because the decision to engage in a sexual encounter is conceived by an individual mind and it leads into those acts that lead to HIV contraction. Why have we failed to remain faithful to our partners? Ask yourself, how many times have i cheated on my wife,husband or partner? Maybe we have not valued our lives and those that love us like children and family. The core values of family life is disintrigating by our engagement in illicit sex......with a our corrupt minds that a piece of rubber called a condom is a shield? Maybe it is time to think twice. Is it worthy to cheat and expect a recyled plastic can protect us?

All I can say is that sexual fantasy courrupts the mind and it dangerous. Its time to get serious with life by avoinding risky behaviours. We all bare the blame in our indiividual decisions.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Our water environment

Today I have been pondering what to write. Something kept piercing my mind like a pointed dagger like Macbeths solution to Duncans solution. I love Macbeth but hate the way we Malawians are running down our rivers.

Now consider what will happen to North Rukulu when Kayelekera swings into full swing. Consider what is happening to the lower states with the perennial . I hate the site of Mudi river. Convince my dead body to love Lilongwe river. Polluted. Why have we let the so called liberalisation/freedoms to pollute rivers/cutting trees go unpunished. Its not laughing matter but I tend to think that our seriousness is not only questionable but I doubt its own very existence.

The rate at which we are destroying our rivers lives alot to be desired. Is there any policy at all to protect biodivrsity?

I was brain storming about rivers. Check the next post as I think aloud about water management systems and biodiversity. Was earth hour today but i nevr switched off my lights for an hour! I forgot but I love the environment

Friday, March 28, 2008

Rural-Urban Migration and Malawi Poverty

It is not strange to see many people living their rural folks in search of the twon dream. I wonder what dream Blantyre, Mzuzu, Lilongwe and the new city of Zomba offers. It is also happening around districts as everyone is heading towards a district headquaters. Others are living very remote areas and coming close to booming trading centres.

Its all about trying to a get a high and perhaps a better quality of life. Othrs are heading it RSA, the UK...Zimbabwe????I wonder. For how long will this continue and perhaps stop? Our rural areas have become burying grounds for the town dead.

We have been let down somehow in this country since 1964. I think the British should colonise us again and maybe we can take it from there. I suspect we became independent too early. Infrastructre in the villag has crumbled even though it was well beyond average standard. No buses, no clinics and if ever they are, very far without public transport. Poorly staffed or not staffed at all. No medication, no syringes, no panadol/paracetamol, protective gloves for nurses. How come in the 21 century that our women still give birth aided by a traditional birth attendant? Will she be capable to tell that a ceasarian operation is required? Maternal deaths contniue to haunt us. Consider little John, hungry as he is, walking five kilometres to a school that has three teachers for 320 students! What is the purpose and what do we want to achieve? Perhaps our biggest achievemnt is poverty!

So what happens? Wel why not try city life with the promise of success that never comes. You need a good education first to get a good job. Secondly you need to know somebody or allign yourself with a particular nepostic group whose interests are selfish and corrupt.

Political regimes continue to fail us for so long. Especially thos of us in the village. We need houses with electricity. We need roads. We need banks. We need good roads and public transport. We need hospitals stuffed and staffed. We need good schools and teachers to secure the future of our children. We need clean water.

What are these poverty programmes that politicians often talk about? Why not just tackle issues that I highlight above and povrty will fade us? Personal enrichment and aggrandisement seems to prevail over altruism and reason.

God save Malawi.

I will not vote in 2009

Politics sucks and I will not waste my precious time rising from my bed to cast a vote. What for? Well i hear its my right but I also have a right to a beautiful sleep on an election morning. No matter what my dreams maybe..sleep is sleep and it is a biological and natural right. The only nice thing about an election is that I will get a day off at work.

Some might be wondering what I am up to. I reckon am up to nothing and sceptics may as well estimate apathy in me. No its not aparthy. I cast my first vote at Bumba Priamry school in 1993 and thought that democracy had come. But gosh I was mistaken. But it was a nice vote. After all walking to Bumba meant we could pass through town without Mr Chilowe and Ngwira punishing us for going out of bounds. It has never been the same and democracy remains a myth to me. I doubt if we have one. Nepotism, croynism and lack of tolerance are still lacking in our country. These are not aspects of democracy that I have seen real democracies!

Why should I vote then? Giving legitimacy to a flawed system masquarading democarcy? Over my dead body. Once beaten twice shy. Now can you hear me? The only real democracy that I have seen in our country is student politics in colleges! No regrets. The Junta was good and there dry cleaner may have been born!

Costs of Alcohol Abuse in Malawi

I am not alarming anybody but I feel we have a big alcohol problem in this country. No one wants to admit it but we know it is there.Those that drink alcohol have never liked the notion of the alcoholic banner. Such is what has become of the case. How does alcholism manifest itself? Well the starting point is that an alcoholic cannot just imagine life without the mind corrupting drink.

A typical alcholic will take ten beer bottles in a week or call them pints. Yet in our society, perhaps amongst beer consumers, this is not an issue. Unfortunately, in our denial state, we try to justify this. The costs are enormous. The main culprit is perhaps the mddle class and the poor. By middle class I refer to guys with a tertaially education with an averag source of income. It is heartening that such households spend a high proportion of income on alchol (consumed by the hubby) and little spent of welfare of the of children, health and reacreation that strengthens the family bonds. Just log into internet chat forums for middle aged Malawians and see how alcohol promotion activities dominate.

The costs have been huge. Alcohol induced divorces that traumatise our children and reduce their ability to become responsible citizens of Malawi. Alcohol induced road carnages have been on the rise and many prime lives are being lost. Children who had a promisng feature have their dreams shuttered in a matter of seconds because of an irresponsible drunk of a parent. Dangerous sexual encounters induced by alcohol in drinking places leading into contraction of diseases that cost the family lots of resources that could go into child care. Alcohol related complications that are costing lives.

Is this the way people aspiring to be rich spend their money and lives? I would love the Minister of Civic Education extend her militant approach to address this problem. But more important, it must be incumbent upon ourselves as individuals to put th interests of our families first when we make decisions about our lives. Alcohol is a big problem and we must join hands to fight it.

Do you want to know whether an alcholic? I have won an alchol fight atleast.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Vocational Training

Somehow I fail to understand how we Techinical colleges have been neglected in this country. With limited University places and expensive private colleges, Technical Colleges provide an opportunity to advance their careers in various trades and contribute to the devlopment of our nation.

Our population is young and growing so fast but somehow we have not gotten the messege. This thing that we cannot do it now bcaus it is expensive or its difficult is killing our nation. I would love a massive program to build technical colleges in each district in Malawi. If each district has a secondary school why not a Technical college where our youth can localise their skills and get ready to participate in the economic process. We have never planned for the future and we seem illogically contented with the status quo that somehow continues to harm us. If you build a secondary school you have to think of where the high school graduates will go.

Countries like Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia, th so called East Asian tigers have made progress through massive investment in education includind Trades in the technical schools. If we mess around with education, this country will go nowhere but just stagnate as our neighbours overtake us.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Growth, Development: Malawi at odds

Over the weekend the IMF projected the Malawi economy to grow at 7%. We have also seen that since the current government took the reigns of power our economy has been growing at over 5% each year. Many factors have been attributed to this growth notably fiscal discipline, the subsidy programme and good weather. Such a wonderful story it sounds. There has been an excitement that now we can make a dent on poverty which requires a an average of 6%. I dont know whether this is true. We are a very poor country that sometimes in self denial and we are so economic with description of our true status. We still refer medical cases to Harare and Tanzania.

I must wish to say something about the origins of the 6% as it has become so popular in Malawi. World Bank Economist Martin Ravallion did a study that linked economic growth to reducing poverty in 2000 and argued that for global poverty to be reduced by 2015, economies need to grow by an average of 6%.

What we have not been told is at what rate Malawi needs to grow to cut th numbers of the poor. However, he did indicate that in Sub Saharan Africa we will need more than 7%. Are we on course? Perhaps Ravallion thinking was just anothr paper. I dont believ his hypothesis either because he just linked poverty and growth. So simple analysis but has become so popular. His study was highly biased by th booming Chinese economy. 6% may apply to China and India but not Malawi. We need 10% continously. Well, this is not to offer cricism to Ravallion but I want to make sense of Malawi's economic growth and the untold truths that have corrupted our minds about this 6%.

Is economic growth translating into improved welfare of our people? By the way, have their been a reduced number of admissions in hospitals? How many employees have been absent in a month because they were attending a funeral of person less than 40 years of age? Do you know of a friend who has not attended a funeral last year? Can we link this growth therefore to improved delivery of the health systems. How long does one now walk to access the nearest health centre? How long have I to wait to see a medic? Has the distance been reduced? What change have health service providers experienced? Are they still strained? Do they have all the basic equipment and essential drugs? Economic growth should be matched with answers to these questions.

These questions point to the fact that much as an economy might be growing, growth itself may not translate into improved welfare of the masses. Is Malawi on th right path of economic development? Why do we still have one Television Station? Has the number of students trained at Universties increased? How many Malawians are living the country every year? Are we really growing or it is some fluke in a couldron? What is the state of our rural people? Is this growth being driven by an educated labour force. There are many questions than answers.

Much as I marvel at the growth figures, I have doubts whether we are addressing equity issues. Why is there a rapid migration into cities? What opportunities are we denying our rural folks that account for 90% of our population? I am not surprised that in my Mzimba Village almost every household has a member who has trekked to South Africa to work.

In our country, despite the sweet growth tune, I dont have to show that urban places are being favoured. Of course we need good cities but the rural needs clean water, schools that are well staffed and at short distances. Lets us not reduce the villages to burial grounds for those of us who are enjoying the city life with its own hassles.

The point is, as long as we dont tackle the health crisis, the education catastrophe, rural road insfrastructure, electricity, water then what is the point of growth? Who is benefiting? Not a majority of old women with small undernourished innocent orphaned babies that have to walk five kilometres to fetch some unsafe drinking water on a well that bush animals also use.

Are we still in the Stone Age? I wonder!

University Office: What for?

Malawi has two public Universities. Mzuzu and University of Malawi with its five colleges and a central administration in Zomba. I have wondered why we still have the University Office. It is an example of how wasteful our policy makers can be. I can say they are not forward looking, a disease that most Malawians suffer from.

The University Office to my knowledge served its purpose and it is high time we dismantled it. Having two Universties with 12 million people is not healthy. The Constituent colleges must have the autonomy that they deserve. Establishing a new University is difficult. I reckon that Chanco, Poly, Bunda, College of Medicine& School of Nursing become independent Universities. We would have six Universities overnight with Mzuni. What about that? So simple. We can take it from there and let the Universties expand by drawing lessons from Mzuni growth. Somehow someone is making us believe that we still need University Office.An MP can move a private members bill seeking to change the University Act and propose bills establishing new Universities out of current colleges. We can silence the selfish cynics. Just because a few jobs will be on the line should not stop us in making decisions that are in the interest of the nation. University Office is a very big white elephant with a malignant tumor and must go.

I would rather the University Office was transformed into a regulatory and quality assurance organisation with mandate over all forms of tertially education just lik MACRA, Malawi Bureau of Standards etc. It should become an institution that works under the Minsitry of High education. Its current role is not necessary. The colleges have their own accounting systems, adminstrative structures that must be allowed to function independently and effectively.

On another note, I have wondered the role the various Research Centres play in the learaning process. Looks they like they are divorced from UNIMA lecture rooms. Centre for Social Research, Agriculture Policy Research unit, Language, Education Research. I would love to have them engaged in teaching and have research oriented degrees and admit students than is th current practice of just doing some surveys and publish th works. It would be intellectually enhancing to engage students directly in research training and enrich the learning process. This is the essence of modern learning. It values research and would bring that excitement in learning that currently lacks in our University classrooms.

What do you reckon? Take this to capital hill and state house please.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

University Quota

The most interesting story of the week is the decision by the University Council to reintroduce the infamous quota system. Whatever the reasons that led to this decision, I believe that the council got this one wrong. The problems that UNIMA faces cannot be solved through a quota system of entrance. This is ill advised policy decision and it is not surprising that Universities like Mogadishu are now ranked ahead of UNIMA. If the Council has run out of ideas, why not throw the towel and let others do the job.

There are some instances, for eaxmple admission into the Law and Medical programmes where prospective students are interviewed. If students from a particular distric have not applied, the Council will go flat out hunting for such students! Shame on Council

Whats special about Kayelekera

Uranium mining is about to start at Kayelekera. This project has enjoyed massive publicity in both local and international media for different reasons. Other contentions have focused on economic and social benefits. On the contrary, civil organisations have been critical of the Malawi government and Paladin citing environmental hazards. Both arguments are well founded and these issues need to be treated with utmost care to reap the benefits of the mine as well as safeguarding the environment and human life.

What is so special about Kayelekera mine to the Malawi economy? Well i think governement may gain some revenue through royalties and invest in various social services and infrstructure needed to make Malawi even more attractive. Though, the level of infrasture is not very good but the coming of Paladin to invest in the Kayelekera mine is proof to the mining potential that Mlawi has. Kayelekera is giving Malawi an after thought about our predominantly agro-based economy that often relies on on the mercy of the Almighty giving us enough rains if not too much rains. Prices of agriculture goods have been falling in the world due to improved technologies as well as the massive farm subsdies in Europe and the US. Out tobacco shows no hope as we continue fighting the price wars while at the same mosy countries are putting tough legislation on smoking. So maybe Uranium mining is such an opportunity. I wondered why all countries arpund us had some form of a mineral but why was Malawi deprived!

It takes me again to the issue that as country we have not been ambitious. As a result, we have not undertaken serious efforts to diversify from farming. Much has been cheap senseless talk and wrting strategies and documents and pilinh them at capital hill. The Kayelekera mine will expose a human resource gap that exist in this country. This takes me to the University of Malawi which has rarely reviwed its curriculum let alone i ntroduced new courses that are in touch with a global village. Why should we waste our time teaching our children Greek history and Aristotle. This is an age of science and technology and the mindset of our education planners must change. It goes down again to government to invest alot in education and encourage review of programmes in the