Monday, August 30, 2010

Greenbelt Christian festival hosts Peter Tatchell

Three talks this weekend in Cheltenham

Boycott call by Anglican Mainstream is a flop

Ticket sales boosted by evangelical distortions and slurs

Latest Anglican Mainstream smear campaign is shameful

London - 26 August 2010

Calls for a boycott of the Christian arts festival, Greenbelt, have flopped. The boycott campaign was orchestrated by leading consultant with Anglican Mainstream, the Church of England's conservative and traditionalist wing.

Dr Lisa Nolland, in an appeal posted on the Anglican Mainstream website earlier this year, called on Christians to stay away from this weekend's festival in protest at the decision by the organisers to host three talks by gay rights and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

Undeterred by their failure to rouse significant Christian support for a boycott, Anglican Mainstream last week promoted another series of misleading attacks on Mr Tatchell:

Earlier this year, Ms Nolland said that inviting Mr Tatchell to Greenbelt will put children at risk of sexual abuse.

See the Church of England Newspaper report below.

"The suggestion that my guest lectures at Greenbelt will leave children vulnerable to sexual abuse is a sordid slur, unworthy of a Christian," said Mr Tatchell, who has previously spoken at Greenbelt and received an overwhelmingly warm and positive reception from packed out religious audiences.

"My Greenbelt talks are not about teen sexuality, sex education or the age of consent. They are about vegetarianism, animal liberation, environmental protection and the persecution of gay people in Africa.

"Homophobic oppression in many parts of Africa is being orchestrated by Christian evangelicals, especially in countries like Uganda, Malawi and Nigeria. They share Anglican Mainstream's harsh, fundamentalist interpretation of scripture.

"I will be praising the courageous, inspiring defence of gay human rights by some African Christian leaders, such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda, who has been hounded and cast out by the Anglican Church of Uganda.

"Dr Nolland's latest attack on the Anglican Mainstream website, on 18 August, gives a distorted, biased and unbalanced account of my beliefs:

"She delights in partial, selective quotes that misrepresent my stated opinions. Some of what she says infers guilt by association. Attacking me, she quotes the statements of others on sex with children, despite the fact that I disagree with what they say. These are McCarthyite-style smears and insinuations.

"Lisa and her Anglican Mainstream friends should reread the Ten Commandments, where it warns against bearing false witness.

"I am happy to debate with anyone from Anglican Mainstream. I await their invitation.

"Until she was criticised, Dr Nolland ignored my human rights work on global poverty, disarmament and anti-racism, and my support for the democratic struggles in Zimbabwe, Burma, Iran, Russia, Baluchistan and Uganda. She initially failed to mention a word about my condemnation of the persecution of Christians in countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and my opposition to the prosecution of homophobic street preachers like Harry Hammond, Shawn Holes and Dale McApline.

"Lisa Nolland presented a selective and distorted account of my essay on sex education. She neglected to mention my advocacy of a sexual moral framework of mutual consent, respect and fulfilment, and my proposals to help protect young people against sex abuse.

"Why does Anglican Mainstream ignore the ethical dimensions of my writings and campaigns?"

"Nevertheless, I would like to thank Anglican Mainstream for helping encourage extra interest in Greenbelt; resulting in more people now planning to attend this year's festival because of the controversy and publicity over my invitation.

"I'm looking forward to meeting the many Christians who are actively involved in campaigns for human rights, equality, democracy and social justice. We have more in common than divides us.

"I hope to offer some challenging ideas, and in turn be challenged by the audience. During the question and answer sessions, I'll be very happy to accept criticisms and counter-arguments. I welcome debate," said Mr Tatchell.

Dr Nolland's posting on the Anglican Mainstream website (12 May 2010), reiterates her earlier opposition to Mr Tatchell being an invited speaker at Greenbelt and concludes with this comment:

"Would a committed racist, pimp or Moslem with four wives and twenty-one children be put in the 2010 Greenbelt line-up if their poetry or art was unexcelled or their science was solving the problem of world hunger?"

This is what Ms Nolland claims Peter Tatchell is advocating for sex education in schools:

This is the full account, including the moral perspectives, of what he wrote in his chapter in the book, Teenage Sex - What should schools teach children?:

This is Dr Nolland's version of an interview that Peter Tatchell conducted on under-age sex and child sex abuse:

This is the full account of Mr Tatchell's interview with 14 year-old Lee. It is not an advocacy or approval of his sexual relationships with older men, but merely a reportage of Lee's perspective:

More information: Peter Tatchell - 0207 403 1790

News report Church of England Newspaper

By Toby Cohen, 6 May 2010

BOYCOTT GREENBELT if you want to safeguard vulnerable children, said an Anglican Mainstream consultant after her concerns over the presence of Peter Tatchell at this year's festival were ignored.

Dr Lisa Nolland wrote an open letter to the festival organisers complaining about "the further gayification of Greenbelt," following the invitation of the gay rights campaigner, which she saw as compounding damage done by inviting the Bishop of New Hampshire, the Rt Rev Gene Robinson, to speak last year.

Dr Nolland wrote: "We are very concerned and alarmed. We would like to meet with you because we believe this is damaging to both Christian witness and the health of the nation. "Both Gene Robinson and Peter Tatchell are bad news for the church and for Greenbelt. Greenbelt does much that is good and even excellent. Why spoil it with such as this? "In the light of the above, I would very much appreciate an explanation of your invitation to Peter Tatchell for 2010, given your invitation to Gene Robin- son in 2009. "You will recall the specific concerns we raised about ensuring that equal airtime was given to orthodox Christian perspectives. On the face of it seems that our concerns have fallen on deaf ears."

Anglican Mainstream has posted a response from the festival on its website, which reads: "Each year Greenbelt hosts speakers with varying and sometimes contrasting views on a whole range of subjects. At any one time, we also ensure there are a range of lineup items that which they feel comfortable with."

Dr Nolland told The Church of England Newspaper that this statement was disingenuous. Not only did she decry the absence of a speaker who could present "the orthodox Biblical position on sexual ethics," she also suspected that the liberal campaigners were denying the voice of less palatable sexualities who might taint their case.

Dr Nolland said: "If Greenbelt actually wanted to have a really open honest discussion about all this, I'd have a far easier time with it. But instead - they talk about how they include and accept all and all are welcomed etc - that's rubbish. There are all sorts of orientations out there who say 'look, LGBT people are doing to us what straight people did to them for centuries'.

Once the campaigners are accepted, they will then start leading Christians further astray, Dr Nolland fears. Illustrating how far this could go, she pointed to an interview Mr Tatchell conducted with a 14- year-old boy, 'Lee', who was sexually active with older men from the age of 12 and suggests that we should rethink our attitudes towards paedophilia.

Dr Nolland said that attending the festival will leave children more vulnerable to sexual abuse, because of Mr Tatchell's erosion of boundaries, "particularly if they are told we need to question - explore, try this, try that, try 200 things later on, explore your sexuality - that's actually a really bad idea".

Mr Tatchell is currently in Australia attending a family funeral, and no one from Greenbelt was available to comment.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bingu wa Mutharika has no powers to close down Malawian newspapers

This one is for you, His Excellency the State President of the Republic of Malawi, Sir.

I was there, at the Trade Fair Grounds yesterday, when you threatened to close down newspapers purported to be funded by donors. It is a shame, I must say- the most senseless speech of the Century. I mean, Millennium.

Who do you think you are, His Excellency the State President of the Republic of Malawi, Sir, to threaten to close down our wonderful newspapers?

By the way, when last did you buy a newspaper yourself, Sir. Actually, you don't buy newspapers with money from your pocket; you use money from tax-payers. Me and my fellow citizens.

And you have the qualm to say you will not hesitate to arrest journalists and close down newspapers. Did you pay for their fees, the time they went to school?

In fact, you promised to send some journalists to school for further education. nd today, you haven't done that. Unfulfilled promises.

Unlike His Excellency the State President, Ngwazi Professor Bingu wa Mutharika.

Some misguided Malawians, because of the ignorance we have, and which you take advantage of to hoodwink us, are even calling you Professor Doctor. When will Malawians learn?

Now, let me tell you, Sir, that you have no powers to close down our newspapers- not even a muscle to do that. Because it is illegal.

Sometimes, your ill-advised advisers aremisguiding you- feeding you bluffy meals. One day you said Mr. Humphreys Mvula owned the Dispatch Newspaper, when he owned The Malawi Standard. And you said it in public. Without any regrets.

It is a sign of the mediocrity of some of the people we call Presidentail advisers. Actually, you choose them either because they are related to you; or they are political zealots from your party- the mighty Democratic Progressive Party.


But you have no powers to close down newspapers and arrest journalists in this country. This is free Malawi. And we don't fear to fight for our rights.

We will not allow you to close down our newspapers. No. Not when I live.

You simply have no such powers. Zachimalawi has said. And this is more than a Presidentail Decree.

Hear this; hear this. You will not close the papers.

After all, you have tried to 'kill' some of the papers by freezing govenment adverts. And failed.

This threat is an acknowledgement of failure. Oh, yes! Failure. Failure to choke and kill our papers.

I now I willnot allow you to close down our newspapers. More so when you have no newspapers of your own, which I know would have been a failure.

You contributed nothing to these newspapers. In fact, you have them.

This is our country. We will defend it from impunity and dictatorship.

Yes, we will.

I suspect that you were sent by our donors to say this!

It is a reckless statement that will never be allowed to pass. No.

Not when Zachimalawi is here.


You have no powers to close down our newspapers Sir; and such powers you will never have.

I rest my case.


President Bingu wa Mutharika bullies Malawian newspapers

President Bingu wa Mutharika has warned newspapers against publishing what he termed 'outright fabrications', saying he will not hesitate to arrest journalists ad close down such newspapers.
Mutharika accused some Malawian newspapers of being 'sent' by donors, saying the donors 'can as well pack up and go'.
Mutharika, who is chairperson of the African Union, said even the United States government can allow tolerate 'lying newspapers' though the country claims to be the epitome of democracy.
"I will you down, I will close you down. Whatever others say, I don't care. This is my country," said a visibly angry Mutharika during the opening of Malawi's National Agriculture Fair in Blantyre.
Over 80 exhibitors are taking part, 32 of which are farmer groups. This year, the fair has also welcomed Zimbabwean exhibitors, signaling the fist time foreigners have participated at the largely local products event.
Mutharika's threat poses yet another challenge to press freedom. Already, his government has for the past six years frustrated the enactment of an influential freedom of information bill crucial to safeguarding media freedom.

Mutharika threatens to close down newspapers

President Bingu wa Mutharika has warned newspapers against publishing what he termed 'outright fabrications', saying he will not hesitate to arrest journalists ad close down such newspapers.
Mutharika accused some Malawian newspapers of being 'sent' by donors, saying the donors 'can as well pack up and go'.
Mutharika, who is chairperson of the African Union, said even the United States government can allow tolerate 'lying newspapers' though the country claims to be the epitome of democracy.
"I will you down, I will close you down. Whatever others say, I don't care. This is my country," said a visibly angry Mutharika during the opening of Malawi's National Agriculture Fair in Blantyre.
Over 80 exhibitors are taking part, 32 of which are farmer groups. This year, the fair has also welcomed Zimbabwean exhibitors, signaling the fist time foreigners have participated at the largely local products event.
Mutharika's threat poses yet another challenge to press freedom. Already, his government has for the past six years frustrated the enactment of an influential freedom of information bill crucial to safeguarding media freedom.

Somali journalist killed in Mogadishu crossfire

New York, August 24, 2010—Veteran radio journalist Barkhat Awale was killed by crossfire today in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, according to local journalists and news reports. He is the second journalist killed on duty in Somalia this year, according to CPJ research.

Awale, 60, director of the community radio station Hurma Radio, was on the roof of the station assisting a technician in fixing the station’s transmitter when a stray bullet hit him in the stomach, local journalists told CPJ. His colleagues rushed him to Madina Hospital, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.

Awale’s death came during some of the most intense recent fighting between Al-Shabaab insurgents and African Union troops, local journalists told CPJ. Earlier this morning, at least 33 people were killed when two suicide bombers detonated explosives at the Muna Hotel, located near the presidential palace, according to a statement by Information Minister Abdirahman Omar.

“We send our deepest condolences to the family and colleagues of Barkhat Awale,” said CPJ’s East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “Both sides of the conflict have shown no regard for the lives of journalists and other civilians. We call on African Union troops and Al-Shabaab to safeguard the lives of journalists.”

Awale had worked in the media for the last 30 years and was director of Hurma Radio for the past four, the National Union of Somali Journalists reported. Hurma Radio primarily covered social issues, local journalists told CPJ. The station, based in the government-controlled KM5 area, has been off the air recently due to technical problems that the staff had been trying to fix.

On Monday, the Al-Shabaab rebels took over privately owned Radio IQK in northern Mogadishu, local journalists told CPJ. Al-Shabaab issued a statement claiming Radio IQK was a public station.

In May, another veteran journalist, Sheikh Nur Mohamed Abkey, with the state-run Radio Mogadishu, was shot dead by three gunmen near his home in southern Mogadishu

God news from Uganda

New York, August 26, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes Wednesday’s ruling by Uganda’s Constitutional Court declaring the country’s criminal sedition offense, which has been used to prosecute journalists, unconstitutional.

The ruling was based on a 2005 constitutional review petition filed by the East African Media Institute and CPJ International Press Freedom Award winner Andrew Mwenda over political radio commentary critical of the government. Mwenda told CPJ he faces 17 counts of sedition under Uganda’s penal code. Several other journalists have been charged with sedition for critical coverage in recent years, but prosecutions were stayed pending the constitutional review, according to CPJ research.

As recently as this month, authorities charged the editor of the online news site Uganda Record, Timothy Kalyegira, with sedition for articles that questioned possible Ugandan government involvement in the July 11 terrorist attacks in the capital, Kampala.

The panel of five judges, led by Deputy Chief Justice Leticia Mukasa Kikonyogo, unanimously ruled that sedition was in contravention of Article 29 of the Ugandan constitution, which guarantees the right to free speech, Mwenda’s lawyer, James Nangwala, told CPJ. The judges based their determination on a previous ruling that struck down the offense of “publishing false news,” Nangwala’s co-counsel, Anne Abeja Muhwezi, told CPJ.

Mwenda, who also faces eight counts of “promoting sectarianism” under Uganda’s penal code, did not persuade the court that this charge was unconstitutional. The state attorney is expected to appeal the sedition ruling in the Supreme Court, the highest court in Uganda, and Mwenda the ruling on promoting sectarianism, Nangwala said.

“This is a victory for press freedom ahead of next year’s presidential elections,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “We urge the Supreme Court to uphold this ruling and to reverse the Constitutional Court’s decision on the offense of ‘promoting sectarianism.’”

According to Nangwala, the language that defines the promotion of sectarianism offense is so vague that it can be used to silence critical reporting. “If a reporter writes about a marginalized ethnic group, for instance, that can be considered promoting sectarianism.”

Corruption in Malawi

The Anti-Corruption Bureau of Malawi has arrested 13 public officers on corruption charges. They come from different government departments including the Malawi Police Service.
Egrita Ndala, spokesperson at the graft busting body, announced the arrests following complaints from the general public on differing corrupt practices.

The two police officers will answer charges for corrupt charges by public officers contrary to section 24(1) of the Corrupt Practices Act.

The officers allegedly received a tobacco bale valued at about US$140.83 as an inducement to release two suspects from police custody. They are also accused of obtaining cash to transport the two suspects to the police unit.

In the Department of Civil Aviation, four officers have been picked up for various corrupt offences in the course of procurement of goods and services. They all denied the charge and were released on bail.

Seven officers were picked from the Department of forestry at the Chikangawa Forest Reserve, Malawi's biggest tree plantation and forex earner through timber. They are alleged to have received bribes from timber merchants in order to allocate plots to them for timber sewing.

The merchants did not pay any appropriate fees to government. Five of them are Pests and Disease Control monitors. Four of their colleagues are at large.

Meanwhile, an Assistant Human Resource Management officer at Capital Hill at the government headquarters in the capital city, Lilongwe, was also arrested for soliciting US$50 from a retired civil servant.

Agricultural Developments in Malawi

Malawi: Agriculture Sector
| Agricultural Sector | Manufacturing Sector | Financial Sector | Other Sectors | Enquiries |

Agricultural Sector Business Opportunities in Malawi
• Investments in Cotton Production
• Macadamia Nuts Processing
• Tea Production and Processing
• Arabica Coffee Production and Processing
• Soya Bean Processing
• Sesame Processing
• Cut Flower Production
• Fruit Processing and Canning Plant
• Joint Venture Opportunities
• Related Links
Investments in Cotton Production

Malawi has been a cotton growing country since the colonial era. The cotton sector was vibrant for many years but started to slump in the early 1990’s due to among other reasons, the decline in global prices of the crop and the increasing cost of cultivation, which eroded the profitability of cotton particularly for small and marginal farmers.

In recent years, the Malawi Government incorporated the cotton sector as a key element in its poverty reduction and growth strategy. Emphasis is on building vibrant integrated cotton and textile industry, which besides aiming at accelerated industrial growth, focuses on building a strong raw material base for the country’s production.

Investment opportunities exist in commercial cultivation of cotton through initiatives like contract farming, village adoption, cooperatives and associations etc. These steps are there to improve the production and quality of cotton with the objective of providing raw materials to the textile industry for its preferential markets under AGOA, and the EU among others.
• Spinning, Weaving and Finishing Mill
A large opportunity awaits an investor to establish a second spinning, weaving and knitting plant in the country to meet the demand of garment manufacturing companies operating under Export Processing Zone (EPZ) status. The investor will address the issue of inadequate raw materials, particularly of knitted fabric.

• Cotton Ginning
There are less than 10 gins in Malawi, owned by the state owned Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) and other private companies. Together, these gins buy about 80% of the cotton grown in the country and export most of the lint. About 30% used is sold to David Whitehead Ltd., the only spinning and weaving factory in the country. Their demand is around 40 metric tones of cotton per week.

With existing ginneries using only 25 percent of their ginning capacity investors are required to invest in the ginning industry, which should add value to the cotton crop by converting raw cotton, which is otherwise exported at low prices. Investors could also empower local farmers through their associations by subcontracting their ginners.

• Cotton Growing through Contract Farming
Malawi’s annual cotton production has fluctuated between 13,500 and 50,000 metric tones over the last decade. However, with better farming practices and incentives, production levels currently hovering around 800 kg/ha can be increased to 3,000 kg/ha. The aim is to increase the area under cotton cultivation, which should lead to an increase in the yield.

A company would subcontract farmers to produce cotton, providing them with the inputs, technical expertise and guarantee a price for the seed cotton at the end of the season. Agricultural research institutions in the country have developed cotton varieties suitable for different climatic conditions in the country.

Macadamia Nuts Processing

Macadamia is among the most important cash crops in Malawi. The nuts have a variety of uses, ranging from usage in confectionery products, eaten raw or roasted as dessert nuts. They are also used for household oil extraction and cosmetic manufacturing. Macadamia products are exported to both Asian and European markets.

The total area under macadamia cultivation is 2,200 hectares. Production of macadamia nuts is by both smallholder farming and large-scale estates. The cost per hectare in Malawi is very low. So far, macadamia bodies have been established and two processing plants are already operating.

However due to increasing demand for the product, more foreign investment is being sought to boost the production and processing of the nuts into various marketable products. These foreign investments may take the form of post harvest handling and processing facilities for smallholder farmers of Kasungu and Mzuzu and also the development of commercial macadamia estates.

Tea Production and Processing

Tea is the second most important export crop for Malawi and it contributes some 7.9% of total export earnings. Tea is exported to European, Asian and American markets.

Much as tea production has been increasing, the industry has been stagnant for a long period of time. Since tea is a major forex earner, additional investments are necessary through Joint ventures with the Malawian companies in the processing of tea and other by products and also in the actual farming of the crop. New Opportunities also exist in the processing of green tea for East Asian markets.

The tea Association of Malawi coordinates information on the production and processing of tea in Malawi.

Arabica Coffee Production and Processing

Arabica coffee is the fourth most important export crop in Malawi. Exports are made to European markets, Asia markets and American markets. Coffee offers more profits than most other crops.

Coffee production favours the highland areas of Misuku Hills, Phoka hills, Viphya north, Nkhata bay highlands and Southeast Mzimba. Other areas include Dedza, Ntchisi, Chiradzulu and Mulanje. In order to boost production, the government has privatized the Small holder Coffee Trust, which empowers smallholder farmers to control coffee production.

Opportunities for investment exist in form of joint ventures in production and processing of coffee into marketable products.

Soya Bean Processing

Soya bean is a very important and versatile grain legume and it can be put to many uses namely soya milk and meat, poultry feeds among others as it has high protein content. Demand for soya beans is high both domestically and internationally.

Production for the past ten years has averaged 29,496 metric tones. However, the government is encouraging increased growth, production and utilization of soya beans. As such, investment opportunities exist in the processing of Soya beans into soya milk, soya oil and other secondary products.

Sesame Processing

Sesame, locally known as Chitowe, is used in Malawi both for consumption purposes and as a cash medium in some rural areas. It is used in confectionery products, for seasoning side dishes, soap making and cooking (from sesame oil).

The crop grows along the lakeshore, in the Shire valley and on the warm plateau areas of Lilongwe, Mzimba, Rumphi and Chitipa. Estimated annual production has averaged 205 metric tones in the past ten years. However, the government is encouraging increases in production of sesame.

Hence opportunities exist in both production and processing of sesame oil into marketable products.

Cut Flower Production

An investment opportunity exists in the production of cut flowers exclusively for the export market in Europe. There are already some firms that are successfully exporting to Europe and additional investment in this sector will create economies of scale and hence make Malawi’s cut flower industry more competitive on the international market. Malawi has a favourable climate and weather for the production of cut flowers.

Since flowers do not do well in cold seasons in Europe, Malawi has an advantage over producers in Europe during the festive cold seasons of November-February in Europe. Investments are likely to yield high returns and an initial investment capital might be no more than US$ 2.0 million. Sufficient labour is readily available for such a project within the city of Lilongwe and surrounding districts where cut flowers can be directly exported by air to Europe.

Fruit Processing and Canning Plant

Malawi currently has no processing plant using local fresh fruit. Malawi has a favourable climate for the production of a wide range of fruits that include pineapples, tangerines and mangoes. About 50% of these crops are left to drop and waste. Prices are attractive compared to national products in Malawi and some can be exported to Zimbabwe and South Africa. The products can also be exported to the regional markets.

An investment opportunity exists to set up a fruit juice processing plant in the southern region of Malawi. The estimated project cost is US$ 5.0 million and the expected return on investment is 33%.

Joint Venture Opportunities
• Fish and Crocodile Farming At Kasinthula
Lake Malawi is the main source of fish for domestic demand. However, output has rapidly declined over the years due to over-fishing. Malawi tilapia is high demand both locally and in Zimbabwe and South Africa. To exploit this market opportunity, the Malawi development corporation, a government investment arm, embarked on an aquaculture project in the Southern part of Malawi. The corporation is therefore looking for technical parties in the fish-farming project. The project is community based and initial project cost is US$ 3.4 million.

The project envisages the produce of 1,200 tons of fish per year. Apart from domestic consumption, fish will be exported to neighbouring countries and the European Union where there is a strong market for such produce.

• Soya Bean Oil-Extraction
Malawi produces more than 35,000 metric tons of soya beans per year. Most of the soya bean is exported raw and little is processed for food domestically. Malawi’s soil is very conducive to soya bean cultivation and farm gate prices are internationally competitive. Malawian farmers would overwhelmingly respond to increased demand for soya.

Malawi imports crude oil for refining into cooking oil. An opportunity therefore exists in investment in soya bean oil extraction and tofu making. There is high demand for cooking oil both locally as well as in the SADC/COMESA region.

Related links:
• Business Opportunities in Malawi
• Highlights of Malawi Export Products
• Selected Business Facts
• Taxation
• Investment Process
• Procedures and Fees for Various Applications
o Company Registration
o Business Incorporation
o Residence Permit and Employment Permit
o Land
o Investment Incentives
• Useful Contact Addresses
Posted by Richard Chirombo at

Friday, August 20, 2010

Winds from Malawi's new flag

Let fly the defaced flag,
Cutting across the Southerly winds,
As the Malawi sun,
Passes through some black back ground.
Let the world behold the unfurling of a white sun,
Because darkness no longer roams the Blantyre,
And Mulanje
Red no longer lives,
Where once the rising sun peeped through the cloud.
It is black in its stead,
A symbol of the tarred miles we have walked,
Under the professor,
A professor without real students.
As naughty University of Malawi students scuffle for limited space,
And lecturers eat chips marked with chalk dust,
The professor without students has made a classroom out of the nation,
Filling the Makiyolobasi Director General's mouth with some weighty verbage
At the mention of the professor without students's name.
As the flag waves at the passing sun,
Making friends with everyday winds,
Chasing sanity from the solemn sky,
Some contemporaries of the professor without students wave good-bye,
To the national-class that stares above from below,
Making do with the thumbing of the professor without students' s feet.
The flag huggs the night owl,
Looking perplexed at its lazy flow,
And the professor with students says 'No',
See you somewhere beyond the blue sky,
Having been failed by the Ocean vehicle I pushed,
To promote your well-being.
So the flag waves again,
Waving bye to the man no longer being,
Having lost his invisible life flag,
Somewhere Down South,
Whence he trodded to seek new life,
Perhaps a new breath.
The sound of the new flag howls no more,
As now it is the professor without students's howl,
Condoling the morning star,
Over the other real professor's over-flown soul.
'Flags, like poles that hoist them, do not live long'
He reminds the class-of-a-nation that nothing is eternal under the new flag,
And that flying from Down South will not make it eternal.
But knows the class-of-a-nation that the professor without students through an invisible arrow,
Into the soul of the gone sparrow,
Sending him up yonder,
Beyond the new flag

Polygamy's future hangs in balance

Puna Mwamadi, 36, believes she died on April 6, 1997.
The mother of Four, from the area of Traditional (T/A) Authority Karonga in the Lakeshore district of Salima, Southern Malawi, had been eight-months pregnant when her husband, Abner, died in March of the same year- leaving behind her and two other co-wives as theirs was a polygamous family.
"I was at home on that night (of April 6, 1997) when labour pains begun. There was only myself at home, alongside Mirriam and Patuma, my deceased husband's other wives, and these people did alot to help me:I remember Patuma run into the bush without being afraid of the appalling darkness that night to fetch some labour-inducing herbs for me while Mirriam rushed to inform the village headman and traditional birth attendants.
"Their efforts helped me alot because, honestly, I was in such great pain I simply thought it would be better to die than endure. I lost alot of blood and was just screeming. Infact, I still don't understand how I survived that day; I was dead I know, without the efforts of these two, and all those who came to render their help," says Mwamadi, at his home on the out-skirts of Salima Boma.
Unfortunately for Puma, the system she claims to have saved her life may be dismantled, if efforts to ban polygamy in a proposed legislation are sustained.
According to Fiona Mwale, Assistant Chief Law Reform Officer at the Malawi Law Commission, a survey conducted to gauge people's views on polygamy indicated that most wives were against the system, as it mainly works to the disadvantage of women -culturally inhibited from marrying more than one man.
Mwale says most of the people asked about the issue felt it mainly worked to the advantage of men wishing to have multiple partners, often at the expence of wives who depend on their husbands for their daily bread, taking into consideration the high illiteracy rate among most Malawian women that makes it difficult for them to be self-sufficient in the absence of supportive husbands.
Mwale parried away suggestions the intended legislation, which required the approval of Parliament if it were to become into effect, was targeting Muslims- whose religion allows polygamy provided the husband will be able to support all the wives without discrimination or favouratism.
"Even Chief Makanjira, himself a Muslim, supported the idea to ban polygamy saying even though he could, by religion, be allowed to marry more than one wive, he only has one wife because he things it is the right thing to do. Even most of the people asked said they felt polygamy mostly worked aganst the rights of women," said Mwale.
Her sentiments are supported by Gender Support Programme Executive Director, Cecillia Mussa, who wonders why only men are allowed to marry more than one wife when the same right is denied to women.
She says the system is only perpetuated by men who want to abuse women and use them as sexual instruments when marriage was supposed to be a sanctified act between two individuals who commit themselves to live with each other "till death doth us part".Mussa adds that what is at stake is not polygamy per se but the fairness in it that renders women vulnerable to the machinations of their husbands and other men.
"Which husband would allow his wife to have more than one husband and still be happy in marriage? But you will find that most men marry more than one wife and still expects the woman to be happy; there is psychological torture to it which, as often happens in the name of our culture, women are forced to bear in silence," queries Mussa.
Sheikh Mohammed Osman, Blantyre Islamic Information Bureau Co-ordinator, however, backs the idea behind allowing men only to have more than one wife, as opposed to women.
"The issue is straight forward:when a husband marries more than one wife, say three wives, and impreginates all of them at once, people will definitely know who has done it -the women's husband. But when, say, a woman marries more than one husband and goes to bed with them the same day, and they make her pregnant; who will you say is the real 'owner' of the preginancy? And when the child is born, which one will you say is its father's name? Definitely, it can't be all of them," argues Osman.
Osman further says Islam as a religion -while it does not prohibit polygamy for those who can be able to treat and support all the wives equally and with the same intensity of love and care- does not make polygamy compulsory.
"It is up to individuals to choose and, for those who can do it, let them be allowed to practice it without any hindrance. It is not true either that the system abuses women because,in fact, it was decided upon as a means of strengthening love, even extending it, to those women whose husbands were killed in battle or holy war so that they could not be lonely but still be looked after by men. Those people who use it to abuse women may be doing it for cultural reasons as you know that there are some cultures that promote polygamy and it must be these traditions perpetuating abuse against women and not Muslims," adds Osman, who says the proposed legislation should not be allowed to pass as it will affect good-meaning people.
Moses Mkandawire of Mzimba Heritage Association, an organisation formed to preserve and safeguard culture in the Northern region, feels a lot of ground work still needs to be done to determine the fate of the practice. He says any hussled efforts could only succeed in portlaying the move as being targeted at a particular group of people- both culturally and religiously.
"Actually, I would think twice before supporting such a legislation," he explains.
So, as the type-setters of the proposed legislation smear ink on blank pieces of paper for what could as well become the death bed, at least on paper, of polygamy; the drafters know deep down that the practice has a deep surface. Even, more importantly, that a gallant fight awaits them ahead.

Sometime back

PAC top brass to blame for stalled talks
06-07-2008 13:32 door Richard Chirombo637 times viewedContinue reading

- Public Affairs Committee [PAC] top hierarchy has been accused of playing a role in the failed mediation talks between president Bingu wa Mutharika and the opposition. PAC initiated the talks to help solve the political impasse between Mutharika and UDF national Chairman Bakili Muluzi on one hand, and the opposition Malawi Congress Party which initially denied having any problem with government. Bruno Banda, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace [CCJP] Senior Field Officer, in an interview in Blantyre attributed little progress by the parties involved in the talks to monopoly by PAC’s high ranking officials. He said: “ Civil society Organisations in the coun…
ACB warns govt. officials
06-07-2008 13:30 door Richard Chirombo608 times viewedContinue reading

- Anti-Corruption Bureau [ACB] Director Gustave Kaliwo has cautioned those in public positions now against crying foul when the graft-bursting body institutes investigations into their alleged corrupt practices, as that makes them prone to commit “crimes of opportunity”. Kaliwo said that is why some of the bureau’s investigations have involved United Democratic Front [UDF] officials who served under the Bakili Muluzi administration, since their public positions meant they had privileges in form of access to public funds. He was reacting to claims by the party’s officials accusing the ACB of political witch-hunting by continually targeting its membership in…
Govt. dismisses donor interference claims in World Bank proj
06-07-2008 13:29 door Richard Chirombo671 times viewedContinue reading

- Government has dismissed fears it may be forced to sacrifice Malawi’s interests in a bid to please development partners during the implementation phase of the World Bank- sponsored Rural Infrastructure Development Project. The project, designed to stimulate economic growth and the public service delivery system through increased access and reliability of the country’s infrastructure, is expected to start in September, late this year. The sentiments come in the wake of allegations that governments favour firms from the countries and regions of development partners financing such projects, an accusation it quashes off. Government came especially under a spate of criti…
Procurement fraud blamed on ‘illegal’ officers
06-07-2008 13:27 door Richard Chirombo646 times viewedContinue reading

- The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply [CIPS], the highest grouping of the country’s procurement and supply chain officers, has blamed cases of alleged fraud and corruption involving procurement managers on unqualified personnel. CIPS’ President, Edward Jeke, in an interview in Blantyre, attributed such cases to organisations that engage the services of unqualified officers, people he said lacked the high ethical standards demanded by the profession. Jeke said such individuals had little regard for the trade making them susceptible to unethical practices, a move he claimed only soils the very image of qualified procurement and supply chain officers. “W…
Banda dismisses talk of “rotten” treadle pumps
06-07-2008 13:26 door Richard Chirombo608 times viewedContinue reading

- By Richard Chirombo Blantyre City South constituents have accused MP Jimmy Banda of delaying the distribution of treadle pumps President Bingu wa Mutharika allocated to all constituencies represented in the National Assembly, accusing him of letting the pumps “rot” in his warehouse. But Banda has dismissed the claims, describing them as machinations of opposition politicians who don’t wish him well. Manuel Mtambalika, one of the constituents who claim to have two acres of land in Chilobwe township but doesn’t harvest enough because of unreliable rains, said in an interview he had waited for the pumps for over seven months but was yet to receive them.…
‘Hunger forced the children out’
06-07-2008 13:25 door Richard Chirombo669 times viewedContinue reading

- The case where five children ran away from their Ndirande home should serve as a living example of the many problems child-headed households face, and compel Malawians to formulate conducive policies to ease their suffering, says one of the many youths who heads an all-children household. Everson Fositala, brother to the children who handed themselves over to Blantyre Police after failing to connect to their Ntcheu home district, said Tuesday in an interview in Blantyre he could not blame his little brothers and sisters for their action since the situation they were living in was simply not conducive to normal livelihood. “It is hunger that forced the children out. Most o…
Employment Act to improve workers' conditions
06-07-2008 13:23 door Richard Chirombo561 times viewedContinue reading

- The country’s workforce should expect improved conditions of service once government finishes reviewing provisions of the Employment Act, Southern Region Labour Officer Odridge Khunga has hinted. The development will also benefit the much neglected estate workers, one of the country’s lowest paid sectors, according to Khunga. Khunga disclosed this in Thyolo Saturday when the Institute for Policy Interaction [IPI] briefed estate managers on a new Employment Record Book introduced to help workers in plantations keep track of their work attendance and benefits. The Regional Labour Officer said it was in this regard that government had re-introduced the surveilla…
Construction industry shuns external projects
06-07-2008 13:19 door Richard Chirombo996 times viewedContinue reading

- Malawian construction firms shun away from projects outside the country, effectively rendering the country uncompetitive on the global scale. This has contributed to the ‘below average’ revenue the country receives through exports of services says the Institution of Engineers in Malawi. Institution President, Paul Kulemeka in Blantyre this week, said the situation was made worse, “sometimes”, when government chose to substitute local engineering consultants in projects involving foreign firms. “There is need for specific orientation of attachees at Malawi embassies, through a consultant, so that they are able to obtain relevant information on…
Malawi's independence: some things never to forget
06-07-2008 13:17 door Richard Chirombo711 times viewedContinue reading

- Today, Malawians celebrate Independence Day. Richard Chirombo looks back. What we call Malawi now first lived in the minds and hearts of the bold few who liberated it, well before it formally existed on the world political map as a sovereign state. They saw, in their minds, those great symbols of a nation state – flag, emblem, national anthem, head of state and government, passport, and currency– that their invented community could call its own. They got them at the cost of their own lives, because they wanted total happiness for all. That was done, long after some had already gone Yet after that was done, still there was no true happiness for all. Without true happ…
Malawian women politicians disappoint gender activists
06-07-2008 12:54 door Richard Chirombo658 times viewedContinue reading

- In her years as gender activist and Board Chairperson for the NGO Gender Network, Emma Kaliya has seen women politicians –still clad in their skirts and Zitenje; and still wearing the tag of proud, committed wives to their husbands- turn into men. “Most of the women we have interacted with in the past, and helped to mould into formidable politicians we see today started as ‘real’ women. They were humble and promised to look into the welfare of fellow women once propelled into power; that they would help pass legislation advancing the course of women,” says Kaliya. ”But once there, they forget all this and become men”. By this, she adds, she means…
Menopause:Malawian women suffer in silence
06-07-2008 12:48 door Richard Chirombo852 times viewedContinue reading

- If Anastasia Phiri had her way, she would have thrown the memories of one January night two years ago behind the folder of her mind and stop being the guilty-ridden woman she is today. It came barely two months after clocking 57- though there was nothing unusual about the day most Malawians would die dreaming to reach as for most, and keeping by the United Nations Development Programme projections on life expectancy, the clock stops at 39 years. “ That is before my husband died in May last year (2007). I woke up around mid-night, went straight to the kitchen where, for no specific reason, I took hold of the handle of an old hoe. Then the unexpected happened as I took it to the bedr…
'Bingu obstackle to political amnesty'
03-07-2008 16:03 door Richard Chirombo640 times viewedContinue reading

- Observers have accused president Bingu wa Mutharika of being the major hindrance to current mediation efforts aimed resolving the on going impasse between government and the country's opposition. The two sides have been rocked in a dead-rock that threatens to undo social-economic gains attained over the past four years. The issue is a dead-end on what should come first- section 65 of the Republican Constitution, or the national budget? It is a puzzle that both government and the opposition have failed to solve over the past four years, since Mutharika dumped the United Democratic Front (UDF) on February 05, 2005 to form his own Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The embittered UDF…
TNM unveils bold plans
02-07-2008 16:04 door Richard Chirombo599 times viewedContinue reading

- Malawi's leading mobile service provider,TNM, has unveiled bold plans aimed at taking the country closer to the Information, Communication, and Technology (ICT) highway. The pioneer mobile service provider has embarked on a programme aimed at bringing communication at the door step of consumers through a massive network extension initiative, according to TNM Products Manager Daniel Makata. Makata said in Blantyre it was in the company's etho to make communication easy for most people, a fit often humpered by the meagre number of citizens who have access to tele-communication services. Less than 30 per cent of the population has access to a telephone, according to National Stati…
Thither founding Malawi musicians?
20-06-2008 15:23 door Richard Chirombo745 times viewedContinue reading

- They are united by two facts, Malawi's old music guards: Nationality and death. Of couse, they are Malawian. But, they also die poor. It is this poverty that pains one of the country's old music guards, Lommie Mafunga. He has sung at various fora. What tune hasn't he sang? He even won a competition of Malawi's acoustic musicians organised in 1988 by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). That is when music meant music- not these days when all it means are dis-jointed choral codes and too much noise. The instruments stopped to coordinate, now people sing for money: nolonger for joy, nolonger to entertain, nolonger an art. Just that, to make noise. And noise is po…
Against all odds, Bingu still ticks
20-06-2008 14:40 door Richard Chirombo660 times viewedContinue reading

- Malawi's political commentators and analysts agree that President Bingu wa Mutharika's reign might have not been one of the easiest, looking at the continued overtures of an opposition out to frustrate his economic endeavours and constant threats to reject his fiscal blue prints since 2004. But they all also unanimously agree that Mutharika is a strong character, who has managed to overcome his numerous political frustrations, and that under him, Malawi has registered a myriad of development strides unrivaled by former president Bakili Muluzi's regime. "That is what is needed of a leader; he should be accommodative, yes, but strong enough to stand firm on issues of na…
Mhen urges media to specialise in health
10-06-2008 15:36 door Richard Chirombo645 times viewedContinue reading

- The Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen), a grouping of Malawian health-rights organisations, has asked government to make health services equitable for all if sustainable social-economic development is to be attained in line with Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) time frame. Malawi faces a myriad of health challenges, including poor remuneration for public health sector personnel, inadequate human resourse, as well as collapsing infrastructure. This is made worse by the prblem of brain-drain, where personnel leave the country in search of greener pastures, especially in the United Kingdom and USA. Ministry of Health officials, including Health Minister Khumbo Kachali, have often compla…
Upper-Shire Anglican Diocese remembers HIV-positive people
29-05-2008 16:43 door Richard Chirombo818 times viewedContinue reading

- The Anglican UpperShire Diocese says the problem of HIV and Aids has devastated households in South-Eastern Malawi that religious institutions were overwhelmed with orphans and vulnerable children looking for help, a development it attributes to stigma and descrimination rampant in Malawi. As a result, there has been an increased spate of families' and communities disintegration, as the HIV-positive continue to suffer incidences of discrimination. Malawi is one of the sub-Saharan countries whose societal-thread is very much strengthened by an extended family system, but the diocese has warned that that was now increasingly becoming rare as families focus on themselves for survival. …
Mid-month fair irk exhibitors
21-05-2008 16:06 door Richard Chirombo886 times viewedContinue reading

Participants to the on-going Malawi International Trade Fair have expressed disappointment with the timing of this year's fair, saying its mid-month fixing has put them in a fray over sales. - Esther Phiri, of Mbaweme Women in Business Association, said the group has made little turn-over during the first six days of the fair as compared to last year. "I think the timing is poor; it has cost us a lot of money to get organised and come here (all the way from Northern Malawi, some 600 Km), yey people are not forth-coming because it is mid-month. The Malawi Confederation of Commerce and Industry (organisers of the fair) would have done better," said Phiri at his pavilion on Tues…
Malawian MPs ignorant of ATT
19-05-2008 10:25 door Richard Chirombo1725 times viewedContinue reading

Most Malawian Members of Parliament (MP) are unaware about the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), two years after 153 member states of the United Nations voted in its favour for sustainable world peace in 2006. . - UN member states agreed during that year, at the UN General Assembly, on the need to have a plausible world treaty regulating the sale of small arms and light weapons. It was hoped that this would help control the proliferation of arms into 'blood' hands -people who would end up using them for human rights violations, especially in war-torn countries. According to research carried out by a local NGO, People's Federation for National Peace and Development (Pefenap)-one of t…
Bingu condemned
13-05-2008 16:49 door Richard Chirombo952 times viewedContinue reading

Civil Society organisations have accused president Bingu wa Mutharika of turning Malawi into a police state. - Their sentiments follows the alleged arrest of former Inspector General of Police, Joseph Iron, and Former Army Commander Joseph Chimbayo. Mutharika revealed on Friday that he had uncovered a plot by the opposition to usurp power from him using a controversial legislation, which empowers the speaker to declare vacant seats of MPs deemed to have crossed the floor by deserting parties that sponsored them into power. Malawi Human Rights Watch Executive Director, Billie Banda, said the arrests were ill-timed and could only work to threaten the electoral process in 2009, the year M…
Youths fundraise for community PCs
08-05-2008 12:03 door Richard Chirombo912 times viewedContinue reading

Concerned Youth Organisation (CYO) and Women for Fair Development (Wofad) have embarked on initives aimed at bringing Information and Communication Technology to Malawi's rural areas, a step they say will help towards complementing government efforts in bringing the country to the information highway. . - Malawi is one of the sub-Saharan African countries with the lowest ICT knowledge, a development government has often cited as being behind the country's back-waters' tag, as it remains relatively unknown to the outside world. Information and Civic Education Minister, Patricia Kaliati, who is also government spokesperson, said today in an interview apart from the hype brough…
Human rights activists blame govt. on impasse
08-05-2008 11:25 door Richard Chirombo694 times viewedContinue reading

Malawian Human Rights activists have blamed President Bingu wa Mutharika for the escalating political impasse in the country, adding the president has even complicated matters by allowing Members of Parliament on the government side to pass important national bills in the absence of boycotting opposition MPs. - The country's parliament has for the first time since independence gone without a quoram during the opening of the August house, partly because of government's reluctance to sit down with opposition parties, who also hold a majority in the house, on the issue of the controversial section 65. The section empowers the speaker to declare vacant any sit of an MP who has moved aw…
Women turning into men in Malawi
02-05-2008 11:35 door Richard Chirombo2004 times viewedContinue reading

Some women are turning into men in Malawi - Puna Mwamadi, 36, believes she died on April 6, 1997. The mother of Four, from the area of Traditional (T/A) Authority Karonga in the Lakeshore district of Salima, Southern Malawi, had been eight-months pregnant when her husband, Abner, died in March of the same year- leaving behind her and two other co-wives as theirs was a polygamous family. "I was at home on that night (of April 6, 1997) when labour pains begun. There was only myself at home, alongside Mirriam and Patuma, my deceased husband's other wives, and these people did alot to help me:I remember Patuma run into the bush without being afraid of the appalling darkness that nigh…
Polygamy's future hangs in balance
02-05-2008 11:31 door Richard Chirombo765 times viewedContinue reading

Polygamy may one day be forgotten in Malawi. If laws were always to be obeyed. - Puna Mwamadi, 36, believes she died on April 6, 1997. The mother of Four, from the area of Traditional (T/A) Authority Karonga in the Lakeshore district of Salima, Southern Malawi, had been eight-months pregnant when her husband, Abner, died in March of the same year- leaving behind her and two other co-wives as theirs was a polygamous family. "I was at home on that night (of April 6, 1997) when labour pains begun. There was only myself at home, alongside Mirriam and Patuma, my deceased husband's other wives, and these people did alot to help me:I remember Patuma run into the bush without being afrai…
MCTU to decide on severance pay
02-05-2008 11:26 door Richard Chirombo699 times viewedContinue reading

The Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) says it will come up with its long-awaited for stand on the outstanding issues of pension and severance pay today, following exhaustive consultations with affiliate members that started in Blantyre yesterday. - News Travel MCTU Secretary General, Austin Mkwezalamba said in an interview the mother trade union recently received funding from the International Labour Organisation (ILO)to tackle the issue once and for all, and that labour unions were now ready to come up with a final stand on the issue he said has brought untold misery and suffering among Malawian workers. "We are now ready to come up with a final decision, and what s…

Menopause:Malawian women suffer in silence

If Anastasia Phiri had her way, she would have thrown the memories of one January night two years ago behind the folder of her mind and stop being the guilty-ridden woman she is today.
It came barely two months after clocking 57- though there was nothing unusual about the day most Malawians would die dreaming to reach as for most, and keeping by the United Nations Development Programme projections on life expectancy, the clock stops at 39 years.
“ That is before my husband died in May last year (2007). I woke up around mid-night, went straight to the kitchen where, for no specific reason, I took hold of the handle of an old hoe. Then the unexpected happened as I took it to the bedroom and smashed my sleeping-husband’s left side with it. A heavy fight ensued,” says Anastasia, who hails from Kanjuli village, in the area of Traditional Authority Kamenyagwaza, Dedza but now lives in Blantyre ’s Ndirande Township .
“ Not that he was injured seriously, but that I never thought that could be done by me because we were a happy family then.”
What kills Anastasia, however, is the fact that though she later apologized to her husband, Flavius, he died almost 17 months later without knowing the cause of the January night incident. How she wished she met her husband and explained, she adds, because her freedom hinges on that simple effort. So does her soul.
Try as she may, she can’t.
But, as it happened in September last year, the mother of seven escorted one of her four daughters to Dedza District Hospital when it transpired that her sibling needed an old hand as guardian as she waited for one more addition to the Malawi population. A nurse was talking taboo in public- Menopause!
There, Anastasia learned that women reached a point, naturally between 42 and 58 years of age, when a woman’s fertility hit the rocks. But that she knew already.

One more point, though: “We also learnt that this condition was not ‘innocent’ after all; it had symptoms. I was shattered, because I remembered that day with my husband. It came clearly that it must have been the cause, because of my age,” Anastasia can never forget to shudder at this point.

According to Dr. Frank Taulo, acting executive director for the Centre for Reproductive Health (CRH) and also Gynaecologist (reproductive health experts, especially on issues of pregnancy and associated problems), says there is a worrying factor in Malawi in that most women don’t know about the effects of menopause and its impact on their lives.

The case of Anastasia is a simple one, he says, as other women have reached the extent of seriously harming or even killing other people because of this seemingly simple life-stage christened menopause.

“Yes, in extreme cases, others have even killed. Menopause is a public health problem though, it seems, we don’t seem to take it seriously here in Malawi . But this problem (lack of seriousness in terms of policy and health strategies) largely emanate from lack of information about it by most members of the public; there is need for extensive public sensitization,” says Taulo.

The Centre for Reproductive Health is a department at College of Medicine- a constituent college of the University of Malawi- the only institution that produces medical doctors in the country. CRH serves as a research and training arm of the Community Health Department at the institution and, among other functions, evaluates reproductive health services based on developed expertise in local cultural and ethical issues; establishes model services that promote quality, equitable access, affordability, appropriateness to the needs of individuals and the community with the main focus on underserved groups.

It also promotes sexual and reproductive health, addresses high-risk cultural practices and advocates for safe motherhood, and post-motherhood, practices, a part of which includes information dissemination on such issues as menopause.

Taulo says that, strictly speaking, menopause is the last menstrual period, though this can only be established when a woman has had no period for at least 12 months because around this time menses tend to be erratic. However, the average age is 51, though it may occur anywhere between 42 to 58 years of age.

Normally, ovaries in a woman’s body release two hormones- oestrogen and progesterone, which are under the control of two other hormones, Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinising Hormone (LH) produced in a part of the brain called the pituitary gland. With increased age, ovaries become less responsive to FSH and LH and, consequently, produce less ovarian hormones- and eventually stop releasing any eggs at all.

The resultant low levels of ovarian hormones, especially oestrogen, are thought to be the cause of menopausal symptoms.

Menopause lasts between six to 13 years. Though postmenopausal women cannot get pregnant, there have been reported cases of women getting pregnant during the climacteric and perimenopause period.

Taulo says in most cases menopausal symptoms may range from being non-existent, mild to severe. These include hot flushes, during which the skin around the neck becomes red, warm, sweaty, and last about 30 seconds to five minutes, at times with corresponding chills. The flushes affect 75 per cent of women worldwide and may occur from one to five years; psychological and emotional signs evident through fatigue, irritability, insomnia, nervousness, sudden tears and depression.

Others include night sweat, hair loss or thinning, and vaginal dryness; while neurological problems range from headaches, memory loss or lapse, electric shock sensation under the skin, burning sensation on the tongue. Symptoms may also come in form of an itchy crawling feeling, fingernails becoming softer, changes in body odour, bad taste in mouth, bleeding gums, indigestion, abdomen bloating, and difficulty holding urine (incontinence), especially when laughing or sneezing.

Muscles may also become achy, sore, accompanied by muscular tension, according to Taulo, who adds that women in the rural areas are the ones who largely bear the brunt of all these symptoms because Malawian society is little used to discussing sexual reproductive health issues in public. These women thus chose to keep quiet and suffer in silence, and this is why out-reach information and sensitization activities are urgently needed.

According to, research has shown that libido is not linked to oestrogen levels to the effect that menopause does not necessarily mean a woman will lose interest in sex. 50 per cent of women report no change in sexual interest though reproductive organs may feel dry thus impelling use of creams and “creativity in the bedroom should help”.

To Lennie Adeline Kamwendo, president for the Association of Midwives in Malawi (Amami), the problem with menopause in Malawi begins with the chichewa literal translation of the word “puberty”, which in vernacular goes like “kuthamsinkhu”.

“This is wrong. The real kuthamsinkhu should be menopause because that is when one stops bearing children. Otherwise, puberty is simply the beginning of the opposite. Once we change our attitude towards this problem, people may begin to appreciate the difference between the two sexual reproductive health developments and begin to treat them with the seriousness they deserve,” says Kamwendo.

Otherwise, she explains, menopause is another reproductive health issue that has to be treated as all other health issues, in terms of information dissemination and public sensitization. Even treatment.

Not only to members of the general public should this sensitization tirade span, as says Ularia Chumachiyenda –chairperson for Thyolo District Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) Association. Any efforts, in terms of sensitization and training, targeted at this direct link (TBAs) to the sexually active rural woman, as well as those past this period of activism, would go a long way in ensuring that issues about menopause develop a deep surface in Malawi ’s backwater communities, she says.

Chumachiyenda bemoans the discrimination and poor treatment TBAs suffer at the hands of nurses, blaming it for the high maternal mortality and morbidity rates in the country. According to the Malawi Demographic Health Survey, out of 100,000 women who deliver at any particular time, 984 have to die!

“You will be disappointed to find that, at times, when we take a woman to the hospital for delivery upon realizing that we won’t manage, nurses begin to shout at the pregnant woman for coming to us instead of helping her. And when the worst comes to the worst and she dies, they say it is because of us. We are not wanted at all. Yet, if the nurses rushed to help, perhaps we would have prevented such unnecessary deaths. So, on this issue of menopause, we are saying ‘Let this not happen, we are partners, let us help each other address problems associated with menopause’,” she says, acknowledging that, at the moment, TBAs have zero-knowledge on menopause symptoms.

In the end, menopause shrinks into three sentences of fact: Diagnosis is clinical (based on pattern of periods and presence of symptoms). There are, however, tests for those who may not have menses (after a hysterectomy, for instance). Tests are available to check the level of FSH (which usually rises during menopause) in blood or urine.

Then, the rural woman goes to a clinic.

Temporary employment under fire

Casualisation, or temporary employment, has come under a spate of criticism from Malawian labour unions but the Employers Consultative Association of Malawi (Ecam) has defended the practice saying the high cost of doing business in the Southern African country could be behind development.
Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) Secretary General, Austin Kalimanjira, said in Blantyre on Wednesday that commercial and industrial workers were the most affected, most of whom, he said, cart home an average of US$4 PER fortnight.

"We have sold our rights in the name of foreign direct investment, and the government is just quite on that. Malawians should now learn to stand up for their rights, otherwise we wii be forced to marrch," said Kalimanjira.

According to the labour unions boss, the worst culprits are multi-national companies, most of which pay the workers wages far much below those accorded to people doing the same kind of job in neighbouring countries, compelling him to speculate that it may be because government policies are too lax on the issue.

But Vincent Singini, Ecam Executive Director, parried aside the accusations saying labour unions should not be blind to the fact that the cost of doing business was high in Malawi as compared to other African countries.

Singini cited a 2004 report on doing business in Malawi that revealed wide-spread discontent among business people and foreign investors when it comes to processing business certificates and permits.

" Investors are profit-ariented and will always share the costs of conducting business with their domestic workers and , unfortunately, it it the ordinary citizen who bears the brunt of upside policies," he said, adding policy makers also had a fair share of the blame as they allowed individuals and foreign companies possing as investors to venture into petty businesses thus crowding out indeginous Malawians.

Thomas Phiri,8, now retired said he has worked under temporary employment deals for over 30 years but had nothing to show off for his sweat because "I was receiving peanuts all along and all the time I kept saying, 'perhaps one day things will change,nothing changed and here I am"'.

He is one of the people who took part in thje construction of Chayamba building, one of the tallest buildings in Blantyre City Centre, but noew lives in a rumshuckle house on the outskirts of the commercial city.

Formal couts' backload irk Malawian chiefs

Malawi's traditional court system, which was hitherto used by the one party regime of Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, got dissolved at the onset of multi-party system of politics to exorcise Malawians of the bad memories the system created following the hanging of many political prisoners convicted and sent to the gullows through the system, but chiefs are now crying for the re-institution of the system.
As a result of the development, most citizens shun the system only seeking redress over petty community issues.
Noel Msiska, Mwanza Primary Justice System Coordinator, revealed that, even with the abolition of the system, 90 per cent of Malawians still has access to it.He attributed the development to the high cost of legal services which has meant that only the previleged few enjoy access to the formal court system.
" Over 60 per cent of Malawians live well below the poverty line and cannot afford to pay legal costs but problems still abound in terms of chiefs capacity in conflict and dispute resolution management as most of them do not keep records.
"The other issue is bias; communities have accused chiefs of being biased towards relations and this has helped shift the attention from the traditional system to formal courts," said Msiska.
According to Msiska, research conducted by the British Department for International Development (DFID) and Malawi Access to Safety ,Security and Justice (MaSSA J) -a community justice programme- revealed glaring discrepancies in record keeping and conflict resolution management among traditional leaders thus affecting patronage.
Mwanza District Commissioner, Frank Kalilombe, under which the initiative falls being part of the Malawi Local Government component, blamed the silmutaneous decline of cases handled at chiefs level ,and the insurgence of serious criminal activities in the district to lack of coordination by players as every one wanted to work in isolation in a bid to enjoy unilateral donor funding.
As a result, he said, violence against women and children has sky-rocketed, piling pressure on the country's security system.
But a High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal Spokesman said there was nothing courts could do to prevent people wishing to seek justice from accessing the formal court system, pointing out that is a constitutional right every citizen was entitled to.
Currently, the country's courts are overwhelmed with cases some of which, like murder, the country cannot dispose off on its own as it depends on donor support notably from DFID.

Witchcraft under the spotlight

There has been an unprecedented outcry from Civil Society Organisations in Malawi for government to enact an Anti-Witchcraft Act to help curb increased incidences of witchcraft and magic practices that have currently plagued the Southern African country.
The development follows increased incidences of suspected witches, some self-confessing, falling over people's houses and others confessing to have taught children the practice.
Malawi has also witnessed an increased number of people being convicted for confessing to the practice, with the latest case last year where a Magistrates' court in the Northern Malawi district of Mzuzu sentenced a man to five years imprisonment with hard labour, though the country's constitution does not recognise witchcraft, and only punishes those who confess for "pretending to practice witchcraft".
Civil Liberties Committee Executive Director, Emmie Chanika faulted government for the practice saying though CSOs fought for the inclusion of regislation tackling the practice, they were given a cold shoulder.
"We have tried our best but government keeps on frustrating us hence an increased number of the practice. People are dying, being victimised, especially children," said Chanika.
Owings Chawanda, Projects Officer for Journaliosts for Human Rights also agreed with the CSOs saying the practice had reached worrying levels.
Even Blantyre Police Public Relations Officer, Elizabeth Divala acknowledged that the police station has received over 20 cases of witchcraft but added that complainers are aften sent back to consult church leades because the issue is more less like a spiritual matter that could as well be tackled spiritually.
Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Henry Phoya said the best way for CSOs to tackle the issue was to go through the Malawi Law Commission on the Review of the Constitution.
Malwi has just finished reviewing her constitution almost a decade since the advent of democracy

Exposed: Malawi has schools of witches

1000 children in the central Malawi district of Salima, graduate into witchcraft yearly, research shows. The African Network for the Protection and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect has revealed there is a school in the lakeshore district teaching children how to become masters of the night.
The Country Director of (ANPPCAN), Kenwilliams Mhango, said "It is sad, let us save these children because they stop concentrating in class because of tiredness. Some who refuse to learn about witchcraft are denied food: it is abuse of children's rights."

There have been increased cases of people teaching children witchcraft, but efforts to deal with the issue are hampered by the constitution of Malawi, which does not recognise witchcraft and regards self-confessed individuals as "pretenders".

Malawi: Disabled used as cure for HIV/AIDS

Disabled persons are being forced into sex as a cure for HIV/AIDS. The Department of Nutrition, HIV and AIDS of the President of Malawi alleges that it was dismayed with the number of complaints being received from the disabled that HIV positive patients are raping them as a cure for their ailment.
Principal Secretary for the Department, Dr. Mary Shawa, said on Thursday as Malawi prepares for the World AIDS Commemoration Day that her office had received complaints from individuals who had been raped or forced into sex with the belief that the disabled are a cure for HIV and AIDS.

"These things are true and, to us, it is a shame because the disabled are not a cure for HIV and AIDS; it is just a misconception," said Shawa.
Malawi is the only country in the world that has successfully integrated HIV/AIDS and nutrition, after noticing that nutrition improved immunity while HIV- the virus that causes AIDS - weakens it. "Integrating the two has been one of our success stories," said Dr. Shawa.

The country plans to host commemoration days at district level come December 1, a process Shawa said has increased costs, instead of reducing them. She was responding to suggestions that government had decentralized the activities to cut costs. The development, she said, came about to improve access to HIV and AIDS and nutrition information.

Malawians root for death penalty

Majority of Malawians preferred the death penalty to any other form of punishment, according to a recent public study. The report said the respondents warned against efforts towards scraping corporal punishment from the constitution, fearing that would give rise to serious criminal offenses.
The Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament commissioned the report and its findings were revealed by the former committee Chairperson Atupele Muluzi. “Our committee established that this was the wish of most people in Malawi. This gave rise to suggestions that, perhaps, in cases where it is possible to mete out other forms of punishment to serious offenders, the presiding judges should have power of discretion. Otherwise, the truth remains that most Malawians would love to have that provision of the death penalty,” said Muluzi.

However, civil society organizations (CSOs) have kicked against death penalty. Through the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), they have argued that the law is ‘barbaric and inhuman’. HRCC Chairperson, Undule Mwakasungula, said: “In fact, research findings have revealed that the death penalty does not deter people from committing serious crimes. So, what is the purpose for maintaining it?”

Mwakasungula further said some people are being wrongly executed; a development he said necessitated the need to get rid of death penalties throughout Africa. “To date, over 126 people have been wrongly hanged. Again, what’s the purpose of retaining this barbaric provision? There are other alternatives around, including life imprisonment,” said Mwakasungula.

However, the Malawi Law Commission, which carried out consultations over the issue, indicated in one of its reports that, in cases where prisoners are committed to life in prison, there was need to include prison reforms. “Otherwise, life imprisonment without the basic necessities in prison would be tantamount to meting a slow death on those committed to life-long prison,” read part of the report.

Malawi netball on the rise

Malawi has managed to beat prophets of doom who predicted dwindling fortunes for netball, thanks to good player-succession plans.
Just some two years ago, many feared that netball was on its death bed as many of Malawi’s top notch netball players near retirement.
The instrumental Mary Waya, probably the world’s fattest netball player, has a reputation running across the continents. Captain Peace Chawinga-Kalua, too, has had an industrious career spanning over two decades.
The two have been the heart beat of the Malawi National Netball team but now faces prospects of retirement as age catches up with them.
The print media has been awash with debate over whether the old guard should retire now, but national coach Edith Kaliati has turned such a suggestion down- opting to blend old and new blood.
The move seems to be bearing immediate fruits following Malawi’s growing dominance in netball.
Teenager Mwai Kumwenda, for instance, hardly existed in the minds and hopes of Malawian netball fans some four years ago. Now, the Escom Netball Team player has become a house hold name, even leaving a mark on the international netball scene.
She scored the most baskets in the World Under-17 Netball Tournament held last month in Cooks Islands. Within two weeks of that record, Kumwenda accompanied Malawi to South Africa, and took part in the Confederation of Southern Africa Netball Associations (Cosana) tournament.
She blended well with goal shooter Waya to make South Africa look like ordinary amateurs. Malawi retained the Cosana tournament and proceeded to Tanzania where they took part in a Six Nation Invitational Tournament.
The Queens, again, carried the day but did not have time to receive the trophy as they were rushing to the United Kingdom to take part in a competition pitting the world’s top six netball teams.
The Queens braved managed to move up from position six in world netball rankings to 5. The encouraging part was that the team managed to reduce the number of baskets conceded from such giants as England, New Zealand, and Jamaica to within five baskets difference on average. Teams like Samoa were easy folder for the marauding Queens.
The Queens came back home on Tuesday this week, and Kaliati is buoyed by the players’ performance.
“Contrary to fears that we were on the down ward spiral, we are moving from better to best. There is good coordination in the team, and our blending process (mixing the old guard with up-coming players) seems to be working wonders. South Africa can attest to that. In fact, we consider the South African Senior Netball Team as our Team B or concubines,” said Kaliati.
Sports Development Minister, Dr. Luscious Kanyumba, is also thrilled with the new events brewing in netball cycles.
“Netball is one sport that makes us proud. As you know, we have been struggling in soccer- though we now are coming back to where we were in the 1970s. We could beat the likes of Ivory Coast by five-goals-to-one then,” said Kanyumba.
Ivory Coast’s worst defeat (in soccer) came at the hands of Malawi when they went down 5-1.
Kanyumba said government was committed to supporting netball, a sentiment echoed by state president Bingu wa Mutharika.
Mutharika has vowed to increase state funding to all sporting disciplines.
“Let’s spread our net wider and success will come. Netball, especially, has given us the hope that we can do better. It’s not only soccer that matters, netball and other sports disciplines are crucial to success, too,” said Mutharika.

Religions soften rules on condom use

Religious leaders have softened up their decision against general condom use in Malawi. Government officials see it as positive news in the fight against HIV/AID. Media reports say condom use in the southern African country remains below the levels needed to halt the spread of the disease.
Malawi is one of the Southern African Development Community member states with a high HIV prevalence rate, though government efforts have helped stabilize the situation to 12 per cent national prevalence rate.

National AIDS Commission Executive Director, Biziwick Mwale, said the trend was worrisome because HIV/AIDS service organizations were doing a commendable job in sensitising communities. "The most worrying factor is that condom use seems to be low in long term partnerships and marriages. Condom use is just over the 50 per cent mark, but has never reached 55 per cent,” said Mwale.

The sub-Saharan country distributes 20 million male condoms against 200, 000 female condoms. Only half of these are sold and used, AfricaNews reporter said. Female Condom activists hope that increased awareness about FCs could help reverse the situation.

Lack of resources sends Malawians 12,000 blind

Malawi is facing a race against time to cure 12, 000 patients made blind from preventable illnesses.
Ministry of Health officials acknowledge the country was grappling with an artificial blindness problem, but say efforts were being made to reverse the situation.
Joseph Msosa, Chief Eye Specialist in the Ministry of Health, said the common form of blindness was that coming as a result of cataract, a health condition that, if untreated, leads into total blindness. It can, however, be reversed through eye surgery.
“We currently have 20, 000 people who are blind as a result of this condition, of which we have only been able to operate on 8, 000. We don’t have the necessary financial resources to operate on the remaining 12, 000,” said Msosa.
This means countless more days of no sight for people who deserve nothing more but sight.
Other unconfirmed reports indicate that there may be more than 100, 000 people with cataract, but too much reliance of Health Surveillance Assistants means many more people suffering from the condition remain unaware that they can be cured.

Conservatives make proposals to tackle homophobic bullying

Shadow chancellor and head of the Conservative Party's general election campaign has today expanded on the party's policies to tackle homophobic bullying first outlined in an article by party leader David Cameron on yesterday. The plans come despite the Conservatives forcing the Government to drop plans to reform sexual education teaching in schools, that experts argued could lead to a reduction in homophobic bullying.

George Osborne today said: "The Conservative Party will give headteachers the final say over the exclusion of homophobic bullies and give teachers the power to stop violent homophobic incidents.

"We would also change government guidance on behaviour and exclusions to make it clear that bullying aggravated by prejudice – including homophobic bullying should result in tougher punishments. And in order to improve the level of information we have, we would include a new category in exclusions data specifically for 'homophobic abuse.'"

Yesterday Mr Cameron wrote on "Homophobic bullying in schools is a massive issue and we've absolutely got to root it out. I think the first thing teachers need to deal with it is more power to tackle homophobic bullying. Under Labour, homophobic bullies excluded from schools can be returned to the classroom by a bureaucratic appeals panel, and teachers are often unable to break up violent homophobic bullying because of “no touch” policies that prevent teachers from intervening. I know Michael Gove has plans to deal with homophobic bullying with new powers for heads and improving teacher training in a way that gives teachers the tools they need to deal with all sorts of prejudice – from anti-semitism to homophobia."

Mr Osborne says the Conservatives will free headteachers to be able to exclude homophobic bullies. At present the party says pupils expelled for homophobia can be returned to schools under appeal panels. The party say they will scrap appeal panels, although teachers point out that they have been promised this in the past.

The party say they will give teachers the power to stop violent homophobic attacks. They argue that half of schools have forms of a 'no touch' policy which can prevent teachers from intervening in incidents. Mr Osborne said teachers would be given absolute clarity over use of reasonable force to prevent violence.

The Tories say they would issue guidance to schools on behaviour and exclusions for non-violent bullying based on homophobia as well as gender, disability and race. The guidance will emphasise that prejudiced based bullying is serious than other forms of disruptive behaviour.

The party will also force schools to record incidents of homophobic abuse in the way they currently do for sexual misconduct and racism. Teachers warn that this may result in form filling and box ticking.

Ben Smith, a teacher in an inner-London, Catholic school told "There is nothing that new about the Conservative's policies. They've spoken before about abolishing appeals panels, this is a reactive policy. As a gay teacher, I can see that what is needed is to teach about homosexuality across the curriculum, in the same way that race and gender is."

Jonathan Bartley of the progressive religious think tank Ekklesia wrote that the policies "are geared around further exclusion and based on 'tougher punishments. There is nothing restorative in the proposals. Indeed, their stated aim in promoting exclusion is to avoid contact between victim and offender. Contact can actually be helpful if managed properly and both parties consent to it.

"Nor do they do anything to tackle the indications that there is more bullying in faith schools than in others, which we highlighted in a letter to the Times recently. There is nothing in the proposals to tackle, for example, the exemptions that faith schools have in sex and relationships education, which some feel lie close to the root of the problem."

Last week, the Conservative Party forced the Government into a climbdown over plans to make sex education compulsory for all pupils over 15. Lisa Power of HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust called the climbdown "disgraceful" and claimed it could lead to more homophobic bullying.

"We will see the impact on young people who haven't had decent sex and relationships education. The girl who gets pregnant because the only education she got was in the playground, the people who use the word 'gay' as an insult," she said.

"This isn't just about sex – it's about relationships, it's about bullying, it's about a whole raft of things."

The announcement today follows a meeting with gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell who held 'David Cameron coming out party' outside the Conservative Party's London headquarters.

Trans pilot 'no big deal' for RAF (Pilot wants to become woman)

A pilot at Prince William's RAF base is transitioning to become a woman.

Flight Lieutenant Ayla Holdom, 29, who was born male, told friends this week that she expects to complete her transition within a year.

She is based at RAF Valley in Anglesey, North Wales, where the second-in-line to the throne is training.

The Sun reports that Ms Holdom will remain with her wife Wren and continue in her job, becoming one of three women in 22 Squadron C Flight.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "This is no big deal for the RAF, or the services in general for that matter, whether you are talking about transgender or homosexuality.

"All we have to deal with is can that person do the job, can Ian [her former name] fly as a co-pilot in the search and rescue?"

According to the newspaper, the pilot sent an email to friends and family this week explaining the change.

Ms Holdom also updated her Facebook to say she would shortly delete the profile to "move on" and encouraged friends to ask if they did not understand.

A source said: "It wasn't a total shock for those of us who have known Ian for a while, as he was not happy being a man.

"This sort of thing isn't that unusual in this day and age, even in the military."

"He said he wasn't going to start wearing a bonnet and screaming 'I'm a laydee!'

"He made a few other jokes in the message, saying that there would be some big and small physical changes.

"He said he accepted that a lot of people would find his decision 'weird', he recognised there were funny aspects to it, and he said he'd be disappointed if people didn't take the mickey a bit."