Thursday, December 29, 2011

Prayer for Malawi; Prayer for 2012

"As we prepare to enter the New Year, our prayer should be: 'God, as you bless other nations, do not forget us. Do not forget Malawi"- Malawi's President, Ngwazi President Bingu wa Mutharika.

"As we prepare to enter the New Year, our prayer should be: 'God, as you bless other nations, do not forget us. Do not forget Malawi"- Malawi's President, Ngwazi President Bingu wa Mutharika.

"As we prepare to enter the New Year, our prayer should be: 'God, as you bless other nations, do not forget us. Do not forget Malawi"- Malawi's President, Ngwazi President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Get Out of The Vehicle, Get Us Out of This Economic Mess, This National Misery We See in Children's Eyes

Malawi's President, Ngwazi Prof. Bingu wa Mutharika.: The devil sat on our back in 2011; 2012, I assure you, will be better.

"As we prepare to enter the New Year, our prayer should be: 'God, as you bless other nations, do not forget us. Do not forget Malawi"- Malawi's President, Ngwazi President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Towards the Abyss

The Way Things Are,
The Way They Go These Days;
The Journey Has Come,
The Journey is Here.

Just Like That.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Tereza Mirovicova: Singing Malawian Songs Away From Home

By Richard Chirombo
What love is greater than this: A young lady aged 24, fully aware of
her position as the only child to a loving Czech family, falls into
the pit of curiosity and decides to go to an unknown country in the
deep of Africa.

In The Heat of Things: Tereza. She is also a movie-maker, having produced the Chichewa firm, 'Zione'in 2010, and is currently working with Tawonga Nkhonjera's Dikamawoko Arts producing a new firm called 'Bella'. The firm is being shot in Chadzunda with local Secondary School students.

She had no idea about the country she was about to set foot on. The
two things she knew were that this country was in Africa, and that she
very much wanted to be a volunteer.
And, so, started Tereza Mirovicova’s journey to Malawi- a journey
sparkled by a newspaper advert in Czech’s Dhes (Today) newspaper
calling for people interested to work as Development Aid from People
to People (Dapp) Volunteers in 2002. Tereza was working as secretary
for a company based in the Czech Republic’s capital, Prague.
“I immediately applied because I wanted to experience something
different,” says Mirovicova with a grin.
That decision did two things. On one hand, it marked the end of her
blossoming secretarial career. It also broke her parents’ hearts, on
the other.
“It was hard on my parents because I am their only child,” says Mirovicova.
But Tereza was resolute in her decision to sample the unknown that was
Africa, in part because she knew she had not, like many youths,
dropped into a vacuum of childish objectives but took the right path.
Hers was the courage and passion of a daughter caught up in the net of
a once-in-a-lifetime chance.
Tereza never regrets ever making that decision, more so because “I
could not have positively impacted on people’s lives in my position as
secretary the way I have done here by contributing towards early
childhood development efforts in Malawi”.
But it was not easy to make her decision as it required a great deal
of blending moral courage with other traits which make up character:
honesty, deep seriousness, a firm sense of principle, candour, and
Convinced that she had these traits- a position strengthened by the
realization that, everywhere in the world, people liked good things
and placed an equal valuation upon character and intellect- Tereza
visited Malawi on a tour of duty in 2002.
Tereza had lived in her native Czech Republic for 22 years the time
she made the decision work for Dapp between October 2002 and March
2003. Of course, she was at the peak of her life, and- while other
youths sailed with the winds in her home country, making merry and
enjoying youth hood’s great offerings- Tereza had reached the decisive
moment when her conscience, life events, and circumstances propelled
her into the centre of passion’s storm.
”When I first came to Malawi, I went to work in Chiradzulu. My work
there influenced my decision to come back. This is after I learned
that it is possible- in a rural setting, and without much money- to
contribute towards high quality early childhood education,” says
That is how Tereza’s journey back home differed from other volunteers.
The others went back with mixed memories about the people of Malawi-
in terms of the ideals they lived for and the principles they fought
for, their virtues and their sins, their dreams and their
disillusionment, the praise they earned and the abuse they endured,
and , of course, their ever-present smiles even in the middle of
“But I was going back home with a wish: to come back at all costs,” says Tereza.
Indeed, she raised US$ 90,000 and came back with some two Czech
friends for their Malawi project. One of those friends, Simone Fuchs,
still works with her as the Education Director for boNGO (Based On
Need-Driven Grassroots’ Ownership), their organisation. This is how
the Dapp story of 2002 is not wholly separate from the story of
Tereza’s present.
boNGO’s work is a celebration of local proverbs, says Tereza, and
centres on the Chichewa proverb m’mera mpoyamba.
“This Malawian proverb represents the importance of the first years of
a child’s life. 80 percent of the brain develops before the age of
eight, and it is these years that lay the crucial foundation for a
child’s physical, intellectual, and emotional development in life.
“There is urgent need for quality care and education for Malawi’s five
million children under the age of eight,” says Tereza of Bongo.
BoNGO, which started in 2005, and runs Umodzi-Mbame Model Care Centre
in Juma Village, T/A Somba, Blantyre, occupies much of Tereza’s time.
But it is boNGO, also, that has brought Tereza into the music
limelight as a Chichewa music singer.
The sight of a ‘white’ lady singing in vernacular at the Lake of
Stars, Blantyre Arts Festival, College of Medicine’s multi-purpose
hall, old mutual and Doogles puzzles many people. This puzzlement
amazes Tereza.
“I sing in Chichewa out of passion, and also the zeal to fundraise for
boNGO. I want Malawians stop, think and smile,” says Tereza.
She is a multitalented movie-maker, and plays the role of poet,
story-teller, dramatist, and musician for Dikamawoko- owned by Taonga
Born on December 6, 1978, Tereza fell in love with music at the tender
age of eight. This was at the peak of Communism, a time when Czechs
were not allowed to listen to Western music. So worse was the
situation, in a country so totally given up to the spirit of
communism, that not to follow blindfolded was an expiable offense.
”However, I found an old Western music tape with songs from the 50s
and 60s. I so liked the music that I started dancing to it. In fact,
songs of the 60s remain my main weakness, “she says.
It is a sense that came to her when he first listened to Chichewa
music, too. In fact, the musician has just finished recording an
11-track Chichewa album. It has songs like Chikondi, a celebration of
love between two people of different cultures. The addition of the
Mbira introduces melodies that make the heart sparkle.
There is also Chimphongo - a song inspired by Tom Jones’ She’s a lady,
is a depiction of a young lady’s pride and joy in her new found love,
Bwera Apa, Serenoa, Titsate Mwambo, Simuzasiabe, and Ku Ghetto, among
“My favourite Malawian musician is Ndirande-based singer and
guitarist, Muhanya. I also love old Malawi music, the likes of Bambo
aTereza,” says Tereza.
In the Czech Republic, Tereza is thrilled by the songs of Raduza and Karel Gott.
“My message to Malawians is that they should value their culture;
culture gives people a sense of what they are. Lastly, let me say that
we are all one. I just want Malawians to treat me as one of them, not
(as) a white lady. We are all equal,” says Tereza.
This message resonates with Tereza’s songs. Common humanity furnished
the beat; love provides the theme. She also urges people to share
with others.
When we give to others, she enthuses, we are making the immeasurable
world measurable through our deeds.
Malawi was, before 2002, an immeasurable world to Tereza. But,
through her courage, Malawi became measurable in connection with her,
that she now feels happy to divide her year in two parts: nine months
in Malawi, three months in the Czech Republic.

Remembering Malawi's 2009 Elections' Preparations

Mussa Paulo, DPP, nearly banged into an on-coming lorry ON august 27, 2007, as he attempted to duck Dyson Misomali, a United Democratic Front (UDF) director of youth for Blantyre- Kabula constituency.

Paulo, also from Kabula, is no stranger to politics, or politicians. Not merely because he currently serves as Democratic progressive Party constituency governor for youth; he has over the years been bodyguard to a myriad of notable politicians who, from an observer's point of view, have little in common other than the common string that is politics, and being Malawian.

Talk about Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President John Tembo, New Republican Party (NRP) president Gwanda Chakuamba, Stanley Masauli of the resuscitated Republican Party, and Steve Ching'ang'a, among other notable politicians- he has served them all as bodyguard- either as a single individual or part of a security detail.

"The reason I nearly got run over was political; many Malawians have a long-held view that people who belong to other political parties, other than their own, are their sworn in rivals, that there should be no interaction whatsoever. I might have shared in this misconception, but now I know (what politics is all about). Politics, in the developed world, means campaigning in the run-up to federal or national elections, and then holding hands for the sake of national development thereafter. Not in Malawi," says Paulo.

He defends his case by adding that a majority of Malawians have taken politics beyond its traditional meaning, perhaps because of its Chichewa translation of Ndale which, literally translated into English, comes to mean 'slashing one's legs at one go' (as in cutting of grass)-a martial arts technique that sees someone falling over himself from the sudden effect of a slash-like movement of the legs.

Yet, in his own words, he also reveals that on so many occasions, in his other life as bodyguard, he came to learn about the behind-the-podium-life of politicians. He saw his (former) bosses screech to resounding halts whenever they saw their perceived political 'enemies' embroiled in the delay-tentacles of an auto-mobile break-down.

After which, he says, they would agree on where they would meet for one-too-many, or beer, sessions. 'Why can't we learn from this, as we approach the May (19, 2009) general elections, that the polls may be peaceful, that in the end we will all agree to concentrate on development until one's term of office expires? There is a lot to be done to transform our lives, and all these things depend on purpose of unity".

Politicians do it at night.

A lot, it seems, needs to be done, and the signs were bounty recently at Namatete Primary School, in Blantyre, where constituency-level politicians drawn from various political parties met to discuss unity as we approach the May 19, 2009 general elections, equally expected by many a politician and political analysts to be the most challenging Malawi has ever braced since the advent of the Third Republic.

The primary school lies at a distance of 900 metres, East of Chirimba bus stage as one goes towards Blantyre City Centre. There, at Namatete, is a wall two-metres tall, that swallows linear-constructed, but dilapidated all the same, blocks christened classes. These walls also serve as classrooms. In fact, over six chalkboards cover every ten metres of this wall (sorry, classroom!) and, every school day, pupils sit down on stones facing this brown wall.

Every school day, teachers bid their homes bye saying 'we are going to school', yet it is a wall they mean. All they do, and know at this school, ironically constructed in one of Malawi's highly esteemed cities, Blantyre, is stand in front of the wall- the pupils, some can hardly afford soap, watch both the teacher and the wall. Of course they listen to the teacher and not the wall, but environments can also talk. The wall cries for help, in form of classrooms, enough teachers and quality education, on behalf of the pupils.

But, according to UDF's Misomali and Ephraim Pofera, MCP constituency secretary for Kabula, the school remains in such state because people are pre-occupied with politics: the opposition always against, the ruling party always dictating. People are the ones who suffer.

"They (innocent people) are denied their right to development. The problem affects children hard; in this case, pupils have to brace the rain, sometimes so heavy, wind, and the October sun. It's unfair, really. Tit-for-tat politicking, on every side, both the opposition and the ruling party, is retarding social-economic development," says Misomali.

This has largely been detrimental, he enthuses, as some people go about removing other parties' flags and political insignia. Where has sanity gone, when Malawi was supposed to be a boat? One boat.

In fact, in the words of Pofera, what has gone haywire with multiparty politics in Malawi, that it now means enemies to the point of shedding innocent blood? Multiparty politics were supposed to be at the individual person's discretion, whether to join this party or that, just as it happens with churches. He rightly points out that some are catholics, presbyterians, protestants, restorationists, muslims, hindus, among other religious affiliations. But they don't stone each other for their beliefs, they live in peace.

"After all, after all", exclaims Pofera, as if powered by the virtuoso of a newfound revelation, " were we not all members of one political party during the late Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda's regime. Were we not all MCP? The institution of a multiparty politics' system simply meant we now had a choice, and making one's choice doesn't mean violence or muzzling of other views. No, that is anathema to democracy," explains the MCP constituency secretary.

But all the three grassroots' political officials agree that the key to peaceful 2009 elections is not success on the voting day. Rather, the key rests in the processes initiated in the run-up to the same, and that this means political involvement of communities and their leaders. They say, at the moment, politicians only use people at the grassroot to propagate their political ambitions, mostly using violence against perceived political enemies. This is exacerbated by deep-rooted poverty, high illiteracy levels, lack of clearly spelt out ideologies and ignorance about world political systems among rural and peri-urban dwellers.

The future, however, is bright, the way MCP campaign director for the constituency Duncain Hora sees it. Hora says the first solution to any political impasse lies in the realisation that before politics and whatever it means, there was kinsmanship among all and sundry in Malawi; that brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, grandmothers and fathers, even good neighborliness first lived before politics.

So, as we approach the 2009 elections, people should put these considerations first before thinking of politics. That way, Malawians will come to take politics and elections as only a process through which people who love each other tell those who have failed to impress and have failed electorates' expectations that "well, you will do better than this next time, from the experience you have, let us help the one we now want to fill in your weaknesses. Anyone who chooses someone, or allows themselves to be elected to fill the gaps in other people's weaknesses, is a friend in deed," says Hora.

Edward Chaka, executive director for Peoples' Federation for National Peace and Development (Pefenap), an organisation that has been holding discussions on civil and political rights in the districts of Blantyre and Thyolo, with much emphasis on freedom of assembly and association, says imparting knowledge on grassroots leaders and community members is one plausible approach to solving the probable problem of political violence during the 2009 general elections, among the country's political players.

Lack of knowledge is one weakness that has, for a long time, been exploited by politicians to use villagers as tools of political discourse. But with the requisite knowledge that comes from realizing that every citizen has a constitutionally-enshrined right to form or join a political grouping of their choice; that this right goes with the freedom to assemble as a means of achieving political ends, may be the genesis of much needed political tolerance necessary to achieve sustainable social-economic development.

"In the end, resolving political issues at national level should be a process that begins at community level; it is a local responsibility. It is at this level that people are exploited and engaged to be castigating political opponents," according to Chaka.

Blantyre City Assembly in HIV, AIDS Fight

Blantyre, founded in 1876, was supposed to be an old man, ceaselessly
churning out lessons to all institutions, people, and other cities
established before it.

Dr. Emmanuel Kanjunjunju, Health Services Director at Blantyre City Assembly

The city has passed through so many stages- from becoming a British
consular in 1883, attaining municipality status in 1895, to, at one
time, becoming the preferred abode of the Father and Founder of the
Malawi Nation, Ngwazi Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda. So old is it that it
even pre-dates such cities as South Africa’s Johannesburg, Zimbabwe’s
Harare, and Kenya’s Nairobi.
With such a rich back ground, one would be made to believe that
Blantyre is a learning place.
Surprise! Officials from Blantyre City Assembly say the city is,
contrary to popular opinion, a ‘student’ of HIV and AIDS.
In fact, says Dr. Emmanuel Kanjunjunju- Blantyre City Assembly’s
Director for Health and Social Services- Blantyre has been a student
of HIV and AIDS “for as long as HIV and AIDS have been in existence”.
Says Dr. Kanjunjunju: “HIV and AIDS took everyone by surprise and we,
as city officials, are no exception. I am happy to say that, every
year, our knowledge on HIV and AIDS has been growing. In fact, we have
been trying various mechanisms in our response to the HIV and AIDS
Dr. Kanjunjunju adds that HIV and AIDS have ‘taught’ city officials
one big lesson: “to listen and value the input of other stakeholders,
notably the Community Based Organisations (CBOs) we work with”.
“These CBOs have helped us successfully scale up preventive and
treatment programmes. Through them, we have been able to identify
causes of discrimination and continued deaths due to HIV and AIDS,”
Dr. Kanjunjunju says, adding that Blantyre will continue to learn from
scientists, World Health Organisation reports, media coverage and CBOs
monitoring and evaluation reports on immerging issues.
Dr. Kanjunjunju sums up by saying Blantyre has not been a student of
HIV and AIDS in vain.
“From the lessons we have learned from others, we are happy to say
that we have positively contributed towards decreased cases of HIV and
AIDS prevalence. We have also managed to give funding, through the
National AIDS Commission, to CBOs and people living positively with
HIV and AIDS. All these efforts now put us in a better position to
meet the three thematic areas for this year’s HIV and AIDS
Commemoration Day,” Dr. Kanjunjunju says.

Malawi Will Never Forget...

...Evison Matafale.

Matafale died mysteriously under the brutal hand of Bakili Muluzi's Administration on 27 November, 2001.

Every year, Malawians from all walks of life gather in Chileka, his home village in Blantyre, to commemorate those few years he lived, and us bewildered.

There, in Chileka, lies the breathless body of a man who was forced to die!

May His Soul Rest in Eternal Peace, until that day when Evison Matafale shall stand face-to-face with his bad-wishers!

Remembering Siku's Bangwe Fiasco in March 2009!

One of Zachimalawi's followers wrote the following, in response to an article that appeared here. He wrote Zachimalawi on September 1, 2009.

Here it went:

In defense of Siku owners

By Owen Linganani

Wednesday, July 6, 2009: A man drives to Blantyre’s Bangwe Township and is mobbed by residents for having three dead chickens on him. Within hours, talk is common around town- not only about the man, but the company vehicle he was allegedly using.

From nowhere, the word Siku becomes synonymous with dead chickens in Bangwe. The way the issue has been blown out of proportion smacks of something more than meets the eye. There has to be some invisible hand from somewhere, possibly people who would love Siku, and some of its directors’ reputation, thrown in the mud.

It serves, sadly once again, as a reminder of how as a nation we are so much affiliated to jealousy and its ugly machinations. No wonder our wonderful National Anthem throws a chord over the issue of jealousy.

The truth of the matter is that there is no fuss around the issue of rituals. Rituals are as old as life itself, practiced all over the world. It has always been an integral part of the history and cultural heritage of many people around the world. In Latin America, Asia, Africa, Europe and elsewhere, rituals are common place.

In Southeast Asia, for example- with its heavy seasonal rains, the diversity of flora and the abundance of metal ores, agricultural communities have had their rituals since the 4th Millennium BC.

Archaeological and cultural records from Java, known for its favourite geological conditions, have proved beyond reasonable doubt that rituals, religious and cultural beliefs sustained the people there, and gave them some common heritage. Not only in Asia has this happened, elsewhere, too.

Abundant archaeological and cultural evidence from as many as six continents indicates, clearly, that what has come to be known as modern life is merely a combination of immerging trends and our ritualistic past- a past so full of invaluable traits and life colours. This overwhelming evidence, whose force of truth became more powerful in the Late Pleistocene period, and mainly from sites in limestone mountains. Among the best known are Than Khuong and Nguom in Northern Vietnam, Lang rongrien in Thailand, Leang Burung in Celebes, Tabon Curve in the island of Palawan in the Philippines, as well as in neighboring Zambia and Mozambique.

This was of life reached its peak in the 6th millennium BC, with changes in the tool kit from Flake tools to pebble choppers. This was called the HOabinhian tradition, called after the region in North Vietnam where rituals were common place.

This only affirms that rituals remain an integral part of society, even as Neolithic and African people begun to pave way for complex societies and cultures some 6000 years ago.

Dr. David Livingstone himself wrote in one of his letter to Scotland, how the Mang’anja people in Malawi would perform long, arduous rituals on end at the death of one of their own- a trend whose picture got more magnified during the death of traditional leaders. But this was just a part of the larger picture.

When the rains failed, their were specific rituals performed, something continued today by traditionalist like Fred Kwacha.

The Ngoni, Tumbuka, Yao, Lomwe, among other tribes in Malawi, have their own rituals embedded like born marrow in their existence.

It is thus myopic to prism a simple act done to fulfill a dignified ritual as an atrocious act- simply because, as people would love us believe, it was performed by one of the best-performing citizens of this country.

The incident has nothing to do with Siku. It is something to do with an individual and his beliefs. That is not prohibited under Malawi laws. It is part of our heritage as a common society with one purpose in mind: to develop our beautiful nation.

It is wrong to put BM 5754 or Siku Car Hire Manager Omar Ali- even James Mdogo- into this distorted picture of accidents. The two are not related at all.

Let us, as Malawians, respect traditions of fellow citizens and not take advantage of that to tarnish their image. That way, tourists will be able to even come just to appreciate some of our cultural beliefs.

Zachimalawi's Top Three Personalities for 2011!!!

Awana child-members in Malawi (above), Malawi's incumbent President, Bingu wa Mutharika, before he dumped the United Democratic Front, and (below) Tony Chimpukuso, Air Malawi's Commercial, Tariffs and Industry Affairs Manager


Awana Ministries for planting in children's psyche that attitude of helping others when hopes fall short. The adage that children are future leaders applies more to those within the age ranges of two to 18. That, exactly, is what Malawi's Awana Ministry is doing- teaching our children that 'giving is loving' and that 'sharing is serving'! Really, those who are called are not ashamed!
President Bingu wa Mutharika for putting a brave face in face of all the problems Malawi is facing.
And, lastly, Tony Chimpukuso for working around the clock- together with other Air Malawi officials- to make sure that Air Malawi's battered image does not suffer further damage by his insistence that "things will be alright" for the national flag carrier. Malawi needs men and women who can hope, and men and women who do not waver in the face of adverse circumstances.

Malawi This Year

Malawi's Flight Woes

The on-going crisis at the national flag carrier, Air Malawi, has left local air passengers at the mercy of market devices. Investigations carried out by The Sunday Times Business have revealed the spectacle of passengers starved of choice, a development compounded by findings that seats on almost all the planes are fully booked.
Some travelers who talked to The Sunday Times complained that some operators have hiked fares from as low as K112, 000 in November to K290, 000 by December 10 in the same category. Most observers have blamed the situation on the crisis at Air Malawi.
The national flag carrier has two out of its three birds grounded, with only the ATR 42 doing the rounds on domestic and regional routes.
Mathews Jeremiah Kalanda, who granted The Sunday Times an interview at Air Malawi premises on Wednesday, said he has been tossed from one airline office to another in the endless search for a seat to no avail.
“I was supposed to travel to the United Kingdom on December 17; however, I have so far failed to secure a seat because there are no available seats. Workers at one airline operator even told me that seats may only be available on February 9, 2012. I think all these problems are coming in because of government’s failure to bail Air Malawi,” Kalanda said.
The situation in the corridors of Air Malawi is said to have spurred a chain of fare price rises, with some operators reported to have hiked the cheapest economy class seats by almost 150 percent.
This was revealed by another passenger found at Air Malawi offices, Agness Philemon. She said she secured a seat on one of the airline operators, but “I have been forced to pay three times as much as I paid on October 16, when I traveled to Johannesburg. I paid K112, 000 in October and, now, I have been forced to pay K290, 000”.
When contacted to comment on the situation, Air Malawi’s marketing, tariffs and industry affairs manager, Tony Chimpukuso, acknowledged that other airline operators have taken advantage of the situation at the national flag carrier to rip passengers off.
Chimpukuso further admitted that passengers only have two choices at the moment: either to pay the higher fares or stay home!
“This is the reason we are working hard to have the (two) airlines operational again. What is happening now is that people are paying double the normal price and we want to bring normalcy to the industry. We are a national carrier; we are not in business to make money or punish the traveler,” Chimpukuso said.
Chimpukuso added that there were many advantages appended to traveling on the national flag carrier, among them the fact that all proceeds, including foreign exchange, are invested locally. He added that the airline operator also spends significantly on corporate social responsibility initiatives.
“Therefore, our current situation is translating into the loss of some advantages, especially those to do with Bilateral Air services Agreements (Basas). Basas allow foreign airline operators not to pay taxes. This means even Air Malawi does not pay taxes to governments of destinations it travels to, and that money is brought to Malawi.
“This means that, with Air Malawi not capitalizing much on Basas, foreign operators are enjoying the advantage over us, and externalizing forex,” said Chimpukuso.
Apart from failure to capitalize on Basas, Air Malawi has also been losing out on Code Share Agreements (CSA) following the collapse of its CSA with Zimbabwe Airways. However, the flag carrier still maintains Inter-Line Agreements with a horde of other airlines.
Chimpukuso said, however, that, in the face of escalating fares, some passengers were connecting to far-away destinations through ATR 42’s flights to Zambia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
He also dispelled the notion that Malawi had a narrow airline industry currently; saying, instead, that 23 other off-shore planes also service Malawians.
In a related development, South African Airways (SAA) - one of the dominant airline operators on the domestic market- has dismissed reports that it was one of the operators cashing in on Air Malawi’s flight problems.
SAA country manager for Malawi, James Chikaonda, indicated in a written response that SAA was not one of the operators that have raised fares by almost 150 percent. He said the operator last reviewed fares between October and November, which saw fares rise by only between 3 and 5 percent.
“Just a little explanation as to how the pricing system airlines use (works). We do not sell the seats on the aircraft using one type of fare only. We have a number or a list of fares to any given point within the economy class or business class. And on each flight there are specific fares allocated to specific number of seats. So, date of travel and availability of what type of fare and seat on a particular flight determines the final fare to be charged.

“So you find people paying for different fares on the same flight and in the same class of travel. The cheapest fares or seats on any given flight are the fastest to be taken. Then as time goes the next higher ones get sold too until the highest fares/seats are eventually sold. This is explained better in yield management.

“So if you look at November as a month of reference, we had fares as low as MWK118,000 in economy class to as high as MWK327,000. Those cheapest seats/fares are no longer in the inventory. Meaning they are all sold out,” Chikaonda said.

Chikaonda also dismissed suggestions that SAA was now enjoying monopoly power over the local market.
“South African Airways is not a monopoly power on the market as we have many other players, too, that we call ‘online carriers’ that operate into Malawi and fly to the very destinations that South African Airways fly to. We have other players, too, that we call ‘offline carriers’ that offer services from hubs outside Malawi but have agreements with the online carriers to uplift their passengers from Malawi.
“So (put both, the online carriers and the offline carriers) we cannot call SAA as a monopoly power or player on the Malawi market. Consumers are spoiled with choice as to who they want fly with. We do not discount the ground operators as part of the players,” said Chikaonda.

But Chikaonda acknowledged that SAA flights were fully-booked, attributing the trend to school holidays and festivities. He said people’s increased movements push up the demand for seats.

On concerns that airline operators were making a killing out of the current situation, Chikaonda said: “Our customers may appreciate the fact that not all that they pay to the airlines is a fare and thus revenue to the airlines. Airlines have been mandated by respective governments to collect taxes on behalf of those governments.

“Taxes like airport departure taxes, security taxes are some of those taxes airlines collect on behalf of governments and differ from one country to another. The total amount paid to the airline consists of the fare and the taxes. The taxes may go up and affect the final amounts to be paid,” Chikaonda said.

He added that foreign exchange rate was another factor that influences fare prices. He said SAA fares are quoted in US Dollars and converted to Malawi Kwacha at a given rate of exchange.

“The rate of exchange may change and that affects the final amount to be paid,” he said.

Grace Mvutho, Bata-Malawi's Children's Programme Coordinator

Optichem supplies 5000 tonnes towards Fisp

Optichem Malawi, the only local company with a fertilizer granulation plant, has contributed 5, 500 metric tonnes towards the 2011/12 Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) in what Productions Manager, Samuel Synoden, says is a sign that the local industry can meet local demand if well- supported.
Government introduced Fisp in 2004/05 agriculture season to improve the national food security situation and uplift production levels among smallholder farmers following years of poor harvests.
According to Agriculture and Food Security Principal Secretary, Erica Maganga, 1.6 million farmers received coupons to buy subsidized fertilizer during the 2010/11 season, as compared to the 2011/12 growing season following government’s decision to slash the number of beneficiaries to 1.4 million. This has led to a 30,000 reduction in procured tonnage this year, with only 140,000 metric tonnes of inputs procured, as opposed to 170,000 metric tonnes for last season.
Speaking in an interview Tuesday, Synoden said changes in the programme have not affected Optichem as the company has still contributed “significantly” towards the 2011/12 inputs programme.
“We are happy that, as a local company, we have been given a chance to contribute towards Malawi’s food security programme again. In fact, Optichem started operating in Malawi in 1969 because we wanted to be part of the country’s efforts to attain food security,” said Synoden.
Synoden said, however, that the company has the capacity to contribute more, citing the capacity of Optichem’s granulation and blending plants.
“We have the capacity to supply all types of fertilizer because our plants give us the capacity to cater for all types of fertilizer. For example, our granulation plant has the capacity to produce 50,000 metric tonnes per annum, while our blending machine produces 60, 000 metric tonnes a year. In total, we are producing 110, 000 metric tonnes a year,” said Synoden.
Granulation is a system where raw materials for fertilizer are melted (turned into liquid form) and, then, used to make free-flowing granules. Blending, on the other hand, involves the mixing of various raw materials to make one product. These raw materials, which may include Urea, D.A.P. and filler, are then used to meet any specification of fertilizer.
He added that the fact that the company produces a total of 110, 000 metric tonnes of fertilizer a year shows that Optichem can contribute even more fertilizer towards Fisp. Optichem has, during this year’s programme, supplied 23:10:5:+4s+1zn. This is fertilizer used for plant growth (basal).
Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security inputs’ statistics indicate that Malawi needs 300, 000 metric tonnes of fertilizer to satisfy demand in the agriculture sector. Malawi fills the demand by importing fertilizer, a development Consumers Association of Malawi executive director John Kapito blamed in a separate interview for escalating fertilizer commodity prices.
Optichem is the only local company engaged in fertilizer granulation, with such other manufacturers as MFC engaged in blending of various fertilizer products. However, the capacity of Malawian companies remains low, prompting government to punch the gap up with foreign fertilizers.
Apart from chemical fertilizers, Optichem also manufactures organic manure.
“We manufacture manure because we want to be part of government’s efforts to mitigate climate change. The good thing about manure is that it retains soil fertility,” said Synoden.
Asked why the prices of locally-manufactured fertilizers were almost the same as those for imported fertilizer, Synoden said “this is not true because the price of locally-manufactured fertilizers is cheaper than that of imports”.
Said Synoden: “Prices for locally-manufactured fertilizers are much lower than those of foreign fertilizers. That is why we are saying that, if well-supported, local fertilizer manufacturing companies can help reduce fertilizer prices in the country. In fact, you will find that local-fertilizer prices are within the ranges of K7000 to K7,900 while some foreign fertilizers sell at as high as K10,000 .”
He said the other advantage is that locally-manufactured fertilizers are tailor-made to suit local climatic conditions. Synoden, therefore, asked Malawians to support local industries because they employ local people, do not externalize forex, and manufacture products that suit the local environment.
Speaking in a separate interview on progress in this year’s Fisp, Maganga said distribution work continues, and that most areas have since received farm inputs.
“Work is still going on. We want to make sure that all target beneficiaries receive the inputs in good time,” said Maganga.

PPPs Act offers room for sanitation marketing

The Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) Act offers local entrepreneurs an opportunity to generate income through sanitation marketing, experts have observed.
This comes after Parliament passed the PPPs Bill, presented by Finance and Development Planning Minister Ken Lipenga, into law. Lipenga said the new Act will prioritise infrastructure projects in the agriculture and public health sector, among others.
One of Malawi’s leading ‘Sanitation Marketing’ experts, New Restoration Plan- Malawi’s country director, Dr. George Chaima, said in an interview that countries like Togo, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria have used PPPs arrangements to turn their sanitation industries into billion-dollar cash spinners.
“We can do the same in Malawi and create employment opportunities for our people,” Chaima said.
He said the World Bank also recognizes the economic contribution of ‘Sanitation Marketing’, citing the bank’s support of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaboration Council and the Global Sanitation Fund.
“Sanitation Marketing can become a big industry. Opportunities exist in disposable-toilets designing and manufacturing. The construction industry can also experience a boom,” Chaima added.
He said sanitation investors could start with city toilets’ management, and called on government to create a special ministry, in anticipation of the sector’s contribution to the national economy.
Responding to Chaima’s suggestion on city toilets’ investment, Blantyre City Assembly’s (BCA) director for health and social services, Dr. Emmanuel Kanjunjunju, noted that better collaboration between private entrepreneurs and city authorities could help cities generate more income.
Kanjunjunju said BCA has started courting private investors. He said BCA was strategizing on how to encourage huge investments in the sanitation sector.
“However, we need to come up with modalities that will ensure that charges imposed by private operators do not hinder access to sanitary facilities. Profit-maximization, if not well-balanced with social responsibility, forces many people to engage in open defecation,” Kanjunjunju said.
Other observers, notably Tools for Enterprise and Education Consultants, have said the sanitation sector could generate more than K2 billion annually.

Forex Shortages Hit Malawian Banks Hard

As the problem of foreign exchange shortage continues to bite, Authorized Dealer Banks (ADBs) have set different limits on the quantity of foreign exchange individuals can draw from personal and business
A snap survey conducted between Wednesday and Thursday revealed that banks remain the preferred sources of forex, although forex-counter personnel from all the ADBs visited said their forex reserves were dry.
These include Inde Bank, Standard Bank, NBS Bank, Malawi Savings Bank, National Bank, and FDX Forex Bureau. Forex buying rates in these financial institutions ranged from K161.19 to K161.98 while forex selling rates ranged from K165.28 to K168.115.
However, the ADBs differed on the issue of forex purchase-limits, with different players charging differently, depending on whether it is a business of personal account.
For example, while the forex-withdrawal limit for United States Dollars was 3000 at FDX Forex Bureau, at Nico complex in Blantyre, workers at Top Mandala Inde Bank said the bank has set no limits on the amount of foreign currency one can purchase.
However, customers using business accounts at National Bank Victoria Avenue Branch could purchase as much as 5000, in stark contrast to Standard Bank Blantyre Branch, where a counter official said the purchase limit on business accounts was US$3800, and those with personal accounts could not withdraw more than US$2,200.
One of the people who have been to different banks in search of forex, Kenwilliams Mhango, suspected that ADBs have set different limits on forex as one way of maintaining control over the little they have in forex reserves.
“However, I think this is not working because the forex is not there at all. Some people have been waiting for forex for six months now,” said Mhango.
Mhango said he knows of people who have been on the waiting list for eight months, noting that the situation was creating opportunities for parallel market trading.
The Bankers Association of Malawi (Bam) says it has equally been affected by the forex shortage problem, with its president, John Biziwick, shifting part of the blame on Reserve Bank of Malawi’s (RBM) decision to route money generated through tobacco sales through its own system, as opposed to ADBs.
Biziwick maintains that ADBs’ core line of business remains forex trading, and that the Central Bank’s decision has hurt the banking sector.
In addition to this, Bam chief executive officer, Lyness Nkungula, says failure by local companies to import materials was making it difficult for banks to operate.
“On forex shortage, I will answer this by giving an example. You have heard that companies are failing to import materials because of forex shortage. These are bank customers and they process the payment
through banks. So, if bank customers are affected; obviously the banks are, too,” says Nkungula in a written response.
Asked to comment on who was responsible for setting forex purchase limits, RBM spokesperson Ralph Tseka said on Thursday he could not immediately respond since “I am cruising, on my way to Lilongwe”. He promised to respond to questions Friday morning.
However, when called on Friday, Tseka said he was consulting and would e-mail and call later. He never did.
But one of RBM’s officials said the central bank is responsible for fixing forex purchase limits, and that ADBs take the cue from RBM.
The official added, however, that the amount of foreign currency customers could buy depended on the nature of activity the money is spent on.
He said it was not uncommon for business enterprises to negotiate and purchase more forex than RBM’s stipulated limits.
However, said the official, customers purchasing forex for personal use were not allowed to exceed their limits since the effects of their purchases on national development could not be validated.
Nevertheless, it was clear from the snap survey that ADBs have devised means of coming over the problem. Almost all the ADBs visited said they were giving their customers cash purchase passports (cards), giving them the opportunity to spend money abroad.
The ADBs credit the money to the customers’ accounts.

Bata spends K5m in education, social campaigns

Bata Shoe Company says it has spent K5 million in corporate socio responsibility (CSR) campaigns on education and social welfare this year, a development it says has helped it become more responsive to community challenges.
Bata Children’s Programme National Coordinator, Grace Mvutho, said in an interview Thursday that one of the most successful programmes has been the ‘Children’s Programme’- an initiative currently being implemented in two Blantyre primary schools namely; Blantyre Girls and Chichiri.
The programme awards outstanding and most improved pupils in a bid to promote hard work and dedication towards education.
“We are proud of the successes we have achieved in the programme. These include the selection of pupils from Blantyre Girls and Chichiri to various national secondary schools,” said Mvutho.
She added that the programme has also increased competition among pupils, saying, for example, that it was becoming increasingly difficult for pupils who claim first position during one term to maintain the same in the next.
“What we have been doing is to give outstanding and most-improved students vouchers to buy Toughees (shoes). We want to help reduce the burden associated with the cost of purchasing school shoes for school-going children. The advantage is that a pupil can use these shoes for several years,” said Mvutho.
Mvutho added that part of the K5 million Bata has spent on CSR campaigns has gone towards alleviation of suffering among orphaned and vulnerable children. She said some of the funds have gone towards school construction and the provision of vocational materials to Non Governmental Organisations.
“We want to assure Malawians that we will continue to be responsive to community needs. In fact, we plan to extend the Children’s programme to other districts. We wanted to extend it to Lilongwe but, unfortunately, we were visited by one of our directors that time and we couldn’t go ahead,” said Mvutho.
Implementation of the programme started in Malawi in 2009, though it has been running in other countries for a while, according to Mvutho.
The Malawi programme is part of the Lausanne (Switzerland’s capital city)-based Bata Children’s Programme Foundation, created with the aim of contributing to the support and development of children worldwide.
“The Bata Shoe Organisation operates in over 50 countries across five continents. For 115 years, our core belief has always been to contribute and support the communities in which we work,” said Mvutho.
However, Mvutho said the programme was an independent, worldwide project backed by the Bata Children’s Programme Foundation.
“As a world-scale organisation, we aim to play a part in addressing international social concerns. More so, our historical strong presence in many developing countries provides us with a deep understanding of the local cultures and people’s needs,” she said.

Malawi's Beef Shortages, Survival Mechanisms

A blessing. A disguise.
Malawi’s current beat shortages have become much more than a blessing in disguise as the country’s top meat suppliers, who are facing capital-busting supply chain hiccups, have devised cushioning mechanisms to beat the crisis.
The country is some two moths’ old into an unprecedented beef crisis, a development suppliers blame on Foot and Mouth disease that has hit the Lower Shire districts of Chikhwawa and Nsanje. These are the country’s beef supply hubs.
A snap survey conducted on Wednesday revealed that, while tell-tale signs of the crisis are there for all to see, most suppliers still have stocks of meat. It was also clear that the situation was much better than a month ago.
Visits to Chichiri Shoprite, PTC Superete in Blantyre, Super Halaal, S&A Cold Storage, Chirimba, Ndirande and Chilomoni Markets revealed that, contrary to the situation early November, beef products were available.
However, this contradicted sharply with the situation is such shops as Chitawira Shopping Centre, Ginnery Corner Sana Cash ‘n’ Carry, Ndirande PTC, Limbe Shoprite, among others, where other meat products were in good supply.
One of Southern region’s top beef suppliers, who also runs a retail meat products’ outlet, S&A Cold Storage’s co-managing director, Abida Mia, said on Wednesday that the issue of beef shortage was no longer a crisis, saying most suppliers have come up with ways of making up for the shortfall.
Mia said S&A Cold Storage was still able to supply beef to Southern region’s main beef outlets because it was sourcing livestock from areas that have not been affected by Foot and Mouth disease.
“Things are better now. We are still meating the demand for beef and supplying to most shops that depend on our meat products,” said Mia.
She was also hopeful that things could come back to normal once the Department of Livestock Production of the Ministry of Agriculture lifts the movement-ban on movement of cattle from the Lower Shire.
“We are hoping that, with reports that the ban may be lifted on December 2, beef supply will reach normal levels. But, as I said, the supply of beef can no more be described as a crisis. We are able to supply products,” she said.
However, a worker at Blantyre’s PTC Superete said the situation has not improved at all. He said the shop has had no beef for over a month now, though he admitted that consumers had alternatives in chicken meat, sausages, and fish.
These commodities, he said, have never run out of supply since the beef crisis emerged in the wake of the Lower Shire travel ban imposed on animals.
Other visits to Chilomoni’s Nthukwa market and Chirimba in Blantyre revealed that both goat meat and beef were available.
Joe Sato, one of the beef sellers, said traders were purchasing the commodity in Mwanza.
He said the K1000 per Kg cost was meant to make up for transportation costs incurred in ferrying the animals to Blantyre.
“There is no beef around, and we get ours from far. In addition, we don’t use road transport but hire people who ferry the animals from Mwanza. At the moment, the charge per animal is K7900. This is why we are selling beef at K1000 and people are still buying,” Sato said.
He added that, should the ban not be lifted, the price per kg of beef could go as high as K2000.
“We are nearing the festive season when the cost of commodities is bound to go up. I don’t rule out a rise in beef prices should things not improve,” he said.
Ministry of Agriculture officials announced three weeks ago that they would analyze the situation and, should it be promising, lift the ban on cattle movement.

Authorised Dealer Banks, Banking in Malawi

Malawi’s commercial banks have embarked on a rural-outreach drive, a development the Bankers Association of Malawi (Bam) says is in response to growing concerns that financial sector players are concentrated in urban areas.
Responding to a questionnaire this week, Bam chief executive officer, Lyness Nkungula, said almost all banks now have programmes aimed at wooing rural dwellers as part of the effort to promote a savings culture.
“In short, banks are embracing the concept of financial inclusion. The perception is slowly changing as banks have resorted to go into rural areas and relax some of the fees and we also have financial literacy (programmes) at individual bank level. You might have heard that some banks are not deducting transaction fees for the rural masses and they do not have a minimum account balance,” said Nkungula.
Nkungula said Bam has also embarked on an outreach initiative targeting rural masses. She said, through the initiative, “we will come up with products specifically packaged for people in rural areas to encourage them to come on board” as one way of making sure that “banks are reaching out to all the unbanked”.
She added that, because traditional brick and mortar banking services were more expensive, most Bam members were investing in innovative mechanisms such as armored vehicles. These vehicle visit rural areas during market days, offering people the chance to deposit and withdraw money.
“Others have gone to the extent of having kiosks in markets,” she said.
However, Nkungula noted that banks faced three major challenges in their bid to bring the unbanked on board.
“There are several factors that affect the ability to operate a banking account in rural areas. First, is the savings’ culture. In most cases, if someone operates from hand to mouth, it is not easy to save money, let alone operate a bank account.
“Second, I would say that people make choices to have an account with a particular bank or not,” said Nkungula.
Nkungula said that the third factor was people’s perceptions of bank operations, noting that most rural dwellers believe that if they deposit a certain amount of money today, they should withdraw more than the amount of money deposited at some stage without any charges.
“You see, the banks are doing business and they need to cover operating costs for the service they render to customers. That is why we have monthly transaction fees and some other banks will charge an ATM (Automated Transaction Machine) fee,” said Nkungula.
On areas that should be looked into to facilitate banks’ operations to rural areas, Nkungula suggested the laxation of some standards set by the Reserve Bank of Malawi as part of Malawi’s financial inclusion framework.
These include the regulatory requirement that the outside and inside of a banking premise meet certain standards, without which no bank is allowed to open an outpost.
Nkungula also cited the issue of infrastructure development. She said most rural areas were difficult to access due to poor road and communication infrastructures, and asked government officials to intensify road construction programmes because “banks need to disperse money in the (ATM) machines as well as the branches themselves”.
“Then, there is the issue of security. We need police units in all areas as banks are targeted by thieves. In addition, you are aware that the modern banking platforms are electronic and integrated; therefore, reliable electricity and communication facilities are pre-requisites to banking services
“We also face problems of communication facilities. While the operators are trying, there are still issues of quality, availability and reliability of the services (and) as a result banks use several service providers and technologies which are very expensive,” said Nkungula.
She said the other major challenge pertained to “perpetual” electricity black outs that adversely affect operations of the banks.
“Of course, despite that all the banks have invested in having generators on standby to help in times of need, we now do not have the fuel to keep the generators running,” said Nkungula, adding:
“Put simply, it involves a lot of stakeholders, other than banks, to go to rural areas,” concluded Nkungula.

Malawi's Need for More Medical Personnel

Malawi should graduate at least 120 doctors annually to meet the growing shortage of skilled healthcare personnel in both public and private hospitals, a senior academician has observed.
Speaking in an interview Saturday, on the sidelines of an Open Day organized by the College of Medicine (CoM) in Blantyre, CoM’s Dean of Faculty, Dr. Mwapatsa Mipando, said the country currently graduates 90 doctors a year, a figure he described as being ‘on the lower side’ to meet current health challenges.
“For us to fully improve the health situation, we need to increase the number of doctors we train to, at least, 120. Fortunately, this is contained in CoM’s 2010 to 2020 Strategic Plan. Our plan is to achieve this by 2015,” said Mipando.
CoM, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima), currently accommodates 90 doctors, 40 pharmacists, 40 medical laboratory science, 40 physiotherapy, and 50 health management students. Mipando said, however, that the target is to increase the number to 120 for doctors, and 50 for each of the allied health sciences.
The college’s plans come at a time when Unima has increased the number of students gaining access to its constituent colleges, a development that has led to an increase in the number of people sitting for University Entrance Examinations (UEE).
For example, out of the 7791 candidates who wrote UEE for the 2011/12 Academic Year, 6,615 passed, representing an 85 percent pass rate. However, only 2,379 (36 percent) of these have been selected to pursue studies in various programmes.
Compared to the 2009/10 Academic Year, however, this still represents an increase in the number of students selected to Unima colleges, Mipando observed.
However, Mipando has hailed government’s sponsorships for 90 students pursuing courses in medicine. Under the arrangement, students pay only K25, 000 of the K1.6 million required annually, with government footing the remaining bill through a National AIDS Commission Bursaries’ programme.
“These efforts have helped us produce over 400 doctors since CoM’s establishment in 1991. But we still need to introduce more disciplines because doctors do not work in isolation,” said Mipando.
Apart from training local personnel, Malawi is under Southern African Development Community (SADC) obligation to reserve 5 percent space at CoM for training medical personnel from other SADC member-states. This is part of a SADC Health protocol that aims at filling the gap of skilled health personnel in countries without doctors’ training institutions.
“Apart from people from SADC countries, we have also trained personnel from West Africa. Just last year, we graduated a doctor who came all the way from Ireland,” said Mipando.

Poor savings culture blamed for Pension Act’s cold reception

The Employers Association of Malawi (Ecam) has hit back at trade unions for expressing reservations over the new Pension Act, blaming their attitude on Malawi’s poor savings culture.
Ecam executive director, Odridge Khunga, said in an interview Thursday that employers were not surprised with recent ‘outbursts’ from workers’ representatives- notably the Building, Construction, Civil Engineering, and Allied Workers Union (BCCEAWU), which recently tore into the Reserve Bank of Malawi and employers for purportedly conniving to exploit workers.
BCCEAWU general secretary, John Obongo Mwafulirwa, told The Workplace last week that workers were suspicious with the manner in which the Central bank has been identifying participants to its sensitization meetings on the new Pension Bill.
Mwafulirwa noted that, while the Ministry of Finance disregarded most of the suggestions proffered by trade unions, and only backtracked on the proposed retirement age limit of 60 to fix it at 50, the Central bank has only empowered employers with information, leaving the worker at a disadvantage in cases of negotiations.
This follows gazetting of Malawi’s new Pension Act, effectively rendering it the guiding principle on pension matters from June 1, 2011.
But Khunga expressed surprise at trade unions’ surprise.
“There is no grain of truth in what the unions are saying about us (employers) conniving with RBM. We categorically deny that. The issue is that the new Pension Act came into force after thorough consultations, and the unions, through the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions, were part of the process,” said Khunga.
Added he: “What is clear, also, is that Malawi’s poor savings culture is coming into play in the trade unions’ arguments. Generally, Malawians are afraid of saving their money because they are afraid of dying before laying their hands on it. Malawians always want to utilise their money immediately, and leave nothing for others.”
On the issue of forcing workers to contribute their funds to pension houses they did not choose, Khunga said the new Act provides for transfer of funds to other houses, “but the cost will be borne by the employer, and not employee. After all, it is the employee who wants the money transferred”.
“In fact, the most interesting thing about the new Act is that it allows people who have been laid off to apply to the RBM Registrar (Director of Pensions and Insurance), whom may, then, pay such individuals part of their monetary contribution to keep them going as they look for another job,” said Khunga.
He asked employees to realise that pension funds contributed towards national economic development because they could be invested in productive activities.
However, Khunga acknowledged that there were delays in forming the committee comprised of three employees’ representatives as well as an equal representative number for employers.
Ecam, which has over 200 registered members, was established in 1963 as a representative organisation for agriculture-sector players, notably tea estates from the tea belt of Mulanje and Thyolo.
However, the organisation has evolved into a national body over the years, in stark contrast to the situation between 1963 and 1990 when it was regarded as an organisation for Southern region employers.
Ecam is the only employers’ organisation recognized in Chapter 54, Part 111 of the Labour Relationjs Act of 1996.

Malawi and Lottery Droughts

…investor to claim less than 30% of profits

Three years has been such a long time, but Malawi’s penchant for ‘voluntary taxes’ is set to be tested when the sad tale of a nation-without-a-national-lottery-operator comes to an end on December 19, the day the National Lottery Group (NLG) launches the country’s first operations in three years.
Malawi has been without a national lottery operator since Aflot, the company National Lotteries Board (NLB) awarded a national operator licence abandoned ship under circumstances NLB executive director, Francis Mbilizi, says hinged on inferiority of equipment used in the games.
The country’s lottery laws- as stipulated in the Lotteries Act, Number 9 of 2003- give NLB the mandate to offer only one licence per five years, a development that contributed towards Malawi’s failure to have a national lottery operator after Aflot pulled out mid-way through its licenced tenure.
However, Mbilizi said he is now a happy that NLG has come on board. He says the coming in of NLG will bring income to government coffers, citing the monetary contribution national lottery operators are obliged to make through taxes.
Mbilizi said national lottery operators play a pivotal role in the economic development of any country, citing their contribution to government revenue.
“National lottery operators benefit the economy because they invest their money to collect voluntary taxes on government’s behalf basing on the face value of tickets. In addition, the operator just retains a fraction of the profits, and channels the rest back to community causes,” he said.

Under the Lotteries Act of the Laws of Malawi, NLG will be expected to remit 50 percent of
its revenue to members of the public through lottery prizes, 3 percent is earmarked for the lotteries board- which donates the funds to development activities of its choice through the National Lottery Distribution Fund- while 10 percent will be paid to the Malawi Revenue Authority.
“NLG will also be required to pay between 5 and 8 percent to vendors as their sales’ commission. This means that the investors in national lotteries take less than 30 per cent, but this is enough for them to
meet their operational and administrative needs and realise profits,” Mbilizi said.
NLG hopes to generate between US$14 million and US$28 million (between K2.3 billion and K2.8 billion) within the next four years.
The company’s investment plan indicates, among other projections, that the company will generate between US$14 million and US$17 million (Approximately between K2.3 billion and K2.8 billion) in 2012; between US$20 million and US$22 million (approximately K3.3 billion) in 2013, and; between US$25 and US$28 million (K4.1 billion and K4.6 billion) in 2014.
“This presents great opportunities for Malawi,” Mbilizi said.
The NLB chief added that the board has put in place mechanisms aimed at averting mistakes that led to the closure of Aflot.
While showing reluctance to talk about Aflot, Mbilizi said the company stopped its operations because it was using low level technology, as evidenced by over-reliance on paper-based systems loathed worldwide for their susceptibility to human interference and operational mistakes.,
Speaking in a separate interview, NLG executive director, Momi Nahum said the company will use its experience in Asia, the Pacific, Latin America, Euro-Asia and other countries in Africa to ensure it raises the much-needed money for public causes.
These countries include Mexico, Colombia, Georgia, Macau, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea.
“This year, we are adding Malawi and Central African Republic to the list, and Kyrgyzstan in the near future.
“We will create memorable experiences for Malawians. By playing the games, many Malawians will realize their dreams and live a completely different life because we are giving out huge sums of money in prizes. We will provide Malawians with the most innovative value for money experiences,” said Nahum.
He added: “We are in Phase One till the launch day (December 19) and, in this phase, we have invested US$ 6 million. There will be further investments in millions of dollars. So you can see that we mean serious business.”
Cheng said the launch has deliberately been set closer to Christmas “to give the first winner an early Christmas gift”.
“In terms of products, we will start with two: Instant Game and Lotto Game. The first one uses scratch cards while the second one uses 6/36 game,” said Nahum.
Cheng added that his company will create between 100 and 150 direct jobs for Malawians, apart from creating between 2000 and 4000 indirect job opportunities through 2000 point-of-sale terminals.

Fuel Shortages in Malawi, The World

As 2011 draws to a close, indications are that the long-winding fuel queues will remain part of the warm-heartedness that is Malawi come 2012. The fuel shortages have created consternation among government, consumers and civil society organizations, but this barrage of anger has not been pulley enough to bail Malawi out of a crisis that has spread to the country’s foreign currency reserves.
Finance and Development Planning Minister, Ken Lipenga, told Parliament two weeks ago that Malawi’s current economic challenges would not end until 2012. On the other hand, Consumers Association of Malawi’s executive director, John Kapito, regards the current situation as the mark of a “failed state”.
However, research carried out by The Sunday Times Business reveals that Malawi was not the only country affected in 2011. Others included China, Egypt, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Tanzania, Uganda and Yemen. The only difference could be that, as Malawi’s fuel crisis continues, other affected countries have successfully brushed it off.
Here is a round up of the affected countries, and the reasons for their fuel shortages:
According to Crude Oil Peak- an organisation that monitors global production and sales of crude oil- China experienced a round of diesel shortages in October, with many private gas stations run out of stocks.
While diesel shortages are common in October, which form part of China’s traditional peak season, this year’s diesel pinch was unprecedented in magnitude.
The shortages came after the country’s top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission, cut the retail price for gasoline by 47 US$ (approx. K78) per ton.
Refiners’ reluctance to produce further made the situation worse, with China’s two largest oil refiners and suppliers facing the brunt of consumers’ anger for stockpiling diesel in a bid to pressure the government into raising fuel prices.
Before that, Shanghai truck drivers had on April 20 gone on strike requesting the authorities to abolish fuel surcharge, and manufacturers to pay higher shipping fees.
Egypt faced diesel shortages in May this year, a problem that affected its governorates, creating the sorry sight of long queues of trucks, minibuses, agricultural tractors and lorries.
In Daqahliya, Qalioubiya, and Kafr Al-Sheihk governorates, vehicles lined up along streets, causing heavy congestion on major roads and blocked traffic for long hours. Drivers in other provinces clashed, resulting into several injuries, according to Crude Oil Peak.
Diesel is regarded as the basic fuel for heavy transport vehicles, bakeries, electricity generators, and tourism players in remote areas.
The country’s Ministry of Petroleum statistics indicate that local diesel production generates only 75 percent of the country’s consumption, with the remaining 25 percent gap being filled through imports.
Fuel shortages in Egypt, which has been suffering from heavy fuel shortages for the past three years, is a recurring problem and is mainly caused by an increase in local diesel consumption due to the agricultural harvest season.
Nepal had its turn in April, following an announcement by the state-owned Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) that it could no longer afford to import fuel from India.
NOC- which controls the importation and distribution of all petroleum products in the country- complained that, in the wake of the Libyan political crisis, fuel price rises were translating into losses on petrol, diesel and kerosene sales.
Land-rocked Nepal, which depends on India for all its oil imports, faced another blow when India refused to supply it with the much-needed fuel due to outstanding debt with its sole supplier, Indian Oil Corporation, prompting the Indian supplier to cut off shipments.
It was not the first time Nepal faced a fuel shortage problem. In February 2008, the country was also hit by a crisis following a strike by ethnic minorities who were demanding more rights.
Nigeria experienced a kerosene supply shortage in August, prompting consumers to question the Kerosene Direct Programme jointly launched by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and Capital Oil to alleviate kerosene distribution problems nationwide.
In some states, delivery dropped from 200 trucks to 10 trucks per depot. Observers blame recurrent kerosene shortages on the monopoly being enjoyed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company in the importation of the product.
The world’s sixth-largest exporter of crude oil, Nigeria imports refined petroleum products like kerosene, gasoline and diesel because refineries work at low capacity ostensibly due to decades of corruption that have left most public utilities in a state of disrepair.
According to the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ Annual Statistical Bulletin 2010/2011 published in July, Nigeria shipped 2.464 million barrels a day in 2010. Latest figures released by the country’s Central Bank Monetary Policy Committee show that Nigeria spent 1.34 billion dollars importing petroleum between January and March 2011.
Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum told parliament on Jul. 7 that the country needs eight million litres of kerosene daily.
Pakistan faced a petrol shortage in June, affecting traffic in such cities as Multan, Sargodha, Jhang, Faisalabad, and Muzzaffabad in Azad Kashmir.
At least 90 percent of all petrol pumps closed down in cities like Faisalabad, when they were receiving 250,000 litres against its total daily consumption of 600, 000. In other cities, pump stations raised petrol prices.
The petrol shortages were blamed on the closure of PARCO and Attock Refinery, some of the biggest oil refinery companies in the country. Petrol station owners blamed PARCO, but PARCO owners hit back, saying pump owners were not booking orders due to oil price decreases.
Russia found itself in a gas crisis in April, forcing the country to cut petrol exports.
Russia often faced natural gas crises due to disagreements with other states. In January 2009, instance, the country was embroiled in a dispute with Ukraine over natural gas, which contributed to Russian energy giant, Gazprom, decision to shut down all supllies to Europe through Ukrainian pipelines.
Russia supplies about two-fifths of the European Union’s (EU) total imports. In fact, 10 of the 12 states that have recently joined the EU depend on Russia for at least 60 percent of their natural gas.
August saw Tanzania struggle to keep its fuel pumps wet.
The shortage arose after fuel suppliers refused to comply with Tanzania’s Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority policy directive that they lower fuel prices.
Economists accused Ewura of contradicting Alfred Marshall’s economics of demand and supply by imposing ‘artificial’ fuel prices below the prevailing market price.
Another country that joined the fuel fray was Uganda.
Uganda faced the crisis in July, forcing the Uganda Electricity Generation Company to shut down one of its thermo generators.
The country was also hit by another crisis in March, creating a wave of price rises.
The shortages were sparked by supply inefficiencies in neighbouring Kenya.
The country faced a petrol crisis in July following a tribesmen attack on a major oil pipeline in March. Another standby oil pipeline was blown up in the same month, plunging Yemen into a fuel crisis.
This forced the country to rely on Saudi oil imports. Its first batch arrived in Yemen in mid-June.
On May 4, Energy Minister Amir Salim Al-Aydarus warned that Yemen could face an economic collapse if attacks on oil pipelines continued.

Awana Ministry in Malawi Growing

Approved Men are Not Ashamed (Awana) Ministry, an integrated evangelism and discipleship programme that started in the US in 1941, is making in roads in Malawi, following its introduction in 1999, the country’s programme overseer has disclosed.
Reports of Awana ministry’s growth locally comes just after a national survey in the US found that Awana’s activities were as important to its alumni’s spiritual foundations as other church programmes. Among the alumni who participated in its programmes for, at least, six years, 92 out of every one hundred were still attending to church at least weekly.
Each week, over 12, 000 churches in the US and more than 10,000 internationally-run Awana programmes, in addition to the 1.5 million youth, 250, 000 volunteers and 170 field staff who take part in its activities the world over.
Awana programmes overseer in Malawi, Pastor Rusten Kalenga, revealed in an interview that the local programme has registered tremendous growth since its establishment in 1999.
“The programme is growing at a faster pace, with three churches establishing children’s spiritual clubs. So far, the programme is being run independently in the Baptist Church, Faith in God and the Evangelical Church of Malawi. In terms of clubs, there are 138, which points to growth,” said Kalenga.
Kalenga said the programme, which targets young people from the age of two to 18, has so far distributed various materials to nine orphanages. He added that Awana Malawi was still interested in establishing partnerships with orphanages in all parts of the country.
“Through the programme, we distribute spiritual books to children, apart from instilling a sense of discipline in them. We also share what we have with the less privileged. Because this is an inter-denominational programme, it also helps foster unity among churches,” Kalenga said.
Speaking in a separate interview, Awana Ministry programme director at Blantyre Baptist Church, McNovance Potani, hailed the programme for changing children’s lives in the church.
“Experience has shown that children who take part in Awana programmes are disciplined and do well in class. For example, all Awana child members at Blantyre Baptist Academy passed their Primary School Leaving Certificate examinations, an indication that the programme really changes children and makes them more responsible,” Potani said.
Awana began as a children's program at the North Side Gospel Center in Chicago in 1941. Lance Latham, North Side's senior pastor, collaborated with the church's youth director, Art Rorheim, to develop weekly clubs that would appeal to churched and non-churched kids, lead them to trust Christ for salvation and grow them in enduring faith and service to God.
Other churches learned about the success of the program and inquired about its availability. In 1950, Latham and Rorheim founded Awana as a parachurch organization. By 1960, 900 churches had started Awana programs and, by 1972, the programme established its first international club.
Potani said founders of Awana derived the name from the first letters of "Approved workmen are not ashamed" as taken from 2 Timothy 2:15 of the Bible.
Today, more than 12,000 U.S. churches run Awana with programs in all 50 states. Awana can also be found in over 10,000 churches in 109 other countries, with Jack Eggar as the President and Art Rorheim serving as Co-Founder and President Emeritus.
“Churches that are yet to join are free to come. Let us unite for a better tomorrow,” Kalenga said.

Religion and Maternal Health in Malawi

Somewhere along the way, the majority somehow learned of, and fell
into, this ‘trap’; a trap experts say is commendable and in tune with
human passions of the day. This ‘trap’ is religion, a world of belief
in the existence of a supreme being.

“We need religion and spirituality in life,” says College of
Medicine’s Clinical Psychologist and Associate Professor, Dr. Chiwoza
Bandawe. “We learn from Psychology of religion studies that faith
promotes good health.”
Without religion, says Dr. Bandawe, human beings are bound to be
gnawed constantly by a sense of inadequacy, frustration and failure.
This explains why, globally, most people are caught in the web of
religious orientation.
Religion is, in other words, the easy, straight path to a fulfilling life.
“The benefits of religion far outweigh the negatives. Religion helps
people become focused, and is critical in mental health because it
helps them navigate from challenges,” says Dr. Bandawe.
However, religion is not always a faultless paragon of virtue, he
notes; it sometimes renders its fanatics emotional in their
deliberations, vituperative in their denunciations, and prone to
engage in bitter, exaggerated personal attacks instead of
concentrating their fire upon the merits of an issue.
“This leads to self-guilt, and may lead to condemnation of others,” he says.
This is where religion turns into a trap because such individuals
cannot be swayed from negative practices, even in the midst of such
tragedies as poverty and disease.
A good example pertains to the issue of HIV and AIDS. As Malawi
teetered on the edge of a health- collapse between 1989 and 2004, some
religious leaders were raising the torch of faith as a cure for HIV
and AIDS.
“This proved to be a hindrance to national efforts to contain HIV and
AIDS. We had people who died after stopping taking ARVs. Others died,”
says Dr. Mary Shawa, Principal Secretary for Nutrition, HIV and AIDS
in the Office of the President and Cabinet.
In the end, government officials were prompted to incorporate prayer
as part of Malawi’s three-tier response to HIV and AIDS, and Shawa is
impressed with results of the Nutrition, ARVS and Prayer HIV and AIDS
response model.
So well for HIV and AIDS efforts, but the same cannot be said of best
Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) practices campaigns.
Take, for instance, the case of Ketula Frank, Rose Thauzeni and Olive
Nsona of Chilomoni Township in Blantyre.
Frank, a mother of four, says she has never delivered at the hospital
and sees no value in seeking prenatal and antenatal services from
health centres.
“Prayer, and not the SRH clinic, helps me deliver at home, without any
hassles whatsoever. In fact, I deliver without those doctors and
nurses. To me, faith in God serves as the best SRH clinic,” she says.
The same applies to Thauzeni, who answers with questions.
“Have you ever heard of cattle seeking SHR services at the clinic? I
have two children I delivered without health officials and will do
that again,” says Thauzeni.

Dr. Chiwoza Bandawe and (below) Dr. Fatsani Ngwalangwa-Kasinja

Their story of faith does not end without Olive Nsona, a mother of
four. “If hospitals are safe places for child deliveries, why do they
have mortuaries close by? Have you heard of a church building that is
adjoined to a mortuary?”
Theirs is a world of questions whose answer is always prayer.
Chances are that they may not be the only women who do not believe in
modern SRH practices. Chikhwawa district is one other place, according
to T/A Katunga.
“Fortunately, only a handful of my subjects are stopping their
pregnant wives from visiting hospitals for maternal health services,”
says Katunga.
Chikhwawa District’s Health Officer, Dr. Fatsani Ngwalangwa-Kasinja,
observes that, other than religion, cultural practices pose a
challenge to maternal health services.
For Fred Kwacha, head of Malawi’s traditional church, “imported
religion” is to blame for maternal deaths.
“’Foreign’ religion is to blame for all our problems, including
maternal deaths. This never happened in the past, when we used to
worship our ancestral spirits. Now the spirits are angry because
people have lost touch with culture,” says Kwacha.
While his conservationism has a strong strain of pragmatism, it also
points to the fact that religion could under siege in Malawi.
This is evident in a joint May 2011 Ministry of Health and UNFPA
report released in May 2011. The ‘Abortion in Malawi: Results of a
Study of Incidents and Magnitude of Complications due to Unsafe
Abortions’ report, the product of 2009 research, reveals that
religious women constitute 85.2 percent of people who carry out unsafe
Although Henry Chimbali, Ministry of Health’s spokesman, says the
findings are not an attack on religion, the truth remains that they
(results) forced some people to go home in silence- weighing the
significance of such words.