Monday, April 30, 2012

Where Is Chikumbutso Mtumodzi?

Chikumbutso Mtumodzi was once Malawi's State House Press Officer.
A position he abused.
Or, put more bluntly,  (a position) he did not understand.
The problem with Chikumbutso Mtumodzi is that he made hatred his communication strategy. In other words, hatred was his communication strategy. 
Then, perhaps after realising what sheer folly it was to put Chikumbutso Mtumodzi there, former president, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, shifted him. Even without the necessary qualifications, he was 'made' Director of Information.
In that capacity, he introduced the Malawi Mail- a government publication published by the Ministry of Information and Civic Education.
But, like his State House Press Officership, that (publication), too, did not last. It disappeared from the market.
At first (before it existed on the market), the Malawi Mail  was a dream in Chikumbutso Mtumodzi's head. Then, it became reality. Palpable reality. After some time on the newspaper market, where it was not faring well despite having government backing, the dream (Malawi Mail) died with the sunset of September 24, 2011.
High-tempered dreams die young, really. It is me saying this. It is my impression.
Chikumbutso Mtumodzi may now be somewhere in the civil service, working for the Malawian citizen. But Joyce Banda's broom will get him wherever he is hiding.
After all, his was a political position. Especially that of State House Press Officer.
People privy to the issue of how he ascended to that high office have it that his (Chikumbutso Mtumodzi's) mother was friends with the former First Lady, the late Ethel Zvauya Mutharika.
And, on that basis (the basis of familiarity), Chikumbutso Mtumodzi got his job.
As State House Press Officer, Chikumbutso Mtumodzi will be remembered for his reckless comments.
At one time, when former Speaker of the National Assembly, Sam Mpasu, was spokesperson for the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF), Chikumbutso Mtumodzi touched the former's raw nerve when he said:
"Sam Mpasu should not comment on government issues because his son is in prison". That was Chikumbutso Mtumodzi at his best.
What had happened for Chikumbutso Mtumodzi, who once belonged to the duplicate New Dawn for Africa, along with the likes of Thom Chiumia and Ken Ndanga (a party that was formed to foil the agenda for National Democratic Alliance, which was formed by former UDF strongman and Information Minister Brown Mpinganjira. Mpinganjira, the favourite of the British Broadcasting Corporation, is now a member of President Joyce Banda's People's Party politburo), to become this outrageous?
Here is what happened. Mpasu was the spokesperson for the opposition UDF. It was a tough time. Mutharika had just dumped the UDF, the party that campaigned for him during the 2004 Presidential elections.
This (resignation) happened on February 5, 2005 during an Anti-Corruption Bureau's Anti-Corruption Day in Lilongwe, Malawi's capital.
This development flared tempers.
Surely, the UDF was bitter. The way Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) zealots are bitter right now. That is why they (DPP members) wanted to foil the ascendancy of Joyce Banda to the highest office in the land. They forgot that, as Vice-President, Banda was within stiffing distance of the throne. Poor thinking!
To UDF's bitterness was added political gamesmanship by the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD).
Because State-run Malawi Broadcasting Corporation was giving all the airtime to UDF and, later, DPP, CMD's Kizito Tenthani and his colleagues came up with a trap for the ruling party in the name of training for senior members of opposition political parties including those of the ruling party.
At the training, opposition political parties were drilled on how to set the agenda (on how to be pro-active), instead of waiting for the ruling parties (the government side) to set the agenda. This agenda, the parties learned, could be well-set by having party spokespersons.
These spokespersons, that's what the training was all about, could do well by speaking on issues before the government (which, in Malawi, has come to wrongly mean the ruling party) did so.
The opposition parties could do this by attacking government policies. This way, the government (and, therefore, ruling party) would spend much time defending itself instead of campaigning or 'stealing' all the lime in the light!
Now, if there is someone who put this to good use, it is Sam Mpasu.
Mpasu could, on a clear morning, 'create' dark clouds for the government (and, therefore, ruling party) by introducing an imaginary issue, link it to the national agenda, make all the people believe in it, and steal all the lime in the light!
It was as simple as that.
And that (this;Mpasu's machinations) irked Mtumodzi so much he run short of counter-arguments.
It is in this light that, one day, Mpasu sopke about the loss of direction on part of the ruling party, and suggested resolutions.
Instead of coming up with an equally-sound response, Chikumbutso Mtumodzi took it upon himself 9and, therefore, upon the 'whole' State House) to shrug off Mpasu's sentiments.
Under normal circumstances, it was the DPP that was supposed to respond. And not the government, let alone New State House. But Chikumbutso Mtumodzi responded. It was a strange world, then.
"Mpasu should not comment because his son is in prison".
Not that Mpasu's son was not in prison. He was. For his won sins.
But does that spoke a father from speaking on national issues? No.
At the State House, people lose their heads.
But not all the people lose their heads at the State House.
Alaudin Osman, one of the directors for private-run Capital 102.5 FM radio, was once the State House's Press Officer.  He executed his responsibilities professionally. He did not pluck feathers. He did not take his position (as State House Press Office) as a political position.
Osman's experience in Botswana could, perhaps, have helped him executive his State House Press Officer duties with impartiality and professionally. To him, we can just guess, the party was the party, and the State House was the  State House. Two different things.
Not with Chikumbutso Mtumodzi.
To cut a long story short, let me explain one experience I had with Chikumbutso Mtumodzi. This is when he was still State House Press Officer.
I met him in town. Blantyre Central Business District (CBD) to be precise.
Those who have been to Blantyre CBD may know Escom House, the headquarters of the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi.
Chikumbutso Mtumodzi was talking to two city parking fee collectors. I knew one of these parking fee collectors. He was a DPP zealot. A DPP Youth Cadet (as the late Mutharika later christened them).
I gave him a "Good Afternoon!".
Not because he was State House Press Officer. Because I knew him. I knew him the time he was running his own media agency.
No, I knew from an encounter at Njamba Freedom Park. As way back as 2003.
I had gone to Njamba Freedom Park (the place Pope John Paul 11 stepped upon during his State Visit to Malawi in 1989) to cover a New Dawn for Africa rally. This, as alluded to earlier, is the party Chikumbutso Mtumodzi, Chiumia, Ndanga formed to counter the agenda of the National Democratic Alliance of Mpinganjira. This New Dawn for Africa was a fruit of Muluzi's head; yes, Muluzi's confusion-marred thinking. Muluzi 'forced' these rational 'boys' into forcing the duplicate party to achieve his own political agenda: That of making sure nobody challenged his ill-intentioned Third Term Bid.
I was the first to arrive at Njamba. No, perhaps the fifth. Chikumbutso Mtumodzi and some four rough-necks were already at the venue of the rally. They were guarding the tent against imaginary National Democratic Alliance attackers!
I arrived quietly and sat under a Mango tree. One of the 13 mango trees that surround the venue of political meetings at Njamba Freedom Park, a place that will, forever, remain in the hearts and minds of Malawian Catholics because Pope John Paul 11 stepped on this very place; yes, the very same Pope who was being beautified by Pope Benedict the Sixteenth on Sunday.
Then, from nowhere, Chikumbutso Mtumodzi came. No, he came from behind one mango tree. I did not see him as he came.
He grabbed my hand, rather violently.
"What are you doing here?" He asked.
"I have come to cover the rally," I said.
"What rally? I say which rally?" he queried, holding me by the arm. Tightly.
"To cover this meeting," I said, as I squeezed him ankle.
Let me say that tussle ended in a "draw'. After I told him the media house I went there to represent.
It was a media house owned by the one who forced them to form the New Dawn for Africa.
So, from this point, I thought I knew Chikumbutso Mtumodzi. Let me say we, somehow, clicked after that.
I could see him drive the Nissan Twin-cab that was New Dawn for Africa's only 'tangible' property.
I could see him walking, on foot of course, in Blantyre CBD.
I met him so many times. Before he became State House Press Officer.
Then, from nowhere, Mutharika appointed him State House Press Officer.
Things changed.
Chikumbutso Mtumodzi was always (at every opportunity he saw me) accusing me of "reporting bad" about Mutharika.
The climax came that day in late 2008, at Escom House.
I gave him a "Good afternoon, Sir?" He did not respond.
"Good Afternoon, Sir?" I repeated.
He did not respond. He just looked at me.
I greeted him for the third time: 'Good afternoon (for it was 'Afternoon'), Sir?"
Chikumbutso Mtumodzi did not respond.
I continued on my journey, wondering: 'Does this boy think that he will be State House Press Officer for ever? Isn't this (the way he, and not Osman, made it appear) a political office?? This boy was walking on foot just three years ago and now he thinks he is there. Now, he thinks that journalists should not point out the wrongs in government. He wants journalists to praise the government and practice blind loyalty. No, this is not journalism. Journalists should be vigilant all the time. Journalists should, of course, be fair. Journalists should be the watchdogs in society, the watchdogs of society. When powerful people like Chikumbutso Mtumodzi dislike you for what you are doing, professionally; then, you are doing a good job. If public officers praise you, as a journalist, just know that you are doing a poor job. It could be sunshine journalism. It could be bias. Oh, it is good; when people like Chikumbutso Mtumodzi shun you because of the way you report, because of your dedication to the truth...'
This is what I was thinking  when, suddenly, someone touched my arm. It was the (Blantyre City Assembly) parking-fees' collector I knew.
"Chikumbutso Mtumodzi was just telling us that 'I don't want to come anywhere near that boy. He is a bad boy, who hates the government. That's why I did not respond to his greeting'," said the parking fees' collector.
I was dismayed.
I was surprised.
Chikumbutso Mtumodzi is a journalist, I thought.
He should have understood the role of journalists in national development.
The journalist is not a praise-singer.
Unfortunately, Chikumbutso Mtumodzi continued with his habit of 'shunning' me, ostensibly because I was an enemy of the State; someone out to destroy Chikumbutso Mtumodzi's pay-masters' names.
That is why I am wondering today: What will Chikumbutso Mtumodzi do, now that his 'journey' is over. What will Chikumbutso Mtumodzi do, now that the DPP is no longer in power?
What will Chikumbutso Mtumodzi do...now that so many things have changed?
Surely, as we read in Julius Ceasar , the evil that men do lives after them.
Let's hope Chikumbutso Mtumodzi did no 'evil'.
But Chikumbutso Mtumodzi's ordeal must serve as a lesson to People's Party officials.
President Banda will, surely, appoint some of the confused people to influential positions. Those officials should not look down upon other people. Those officials should not dislike others on the basis of those (others') work.
When all this is over, we all go back home to roast.   

Joyce Banda: Coward or Stateswoman?

Who is Joyce Banda, Malawi's chance President, accountable to?
Definitely not the people of Malawi, who did not elect her as President.
Definitely not Parliament, which only knew her as one who- as Vice-President- walked in the giant, relatively taller shadow of President Bingu wa Mutharika.
In everything, Mutharika was 'taller', including in shadows and realities.
That is why he grew a voice so different from that of African leaders.
Among other 'taller' things, Mutharika told the country-less, economy-less International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank that "No to devaluation; you can go to hell if you want".
Mutharika, in his economics wisdom, continued: "I wouldn't devalue the Kwacha to please some Washington chiefs who have had enough beans. If anything, let them tell me about the measures they will put in place to prevent the after-effects of devaluation on the rural masses".
But IMF, as usual, did not come up with alternatives.
It is, thus, so touching that Mutharika went to his final resting place of Mpumulo wa Bata (Rest of Peace) on April 23- two weeks after he succumbed to a heart attack on April 5, 2012- without getting any IMF response on the 'alternatives'.
Common sense dictates that them who are without alternatives to their criticism are without a voice (of common sense). That's what the IMF and World Bank are: Don't don't appreciate the positives; they only see the trouble.
And, to make life so simple, the Breton woods institutions know no solution but to yap 'devaluation'! Life must be serious- so serious it can not be answered by one phraseology!
Mutharika was there, talking.
Then, suddenly, he collapsed while performing state duties at the New State House in Lilongwe that fateful Thursday morning. Official records have it that he bid bye to the IMF and World- most importantly, his people- at around 11:15 am. He was taken to Kamuzu Central Hospital at 11:30am.
He found Kamuzu Central Hospital poorly equipped. His life could not be saved.
He went to South Africa no longer a man. He was dead. Having succumbed to Cardiac arrest within the confines of the maximum-security New State House.
The National Guard did not see it coming.
The well-fed dogs of the New State House did not see it coming.
The Democratic Progressive Party did not see it coming.
And, so, did the Malawi Congress Party, United Democratic Front, New Republican Party, Alliance for Democracy, Chipani cha Pfuko, People's Party, People's Progressive Movement, Congress for Democrats, among others, no see it coming.
But it happened.
And the result is that, just in the nick of time, Joyce Banda ascended to the highest office in the land.
With it came Malawi's new-found cowardice before the country-less, economy-less, currency-less IMF and World Bank.
Malawi is in a crisis of confidence.
Banda, back in Malawi from South Africa and Liberia (it has been three busy days for her), has goofed big time already. She told the South African media that her government will devalue the Malawi Kwacha by, not 10 percent (the way Mutharika did; of course, with complaints) but a whopping 40 percent!
Wait a minute. Here is a woman 'murdering' (economically) her own poverty-stained people to please the big-bellied boys and girls of the IMF.
Of course, there are elderly men and women at the IMF; experts in their area. But, if elderly experts conspire to perpetuate poverty, they are no older and no less expert than boys and girls! That is why the IMF and World Bank bosses are, simply put, boys and girls!
They are so senseless in their execution of duty. So murderous in their intentions. The way they prescribe devaluation and other 'international ills", one would be mad not rule out immorality and short brain-circuit on these folks' part.
All the IMF and World Bank gurus must be sick in some way; sick in an economic way. So sick their sickness widens the scope of the poverty malaise.
It is okay with them; so long as they receive their monthly cheque.
That is what Mutharika hated. And he hated it to his last day.
A president who never cowed before the nation-less, economy-less, currency-less World Bank and IMF duo.
But things have changed. Just in a nick of time.
And Banda is ruling the shots.
And the Kwacha.
Now, she has set her mind at making it lose value.
Not by 11 percent, or 15 percent, or 20 percent. By 40 percent.
She will cushion its effects with her obscene salary as President.
But the people will have nowhere to get the extra-Kwacha to purchase the now-available sugar.
And fuel.
And hope.
People do purchase hope. It takes will to purchase hope.
People purchase hope with will. They will they have to live on, and keep on going.
And Banda- by unilaterally devaluing-is killing that hope.  Stepping over Malawi's hope.
For one, people already harvested in March and early April. They did not anticipate what Banda has so brazenly set out to do.
They will have no money to afford life now.
Why, of all the reasons in this world, she would announce the imminence of such devaluation to the world in a foreign land defeats the purpose of states'womanhood.
Why tell it to the world, before informing her own people.
The answer is simple. It is a game. It is called cowardice.
IMF, World Bank cowardice if you make like.
Malawians should brace up for tough times.
Times created by cowardice.
Call it, IMF, World Bank "nobia'!
This 'nobia'? It is so unpatriotic it stinks!
    

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Joyce Banda Goes To Work

Malawi's 'accidental' President, Joyce Banda, has set her feet to the peddle.
Her first task, as it were, was to sack flamboyant Information and Civic Education Minister, Patricia Kaliati. For a woman who prides herself in gender emancipation, Banda set in motion the opposite instinct in her mantle.
Malawians should expect more.
Banda, too unsure about herself and the laws of Malawi, also hastily fired Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) Chief Executive Officer, Bright Malopa, and replaced him with the veteran broadcaster Benson Tembo. It is not the first time that Tembo has served in this capacity, having been appointed the first Director General of Television Malawi by former president Bakili Muluzi.
Kaliati, for all intents and purposes, is a Parliamentarian so loved by her people they bring her to Parliament every five years.
Kaliati takes good care of her people.
She is there when they cry.
And celebrate, too.
But people take her for what she said as Information and Civic Education Minister. They don't know the 'real' Kaliati. The real Kaliati is a gentle woman, a caring woman. She is a mother in Nkando and other areas.
As for Malopa, never has a Director General (now Chief Executive Officer) for State-run MBC been so creative as to introduce such massive-appeal programmes as Makiyolobasi.
In Malopa, Malawi has one of her most intelligent and creative sons.
MBC-TV was, really, the creator of possibilities. Not just possibilities; nameless, numberless (unlimited) possibilities.
That era, an era of creativity, is half gone now, simply because of the thinking of one Banda- Malawi's accidental president.
Now, Banda is in Liberia. She left for Liberia via South Africa, where she fulfilled official duties. Official duties? Yes. She went Down South to thank President Jacob Juma for all the goodwill, especially during the time our beloved president, Ngwazi Prof. Bingu wa Mutharika (oh, now we have to add 'the late') left this world.
The South African government bought the casket that took him to his Mpumulo wa Bata final resting place at Ndata Farm in Thyolo.
The South African government took care of the ministers and members of the Funeral Committee that went, and camped, there as Malawians eagerly, but sadly, waited for the return of the remains of their president-no-more.
Today, Banda is in Liberia.
On Monday, she will be in Malawi.
It will be the first time for Banda to go out on a tour of duty, and the first time she will come back home through Kamuzu International Airport and wave at women clad in party colours (Orange, the political colour of her People's Party) dancing for her.
It has been like that for ages. Nothing really changes.
Malawian women will always dance for the President. Be it male or female.
It is a symbol of work. The sign of someone who has gone to work, and is committed to finishing their mile.
On Monday, it will be done because Banda is working on 'Project Malawi'.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bingu wa Mutharika: Statesman Misunderstood


By Richard Chirombo
The hopes, fears, bitterness, joys, anguish and national wishes of the past eight years centred upon the heart of this one, mortal Malawian man. The First Citizen, he was called.
It is not just the title ‘His Excellency the State President of the Republic of Malawi’ that Bingu wa Mutharika wore; there was much more to it. With it came the willingness to embrace the lessons drawn from political turmoil, the will to stand firm against the, sometimes selfish, drumming of ruling Democratic Progressive Party  (DPP) cadres, and the wit to maintain composure under the burden of fear and suspense.
Sometimes, may be, the president could be adjudged to have been warding off an unapprehended blow, only because the persona of the President is a piece of clay in contradictory mode. The President would not be human if, every working minute, he did not battle the combined feelings of hope and fear.
It must have been particularly tough during the past three years as Malawi, short on forex, fuel and, possibly, hope, skidded towards the abyss. The president sat at the centre of it all, sometimes becoming the subject of unfair attack. It all settled in his heart; pressuring it, burdening it. Mutharika stood firm and, like the economic engineer he was, went about looking for spanners that could fix the breeding economic wounds.
He was never the one to run away, as he rightly observed in Mangochi as recently as March this year: “Bingu does not run away from responsibility…” The president even added that, other than taking the easy road to resignation, he would walk his Constitutional mile, and finish it at ‘Destination 2014’.
He had the heart to go on.
Many misunderstood him. When, for instance, he said on 5 March 2011 that Civil Society Organisations were planning July 20-like demonstrations, he was merely expressing his fears and hopes aloud: The fear that, looking at the wreckage of the pro-democracy demonstrations- in which millions of kwacha disappeared in routed and gutted property, and 19 lives went towards the way of all the earth- Malawi could find the deep of anarchy her final destination.
Mutharika, who established a make-believe pattern since his ascendancy to the position of Malawi’s Chief Executive Officer in May 2004, stroke a familiar chord that Sunday morning: He had, over the eight years, touted peace-maintenance, characterized by a nation in one frame, as the pre-requisite for national development.
Some quarters of society took issues with the way he bemoaned the involvement of development partners, casting himself in the light of a figure who appreciated their (donors’) faces, eating habits, body movements, childhood names, their children’s names, and the names of the children of their children. Just like that.
But Mutharika knew what he was doing. He had travelled widely, came to know the A-Z of foreign cultures, and knew his lines well. The other reason could be that he was, truly, Malawian. Locally, people point at others- imaginary or real- to array their own fears. It is part of Malawian culture, after all. In fact, Mutharika might have ‘mastered’ this lesson from, not only the cup of political science he drunk from in class, but Malawi’s long-held tradition.
 It is a tactic best-mastered by the Chewa. Mask dancers (Gulewamkulu) , notorious for taking on the uninitiated in the Central Malawi districts of Salima, Dedza, Dowa, Ntchisi, Kasungu, and some parts of Nkhotakota and Ntcheu, have been known to corner the uninitiated by producing the ‘empty’ shout: “Ndakuona, ndakuona, Ndakuona...!” (Waste no time hiding; I have already seen you!!!)

Some people, so clueless to this old bait, rise up from their hiding places, and hand themselves over to the ‘ignorant’ mask-dancer. Likewise, Mutharika established a pattern of someone who knew things that others did not. When, for instance, he went to ‘sorry’ victims of a wild flame at Blantyre Flea Market on the sunny Monday of September 19 last year, Mutharika claimed to know the people behind the attack.

With merchandise worth millions of kwacha incinerated in the wee hours of that fateful Monday, and some vendors yet to recover in both shock and merchandise, the President added to the sombreness of the day with one threat: “Don’t think I don’t know you. I know the people behind this unsavory
attack.”
It was all ‘Ndakuona games’, played by people so knowledgeable about the psyche of the Malawian people. It is not wrong to play these games because it is not wrong to be Malawian. 

For one, the Head of State and Government sees things others may not see. Every face, no matter how soft or well-curved, is blended with conspiracy; that is, when ambition is seen in the same light as ‘conspiracy’. To have ambition is to ‘conspire’ to ride over current circumstances. To frame the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy is to ‘conspire’ against under-development. And, so, are the Millennium Development Goals: a documented piece of conspiracies. That’s how presidents look at things.
With so many development blue-prints (read, conspiracies) lined up in the in-tray of the Head of State, the ordinary individual may not appreciate the amount of work pressed upon that one heart and mind. Inevitably, this development blends a combination of Presidential fear and skepticism, and may instantly produce the alternating reactions of fear, violence, or hope.

Under such circumstances, it is so easy to send signals with conflicting messages. It is all too possible to also fall into the pit of revengeful hate, or produce responses lighted with hope.
Hope? Sure. The president had hope.
“Give me three years to fix the economy. We are putting in place short and long-term plans to solve the challenges currently facing the country. Some problems cannot be solved within a day, or month,” Mutharika spoke hope in Mangochi last month. The hope was there, it was not hidden.
As the one upon whom it had been imposed by a ‘fateful’ majority on May 21, 2004 (a feat repeated, this time resoundingly, in 2009) to govern the country in trust, the President had his fare share of criticism. In this seat, criticism neither be avoided (even from quarters that offer no solutions), nor pushed away as one fights off a nightmare.

It must have been tough for the president, with all the social ostracism from CSOs, financial ostracism from the International Monetary Fund (IMF/IMF) and near banishment. All these banishments came when socio-economic challenges bogged the dismal village that is Malawi in the mud of confusion. This confusion being the man-made pit dug by development partners who deprived the country of financial resources that could help it stand firm against macro and micro-economic instability.

Mutharika- as one fit for exact fiscal policy discussions; clear in seeing the general truths of  devaluation worldwide; active, unresting, and fond of love for his people, and; enquiry (as manifested by his trip to Nigeria the other day)- always wanted the best for his people. But his policy-objectives were restrained by the shrewd policy machinations of the World Bank, IMF, development partners, and an opposition bloc out to make fun out of Malawi’s challenges.

The truth is that the IMF has no economy. The World Bank has no country. It is only Bingu- who had the tenacity of purpose, courage, and an unbending will which never flinched before antagonists- who knew the material constraints of the Malawian people better, and, possibly, how to solve them.

Unfortunately for him, these characteristics were unhappily out of tune with IMF/World Bank intrigues and policy passions of the day. These institutions have the tendency to shoot down what, apparently, works, and Mutharika knew this pretty well. That’s why he stood his ground, and Malawians mistook it for selfishness.
A good case in point is that of farm input subsidies during the 1980s. The IMF said ‘No’, since it was like subsidizing consumption. When governments, including that of Malawi, accepted this, food security became a forgotten past. The African leaders must have been wary. But, more likely, the status quo might have pleased the bosses in Washington.
A successful politician, to the Breton woods institutions, must be a man of the IMF and World Bank, and never a man of his country.
Just that Mutharika had people to rule, people he loved, and was, therefore, ostracized for the same.

Of course, though Mutharika was one of the most ambitious presidents to stand at the helm of this great nation, he had few of the characteristics that, ordinarily, give colour and charm to personality.
But, for his intellect, he served as African Union President, where he introduced the African Food Basket masterpiece as a replication of Malawi’s successful Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme, and; Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, first as secretary general and, until the hour of his death, chairperson, among other positions.

He died, on April 5 this month, undismayed and still refusing to follow that easy, straight
path to national doom through devaluation of the Kwacha. Surely, a rise in commodity prices could not be the best way of serving Malawian citizens well.
It is sad that the ambitious Mutharika died at a time when his detractors made an obscure conglomeration of all the charges that place leaders in negative light, in part designed by some development partners to furnish a common ground for those who propagated lawlessness but were unwilling to directly identify themselves with such issues.
People may mourn that death, coming so unexpectedly, has robbed Malawians of a Statesman. But Mutharika has left two things for posterity: words and works.
The words “Let the works of my hands speak for me” will, forever, reverberate across Malawi; as the works of his hands- the New Parliament Building, Five Star Hotel, the University of Science and Technology, this 2011/12 subsidised inputs (through the Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme)- continue to remind Malawians of the man who came in time, but left before his time.
 



Friday, April 20, 2012

Bingu at Sanjika

Lines-
So long it must not be the scramble for fuel,
So winding it can't be of one-people-in-the-wrong,
So visible it must not be sugar packets-
Stretch far and wide along the Presidential Road.

Sanjika:
So fortified,
So closed to reality,
So green in comfort,
Opens to the common eye.

A nation in mourning,
A nation so bathed up in red eyes,
A nation taken unawares by the early sunset
Meanders to say 'Hullo'
As Bingu lies in State.

Two weeks ago,
He was the State,
Curing our deplorable socio-economic state
And this sudden sadness.

We will be there,
To see his ray in the darkness,
Shining on the plate of our days,
As the sun fades to rise again,
And the darkness shines to wave good bye.

MISA stresses need for access to information in Africa

Zimbabwe Communiqué
19 March 2012


 The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) on 15 April 2012 bemoaned the current state of access to information in Africa, citing the negative impact the glaring lack of information is having on the citizenry. This observation was made during the ongoing NGO Forum of the 51st Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples? Rights (ACHPR) in the Gambian capital of Banjul

Referring to the African Platform on Access to Information campaign initiated in 2011, MISA Regional Specialist on Media Policy and Law, Karen Mohan, said access to information is a right that many African citizens were still struggling to realise.

She said this was despite the fact that the right to freedom of information is one that is enshrined in a host of regional and international instruments such as Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and People?s Rights, and article 4 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa.

Mohan noted that access to information is a fundamental part of freedom of expression and argued that when citizens are ill-informed and unable to access basic public information, it is consequently impossible for them to exercise their right to freedom of expression.

This in turn adversely affects citizens? basic rights to health, employment, education, participation in public discourse, as well as the ability to fight corruption, among other aspects.

Mohan also explained that the African Platform on Access to information was initiated in 2011 as a way of promoting access to information and impressing that it is a right that many African citizens still continue to be deprived of.

She urged members of the NGO Forum to register their support towards the cause by calling for a resolution which will request:

1.      Endorsement of the APAI Declaration by signing it.
2.      Endorsement of a recommendation for the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) to pass a resolution authorising the ACHPR Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa to expand Part IV of the Declaration of Freedom of Expression in Africa to include principles of the APAI Declaration
3.      Endorsement of a recommendation to the ACHPR requesting the African Union Summit to:
a.       Adopt September 28 as International Right to Information Day.
b.      Initiate an experts meeting to develop a continent wide instrument on the right of access to information.

For any questions, queries or  comments, please contact:

Nyasha Nyakunu
Senior Programmes Officer
MISA-Zimbabwe
84 McChlery Drive
Eastlea
Harare
Zimbabwe
Telefax: +263 4 776165/746838
Mobile : +263 712 602 448/ 0712 639 682
Email: misa@misazim.co.zw
Website: www.misazim.co.zw

Zambia Communiqué: Government seeks process to finalise the Draft National Information and Media Policy

Zambia Communiqué
19 April 2012



The government of Zambia has commenced the process to finalise the Draft National Information and Media Policy whose purpose is to enhance the effective coordination and dissemination of public information and to facilitate the growth of a free, ethical, socially responsible and sustainable media industry.

The aim of the policy is to facilitate the creation of a well-informed and motivated citizenry, which embraces democratic governance for national development and the creation of an environment that safeguards the right of the people, including the right to know and the freedom of the media.

Some of the objectives of the policy include to facilitate the establishment of a regulatory authority for the electronic media, to ensure adherence to policy provisions in order to promote attainment of a free, socially responsible and sustainable media industry, to develop a countrywide information and communication infrastructure for improved radio and television services and to ensure speedy transmission of news and information across the country by both print and electronic media.

The other objectives are to promote both local and foreign investment in all forms of media in order to enhance growth of the media and to promote the use of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in information gathering in order to enhance efficiency and to develop countrywide news gathering and distribution networks for the state-controlled Zambia News and Information Services (ZANIS).

The policy also seeks to encourage the media to work towards the creation and sustenance of a single media council with jurisdiction over professional and ethical matters.

This policy precedes a 1996 policy that is being revised to take into consideration changes in the media landscape and channels that facilitate information flow.

For more information please contact:
Jane Chirwa, MISA-Zambia Information & Research Officer
Email: janechirwa79@yahoo.com

MISA-Namibia criticizes attempts to turn public media into party megaphones

Namibia Communiqué
19 April 2012


 MISA Namibia has called upon members of the public, including political office bearers, to embrace and promote a free and independent media but also to support the transformation of the state-controlled broadcaster, Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) into a Public Service Broadcaster (PSB).

A public service broadcaster, as commonly understood, is fully independent in all editorial and operational matters and free from any possible interference from external interests, especially political.

It has been reported that state-owned media houses, NBC and New Era newspaper, were severely criticized by several Members of Parliament (MPs) on Friday, April 13, 2012 for alleged ?pathetic? and selective coverage of public figures and public events. This was said during the debate on the budget of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT).

Joël Kaapanda, the Minister of Information and Communication Technology has requested N$305million (about US$39million) for MICT, to be used for five programmes, which include subsidies to the three media houses, NBC, Nampa and New Era.

Parliamentarians from the ruling party, Swapo, are reported to have expressed their annoyance with state-controlled media houses saying, ?Journalists are biased in their reporting, they choose who to introduce at events and leave other MPs unintroduced. We can even decide not to approve this budget. NBC together with all government-funded newspapers should take note.?

?New Era covers negative aspects of government. Why, if both are government funded, why the discrepancy??  an MP queried. ?All journalists must be fired!? stated another MP emphatically.

?New Era and NBC are not advancing and protecting government as they were established to. They must understand we have the power not to support this vote because they always stab us in the back, they must not force Swapo to have a congress and change NBC to a ?Voice of the Nation?,? another MP charged.

MISA-Namibia encourages the public, including political officials, to work together with the media industry in Namibia, for the greater good of the country. Clearly the mandates of state-subsidized media houses state that they have a duty to serve ALL Namibians with a level of transparency, accuracy and responsibility in order to enhance the democratic growth and development of Namibia.

The New Era Publication Corporation Act, 1992 (No. 1 of 1992) and the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation Act, 1991 (no. 9 of 1991) make it clear that these media have a duty not to be subservient to any political interests. Rather, it is the politicians who have the duty to ensure that funding continues to be channeled to both New Era and NBC.

In the same breath, state media have an obligation to uphold the provisions of Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the African Charter On Human and Peoples Rights and Principle XI of the Declaration on Freedom of Expression in Africa.

MISA-Namibia agrees with Principle XII of the Declaration on Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa that states: ?No one should be found liable for true statements, opinions, or statements regarding public figures which is reasonable to make in the circumstances. Public figures shall be required to tolerate a greater degree of criticism. Sanctions should not be so severe as to inhibit the right of expression, including by others.?

There has to be a solid recognition that subsidies received by state-funded entities are resourced by taxpayers and such entities have an even greater duty to disseminate transparent, fair, balanced and accurate information to the public regardless of political affiliation.

For more information, please contact:
Ngamane Karuaihe-Upi, MISA-Namibia
Email: broadcast@misanamibia.org.na



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bingu in Mzuzu

It is now the turn of Northern regioners to view, for the last time, former president Bingu wa Mutharika's face.
This face, this expressionless face, dominated affairs in this land by the lake for the past eight years.
When this journey started; it was a high. The journey started on a high.
But the way it ended, it was so abrupt it has given birth to this state of shock.
A state of shock in the State,
The state of shock in this State.

Bingu does not know he is in the north.
Bingu is resting.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Dark Side of Joyce Banda

Joyce Banda, Malawi's newly sworn-in President, cut the figure of a God-fearing, revenge-shy woman that Saturday morning. She had good reasons to pretend to be a caring mother, in part because she was surprised by the sudden turn of events, and in part because it was only two days after President Bingu wa Mutharika's death on April 5.
Her April 7 acceptance  speech was graceful and, almost, sombre to a fault. She promised to unite all Malawians. She promised not to raise the torch of intolerance and revenge. She promised to work with all Malawians. She promised to lift the socio-economic gloom hovering over the nation.
Malawians were happy.
Happy with the cosmetic Joyce Banda.
The real Joyce Banda is a ruthless, grudge-trophying woman.
Examples abound. During a Press Briefing held in February at her Mudi Residence (the residence of the Vice-President; when she was serving as Malawi's duty-absconding Veep), a freelance journalist (but, in actual fact, it was the Editor of The Eye Witness  mentioned a name that was not his when he introduced himself as Michael Kalizang'oma. Banda stopped him short, and said, in vernacular: "Oh, ndiwe Michael Kalizang'oma? Siinu anthu oipa aja mumandinena aja? (You say you are Michael Kalizang'oma? Are you not one of the bad guys who talk ill of me?).
The reporter could not hold his anger; he retorted back: "Where have you seen that name writing ill of you?"
Banda, cornered, apologised. "Oh, sorry then. I think I have made a mistake. But there is someone who talks ill about me, and I don't like that".
So, that is the real Banda for you. Vindictive.
This vindictiveness came to the fore on Saturday, just seven days after being sworn-in as Malawi's First Citizen.
It also came at a bad time because it was ill-timed.
This real Banda (the vindictive woman) came to the fore during the arrival of former Head of State and Government, Ngwazi Prof. Bingu wa Mutharika's , body at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe.
Guess who endured this dark side of Banda? Madam Callista Mutharika herself, the former First Lady.
It was such a bad sight (for all Malawians who cared) seeing Banda- coming from the salute dice- hand-shake all the dignitaries that sat at the Very Important Persons section kind-heartedly.
In fact, she shook the right hand of all those who stood along her way to the Presidential seat for some four seconds on average. It was the mark of a true Malawian woman. Not just true Malawian woman, but cultured woman, at that.
But, when Banda came to the place where Madam Callista Mutharika stood, Madam Banda cold-heartedly touched the hand of the former First Lady (in fact, it was not touching; it was a touch-and-not-feel-and-withdraw kind of thing) as if she was touching something undesirable.
And the shame-of-Banda did not last even a second. It was within a fraction of a second, and people can verify this by watching the video tape again on MBC-TV.
It was the typical example of unMalawian behaviour showcased by Banda.
Meanwhile, as she gave Callista that hand (probably with two hearts; one saying 'don't greet her at all; and the other saying 'just get over this greeting thing, this woman reminds you of your undesirable past when the Democratic Progressive Party expelled you from the party'), Madam Banda was wearing the face of (not a woman touched; a woman in sorrow) a woman scorned. A woman with a mountain-like grudge in her heart.
Of all the people Banda greeted, she greeted the most immediate Mother of this Nation in the most shameful, and uncultured manner.
It was as if Banda owns the body of Mutharika. As if Madam Callista was the intruder.
But, if the truth be told, Banda has no right over the body of the Father of this Nation (now lying in state). It is Madam Callista Mutharika and the former president's children and relatives who have more rights, and can decide (just like the former president himself decided to be burried at his Ndata Farm in Thyolo District).
There, at Kamuzu International Airport on Saturday, Banda showed her true self; an insight on the sort of cold, vengeful treatment Malawians should expect.
Malawians have not been liberated. They have just been tossed from a Hyena-infested bush to one where lions rule both day and night. Hyenas are better; they eat wrotten food.
But the lions and lionesses will eat you alive!
On another note, congratulations are in order for South African Defence Force soldiers who brought the body of our Father back to Malawi on Saturday. It was such a touching ceremony.
It, really, symbolised the love the people of South Africa have over their fellow Africans.
In fact, the fall (on the steps of the South African Defence Force plane that carried the remains of Mutharika) by one of the senior members of that  South African delegation symbolises the sad reality in Malawi: A Father, giant of the nation, had fallen.
He goes ahead of us, to a place where people in happiness exist. Remembering the gloom of this dark earth no more. Remembering 'mocky' hand-shakes no more.
Where the people's faces are the light, that filter the bits of eternity.;

 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Here Comes The Father No More!

It never happened like this.
It never was like today.
The First Lady, Madam Callista Mutharika, never went ahead of the President.
Be it at public functions, be it a private event: Madam Mutharika always went behind, or in front of, the President.
But nobody went ahead of the other; at least, when the two had something to attend to (together). President Bingu wa Mutharika- now deceased; now history- (whenever they had to attend an event together) always went together with Madam Callista Mutharika.
It (the strange thing) happened today- as part, perhaps, of the sad story that started on Thursday last week, when President Bingu wa Mutharika collapsed at the New State House in Lilongwe. Medical experts at Kamuzu Central Hospital later called the condition cardiac arrest.
Mutharika (the nation was made to believe he was still arrive after 11:30 a.m. that Thursady) was then flown to South Africa. His (should we say 'his', or the body's? That is the question best answered by common sense and the passions of the day) body was flown to South Africa, and the destination was One Military Hospital.
The President will never know that he went there.
That he is here, too (he will never know); these he will never know. Because he was not there in person,just in flame.
These things, these circumstances, are what led to the happening of the strange circumstances today at Kamuzu International Airport in Malawi's capital city, Lilongwe.
Madam Mutharika came along, and came earlier.
She came off the plane an hour before the arrival of a man she loved so dearly. It is a not a long time ago, after all, that the two united in holy matrimony. It was an event of sorts. The nation, like the First Couple, was happy.
Come Thursday, and what? It was over between the two. It was over for the two. The President, Bingu wa Mutharika, had died.
Much to the dismay of people- some of whom were non-Democratic Progressive Party members- of all walks of life. Just in the nick of time a President has died. The first sitting president in Malawi to die in office. The first to leave citizens wondering. Wondering about the readiness of our medical facilities. Wondering whether death has any boundaries. Whether, in fact, death has eyes to see the boundaries.
The boundaries between the rich and poor. The boundaries well-guarded.
But this is a story for another day.
Madam Mutharika, coming out of that plane, did cut a sad figure. In her life, one more important individual has departed.
No one can say Madam Mutharika, who lost her former husband to invisible death, is used to this; used to this giant sadness that comes in this enormous hole of blackness. That is why she looked down when she landed at Kamuzu International Airport.
This started with the plane that ferried her from South Africa two hours before. It circled Kamuzu International Airport three times, before landing down. That is its way of 'looking down'- landing down.
Then, the plane having landed down, it let out Madam Mutharika- who looked down.
The plane landing down is a metaphor. And, so, Madam Mutharika looking down.
This sadness, this national sorrow, weighs us down. It is so strange nobody touches it. But so 'felt' the nation has come to a stand-still.
This sadness was, in Madam Callista Mutharika, today personified. Her sadness is the nation's sadness.
This Saturday Madam Mutharika came earlier. She was so tired she went to the Very Important Persons section to rest. But there is no rest. Someone in her life is gone. Someone in the sphere of this nation is gone.
There is no time for rest; just sadness. No time for rest; the nation is bracketed by this sadness.
That is why Madam Mutharika came alone.
One hour before her former husband. Just last Thursday, and today we call 'him' her former husband?
Life is, surely, unfair.
The former First Lady came alone today. And, as with the rest of the nation, joined others back home in waiting for the body of the former Head of State.
Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi's most-immediate former Head of State, arrived (that is, his embalmed body) an hour later.
To be welcomed by Madam Mutharika. To be welcomed by a mourning nation.
South African soldiers were there, too. At Kamuzu International Airport.
Their duty was to hand over the body of Malawi's former Head of State.
The body had left lifeless that Thursday night, having spent the better part of the afternoon and evening at Kamuzu Central Hospital. Lifeless. Breathless. Hopeless.
These (lifelessness, breathlessness, hopelessness) are the symbols of sadness. Like the Red, Green and Black colours on our National Flag, they are three.
What is wrong with three, that there is three in our national colours, and three is represented in breathlessness, lifelessness, and hopelessness?
What is so special about (the name) Kamuzu; that the lifeless, hopeless, and breathless body of former Head of State and Government (Bingu wa Mutharika) went to 'Kamuzu' Central Hospital that Thursday morning, flew to South Africa (the body) through 'Kamuzu' International Airport (that evening, on the way to One Military Hospital in South Africa), and back through 'Kamuzu' International Airport today (for this last journey that is making us tearful; now that you (Angwazi- the name Bingu inherited from Kamuzu)?
The thing is, there is nothing special in all these names. The only speacial thing is that a Head of State and Government- someone so special to us- has died. These names have just taken in the importance.
It has been a sad day. Really. Callista coming (to her mother country) alone.
Until last week, she was the mother of the nation.
The mother that walked hand in hand with the President.
Never behind.
Never in front.
Together, always on schedule.
No more.
May the Soul of Ngwazi Professor Bingu wa Mutharika Rest in Eternal Peace.
The Once Mighty Heart of Bingu wa Mutharika Has Been Stilled At Last.
Some day, beyond the blueless skies, we may meet again.
And, then, Callista will never walk alone.    

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lucius Banda's Unartistic Behaviour, The Hypocricy of Malawian Journalists

It must be more difficult to run away from a pattern than it is to run away from the truth.
But musician Lucius Banda doesn't seem to realise this, and has, unwittingly, become a victim of his own anger.
The Balaka-based musician has built a reputation (for himself, not for Malawi) as a mature artist who comes handy during 'heavy' times in Malawi.
And the 'heavy' times have come, sadly, handy for Malawi the past 15 years. First, it was former President Ngwazi Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda- the Father and Founder of the Malawi Nation.
It was in September 2007 that the flamboyant leader lost his life to eternal progression. It came as a surprise, then, though others so it coming. That month, both the former President and Bakili Muluzi- the then incumbent President- were taken ill.
It was strange; so strange. These were both heavy-weights, in their own respects.
Sadly, and to the shock of Malawians, their most-beloved former President died.
Lucius Banda, always ready to play song in line with the national mood, took to his head in the search for a befitting song for the departed leader.
Kamuzu was no ordinary man. Though limited in height, he set about a tough mission: To abolish the "stupid federation of Nyasaland and Rhodesia".
And that he did.
He did many other things, too. Road, rail infrastructure improvements. The transfer of the Capital City from Zomba to Lilongwe.
He did more. He did more.
His death was thus always going to be a big deal.
So, Lucius Banda the multi-talented  musician composed 'Mulandireni'. In Mulandireni, Lucius begins by sharing his experiences, especially on how shocked he was to hear that the Ngwazi (hero) was gone. He, then, reminded Malawians that the Ngwazi had chalked his own achievements, including the tattering-up of the "stupid federation of Nyasaland and Rhodesia", his leadership skills at uniting Malawians, and conceding defeat when Malawians 'voted' for the 'back' of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
It was such a touching song, with its sombre melodies. Paul Banda (who else could it be?) did well with the mixing, and the drumming, and the repercussions. In short, the production.
That act made it; it established a pattern for Lucius Banda.
He became Banda the musician who peddles his way to fame by effectively employing the national psyche as the currency.
It came as no surprise, therefore, that Lucius went Chakufwa-Chihana-lyrical when the later died mid-way through the last decade. 'Chihana Wapita' reminds Malawi of the man who arrived at Kamuzu International Airport with his life on his finger-tips, raising two fingers: the symbol of plural politics.
It was like a man coming from outside, and demanding that, in your own house, it will be him and you as husbands to the only woman you love.
Two fingers were to become the unmistakeable symbol of Chihana's Alliance for Democracy, the party credited for defying the prevalent political air of the time, and fighting for general respect for total freedoms.
Before that moment, intellectual discourse was anathema to the political order of the day.Press freedom did not exist. And others so numerous to count at this dark hour.
Of course, some would argue that it was the Catholic Bishops that set the pace through that famous Pastoral letter which will remain a symbol of positive change for Malawi. True, it is the Catholic Bishops who risked their lives before Chihana came onto the scene. It is the Catholic Bishops, through the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, who started rolling this chain we now call democratic governance in Malawi.
But Chihana, too, remains the courageous man who showed the, then, scarce commodity of courage, and came out (almost from nowhere) to challenge the powers that be.
In composing Chihana Wapita, Lucius did not bring anything new. He was merely living up to the pattern he had established himself. He was living up to his own standards.
But, today, following the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika on Thursday- April 19, 2012- Lucius has become a shame. He has evolved into a total shame for the country,  a man so bitter he has allowed his emotions to prevail over reason.
By not composing any tribute song for the fallen Mutharika, a leader so unanimously elected by Malawians during the May 21 Presidential Elections, Lucius is showing Malawians that he has been lying all along in telling Malawians that he sings for others, and that he is a "Souldier for the poor". The guy has been fighting his own battles in the name of Malawians.
Take, for instance, what has happened now. Lucius has abandoned his artistic objectivity to allow emotions take their course and affect his reputation as a no-holds-barred musician.
Lucius was once a Member of Parliament in Balaka District. He was a United Democratic Front Parliamentarian.
But, somehow, he danced to yellow politics and started a campaign that, if successful, should have seen Mutharika park his bags for Ndata Farm.
But, somehow, one of the ruling party cadres 'went back' to their memories and discovered that Lucius had skeletons in his closet: the man's Malawi School Certificate of Education was fogged.
Bingu, taking his chance, pounced on Lucius by instituting court action. Lucius was convicted by the Zomba Magistrates' Court, and sentenced. He, in effect, became a convict. Lucius is an ex-convict.
That, predictably, must have made him bitter. Whereas Lucius was supposed to be a clean man, he now is associated with past criminal activity.
He carries this reputation (of an ex-convict) wherever he goes.
It is this reputation that has shielded his vision as an artists who sings for others, and not himself, and make him so mute (musically) over the death of Mutharika.
Where is the singing for the people now?
Do artists fool people when they claim to 'sing' for others, and not themselves?
When is the artistic spirit here, when musicians take things so personal, and deprive their fans (who have different political affiliations)  of heart-rending music?
This is the shame of this time.

Where is objectivity in journalism
 When I noticed this pronounced silence from Lucius Banda, I asked some of Malawi's seasoned arts' journalists and their attitude seems to fall in line with Lucius's bad tempers over the death of Mutharika.
The journalists, including one international journalist, told me it would be absurd for Lucius to wax lyric about a man who got his imprisoned.
I have told the journalists that they, too, have lost the plot and objectivity.
I told them it is bad to allow emotions overtake their reasoning.
One of the veterans even told me to "shut up; what are you saying that (Lucius should sing)? Something has gone wrong in your head".
But I defied him, for once, and never got quiet. The Republican Constitution guarantees press freedom. The problem with Malawians, journalists inclusive, is that they feel that if you don't agree with them, then, you must not speak. You must keep quiet. That, at the point you differ with them, you are no longer entitled to freedom of expression.
But I say no. Respect other people's opinions even when you don't agree with them. Attack people's views by offering better alternative views instead of hushing them. If you don't agree with someone, don't shut them up; close your ears by placing two fingers in them!
That's why I defied the veteran journalist. I will always speak my mind. At least I have that right.
The problem is that some Malawian journalists have abandoned objectivity and are so excited with the events now so much so that they have thrown objectivity to the wind. They want others to do this as well.
I will not be one of them!
Granted, Mutharika attempted to muzzle press freedom through the much-hated Section 46 that empowers the Information Minister to ban publications deemed anathema to the public interest.
He might not have done better in other areas, too. People now queue for sugar; they queue for fuel. The fight for money.
But all these are not good grounds to deny Mutharika the respect he deserves.

Senior Chief Kaomba's view 
"Our culture does not provide room for criticising dead people. Those who have died, no matter their short-comings, deserve to be praised for their efforts in life. That's what our culture dictates," Kaomba says.
It is common sense, really- something Lucius and some Malawian journalists have lost touch with.

Zachimalawi's conclusion
Excitement killed Lucius Banda's artistic mind and some Malawian journalists' objectivity.
It this happens, the end result is called 'shame'.

This was an opportunity for Lucius to show that he can rise above personal vendetta and help Malawians remember a man who came onto the scene, did his part in achieving food security, and left unexpectedly- when Malawians needed him to solve some of their challenges and create a legacy as a man who faced challenges and won his battle.
So bad for creativity and journalism.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

New Day, New President

How things change.
Within three days of President Bingu wa Mutharika's sudden death, government administration has changed hands.
From the Democratic Progressive Party regime, which was unanimously elected in May 2009, we have the People's Party (PP)of Joyce Banda.
Like the DPP in 2005 (which came into power through the back door), we have the PP-  a party that was not elected to assume the rains of power.
Now, Joyce Banda is Malawi's first female president, and Africa's second.
How things change, though the days and nights remain the same.
Chief Justice Redson Munro will go into the annals of history as the man who did it; administering the oath of allegiance and office.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

From Foreign and Commonworth Office: Saturday 7 April 2012

Foreign Secretary sends condolences to President Mutharika’s family


Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “In this moment of sadness I offer condolences to President Mutharika's family. I urge all sides to remain calm and that a peaceful handover takes place as provided for under Malawi's constitution.”


Kind regards,


Newsdesk
Press Office l Foreign and Commonwealth Office








MISA MALAWI STATEMENT ON THE DEATH OF THE STATE PRESIDENT, THE LATE

07th April, 2012




The Malawi Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and the whole media fraternity in the country join the nation in mourning the passing of President Bingu wa Mutharika who died on 05th April, 2012 in Lilongwe.

The news of his death has come as a shock to us as there were no reports that the late Mutharika was not feeling well.

MISA Malawi Chapter extends its condolences to the First Lady Madam Callista Mutharika, the children and the entire bereaved family at this very difficult time.

MISA Malawi Chapter would like to commend both local and international media for keeping Malawians informed about the status of our departed President at a time when government was not forthcoming with
information.

We appeal to those in authority and responsible for the funeral arrangements to ensure that the media is supplied with accurate information so that Malawians are kept informed of what is happening at every stage.

It is our hope as the fourth estate that constitutional sanity will prevail as the country goes through the transition period. We remain vigilant to provide our watchdog role for the benefit of democracy in the country.

May the soul of our late President Bingu wa Mutharika rest in eternal peace.
Signed


Anthony Kasunda


MISA MALAWI CHAIRPERSON



From the Episcopal Conference of Malawi: Condolence and Solidarity Message

                                                             April 7, 2012
The Episcopal Conference of Malawi, an umbrella body for the eight Catholic Dioceses in Malawi, has learned with sadness the demise of His Excellency Professor Bingu Wa Mutharika.








The Episcopal Conference of Malawi joins all people of good will in expressing condolences to the President–in-waiting, Her Excellency Madam Joyce Banda, the First Lady, the Mutharika family and the entire nation for this sudden loss of the leader of the nation.



We call upon all Malawians to mourn the death of our leader with the kind of dignity befitting the Head of State always ensuring that we rise above personal and political self interests. In this regard, we appeal to the conscience of all those in relevant decision-making offices to strictly adhere to the provisions of succession provided for in the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi.







In the spirit of peace and in keeping with the command of Jesus, “Peace is what I leave you, it is my own peace that I give you…..” (John 14:27), we pray that the peace and calm that has been characteristic of Malawi as a nation is seen and allowed to prevail in our country at this juncture.







May God, our Creator, who by the power of Christ conquered death, in his infinite mercy and love, enable the late President share his victory and rest in peace.







Fraternally yours:






Right Reverend Joseph M. Zuza Chairman and Bishop of Mzuzu






Right Reverend Thomas Msusa Vice-Chairman and Bishop of Zomba






Most Reverend Tarcisius G. Ziyaye Archbishop of Blantyre






Most Reverend Remi Ste-Marie Archbishop of Lilongwe






Right Reverend Peter Musikuwa Bishop of Chikhwawa






Right Reverend Emmanuel Kanyama Bishop of Dedza






Right Reverend Alessandro Pagani Bishop of Mangochi






Right Reverend Martin Mtumbuka Bishop of Karonga






Right Reverend Montfort Stima Auxiliary Bishop of Blantyre






















Date: 7th April, 2012

Vice-President Joyce Banda to Be Sworn in Shortly

Malawi's capital city, Lilongwe, is awash with anticipation.
Malawi is about to have a new Head of State and Government.
The Chief Justice, Redson Munro, will in less than one hour swear Vice-President Joyce Banda as the country's President at the New Parliament Building in Lilongwe.
The function was scheduled to start at 2 pm, but their have been some delays.
However, Banda gets sworn in in less than one hour time.
She will become Malawi's first female president, and Africa's second. The only other country with a female president is Liberia.

What is the Interest of Bakili Muluzi in Bingu wa Mutharika's Death

Bakili Muluzi- the man who wore democratic credentials in 1994 and won people's votes to preside over the destinies (social, economic, political, religious, cultural, among others) and finished his Constitutional two-terms call in 2004, amid some thin-veiled reluctance to leave the centre stage through the miserably executed and failed Third Term bid- cut a very angry and sad figure the other day. The day was Saturday, the date was March 24, and the time of day was mid-morning.
Muluzi- a patient of dislocated back-bone disks whose pain has, many a time, forced him to fly (not to heaven but) to, towards and, then, into South Africa for medical attention- was, visibly, a patient of double blows: anger, which made him swagger from left to light after touching off at the archtectural-piece-of-confusion that is Chileka International Airport in Blantyre, and; sickness, in form of the dislocated disks that have but reduced him to a pale of his former self, as he looks older now than he were one year ago.
One thing must be clear on the case of the former United Democratic Front (UDF) chairman's sickness. Muluzi- now hardly the man who mocked former, and his own, Vice-President Justin Malewezi for taking medication in relation to a liver condition- carries his troublesome disks on his back because there is no choice, really- the disks are the sickness, the disks are the disease. So, when he goes to South Africa, he takes the disks there. When coming back, they are there, causing the pain he always controls through medication.
The nation wishes him well. That is why the tax-payer foots his bills. And, form what he has gone through, he seems to have captured some lessons on sickness:  no one chooses, sickness comes as  a pain the back (no pun intended).
Talking of lessons, Muluzi seems to be a man who doesn't take free lessons. This is clear from the way he has been managing himself, politically. The UDF, now as divided as residents of a border town, has split in factions: There is the faction of former Finance Minister, and Admarc general manager, Friday Jumbe; then, there is the faction that used to be headed by former Health Minister George Nga Ntafu. That faction has now transformed into the former President's son, Atupele Muluzi's, faction. This faction happens to be the faction of UDF secretary general, Kennedy Makwangwala.
Makwangwala, a one-time member of the Jumbe faction which, other than on the grounds of ideologies, united on the strength of their hatred for Bakili Muluzi's continued political machinations. Makwangwala has since gone back to the 'mainline' party faction, leaving Jumbe and others stuck with the wood of their faction. 
Jumbe has been accusing Muluzi the senior of meddling in politics despite announced his retirement from active politics. Jumbe has accused Muluzi the senior of convincing his son, Atupele, to vie for the UDF presidency.
"(Bakili) Muluzi wants to rule through the back door through his son, Atupele. But this is not chieftainship. His (the former President's) behaviour is bringing confusion in the party," Jumbe told Zachimalawi.
Well, this is an issue for another day. We may do ourselves justice by delving into the issue of the former president; his interest, especially, in the death of former President, the late Bingu wa Mutharika. Other than being a predecessor to Mutharika, Muluzi seems to be interested in something, something unknown. But, as Malawians vey well know, it could be power he is after. He wants to take advantage of the current situation and 'sale' his son's presidency.
Any surprises, looking at the way Muluzi suggested the formation of a "Constitutional Forum" on Friday. He, surely, thinks that, through formation of such an 'illegal' (because it is not constitutional), Atupele may get a go, and real taste, at the presidency. But that won't happen. Joyce Banda is taking over.
From what seemed like a trip aimed at being together with his arreasted son, Atupele, on Saturday, March 24, 2012, Muluzi has gone full throttle in mainline politics.

Muluzi's arrival 
Muluzi has been to, and outside, Malawi so many times. It is his 're-entry' on March 24 this year that we are interested in.
Muluzi arrived back in Malawi on March 24. He flew from South Africa, where he has been receiving medical treatment. The treatment is bankrolled by tax-payers.
Upon arrival, Muluzi drove (well, he was being driven) to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital in Blantyre. His son and aspiring presidential candidate, Atupele, was taken ill. He was admitted in the Intensive Care Unit (experts said to make the disease, whatever ailment it was, appear "serious. Now, that was strange. Atupele himself said it was Malaria. Malaria gives our people problems; it robs Malawians of their children. But no one among the general populace goes to the Intensive Care Unit for something as 'small' as Malaria. Especially now that our public hospitals are short on drugs. People get Aspirin for Malaria here; they don't go to the Intensive Care Unit. That tells you how detached from reality Atupele is. How luxuries have littered his life. That is the strange part).
Atupele was arrested on Tuesday, March 20. The authorities said he had incited violence. It was until Friday that he finally got the police bail his lawyers so gallantly fought for. That is an example of human rights violations has littered the Democratic Progressive Party regime. 
Later, the police officers who were handling Atupele changed tune, and charge. The charged him with the strange offense of ignoring instructions from government authorities. Government officials did not like the idea of Atupele holding a public meetting in Lilongwe's Area 24.
When police officers disrupted the meeing, people went amok. They turned a police unit 'upside down' with fire. The people also stole a gun from the police unit they baptised with fire.
Bakili Muluzi spent an hour with Atupele.
He emerged afterwards. He had one message condemnation.
He condemned the Malawi Police Service for being brutal in their handling of opposition figures. He sounded as if he were different from the Malawi leader who, between 1994 and 2004, let his Young Democrats terrorise the country.
He was not happy with the police officers arrested his son at Bunda Turn-off, took him to Lumbadzi Police (some 30 kilometres from Bunda Turn-Off), where he was dumped in a police cell without electricity and infested with mosquitoes.
Now, there is nothing strange in that. Ordinary Malawians have put up with such treatment both during Bakili Muluzi's regime, and that of the late president, Bingu wa Mutharika. Bakili Muluzi did nothing to change that.
Bakili Muluzi was angry that the police officers wanted to transfer Atupele to Ntchisi. That, too, is not strange. People get transfered to Ntchisi all the time. Infact, there used to be people on remand at Ntchisi Police during Muluzi's regime.
What has changed now? Nothing. Just the people at he helm of power!
"This only shows that Bingu is targeting me and my family," Muluzi fumed. The same Muluzi wose regime arrested the ageing former President, Ngwazi Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
But Muluzi, who said he would return to South Africa within 14 doctors, on the advice of is doctors, has forgotten about all that, and started meddling in Malawi's politics.
He has already called for the formation of a 'Constitutional Forum' to decide on who will take power.
But the Malawi Constitution says the Vice-President (in this case, Joyce Banda) takes over.
On Saturday, Muluzi also expressed disappointment at the delays to announce (formally) that President Mutharika was no more.
People fear that Muluzi could be positioning his son for the country's top job.
People feel that Muluzi wants his son to take over through hook or crook. That he wants to 'confuse' the Malawi nation tyhe same way he has managed to 'confuse' the once mighty UDF into factions.
Just what Muluzi's real interest is, nobody knows. He knows it himself.
He knows it; he hides it inside.