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chilembwe-banknote

John Chilembwe features on most Malawian bank notes

THERE ARE many things – as a nation – that should, in normal circumstances, make us angry and be able to voice that anger until substantive and positive action is taken. But nothing ever appears sufficiently wrong for us to rise up and demand that those responsible for systematic oppression and deliberate under-development be taken to task.

Yes, there have occurrences in Malawi where people’s actions have led to change – political, social and economic. However, as a nation that is always in a state of continual becoming, we must always resist the temptation of feeding off past ‘glories’. At any point in our lives, there is a generation that must either fulfil its mandate, or betray it altogether, to paraphrase the revolutionary theorist, Frantz Fanon. Read More

SPARE A THOUGHT for the people who live under Traditional Authority Phambala, in Ntcheu. In December last year, hyenas in this area killed a woman. As if this was not enough, four children survived attacks, sustaining injuries and were scarred for life in the process. Livestock has not been spared as well. All this in a day’s work. spotted-hyena-kenya

Ntcheu has a reputation for hyena attacks. It would seem, however, that every single year, authorities appear unprepared to deal with such and inspire confidence by saving lives. That hyenas keep outsmarting humans for many years would be laughable (sic) were it not so tragic. Yes, there is only so much that can be done and casualties will always be likely but is enough being done to ensure that minimum standards of safety and security are met in such areas as T/A Phambala’s?

It would appear as if nothing is being done at all! Reports say the rangers who were deployed to deal with hyenas only lasted three days and went away. Apparently there was no money to keep the rangers in the area for longer. So, being the thinking and imaginative Malawians we are, what was the best solution? Remove the rangers and leave the people in the area exposed and vulnerable to attacks. What is one life lost, anyway?  Read More

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I REPEAT: as a nation, we are screwed!

That is to put it quite politely, of course. In the year that we turned 52, and graced the occasion with monstrous placards masquerading as billboards across the capital city, we revealed our collective lack of imagination as a people. That the eyesore was allowed to stand, sanctioned at both national and local government level, means we – as a people – have allowed themselves to be led into a worse-off state than we already occupy.

But, to have expected anything different is to live in a Malawian fantasy, where national pride and respect for independence are treasured traits. We live in a country where playing a game of cards with people’s lives will win you affection and accolades, not condemnation and punishment. Somehow we have convinced ourselves that this country can be plundered with impunity – no questions asked; no answers demanded; no accountability sought.

In Malawi, therefore, public office has become a gateway to self-enrichment, which is a source of power in itself and ultimately, a means to oppress poorer and powerless citizens. It is an abnormality that has been normalised primarily because of the abject poverty of both material and mind that plagues this country. Read More

IN 2000, when I turned 16 and was now eligible to travel on my own passport, I decided to apply for one. By this time, I had already been in and out of Malawi on several occasions, on either of my parents’ passports. You can understand my excitement at the thought of owning this document – the prestige among peers, the satisfaction of presenting it to border authorities and of course, the occasion to relish various immigration stamps and the memories they come with.

As it turned out, however, it was not as easy as it seemed. There were a number of significant obstacles that stood in my way. Read More

Information is power, they say. And, an informed citizenry makes informed decisions. Media play a crucial role in mediating the space between citizens and institutions that make up the State. This allows media to operate within a framework that should be biased towards the most marginalised, dispossessed and silenced in society. eu-media-futures-forum-pic_0

Although we live in an Information Age, values that are at the heart of journalism have never changed –pursuing of Social Justice. As journalists try to fulfil this mandate, they soon discover who the enemies of social justice are. In most societies, these are the rich, powerful and famous, men and women of influence and in whose interest social justice must not be a reality. Read More

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Inside the Malawi Parliament. – Barwani Msiska

LAST WEEK’S entry, More women, more problems…solved attracted insightful responses from readers. It would be amiss for me not to share, in detail, the feedback received. It is, after all, the whole point of this space, to critically think about our country and engage in conversations that can help build Malawi for better and forever. Here goes:

“The Parliamentary Women’s Caucus (PWC) needs to be ready to invest in the mentorship of young women into politics. And I say ‘ready’ because the mentorship should go beyond hotel ‘career talk’ meetings or events. At present, PWC does not appear ‘attractive’ to most young women There’s need for more young blood in the PWC.

“These interventions need to start with young women at a very, very young age. Again, the readiness of PWC is vital in this regard. For sustainability, it (mentorship programme for young women in politics) needs to be long term. This raises the important question of how all of this will be funded and supported.

“Whatever model of support is adopted, we must know that we, as Malawians, cannot leave such interventions to the donors’ hands alone and accept our fate. This something country we need to invest in as a country.”

The above was received from Umba Zalira, a young Malawian activist passionate about girls and women’s rights. She is a co-founder of Growing Ambitions, an initiative aimed at building the capacity of young Malawian girls.

This best describes the initiative: “The passion to build the capacity of girls from rural and peri-urban areas to take full charge of their lives in all areas is at the centre of our work at Growing Ambitions. We have embarked on a journey to provide a safe space for girls and young women by providing mentorship to our sisters as they embark on setting their lives goals and thriving to achieve them. We are here to cheer them on, to learn and to walk the journey with them.”

More feedback:

“Good piece. On women’s representation in parliament, Rwanda leads the pack with 63.8% followed by Bolivia and Cuba at 53.1% and 48.9%, way above the 50-50 targets. In 2003 Rwanda enacted a new constitution that provides for 30% of seats in Parliament to be reserved for women. It is interesting to note though that the countries that are always preaching women empowerment to the Africa and other third world regions are nowhere in the top 3 or top 10 (a topic for another piece?).

“The United Kingdom (UK), for example is at number 49 in the world with 29.6%. Our homeland stands at 113 with 16.7%. The challenge, with Malawi, in my opinion, is we talk and talk about numbers and focus more on achieving the numbers but not on how to maintain and retain the numbers gained. We seem to be stuck in a trial and error mode. Retention of women in Parliament in Malawi has been a serious challenge which no one seems to be addressing.

“In 2009 we were at 21.8% but dropped to 16.7% in 2014 despite the 50-50 campaign. Most women who have made it to Parliament are out after their first term and only two women have managed to retain their seats for more than two terms – Honourables Patricia Kaliati and Anna Kachikho.

“The question we should be asking is why do women fail to retain their seats and stay in power? Is it a question of not understanding their role, not having the requisite experience and therefore failing to perform? But then how many men in Parliament understand their role and perform to the satisfaction of the electorate? Is it a question of not having enough economic power to deliver their promises and therefore falling out of favour with the electorate? I could ask a dozen questions.

“I have often found myself standing alone when I have argued that yes we want and need more women in Parliament and other decision-making positions but we don’t want just any woman simply to satisfy the numbers. We need women who can come into positions, perform and retain that position because they are the right and qualified persons for it. I would take fewer women any day who come into Parliament knowing their role and agenda, who deliver the mandate for the electorate, build the confidence of the electorate in women’s ability to lead and let that be the tool by which the electorate gets more women into Parliament and decision-making positions.

“In my opinion, that is how we can retain the numbers and increase them. Whether these capable women come in through affirmative action like in the case of Rwanda or through competitive action as is the current position in Malawi is neither here nor there, as long as we get women who can perform and clear the road for the young girls out there who also dream of becoming champions for their communities through Parliament but are held back by society’s perception that women cannot deliver.”

On your part, dear reader, what are you doing to clear the road for those who will inherit this country long after we are gone?

There was also feedback that directed attention to pioneer organisers and influencers such as Rose Chibambo. These are women we can all learn from and their stories can be used to nurture aspirations of young girls in Malawi. In 2016, Malawi has no excuse to preach women development but engender practices that prevent the very same women from meaningfully participating key national processes.

Let’s keep the conversation running.

LEVI KABWATO 

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These boards were laid across the capital city, Lilongwe, to commemorate the 52nd Independence anniversary. The mediocrity on display could not anger many Malawians who accepted them without question. 

OF LATE, it has been disheartening to interact with people from the homeland. The sadness punctuating every sentence spoken and the weight of hope at the end of every conversation often becomes too difficult to bear. It is yet another legacy added to the catalogue of failures Malawi is bestowing on her people.

The national soul has been repeatedly violated and tortured by a governance system which always conspires to undermine the confidence of the people it’s meant to serve. This repeated assault on the national soul, occurring over many years and streamlined through our shallow politics, has frighteningly dislodged our sense of alertness as a people.

As a painful result, most Malawians have ended up without any kind of expectation, idea and intimate association with their citizenship. What does it mean to be Malawian? What duty do we have, the whole lot of us, towards negotiating our scarred past, an utterly confused present and an uncertain future?

There are many things that should, in normal circumstances, make us angry and be able to voice that anger until substantive positive action is taken. But nothing ever appears sufficiently wrong for us to rise up and demand that those responsible for the systematic oppression and deliberate under-development in Malawi are taken to task. Read More