Friday, December 6, 2013

For a Moment, Risk Siding with Kasambara

The Joyce Banda administration might still be a baby in respect of governance. Surely, however, it has matured in one area—propaganda. Take the arrest of Ralph, ohhh no, Ralphael Kasambara. Now see how the Banda administration has managed to stage a propaganda that has led to a de-emphasis of the cashgate to priming Kasambara arrest. Consequently, this day, so it seems, the issue is less about cashgate and more about Kasambara’s role in the shooting of Paul Mphwiyo, the ex-Budget Director in the Ministry of Finance.

Apparently to the sole end of the state propaganda on Kasambara, the nation was invited to try and convict him. The nation obeyed and so the man is convicted. Stories—of Kasambara bedding young girls, of him commencing suits with false evidence, of him staging legal dramas to maneuver his way out—have been made public to the consumption of the gullible citizens. And hungry for information as the citizens are, they swallowed the information oft-times without chewing. And the citizens believe they have the right information on which to judge the character of one Ralph, the celebrity lawyer.

The Banda administration happens to give itself a pat on the back for having achieved its goal—dirtying Kasambara’s image. Now the citizens cannot call for his release as was the case during the Bingu wa Mutharika days when he again was put in the cooler. The language, from the media to the academicians and from the public officials to the citizens, is the same; trust Kasambara at your own risk.

This be as it is, it interests logic to look at all angles to a problem. Kasambara might have been bad, immoral or what have you; but still, every his case…past, present, or future needs to be considered on its own merits. Reason celebrates this line of thinking, and so is justice. To this end, it is tempting to risk trusting him on his pronouncements regarding his arrest.

His story, or sorry! His history aside, Kasambara has every hallmark of someone sacrificed at the altar of political opportunism. His persecution in the name of prosecution will undoubtedly have boomeranging effect on the People’s Party (PP) and its leadership. His calmness and poise should tell a serious analyst of someone with a card hidden up in ones sleeves. 

Here is the caveat in all this: if indeed there is hard evidence proving Kasambara’s complicity to the attempted murder of Mphwiyo, then why the whole state machinery is busy dangling carrots and sticks to would-be witness to implicate him?. 

If the writing in the media is anything to go by, one wonders why the police are on the prowl negotiating dark deals with witnesses, all with the sole aim of offing Kasambara professionally and more so politically. Doesn’t this, in itself, evidence enough of the persecutory nature of his prosecution? Or perhaps, and most likely so, the state is afraid of his innocence? Is it not said elsewhere that the innocence of a humble man has a strange way of revealing the innocence.

Again, if indeed Kasambara is a crook, then he would better know that crookedness hardly pays if practiced against those up in the socio-economic and political ladder, let alone the president. Him of all people should have known that the president is a well-advised individual in any society. And would not, ordinarily, dare say the president is his witness. But he just did exactly that. Certainly, Kasambara is on a serious mission!

Seriously, the lawyer in him should have told him to tread carefully on his statement that the president is his witness. And, perhaps surprisingly, he has clung to his statement that the president should be in the dock as his witness.  Yet, the lawyer in him, still whispers that calling the president in the witness box is the safest way to tread. And Kasambara does not regret that call to this day!

Reading the writings in the media, and observing the Mphwiyo-cashgate saga as earnestly as the author does, there seems to be no better way to conclude the Kasambara arrest other than that the man is a victim of give-a-dog-a-bad-name-and-kill-him politicking. 

Given the above, one would hasten to risk siding with Kasambara. Yes, whatever the stories of his past, the man is most surely more under persecution and less under prosecution. And somehow he survives, and he will.

Cashgate: The mother ‘cashgator’ is the presidency

The Arab Awakening has surely wakened up nations, Malawi inclusive. Expectedly therefore, citizens in nations across the globe have generally positively reacted to issues of governance, human rights, freedom, and development. Locally, it is little wonder that it is the Arab Awakening mentality that is the guide in understanding the cashgate affair. 

Among others, an Arab Awakening mentality demands that citizens are treated as capable of thought-process. Surprisingly, the current presidency happens to have missed this important fact. True to this statement, the presidency is all busy throwing half-baked tantrums to the nation here and there in the name of anti-cashgate measures. The Banda-Kachali presidency thinks Malawians are the same old lot; the gullible, naïve, and pessimistic lot.

It is repugnant to think that the state investigatory machinery is, over two months down the line, still in its preliminary stages of the Capital Hill looting investigations. This is laughable! One would hate to think that the state, no matter how under-resourced it can claim to be, cannot, in all fairness, conclude investigations for at least one of the alleged people within the period elapsed. 

For argument’s sake, let’s concede that the state is indeed underresourced. Still, were those on the highest echelons of power that clean, one would expect an immediate re-direction or re-routing of human and financial resources to prioritize the cash-gate incident. This does not happen. And worse still, everyday the nation hears the presidency making a barrage of self-contradictory pronouncements purporting to address the saga. My foot! 

And even if one entertains the argument that the prosecution itself lacks political will to do a good job on the “cashgaters”, borrowing Edge Kanyongolo’s term, one would rightly expect the presidency to act fast and fine. In fact, one would anticipate the presidency to instill the spirit of will and duty to the investigators knowing very well that, politically (or personally?) speaking, the cashgate affair is a matter of sink or swim for it. Expectedly, a person with clean conscience would choose the latter. But, sadly, this presidency, as unclean as it most likely is, chooses none and only hopes for the latter.

Putting all the foregoing into thought, one is left with one conclusion; the mother ‘cashgater’ is not yet netted. In other words, there is ‘politics of politics’ at play in the whole cashgate saga with the presidency at the center.

Comparatively, this line of thinking makes the most sense. This is the case because if indeed cashgate revolves around presidency, then the present circumstances surrounding the investigations—the slow pace of investigations, the lack of will on the part of the investigators, the dillydallying in the prosecution process, and the low levels of enthusiasm from the presidency—become all too expected and thus predictable. True to that, this is exactly what is on the ground.

In a nutshell, the presidency is the principal cashgater! This be the case as it is, the ongoing investigations on the cashgate will, therefore, be rightly said to be a sham. Like seriously, the whole Lutepo-Manondo-Kasambara thing is nothing but a political cover-up of the Capital Hill looting intended to face-save both the People’s Party (PP) and its politburo. And one wonders, as many of the wiser readership do, “how would the siphoning of billions of Malawi Kwachas come to pass without the blessing of the presidency?” Impossible!

The truth of the matter, in as far as the trio—Kasambara, Lutepo, and Manondo—is concerned is that there is no triable case as Kasambara must have hinted the other day. You might wonder, why should there be no triable case given the preponderance of evidence? Kasambara, again, has an answer here, “President Joyce Banda is the witness”. 

That’s it, no case! The reason being dragging the president to stand in the dock will be the same as asking the president to come clean, really clean, on the cashgate which, in Kasambara’s raw lawyering, will result in giving pointers to the presidency’s role in the cashgate. And president Banda is not too dull as to fail to sense this, and that’s why she is all geared up gleaning support from all and sundry—the police, the media, academicians—to create evidence to ensure that Kasambara does not get the day and thus goes to hell alone when the hammer of justice gets hammered.

All in all, it is obvious, from simple observation, that the presidency is at the centre of the cashgate so much so that there can not be justice done, or seen to be done, on anyone connected with the cashgate incident if the presidency does not receive its fair share of justice for its role in the cashgate affair. 

And this is where the independence of the judiciary  gets tested with stakes all up too high!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Price Reduction and Kwacha Appreciation: Is President Banda Manning Up Or Simply a Victor of Circumstances?

The presidency, whether or not for its prominence, seems to be the public office that receives greatest attention; more so negatively and less so positively. In the history of presidents, President Joyce Banda appears to have had most negative attention of all presidents to have ever ruled Malawi. This has largely been due to her supposed lack of effective compass to safely and smoothly navigate the stormy waters of Malawi politics. 

There has been a good development worth writing home about in recent days—price reduction and Kwacha appreciation. Interestingly, the negative talk about the visionlessness of President Joyce Banda happens not to die despite this good news. This, by itself, should corroborate the statement that president Banda is the underappreciated president in Malawi.

Theories have been put forward explaining the circumstances under which the reduction in prices of certain goods and the appreciation of the Kwacha against major foreign currency find themselves in. There are, however, two competing theories here; that either president Joyce Banda is up to the duties of the presidency or that she is none other than an opportunist of circumstances.

Those of the opportunist-of-circumstances view take the negative public relations position on President Banda positing that Banda and her administration are simply victors of circumstances and not necessarily manning up to the leadership challenges of the presidency.

To these critics, the reduction in prices of goods presumably following the Kwacha appreciation should not be misinterpreted as a show of president Banda’s good leadership, asserting that this is simply a natural progression of economic events in this tobacco season. Furthermore, they clarify that Malawi is an agricultural economy, or loosely a “Tobacco economy”, almost always picking up during the harvest season as dollars trek in.

While it would be absurd to quash these learned arguments completely, it would be equally absurd to take the arguments without a pinch of salt. It is true that the natural elements of Malawi’s economic reality spells it clearly that dollars trek in during harvest season of the year. However, such happening does not and cannot happen in a vacuum; that is, there is need for someone to initiate the same, and the president in this case.

Again, the tobacco dollar does not just come “boom!” and there it is, no; it needs someone to negotiate and re-negotiate the terms and conditions of its sale. The point being driven home here is that there is always someone pulling the strings from the highest echelons of power, silently but strongly.

It here thus seems fair that the attention is given to the other school of thought on the price reduction and Kwacha appreciation—the Banda-manning-up theory. This group of people is essentially made of Joyce Banda sympathizers especially Peoples Party zealots. Whatever their political affiliation, they too have a point as equally compelling as the former.

To these people, the reduction of prices on goods and the appreciation of Kwacha is a truest manifestation of the quality leadership of President Joyce Banda. They further argue that this is the case because president Banda needed to stabilize and acclimatize herself to the presidency. Again, they add that now she is fully in control has started exercising her control and practicing her leadership now that the whole government system dances to her whims.

Whether that Banda and her administration needed time to stabilize or acclimatize is true or not, the fact still remains that she is now in full control and gaining vision, so it appears, every passing day.

It is at this point that it happens to be ever more confusing as to what position one should identify with. To be able to adopt a better position one needs to analyze the present government in the light of the political, social, and economic environment it came to be with special reference to time passed, resources gained and used, and decisions made.

To this author, having analyzed the general environment at the birth of the Joyce Banda government, concludes, as painful as that may be to too far many, that the price reduction of goods and the Kwacha appreciation more likely confirms that president Banda is manning up than that she is only a victor of circumstances. But most certainly both, and the author bets his life here.   

Edu-caution: Ministry of Education and the 2013/14 teacher recruitment tragedy

Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is one ministry in Malawi that rarely is on the media spotlight for good reasons. True to that, there seems to be developing, as of now, some news of great miscalculation of priorities in the ministry—the 2013/14 teacher recruitment process. 

In its Press Release in the local press in the month of February 2013, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) through Teaching Service Commission (TSC) informed all serving and non-serving diploma and degree holders with majors in either Languages or Sciences of the existence of vacancies in the ministry.

Qualifying job applicants applied, the shortlisting was done, and now the interviews have almost started. The content of press release has scared quiet many; some discussed the fate of humanities teachers at length, and still some warned that the 2013/14 teacher recruitment process is a ‘warning shot’ of the closure of teacher-manufacturing faculties in public and private colleges and universities as no market will be readily available to absorb them. 

As a matter of clarification, two issues are of special interest in the 2013/14 TSC teacher recruitment process, namely; the sidelining of humanities teachers and the missing of names of education degree holders in the shortlist.

This year, for the first time in the history of Malawi, teachers have been trained and cannot all be employed by their trainer. It has long been believed that the education profession is the easy road to employment; but that belief should change now and really now as there are now enough qualified teachers in public secondary schools in Malawi. If in doubt about this statement, ask TSC.

All teachers who majored in humanities have their services thrown to the dog as MoEST sees nothing worthwhile in them, if not for good at least in this 2013/14 year. Recognizing the waywardness in this thinking, MoEST through TSC is said to have shortlisted some of the humanities majors who still applied despite TSC’s uncalled for ‘ban’.

Whilst one can appreciate the logic in the TSC’s language-and-sciences-only press release as being motivated by the ministry’s sciences-dominated change of the secondary school curriculum, it makes little sense, if any at all, as to the fate of the humanities education students in public higher education institutions. This becomes much of a big problem given the historical fact that those that study education in government colleges and universities enjoy open entry into the education system as teachers.

While TSC’s ‘ban’ on humanities majors is regrettable, the missing of names of education degree holders in its shortlist of candidates is greatly deplorable. It is widely bemoaned among the applying candidates that certain names of people holding degrees in education majoring in languages and sciences have their names missing.

TSC says it shortlisted all languages and sciences applicants adding that those whose names are not on the list either did not apply or their application did not reach TSC. Fine and good. Though still, one wonders as to how it is the case that most of the names missing on the list are of holders of education degree in the languages and sciences TSC is looking for.

Those that have paid close attention to the list blame TSC for doing a bad job as they say that the list is full of non-education degree holders. Given, all degree holders are arguably the same in terms of understanding of secondary school curriculum content. However, delivery of content, especially as informed by methodology, education degree holders are way better than non-education degree holders. 

Is it not common sense that it is almost impossible, if not certainly so, for an educationist to outclass a lawyer in matters to do with law. Similarly, it is doubtful that a bachelor of science majoring in Mathematics or a bachelor of arts majoring in language can outperform a bachelor of education science or a bachelor of education language respectively. They both may know the content, but delivering the content demands more than just a degree.

TSC may have had good reasons, but if it is true that indeed TSC has shortlisted non-education degree holders to the exclusion of applying education holders, then one the Malawi nation has all the right reasons to believe that the 2013/14 teacher recruitment process is a serious edu-caution. And should TSC proceed as above, there will be no doubt that MoEST’s 2013/14 teacher recruitment process is a tragedy.

The Mysterious Minister: Dr. Ken Lipenga

Traditionally, technical knowhow—whatever it is—is what qualifies people into positions. It is the thing, perhaps the only, that job recruiters look for when they advertise for jobs. This what is said here should not be a thing from Mars to active job seekers like the author. The point being driven home here is that job advertisers seek to recruit with expertise on the job advertised.

It is, however, doubtful if the above tradition is followed to the letter in political positions. The examples might be numerous to the wiser readership, both locally and internationally. Interestingly, in substantiating this claim, one local example is surely fitting and memorable. It is the story of one mysterious minister, Dr. Ken Lipenga.

It is widely reported and greatly speculated that Dr. Ken Lipenga, once a Literature lecturer at University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, holds a PhD in Literature, and Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in the same field. 

Dr. Lipenga’s qualifications being as given above, it is catchy to write home about how this elusive character manages changing governments and not positions especially in light of the transition from the late Bingu wa Mutharika to Joyce Banda.

Lipenga’s close friend confided in the author that this minister is indeed elusive. From the early days of his active politics, this minister has led and lived events—most ugly and few pleasant—and rises with every rising political tide and never suffers political bruises—personal or political—and is always rising ever more powerfully.

That aside, the interest in this writing is his ministerial position. Here is a guy with qualifications in literature and yet is perched high in the hierarchy of the Ministry of Finance. More interestingly, it is hard to believe how the Joyce Banda administration, like the late Bingu wa Mutharika government before her, finds peace in trusting him with the agonies of crunching numbers.

This author did literature, and in as far as the memory serves him right, there is no time he encountered hardcore numbers in the entire four years of study. Or, and this simply is “or”, there are number-crunching subjects as one goes up with studies in the field of Literature. If that were true, Literature lecturers would have mentioned it at some point, at least in passing. But they never did. Or they may have just forgotten to mention it? Maybe, but it is doubtful.

So, you might be asking already, “What is it that Ken Lipenga has that always has him retain his ministerial post at Finance?” if it is that he has economics or finance or any similar qualifications, then there is enough reason to question the standards of journalism in Malawi. If indeed he has other qualifications, then Malawians might just as well scorn the media fraternity for giving Malawians journalistic raw deals. 

Knowing, of course from the media and other sources, that Literature qualifications are what Lipenga has leaves one with no option but dig more about him and his darling ministerial post—Minister of Finance.

Talk has it that ministers do not necessarily need to know their field because all the technical work in their respective ministries is left to the Principal Secretaries (PS). The PSs are technical head of any ministry; they remain even if governments change because their posts are contractual and not political.

It is here that sense begins to sink in when one relates this arrangement with Lipenga-in-Ministry-of-Finance issue. That Lipenga needs not to know the workings in economics or finance to be at the ministry (though it is now believed he now has his education, experience, and knowledge leaning that field).

Even here the question still remains partly unanswered. The full answer comes in the fact that rumor has it that Lipenga is second to none in area of negotiation and diplomacy, thanks to his firm grounding in English Language and Literature.

It is said that the guy has the verb, the adverb, and the adjective that have donors running with aid. It is rumored that Lipenga drunk all the skills of interpersonal communication, multiculturism, and negotiation from the poems he analyzed, the short stories he read, the novels he interpreted, and the plays he critiqued. And this, the story goes, is what gives him an edge over all competing individuals for the top most post in the Ministry of Finance.

Yet, after all is said and written about him, Dr. Ken Lipenga remains mysterious less as a person and more as a Minister of Finance. However, the best that can be hoped to demystify him and his post is to write more about him more and more.

When Incumbency Gives Edge: The Tale of President Joyce Banda

The story here is not of giving “Edge” as meaning a name as in Professor Edge Kanyongolo—the Chancellor College law lecturer best known for his straightforwardness and cold citation of Constitution clauses—; surely not about him. But it is of “edge” as in giving advantage due to ones position. And in this case it is a story about President Joyce Banda as she gets an edge over opposition political party presidents from her incumbency.

Arguably, no president in Malawi, in as far as history can testify, has ever received heated and strongly worded criticisms from Malawians in the early days of the presidency than has the incumbent Joyce Banda. No specific explanation would be given, but it nonetheless does not hurt to posit that one overarching drive for such has been the incumbent’s gender.

That be true as it may, it would be uninteresting to be bogged down in the gender discourse. For this reason, it would do the wiser readership justice if essentials of presidency are discussed and see if Joyce Banda is ever worth the presidency.

Thanks to globalization, common knowledge and daily experience tells us that the presidency demands more than physical maturity and dictates of one’s political party choice. More importantly, the presidency is about harnessing all of a country’s resources to meaningful development agenda and living that agenda.

The lessons of past experience as guided by realistic expectations and as informed by events of world politics has led Malawians to concluding that president Joyce Banda is way wayward in forging vision and directing the business of government. To this end therefore, those in the know have stated, as the author hereinafter does, that she is nowhere near the modern definition of leadership and management.

Knowing the above, however, does not mean she is a sitting target come 2014 elections. There is a more powerful reason to opposition political parties to fear President Joyce Banda; and reason is her incumbency.

It be stated clearly from the onset that the events of world politics should inform any serious and well-meaning politician that ruling parties hardly ever lose elections. And that being the case with Joyce Banda and her People’s Party (PP) led government; it can only be advised that those that aspire to unseat her should better know the buttons to press to do that.

Rarely does a sitting government get unseated. Those holding the contrary opinion might cite the recent political events in Zambia argue attack the incumbent-hardly-loses assertion and pat their backs for an argument well-articulated. But, the author still maintains that the incumbent is ninety nine percent out of hundred most likely to win and that the Zambia case is simply one haphazard chance in million and thus offering no real insights about election outcomes.

Here, it is then categorically stated that with all the channels of communication open to her, with all the fame that goes with being president, and with all the external links and bilateral relations with neighboring and overseas countries, an incumbent president playing the by the rules of the game of politics, is always guaranteed elections victory.
With her incumbency, Joyce Banda has the state machinery at her disposal. She can maneuver every perceived or imagined obstacle on her and create sour environments for her competitors in the name of following the dictates of the constitution. 

She may be clean in dirty games presently, but who knows, she may choose to knock opposition political party presidents the Machiavellian way. This should be little surprising given the fact that politics knows no morals. Whatever it is that shall guarantee her entry into government come 2014, she shall pursue it with all her energy and resources—whether the resources are personal, party or state.

Just like President Joyce Banda, almost no opposition politician, not even the young Muluzi, has any well-articulated vision for Malawi. This fact adds weight to Joyce Banda incumbency thus making her an even outright victor now—and even more so in 2014.

Mind you, Atupele Muluzi’s talk shops do not qualify for a vision, unless he so clearly explains how a free secondary education is plausible in Malawi given the fact that we are failing to provide quality education in primary schools where the education is free.
In resting the argument, the author is tempted to comment that it is true that President Joyce Banda does not have a conceivable and practicable vision for Malawi just like Peter Mutharika, Atupele Muluzi, and JZU. She nonetheless poised to win the 2014 elections as president because her incumbency gives her an edge.

Of identity politics and its identifiable problems: The case of Mulhakho wa Alhomwe then and Chiwanja cha Ayao now

Factually, what one is stems from what one is made of. Similarly, what one is culturally is informed by the passed traditions, customs, and heritage of one’s ethnic foundations. This being the case, ardent followers of current affairs are witness to the growing instances of groups—of like mind and creed—uniting to champion causes, usually taking the face of religion and statehood. 

The tendency for like-minded people to come together has its own extensive history and wayward justifications. Those in the know in political circles would say that this tendency has its primary appearance in America’s dark political days, thanks to the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1965.

In recent history, the liberal traditions of fairness, equality, democracy, and freedom of speech has given this phenomenon a new face; now the like-mindedness takes the form of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and citizenship.

Identity politics—the coming together of members of a specific subgroup for socio-cultural and eco-political change—seems to have found a new haven in Malawi.

It would be culturally naïve to assume that there has not been identity politics in Malawi. That be true as it may, it is of special interest to learn the great political impact identity politics has had in Malawi with the launch of Mulhakho wa Alhomwe in the late Bingu wa Mutharika administration. This period is of special interest because it is during this time that identity politics became highly organized, seriously powerful, and obviously fierce.

The fact that this phenomenon became the kingmaking lobby group in the late Mutharika days should give the current administration hard days. Seemingly clear to President Joyce Banda of the importance and seriousness of identity politics, she, at the annual uMthetho Cultural Festival for the Ngonis last year, pleaded with the Yaos—herself being a Yao—to form a Yao cultural group similar, both in form and fashion, to Llomwe’s Mulhakho wa Alhomwe.

If recent reports are anything to go by, it is clear that the Yao cultural group to be called Chiwanja cha Ayao will see the light of day soon as the group’s foundations seem to have been already laid and positions already filled, and President Joyce Banda will be hunted to be its patron. And closely studying its interim leadership, Chiwanja cha Ayao, unlike Mulhakho wa Alhomwe before it, happens to take both religious and ethnic identity ideologies to its fold. 

The inevitable fact of cultural groups is that they cause ethnic and political isolation and division especially when they take politicians to be its guardians and more so when the politician guardian is Head of State. This fact should be all the more clear if we would go back in recent history and observe the ethnic and political damage Mulhakho wa Alhomwe caused to the Malawi nation.

Some would argue that identity politics cements one roots in oneself and that one is assured of devoting one’s energy, talents, and expectations with like minds on a singular purpose. That is true and positive. Others still would argue that the formation of cultural groups simply celebrates cultural differences. That is also true and positive.
But, sadly, focusing on a single purpose has its own dark side too. It has been elsewhere argued that focusing on one purpose makes group members to be close-minded about the bigger picture. In other ways, group members tend to focus on issues from their perspective ignoring the others’ equally intelligent perspectives simply because they are not members. 

And much as acknowledgement of differences cements the spirit of tolerance, cultural groups have always tended to pursue isolationist practices. This would not be surprising given the events surrounding the cultural and political dealings of Mulhakho wa Alhomwe. It is therefore difficult to predict a different outcome coming from the Chiwanja cha Ayao.

It is at this point that it appears clear to many Malawians that the formation of cultural groups and as led by presidents has a lot more problems than profits to nationalism and pursuance of national interest. To this end, it becomes obviously Malawian if formation of such groups would be meant to re-awaken identity only and not to serve as political lobby groups as sadly was the case with Mulhakho wa Alhomwe then, and as would most likely be with the yet-to-walk-baby Chiwanja cha Ayao.