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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Modest Proposal For Recovering Malawi Economy


The events of 17th January and the vociferous pronouncements of its organizers are surely causing, and will continue to cause, uneasiness in government circles. 
 
You might argue, as some have, that the January 17 mass demonstrations has succeeded in telling Malawians that peaceful demonstrations are possible only if Malawians see disagreements in viewpoints as strength, though most sadly, the demonstrations will most likely fail to achieve its keys goals as  the petition seems to have been pushed into oblivion by the government.

Whatever the January 17 goals were, and whatever it is the Joyce Banda administration is doing to recover the economy (if at all it was made in the first place), one thing is for sure: the Joyce Banda administration does not have a more modest proposal for economic recovery than the author’s.

To this end, the author seeks to offer his own modest proposal, like did Jonathan Swift in olden Ireland, for economic recovery that is not only practical but also feasible for a country with a struggling economy like Malawi.

It is imperative for government to sell the presidential jet and share the money amongst the top government officials. Once that is done, make sure that a little sum of the money be used to silence critical journalists, otherwise these guys seem not to get a life whenever they sense ill-gotten money. Make sure all middle men get a share for fear of becoming loose-mouthed should another party dislodge from power in 2014 and form a new government.

The money shared is needed for our honourable cabinet members and party loyalists are fast slimming to due to the Kwacha devaluation and floatation. We need that money for them to grow potbellies and belch when talking to our aid agencies and their representatives so that they do not look pathetic. We need that to beg more money and thus grow, ohh, recover our economy.

Again, there is need for the government to reconsider its position on Malawi Rural Development Fund (MARDEF). Thanks to good thinking of the Peoples Party (PP) strategists’ antics, the reconsideration has already been done. K1.6 billion of the K3 billion of Youth Enterprise Development Fund (Yedef) money should not be, and of course has not been, distributed on the basis of citizenship, No! but on the basis of cronyism and party allegiance. The need to make public the beneficiaries of the same should be, and has been quashed in the name of cost-cutting measure, Ooops!.  No need to publish the names because the money we will use to have the names appear in the local print can be used to buy medicine for our medicine-dry hospitals and referrals.
Medicine-dry hospitals? 

That reminds me. Since it is the poor, the lazy mothers and fathers and their children in the villages who invite us the scorn associated with lack of medicine in our hospitals, it will do the government economic justice if it is thought as follows: stagnant salaries and wages for the parents and cheap labor for the children.

The Joyce Banda government should not raise the salaries and wages of poor working majority for two economically sensible reasons; firstly, to make them work more and thus making more returns for government either directly or through taxes, and lastly to save enough money for stocking drugs in our local hospitals.

As for the children, ooh  nothing much from them. Since their parents’ salaries are stagnant and school fees is ever more increasing with increase in inflation, it follows that their parents will not afford to pay school fees and will thus drop school. They will start looking for jobs, and as less qualified as they are, they will end up being employment in tobacco and sugarcane estates and sometimes in building contractors as ‘mud guys’.

That way, our tobacco and sugarcane will get the utmost attention and our buildings will be built within schedule and cheaply. The end result of this is never-ending run of projects and initiatives that add value and credence to our economy, thereby recovering it from the mess it was left, so the thinking goes, by the late Bingu wa Mutharika and his money-hungry friends now coaxed into the governing Orange camp.
Whosoever said that a government

Youth Political Activism In Malawi: Where We Are…And What Next



                 Without molding the youth for the desired  politics, Malawi runs the risk of molding political destruction. 

Empowerment seems to be the common theme among Malawian politicians when it comes to talking about the need for the complete involvement of the youth in politics. However, looking at the youth empowerment discourse critically convinces one that the theme is nothing but a grand talk shop oozing the air of a genuine agenda when actually it is a self-serving ideology having all the hallmarks of youth political cannibalism.

Being politically adventurous as he is, the author has participated in many a political gatherings and institutions. The author, himself once a political party prostitute, has served almost all big political parties in Malawi in different ranks during his studentship days.

The first case of youth political party cannibalism the author experienced was with United Democratic Front (UDF) where, with time, he served almost in all big positions. Rosy promises were made; invitation to national party meetings, movement from the Wing to the nation party, and all that jazz. But, sadly, all was offered was a platform to sing and dance at party rallies. That's all.

Then favors for UDF waned. Then came Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). It promised a change in the way Malawi politics looks at the youth--the disempowered majority. Joining DPP especially during the controversial Quota System debate made politics more real; nocturnal meetings, grand internal disagreements etc. Things seemed okay. No wonder, joining Prodeyom seemed to be the best decision then. What started as a health relationship soon became sour as no change was seen coming. The author later dumped DPP during its infamous days and joined University Students for New Agenda for Change (UniSAC).

UniSAC was a University students movement garnering political support for you-know-who. It was a vibrant and visionary organization for the man for whom the organization was formed seemed equally visionary. Unfortunately, things hit a snag when the man joined the Orange camp, openly announcing that all he ever wanted was a change in leadership and not presidency.

Later on, perhaps the only choice at the time, joining the Orange camp seemed plausible. It came to be known later in one meeting that the Predoyom Chair was also the chair of the Orange youth camp--the Orange Partners (OP). Mere curiosity gave way to dedication. 

He attended the nocturnal meetings at lodges mostly around Blantyre. There we talked. We talked how the youth are abused and dumped and how the Orange camp will put an end to that. And we all clapped hands in unison. Those were the days. Now the story is the same as during the Yellow camp, and Blue camp. And, such seems to be youth empowerment politics in Malawi.

As brink as the future for meaningful youth empowerment was then, the author fallen in love with the then-vibrant-now-dormant youth organization--the Youth Association for Democracy in Malawi (YADEMA). Wapona Kita and Leon Matanda were the guys. The guys talked the youth, ate the youth, and laughed the youth. 

Meeting the two for the first time (since communication had been only through the phone) at Chanco's Room K was a time well-spent. It is at this meeting that youth political activism was maddeningly live. 

Today, some months on, it feels tenable to argue that the Malawi youth have the potential to reclaim the political glory long lost and perhaps forgotten. Today, one year on, it looks like the future have the perfect chances to revive the true youth political spirit by organizing themselves through inclusively participative youth groups like YADEMA and Walking With The Youth.

Unlike Walking With The Youth, YADEMA has tested Malawi's political uncertainities at the time the late wa Mutharika was increasingly fiercely autocratic, and it emerged ever stronger and stronger. Again, YADEMA has the formal links necessary for an explosive nation-building youth agenda though its largest membership and voice is more virtual than it is human--perhaps a critical are to look into.

Fruitful youth political engagement is possible in Malawi only the youth reshape their articulation of vision and relinquish their heavy reliance on the 'old guards' to voluntarily leave the political space for them--something they old guards for sure cannot do. This engagement is possible in two fronts; first, there is need to re-organize the mental space and redefine politics in their own terms though with strong leaning to current political events--local or international, and second, to de-link youth groups from political parties by establishing an independently solid source of funds.

This is cause worth the support of the government, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), human rights organizations, and the corporate world because without molding the youth for the desired politics, the Malawi nation runs the risk of molding political destruction.

Unless there is re-focusing on the part of the youth and their groups should there be real escape from the chains of political party youth cannibalism characterizing Malawi political parties. It is hoped that amongst the youth there will rise strong-willed and value-driven youths who will lead the youth--the abused majority--in their calculated action towards reclaiming Malawi's long-lost political space for the youth and for the nation, and so smoothly with extensive external non-political support.

Malawi University Of Science And Technology: The Educational Hope of the Nation



Certainly, the Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must) is one structure that attests to the visionary leadership of late president Bingu wa Mutharika. Here is an educational infrastructure that seems, in all respects, to promise an undrying well of intellectual water whose very physical shape announces of its academic importance and excellence
.
Now the future of Must seems to be in limbo if recent news in the local print and online media is anything to by. Mr Ron Mkomba, Chairman of Public Universities Working Committee (PUWC)--a committee which was set to oversee the construction of late Mutharika's six universities in the country, says that Must was supposed to be handed over to government in December last year. It is even doubtful if it will be handed by December this year given the financial woes rocking it.

Politically interestingly, one would ask if Must would have indeed been handed in December last were it that the brains behind it, late Bingu wa Mutharika were alive.
Tricky as the question is, one would not be wrong in arguing that it would have most certainly been handed in December. This would be the case given the fact that the late president would have gone to every imaginable limit making the worst of economic decisions just to see the project through.

However, it would be logically and economically absurd to accuse president Joyce Banda and her administration of deliberately choking the institution for fear of being seen to be towing the late president's vision and not articulating her own. Though, it would not be wrong in accusing the Joyce Banda administration of failure to give the project the serious attention it deserves.

Political side aside, there is real need for government and PUWC to work together towards sourcing funds for the project to see the light of day. Here, there is for PUWC to relook at how they see themselves and look at the project since the top has changed.
The Joyce Banda administration has to be given a pat on the back for having selflessly played a good part since the demise of late wa Mutharika. 

However, the government needs to do more to help the nation in keeping its educational hope alive. For this reason, the government, through its knowledgeable leadership, should press every button to unlock the K25 billion preventing the opening of the university. 

Much as we see the vision and passion for the project by PUWC, it seems PUWC is pessimistic as it is quoted to have made statements to the effect that they have no indication as to where the money to finish the project will come from. Such statements are, inevitable as they are perhaps given the circumstances, rather energy-sapping and, at most, a big mistake.

Additionally, government on its side has got to be the biggest hand since the opening of Must is surely a step forward in higher education circles and a welcome development in the education arena. Again, government can take the funeral of re-negotiating the soft loans, if possible, with the Chinese government or any like governments, so that the projected is finished in time and thus opens its doors to the ever-growing demand for university education.

To this end therefore, PUWC and government have got to be partners in identifying the funds for the project--all doing it with the national interest at heart. Unless collective and concerted efforts are made, and unless politics is left to be what it is--politics--should Malawians expect to see Must open soon.

Otherwise, politicking, dilly-dallying, and the fa├žade of economic prudence in not coughing the K25billion needed for the final fittings and purchases of the project will only helping in flooding our streets with college-material youths who would otherwise have been agents of great gains in our economy and politics, thanks to the opening of Must and smooth-calendaring of the university education.

Yes, it will be commendable and politically realistic on the part of government if it includes Must in its programs for its speedy opening. Only when will the Joyce Banda government have given the nation quite another valid reason to keep it in power come 2014 since, by doing that, the Banda administration will have helped in keeping the educational hope of the nation alive, and that education hope is Must.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

What a Politician Thinks About Apart from Self-Enrichment



THE recently released book by Professor Sheridan Simove titled “What Every Man Thinks About Apart from Sex” has a lot to offer to serious thinking academicians—and, generally speaking, everyone else. The book, a 200-paged blank one, asserts that there is nothing else a man thinks about apart from sex; hence the blank pages.

Inspired by Simove’s 39-years old research findings, the author got fired up and went back in history analyzing events about politicians and came to the astounding conclusion that seems, in all arrangements, to be nothing but common knowledge.
Cases of politicians’ predisposition towards self-enrichment in Malawi and beyond are as just rampant as the many cries in Malawi due to hard economic times—thanks to devaluation and Kwacha floatation. 

One such case is that of former Vice President Dr. Cassim Chiumpha. Here was an ex-VP who enjoyed all that associated with the ‘ex-VPship’.  One would look for answers as to why Dr. Cassim Chilumpha forwent the esteemed vice-presidency position only to accept a ministerial post—a position so unsafe as a fenceless mansion. It may be argued here, righty so for that matter, that it is perhaps this scenario that demystifies the topic at hand: “What a politician thinks about apart from self-enrichment”.

Today, almost all politicians operate on the go-where-grass- is-greenest thinking. Getting oneself into contact with this philosophy guiding politicians’ life should therefore give a firsthand hint about politicians’ probable next move.  

Have you wondered why, since politics became the hottest money-spinning adventure, it is the very same persons who migrate from one government to another. Essentially, it is not that these people are most intelligent or at best technocrats, no! These are people without any conceivable national development agenda but a personal one, vehemently pursuing it at all costs.

That is why the migration of the Blue camp to the Orange camp is no surprise to those in the know, politically speaking. It is for this reason that it would be  almost normal hearing of the Orange camp migrating to the Red,  Yellow, or Blue camp depending which camp carries the day come 2014 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections (PPE).
Expectedly, Kennedy Makwangwala had to move, so was Goodall Gondwe, Ken Zikhale Nag’oma, Uladi Mussa, earning such nickname as “Change Golo”, and all other party-prostituting politicians you know. It will therefore be politics as usual hearing of Patricia Kaliati, Kamuzu Chibambo, Chris Daza, Mark Katsonga and what have you all dumping their respective parties for another party pursuant of the self-enrichment thinking sweetly dubbed “go-where-grass-is-greenest” thinking.

Whoever the framers of the Malawi constitution were, the people were just geniuses. Knowing very well of this democratically-crazy, development-unfriendly philosophy, the framers thought it wise that there has to be stop to this, hence Section 65 as read together with Section 64. 

But alas! Knowing Section 64 to be a ‘hindrance’, some self-serving politicians repealed it leaving Section 65 a seating duck. And now, sadly, Section 65 has become a constitutional punchbag—getting itself tossed right, left, and center depending on what the government of the day and not the constitution sees right.

It is perhaps a tradition that every politician, as is true of life in general, has to offer reason(s) that appeals to the masses as to why s/he has made such and such a move or decision. When it comes to this the reasons range from the usual “I want to help the current government in development” to as uncommon as “My party is missing the point in criticizing the present government” and all the shaggy-dog-bull stories in between.

Therefore, politicians would go to every unimaginable length to look clean, sympathetic, patriotic, development-friendly, and logically sound when it comes to hiding and defending their self-enrichment. They would readily deny never having intentions of self-enrichment otherwise they would miss the money train, and would thus sugar-coat their maneuvers to give the false impression of a proactive politician.

In resting my case it be argued here that whatever it is the politicians say or do, one thing is obvious; they want 100-fold returns. Given the forgoing, this author argues, with no apologies or regrets, that there is NOTHING that a politician thinks about apart from self-enrichment. Yes! Whenever a politician makes his/her political moves and/or decisions, s/he thinks about one and only one thing—self-enrichment.