Monday, October 18, 2010

To marry or not to marry

The estate of marriage is an entity which some people seldom want to be associated with; they simply do not want to consider getting married or marrying. They have their own reasons for not marrying, some of them being religious.

Radical feminists are completely against marriage, and some of them reach the extent of living separately from the rest of those who desire to get married. They do not even want to be anywhere near men and they live ‘lonely’ lives which they are but comfortable with.

They take marriage as a social institution that is aimed at disadvantaging women while putting men in a higher position where they are taken as heads of families and therefore need to be worshipped by women.

For all intents and purposes, these feminists are against the patriarchal structure in marriages where they view marriage to be an already prearranged male chauvinism supporter, with women being taken as lesser humans.

Yet still, there are other men who do not want to marry because of reasons which they think are significant to them. So, when talking about marrying or not marrying, both men and women are involved.

But if we view things from a Christian perspective, what does the bible say about marrying? Does it command everyone created in the image of God to marry; or does it not command, but just gives everyone the liberty to choose whether to marry or not?

Alister McGrath in his book titled Christian Theology: An Introduction points out that the theological task of the church is to interpret its faith and message so that they can be understood and affirmed in each new age.

The scripture must be interpreted so that it appeals to members of the church. This does not mean it should be twisted to serve churches’ individual doctrines which do not necessarily reflect the teachings that are there in the bible.

As such, even teachings which individual churches hold regarding marriage should be based on the greatest tool for human wisdom: the bible. It has answers to all our questions and provides solutions to all our problems.

Theologian Martin Luther is one of the most influential individuals as far as the issue of whether to marry or not is concerned. Among his concerns that led to the ‘original’ reformation was the issue of marriage. Luther found marriage to be a very essential thing in human affairs.

He advanced a point of love in relation to marriage: “Now there are three kinds of love: false love, natural love and married love…. But over and above all, there is married love, that is a bride’s love that glows like a fire and desires nothing else but the husband.”

In support of marriage, Luther further pointed out that the temptation of the flesh has become so strong and consuming that marriage may be likened to a hospital with incurables which prevents inmates from falling into graver sin. This is also the case with a part of Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth where he says: “I would advise you not to marry, but because there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” – 1 Corinthians 7: 1.

St Paul further adds in verses 8-9 that those who are not married should remain like that implying that at least if we follow his teachings, marriage is not a command for human beings.

People are at liberty to choose whether they should marry or not. Above all, we all strive to enter the kingdom of God, and if an eye causes you to sin, it is better to gauge it out, for it is better to enter the kingdom of heaven with one eye than go to hell with both eyes as the bible says in Mark 9:43. Thus, if you view marriage as something that may be a setback on your quest for righteousness, then it is better not to marry.

The bible further says that to be free from anxieties and serve God, the unmarried man should remain unmarried, for those who marry are anxious to please their wives and husbands while those who are unmarried are anxious to please God – 1 Corinthians 7:32-33.

On the other hand, it has to be pointed out that Adam was given a wife in the Garden of Eden so that he should marry her. God blessed the couple and told them to multiply. This implies that God himself ordained marriage, and was pleased with it, for he could not bless something that he did not like.

However, it is important for believers to pray earnestly for a suitable spouse for Proverbs 19: 14 says parents provide goods and houses for their children, but a good wife comes from God lone.

All in all, this piece has deliberately bent itself towards propounding points that argue that marriage is not necessarily a command. It is something given to mankind by the creator himself, and to those who find it necessarily to be in it, fine and good, but to those who feel like staying without marrying, they should also maintain their unmarried state without engaging into immoral sins.

A journey of memories

If you want to be a failure and never be rebuked or chastised, it makes sense to become an athlete. You are involved in a prestigious tournament and you come home empty handed, yet in the midst of your failure, you are assured that there is always next time. Thus, you can rest on your laurels and wait for next time. Such is the case in Malawi; and such was the case with our athletes who went to India recently.

They flew across rivers and oceans, over soaring mountains and above throngs of humanity. Their mission was simple and straightforward: to compete in the commonwealth games that took place in New Delhi.

Yet, they did not only go there to simply have their faces beamed on television, but to come back home with gold, silver or even bronze medals, if circumstances did not completely favour them. But they returned home empty handed. For an anthology of 44 athletes, 37 officials and one team doctor, this appears to be too much embarrassment.

Their horrible failure cannot be overshadowed by illusory comments of individuals who always desire to cushion failure in soothing words that only have the potential of aggravating matters.

Be open and tell them the truth: they have humiliated the nation, and there is nothing beyond that. They are failures in all practical applications of the term, for if they were not, we would be singing at least one song of victory, even if it were a faint one.

We would congratulate them and invite them to a cocktail party somewhere in the comfort of our peaceful hotels and tell them to relax after a hectic voyage to the top, or at least somewhere near the top.

But our athletes chose to see things from different points of view; they desired to bring us nothing, to show us nothing and to promise us nothing. A bronze medal would have promised a silver one in the next encounter while a silver one would have heralded gold next time. But the absence of these two accolades clearly tells us that hope in the athletes should not keep us company.

Any position out of the ‘countable’ range might not make a lot of sense. The queens came back home embracing the same position that they achieved during the previous games. But, does the position matter now when they were not counted as winners?

Those who took the first, second and third positions are the ones who were counted as victors. At least, this is what the medals they got imply.

The queens indeed put up a spirited performance as some would argue, but the fruits of a spirited performance should be victory. They tried their best indeed, but trying is nothing more than a shadow which moves together with its source; it has never been known to become a human being. It will forever remain a shadow and trying will forever remain trying, even in the face of moving miracles.

For our netball team, one cannot avoid asking why it still entertains aging fellows whose energy and passion cannot remain the same with the passage of time. They are indeed experienced, but experience in this case has shown that it does not always result into victory.

Why can’t the energetic young ones take over and take the team forward?

Of course, all the sections that went to the Asian country deserve no mercy. Even though mercy is often greater than justice, let truth be told that we did not expect our representatives in India to return home the way they went.

There even is temptation to bash the comment made by Head of Delegation to the games Haxon Chapasa who said: “I hope we will bag some medals in the next games.” If next time were a genuine excuse for not making it now, then failure would be non-existent.

Chapasa should just have come out in the open to admit that they failed. The next thing would be to devise mechanisms that would ameliorate the situation. Otherwise, being satisfied with our athletes’ failure is no less than telling them to keep it up.

Even Youth Development and Sports Minister Lucious Kanyumba warned critics against making bad comments over the poor performance by the athletes. Perhaps, the minister needs to know that the mere fact that the athletes did not come back home with any medal is enough to warrant a barrage of bad comments from different commentators.

If bad comments cannot come in, then obviously we will be congratulating them; but how do you congratulate someone who has not impressed? We cannot keep on telling our athletes to keep trying. We need to tell them the truth, and this truth is that their performance was miserable.

A whooping amount in excess of K28 million was spent on the fruitless quest for prestige. But perhaps, the most memorable thing to the athletes together with the whole delegation is that they at least had a chance to see some of the places they had never seen before. They interacted with individuals they had never interacted with before. That alone might be an honour, an achievement, a memory.

The journey itself, of course, was one of great memories. They might be fond memories to the athletes, but to us who were never part of that trip, they are bitter memories. They are sour memories of embarrassment and humiliation imposed onto us by the dismal performances of our athletes.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Reflecting on Divorce

Numerous marriages in the latter-day world are at terrible risks of being broken; some of them have already seen the face of divorce tearing them apart. Some have even broken without any formal procedure, even if the partners went through all the ceremonial processes to get betrothed to their loved ones. The evil one has sown so much confusion in the estate of marriage such that even differences which would be settled overnight exist for ages in families and finally tear the couple apart.

But, out of any marriage breakage, it is not usually the parted parties that suffer. Usually, it is the children – in cases where the family had them – and sometimes even other relatives. The suffering may not necessarily be material of monetary, but mostly emotional. There is no pain in life as the pain that smoulders within the heart.

Sometimes, even if the couple has reached a mutual agreement that they should sever their matrimonial ties, for the sake of the children, it is wise to reconsider the decision and continue living together. Of course, most people who have found themselves craving for a divorce have usually argued that they have reached the painful decision of separating with their loved ones because of genuine reasons. The world may indeed understand, but to God, there is no sin which mankind cannot forgive.

In very delicate matrimonial hiccups, love is the most significant thing that counts. Love covers a multitude of sins; love looks at an individual as a potential failure who can be given a second, third, fourth, even hundredth chance.

Marriage is an entity that was fully ordained by God himself in the Garden of Eden when he gave Eve to Adam to be his wife. And in Genesis 2:23-24 as well as Mark 10:8, the Bible says that when two are joined together in marriage, they are no longer two, but one, and that God is not interested in any kind of divorce whatsoever.

If a man and a woman have decided to enter into the estate of marriage, they become one and no matter how miserably their marriage is progressing, they are supposed to remain one. Divorce, in God’s eyes, is not an option except in specific situations, like where one member of the marriage estate has committed adultery – and even then, forgiveness and rebuilding are usually best. Forgiveness is greater than a chemist’s drug and a surgeon’s knife. It heals deep wounds which no drug in the world can.

And Matthew 19:6 records that “therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” This implies that it should be by God’s command only that marriage may be broken, and this is where the issue of adultery comes in. The only reason which the bible gives as enough to permit a marriage divorce is adultery. Yet, this as well is not automatic, for the Bible itself teaches us to forgive one another. The process may be painful and may involve hard work, but the results are worth the effort since God is glorified.

Complete commitment to one’s marriage provides a basis of fidelity and trust. A partner always feels incomplete without the other and finds happiness in the company of their spouse. In such a way, they are able to go through tough times but always make godly solutions because there is a special connection between them. A lack of commitment erodes the couple’s strength and determination. It can lead to tragedy, and couples that are entangled in this mire can easily reach the decision to divorce.

In Malachi chapter 2 verse 16, it is recorded: ‘“I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God of Israel.” And in this case, if the institutor of marriage himself says he hates divorce, it only means divorce, whatever the case, cannot please God. And the Bible further says that in everything we do, we should do as unto the Lord.

Much as marital unfaithfulness is the only ‘sin’ that may lead to divorce, these days, marriages are seldom broken on this basis. Most men and women of today simply choose to part ways with their partners after attaining a higher social status. Some reach the decision to break their matrimonial testament after ‘finding’ another partner.

Some even choose to desert their loved ones after having discovered that s/he is not as ‘hot’ in the spirit as they are. But, this again is not enough to warrant divorce. In his first letter to the Church at Corinth, Paul the Apostle said that if any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him (1 Corinthians 7:12-13). The most important thing is to pray for the unbeliever so that s/he can become a believer.

Love is something that holds the couple together through difficult moments of life and implores them to improve where they were failing.

Divorce – whether it was done after a partner committed adultery or not – always has painful consequences. It has terrible effects on your relationship with your God; you also damage your spouse’s as well as your own reputation; you wound your children and family members, including friends. Above everything, you create a platform for future pain for yourself and bring shame upon the name of Christ.

However, it has to be acknowledged that Jesus said you may divorce if your spouse commits adultery. Nevertheless, he did not make this a command; he merely pointed out that it is permissible. Thus, love and forgiveness should be the overriding entity in marriages. As such, divorces will be avoided.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Can Man Impress God?

In this world, as we live, we sometimes struggle with issues to do with pleasing one another. There are many things that we can do to please our friends, our families, our bosses and even our juniors. In mundane affairs, it is possible to do so. And if such is the case, is there anything man can do to please or impress God?

Most of us ask ourselves: what should a sinful creature like me do to impress a holy and righteous God? Or still, is there anything I can do to impress God?

In all truth and fairness, in our natural state, it is impossible for us to reach that level of righteousness needed to impress a holy God. But still, that should not prevent us from making efforts in that direction. But such efforts should not be so oriented in the sole intention of impressing God, for it is usually when we don’t do something with the aim of pleasing God that we please him.

The Bible in the book of Isaiah says that our righteous acts are like filthy rags in the presence of God. If our righteous acts are like filthy rags, then it may appear that the only logical conclusion remains that there is nothing we can do to impress God. Or in other words, nothing that we do can be able to reach the extent of making God impressed with us.

The Bible further says that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. In this regard, this fear of the Lord can be compared to the relationship of a parent and his child. The child in a normal situation is supposed to have reverence for the father, but not in a dangerous sense, but in the arena of security and boundaries.

Consequently, we, as God’s children should have that element of fear coupled with trust with our Heavenly Father. And this impresses God. In essence, impressing God can only happen when we do not try to impress him. When we do our works with the aim of impressing him, it is impossible to impress him.

In the book of Luke, Jesus talks of the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Says the Bible, specifically in chapter 18, verses 11 – 14: “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I am certainly not like the tax collector! I fast twice a week, and give you a tenth of my income.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘oh God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

The Pharisee took himself to be righteous before a righteous God. He forgot that man is naturally a sinful being because of the original sin, and therefore cannot claim that he is not a sinner. Consequently, he was not blessed. It was the tax collector, who acknowledged that he was a sinful person, who returned home justified.

Sometimes after falling into sin, we think we can make amends to our God by doing some overt action in order to draw God’s attention to us so that we can impress him. Yet, there is nothing we can do to divert God’s attention away from our lack of obedience. God is much in love with our obedience than our sacrifice. For is it written in I Samuel 15:22: “…what is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen, obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of lambs.”

Thus, our actions can do nothing to please God; but obedience can please him. We can not make amends with our God by good actions; but by submitting ourselves to him and acknowledge our shortfalls for “a contrite and broken heart he does not despise.”

Psalm 69:30-31 records: “Then I will praise God’s name with singing, and I will honour him with thanksgiving. For this will please the Lord more than sacrificing cattle, more than presenting a bull with its horns and hooves.” In this passage the Psalmist tells us that singing songs of praise and offering thanksgiving impresses God more than tangible items.

Humility is another thing that impresses God. Just like children need to be humble before their fathers, we also need to be humble before our God. I Peter 5:5 says: “In the same way, you younger men must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you serve each other in humility, for ‘God opposes the proud but favours the humble.’”

Above all, pleasing a righteous God cannot happen using our acts, for what we consider our righteous acts are like filthy rags before him. It is when we do holy things without intending to please God that we please him.

Culture and change

Sometimes in life, driven by circumstances, a human being is supposed to abandon his strong principles and adjust to change for the sake of progress. There is no progress unless one has allowed himself to engage into other ‘innovative’ aspects which were not peculiar to them in the first place.

Change always brings something new; but the most significant thing that counts is assessing what kind of change is morally acceptable.
There are instances where change – even if it was not being approved in the first place – gets accepted and becomes an axiom of morality. This is solely because a human being is a social being who needs to adjust according to the dictates of circumstances while not committing an offence against himself or the society within which they live.

However, still more, sometimes if some kind of change is necessary, but the majority does not hold with it, the minority needs to strategise so as to persuade the majority to adopt the new ‘development’.

In fact, without change, history would be meaningless. It is because humans and nature as a whole go through different levels in their lives that there is the need to preserve that which happened long ago. If that was not the case, it would be just as significant to look at what is happening now, for it would not be any different from what happened yesterday.

Governments change, generations change, natural elements go through processes of mutation and nothing remains the same forever. Above all, the world always changes and nothing in it will remain forever, for every change that it undergoes is a catalyst for changes of everything within it.

Yet in Malawi, it appears some people (pardon my bluntness) are still stuck in the past with so much stubbornness and tradition that to them every kind of change appears to be “a Whiteman’s concern”. These attitudes and behaviour that are characteristic of some Malawians are not conducive for development.

During the transition process from one party system of government to pluralism, some people could not just accept that such an aspect in Malawi politics was a very needful thing. They kept on worshipping the former president, the late Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, and went on to argue that they were not ready “to live without Dr. Banda at the helm.” This was just a manifestation of rigidity to change.

They had gotten so much used to Dr. Banda’s cruel system of governance that it had finally become part of their lives. To them, that which they had lived with for so long was better than something that they were not aware of. Yet everything about multi-party politics had been advocated for times without number.

They were ‘safe’ in following the culture of ‘nurturing’ what they had instead of adjusting to that necessary change. In other words, they got so much used to the culture of suffering that to them, it was not necessary to have freedom. Such kinds of mindsets are perilous as long as development is concerned.

In fact, some people propose that culture should undergo review at least every half a decade because there are a number of changes that societies undergo, as nothing remains the same forever.

Some years back, there was public furore over the ‘right’ dressing for women. People were so much concerned about that issue that it was finally agreed that it was a misnomer and should attract a punishment.

The truth was that we were just stuck in the past with so much stubbornness and tradition. Much as culture is significant in the legacy of humankind, it has to pave way so that human beings adjust to change. In fact by adjusting to change, it is just a manifestation of culture itself.
Culture in itself was not supposed to be a threat to development, but the way we handle it in Malawi, one is compelled to argue that among many aspects that retard development, culture is one of them.

Sometime, we take some of the things that would otherwise improve our lives as “those of Westerners” because of a culture of exclusion and self-segregation. It is high time we began to consider adjusting to change. However, scrutiny is always necessary; but stubbornness should never be welcome!

It is mostly true that culture is a powerful human tool for survival, but it is supposed to be a fragile phenomenon. It is supposed to be constantly changing and easily lost because it exists only in our minds. And therefore it is only when we change our mindsets that we may adequately develop.

On increasing cases of abortion

Human life has for times without number been put to some fatal test by human beings. In many circumstances, we have found ourselves debating on issues that deal directly with human life; with the debate centering on whether at some point in time, such life which was always described as sacred by the late Pope John Paul II should be terminated or not.

One topic which has drawn mixed reactions from different individuals and stakeholders is abortion. Up to now, it appears it is very difficult for global dwellers to reach a consensus and agree on one thing regarding abortion: whether it should be legalized or not.

And right here in Malawi, cases of women or girls procuring abortions continue disturbing the country’s values. The perpetrators are arrested, yes, but why does their arrests fail to be a deterrent to others with similar thoughts? Perhaps, it is because most women do not really understand that procuring an abortion is as good as committing murder.

Abortion is defined as a human action carried with the chief aim of preventing the continuation of a human life. This implies that by all means, abortion results in death of some sort.

Professionals in biological science unanimously agree that any organism which exhibits the seven traits of life which include metabolism, excitability, conductivity, contractility, differentiation, growth, and reproduction is living, and is living according to its own kind.

During each stage of development within the mother's body, the zygote, morula, blastocyst, embryo, and fetus all exhibit these traits of life. The mere fact that because the intra-uterine organism is in a process of development and is unseen does not warrant the view that it does not possess life; life in accord with its nature, in this case human life.

Since the zygote possesses all of the seven traits of life, all biological scientists agree that life begins at conception. They identify this already objective fact of when life begins.

In fact, there is no other point at which life can begin. Whatever the circumstance, there is never any non-life stage that finally develops into a life-stage during a pregnancy. Such a concept is completely foreign to biological life. That which has life now or any other time had time from the very beginning.

In other words, it is an established scientific fact and a logical one as well that there is no other developmental stage in which life begins other than the moment of conception.

Whatever one's spiritual or unspiritual presuppositions may be, these biological facts cannot be denied by any person of sound reason. Human life is not definable in terms of stages of development. At all stages of development, human life is present. Therefore, destroying it at any of the stages is to destroy a human life, a living person.

“The beginning of a single human life is from a biological point of view a simple, straightforward matter – the beginning is conception. This straightforward biological fact should not be distorted to serve sociological, political, or economic goals,” Argues Dr. Watson Bowes of the University of Colorado. His view is corroborated by Dr. Micheline Matthews-Roth, a Research Associate at Harvard Medical School who notes that it is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception.”

“Each of us has a unique beginning, the moment of conception. Our entire being is contained in the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) in the very first moment of fertilization.” This is noted by Dr. Jerome Lejeune, Genetics Professor at Rene Descartes University of Paris.

However, on the other hand, it may be unreasonable to rush to conclude that abortion is always completely wrong. There are some women who feel they have a good cause for performing abortions, especially in cases where they might have fallen pregnant after being raped. But still here, it is still the case that human life (which has to be protected whatever the case) is there.

So in this case as well it may only be reasonable to preserve human life since the sovereignty of life supersedes any other factors which may inspire an abortion.

It is true that children, especially babies, are expensive. They need clothes, food, diapers and many other things. But still that does not outdo the value of human life.

It does not take God or religion to determine that, just basic rationality. Children have no control over the personal and social lives of their parents at the time of their conception; consequently, they should not have to pay the ultimate price for someone else’s mistakes.

A child conceived in rape is still a child. A baby with health challenges is still human. Perhaps those who feel like aborting a baby because they did not conceive it voluntarily should consider keeping it until deliverance when they can let it out for adoption.

Religiously, the bible teaches us not to commit murder. God Himself is the source of life. Thus, to reject life is to reject the source of life and is to reject God, who is the very source and author of life.

Let abortion remain illegal whatever the circumstance. Ron Paul a U.S. Politician, astutely believes that a fetus is a human life, and that a fetus deserves the same legal protections afforded to all human beings. He observes that human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.

And Peter Singer, a Professor of Philosophy strongly believes that a fetus is a human life, and that a fetus deserves the same legal protections as everyone else. Thus abortion should remain illegal, at least here in Malawi. Human life should not be out to test by human beings.

A Peep Into Peter Mutharika's Endorsement

Presidential candidates are seldom selected from an anthology of low-profile politicians, neither are they picked from a collection of those politicians whose political futures are in their twilights. Most of them have an easy anointing from their supporters or whoever might have the power to do so, when they have already blazed the trail. Nevertheless, sometimes presidential candidates are pulled from the scraps of what was never universally accepted as the ideal category of leaders-to-be.

Those candidates who are hauled from dormant states are made to be accepted by the majority as the ideal ones through rigorous campaigns which are only aimed at brainwashing doubters. And hard tasks are usually there when the presidential candidate has been carted from nothing in the wake of lack of a proper alternative. But in the face of numerous alternatives, the candidate can be easily but rigorously sold out to the masses within the shortest possible time.

Bingu wa Mutharika had been there in politics before he became the second democratically elected president of Malawi; but he had never been popular. In fact, during the 1999 presidential elections, he was the least performer, savaging 22 073 of 2 978 885 total votes representing less than one percent of the total number of votes cast.

Yet, only five years later, he became the most powerful and popular citizen of Malawi. There was nothing peculiar about Bingu's success; only that it came out a little alarmingly such that it was generally agreed that some men are really blessed with convincing tongues which can soften even the hardest hearts.

The man who sold out Mutharika was constantly described as a political engineer by himself and his admires. And, to date, some Malawians still believe that his eloquence remains without parallel. Yet, others still believe that everything was possible because he had all the financial muscle to move across the length and breadth of this country, manipulating the minds of voters who quickly changed their stands and voted for Mutharika.

The campaign period - the period when Bingu was to be sold out - was small; apparently, too small for one to change the minds of Malawians, but after the elections, the period was proved to have been enough. It was within it that most Malawians got to like a man they had only known very little about only some few weeks ago. It became the historical campaign period in Malawi politics.

And cries from the civil society and other concerned stakeholders that Muluzi had unnecessarily used government machinery in campaigning for Bingu just became faint cries of agony whose impact got diluted by the overwhelming power of the government that finally got the mantle of this country.

Even though, the same government got so much into the business of ensuring corruption was a notion of the past - a thing it embraces to this day - it never prosecuted Muluzi for ushering it into power using 'illegal' ways. Thus, it may be just to intimate that even the current government can use government machinery to campaign for whoever it loves without the fear of facing prosecution in the end, due to the conviction that once they get into power, the new leader would in no way shoot themselves in the foot.

Peter Mutharika has now been endorsed by all the three regions as the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate for the 2014 general elections. Government might resort to using all means at its disposal to sell him to the masses so that he is finally 'integrated' into the minds of Malawians so that they can finally like him. In fact, it appears the selling has almost established its roots. A week barely passes without the president's brother beamed on the country's sole television station, MBC.

Well, his beaming, for argument's sake, might not mean that he is being sold out to Malawians so that they get familiar with him; but can we loudly intimate that he is being beamed on TVM now and then because he is the only 'hectic' minister who is trying his utmost to make sure his ministry is the most efficient in Malawi? Maybe.

After all, DPP regional governor for the south Noel Masangwi has this to say about Peter's publicity: “Both the state and private media cover him as Justice Minister like any other minister is covered by the press.”

“We have seen it; Peter is given more publicity than the Vice President, who, in ranking, is above him. While in certain instances, the Vice President is only beamed on TVM during replays, Peter is given full live coverage, a thing which is rare for a mere minister. This could be a deliberate move aimed at promoting him while suppressing Honourable Joyce Banda.

“We cannot keep pretending that the VP is not being slowly removed from the list of popular people. She is a victim of politics of elimination, only that hers is a little systematic, such that she remains there in her position while being outside in practical politics,” observes a political commentator who did not want to be named.

Bingu has all along found nothing wrong with his brother vying for presidency - of course, indeed, there is nothing wrong, for he is a bonafide citizen of Malawi, and qualifies without any speck of doubt to contest as president. But, perhaps the hurdle might be whether Malawians will embrace the notion of having a former president's brother as the next president.

Some people can argue - and I do so as well - that if Peter contests, he will do so as a Malawian. This is a valid argument, but the brotherhood aspect remains so and out of everything else, it is the only thing that cannot be erased. Malawians will always have in their minds that a president's brother is contesting; they will rarely consider the other true aspect - that he is also a native Malawian, who is constitutionally legitimate to contest for any position, just like Bingu pointed out sometime back.

“Any candidate in DPP will have government machinery at their disposal, even if it is Peter. They will be popularized using all possible ways, and chances that they will be one of the favourites cannot be underestimated. But, perhaps, if the president's brother is to stand, then another approach of 'popularizing' him might be needed,” says Joseph Manda, a Zomba-based political commentator.

Manda says he has published research papers on the viability of Malawi ever embracing what he calls “dynasty in political positions, particularly the presidency” and has noted several times that Malawians will just need someone else as a presidential candidate, even for their favourite political party, not the current president's brother. Yet, now the writing is clear on the wall that Peter is the next DPP candidate.

When Muluzi anointed Bingu against the wishes of most, if not all, UDF senior members, it became apparent that he thought he would rule Malawi indirectly, a thing which keeps haunting him to this day. He had an alternative: his son Atupele would have been his target, but it appears he had read Malawians and had concluded that they would not be ready for the Muluzi dynasty.

In fact, if Atupele became the next UDF presidential candidate, after his father, there wouldn't be a wide gap between the affairs of the two. Well, this might be theoretically proved wrong, but the practical part of it would, perhaps vindicate the assumption. But, still, perhaps Muluzi excluded Atupele from his considered potential candidates because he knew Malawians would take it with a lot of reservations.

But, Bingu sees things differently; he is not Muluzi and, of course, they have very little in common. He thinks his brother Peter can run for any position, including that of presidency. Well, the president never said Peter 'should' run for any position, but only clarified that he was at liberty to do so as a Malawian, not necessarily as his brother.

But, oftentimes, such kinds of sentiments need to be scrutinized more than once, especially when they follow hot on the heels of related scenarios which but have initially been condemned by the same announcer of the sentiments. In essence, before Bingu made it clear that his brother was free to run for any position, there had been the issue of some DPP top members positioning themselves as the party's presidential candidates for the 2014 presidential race.

And Bingu had come out in the open to bash the ambitious party gurus for failing to concentrate on more urgent issues to do with the development of this country. The president's bashing shut the mouths of many, and of course, informed them that he might not consider them as the right presidential candidates for the party come the year of remembrance.

“The bashing might have been aimed at creating room for his brother to be 'popularized' without any hurdle. He might have thought that if a number of top DPP members continued positioning themselves for 2014, then his brother might have very little room for being made popular among the majority of voters. Of course, we need to be mindful of the fact that the ruling party would eventually hold a convention where the party's 2014 torchbearer would be elected,” a political scientist who chose not to be named replied in a questionnaire.

But, if history is anything to go by, it may be said without fear of contradiction that if Muluzi endorsed Bingu at the expense of numerous 'potential' members who had tirelessly supported him throughout his tenure of office - who had gone to the extent of supporting the former president's infamous third term bill - then there is nothing that can stop those who want to endorse Peter from disappointing numerous members of the ruling DPP who might have all along thought they would be the next DPP presidential candidate.

After all, in politics, sometimes the best way of progressing is by ignoring the cries of some who might deem your policies to be unwise. And, Peter's supporters may finally employ this notion and endorse the law professor for the ruling party's presidential candidate for 2014.

Furthermore, if history is to be applied in the current political situation (or is it the future political scenario?) and inferring from her low publicity, we may be drawn to assuming that Joyce Banda cannot be the next presidential candidate for the ruling party for 2014.

In fact, this has been the case since we attained our multiparty democracy: Muluzi was totally unwilling to let Justin Malewezi be the next president of Malawi; and Bingu reached the point of saying that his first second, Cassim Chilumpha, had resigned from his position constructively, something which might have been due to the fact that there was a sour relationship between the two. And, we cannot sit down and pretend that there is a totally cordial relationship between the president and his vice now.

What more with her removal as Goodwill Ambassador for Safe Motherhood. It partly substantiates the assumption that she might just be a victim of the 'popularizing of another' theory. So, if Joyce Banda appears to be systematically missing on the list of potential DPP candidates for 2014 - where, in fact, other top members appear to be missing, too - then we may be forgiven for concluding that the only one who is being 'popularized' most is the one who is present on the list. And, here is where the name of Peter Mutharika stands out.

And recently, delivering a lecture on Human Rights in the Great Hall at Chancellor College, Peter said something that implied he is sure he is going to run for presidency come 2014 - or was it just aimed at testing the waters, so that he should be aware whether or not he may be the right candidate?

“Peter explicitly said that he has big dreams for Malawi which he wants to be fulfilled ten years from now. Of course, any other well-wishing Malawians, especially one with some political power, can have dreams for this country, but then he went further to point out that Barak Obama would not have become president in the absence of the support which he received from university students. This is where we may conclude that he wants to stand as a presidential candidate. And the likely party for him is DPP,” notes James Munyapa, a third year student at the college.

Perhaps, it is just a hasty conclusion to point out that Peter mutharika's 'popularizing' has an underlying motive. Maybe, there is nothing behind it other than that it is emanating from the point that he is a very hectic minister who always wants to transform the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs from its dormant state to one full of activity.

But, then, can we convincingly say that he is the only hectic minister in the whole administration who is hard working? Are most of the things that he does more important than those that other ministers do, that he alone should be frequently given public media coverage when other ministers remain sidelines somewhere in the mist of publicity? Maybe.

And suppose he indeed becomes the next DPP presidential candidate, will all those DPP top members who struggled relentlessly with Bingu during his first tenure of office when he was faced with stiff opposition from the opposition, take it with smiling faces? Will they gladly support him? Won't they detach themselves from the party and rally together to form a new party?

And if they form a new party, will DPP's membership remain the same? Won't their admirers join them, thereby reducing the number of the ruling party's supporters? Or perhaps nothing like what has been presented here will ever happen. The writing on the wall might just have been erroneously read; perhaps Peter will never be the next DPP presidential candidate.

Mpasu: Out of prison walls

Lives of politicians are rarely short of paradoxes and contradictions. Promises are made and never fulfilled; mistakes are made and never corrected, yet their versatile tongues worm through the hard hearts of humanity and finally win them. That is why politicians hardly ever have permanent enemies. At least, such is the case in Malawi.

Yet, sometimes in life, you never find everything that you wanted to achieve, even if you are a politician. And many other times, you sometimes find yourself getting something that you never anticipated. Some things just happen automatically and you are left wondering whether you are one of the most blessed or just one of the most cursed dwellers of the universe.

Some people have found themselves fiscally established out of the blue while others continue basking in the agony of poverty, and this is where it makes sense to argue that nature is the best controller of human progress.

Some have found themselves in prison when they least expected they would ever step their feet in such a place while others have found themselves totally free when they expected that the least they would get if lady luck smiled at their face would be a 5-year jail term. Such is life.

Such is what fully describes it. It brings in its course the expected and the unexpected, sometimes to test our souls. And for Sam Mpasu, the second test, perhaps was to harden his soul further. He had passed the first one, and hard luck brought him the next. He took it and has just completed its contents.

The correctional facility is the last place any sane individual would ever dream of living in. It is a place where sometimes, life itself seems to be a very useless affair. Even a two-week jail term may seem like eternity. This is in virtue of the fact that the place itself – at least in Malawi – is mostly designed to punish law-breakers, not necessarily to reform them.

However, the most disturbing irony of justice is that not all those who rob banks, shed innocent blood or receive bribes find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Sometimes they are not even brought anywhere near trial.

Yet, still on the other hand, there are others who find themselves in untold anguish, not because they broke the law, but because they failed to convince the judge that they did not break the law. Just like one American politician said, poverty is imprisonment it is own kind or imprisonment waiting to happen.

But sometimes even the most compassionate nuns fail to have any feeling of empathy for certain individuals who brutally shed the blood of their fellow human kind. When it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that they indeed did the offence they are being accused of, empathy leaves even those who sometimes extol the virtues of not playing the “eye for eye” game.

But for Mpasu, it seems empathy would fail to convict only a few individuals – in all truth and faithfulness. Nevertheless, justice superseded mercy and became a symbol of tormenting the former Speaker of the National Assembly.

After having been incarcerated for two years during the Kamuzu era, he has just finished a three-year jail term at Chichiri Prison for his involvement in the Fieldyork notebook scandal. While at Chichiri Prison, Mpasu was almost completely forgotten on the political scene. Yet, this was the time when, some would argue, he needed moral support most.

He did not deserve to be forgotten because his name has to always stand out in the history of Malawi just as those of many other Malawians who fought relentlessly for the introduction of multi-party politics. And, many people sometimes fail to accept that Mpasu really deserved the kind of agony that he has just undergone.

If what D.D. Phiri wrote in October last year is anything to go by, Mpasu was never supposed to be where he is just coming out from. He might have indeed abused his position as the honorable magistrate who convicted him at first observed, but the circumstances in which that abuse was done should have been the overriding decider.

“In its 1994 manifesto, UDF pledged to introduce free primary education in Malawi. When he won the presidency, Bakili Muluzi appointed Sam Mpasu as Minister of Education…. The minister of education was more anxious than most people that exercise books and pencils be made available in time, otherwise the free primary schooling programme was going to fail,” wrote Phiri in The Nation of October 13, 2009.

Mpasu took that task of ordering the materials himself and was subjected to pressure salesmanship, such that finally the government was forced to pay for the writing materials from Fieldyork much more than it could have paid if a local supplier was involved. These are the circumstances which fourteen years later landed the former minister into the correctional facility.

Yet, according to reports on corruption which different independent organizations, both local and international, published, it became clear that many more individuals, had engaged in corrupt practices at one point in time in the Muluzi administration. But, so far, only a few have been brought to book.

“Let us face the truth here: there was a high level of corruption in the Muluzi era. it appears to be a mockery to justice to see that many high-profile politicians who were presented several times as corrupt still walk free while Mpasu who made that blunder while considering the situation in which the forthcoming free primary education would be, was fighting for his life day in, day out at Chichiri Prison,” said one commentator on an online publication, soon after Mpasu was set free a few days ago.

Mpasu did quite a lot for this country. Justice might have indeed taken its course, but perhaps we should also consider what he did to Mother Malawi with a few other individuals who brought for us the multiparty democracy that we are enjoying today. This is not to say that Mpasu was right in his actions, but to a greater extent, natural justice would have forgiven him.

“It really pains to see a brilliant individual like Mpasu going to rot in prison just because he hastened to do things, when he can do something great to this country,” a concerned citizen was quoted as saying in one of our daily papers soon after Mpasu’s sentencing in 2008.

The concerned citizen’s sentiments were echoed by Phiri two years later who wrote: “Mercy is often greater than justice. It is admitted that Mpasu’s handling of the exercise book programme was reckless and was an abuse of office. However, this bright man would be more useful to the country if he were pardoned for the big mistake he made.

“…Mpasu did not steal and did not accept bribes. He just failed to use normal channels of awarding contracts. Mpasu, the man of intellectual and literary gifts, deserves public forgiveness.”

But Mpasu was never pardoned; he finished his jail term which had initially been ‘pegged’ at six years, and got reduced to three years. During the time when he was in the correctional facility, prisoners were being pardoned, and finally walked to freedom, but be never did. His only hope was in life itself; life was going to be the most meaningful thing at the end of his painful journey.

Perhaps that is why Albert Einstein said that all of us who are concerned for peace and triumph of reason and justice must be keenly aware how small an influence reason and honest good will exert upon events in the political field. Yet, oftentimes, we fail to sit back and appreciate the fact that reason and honest good have little influence in the political field.

Who knows, so we think, maybe the bits of our reason and honest good will finally produce a bunch that will exert some influence in the political field. But, for Mpasu many people fought, only that the targeted ear chose not to listen.

Until his second incarceration, Mpasu was known to many as a very influential politician who never minced words where he thought some truth that needed to be known was being trumped beneath some deceitful desires of some individuals. Perhaps, this was because he started politics way back during his days at Chancellor College where he once served as chairman of the students union.

The former president, father and founder of Malawi, the late Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda saw him to be a threat, and subsequently incarcerated him for two years from 1975 to 1977. He was a political prisoner, and at least for him, such painful memories remain fresh in Political Prisoner 3/37, his prison autobiography in which he recapitulates life behind the bars.

In the book, he condemns his detention without trial where he writes: “Imprisonment-without-trial, in my view, was something which was so manifestly unjust that even primitive tribes did not use it. At least, no anthropologist had told me that there was a primitive tribe anywhere in the world which had prisons or used them to lock innocent people.”

And after being sent to prison in 2008, he still felt he was a political prisoner, because of his fervent opposition to Bingu wa Mutharika’s policies which he deemed not good. The only difference, to him, was that now it was imprisonment after trial.

“In 1975 I was a victim of imprisonment without trial. I am not surprised this time also. Every oppressive government uses state institutions to victimise its opponents. I am not the first politician to go to jail,” he was quoted as saying.

One ironic thing with Mpasu is that as he was serving as the UDF’s spokesman, a position which he last held before being sent into the jaws of agony, he was the centre of public attention when he was the first to point out that Muluzi’s chances of winning in the last general elections were very slim. This was a time when the former head of state was craving for another go despite having already served this country as the first citizen for the constitutional maximum period of two consecutive terms.

Mpasu could not mince words – and that is what he has always been known for. He had no time to play bootlicking politics. To him, the very truth had to be articulated the moment it was needful, without caring much about whether it would cost him anything.

Such is the man who has languished behind the bars of Chichiri Maximum Prison for three years.

There is another odd thing about Mpasu’s Fieldyork conviction and subsequent sentencing: only a few people appeared to sympathize with him. Even the party which he had been its spokesperson before he was stripped of the position, seemed not to commiserate with his welfare, perhaps because he had somehow turned against it in his pursuit for truth, justice and genuine democracy in the party.

His former boss Muluzi did not publicly express any sorrow at Mpasu’s conviction. Obviously, this was because when he was the spokesperson of the UDF, Mpasu made it clear that Malawi’s constitution barred Muluzi from standing as a presidential candidate since he had already served two terms in office.

“The constitution, specifically in Section 83, Subsection three, says that a president or a vice president will serve a maximum of two consecutive terms. There is no dispute about that because he serves a maximum of two consecutive terms, but the legal minds seem to have different interpretations of that,” Mpasu was quoted as saying by Voice of America.

That was obviously some sort of peculiar confidence, because it was a time when almost every top member of the UDF could not get the guts to utter anything that would displease the former head of state, because the party was being taken as his personal estate.

But then afterwards, no one seemed to appreciate Mpasu’s courage, such that after his conviction, his name almost got completely thrust in the mist of history. But now, he is back home; he is back where he belongs.

And amidst all questions which rock us, one stands out as it cries for a perfect answer: Was Mpasu and a few other individuals who got convicted the only ones from the Muluzi administration who were eligible of being convicted? Maybe, this question may not matter anymore now; perhaps, the greatest fight Mpasu has fought is to get out of prison. Anything else might be meaningless now.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Malawi's Pitiful Progress

Praises lavished on the dead might not have any meaning apart from being the commonplace types of eulogies which most dead people receive. But in certain instances, it is impossible to avoid praising someone who has died.

Death brings foes together, and it even invites peculiar praises. This is a common phenomenon about it in general, but about extraordinary men, death only marks the inauguration of an era of remembrance.

There are individuals who continue being praised even though they have spent decades and decades in their graves. The mound of earth beneath which their bones lie might be negligible today, but their impacts among the human race continue being monumental.

Their short lives fail to be overshadowed by their long periods which they have been dead. And this is when death fails to have dominion.

Individuals like Mahatma Gandhi, Plato, Martin Luther Jnr (the politician), Martin Luther the theologian and many others continue having their impacts greatly felt in our lives today. Their wisdom has remained useful with the passage of time and their ideas continue shaping our lives in one way or another.

Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Malawi’s first president is another individual who can never be removed from the list of remembrance.

“Dr. Banda is one such individual who is very central to the history of Malawi. His contributions will continue being felt as long as we live,” says Edison Njembe, a third year history student at Chancellor College.

Banda’s death was full of paradoxes and contradictions. It brought with it different explanations of his life which included both praises and rebukes, because he was a rare character. Perhaps, good men are those whose legacy should have such contradictions.

He passed on thirteen years ago, but a lot of information about him continues coming out. In his speech to members of the History Society of Chancellor College some time back, Kings Phiri, a professor of history, intimated that a lot of information regarding Dr. Banda’s life will remain hidden in the mist of time if those individuals who were so close to him, and obviously know something about the former leader which no one else might know, die without revealing what they know.

“There is a lot of information about Dr Banda that remains hidden somewhere because those who know it are unwilling to give it out,” said Phiri.

When it comes to Dr. Banda’s closest confidantes, the names of John Tembo and Mama Tamanda Kadzamira immediately invade the minds of many Malawians. These individuals somehow hold a good chunk of our history, and should they die without revealing it, ours will remain a country with a cloudy history.

It was known, or at least believed, among most Malawians that Dr. Banda never sired any child in his lifetime, even though he had the pleasure of living in sin with Kadzamira for the rest of his life after returning (or coming) to Malawi from Scotland.

And now one Jimu Jumani Johansson is in town claiming that Dr. Banda is his father and therefore he wants to change his name so that the name Kamuzu Banda should be reflected in it.

Well, it might indeed sound ridiculous that someone just springs from ‘nowhere’ and claims that he is the former dictator’s son. Yet, on the other hand, one fails to understand where the young man might have gotten all the courage from.

There is something that gives him confidence, and some people know it, only that they are just economical with the truth.

What more with Focus Gwede one of Dr Banda’s close confidante revealing that he saw the former president’s three children with one of them being Jumani.

Jumani’s ‘mother’ Mirriam Kaunda was recently reported to have bashed Jumani’s claims of being Kamuzu’s son. But, a relative of hers was also previously quoted as saying that in 1973, the year when Jumani was born, some strange things happened in the country to the extent that Kaunda had to go and live somewhere else for some time. There could be more to that than what the relative revealed.

A lot has been said about Jumani, with some people branding him someone out of his mind while others argue that there could be a speck of truth in his claims. But such issues like those of children’s paternity usually need something more than “mere tantrums and palliatives” (to borrow Hon. Nicholas Dausi’s cliché) to be solved.

Proof in such issues seldom comes from the justice that our courts of law offer. On the other hand, it can only be realized after a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) test is carried.

And since this is what Jumani is fighting for, why don’t we give him the benefit of the doubt so as to clear the mist. After all, the young man said that he is ready to sponsor the test. Should things fail to work to his expectations, he is going to be the loser and no one else. It appears he knows something, for such an issue cannot spring from nothingness.

“Jumani wants to trace his roots, and he is confident the former head of state is his father. He is ready for a DNA test, which can be the only proof of his roots. Let him do it, why deny him the chance?” said an anonymous citizen in this publication sometime back.

After all, why isn’t there his father’s name on his birth certificate? What is the explanation for his ‘mother’s’ absence in 1973 when he was born? If his father is indeed a Malawian of Indian descent as his ‘mother’ claims, why wasn’t the so-called father’s name reflected on the birth certificate?

Perhaps, the way things are progressing, the path towards discovering the truth will soon be found. Maybe, we will no longer be debating on whether or not Jumani is indeed Kamuzu’s son.

Yet, it appears clearing the mist regarding Jumani’s paternity will just be another gateway to more claims from more people that they are Dr Banda’s children.

“If what Focus Gwede said is anything to go by, more people are likely to come out claiming to be the former head of state’s children. This is a huge possibility,” said Joseph Manda, a Zomba-based political commentator.

But in the face of whatever happens after now, the fact remains that ours will remain a country with a blurred history until some individuals who possess information that would be very significant to the whole country come out in the open and declare what they know so that Malawi can have a clear shape.

And in the case of the confusion surrounding Jumani’s issue, it appears it is only a DNA test which can put the matter to rest, otherwise, it appears there can never be a convincing explanation of the truth. Such matters are seldom sorted out in courts of law.

Foreignism in Malawian Languages

The process of translating texts from one language to another is something that gives headaches to all translators, whether amateurs of professionals. In Malawi, writers and broadcasters and all types of translators are mostly left with hard tasks of doing translations on their own and these tasks usually get even tougher in this age when technology is growing at an increasingly swift rate.

Searching for ‘very’ relevant translations usually becomes a hectic task and translators, especially those who do such a task impromptu, opt for whatever sort of translation even if it does not necessarily reflect the concept from the source language.

It is not only translators who face problems concerned with foreignism, but all native speakers of different languages. It beats any sound mind to think of how certain words that have been there from time immemorial continue bearing the foreign terminologies.

For instance, no Malawian language, not even the so-called national language, Chichewa, has native terminologies for English words like ‘degree’, ‘school’ and many more. It goes without saying that these words have been there for hundreds of years, yet we continue embracing them in their alien terminologies.

And one wonders why the superiority of our languages lies, if we continue embracing terminologies borrowed from foreign languages. Should we conclude that there is nothing that can be done about this “foreign language intrusion”?

It is however, understandable when it comes to certain scientific terms which continue being invented. But the fear is that if there are no terminologies for some of these words whose concepts have been and continue being applied in our local understanding, then there is nothing promising about the scientific terminologies.

When you listen to broadcasts in Chichewa and other local languages on the radio, you are assured of coming across words like ‘majisitiliti’ and suchlike. This substantiates the fact that English continues being a dominant language. And this becomes more unattractive when some terminologies which are being borrowed from English have their own respective translations in local languages.

On the other hand, this careless borrowing of words from other foreign languages into our native languages becomes a very big problem when the readers or those listening to broadcasts in the native languages do not know anything in the foreign language. They are left in suspense and subsequently fail to understand what is being said despite the fact that it is claimed to be in their (the audience’s) native language.

In countries like Tanzania, the department concerned with Language Research works tirelessly to come up with new terminologies for new inventions. Immediately a new word is effected, it is announced on the national radio and other media so that it can start being used. That is why in Kiswahili, Tanzania’s national language, you will find perfect translations for words like triangle, angle and suchlike.

This may show how serious the government of Tanzania and other governments that do the same thing are about their native languages. Of course, in Malawi there are too many languages, but Chichewa, being our national language needs to be looked into in terms of the use of foreign terminologies in it.

The centre for language research in Malawi can do something about the continuous use of foreign languages in our native languages, especially Chichewa. However, this will depend on whether or not it is adequately funded. It will also depend on the goodwill of those concerned. We need to be proud of our native languages.

Why Most Government Fear Local Polls

WHY MOST CENTRAL GOVTS FEAR LOCAL GOVTS


The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has finally announced that local polls will not be held on November 23, as initially planned, and the reasons given for the postponement might make sense. But, perhaps, there is something beyond all what is there on the surface. Maybe, there is something about Local Governments which most Central Governments fear, for it is not in Malawi alone where local polls have been treated such inconsiderately.


Malawi’s first democratic government showed some interest in local polls by strengthening local government institutions, but the elections were only held six years later. With the current administration, after the same six years, our final ray of hope was banked on the president and the Electoral Commission.

But, even if these local polls were to be held this year in November as per the earlier announcement, it seems their essence would be limited due to the little powers that the Local-Governments-to-be have finally been given.

Until towards the end of last year, there was little indication that Malawi would hold local elections, since there were no clear preparations for the costly event from concerned stakeholders. And the most peculiar thing remained that these stakeholders kept shifting the ball from one court into another, perhaps with the aim of letting others be held responsible for failure to hold the much needed elections, should they not be held – which they did.

And finally, the truth was told; the meaning of the unwillingness on the part of stakeholders clearly got vindicated by Parliament’s decision to pass an amended bill which now gives the president, in collaboration with the Electoral Commission, powers to decide on the date of the polls.

In line with the amended provision, the date was finally set and Malawians were eager to choose their local representatives. But now, it has been announced that the polls will not be there; and perhaps will never be there.

There is something peculiar about how Local Government elections are viewed in most African countries, Malawi inclusive. Most democratic governments in Africa are not utterly committed to holding these elections, and if at all they hold the elections, the state tries its utmost to suppress the powers of the Local Governments. And in the case of Malawi, since we attained our multiparty democracy some fifteen years ago or so, Local Government polls have only been held once – in 2000.

Asiyati Chiweza, a lecturer in Public and Administrative Studies at Chancellor College, writing in a book titled Government and Politics in Malawi, observes that: “Due to political changes that took place in 1994, the new Malawi government made the strengthening of Local Government institutions as a priority.”

But the fact that this first democratic government held the first elections in 2000 – six years later – implies that it, too, did not have the essence of the elections at heart, despite having shown initial interest.

And now, recently, Malawians were complaining that government should do something as soon as possible so that the essence of the local assemblies is not completely suppressed to such an extent that they may finally be universally considered to be less significant.

Until the amendment, there was a cloud of uncertainty hanging on the possibility of this country ever having the local polls again. Many individuals and stakeholders reached the point of announcing that government no longer considered local polls as a significant lot in democracy. And, with the date set, a sigh of relief was gladly heaved by Malawians, only to be disappointed again this time.

One significant thing to note is that in 2005, the polls were postponed indefinitely and there were myriad voices from NGOs and interested individuals blaming government for ignoring the ‘essence’ of Ward Councilors who, the NGOs and individuals argued, are usually very instrumental in development programmes especially at the local level.

The stark reality of the existence of Ward Councilors is that power is transferred from the state to the Local Government. Perhaps, this is why most governments appear to be non-committal as long as conducting local polls is concerned. Calling a spade by what its name, decentralization has an impact on the state: there is a risk of it becoming irrelevant in the long run.

But, this can usually be the case where a leader is not commanding support across the country; where most of their policies are being bashed by the majority of voters; where chances that the masses from some sections of the country may rally together and rebel against the state are high.

And at the moment, this appears to be the case with President Bingu wa Mutharika’s government which has come under fire from different individuals and stakeholders for some policies which are deemed to be not in the interest of the public at large. Perhaps, this is what might be compelling MEC to ignore Local Government polls.

Now, it is clear that the president is usually the one who has the final say on the possibility of having or not having the local polls, despite the ‘theoretical’ part of the amended provision that stipulates that the president shall decide on the date of the local polls in consultation with the Electoral Commission. Reading between the lines, the extension of the amended provision may be that if the president does not want the elections to take place, he can gladly do so without much as hard work.

However, of late, there wasn’t much silence on the local polls, although there wasn’t enough talk still, other than the theoretical date, which, but, was also not supported by tangible preparations. But, the fact that Goodall Gondwe some time back urged political parties to start campaigning for the elections was enough evidence for the conclusion that this was the year of the second Local Government polls since 1994.

But, the urge was not enough for the opposition MCP and UDF since they wanted something tangible; they wanted something which they would be sure will materialize. They are financially-challenged political parties, and, therefore, to them, starting to campaign then for the polls would be unwise, because anything could happen, including failure to have the elections altogether. And now, their fears have been vindicated.

After all, MCP spokesperson Nancy Tembo had this to say on the local polls: “Government does not want to commit itself and is not showing seriousness…. We do not know whether they (the local polls) will take place or not because we have been waiting since 2005.”

Tembo should be proved right now; there indeed will be no local polls this year; or maybe not even any other year from now, but wouldn’t this mean taking Malawians for granted? After, being tricked numerous times already, will Malawians accept to continue being in government without Ward Councilors?

They have already expressed their disappointment with most of their representatives in the National Assembly, who they argue, seldom visit them to solicit their views on matters of national interest.

Perhaps, this is one of the most compelling reasons why avoiding local polls this year was just impracticable; why November would have been the month of answers. Maybe, the Central Government has some fear for Local Governments.

“There is one important thing about local polls that has to be noted. Malawi, like many other modern states, is divided on a territorial basis between national and regional or local institutions. However the local institutions are barely functional, at least at the moment when there are no Ward Councilors, yet they are very significant if development is to trickle to the remotest part of the country,” observes a Master of Arts in Public Administration student at Chancellor College.

The student adds that as the situation is now, power is trickling from the state to the local institutions. “Essentially, Local Governments involve the distribution of functions at the local level between the levels of government, the means by which their personnel are appointed and recruited, and other administrative purposes. Now, in the absence of functional Local Governments, most of this is done by the state and it has absolute power over matters which would otherwise be handled by Local Government authorities.”

The implication is that in the presence of local assemblies, government’s power is limited. Perhaps this is why we only had local polls once during the Muluzi administration. Perhaps, again, this might be why we are not going to have local polls this year.

In most democratic states, within the leaders, there exists this fear of the state slowly becoming irrelevant and finally unpopular in the face of functional Local Governments. But, what matters most: the popularity of the state, or the welfare of the average citizen?

“With the local assemblies functioning fully, citizens are the ones who become more powerful. They unite behind their local authority and there is the likelihood of ‘defiance’ to the state. That is why many states hate Local Governments,” argues Joseph Manda, a political and social commentator based in Zomba.

One may argue that this has never been the case before, and there should be no need to surmise it now. To such an argument, Manda has this to say: “Well, that might be true, but we have to be aware that the more we penetrate into democracy, the more we learn new ideas concerning this system of government. Czechoslovakia got divided into Czech Republic and Slovakia because of the shift of power from the state to the people.”

Manda goes on to point out that as a matter of fact, decentralization to a certain extent weakens the effectiveness of a state on the international or global scene. “Such a state does not have sufficient machinery for entering into strategic alliances, and negotiating trade agreements. Of course, this cannot be the case in Malawi because as things are today, the Central Government will always be the most powerful,” he notes.

There are other people, still, who believe local polls are not that necessary in Malawi this time. They view them as an activity which will just drain government coffers when it has little impact on development.

“In the absence of this system, there is national unity. Central Government alone articulates the interests of the whole nation rather than those of sectional groups. Government addresses the common interests of the entire community. We are taken to be Malawians and our needs are duly addressed that way. So why should government spend millions of kwacha when we can do without these Local Governments?” argued a student at Chancellor College who did not want to be named.

Maybe this is just another reason why this government may never want local polls to be conducted. Perhaps, government put into consideration all these premises and discovered that the best thing to do is not to hold the elections. But, the question which will continue haunting the president together with the Electoral Commission is: why then don’t they come in the open and express their point so as to have a thorough analysis on the same from the public?

According to Chiweza, in the abstract of his Democratisation Conference 2009 paper titled Centralization and State Formation in Rural Malawi, “decentralisation is believed to contribute to state formation processes through the devolution of power to the lowest unit of society facilitating Local Government’s pursuit with the central state for a new shape of the state.” In this case, perhaps government is afraid of this devolution of power.

One important thing about Local Government is that it is more effective than Central Government in providing opportunities for citizens to participate in the political life of their community, just as Andrew Heywood observes in his Politics book.

He adds, “As power tends to corrupt, centralization threatens to turn government into a tyranny against the individual…. But decentralization comes in to redress the problem because it protects liberty by dispersing government power, thereby creating a network of checks and balances on the state as well as on itself.” Thus, it is only governments that want to clasp absolute power that tend to ignore local polls.

And, as Chancellor College political scientist Blessings Chinsinga notes: “It is well known that the country (Malawi) quickly degenerated into an authoritarian regime because it had weak or no constitutional safeguards to facilitate the development and entrenchment of the culture of constitutionalism.”

And, if local polls are not held as soon as possible, then Malawians may be forgiven for fearing that the country may finally degenerate into an authoritarian regime.

Above everything, it is a practical fact that decentralization results in the power of the state being limited, and this is what most governments in the world fear about this type of government. But to another extent, decentralization is the best way of governance for all people.

It is one way of incorporating every citizen in governance since their participation is duly considered from the grassroots all the way to the state. That is why we were upbeat that this year would not collapse without Malawians electing their Ward Councilors, their representatives in whom they can have the ultimate trust, since they will interact with them on a continuous and consistent basis.

After all, one of the arguments for the essence of local polls is that decentralization is effective for the reduction of poverty due to inherent opportunities for higher popular participation and increased efficiency in public service delivery. Yet, as analysts have observed before, the executive arm of government and Parliament may not be keen to have elected councilors for fear of competition for the legislators.

In fact, some time back, one legislator was quoted as saying: “Because councilors are in touch with the grassroots everyday, they may own development projects and may challenge MPs during general elections.”

Perhaps, this is just another of the numerous reasons why governments fear local assemblies, and would rather do without them or just tramp over them using unrealistic provisions.

Some road accidents are avoidable

Some road accidents are avoidable


Death is life’s hardest reality. It saddens the hearts of the bereaved, yet on the other hand, it is a perfect tool for sharpening our understanding. It is a silent visitor that gropes into human affairs with no compassion and leaves us regretting, even in circumstances that were totally beyond our control. We typically think there was something that we would have done to save the deceased’s life – and sometimes, indeed such a possibility would have been there.

Death, surely, is for human beings, and therefore, all human beings must die. Nevertheless, its most disturbing irony is that it comes parked with all sorts of things that impel all sorts of explanations, even if it was expected; and even those that take others’ lives are in constant awe of death. That is why, for centuries, man has failed to understand death, because it does not change.

The death of a loved one is always painful – even if it is a hated loved one. No man in his normal sanity celebrates death. Even when a dangerous criminal is dying on the gallows, amidst shouts from witnesses, there always is that fear and pain of death, and you are then left concluding that only at this point, death has dominion.

The soaring rate of road accidents that are occurring on roads of Malawi is always giving Malawians ulcers. Travelers are in perfect fear of a darker future likely to dawn on them in the course of their journey. The pride of death is now complete and it has found numerous ways of visiting its victims. While in the past, deaths were very rare occurrences, now they are a dime a dozen. They have become common tragedies in human existence.

The most painful thing with most road accidents that take place on roads of Malawi is that they are a direct consequence of negligence and recklessness, habitually, on the part of drivers. How does a driver who spent his good time at a driving school enter a main road – or just any other road – without first checking whether or not a car is coming in either direction?

One thing that appears to be a very big problem that is contributing to road accidents, which could be avoided, is that most drivers who have the authority to take their vehicles to roads and streets are not competent enough to do such daring jobs. Driving has become one of the most ‘viable’ careers and nowadays, the majority of youths who finish their Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) desire to do driving.

And most of them acquire driving licenses even without having fully and competently finished their driving lessons. The corrupting influence of money is needlessly leading to loss of lives that would successfully contribute towards the development of this country.

Driving is both a theoretical and practical career, though most of its tenets may involve practice. Therefore, it is crucial that someone is certified a driver only after having satisfied all the requirements of driving.

It appears there is the tendency of taking driving as the easiest career among many Malawians, yet in actual sense, this is supposed to be the most involving profession because its application deals with human life. Every driver must be conscious of the fact that he is dealing with the irreplaceable thing that is only given out once. Thus, it makes sense that someone meditates thoroughly before joining the “driving profession”.

It goes without saying that most Malawian roads are in better conditions now due to constant renovations that are going on across the length and the breadth of the country, and road accidents were subsequently supposed to be the last thing to claim human life.

After all, statistics show that most road accidents in Malawi take place on roads that are in good conditions other than on those that are in dilapidated states. This is usually because of carelessness on the parts of most drivers. For instance, the numerous road accidents that take place on the well-constructed Chipembere Highway in Blantyre begs the question of what has gone wrong with drivers who use the road, all of a sudden.

Everyone, especially drivers, should take a leading responsibility in taming road accidents. With the ever-increasing rate of industrial development, traveling is inevitable among the average Malawian, and the easiest mode appears to be by road. Thus, all those who travel need to be guaranteed of their safety; otherwise, this dark future connected with road transport on Malawian roads is scaring.

Moreover, it appears, the current trend on these road accidents, indeed, portends a future that is likely to be darker than the present, with more and more threats on lives of Malawians.

HIV/AIDS and Education in Malawi

On 1st December last year just like any other 1st December the whole world was commemorating the deadly pandemic HIV/Aids and there were different gatherings tackling many issues regarding this global tragedy.

Currently, the whole world is facing a painful reality of the devastating effects of this human calamity. And since the theme for last year’s commemoration was “Universal Access and Human Rights” it was very alluring to focus only on areas that appeared to be “closely related” to this theme, ignoring other equally significant areas which the pandemic has not spared.

In essence, World AIDS Day was first commemorated on 1st December 1988. Among other things it involved and continues involving raising money, increasing awareness, fighting prejudice and improving education. This day is quite vital as long as reminding people that the impacts of the pandemic are still raveling is concerned.

Sometime back the international media reported that global leaders had pledged to work towards universal access to HIV/Aids treatment, prevention and care; recognising these as fundamental human rights. In Malawi, to a greater extent, some exclusive progress has been made in increasing access to HIV/Aids services, yet greater commitment is still needed in areas to do with human rights.

That is why sometime back, Vice President honourable Joyce Banda pointed out that if stigma and discrimination are not clearly scrutinized, many infected people will not come out in the open to disclose their status and thus, live traumatized lives.

It is a foregone conclusion that as this deadly pandemic continues claiming a substantial number of lives worldwide, the consequences are affecting different sectors of the society and one of these sectors, arguably, is education.

Education is basically taken as the basis of every country’s development and by implication, it is obvious that a crippled education system will demoralize the development of the country.

Children lose their parents to the pandemic, or they may just have their parents infected; the children themselves may be infected; teachers and other officials in the education sector are affected; at the household level, the impact is just too high; and the overriding impact is the reduction of human capital, which is at the centre of any kind of development.

“Of all the sectors, education is the worst affected by HIV/Aids, and Malawi continues losing teachers to this pandemic. That is why a course on HIV/Aids has been incorporated into teaching curriculums in all levels of education,” said a member of the Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) sometime back.

Above all areas, it is at the household and community level where the consequences of the HIV/Aids pandemic are fully felt. It precipitates poverty; and generally poor people are educationally disadvantaged.

Across Malawi, it has been observed that the classes of people that are most vulnerable are those that are the most economically well-off. And as they die, families are left with struggles galore and poverty finally overtakes them, thereby failing to educate the children. If they are still alive (but sick) concentration on the education of children is lessened as the attention is shifted from everything to them.

In other instances, when parents die, there is usually the mismanagement of finances by those in whom the welfare of the orphans has been entrusted, ultimately resulting in the orphans failing to acquire the kind of education they would be able to if their parents were alive. This again is a human rights issue, and to a certain extent, it is being sufficiently tackled by concerned stakeholders.

Aids also destroys human capital in the education sector just as it does in any other sector. People’s accumulated experiences, skills and knowledge built over a period of years are destroyed because their efficiency does not remain the same after they have been attacked by the pandemic, even before their death.

“HIV/Aids patients have reduced productivity and therefore need to take care of themselves in every way feasible so that they balance the efficiency of their bodies,” reads a report published by the Dalcon Medical Journal.

Though there are other things that affect education, it may be reasonable to theorise that much as HIV/Aids is not suitably put in the limelight when addressing issues of low education standards in Malawi, the pandemic at present poses the greatest challenge to sustained quality education whose virtues attached stakeholders are always extolling. Educationists point out that the structural implications of HIV related mortality on teachers and other civil servants in the education sector are projected to be very severe.

A number of studies have been carried out using HIV prevalence rates and other demographic and epidemiological data in a number of countries, including Malawi, to project the future of the pandemic and one of the conclusions of the studies is that during the projection period of 2003 to 2011, with Aids still rocking the education sector, there would be a demand to train 60 percent more teachers.

And the question is: which institutions would be used in the process if the ones that are already there are already incapable of achieving the needed requirement. Or perhaps, our last hope should be in the five universities to be built sooner or later.

The education sector is unlike many other sectors, though it finds company with others like the health sector. It has to remain functional irrespective of the human hours lost to absenteeism and death.

For instance, estimates on the impact of the pandemic on the public sector in Malawi show that vacancy levels in government ministries continue rising more especially in the Ministry of Education. This generally poses the challenge of how the ministry can remain competently functional in the face of this human resource gap, yet there is no option on the part of the ministry other than to continue training Malawians with the few human resource available.

Well, even though HIV/Aids was discovered many years ago, it appears in Malawi, it is only now that it has caught us napping. But we cannot sit down, fold our arms and wait for “come what may”. There is need for government and stakeholders to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on education.

The challenge for government and all those involved in the education sector is to provide the required data, help consolidate the design and implementation of policies and programmes that can help deal with the pandemic in order to sustain the required quality education for all Malawians.

To another extent, it appears the way we understand how HIV/Aids is affecting educational provision in Malawi is generally poor, even by those who seem to be directly “absorbed” in the education sector.

There is a need that educationists and other concerned stakeholders acquire adequate knowledge base which can make a tangible difference in schools and other educational institutions. Otherwise, our fight against HIV/Aids so as to create a conducive education environment appears to be struggling.

Football is no individual game

Football is no individual game

BY ANANIYA ALICK PONJE


In any kind of sport where more than one individual make up a team, it is impossible for one individual to be the sole contributor to the team’s success; yet in football, especially with our national team, for many times, there are some individuals who take themselves to stand out of the rest because of their talents.

It is absolutely true that there are footballers who are more skilled than others on the pitch. This usually is as a result of experience, or just inborn potential. And there are others as well who may not be as competent as others, but they too make up the whole team and are as important as anyone else.

It is oftentimes the nature of football for some players to be more famous than others and this is the case world over. These players are in most cases strikers or midfielders who score goals. It is rare for a defender to be as famous as a striker who scores goals; even if in reality the defender undertakes a harder task than the striker.

More often than not, the fame that goes with strikers is usually inspired by fans who adore the strikers so much while ignoring the contributions of the rest of the team who are as significant as anyone else.

Success in football seldom emanates from one individual’s skill, whatever the case. It is a direct result of concerted efforts of all players. Defenders have their own task of shielding the opposing strikers from scoring and midfielders have their own task of balancing the game so that the defence and the striking force have proper recipients and suppliers.

But, in spite of the fact that every player on a football pitch is an important lot, some players have the audacity of lifting themselves so high that they reach the point of thinking that a team cannot win if they do not play. Well, he might indeed have some extraordinary talent, but he himself scores goals because he is playing with others.

Not even the world footballer of the year will play alone on the field against a full rival team and expect to score. In fact, even for strikers’ goals to be appreciated there is need for the rival team not to win. If a striker scores six goals and the rival team scores seven goals, the six goals will not make any sense. But if the striker scores even one goal and the rival team does not score any goal, the single goal will be of much significance.

This is where the defenders become as important as anyone else, because if they let the opposing strikers penetrate them and score goals, the single goal scored by their striker might be meaningless. Even for the strikers to score there is need for the midfielders to supply good passes, and to balance the game properly. Hence, no one individual player can claim to hold the key to a team’s success.

Yet in Malawi, with both the national team and clubs, some players oftentimes behave as though they are the only important ones in the team. They sometimes boycott games and it has to take the coach and other involved individuals to coax him. This is an insult to other players in the team, because they conclusively view themselves as less important. In this case, it is impossible for such players to play to the very best of their abilities.

In fact, a single player’s success cannot be attributed to him alone. There are many other individuals involved. There is the coach, the people who surround him where he comes from, the fans who offer support as he progresses to score on the field and many others. That is why it does not make sense for one footballer to take himself as the carrier of a team’s success.

Even the most talented player will seldom deliver to the best of his ability if he is playing among a bunch of incapable players. Concerted efforts come from a combination of capable players on the pitch. Thus, no footballer should take himself as more important than the rest.

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