Author Archives: cliffkawanga

LCC must act on Chilima’s order

Nobody prepares for disaster, which is why we always sympathise with those who fall victim to calamity.

It is also indisputable that, of late, emergency situations have become commonplace, partly due to climate change and partly due to artificial circumstances created by people.

One of the things that have become an undesirable weight on our heads is that of floods. In the past, the Lower Shire was synonymous with floods.

In the end, the pattern of floods became predictable, to the extent that some well-wishers started backing down, after getting suspicious that, perhaps, the Lower Shire people were used to hand-outs. To make matters worse, the people themselves were reluctant to relocate, arguing that they could not abandon their ancestors’ graves.

Over the past three years, floods have started affecting areas hitherto considered safe. We are talking of areas such as Mtandire in Lilongwe, where floods wreaked havoc last year. As you are reading this, some of the victims of the floods have expressed anger over failure by the authorities to fulfill promises.

Recently, the country woke up to the sad news that Lingadzi River flooded again, destroying property worth millions. We feel for the victims of the floods. We know that no one prepares for disaster.

At the same time, we feel that, sometimes, we expose ourselves to danger. For example, while the country has city and town plans, some people go about constructing houses and other infrastructure in areas not designated for settlement.

In this regard, we agree with Vice-President Saulos Chilima that it is high time we took appropriate action. It baffles us that, sometimes, even when it is clear that procedures have been flouted, our leaders leave things to chance and behave as if this is a lawless country. Perhaps leaders fail to do the right thing because they are looking for votes.

A few years ago, under the administration of the late Bingu wa Mutharika, some cities introduced the Red Star campaign. The initiative gathered steam at the time, only to falter along the way.

The other day, Blantyre Water Board compensated those who were illegally farming on its land.

Of late, Blantyre City Council has been failing to chase those who have illegally settled on the foot of Soche Hill, even after the people have been offered land to settle on elsewhere. To make matters worse, some of the illegal settlers have challenged the City Fathers, vowing to die on the pieces of land they do not own.

This seems to be the case in Lilongwe, too, where some people continue to defy City Fathers’ orders to relocate. In the end, when disasters such as floods hit, it is the nation that pays the price.

Moving forward, those responsible must bring this state of lawlessness to an end by relocating people who have constructed houses in undesignated areas. We can no longer afford to reward lawlessness. We believe this time the Lilongwe City Council will not allow politician to stand in its way otherwise Chilima’s order would mean nothing.

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Don’t compensate everyone

There is too much emphasis on corruption as the reason a number of projects have stalled in Malawi. While it is easy to blame corruption on almost everything that goes wrong, there is need to seriously look at how people’s lawlessness has affected projects that would benefit Malawians.

The lawlessness we are referencing comes in the form of illegal structures built on land meant for structures which either the city or government planned for. It is quite strange that when the government wants to construct a road for instance, the people who have illegal structures on that land would demand compensation.

Almost everyone knows that the dual carriage road from Area 49 to City Centre through Area 18 would make life easier for motorists in Lilongwe. This is a huge project which must not be delayed by some people who are demanding compensation yet most of them cannot explain how they got the land or the permission to construct on a land reserved for a road.

It is the same situation near Kachere Township where the road construction has stalled because some houses are close to the road and if the government was to demolish the structures, the owners would demand compensation.

The way some Malawians demand compensation is quite baffling. It is not unusual when someone is compensated for damage or loss of property. In Malawi, compensation has become an easy way of making money because anyone can construct anywhere knowing well that the government would compensate them.

Perhaps we must blame the government from doing little to discourage illegal structures. Since almost everything is politicised, it would not be surprising that the government would do nothing because if it were to do something, people would not vote for the current administration.

Some of the questions one can raise are: Who deserves to be compensated? When should they be compensated? How much should be the compensation package and why are some compensation figures are so astronomical?

Unless we scrutinised the compensation system, people will never stop demanding compensation for petty issues. People should only be compensated for pertinent issues like injuries, damage to property or loss of property and loss of life.

It is very unfortunate that some greedy people, who demand to be compensated, have only succeeded in delaying the projects that would improve our lives.

Perhaps it is the lesson to government that lawlessness cannot be condoned. Those who build on land that does not belong to them must not be treated with kid gloves. The government has some decisions to make. The right decisions would make government popular because almost everyone is tired of seeing everything going wrong.

 

Don’t compensate everyone

There is too much emphasis on corruption as the reason a number of projects have stalled in Malawi. While it is easy to blame corruption on almost everything that goes wrong, there is need to seriously look at how people’s lawlessness has affected projects that would benefit Malawians.

The lawlessness we are referencing comes in the form of illegal structures built on land meant for structures which either the city or government planned for. It is quite strange that when the government wants to construct a road for instance, the people who have illegal structures on that land would demand compensation.

Almost everyone knows that the dual carriage road from Area 49 to City Centre through Area 18 would make life easier for motorists in Lilongwe. This is a huge project which must not be delayed by some people who are demanding compensation yet most of them cannot explain how they got the land or the permission to construct on a land reserved for a road.

It is the same situation near Kachere Township where the road construction has stalled because some houses are close to the road and if the government was to demolish the structures, the owners would demand compensation.

The way some Malawians demand compensation is quite baffling. It is not unusual when someone is compensated for damage or loss of property. In Malawi, compensation has become an easy way of making money because anyone can construct anywhere knowing well that the government would compensate them.

Perhaps we must blame the government from doing little to discourage illegal structures. Since almost everything is politicised, it would not be surprising that the government would do nothing because if it were to do something, people would not vote for the current administration.

Some of the questions one can raise are: Who deserves to be compensated? When should they be compensated? How much should be the compensation package and why are some compensation figures are so astronomical?

Unless we scrutinised the compensation system, people will never stop demanding compensation for petty issues. People should only be compensated for pertinent issues like injuries, damage to property or loss of property and loss of life.

It is very unfortunate that some greedy people, who demand to be compensated, have only succeeded in delaying the projects that would improve our lives.

Perhaps it is the lesson to government that lawlessness cannot be condoned. Those who build on land that does not belong to them must not be treated with kid gloves. The government has some decisions to make. The right decisions would make government popular because almost everyone is tired of seeing everything going wrong.

 

We must have functioning justice system

If we had a country without laws, how safe would it be to live in it? Or if we had laws without a system to enforce the laws, how useful would such laws be?

In Malawi, we have both the laws and the system to enforce the laws but as it has been observed on numerous occasions, the justice system in Malawi is not yet at the level we all desire.

Despite the many challenges, one that has been obvious is the delayed judgements which have caused a lot of suffering to those who rely on the courts to have their issues resolved.

The delays are a huge concern. The fact that the Malawi Law Society President Mwiza Nkhata is equally worried, we believe it is high time we saw change.

We assume that this has been discussed in other forums before and the longer it takes to address this, the more worrying it becomes because soon the public will lose trust in the system.

Ideally, the public must have trust in the justice system. This would not only ensure that justice prevails but it will also promote justice-seeking behaviour among citizens who in turn will become upright and champion justice themselves.

One of the worrying trends in Malawi is mob justice. This has been sustained by the failure of the justice system to quickly prosecute cases. We believe quick delivery of justice would entrench in the society the trust which is required to have a lawful country.

Mob justice is a result of the frustrations people have always harboured. Although it can be caused by a number of factors but what has been captured, among the frustrated people to engage in mob justice, is the perception that the courts take too long to help.

The incident in Mzuzu, for instance, is a result of an individual’s frustration who since 2015 had hoped that justice would take place. Although we are not condoning his behaviour, we believe had the courts acted quickly to deliver judgement, the incident could have been avoided.

Of course we can point at all the bad things about delayed judgements but at the end of the day, someone must take responsibility to ensure that Malawi must have a functioning justice system.

Don’t dismiss Callista’s sentiments

Former First Lady Callista Mutharika has made a lot of allegations suggesting that President Peter Mutharika is not bad but the bad people who have surrounded him are misleading him.

While some people say this is a family issue and should be left as such, others still believe the issues raised are national affecting every Malawian who has failed to access the basic things because of the bad people surrounding the President.

It might not be possible to highlight every detail but what is clear is that Mutharika has surrounded himself with loyalists and friends who are doing everything to remain close to the President. While this might be perceived as a good thing by the President, to have loyalists, there is a bigger picture that Mutharika must not ignore that is why Callista’s sentiments should be appreciated as such.

On a number of occasions, Mutharika has failed to act despite knowing well that some of the people close to him are corrupt or have somehow contributed to corrupt practices. Despite same issues being raised by the media and indeed some Civil Society Organisations, Mutharika seems not to care and life goes on.

Meanwhile, the people who mandated Mutharika to lead the country in 2014 continue suffering for lacking the basic needs. Of course people who care about the country have been looking for an explanation and Callista has just provided it.

The bad thing about bad people is that they would tell the President lies that everything is well when it is not. The bad people would paint a picture that all is rosy when it is not. And the bad people are the first one to dip into the national purse and help themselves knowing well that the President would do nothing.

But as the former First Lady has suggested, there is a way to end this. The good thing with life is that an opportunity would always arise for one to correct what is wrong and choose the right path. Reflecting the First Lady’s sentiments, that opportunity will come in 2019 during which Malawians will choose visionary leaders.

It is not only the President that Malawians would have an opportunity to choose. There are members of Parliament and indeed councillors that must be chosen for their vision and not their lies.

We all know that there are members of Parliament who also serve their interests and not the interests of the people who gave them the power. These are bad people too.

Just like many people would want the former First Lady’s sentiments to be dismissed, Malawians must reflect on the bad things that the bad people have done. The bad people have not only misled the President but they have also derailed the country’s development that is why 2019 presents Malawians with another opportunity to get rid of bad people.

Sant’Egidio eases Mulanje Prison’s water woes

The Community of Sant’ Egidio regards imprisonment as an opportunity for offenders to reflect on their lives. It is the time that prisoners need to be loved with the hope that after serving their sentences, they can be accommodated back in the community and become meaningful citizens.

Inspired by the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Community of Sant’Egidio is implementing a number of projects including the Prison Service which has transformed prisoners’ life using the word of God, nurturing friendships and emphasising on the spirit of giving.

During one of the regular visits to Mulanje Prison – the recent one being in November 2017 – the Community of Sant’ Egidio identified unreliable water supply as a challenge in the bid to reform the prisoners.

One of the responsible persons for Community of Sant’ Egidio Bruce Tambwali said the spirit of giving is what motivates the members to make sure that prisoners live in an environment which will help in their reformation.

“Some people feel that prisoners must be punished but what Jesus teaches us is that even prisoners should be loved. When we visited the prisoners last year, we found out that water was a problem. Sometimes it can take three days without running water in the prison,” Tambwali said.

Tambwali said the Borehole Project will cost about K18 million which was raised by the members in Italy.

“We are grateful to our friends in Italy who have contributed a lot to this project. It is important to understand that water is life and no-one can survive without water.

“We will sink a borehole and a pump will be installed too. We will put in place water tanks which would be enough to be used for five days if there was no running water,” he said.

Apart from sinking the borehole, the project will also see the renovation of the water system in the prison.

“We noticed some leakages which we will work on as part of this project. We also want to build a communal kiosk inside the prison which our friends can use,” Tambwali said.

Although the Community of Sant’ Egidio is a non-profit making organisation, Tambwali said the contributions members make has made the community’s work easier.

“We have managed to implement a number of projects because the members are committed to what we do. We believe in giving and sharing because that is what Jesus Christ teaches us,” he said.

Superintendent Charles Nyambo, who is Second-in-Charge of Mulanje Prison, said the project will ensure that the environment inside the prison is clean all the time.

“Whenever you talk about sanitation, then you need to have clean water all the time. Not everyone in prison is allowed to go out of prison so it is important to make water available to prisoners. We thank the Community of Sant’ Egidio for easing our problems,” he said.

Friendship is the foundation on which the work of Sant’Egidio is built on. Through friendship, the Community of Sant’ Egidio is committed to serve the poor.

The students of 1968 who began gathering around the Word of God, felt the Gospel could not be lived far from poor people: poor people as friends and the Gospel as the good news for poor people.

When the service of the community began, it was called People’s School because apart from tutoring, it was the beginning of a friendship between the rich and the poor.

Provision of safe water is priority

Only the government believes it is doing a good job in its response to the cholera outbreak in Malawi but in reality, we should not be talking about this disease whose long-lasting remedy is safe water, sanitation and hygiene.

To think that cholera would soon be the story of the past is deliberately ignoring the attitude of the government: “Anything that has no effect on the livelihood of the elite is nothing to worry about.”

Have we, for instance, found an explanation why Kauma will likely have a number of cholera cases but none in Area 12 which is just a stone throw away? The answer is simple: the two groups are living in totally different worlds – the “haves” and the “have-nots”.

Perhaps starting another debate about, the haves and have-nots, will confuse the readers especially because the conversation here is about whether the government is doing enough in its response to cholera.

Firstly, the cholera outbreak is reflective of investment in ignorance and now we are just reaping from what we invested in. Surely, cholera has no carrier but the activities of the people in the community will contribute to the outbreak somehow. In this age, a lot of people in Malawi still believe that cholera emanates from witchcraft. The reason for this thinking is that since cholera would kill fast, people in the community would believe that anything that kills you fast must be connected with magic. Wasn’t it just recently that a lot of people believed that anyone who died while taking a bath meant that the person was struck by a magic hammer? Since there is more awareness than before, most people in the community now understand that high blood pressure can indeed kill. Perhaps the question is: Has the government, through relevant departments or ministries done enough to explain to the people how cholera is spread? It is easy to blame the communities for their role in the spread of cholera but it is the responsibility of the government that should be addressing the knowledge gaps.

Secondly, there seems to be no enforcement of sanitation and hygiene in our cities and towns. For argument’s sake, we usually see food certificates hanging on the walls of restaurants which indicate that the restaurants have met minimum standards to provide food to the people. But when one goes around the cities and towns, there are a lot of people using make-shift restaurants selling chiwaya but the hygiene of the place is not that good. Is cholera being spread by the people selling chiwaya or the government which is failing to enforce the standards by taking to task the city or town councils?

For instance, all the three cities – Mzuzu, Lilongwe and Blantyre – banned the sale of ready-made foods to try and combat the spread of cholera.  This was a commendable decision but this was just a public stunt so that Malawians should say the city councils are doing something to control the spread of cholera. But if you were to visit the cities today, the ban was never enforced and you can see food vendors operating their businesses as usual. This only shows that the city councils can relax knowing well that the government itself cannot do anything about it.

Thirdly, the government is yet to step up efforts to respond to the cholera outbreak. Knowing well that a lot of people drink water from unprotected sources, there is no indication yet that the government is working with the water boards to either distribute chlorine or treat the water before use.

If you see pictures of officials either distributing chlorine or pretending to be working in Lilongwe, just know that is being done for publicity and not to save people’s lives. Instead, these officials should go to rural areas where the media is absent because the greater benefit is to see that most people get help.

It is a reality that most rural areas do not have boreholes and where boreholes are available, sanitation is an issue. For instance in Ngolowindo in Salima, there is a household where a woman was diagnosed with cholera and fortunately she was treated and now she getting better. However, after tests were carried out, it was found out that the water from the borehole is contaminated yet the borehole is not sealed. The warning to the users was only through word of mouth. What is obvious is that some people stopped using the borehole nearby while others who are still using the water are either boiling the water before use or using chlorine but how effective can this be? For instance, for those using chlorine, can they apply the right quantities always? For a government that is serious, you would expect to see workers in the communities. Their presence alone would generate the interest among the people and who in turn would seek proper guidance on how to avoid the disease.

Indeed the government might be seen to be doing something about the cholera outbreak but I believe there are a lot of people in the communities who are still vulnerable just because the government is yet to step up its efforts.

 

Consult widely on HIV/Aids Bill

The importance of legislation in a democracy is obvious. The process of formulating any kind of legislation should be exhaustive considering that any gaps would cause more problems than the original problems that a particular legislation is meant to address.

 

To begin with, legislation is one of the most important instruments of the government in organising the society and protecting citizens. It determines amongst others the rights and responsibilities of individuals and authorities to whom the legislation applies.

 

In Malawi, the HIV and Aids Prevention and Management Bill, which if enacted, would address a number of issues regarding HIV and Aids. Chief to that is protection of citizens most of whom have suffered immensely due to practices of individuals.

 

However, as some Civil Society Organisations have indicated, there are a lot of challenges hence their stand to see the bill dropped.

 

Whichever side one takes, it is obvious that this bill will cause problems therefore there is need to consult widely before any decision is made. This would mean consulting groups of people who might have been ignored initially despite the fact that most of the CSOs represent the views of the people.

 

Knowing how formulation of legislation is done, we believe there were consultations before reaching this stage. Whether concerned citizens’ views were considered or not, it is not too late to re-look at the Bill and decide whether it is important to go ahead or not.

 

The strides that Malawi has made in HIV/Aids fight, through a number of interventions, provide hope that the right approaches have been embraced. As indicated by the concerned CSOs, those achievements might be eroded if we are not careful.

 

As suggested by the activists, the interventions that have proved to be effective should be intensified instead of redirecting energies elsewhere which could only lead to more confusion.

 

We understand the call made by CSOs that the Bill should be dropped but we also believe that some of such decisions are only emotional. To ensure that the country takes the right direction, we believe there is need to consult widely.

Let’s unite to develop Malawi

In April this year, at the launch of Human Development Report 2016 by the government and United Nations Development Programme, the most striking statement was that Malawi is moving out of the low human development category at a rather slow pace despite being a conflict-free country.

Perhaps the most important part of the statement was that Malawi is conflict-free which means Malawians are united. It should translate therefore that a country that is united should enjoy steady development but the picture for Malawi is rather gloomy.

What use would our peace, which is a result of unity, be if it is not utilised to transform the lives of Malawians and improve the standards of living? If indeed there is little progress, President Peter Mutharika’s call that we should be united in order to develop the country should be taken seriously.

This should start with the president by being committed to fight against vices, like corruption, which have derailed the country’s development drive. It is only a united nation that will work together to achieve a common goal.

In Malawi, corruption has thrived because as a nation we do not have a common goal. If indeed we were united, corruption in Malawi – which is a mark of greed — would not have been that rampant.

Sadly, the systems that are in place have done little to get rid of corruption which has been accepted as normal in our society. It is sad that the biggest loser, due to corruption, is the ordinary man in the village who — because of corruption — would rarely access drugs at the hospital, would drink from unsafe water sources and will not enjoy social services.

Mutharika’s call for unity recognises that a united people would love their nation more. Indeed no foreigner will come to develop our country if the citizens do not do enough to establish a common goal.

 

We therefore believe that unity would be meaningless if it cannot be used to eliminate the vices that have held the country back. The peace that we enjoy would be meaningless if we cannot make use of it.

 

Pupils deserve decent classrooms

Malawi’s development agenda is impressive on paper but implementation is characterised by a half-hearted approach which has left out a section of the society.
If there was a directive made today by President Peter Mutharika that all top government officials should send their children to public primary schools, how many would comply?

We believe those not willing would be 100 percent for the simple fact that public primary schools are a sorry sight which presents a true picture of Malawi’s stagnation as far as development dream is concerned.

There are pictures we see published in the newspapers. In all fairness, we could have done with such pictures only because pictures do not lie yet words can exaggerate.

But what Malawians see published is not an exaggeration at all; it is a picture of Malawi celebrating 53 years of independence. What does this tell us?

Well, this picture sums up the lip service of politicians who have not done enough to change the situation despite successive governments boasting of the achievements they have made.

If the government ignores the education situation in Malawi, we better forget about developing at all.

For a country that is committed to defining its own destiny, education should be at the centre of its initiatives. We cannot talk of development without considering education as a catalyst.

What should be remembered always is that education is one of the fundamental factors of development. Malawi cannot achieve economic development without investment in education. In this age, a basic classroom is achievable but the pictures we see tell us how clueless the government is in trying to carve its own development path.