The letter below was written by a prominent activist and posted on her Facebook account, addressed to the Editor of Time Magazine. It follows shocking revelations yesterday that the Government of Malawi was spending K295million (£295,000) on Time Magazine to write ‘Positive Stories’ about Malawi. This comes at a financially crippling time for Malawi, when the economy is in a mess (and there are revelations everyday of scandals of one kind or another), yet the government doesn’t appear to be doing anything to improve or rectify the situation:-
While Time Magazine cannot be accused for the transaction itself (they are simply doing business), besides the ethics of this whole thing, one wonders why the Malawian government is spending sooo much money on what is clearly an unnecessary expense. For one, parliament did not authorise such expenditure, and activists on the ground claim that this is happening simply because Peter Mutharika feels threatened since he has failed to steer the country into recovery after nearly two years in power. Further, a relatively small sum such as £10,000 would probably have been sufficient to place adverts on Social Media sites that attract far more investors and tourists than Time Magazine’s collective readership, for the whole year! Not that doing so would have been necessarily a wise move …my point is this deal is in all apearances a waste of money Malawi simply does not have.
People in Malawi are angry with Peter Mutharika’s leadership because the government has so far failed to show that it is capable of addressing the problems which the country has been facing for a while now. Despite what Mutharika has said in the past, the government is not listening to the needs of Malawians.
Corruption continues to be widespread, there are no medicines in hospitals (and some newly graduated doctors couldn’t be employed recently – in a country in with one of the worst doctor to patient ratios – because the government said it had no money), there is drug theft scandal costing Malawi K5 billion a year (thats about £5 million); the economy is worsening – the Malawi Kwacha continues to lose value, the cost of living is increasing – but pay even in the private sector remains unchanged; criminality is on the increase, there are no jobs, and yet the government is doing nothing to help – and is obsessed with private jets and luxury, with ministers embroiled in various scandals. The opposition parties in Parliament have no teeth and donors are reluctant to intervene, or are decidedly looking away.
You have to wonder who is advising this government? As I wrote in July last year here, there seems to be a chain of bad decision after another coming out of Lilongwe (as was the case with the last government – which at one point hired a UK Firm also for repuation laundering) you really have to wonder who is advising them?? Any sensible political adviser at this financially difficult time for Malawians would have advised Peter Mutharika against this latest move. This was an opportunity to buy beds and food for hospitals or something that would ease the pain of ordinary Malawians (£295,000 can buy 492 beds which could help approximately 19,680 patients in Malawi for a year according to figures on this article).In any case you don’t pay for reputation laundering or good publicity when people are dying in hospitals due to lack of medicines; when sick people are sleeping on the floor, and have no food, when your country is facing a hunger crisis, when your ministers (and advisers) are being accused of corruption; when your economy is fragile and you have so many corruption cases dragging painfully through the court at snails pace; when the country is broke…?
If I were the decision-maker at Time Magazine (or Business Outlook Limited in this case), not only for my publication’s respected reputation, but for the good of humanity – at least to Malawians, I’d distance my publication from this unwise, messy, undemocratic, expensive and blood stained deal. I’d tell the Malawi government to go sort out the water and electricity supply in their country, to go sort out the education system, to begin to pay teachers and civil servants on time, to address the healthcare crisis, to buy food for those facing hunger due to the floods…to get to the bottom of all the corruption / fraud crises, I’d tell them to go genuinely sort out their country, and return only when the situation had truly changed! And there was sufficient evidence to prove it…
Update 11/1/16 @5.30 am:
It appears that this company, Business Outlook Limited, not Times Magazine is company which has dealings with the Malawi Government. I thought I should clarify this point.