How much does an Ambulance cost?

But even if you didn’t want to dish out a fortune on new ambulances, there are other options. For example, there are companies which sell used or refurbished ambulances, and the prices for these vary, but some ambulances registered as recent as 2018, cost less than US$14,000. This means that if you added on the cost of the shipping ontop (about US$5,000 from the UK/ US to Malawi), you would be looking at paying around US$20,000 per unit; roughly one-third of the quoted price!

Obviously these figures will vary widely and will depend on various factors including the ambulance type, whether it is new or used ambulance, and equipment installed, the list of requirements from the buyer (beyond standard equipment), and the type of manufacturer. But the above gives a window into the world of ambulance procurement / manufacturing, albeit from an outsider’s point of view.

STEPPING DOWN TO STEP UP: WHY MALAWI SHOULD FOLLOW IN MADAGASCAR AND CABO VERDE’S FOOTSTEPS


A RECENT REPORT BY THE INSTITUTE FOR SECURITY STUDIES (ISS) ARGUES THAT MADAGASCAR AND CABO VERDE HAVE EVENED OUT THE ELECTORAL PLAYING FIELD FOR ALL PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS BY LEGISLATING THE STEPPING DOWN OF AN INCUMBENT PRESIDENT PRIOR TO PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.

  • Listen to this article by clicking here [via SpeechKit]

These two cases are singled out as they are anomalies in Africa’s political landscape, which is marred by what the ISS’s report has termed ‘Incumbency Abuse’.
In Malawi; no elected president had ever lost a re-election, since the nation became a democracy in 1993; until this year when Peter Muntharika lost to opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera. Often, incumbents have won by a meagre percentage (38.57% in 2019, 36.4% in 2014) not representing the choice of the majority of the eligible voters.

While the First-Past-The-Post electoral system partly explains this, a large reason for these candidates being re-elected as opposed to an opposition candidate winning the election is the incumbency advantage their position gives them to garner resources for political campaigning.
The report highlights that mandating presidents seeking re-election to step down before going to the polls removes an acting president’s access to state resources for political campaign uses.

In 2015, Malawi’s then deputy Mayor for Mzuzu City, Frazer Chunga, was cited in an article by The Times Group saying his official car had been grabbed by the regional committee for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), of which former President Peter Muntharika heads, for campaigning use.

Such abuses would be easily mitigated by legislating the mandatory stepping down of a president seeking re-election prior to elections. Additionally, this would put all candidates on par, with the exception of an incumbent being able to show what developmental goals (if any) have been achieved nationally during their tenure.
Furthermore, the ISS finds that instituting a mandatory stepping aside of an acting president would assist in “addressing negative perceptions of voter manipulation and vote-rigging which have contributed to post-electoral violence and political instability on the continent [of Africa].”

This is of high relevance to Malawi as the country has gone to the polls for the second time in two years on the 23rd of June 2020.

Since Muntharika was announced re-elected in May 2019, Malawi had experienced a year of public demonstrations let by CSOs including the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), who claimed that the last elections were rigged and highly manipulated by the incumbent. Thousands of citizens joined the HRDC in support of the protests, culminating in the Constitutional Court nullifying the 2019 poll in favour of fresh elections.

Thus, the stepping down of a president to avoid even the perception of tampering with the electoral process would go a long way in promoting post-electoral peace and stability and insuring that issues of malpractice are resolved independently.
The report however, does state that the stepping down of a president before an election, is not a fool-proof mechanism to mitigating the problem of incumbency abuse. Presidents are still able to control systems, making them work in their favor though not being in power. This being said, systems can always be improved, checked, and completely rewritten. As such, while being a concern, it does not negate the call for presidents to set aside their presidential duties until post-elections.
In a nutshell, with rising impunity and incumbency abuse in the African continent, the recommendation of the ISS for other African countries to follow the examples of Madagascar and Cabo Verde should be seriously considered by policy-makers if Africa is to truly work towards free and fair elections for all.

And while Malawi has broken the cycle of an incumbent president never losing, the ushering in of the new regime should not be viewed as the solution to all incumbency abuse. Let us see if when the time comes, Chakwera will be able to step down, to step up.

Malawi: Giving the smallest babies the best chance at life

Malawi has one of the highest rates of preterm birth in the world. Nearly 1 in 5 babies are born before 37 weeks of gestation. Globally, complications of prematurity, such as difficulty in feeding, breathing and regulating body temperature, are the single largest cause of neonatal death. In order to survive, these babies need specialized care and equipment—resources most developing countries do not have.

Malawi is no exception.

When Dr Elizabeth Molyneux started treating preterm babies at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi more than 40 years ago, she did not have incubators to keep babies warm. Nor did she have phototherapy lights to prevent jaundice or specialized equipment to ensure their tiny airways stayed open.

“It’s been clear over the years that the smallest babies in Malawi were the most neglected,” explains Dr Molyneux.

Determined to help, Dr Molyneux helped to set up the hospital’s neonatal care unit, which today admits more than 3 000 babies a year. At first, she introduced warm cots and kangaroo mother care, a method which encourages skin-to-skin contact, but found she also needed a way to help babies whose lungs were not fully developed to breathe.

A low-cost solution

Engineering students at Rice University in Texas, USA, were able to design the solution—a low-cost bubble continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device called Pumani, which means “breathe” in the Malawian language of Chichewa. And it’s working. Since 2006, more than 1000 babies’ lives have been saved.

“Before CPAP we found that, if we couldn’t give any breathing support, mortality was high. By giving CPAP to babies who needed the support, survival rates improved in premature babies with breathing difficulties from 24% to 67%,” says Norman Lufesi, Head of the Acute Respiratory Infection Unit, Malawi Ministry of Health.

This is good news in a country where 1 out of 43 newborns die within the first 4 weeks of life.

“While CPAP has made a big difference for babies with respiratory distress syndrome, we still have a long way to go to reduce neonatal mortality,” says Dr Molyneux. “We still need a package of care that can be sustained in all of our hospitals.”

Preterm birth guidelines

Worldwide, complications of prematurity are the leading cause of deaths among children under the age of 5. In order to reduce neonatal and child mortality, WHO recommends evidence-based interventions be given to women at imminent risk for preterm birth or to preterm babies after birth.

CPAP, kangaroo mother care, surfactant and oxygen therapy are all newborn interventions outlined in, “WHO recommendations on interventions to improve preterm birth outcomes,” a new guideline published this month. Recommended maternal interventions to improve preterm babies’ chances of survival include antenatal corticosteroids, when gestation is confirmed to be between 24 and 34 weeks, antibiotics when the fetal membranes are ruptured, and magnesium sulfate for protecting the infant against serious neurological complications.

While Malawi has implemented CPAP, kangaroo mother care and oxygen therapy at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, which is the country’s largest health facility, the designated neonatal rooms in most of the district hospitals are without specialized equipment or trained staff. Over the past 2 years CPAP has been introduced into 28 district hospitals and will soon be in 8 non-profit hospitals.

Focused on every newborn

Through early adoption of global policies and programmes to increase access to life-saving newborn and child health interventions, Malawi is one of a few countries in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve Millennium Development Goal 4, which aims to reduce under-5 mortality by two-thirds by the end of this year. In 1990, 1 in 4 Malawian children died before the age of five. Today, the rate is 1 in 14.

“We have done a good job at reducing under-5 child mortality in Malawi, but 44% of the deaths continue to be babies within their first month of life,” says Fannie Kachale, Director of Reproductive Health, Malawi Ministry of Health. “We realize we could have done even better if we had focused more on newborn health.”

To improve the situation, the country recently launched an adaptation of WHO and UNICEF’s Every Newborn Action Plan, with the goal of reducing neonatal mortality to 17 per 1 000 births by 2030. As part of the plan, Malawi is increasing the number of skilled birth attendants, giving antenatal corticosteroids and antibiotics to women with preterm labour using stringent criteria as defined by WHO, and strengthening newborn care during the first 4 weeks of life.

The country is also renovating 10 neonatal care units in the district hospitals and expanding Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital’s kangaroo mother care unit to 40 beds. “Through CPAP, babies who wouldn’t otherwise have survived are now surviving,” says Lufesi. “Hopefully by adding good neonatal care units in our hospitals we’ll be able to save even more babies and reduce our neonatal mortality rates.”

source: WHO

Study finds major lack of resources for rehab patients in Malawi

Malawi has a population of 16 million, yet, only one inpatient rehabilitation center for individuals with stroke, spinal cord injury, and similar conditions. With just 40 beds, the Kachere Rehabilitation Center in Blantyre, Malawi’s second largest city, provides services to the entire country. Because there is little funding for rehabilitation in the country, there is essentially no rehabilitation and follow-up services for patients after they return to their families, homes, and communities.

Leslie B. Glickman, PT, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM), examined how a group of the center’s patients reintegrated back into their community after leaving. She found that patients had moderate to severe difficulties. They faced a range of obstacles, including major physical and environmental barriers, as well as social exclusion, and feelings of sadness. “It was not unusual to find sources of water hundreds of yards from the home, public transportation miles away, uneven and mountainous terrain leading to and around the homes, narrow doorways inside the homes, and rooms too small for wheelchair or walker use,” said Dr. Glickman. The study was published recently in the Journal of Global Health.

More here (medicalxpress.com)

Malawi Government Financial Audit: how many billions are unaccounted for?

Beware when an official document of any sort begins with a disclaimer. More often than not, something fishy is going on in the background, and someone somewhere is trying to wash their hands off it.

Last week, the leaked PwC ‘audit’ report (titled ‘Reconstruction of the Malawian Government Cashbook for purposes of further investigation’) which some people (including the Legal Affairs chair Peter Chakhwatha) claim is just an outline or at most a data analysis, revealed that MK577 billion was unaccounted for from Malawi government accounts between 1st January 2009 and 31st December 2014:-

shortfallThis news has shocked many people in Malawi, and media reports are saying theat MP’s are pressing government to publish the real report, and submit it to parliament.

But irrespective of whether the K577 billion truly reflects the total shortfall or not, or whether there is more damning news in the real report, I think it would help with putting things into perspective if we analysed the kind of figures we are dealing with here, in US$ as opposed to Malawi Kwacha (MK) only.

A direct exchange of the MK577,238,840,510.67 on Xe.com  shows the sum to be equivalent to US$1,312,092,746.42 (1.3 Billion dollars). But this is incorrect since devaluation will have altered the power of the Kwacha over the years.

I believe the question which must be asked is how much of this shortfall was unaccounted for in each year during this period?

Meaning to find a less inaccurate dollar equivalent, we need to know how much of the K577 billion went missing in each of the years between 2009 and 2014. But again this method would have limitations since the exchange rate would have varied from month to month during this period, necessitating conversions from month to month.

However, a less inaccurate figure can be obtained by converting the sums in each year with the exchange rate at the time. Thus, looking only at the total value of payments greater than or equal to MK 1 million not in Cashbook as outlined by the PwC report:-

All-Payments greater than MK1 million, on Bank Statement not on Cashbook

a more credible figure of the US$ equivalent can be ascertained by taking averages of historical exchange rates in each year, or better in each month. Using this method, then in 2009, an Oanda conversion of MK21, 313,307,081.36 (21 billion) would have given you between US$146 million and US$154 million. But the statistical number crunching used looks somewhat complex. And I’m neither an Accountant, nor an economist…

An easier conversion as of 1st January 2009, on Xe.com would have equated US$1 to MK142.7, meaning MK21, 313,307,081.36 on that date would have been equivalent to US$149, 357,442. (149 million dollars).

average-fxThus, using average exchange rates such as those on FXtop.com or on Mundi, it follows that MK21, 313,307,081.36 in 2009 was equivalent to US$151,008,268.96. This means that give or take, the Malawi government couldn’t account for at least US$ 150 million in 2009, if we consider payments greater than MK1 million only as shown in the above table!

Who knows what the real figure is if we include sums below MK1 million ??

Similarly, in 2010 US$188,244,090.18 (188 million dollars) was unaccounted for; in 2011 US$112,357,926.19 (112 million dollars) was unaccounted for; in 2012 US$53,806,121.29 (53 million dollars) was unaccounted for; in 2013 US$357, 264,295.90 (357 million dollars) was unaccounted for, and in 2014, US$35, 412,203.75 (35 million dollars) was unaccounted for.

This gives a total shortfall of US$747, 084,637.31 (747 million dollars)

But since we are currently only looking at the total value of payments greater than or equal to MK 1 million not in Cashbook (K217 billion), then, it means if we consider the whole MK577 billion alleged to have been unaccounted for, then we are looking at US$1, 981, 858, 599 (1.9 billion dollars*) which is unaccounted for, assuming a uniform spread in the data.

So the last 6 years, under various Malawian Governments, civil servants and other corrupt types have misappropriated or failed to account for at least US$2 billion.

There you have it.

* [MK577 billion x US$747million divide by MK217billion]

Artificial African Boundaries

This is an extract from a page in honour of Kanyama Chiume on Facebook. I’ve reposted it here because it echoes a lot of what I believe. Further, it’s undeniable that our economies are struggling in Africa not only because of corruption, illicit financial outflows and all of the other evils, but also because we do not trade with each other enough, and critically, we are not sufficiently united in the way that say China is united, or how the majority of South American countries are united.

Kanyama-NyerereWhen African nationalists worked together for the benefit of all. That is self-evident in this letter written by Julius Nyerere of Tanganyika to Kanyama Chiume in 1960, when the latter was exiled in London during the State of Emergency in Nyasaland. From the London office, Chiume had the task of keeping NAC party alive at international stage, at a time when it was banned from operating in Nyasaland and some of its leaders chased out of the protectorate while others were detained after Operation Sunrise (Kamuzu Banda along with Masauko Chipembere, Dunduzu Chisiza and Yatuta Chisiza were languishing in jail in Gwelo, Southern Rhodesia).

This letter, found at the British National Archives in London by Prof. Azaria Mbughuli, a historian at Spelman College, shows the extent of cooperation between African freedom fighters. Prof Mbughuni adds:

“The letter is yet another reminder of how Africans are interconnected. The artificial boundaries we hold on to so dearly are just that: artificial. We have come to accept them as a reality. Nyerere and Chiume worked closely through PAFMECA/PAFMECSA, both espoused Pan Africanism as an ideology of unity and a tool for liberation. If one looks really closely at Chiume’s story, you realize the foolishness of the colonial boundaries. Born in Nyasaland, Chiume lived in Tanganyika from age 8 with relatives, went to school in Tanganyika, attended school inTabora with the likes of Kambona, taught in Dodoma (resigned his position in 1955), collaborated with TANU in the mid-1950s, 60s, basically throughout most of his political carrier; and off course, eventually married a Tanzanian. TANU provided regular support to Nyasaland African Congress in the late 1950s through him. I came across a peculiar situation in early 1950s where Nyerere is asking Odinga of Kenya to help him talk to the Luo in Tanganyika because they did not want to join TANU! You have ethnic groups split by artificial boundaries; it is no surprise that people from different “territories” worked closely together to demand freedom and independence.”

Cecil Rhodes: He can never be an African hero

The issue of Cecil Rhodes’s statue being pelted with excrement has deeper issues, of the emerging free thinking young Africans who do not want to be influenced by warped views of Westerners who cannot identify with the enlightened African – of whose breed there are no averages. Scouring the many debates of this issue exposes a deep divide between Africans and Westerners on the issue of colonialism and how it should be remembered. The young minds of Africa who are free from biased views of the world from a western context, are beginning to question certain aspects of African history which was mostly written by Westerners.

First of all, it is of no wonder that the students of University of Cape Town have reacted in this way, because for centuries the African life and history has been dictated by Europeans. Today, a spirit of rebelliousness is slowly fermenting in the young minds of Africans who are fed up of western hegemony on public life in Africa. For once, this new breed of Africans want to decide on what is right for their culture and history, without any distortions or sympathy for imperialism and its so-called advantages from anybody.  They want to decide by themselves, and they will decide for themselves – Kwa wenyewe! Ngokwabo! Pawokha! Nipa ara wọn! Da kansu!

Scouring the many social media comments on this issue, it is disparaging to hear of the lazy argument that claims that there would be no South Africa without colonialism. The claim is that Africa would not be introduced to the modern pillars of life that is education, technology and democracy if it was not for men like Rhodes. Basically what they are saying is that Africa would not be what it is today without imperialism and somehow Africans need to be grateful despite colonialism’s grave flaws.

What a load of bullshit!

What these arguments seem to forget is that, no one in Africa asked for this so-called intervention by Europeans. Africans had their own interpretation of life before the Europeans came, and it is unintelligible to claim that Africans should be grateful for colonialism.

Kerr Cross for example writing in 1890 had this to say about the social and economic life of Northern Malawi:

Food is everywhere abundant, bananas, sweet potatoes, cassava, yams, Indian Corn, beans, peas, millet and other seeds, wild fruits, honey, milk and beef

And in regards to the social order, a look at the village life provides a good picture:

All weeds, grasses, garbage and things unsightly are swept away by little boys. Each house is built of bamboo, with clay worked by the women into little rounded bricks ….The doorsteps are often painted with designs in red, yellow and other colours, and altogether there is an air of comfort, and plenty

(Cross, D.K., Geographical Notes of the country between lake Nyassa, Rukwa and Tanganyika, in: Scottish Geography Magazine VI (1890) pp. 283-4, quoted in: McCracken,J., op. cit., p.98.)

So life for the Africans living in those days must have been reasonable enough in the African context. In fact innovations used in agriculture, in the military and in industry developed in the Northern parts of Africa, by earlier civilisations in Egypt, and those developed by the Nubians, and by civilisations like that of Great Zimbabwe would later  find their way southwards, to be improved upon. [For a much more indepth description refer to this video by Dr Yosef Ben Jochannan ]

Toyin Falola and Tyler Fleming of the Department of History, University of Texas at Austin, USA, writing in AFRICAN CIVILIZATIONS: FROM THE PRE-COLONIAL TO THE MODERN DAY, says:

Though people have lived in Africa quite some time… Iron tools enhanced weaponry, allowed groups to clear and manage dense forests, plow fields for farming, and basically better everyday lives. Ultimately, iron tools allowed Africans to flourish in every environment, and thus they could live in larger communities which led to the formation of states and kingdoms. With state formation came the formation of modern civilizations with common languages, belief and value systems, art, religion, lifestyle and culture

They go on to say that:

Later European explorers and settlers often argued that territories were unsettled upon their arrival and thus were ripe for the taking, but these assumptions were misguided. Often land had been abandoned due to poor soil quality, infrequent rainfall, or had been claimed for future use

No matter how people frame these spineless arguments that portray pre-colonial Africans as having been in need of a white saviour, Africans had their own way of life which was derived of African innovations. The unfortunate thing is that we shall never know what life in Africa could have been without the slave trade and colonialism. Having said that, pre-colonial communities were never completely isolated,and there was interaction between states and with outsiders including the Middle East, India, the Chinese and Europeans. Thus, there are credible grounds to suggest that exchange of ideas on a purely economic relationship (as opposed to coloniser and colonized), relationships in which African truly benefitted, would have ultimately led to a level of development comparable if not superior to those witnessed in other parts of the world.

It needs to be noted that when colonialists came to Africa, they found a continent that was rich in both resources and culture. Africa was home to kingdoms, chiefdoms and previously had housed some of the most intriguing empires which were built using a sophisticated craftmanship previously unknown to Europeans.

But somewhere along the way theories were cooked up which concluded that Black African lives were inferior to White lives. In the absence of written African accounts (many of which were purposely destroyed) that disproved this thesis, such ideas, peddled about by racists such as Arthur de Gobineau and Georges Vacher de Lapouge then spawned the belief that it was in the best interests of Africans that Westerners erase their way of life, whether they liked it or not because the African could not comprehend what was right or wrong for him/her. According to such supremacist theories – which were driven more by propaganda that needed to find an excuse to use in the dispossession of the African, and were devoid of any truthful and verifiable science –  the African needed ‘help’ from a superior being: the white man.

No matter how anyone tries to frame these argument, the fact remains that when the Europeans first arrived, Africans were not lacking. And while they may not have had certain ‘luxuries’, most parts of Africa were stable, had capable people who were content with their lives.

There were diseases (e.g. malaria and dysentery), just like everywhere with such warm climates, and the usual tribal conflicts, but at no point were Europeans asked for their ‘civilization’ to be transplanted to Africa. Put simply, it was forced upon them.

So, its absurd to suggest that colonialism despite its barbarism, needs to be applauded for it ‘civilised’ the savages of Africa.

What people who push that argument seem to forget is that most of the so-called savagery in Africa at that time was fermented because of the transatlantic slave trade which pitted one African tribe against each other. For example in East Africa, before the Arabs came in search of slave labour, the various tribes that inhabited the area were either subsistence farmers or practicing animal husbandry. Society was orderly, and discipline was observed. (Here i must say that the ‘savagery’ painted on Africans at the time doesn’t come anywhere near to the level of savagery by Europeans in the middle ages – from religious persecution to wars of conquest in which thousands were massacred). 

It is this sense of entitlement on the part of Europeans and Americans that has lived on up to this day, that still fuels western countries to meddle in the domestic affairs of other countries, even when they wouldn’t have others meddle in the internal affairs of their own countries. Because some of them are raised to think they are more important than anybody else; that the world owes them resources, wealth, happiness, and it doesn’t matter what or who is in their way; that others who have better things must be dispossessed; that others cannot enjoy their own resources without interference. Jealousy and Greed. This kind of mindset still remains, as Rhodes said,

I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race.

And that is just so sad.

This imperialist kind of thinking is what explains Western countries aiding dodgy rebels to kill Gaddafi, in a country that was more prosperous than any other country in Africa. It is what causes them to back fascist militia to oust an elected government in Ukraine…

Remember what happened to Morsi?…. how a shady military general who is ex-CIA was entertained into pushing out an elected leader in Egypt…

The Syrian conflict and 200,000 people who have died as a result. Iraq and the over one million people who have died as a result…

Gaddafi, Morsi and others were no saints (and yes Morsi was incompetent), but as I’ve argued on this blog before, Gaddafi’s Libya was a hundredfold better than the current Libya, which is ruled by a thousand different murderous militias, causing mindless carnage that is destroying the last vestiges of African prosperity. Many Libyans today openly regret what has become of their country. And the sad thing is western countries can’t fix the mess they helped create.

So, as an African who lives in a country that was a former colony (to which colonisation deprived access to sea – leading to a perpetual volatile economy, and a never ending high cost of living), I’m deeply offended and find it appalling when some fools still think Cecil Rhodes should have a place in African history. I think that decision is for Southern Africans to make and if they deem him to be a villain not a hero, then it should be so – at which point some of us will gladly applaud.

In the same manner that most Africans accept that Adolf Hitler was a murderer, a pillager and conqueror, is the same way the Europeans should accept the view of some Africans on Cecil Rhodes. Having a statue of Rhodes at UCT is abhorrent in all types of rationality, because it was only about 110 years ago that an infestation of men like him masqueraded as angels across the African landscape when in fact they were on a mission of exploitation and pillage. Plundering Africans and their natural wealth: a theft that has clearly benefited the West up until the present time, and whose negative effects are there on African soil, visible for all to see.

I therefore believe that the towering statue of Cecil Rhodes should be pulled down at UCT because it is a constant reminder of colonialism and white superiority. Unlike the pulling down of Saddam Hussein’s statue in 2003… or unlike the pulling down of Lenin’s statues in former soviet republics after the fall of the USSR ( the fall of whose reigns were fingered by foreigners) I think it is time that Africans get to decide on what pages of history they want to write for themselves, and to remember – whether such is accompanied by ‘faeces flinging’ or not, without any foreign interference. And I’ll tell you why: because for years we have been brainwashed with the ‘heroic’ deeds of such charlatans who did nothing for us of any real value. If anything, accepting Cecil Rhodes as a hero is accepting and validating white superiority which once thought African cultures had no place in the world. It’s a bit like trying to convince Iraqis to erect a statue in honour of George Bush and Tony Blair, the two politicians who in recent years have done the most to destroy any hope of peace, security, prosperity and normality for ordinary Iraqis. Glorifying Cecil Rhodes and people like him is tantamount to accepting Slavery and Apartheid.

Slavery…dishonors labor; it introduces idleness into society, and with idleness, ignorance and pride, luxury and distress. It enervates the powers of the mind and benumbs the activity of man. – Alexis de Tocqueville

For the enlightened African, Cecil Rhodes is a pillager, murderer  and a bigot who may have made wealth for some countries in Europe, but is partly responsible for the poverty, sickness, corruption, hegemony and human suffering that we see across Africa today. He has no place in our societies that are striving for love, equality, peace and prosperity for all (irrespective of gender, colour, nationality or race).

So then…Kwa wenyewe! Ngokwabo! Pawokha! Nipa ara wọn! Da kansu!

Edited: S Nkhwazi

The Daring Racism Experiment That People Still Talk About 20 Years Later (VIDEO)

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/6396980?ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000067

In an effort to get her small-town, all-white class to experience what it was like to walk in someone else’s shoes, she created the eye-color experiment. “I decided the next day that I was going to do what Hitler did. I was going to pick out a group of people on the basis of a physical characteristic over which they had no control, separate them… treat one group badly and treat the other group very well, and see what would happen,” Elliott says.

After suspension of oil and gas exploration licences in Malawi what happens now?

Anglo American Corporation was founded in Johannesburg in 1917 with £1 million (what today would have been £75 million, adjusting for inflation according to one inflation calculator).

AngloAmerican

It has since grown into a publicly traded behemoth with a market capitalisation of £31.2 billion and revenues of £29.3 billion (2013). It’s headquarters is now in London and the company is now known as Anglo American Plc, the fourth largest mining company in the world.

Although a net ‘loss’ of $961 million was declared in 2013, Anglo American is undoubtedly one of the big boys in the industry. To give you a scale of just how big they are, Anglo American Plc owns 85% of Luxembourg registered De Beers Investments, the holding company of De Beers, another prominent mining giant which is well-known in Southern Africa. But if that’s not convincing enough then how about this: Anglo American recently walked away from a gold interest worth $300 billion, after investing over $541 million it it. Apparently, the withdrawal is related to environmental risks, in particular the threat the Pebble Mine would pose to Alaskan Salmon (there’s even a campaign), although Anglo’s chief executive claimed the withdrawal was in fact a way of prioritizing “.. capital to projects with the highest value and lowest risks.”

Both Anglo American and De Beers have been criticised over their practices in Africa, including price-fixing, low wages (for Anglo American recently in Chile here) and lack of transparency. In particular, according to a Wikipedia entry:

In 1977, the company [Anglo American] demanded that the paper it owned, Rand Daily Mail, tone down its equal-rights support after exposing the murder of South African activist Steve Biko amid the subsequent government backlash. [words in parenthesis for clarity]

Further, a British charity, War on Want, published a report in August 2007 that accused Anglo American of profiting from the abuse of people in the developing countries in which the mining giant operates. According to War on Want:

“in the Philippines and South Africa, local communities threatened with Anglo American mines have faced severe repression in their fight to stay on their land, while in Ghana and Mali, local communities see little of the huge profits being made by AngloGold Ashanti but suffer from fear and intimidation and from the damaging impact of its mines on their environment, health and livelihoods”

In response, the company subsequently published a report defending itself and disclosing its finances.

**************

Malawi’s first president Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda could have begun a state owned mining company in Malawi in the late 1960’s. He could have hired specialists from abroad, bought equipment from Britain or the US, begun prospecting for minerals, and by 1970 laid a foundation for a functional mining industry. The technology was available, and when Malawians had been travelling to South Africa in their thousands to work in the mines, labour would not have been a problem.

Banda didn’t begin a mining company. Instead he focussed on agriculture, which traditionally does not reap large profits as the sort which mining companies the likes of De Beers and Anglo American have been known to reap.

That decision could be a contributory factor further explaining Malawi’s economic woes today. While others were investing in assets and initiatives having huge long-term yields, Malawians were dabbling with agriculture and tobacco.

But to give him credit, while Dr Banda could have thought mining was not a priority to the newly independent country, he must have known that Malawi didn’t have enough capital resources to waste on ambitious projects whose very returns were unknown if not a gamble?

Further, having just broken away from the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, it’s understandable that while Britain could have been willing to extend Malawi a line of credit, as single-minded as Banda was known to have been, it’s inconceivable to think that he would have wanted to be constrained by such kind of favours from the very same people he so vehemently denounced. As he once declared: “We have no minerals. The soil is our gold mine”. In any case, what did a medical doctor who barely 10 years previously had been running a clinic in London know about the mining industry of the 1950’s and 60’s.

Having said this, would Dr Banda have started a state-owned mining company if he knew what treasures lay beneath the surface of Malawi’s geology? If he knew the value of such treasures on the international market?

Especially since there was information available as early as 1966 as to the Mineral deposits and mining potential of Malawi, according to a research paper titled MINERAL RESOURCES OF MALAWI AND MINING POTENTIAL by Rodney Mshali (The Society of Malawi Journal Vol. 62, No. 2 (2009), pp. 27-35 published by: Society of Malawi – Historical and Scientific ). Banda could have decided to take the risk if he wanted to.

Mineral Deposits

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Whichever way, it’s not my place to make a determination on Dr Banda’s judgement at this time.

But what does all this have to do with the current mining landscape in Malawi?

Well, as can be seen in the following links in Zambia, Chile, South Africa and Ethiopia , some mining companies have been known to be a menace to the countries they operate in. Issues of ownership, corruption, tax evasion in the form of profit shifting, low pay and poor working conditions, and of environmental degradation are often always lingering. In Malawi, recently, it has emerged that Paladin was considering to discharge ‘contaminated’ sludge kept in a dam near its Kayelekera mine into Malawi’s rivers systems for fear that if they did not do so, the rain season would cause their dam to overflow.

Thus, when news broke just under two weeks ago that the government of Malawi had suspended all oil and gas exploration licenses on Lake Malawi, so as to allow government to scrutinise and review each Licence that was issued or signed, I didn’t really know what to make of it. After all,  Malawi has had its fair share of sorry episodes of bad contracts married with irresponsible management, with the Paladin saga at Kayelekera. Although appearing diligent, uncovering any such lax agreements will just remind us all how deep in muck the country really is. It will not be a cause for celebration.

So then, what will the government do?

If they plan to review the oil exploration licenses in all good faith, and if necessary use legal mechanisms to resolve any indications of foul play -including unfair or prejudicial contract terms that do not benefit Malawians; if they plan to bring the miscreants to justice, then the suspension is a noble move.

In addition, the government of Malawi could work with charities [such as SHERPA (France), the Center for Trade Policy and Development (Zambia), the Berne Declaration (Switzerland), l’Entraide Missionnaire (Canada) and Mining Watch (Canada) ] which in 2011 filed complaints against mining companies Glencore International AG and First Quantum Minerals Ltd, to the Swiss and Canadian National Contact Points (NCP) for violating the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises including for Tax avoidance in Zambia.

However, if the suspension of oil and gas exploration in Malawi is a veiled attempt at ‘rent-seeking’, as is rumoured to have taken place not only during Bingu Wa Mutharika’s regime, but also during the People’s Party administration, then it would be unfortunate because the government would have lost an opportunity to harness the resources that Malawi has. DPP would have lost a chance to show transparency.

One more thing; how can Peter Mutharika be sure that the value of assets or mineral resources declared by Oil companies interested in prospecting, or already prospecting is accurate, and not under-declared/under-valued ? For example, if the actual value (or near estimate) of viable crude oil deposits under the basin of Lake Malawi was US$400 billion, what is to stop the Oil companies holding the exploration licenses from misinforming the government that they had found only US$100 billion worth of confirmed deposits under the lake? Especially when the government was unable to verify those figures?

Wouldn’t an independent state-owned Mining company, that had its own equipment, and that owned a stake in each exploration site, and that was jointly involved in the exploration, so as to be able to verify the findings by its own independently undertaken mapping and surveying reduce such a risk?

Finally, it goes without saying that for them to be successful, any state-owned organisation (including parastatals) should be run and managed by people who by merit are fit to do so, and not by public appointees with little or no experience in the relevant technical field or area.

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