WHO IS CONTROLLING THE SECOND MUTHARIKA?

puppet-122915_640by Z Allan Ntata.

After almost a year in power, the dust has now settled on the hullabaloo that was the rise of Peter Mutharika to the presidency of the Republic of Malawi. What can now be observed clearly is the familiar Mutharika curse that led to the decline and fall of his late brother’s otherwise purpose-filled presidency.

Anyone familiar with Malawi and the late Bingu wa Mutharika’s presidency will testify to the fact that one of the issues that aroused the anger and disapproval of the late Bingu for many Malawians was his eagerness in allowing himself to be influenced by the Muhlakho wa Alomwe ethnic grouping. The invasion of this grouping into the affairs of state, especially the presidency, led to the kind of cronyism and nepotism that reminded people of Dr Hastings Banda’s days in which the Chewa people had over 90% of the national cake. Such behaviour was certainly one of the reasons that late Bingu’s second term ended on a note of severe controversy.

Peter Mutharika should not be deluded into thinking that Malawians have forgotten the DPP low points; the unjustified authoritarianism, the lack of essential political reforms, the governance challenges, the vain celebrations, and most of all, the Mulhako cronyism.

Although Peter Mutharika seems to have borne in mind that at one point in his late brother’s administration, about half of the cabinet was Lhomwe, he seems to have failed to recognise the danger of trusting too much in one or two confidants without proper justification.

In late Bingu’s administration, we saw at one point that senior cabinet ministers such as Justice Minister Prof. Peter Mutharika, Minister of Education Dr. George Chaponda, Minister of Tourism Anna Kachikho, Gender and Women Affairs Minister Patricia Kaliati, Trade and Industry minister Eunice Kazembe, Minister of Irrigation Richie Muheya, Deputy Finance minister Nihorya, Deputy Lands and Housing Minister T. Gowelo, Deputy Disabilities Minister Felton Mulli, Deputy Information Minister Kingsley Namakhwa, and Deputy Education Minister V. Sajeni were all from the Lhomwe belt.

We also saw that principal Secretaries in key ministries also reflected a pattern that favoured the same Mulhako kinsmen and that within the Executive big institutions were also assigned to Lhomwes. These included ADMARC General Manager Dr. Charles Matabwa, ADMARC Finance Director Foster Mulumbe, ADMARC Head of Administration George Bakuwa, Auction Holdings CEO Evance Matabwa, NFRA boss Edward Sawelengera, Immigration Chief Elvis Thodi, Anti Corruption Bureau Director Alex Nampota, Director of Intelligence Clement Kapalamula, Inspector General of Police Peter Mukhito, Chairperson Malawi Electoral Commission, Anastanzia Msosa, Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo, Clerk of Parliament Maltilda Katopola, Attorney General Jane Ansah, Secretary to Treasury Randson Madiwa, General Manager Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) Mondiwa, MBC- Director General Patrick Khoza, Reserve Bank Governer Perks Ligoya, Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) Commissioner General Lloyd Muhara, Blantyre City Assembly Chief Executive Ted Nandolo and Malawi Savings Bank CEO Joseph Mwanamvekha.

More importantly, late Bingu was controlled to a significant extent by Leston Mulli and the top Mulhako wa Alhomwe brass that included individuals such as Jean Namathanga and Noel Masangwi. These people formed the President’s unofficial advisory council on governance, public appointments and political strategy.
The fact that Malawians are quiet now should not delude the current Mutharika into thinking that Malawians are not noticing that a similar trend has already emerged. Speaking to ministers and government insiders, it is apparent that the country is not really being ruled by Peter Mutharika, but the power behind the power that is a clique of special assistants, bodyguards and certain relatives.

But surely the learned professor of Law knows that Malawians gave a governing mandate to Peter Mutharika, and not to any of his personal assistants, doesn’t he? Does the Professor not know that the ruling mandate was given to him and the DPP on the basis, in part, of his solemn pleas that the DPP had changed and should be forgiven for past mishaps such as the nepotism and cronyism mentioned above? Does he not realise that Malawians expected that the DPP would honour that forgiveness by following a new political path, a different style of political leadership and governance, with appointments based solely on merit and in recognition of the contribution that various individuals have put towards supporting this country and their bid for the presidency?

The simple fact is that as learned as he is, the professor knows these things. The problem appears to be the fact that his administrative powers have been relinquished to his assistants and advisors. This relinquishing of his administrative powers to his personal assistant, and the warmth and cosiness that he is again displaying with the Muhlako old guard is not only disturbing, but may indeed be a cause for worry as to the direction of his presidency, and whether the so-called new and changed DPP was simply such in rhetoric only.

During its two years of exile, many talented and capable young men and women led the DPP push to power. These need to be given an opportunity to now utilise their talents in promoting a national development agenda. It will be an affront to public trust demonstrated in the vote to ignore and overlook these able individuals simply because one or two personal assistants, advisors or even valets (imagine that!) are in control and only their cronies can assist the leadership.

Indeed, it would be useful to remind the President that critics are already waiting in the wings and will soon come out of the woodwork with their pens blazing. It seems to be rather unwise to provide critics with ammunition in the form of competent CVs overlooked on important positions simply because they were not endorsed by one or two personal assistants or that they fall on the wrong side of the ethnic divide.

Furthermore, certain leadership blunders are already becoming evident: The misguided graffiti painting of Lumbadzi police cells, the seriously dubious asset declaration, the suspicious sale of MSB Bank just to name a few. Are these ideas consistent with a supremely learned professor of law with donkey’s years of experience? The answer is probably No- although anything is possible in politics!

How does one identify a puppet? You know you are dealing with a puppet when every time you try to say something to the puppet, the puppet says: Talk to my assistant, the guy pulling the strings.

Given the high intellectual respect with which President Arthur Peter Mutharika is regarded in the country and internationally, perhaps the time has come to ask the question publicly instead of simply joining those asking it in secret: Who really is controlling Peter Mutharika?

*** ~ *** ~ ***

Z. Allan Ntata is a Barrister of Middle Temple, Governance Specialist, Ex-Counsel to the President of Malawi and author of “Trappings of Power”. More details about him can be found on his website

 

Salary increases mfwee mfwee mfwee

Sometimes when a story breaks, it’s wise to step back for a little while and wait for it to fully develop, before making any comment or asking any questions. Doing this in my view allows the mud to settle, allows the story to fully form, and allows for the indefensible to be revealed.

The other day, about 2 weeks ago, I read a piece on the Malawi Nation website that said that President Peter Mutharika’s salary had been increased by 80%. Ministers and the leader of the opposition also received a 168% increment, while MP’s received a 376% hike. The piece made for interesting, if not shocking reading, since not too long ago in August of this year, Peter Mutharika rejected a 600% salary increase proposed by ministers. After the announcement on 6th December 2014, the acting Clerk for Parliament said that the structure of the new salaries had been in effect from 1st October 2014. Which means barely 2 months on from the time that he refused to increase minister’s salaries, something had caused Mutharika to change his mind?

Predictably, the large raises were condemned by many sections of the Malawi public as wanton and insensitive when many people, especially poor people, were still suffering the effects of the devaluation of the Malawi Kwacha.

Two days after the Salary hikes were announced, Lazarus Chakwera, the leader of the opposition, released a press statement, criticising the pay hikes, and saying he had not been previously consulted of the increases. However, he didn’t say whether he would reject the increases.

Then began a game of blame shifting, with the president’s camp saying that the President Mutharika had in fact not authorised the increases, while some commentators placed the blame on the IMF, who apparently gave advice (including the increments) in order to harmonise pay in the SADC region. Further, it was suggested that some officials had acted without Peter Mutharika’s authority, bypassing the parliamentary procedure and essentially doing something which they were strictly speaking not supposed to do. But as of now, nobody knows who those officials are. Chakwera called the president a hypocrite and accused him of trying to divert attention from real issues. The president’s officials through the Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture called Chakwera a ‘modern day Pharisee‘.

Probably sensing that the scandal wouldn’t go down well with the people, the president and vice president deferred their salaries, until ‘the country’s economy recovers’, although numerous commentators concluded that public pressure forced the deferment.

But what exactly is going on? Aren’t salary increases for public officials supposed to be voted upon by Parliament? And isn’t it essential for the President to authorise such increments? How then can Mutharika claim ignorance when the increments were in fact applied? Also, if the IMF explanation is true, how can any sensible leader listen to an international organisation whose advice doesn’t seem to take account of the plight of the local population?

On a lighter note, Mutharika hosted a pre-Christmas party this week for children from Lilongwe. During his speech to the invited guests, he was quoted to have said that

“..This party has been organised by our money and that from well wishers. There is no one tambala for the government, so I don’t mawa somebody kumati fwee fwee  fwee fwee, ndipanga demonstrations and so forth …”

Well wishers. That term again. Oh no!

Some of the readers here will remember who abiti/ amayi meant when she talked about well-wishers? Shady organisations with military links who ‘buy’ your country’s presidential jet practically for free (as the money was never accounted for), as long as they promise to ferry you around the world every now and then. They donate to your party, and in turn are paid (by the government) huge sums of money for supplying ‘military equipment’ nobody gets to see, including some overpriced and outdated patrol boats that are of no real use to anybody. In the end, the well-wishers make a huge donation to your US-based foundation…. Well-wishers eh?

Someone please tell Mr President not to use that term, ever again…because well-wishers seldom give anything away for free.

Leadership: of standards and calibre

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Two days ago I heard something unusual. I was talking to a friend when he informed me that a recent Malawian who not too long ago was working as a junior supervisor at a McDonald fast food restaurant here in Britain, is now a Minister in Joyce Banda’s government. This friend wondered whether there was even a criteria that was used when appointing ministers in Malawi, let alone regular performance reviews to audit their performance, to ensure that they were doing their jobs properly.

“Tandiwuzeni bwana” he said “I hope I’m not being big-headed here, but what does someone who was working in a McDonald’s just yesterday know about public service in a ministerial capacity? Have they had extensive experience in governance, learning about government and public administration, listening to the needs of the people, observing the many dynamics in society, soliciting advice from several stakeholders, making comparisons with what has worked elsewhere – outside Malawi, and produced positive outcomes, what have they done to ensure that the decisions they make will be proportionate, relevant, effectual and not prejudicial?”

I was surprised to hear of this news and told him that maybe there was a good reason as to why this man had been appointed as a minister, but that his analysis was more or less spot on; without being qualified for a particular role, and having the essential experience in public office, logically, it was more likely than not, that this minister would either perform badly in his role, or utterly fail.

“If it had been someone with a proven record, who has got extensive training in governance, and experience in the specific field he will work, on the ground in Malawi, or even abroad, who had studied the environment carefully and had formulated a way of balancing difficult interests, maybe, just maybe you could say okay forget his less than glamorous stint at McDonald’s, this guy has a realistic chance of performing, lets give him the benefit of the doubt and see how he does”

My friend’s words reminded me of a Facebook status I once read [a snapshot of which I kept :-)]:

leadersip

[For those who do not know who some of the above personalities were, I’ll helpfully provide some profiles (external links):  [Oliver Tambo; Jakaya Kikwete Julius Nyerere; Albert Lithuli]

I couldn’t agree more. Leadership in Africa , and particularly in Malawi is in critical need of a fresh injection of calibre, the quality of leadership is simply not good enough. It leaves a lot to be desired, and in Malawi, the calibre of leadership is appalling.

My friend continued:

“We need a soft dictatorship in Malawi, like the way Paul Kagame is doing. Although I’m not entirely sure of his politics, his style is an example of how to do things. He runs his country like a corporation, with targets and regular performance reviews, whereby if a minister does not meet their targets, they are out, that’s how it must be done, otherwise if there is no incentive, no fear, how will you get lazy buggers from actually doing work?”

I told him that I didn’t know about this, but read somewhere that Kagame got his whole cabinet to read Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid [see one book review here], and that subsequently the country was performing well economically.

“When you speak to insiders at State House in Lilongwe, who do not want to be identified, but who know of the wrongdoing happening, you get to this point of disbelief…I’ve lost Faith in the leadership of Joyce Banda” my friend said “I’ve lost Faith in Peter Mutharika, I have absolutely no faith in Atupele Muluzi, and Chakwera, he’s come too late to the crime scene”

“It will take time” I said. “It will take time for Malawians to learn how not to do things”

I reasoned that my understanding of what is currently happening in Malawi is the classic Kleptocratic story of abuse of power, which has been seen over the ages in various countries, but which is being perpetrated by leaders who should know better.

“You have to be willing to dig into history to understand this.” I said

In Malawi, MCP did it in its time, although then it was a dictatorship, and only a handful of people were corrupt; the Muluzi’s did it en-mass when fate brought leadership to them; the Mutharikas did it to the tune of K61 billion ( £116 million) and now we have a lady who began very well, but who has fallen to the trappings of power, and is surrounded by corrupt wolves,  against whom she appears powerless to act decisively to clean up her government’s image.

“Take Muluzi for example” this friend continued ” When he came in power, there was one particular politician who corruptly amassed a fortune, as most other UDF people did at the time. Somehow this guy found himself implicated in a scandal the trail of which the media were following. Guess what they did, UDF got him to confess to claiming too much on expenses. He repaid those fictitious expenses (which were miniscule in comparison to what he had actually embezzled), and then he was advised by insiders within UDF to go and live in the UK for 6 months, for the dust to settle, for people to forget,  and after that period, he went back to Malawi, and was given the chairmanship of ESCOM..tell me, as bizarre as that sounds, how does a country develop with such blatant corruption and nepotism?”

I replied that the that the problem with leadership in Malawi is that of ignorance and lack of integrity. Most people in leadership do not understand who a leader is, what a leader does, why they should do things that way, the ramifications of not acting properly.

Also, there is a problem with our judiciary, whereby we have few transparent and incorruptible judges with integrity – but a number who are known to be corrupt; then there is the object of fear in that some people (including journalists) are afraid (to an extent for good reason) of revealing corruption because they will be ‘punished’, including losing their jobs, or face threats to their lives.

The public also have a part to play, most Malawians are ill-informed of what is really happening in the world today. Add to that illiteracy, poverty and a peace-loving predisposition (markedly different to that common in peoples of a gung-ho attitude, some of whom were probably responsible for the revolutions that swept North Africa -in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia), you will neither see a warlord emerge to fight against a corrupt government nor millions take to the streets of the capital to demand change anytime soon. It’s simply not happening…

Further, it seems most forget of the ill-treatment they received under Dr Banda, the rampant corruption under Muluzi, and the debilitating economic struggles they faced during Bingu wa Mutharika’s last days.

Putting aside the issue of what a leadership role will actually involve (e.g. needs of the people, firefighting one crisis or another, pushing agendas, etc.) in my view, Public office in Africa  requires someone who has a certain attitude towards their job, life and other people. Someone who has a deep conviction to lead, a Gandhi, a Mandela, a Maathai. These kind of people don’t care whether they drive a Maybach, top of the range Mercedes or not, or whether they own a house in the Bahamas and in New York. They don’t care for material things. That’s why you never ever heard of corruption allegations against Nelson Mandela, or against Ghandi, or against Wangari Maathai. Instead these kinds of leaders care about leaving a real legacy, having a real positive impact (on a large scale) and giving a genuine and honest service to the people they represent; they are at pains at trying to always achieve fairness and equality, utilizing resources for the benefit of all (not just an elite few), they care about truly ending poverty for the benefit of everyone (because they understand the knock-on effect of ending poverty), they want to help the majority (not just their own families) achieve some form of prosperity, on being real and exceptional (as opposed to being two-faced and mediocre), these kind of people care about making life better for others – irrespective of whether those others support the same political party as the leader, or indeed whether those others like their leadership or not.  Great leaders are not afraid to disobey the party line, if what the party demands doesn’t fit well with their personal ideology and convictions, or if the party line is clearly unethical or wrong.

To lead and serve in an exemplary fashion as a leader of a country in Africa, one has to think about nothing but service; to abandon their needs and crucify the lusts of the flesh (personal wealth / fortune, fame / popularity); to be willing to punish shady associates who cross the line – setting an example that corruption will not be tolerated. Yes, a leader must be diplomatic and unite factions; treading a thin line in which they attempt to balance mutually exclusive requests while fending off arrows from opponents, but crucially they must also maintain integrity while doing so, and not pay a blind eye to wrongdoing or rampant corruption in top government positions.

In addition, it seems politicians in Malawi have either taken lying to a whole new level– for all sorts of wrong reasons, or have the worst advisers any leader could have. Recently this fiction saw the Malawian president declare her assets to parliament, but the speaker of Parliament refused to make them public, apparently because the constitution is silent on the specific matter. How can anybody criticise the former president for amassing billions but obstruct the process of publicly declaring the assets of the current president? Do they think that the public are that stupid not to know that something is amiss? You’d wonder which leaders they emulate… let them ask themselves whether Wangari Maathai or Mahatma Gandhi would have done what they are doing?

And to make matters worse, most bad leaders have no shame at being exposed as shady, even on the international stage. If Richard Nixon had been a Malawian President, he’d probably have served a full second term, even after Watergate, and would have received a presidential medal afterwards…that’s how low Malawian politics has sunk lately.

Typically, business as usual often goes as follows: tell the donors what they want to hear, make promises to the voters which you have no intention of fulfilling  [typically just before elections], travel the world sweet-talking donors and painting a good picture, but at home get in bed with dodgy businessmen/ corporations, receive bribes through your family’s going concerns, concentrate your efforts on staying in power and award contracts (with inflated prices) to non-existent, shady or unexperienced companies in order to embezzle, money from the government…

No thought towards a conflict of interests, or what the long-term implications of your actions ( or the actions of your ministers) will be. Little intention to discipline or disciple those who take the wrong turn. Sometimes one wonders whether some ministers even know what a conflict of interest is??

But the truth always comes out. Lying to voters or the international community(including donors) will not get Malawi or any African country where it needs to be. Greed, lies and corruption can never develop a nation. It never has, it never will.

The Root Causes

tree-59630_640

I wish Oprah Winfrey would read this. I really do. In fact not only Oprah, I wish everyone from Spike Lee and Russell Simmons to Jay-z and … lets just saw the whole Afro – Caribbean ‘fraternity’ ( if such a thing could be said to exist) from African-Americans, to those in Europe, Asia or indeed elsewhere (those of us who are fashionably termed the “diaspora”) would read this. Not because its grand or mind blowingly fancy in any fantastical way, no, instead, considering our common history, it represents a summary of a profound truth regarding some of the major problems Africans and African-Americans routinely encounter. A truth which over the years has been distorted by ‘culture’, ‘theories’ and ‘ism’ of one kind or another to the point few know a practical formula on how to resolve the problems. I believe there has been a massive misunderstanding, which unfortunately leads many people to put a lot of the blame on Africans; African-Americans + Afro-carribbeans (with some people not even realising that they are doing so), without carefully understanding how we even got to these problems.

Thankfully, the premise to this post has been handed to me on a golden platter. In a thousand years of inspiration, I could never have arrived at a factual story so  farcical, entertaining and mind-boggling in almost equal measure:-

Two days ago we watched with disbelief on our TV screens  as Luis Suarez, the Liverpool striker, was at it again. Probably only slightly less mad compared to Joey Barton, Suarez was caught biting another player’s arm, in the middle of a match; in broad daylight view of the HD cameras patrolling the pitch, in front of thousands of Liverpool and Chelsea supporters…?? It beggars belief.  More surprising (this being besides his racist offence two years ago), is the fact that he’s bitten someone else before. At Ajax. Inevitably, most normal people are asking the same questions, why would a world-class player who is one of the top goal scorers of the Barclays Premier League this season bite another player out of the blue? Is this guy okay? What was going on in his mind? Now, we’ve seen bites in the Premiership before, like the one by Jermain Defoe on Javier Mascherano, but what exactly is going on in these peoples’ minds when they do these things? Is biting the same as headbutting which has also happened several times in football?

While Suarez has since apologised, among the many shocked (even the British Prime Minister has urged the FA to impose a tough penalty on Suarez), surprised, rational, amused (see cartoon here) and ticked-off voices on the matter are some who claim that Suarez needs anger management and counselling. In particular, they say his actions are signals of “unresolved issues” manifesting as “regressive anger” or “regressive emotion” which in simple english means he has some mental ‘issues’ to deal with.

As someone whose Mother is a qualified counsellor, and who has known two other counsellors for well over 7 years, issues relating to counselling are not new to me. I’ve been hearing about them for years! In fact I have proof-read 2 Diploma theses on some counselling topics I cannot presently remember (Mother’s, and another for her friend). I have digitized one of the theses (word for word) including the case studies. I have been in proximity to the books on the subject often, and found myself once or twice browsing through a number of them. I’ve heard the stories too (obviously with anonymity as to the subjects concerned and their location), watched some videos, all of which have inevitably influenced my viewpoints on the subject, things which you don’t hear in the media very often.

So, the claim that the Liverpool player might need counseling is particularly interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, as one of my friends (who I doubt is a Liverpool fan) observed, does the law to which every ordinary human being in the UK is subject to, truly extend to football players (and one  might add ‘celebrities’)? If so, why then haven’t charges been pressed by the police, or indeed the victim? Isn’t it hypocritical that cases of racism are hyped, and a big deal made about them, but when it’s a case of violence, the authorities appear coy about it? In any case, if a member of the public bit another stranger randomly, say on the bus (or on the train), under the ever watchful eyes of the CCTV, wouldn’t the attacker be instantly charged with violent conduct and summoned before a judge? If such is generally the case, isn’t the fact that Suarez has not been formerly charged by the police giving out the wrong signals, especially to young people? That it is infact okay to behave in such a wildly unruly manner in the sport? You may get a small fine and a couple of matches suspension, but your career will be intact, safe and dry. Another friend even drew comparisons with doping in athletics, where he cited Dwain Chambers. “Whats the difference?” he asked “Suarez has cheated at the World cup, bitten someone before  — where apparently one newspaper nicknamed him the Cannibal of Ajax — he has been involved in a racist incident against a Manchester United player, and displayed bad behaviour several times, the sort of thing you would expect from Joey Barton, yet he gets to have his cake and eat it.”…

More importantly, it seems some of the people who require counselling will identify the roots of their problems way back in history, commonly in their childhood.  These causes range from extreme poverty, abuse (commonly by a family member), rejection, bullying, drug or alcohol addictions, to death of a loved one and suchlike. Some people who have had such experiences don’t even know that they need help. Which is where Suarez’s case is relevant to this post because, in my view, there are many Africans and Afro-Carribean out there who have experienced devastating and traumatic events in their lives, which have affected them so gravely, psychologically, so much that it influences their behaviour later on in life, and negatively affects their career prospects and family life. It sounds like a tenuous excuse for wrongdoing, but it’s not.  I’m not a Liverpool FC fan and if you told me that one day I would write this post, 10 years ago, I would have seriously doubted your sanity.

Let me explain  further. Those who read my previous post here, will have noted that I referred to the “needs” of Black and Afro-carribean kids in schools.

According to the Self-enhancement theory, individuals with low self-esteem may seek to enhance their self-concepts through the use of aggression in order to boost their already low self evaluations [Rosenberg et al (1989) postulated that individuals with low self-esteem may engage in aggressive acts to boost their low self-evaluations (e.g. , lack of prosocial avenues for expressing self-esteem) ]. This has been used to explain some of the ‘problems’ black children cause in class rooms. Further, it has been stated that individuals with low self-esteem are more prone to engage in risk-taking behavior out of a need to find an available avenue for expressing their self-worth [“subculture of violence”, Long ,1990].

But, while theories such as these hold much validity in explaining some of the psychological problems young black people face (especially in schools), there’s another simpler way of appreciating the bigger picture. I must state at this point that I have not studied this topic extensively, my opinion is based primarily on observations (in my own family and in the lives of others) and private research studies (over the last 7 -8 years) using sources such as are listed below. I do not claim that my viewpoint is the only likely explanation or that the observations below are the only ‘Root causes’, although I’m willing to risk my credibility by suggesting that by far they are the most common root causes. Further, some of my views are influenced partly by my interaction with young people in a Youth group in Nottingham that is affiliated to a religious organisation ( and at which I volunteered as a Youth coordinator for several years, quite a number of years ago).

So, with this in mind, a summary:

(1) Children are born to black parents who have little or no savings. The parents are preoccupied with trying to earn a living – The child is not properly supervised (the TV is tasked with some of that), and there are few or no role models about towards which the child should aspire.

(2) The anger, frustrations and issues from parent’s work / lives sometimes overflow and pours over onto the children, tainting  their childhood. (The sources of those frustrations numerous in number and possibly deserving a blog post of its own)

(3) Pressure of life can cause addictions in their parents &  many a time marriage breakdowns. There is anger in the home. In the homes of almost all their relatives. And no financial cushion to iron out some of the problems. The child bears all this on their head. And, inevitably,eventually, it can give birth to one or more of anger, confusion, frustration and pain.

(4) For example, in some cases, parents cannot afford to take them out on holiday or buy them certain things as they are growing up, things which most of the white kids (or other black contemporaries) in school have, so the black child grows up in want. Further, comparatively, most of their white friends have a from of luxury, they take holidays, frequent trips to interactive or sight seeing excursions , whereas most of the black kids’ parents can’t afford to take them for a holiday. The feelings / emotions regarding things such as these are largely ‘bottled-up’, repressed, and the child does not get to express themselves. They just observe, confused, thinking it is normal. To an extent this lack of exposure can limit their frame of mind.

(5) Since the parents have to work (often juggling more than one job), or because of single parenthood,  supervision is left to others (Friends, Aunties or parents’ siblings – who themselves have little training or fortitude to ensure that they provide the right upbringing), so bad company creeps in -> leading to bad habits. The child cannot excel academically if the parents are not pushing hard for it  (i.e. Private tuition, careful demarcation of time for study and play, religious instruction…etc) or cannot afford to pay for private tuition.

(6) As was well articulated here, even in the western media (as is the case back on the motherland) the children are bombarded by negative connotations of Africa, of being black, or their skin colour of everything to do with them. Public figures saying the wrong things, and half the time getting away with it. Why has the servant, or guard in the Hollywood movie most of the times have to be black or of Latino ethnicity? Even if such is merely a factual reflection of reality, what other message does it send, potentially, especially to younger audiences? The children see positive role models only in few professions, only in sport, film and music. They see more successful people who look like them  in videos such as this or  this, most often with a message of ‘drugs, guns, bitches and bling’. Which is why if you ask any random group of black 9 -14 year olds to name you their favourite music artists, very few, if not none will cite music of a rock genre. Their minds are not wired to appreciate rock music, even when there exists some very good rock bands that appeal to younger audiences.

And whilst the likes of Einstein and Michael Faraday are referenced to in Physics enough times for even non-physicists in the school to know who they are, Martin Luther King, Shaka Zulu and other ‘African heroes’ are found neither in GCSE Science nor English, not even in the History of the French Revolution or the American War of Independence, which is the kind of history which these kids first encounter (both in schools in Africa and in the West). Their own history is visibly absent. Further, few of them are informed that in the times as those in which Galileo, Einstein and even Henry Ford lived, black people were not really considered human in the western world, not really. So comparatively few got a decent education to provide a foundation for mastery in technical subjects. A situation that can probably be summarised with a cartoon that parodies this issue:

what-we-are-taught

In addition, few parents encourage their children to learn about their past. “It’s too painful” you hear. “Study to get a degree then get a job” is generally the advice that is given. So few will bother with history beyond elementary school, creating ‘critical’ gaps of knowledge regarding their own past – a factor that will have an effect much later in life.  Even their parents don’t know anywhere near enough about African history (or historians) such as these – who have over the years toiled to reconstruct and teach about African history.

While a 13-year-old Jewish boy knows what Yom Kippur is, and will give you an accurate account of the Holocaust including how many people died and other encyclopedic knowledge, why those who died must always be remembered each year, yet the African child of the same age doesn’t even know the estimates of how many black people were displaced or died during slavery, and what the impact of that was.  The answers to such questions will have to be solely and painfully mapped (source BBC) by very few of his kind through judicious study, much much later in life. [- – – – – > Burning Spear – Slavery days]

(7) If you visit the local library or a Museum, few or no Afro-carribbean kids about. How could there be any, their parents are busy or in work trying to earn enough to scrape a living.

The other day I took my 9 year old nephew to the Museum of Science and Industry which is the biggest in Manchester, and has quite a lot to see. But in a space of 3-4 hours on a Saturday morning, by conservative estimates I must have encountered maybe over 300 people, but I only saw one other black person with their child??Is this because of pressures of work or lack of interest? In any case, entry is free 🙂

(8) So by the time they get to highschool they are already troubled. Then comes the difficulty in managing them…the pain, confusion and trauma all the above factors may have caused, over many years, is alien to a teacher, who has not been properly trained in dealing with such deep and multi-faceted traumatic behaviour, and  who must be wondering what is wrong with these black kids?? Add to this spoonfuls of racism.

(9) If they are lucky enough to make it to college or University it doesn’t get any easier. They are constantly broke, they can’t fully participate in the collegiate school’s offerings, let alone socialize because of financial constraints. They have to take up part-time job which can interfere with their studies. Throw in coursework, friends and girlfriends, and the whole picture couldn’t be fuzzier. At Nottingham University, I had a white friend (who identified with Christianity) who innocently and with bewilderment asked me how come I could afford to leave Britain and go to the US in the middle of the University term (my US-based sister was going through a very difficult period at the time) when I didn’t have a job. The insinuation, without a shadow of a doubt, was ‘where did you get the money from…I thought you guys are broke?’. It was one of the most uncomfortable moments of my undergraduate degree, and it was said in a room where there were 8 – 10 other white christians listening, no doubt everybody wanted to know. 8 years on, I still remember the name of the boy who said it (including the fact that his father was a reverend).

So if someone gets through all this, relatively unscathed, guess how they will view the world? My guess, not exactly optimistically.

For those that don’t make it through, difficulty and struggle is standard, they fail to get credit at banks, some get into drugs, theft, fraud, get imprisoned and such like. They are not necessarily bad people, in my view, much of it (although not always) is circumstantial  and reactionary — similar to the Jewish resistance movements that mounted attacks against Hitler’s Nazis during the second world war. Reactionary. Most of the victims want to be good citizens, are raised up in families that have a Faith, they believe it is in their best interests to do the right things, but they can’t, not always, their circustances push them in the wrong direction. They are no worse, for example, than the barrister son of a judge who was found with cocaine, yet got to keep his job.

Plagued by deep, unresolved and complex psychological issues, these people will continue to suffer as society is not equipped (let alone sufficiently interested) to assist them overcome their troubles.

So, in view of  the ‘surface problems’ (such as lack of finances or not having affluent relatives who are able to lend them considerably large sums of money to start businesses, or to bail them out of life’s tricky situations) which disproportionately affect minority communities more than white communities ; without a quality education – their schooling having been somewhat biased, it follows that gang culture, drugs and other evils have an easier job in taking over many a life,  giving to some of them a sense of belonging, importance and identity they long for — and which mainstream society deprives them; while to a considerable number, taking all these away to the tune of a criminal record and several years behind bars.

(10) And even those who manage to get a degree or two are not spared. I know many people (including some Malawians) in the diaspora, who despite a decent education from western universities, some with postgraduate degrees, cannot get jobs or are  in jobs that pay them significantly less than their white colleagues. In some cases, they are not given suitable jobs for which they are qualified for, and few have the entrepreneurial drive (nor essential experience) to create for themselves a job. But even those who do are not exempt from the ‘onslaught’. Yet in view of this, as if by mockery, there are many relatively less educated westerners operating in Africa, who being armed with sufficient capital, are reaping huge financial windfalls…

So, where do you think they go from here? How do you think they will look at the world?

The majority who can’t make it to university, and who therefore can’t get the good jobs will settle for the odd jobs, some of them are plagued by the criminal records they got when they were younger (and irresponsible). They get deeper into the wrong groups, waste time with alcohol, drugs, women ..and debt piles up, desperation kicks in leading to crime, and as they grow older the cycle repeats itself,  in the lives of their children.

History has got its cruel and finely defined pathways.

Those who go to jail (some doing so for street cred) end up causing more hardships to their families (“Prison and the Poverty Trap”-New York Times ), for the women – unplanned pregnancies, many remain in abject poverty, some Christian young men convert to Islam, among those some end up radicalized. The others will be pushing drugs, credit-card fraud and survive on underground businesses, or via the charity of others. ‘Our Babylon’ some will say.

But how can this situation be rectified (not that it’s necessarily easy or straightforward to do so), assuming we somewhat can see more clearly where the problems lay? What’s the solution? Well, in my view, you can’t change the future when the systems of the past are still deeply rooted in the present. So that’s a big problem, as to borrow the biblical saying, old wineskins cannot carry new wine.

And then comes views from some of those who are enlightened and lucky to have ‘made it’, who will often blame the victims for being lazy, for not working hard, for not ceasing the moment, for living in the past…. etc, when it’s all a much complex maze tied to their past, and is beyond their control a lot of the times. And it’s not only in back communities. Even low-income white families in council estates are thwarted by such vicious circles.

To keep this post short, I have cut out the next section, which will form my next post. In it is a skeleton template for a workable solution that could accelerate the reversal of this terrible African tragedy that has affected all families of African descent in one way or another.

[PART 2 HERE]

Similar + sources:
1. Perspectives on the Educational Experiences of African/Caribbean Boys – Nisheet Gosai.
2. Black Youth Culture Blamed as Pupils Fail
3. “Is it ‘cos I is Black, Sir?” – African/Caribbean Males & British Higher Education
4. Challenging Racism – All London Teachers against Racism & Fascism, Russell Press, 1984.
5. Radicalised Boundaries, Floya Anthias and Nira Yuval-Davis, Routledge, 1992.
6. Poverty Has a Creation Story: Let’s Tell It

7. Manchester boy Watson selected by Raiders in NFL Draft