Former President Peter Mutharika and former Secretary to the President and Cabinet Justice Lloyd Muhara ordered to pay K69 Million on attempting to dismiss Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda

Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda.

The High Court in Lilongwe has ordered former President Peter Mutharika and former Secretary to the office of President and Cabinet, Lloyd Muhara to pay costs amounting to a total of K69.5 million to the applicants in the Chief Justice case.

The ruling states that the first applicant, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and the second applicant Magistrates Associations of Malawi is to be paid K26 million whereas the third applicant (the Malawi Law Society) is to be paid K43 million, within 14 days.

The two defendants were found guilty of trying to send onto forced leave Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda and Justice of Appeal Edward Twea, pending their retirement in June last year after the Chief Justice sitting in the Supreme Court of Malawi had upheld a historical Constitutional Court Election decision of the High Court, which ruled in favour of the then opposition leaders, Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima, nullifying the May 2019 Election results.

Khumbo Soko, one of the lawyers for the applicants said that the case had set a new legal precedent and that public officers in Malawi will from now onwards be personally liable for costs of their misconduct.

“A message has now been sent that there will now be personal costs for constitutional delinquency. This is a warning to those holding public offices that a day of reckoning will surely come.”

– Khumbo Soko

Judge Charles Mkandawire who presided over a judicial review of the case in his earlier ruling ordered that Peter Mutharika and Lloyd Muhara should be personally liable to pay the costs.

It will be interesting to see how this precedent is applied going forward in subsequent cases, since in the past Malawi has had quite a number of instances when public officials have acted in a manner that is unlawful, and that has ended up costing the country’s public purse millions of kwachas in court settlements/ court awards, while escaping personal liability. This judgement appears to put a stop to that practice.

Area 18 Interchange - Malawi

An intertwined road Interchange in Malawi got the whole country talking

Call me a cynic, but sometimes the country of my birth baffles me to the point I wonder: Is this really happening?

And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a brief: Malawi’s capital Lilongwe recently saw the opening of a new intertwined road interchange, named ‘Area 18 Interchange’. And because nothing like it ever existed in the country before, loads of Malawians began talking about it. The excitement soon reached fever pitch, to the point people were going out of their ways to go to the location of this interchange, to see it with their own eyes and observe the traffic criss-crossing its roads. Malawi’s president even visited the site the other day and stated his government’s commitment to develop the country’s cities through construction of transformative pieces of infrastructure.

Now you might say thats not a big deal, people in the developing world get excited about all sorts of ordinary things which westerners take for granted. And you are right. But what irked me was the hero-worship that followed, in that some Malawians began to claim that the construction of the road is one of the major achevements of former president of Malawi Peter Mutharika.

At which point I snapped.

It’s just a road. A tiny road for that matter. that if you go to other countries, you’ll find bigger and much better intertwined junctions… its no big deal.

On a much more reflective note, other people rate their leaders on substantive material things they achieved in their lifetimes. Achievements of huge significance that impact thousands of people, in some cases literary changing the course of history. To give a flavour, how about ending slavery as an achievement, defeating Nazism, ending the colonisation of a country, developing a Nuclear Weapon, giving the vote to women, presiding over a large National Economic Transformation (The New Deal); ending Apartheid and becoming the first black president of South Africa, lifting over 800 million people out of poverty(as China has done) …

How ridiculous do you think Malawi appears, when faced with a list of such noble and grand achievements, we’re in some corner hollering and worshiping a former leader based on a tiny road interchange that was built under their watch?? In 2020?

Is that really how low our standards have fallen? Kamuzu Banda must be spinning in his grave…

Some of these people need to visit Durban, Nairobi, Kigali or Addis Ababa- to see what real development looks like …

Let me tell you what I believe. Its no secret that countries like Rwanda, Botswana, Malaysia, and South Korea were at one point in the 50’s and 60’s on the same level of development as Malawi. But unlike Malawi, they chose to develop and made significant strides out of poverty to become middle income countries. It was a deliberate and sustained intervention to match and be level with some of the best.

Now you might say our politics were different at that time, we had an inward-looking dictator more concerned with self-preservation, and you are right. But since the start of multiparty democracy, we’ve had 26 years in which to “catch-up”. But there’s been nothing to show for.

And yet, our contemporaries also faced innumerable challenges. Like us, they didn’t have enough money. Their people weren’t that educated. In fact if you look at where we are, we probably have more incentives to develop that countries like South Korea or Botswana had in the 60’s and 70’s. The difference is while we sometimes appear comfortable in our sorry state, these countries were not content with mediocrity or token gestures. I mean, when was the last time you heard of an aid organisation working to feed hungry children in Souh Korea?

These countries decided they needed to create economies that could stand side by side with some of the largest economies in the world. Economies that were resilient to existential shocks. And it is high time we did the same.

In Malawi, we have to be careful not to let our historical excuses and well-rehearsed pragmatism (the “Malawian standards” / “crawl before you can run” excuses), ending up being main obstacles in our path to development. I’ve said it here several times before, but we really have to raise the bar on what counts as development, and what is raw and unmistakable mediocrity.

Peter Mutharika (like him or hate him) didn’t do much to develop Malawi because he was not a transformational leader. There was no blueprint, no grand plan, no credible and actionable dream, no rhetoric to charge and fire up people’s imaginations. His leadership, busied by tribalism, corruption and deceit – left much to be desired, and there was more bluster than implementation. If you don’t believe me, just look at the promises that were made in DPP’s 2014 Manifesto and compare with what was actually achieved by 2019.

In Malawi, we say of undeserved promotions that “Anangogweramo” , meaning Mutharika just fell into it. It was an accidental selection, and he wouldn’t have ended up as a leader of a party and the country if not for his brother pulling him into DPP’s Politburo.

But this post isn’t about the Mutharikas and DPP’s woes.

Malawi has to start seeking capable operators who will move us forward as a country. We have to begin to seriously empower people who are qualified and know how to build and develop a country and have the force of character to deliver on promises. Osati zongochitikira mwa ngozi.

There’s another equally important aspect to all this.

If a tiny road intersection has got the whole country excited, what do you think foreign dignitaries will think of us, as a nation? What do you think they will report to their countries, as ways in which to pacify or otherwise impress our people? Imagine how all the ruthless and pushy countries, even a China omwewa will deal with us, when they know it takes very little to impress our people… ?

We have to press the reset button on what we regard as development. Toilets that look like ma sakasa, Airport terminals towoneka ngati khola la nkhuku, tima bridge ta make dzana… and yes your little interchange, they’re all not signs of development in the context of the 21st Century. Because there are such things as global standards, and we have to pull up our socks in this area and begin to match the rest of the world. Rwanda and Kenya are doing it, why can’t we?

In any case, how can you possibly attract investment in the form of a factory (say Chevrolet, Nissan or Kia for argument’s sake), or how can you seriously attract a tech giant’s assebling facility (APPLE, IBM, HP, MICROSOFT) and compete against the likes of Ethiopia or Kenya – who have impressive infrastructure and who are doing far more to attract foreign corporations to set up shop in those countries, when your own infrastructure leaves plenty to be desired?

Fiscal discipline and living within your means

I feel like I’ve written about this topic before. There’s something about that title that is vaguely familiar in an unsettling and tired kind of way. It’s either my subsconscious is weary to have heard such things so often, or more probably, buried deep somewhere within the 840 posts on this blog, there’s a gem with a title not too dissimilar to this one. One that is similiar enough for me to be able to associate this post with it.

Whichever way, at least one post here (titled ‘Priorities’), echoes sentiments similar to those addressed in this post. And come to think of it, now I’m hesitating whether to finish writing this post…why don’t I just refer everyone to a post titled ‘Priorities’ on Malawi Ace, and get on with other things…? Would be so much easier for me, i think.

But I won’t. And in case I’ve lost you, what i’m talking about is the reckless and irresponsible wastage happening in Malawi, under the watch of Peter Mutharika’s DPP government.

In an article titled ‘More extravagance at Parliamenthere the writer Deogratias Mmana, writing for the Times Group says the Malawian parliament has authorised spending on motor vehicles, meetings and fuel expenses – all unessential expenses.

Asked about the expenses, he quotes the speaker of parliament, Richard Msowoya giving what reads like an incoherent explanation devoid of any real rationale. Msowoya then refers other questions from the journalist to Financial Controller Chikondi Kachinjika, who doesn’t proide any explanation whatsover as to the rationale of the expenses. The article ends with government spokesperson and Minister of Information, Tourism and Civic Education Jappie Mhango attacking parliament, accusing parliamentarians of self-enrichment, of being insensitive to the current economic situation in which many Malawians are struggling…

And I must say it’s all rather peculiar…

Whichever way you try and analyse it you can’t miss the blame game going on.

Everyone seems to be baming DPP, but once every now and again, a DPP spokesperson will turn round, and point fingers at someone else. ..

Let’s break it down a little… isn’t Richard Msowoya an MCP Member of Parliament? If so, don’t you think it is somewhat strange that these accusations come right on the back heel of the recent accusations levelled against Peter Mutharika regarding his bloated UN entourage?

To me this reads like either a diversion tactic (a way to deflect the entourage blame Mutharika knows is justified); or it’s a long-winded way of saying don’t blame Mutharika over the New York UN Trip and self-erichment, other legislators including MCP MP’s are also stealing from Malawi.

And why do I say that? Well, just look at the choice of language by Mhango… It’s as if DPP members of parliament are not recipients of the very same expenses he decries?? Also, what Chakwera, the MCP President says here is rather telling. His Speech includes the statement:

Vilifying others, on issues that you have more control of and on which you are mandated constitutionally to control, is the last thing that will resolve our current and ever-increasing challenges.

Further, why hasn’t Peter Mutharika come out in the open to question the spending? Can we honestly say that he did not know that parliament was spending K300 million on unessential expenses? If he didn’t know about the wastage, shouldn’t he have known – especially in light of the tough economic conditions Malawi is currently facing? Shouldn’t his advisers have alerted him of the issue, and it’s implications, with a view that he would intervene?

If it is the case that he knew, why didn’t he act or say something against it earlier – instead of relying on Mhango’s dubious comments? Let’s not forget that this is a man who not too long ago, just last December, was able to initially defer (or should i use the word ‘delay’) his own salary and salary increments of MP’s. In that episode, Mutharika saw what was coming and acted appropriately some may say…

I’m not placing all the blame on the president. Infact I’m not placing any blame on him at all. I’m just wondering who knew what when? Because to me, its seems if these things are known beforehand, something can always be done to stop them — before the media picks up on them, and a circus develops.

Malawi will not improve if political leaders continue to put their appetite for luxury and opulence before those of the country, or for that matter the people. It’s a mantra many far better placed commentators have repeated over the years. The money that would have been used to fund hospitals, to buy food for the millions of people who are now in danger of hunger due to the floods, the money that would have been used to fund the sourcing of educational equipment and infrastructure upgrade is instead wasted on luxuries that have no long term benefit to Malawians….how can the country improve like that?

Malawian legislators need to seriously start thinking about what they should do to get the country on the right footing. Not accusing each other and playing silly blame games. And you don’t need expensive vehicles, or meetings that break the bank to be able to do that.

Commemorating the midnight 6 ‘heroes’

Writing about Malawian politics is never an easy thing to do. It seems that every week that passes, Malawian politicians have the knack to upset the taxpayers with their endless habits of misusing government funds. As a writer, sometimes one is compelled to write about positive things about politicians, but it proves difficult when our politicians keep plunging the future of Malawi into the abyss. It becomes a tiring chore to always write negative things about politicians all the time, because in the end it is the writer that looks like an ‘ambulance chaser’. But once again, here are more negative passages about our politicians.

First of all, I want to understand what warrants Peter Mutharika and his cohorts to think they are ‘heroes’, when they were arrested on treason charges regarding the alleged plot which tried to usurp power from Joyce Banda? I want to understand how their warped thinking decided that their alleged ‘treasonous acts’ on that fateful day are worthy of remembrance?? If power really corrupts, our politicians have really lost touch with reality and are living in their own hallucinations of misguided grandiosity.

It was on 6th April 2012 when a group of executive government officials on MBC TV, read out a statement that rejected the vice president Joyce Banda’s ascendancy to power as per constitutional requirements. Fear gripped the whole country for no-one knew what was happening due the manner the ‘midnight 6’s’ blatantly reckless attempts to acquire power at all cost.

The 6th of April in 2012 should be commemorated as a victory for democracy, because if it was another country, the midnight 6’s statement was a call for civil war.

So with such a background, I wonder how the midnight 6 are able to think that their disdainful and contemptible deeds are somehow worthy of commemoration? If anything, it is an embarrassment for our nation to have people of their position, commemorating their reckless actions that led them to be in jail in the first place. It’s as mad as the US government trying to commemorate the birth of John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated Abraham Lincoln – an insult to democracy.

The spectre of handing out medals to the midnight 6 participants is a pathetic attempt to rewrite history under false pretexts. It makes me worry for Malawi to observe that these are the people that are supposed to work to make our lives better. The midnight 6 are really in their own cocoon where a sordid romanticism has taken over their minds.

In the real world, history is not going to look kindly upon the midnight 6, for it was these same individuals that nearly plunged this country into chaos following their alleged power plot. The day Bingu died could have been the worst day for politics in Malawi, because what the midnight 6 was suggesting was detrimental to the constitution and principles of representative democracy.

The backbone of democracy is the constitution, and if a country disregards the clauses of the many sections inscribed in the constitution, institutions are weakened, and chaos becomes the order of the day. Malawi has many problems but the constitution needs to be respected at all costs because if we lose that, then our democracy is for nothing. Then we’re no different from the likes of Somalia. And if the midnight 6 had been successful in grabbing power from Joyce Banda, it would have set a bad precedence for the country’s respect for the rule of law.

Historically, Malawians have always been been a peaceful people and have been tolerant of the many mistakes politicians make, including the events that led to the midnight 6 scandal. But never be fooled, for peaceful people also have a limit to their complacency, and their is no telling how events would have transpired if the midnight 6 were triumphant in their unconstitutional pursuit of power.

I therefore fail to understand how Peter’s Mutharika’s political advisors decided that the events of the ‘midnight 6’ is something Malawians want to remember. If anything, we should be commemorating the day the constitution of Malawi prevailed over the wishes of a few unscrupulous individuals. The people that need to inscribe their names on the wall of freedom are those that refused to allow the unconstitutional power grab of the midnight 6.

I believe that this ‘midnight 6 commemoration’ is a stain to a hero like Orton Chirwa who spent years and died in a prison cell, without ever having the chance to inscribe his name on Zomba’s prison walls. Oh what a shame that Malawi has never sought to commemorate Orton Chirwa’s imprisonment as a stark reminder of political injustice that once plagued this country.

All in all, history will be judged by our future compatriots. It is not up to us to inscribe our names on the walls of Malawi for our heroic deeds. For the future might just erase all those names with paint to forget the embarrassment that is the midnight 6. Ask Gaddafi and Saddam, whose grand statues now lay in ruins. If Malawi wants more heroes, the midnight 6 are not it.

Kawasineni khutu achikulire

I was surprised to hear that President Peter Mutharika of Malawi was visiting the jail cell spent time in when he was arrested in March 2013. According to media reports, the visit is meant to highlight Mutharika’s philosophy that no one in Malawi will be arrested on political grounds. That prisons should not be detention centres for punishment; rather that prisons should be places of reformation and rehabilitation.

This sounds commendable on the face of it, until you look at the fine print.

Firstly, who foots the bill for the trip? And how much of tax payers money was spent on this? Are we not in Joyce Banda’s 100 days celebration territory here? I’m not convinced.

If Peter Mutharika really wanted to help the political situation in Malawi, he would have fronted a bi-partisan (tri-partisan ?) legislative effort to ensure that ‘that no one in Malawi will be arrested on political grounds’. That would have been a better start because with the current economic situation, I doubt it is wise to get ministers and the entire DPP party to some rural area to paint some prison. I wonder how much money would have been saved if Mutharika stayed at home? At Sanjika Palace, possibly contemplating how he would reduce youth unemployment and create jobs for the millions of unemployed Malawians. He could have read this blog, at least it would have given him some ideas, on how not to do things? I think it would have.

One commentator, Billy Mayaya, writing on his Facebook profile opined that:

Malawi if facing the biggest economic crisis in its history and we have a crisis of leadership! The commemoration of his stint at Lumbadzi Police Station shows a lack of leadership. Malawians are tired of seeing their hard earned tax going to fluffy events. teachers haven’t been paid; There are no medicines in hospitals and meanwhile our leader is having a party!!!

It is true, most people feel insulted. Many Malawians were detained under the dictatorship of Kamuzu Banda.. Gwanda Chakwamba for example spent 13 years in prison.  Machipisa Munthali, 27 long and weary years! Even my own father spent 5 years in prison for speaking out against the Ngwazi. All at a huge cost to their families. Lives wasted by an unnecessary detention.

None of these patriotic men contemplated of or pulled some misguided publicity stunt designed to somehow prop their popularity.  None of them, after subsequently being elected to parliament, and serving in various capacities did such a thing. Does that mean that they did not care of the issue of political imprisonment? That they were less patriotic? That somehow they wanted ‘political imprisoning’ to continue? I don’t think so. If anything these men paid a much greater price than any political hardship Mutharika has ever endured.

And just imagine that this stunt comes barely a day after DPP’s secretary general Ecklen Kudontoni told a gathering in Mzuzu that now was time to enjoy the fruits of their hard work, that any CEO’s of a parastatal who does not render their support to DPP would face ‘consequences’…?? Isn’t that a political threat? Intimidation by a member of a governing party?

A government is elected to serve all its people. Not  just those who voted for it. Mutharika should stop these childish gimmicks by his lieutenants and implement his plan of rescuing the country from the brink of downfall. There are many of us out here who want Peter Mutharika to succeed. Because if he does succeed, it means Malawi will do well. That’s the wish of every Malawian. But why should people be silent when the government is getting things wrong. Achewa anati wakusina khutu ndi mnansi.

Some Malawians are joining Politics for the wrong reasons

The 20th May general elections of Malawi consisted of three major political families all vying for the seat of the presidency. On one side there were the Mutharikas, on the other side there were the Muluzis and somewhere in the other corner were the Bandas. Distinctly different from this family centric crowd and very much an outsider was  Lazarus Chakwera and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).

The three political parties, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the United Democratic From (UDF), and the Peoples Party (PP) all promised prosperity for the people of Malawi. However, the structure of Malawian political parties looks increasingly to be made up of political families who are chosen because of affiliation rather than merit. This sort of political selection leaves questions as to the credibility of some of the politicians, because a good number of them are only employed because their relatives hold senior positions in and around the executive.

Politicians are like modern-day pastors in that the prevailing ideology has entrusted them with a job which in theory can be likened to bringing salvation to the people of the world. Politics is about bringing change for countries and helping those that are helpless and living in abject poverty. Whether for good or ill, Politics has also been about ensuring that those who hold power and resources, get to keep that power, and those resources. But all good Politicians have to be patriotic, strong-willed, selfless, truthful and compassionate in the face of global societal problems. Michael Ignatieff , Edward R. Murrow Professor of Practice at Harvard’s Kennedy School writes,

All the best reasons for going into politics never really change: the desire for glory and fame and the chance to do something that really matters, that will make life better for a lot of people. You have to be one of those people with outsized, even laughable ambition, who want their convictions to mean something more than smart conversation at dinner tables. You have to have a sense of vocation, a belief that something must be done and that you’re the person to do it.

The problem we have with Malawian politicians is that most of them never had a calling to become politician. Most of them just became politicians because of circumstances and opportunities that came their way. Most of all, some people in Malawi take politics as a means to an end of all their financial problems. Some Malawian politicians think more of the perks that come with the job than the job they were entrusted with by the electorate – who are always seeking the right individuals to govern them. Further, most of our politicians who are in power or in the opposition parties are usually handed the opportunity to become a politician on a silver platter.

hand-634689_640In an article titled ‘Barack Obama: how an unkown senator became president of USA‘, Robert McGuigan Burns details how Obama from an early age at Harvard embodied leadership qualities. An excerpt from the article describing Obama’s early achievement at Harvard University and how he turned down a high-paying job to work with the community.

After finishing High School he would study at Columbia University in New York before later going to gain a law degree from Harvard University. It was at Harvard that, somewhat portentously, Obama became the first African American President of the Harvard Review. Moreover, Obama’s co-workers, notably John Owens, were already noting Obama’s presence and power early in his career. In a Boston Globe article from 1990, Owens described: “…this guy (Obama) sounds like he’s president of the country already…” (Matchan, 1990). Obama chose to decline a high paying corporate law job in favour of a small civil rights firm and continue his work in the community, later entering politics (Bacon, 2005: pp 60).

In contrast to our politicians, how many Malawian politicians have such backgrounds where they dedicate years of their lives to work with the community from an early age? How many Malawian politicians can claim to have turned down a life-changing opportunity to work with people for a meagre salary? To understand the needs of those at the bottom. To build an informed picture of what the country truly needs?

Let us talk of our current president Peter Mutharika. Professor Mutharika worked at the prestigious Washington University for about 40 years where he was a professor at law. One of the colleagues at the Washington University had this to say about Professor Mutharika when they heard he was involved in politics in Malawi,

“I guess what’s surprising is he was a quiet man in class,” said attorney John Kozyak, one of Mutharika’s first law students at Washington University in 1971, and now a friend. “So it was surprising to me a couple of years ago when I was looking on the news and saw that he had thousands of people come out to rallies for him and he was dressed in some sort of (ceremonial) garb. I never saw him in anything other than a black or gray or blue suit. I never thought of him as a real African politician.”

Indeed Mutharika today is the president of Malawi at 74 years of age. Peter Mutharika was drummed up to be the leader of DPP through his brother’s presidency. I would strongly argue that had Bingu Wa Mutharika, Peter’s brother had failed to win the 2004 general elections, It is highly doubtful whether Peter Mutharika would have seen the light of day as President of Malawi. The argument is that Peter Mutharika became a politician by chance. Primarily because his brother was handpicked as UDF’s candidate, and subsequently became the president of Malawi. Peter Mutharika did not join politics of his own conviction and drive. I don’t believe that for the 40 years that he was in the USA he at any point seriously planned to become a politician in Malawi at the age of 65. If he did, then the evidence is nowhere to be seen. No political articles written, no evidence of serious participation in Malawian or other political Pan African organisations in the diaspora. Nothing.

A similar scenario applies to Atupele Muluzi whose father Bakili Muluzi was the first democratically elected president of Malawi in 1995. The young Muluzi, having little political experience in the form of a parliamentary seat, came out of nowhere, to head the United Democratic Front, when there were other senior individuals with substantially more experience, and who had been in the party for many years, some since its inception in 1992. This incident splintered the party, and saw the exit of some bigwigs, the likes of Brown Mpinganjira. Others claimed Atupele would be used as a puppet by his father Bakili, who Malawians will remember failed to change the constitution of Malawi to allow him to serve for a third presidential term. The senior Muluzi rejected this allegation.

Similarly, the current member of parliament for Zomba Malosa  Roy Kachale Banda, whose mother Joyce Banda took over the reins of power after Bingu Wa Mutharika’s sudden death, arguably joined politics only because his mother became president. It’s probable that his parliamentary campaign was financed by funds which only became available due to his mother’s elevated profile. In any case, Joyce Banda has been active in politics since 1999, winning the same Zomba Malosa constituency Roy now represents. Why didn’t Roy join politics earlier?

There have been several other examples.

Therefore, it is not rash to conclude that a considerable number of individuals that join politics in Malawi, do it for the wrong reasons. If a member of a family joins politics, it is common that cousins, sons, daughters, uncles or aunts, all suddenly have the conviction to help serve in an official capacity, under the totally convenient pretext that they want to ‘develop the country together with their relative’ who happens to be in power. Consequently, these become helpers, assistants and other officials around the corridors of power. And while one may argue that if the rules or constitution does not explicitly prohibit employment of  family or relatives then it shouldn’t be a problem, but what about a conflict of interests? What does it say of our politics? Further, when Malawi has suffered from tribalism and neopatrimonialism for many years, how justifiable is such behaviour?

cardsI believe that political and leadership skills in general are skills that either have to be learned, and or have to be honed over the years of someone’s life. One cannot just wake up one day and decide to become a politician. The awakening of politicians usually happens earlier in life where one decides to dedicate his/her life to help others through politics. It is delusional if not dangerous for anyone to consider themselves a politician just because a father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, sister, brother, aunt or uncle has or had a position in the government at some point.

As things stand in Malawi at the moment, cronyism is the biggest recruiter of politicians, when it should have been patriotism and a desire to improve people’s lives inspiring selfless individuals to be a part of change. This is why political parties in Malawi are run as if they are family entities, complete with wedding receptions of relatives at State House almost every year.

DPP has had two Mutharikas at the helm. UDF has had two Muluzi’s at the helm. AFORD has had two Chihanas at the helm and we are yet to see the next leader of PP after Joyce Banda. My guess is he or she will be dynastically linked to Joyce Banda. Even MCP in John Tembo had a leader who was arguably connected by a dynastic ‘family’ tie to Dr Kamuzu Banda via Cecilia Kadzamira.

However this is not to argue that one cannot become a politician when a relative or family member has been in top government positions. The intentions are the issue here. My argument lies in the manner in which politically affiliated individuals ascend to roles of power when their lives previously had nothing to do with politics.

(Edited by S Nkhwazi)

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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.

Malawi cancels $145 million arms deal with SA firm: report

Original article here (via Times Live)

Malawi cancels $145 million arms deal with SA firm: report

The agreement between the Malawi Government and Paramount Group has been abrogated. That is all I can confirm and say,” Gondwe told Saturday’s Nation newspaper.

The paper quoted a source within the finance ministry as saying the government of President Peter Mutharika told the firm the deal was “illegal and expensive”.

More on original article here

Comment

I think President Peter Mutharika must be hugely commended for doing this. The relationship between Paramount and Joyce Banda was unhealthily close. The whole fiasco regarding the arms deal, and the jet bartering and the comments from the UN had an air of dishonesty and special interests about it. I don’t believe the arms deal was to the benefit of the people of Malawi, and Joyce Banda was wrong to associate her government with these guys. As I wrote here, most of these deals benefit people other than Malawians.

Having said that, I wonder what it will cost the country to terminate the contract? Wait, was there a contract? Or was this another gentleman’s agreeement? We will need to know how much it costs the country, and why the president calls it ‘illegal…’. Presumably, the get-out clause is a better devil than paying $145 million? Although what you don’t want to happen is to spend additional millions of dollars you don’t have in court cases fighting a contract that is impenetrable.

I hope President Mutharika will make do on his promises to clean up government in Malawi, and not waste time with propaganda or fighting opponents. I hope he does away with all such useless and ‘illegal’ commitments Malawians never needed. I’d like to see Mutharika revisit Kayelekera, and ‘abrogate’ the unfair Paladin deal. I’d like to see him push for the completion of the Shire-Zambezi waterway, which his brother Bingu Wa Mutharika began – it will lower the cost of goods in Malawi. I’d like to see Malawians realise real benefit from the Vale railway line. I’d like to see Malawi University of Science and Technology open and begin training students in areas which the country is lagging behind. I’d like to see the restrictive and backward thinking regional quota system for university entrance abolished, and in its place an improved open merit based system established. It will be good to see more Universities built across Malawi, and there are many donors who will support this initiative. The proposed mini Chinese city could have huge benefits in terms of stimulating trade and entrepreneurship for both China and Malawi, the president must pursue the agreement, and see its completion. Why can’t we have our own oil refinery? As the Zambians have done (see another link here). There are many ideas the government can adopt to generate income and raise funds outside of taxes. Over a year ago, I helpfully listed some here.

But most of all, I’d like to see president Mutharika get to the bottom of the Cashgate scandal , prosecute all who were responsible for the theft, and close any remaining loopholes in IFMIS. Malawi can never move forward if people continue to steal from the government – and get away with it.

So far, so good. Well done Mr President Sir!

Congratulations Mr President – Where does Malawi go from here?

APMMy congratulations to President Arthur Peter Mutharika (APM) for winning the 2014 presidential elections in Malawi are aptly late. Over 2 months late – I’m somewhat embarrassed, but just as the lateness was not entirely of my own doing, maybe as a consequence of it (possibly even in spite of it), a lot more thought has gone into preparing these ‘congratulations’ than would have been the case if I had offered them the day APM claimed victory. Had I made haste, the congrats would have been too brief and would lack substance.

In earnest, this post is more of a call to action than an expression of pleasantries. And what better time to do it than when the President is in the US, to meet Barack Obama at the first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. Pardon me for comparing the picture of 50 African leaders congregating in Washington DC to meet a US President, with governors being summoned to Rome to meet the Emperor, a summon by the Emperor to rulers of the provinces.

Except in this picture, the United states is not really an empire in the classical sense (if we ignore the economic sense for a moment). Neither are the 50 countries which have been invited to Washington, and are sending  their leaders, governors of US provinces. So the question is, why comply to such a request at all?

The simple and shortest answer is DOLLARS. Our world is controlled by the stuff. And even though the institution that issues currency in the US is essentially a private consortia of unknown entities (they are secret), the scheme of things is that most parts of the world today are currently dancing to the tune of Washington (and possibly to the tune of those who lend to Washington) , in the same way as at the height of the Roman empire, a large part of the civilised world did what Rome said, and were subjects to the political and economic power of ROME.

And while the rise of China could curb the dollar dominance, that’s not really what I want to talk about today.

1. Priorities

Mr President, as a well-educated man, I’m sure you know that there’s nothing wrong with Malawi forming alliances with bigger and more powerful countries. It is beneficial because such alliances can provide access to capital, if not attract inward investment (Your inaugural speech touched on this). Further they are potentially a conduit of technology transfer – which could have huge benefits for a country like Malawi.

Malawi needs developed allies, whether they are from the East, West, North or South.

However, who ultimately benefits from these alliances? Who gets the lion’s share? Are these deals really win-win situations? Could they be made to be win-win situations if they are not? Or is the bigger player benefitting more than the smaller player?

For example if a Chinese or American company invests $300 million into Malawi’s railway infrastructure, mining or agricultural sector, how much of that investment will genuinely foster long-term sustainable growth? A kind of growth in which ordinary Malawians are set to genuinely benefit from the deal? In layman terms, we might ask how many people will have their livelihood transformed by the investment such that they achieve or are likely to achieve long-term financial independence?

I think these questions must be asked, and addressed because it probably will not be of significant benefit to Malawians, if investors are persuaded to invest, but there is no strategy to safeguard the long-term rewards of the investment to ordinary Malawians.

An effective system needs to be created and implemented whereby revenue sharing (between investors and the government / local people) is as much a priority as the luring of investors. Maybe a good place to start would be to create investment organisations or government agencies such as this one in Angola, whose task is to iron out investment rules and create a win-win strategy. Indeed the rhetoric between Beijing and Luanda has increasingly been of creating ‘win-win’ business partnerships.

Malawi should learn something from such partnerships.

This is what most major powers today did in the heydays of their economies. Japan has these agencies, Britain established them many years ago, Germany has them (and has large manufacturing and investment zones which are testament to the success of these agencies), even China has a good number of them. And if you look at younger economies, like Australia and New Zealand, even there you’ll find them. Thus, it’s no surprise that a country such as Iran operates a few of these vehicles. With that benefit of hindsight, is it not important for Malawi to develop Government investment agencies?

2. Education

The technical projects of Bingu Wa Mutharika’s government were an excellent idea. And it is in your government’s best interest if these were successfully completed. We need more high quality educational institutions that will train our workforce, and empower them with skills that they will need to do their jobs well. Transferable skills which they can use in various scenarios. For this to happen we need to train teachers and lecturers abroad, to access this knowledge and impart it on our students. We also need to attract foreign specialists who already possess this knowledge, and bring them to Malawian institutions so that they can impart their knowledge onto our students. We need to broaden the subjects on offer at our institutions, and we need to make higher education more accessible. Here, the use of technology may be useful, in that video technologies that allow the creation of  ‘virtual classrooms’ could provide an excellent (and cheaper) way of technology transfer. Here also is the need for equipment most paramount. Your government would be best advised to source as much educational equipment from other countries or educational institution as can be possible. This can be a real game changer in terms of the quality of graduates we train.

3. Corruption

Mr President, if there’s one critical limiting factor to Africa’s economic development, whose negative effects don’t need re-articulating, it is corruption. The practice is killing the continent. And if nothing is done to curb the prevalence, and extent, we will never catch up with the rest of the world. In Malawi, the Cashgate crisis has put this issue in sharp contrast. And an opportunity has arisen in that addressing corruption in Malawi could close the loopholes for good, safeguarding public funds, and paving the way for sustainable economic development. It is crucial that the perpetrators of the Cashgate scandal be brought to book without selection or bias because this will give people confidence in your government. It really is in your best interest that our government in Malawi becomes clean. A cleaner government is a stronger government. And a stronger government has a better chance of creating and maintaining a strong economy, than one which is inherently corrupt. Examples of this relationship stretch from recent governments in Norway, all the way back to the Roman empire I referenced to above.

4. Unity

Bringing in Muluzi into government was a good and commendable gesture. Although many people I’ve spoken to have doubted whether he has the experience for his current office, I think having him in government is a positive thing. But that aside, I think trying to find common ground, and inviting the opposition into government should go much further. There are many talented people in Malawi. Proud Malawians who have immense talents – but who are not utilised and therefore feel left out. Maybe the creation of Parliamentary committees enables participation on some level, but more must be done. I’d think new blood like Juliana Lungudzi and several other young politicians could do more if entrusted with responsibility within government. Why? Because Malawi needs fresh ideas, and different people have different ideas they bring to the table depending on their experiences. Yet ultimately, we all want Malawi to develop, to do better, so it would be in our own interest if everyone participated. I urge you Sir, to empower this parliament to be different, to be united and a force for good on behalf of ordinary citizens. The way to do that is to keep the legislators busy with meaningful projects that have a real prospect to effect change. And to keep jealousy firmly locked out.

5. Federal System of Governance

This goes without saying, but power shared is responsibility shared. There’s little justification why a country the size of Malawi with a population over 13 million should restrict itself by virtue of its system of government. And one man can never fully cater to the needs of 13 million people. Neither can 192 people – no matter how prolific – do enough to improve the lives of so many people. A Federal System could change that. It will bring more people into participation in the building of our economy, and the power bestowed upon them will enable them to undertake projects free from the control or bureaucracy of a centralised system. Across the world, there are many examples of countries with Federal Systems that work far better than those with centralised systems, and as an expert in law, I’m sure this issue is evident to you.

6. Infrastructure

See this and this (which includes a reference to the Shire-Zambezi Water Way). Increased infrustructure will open our continent up, and make it easier for people to do business. It will also lower the associated costs of investment – a factor which could attract more investors.

7. Investment into Manufacturing and Business

In order to be less reliant on products sourced from outside, we need to develop our own manufacturing sector. Why should we buy from outside things which we can make or source quite cheaply within our own borders? With tobacco earnings set to drop, now could be the time to diversify into manufacturing. After all, China is increasingly becoming an expensive destination for western companies – many are looking for alternatives. Creation of incubation and business centres is also a necessary prerequisite to sustainable economic development. If you make the cost of doing business low in your country, many people will flourish and reward your government handsomely in increased tax contributions.

8. Subsistence farming and preservation of Small Industries

There are lessons to be learned from the Farm Input Subsidy Programme. And your government would be best advised to listen to what the people want. Thus, how many fishermen who currently use canoes for their trade would do better with a boat? How many farmers who use hoes to prepare the fields could benefit from a cooperative that lends out a tractor? Similarly, what should the government do to help industries such as these:  How second-hand clothes kill business for Malawi’s tailors.

9. Accountability

Our culture of accountability needs to be restored in Malawi. People should not do wrong (be it in a parastatal or top civil service position) and think they can get away with it. A good way forward would be for regular performance reviews not only for ministers, but also ordinary civil servants, preferably to be undertaken by external auditors (to minimise the prospect of favouritism developing into self-accountability). That way we would be replacing entitlement (where people think they have a right to a job – even when they are not qualified for it / when they are bad workers) with accountability. Similarly, it must never be right for an investor whose company has earned millions of dollars through doing business in Malawi, to evade tax, legitimately, on Malawian soil. The loopholes need to be closed shut.

10. Increased Trade with other African countries.

I urge you sir to be an advocate of the Africa brand. We need to import more from our immediate neighbours than from farther afield. We need to lobby the west to act in reducing cost of remittances. We need Africans to do more business with other Africans. See this for more information.

11. Security and Safety

We need to restore our confidence in the police. Malawi needs more security, not only along our borders but within our towns and cities. People in Malawi don’t feel safe anymore. Not like how safety used to be defined in the 70’s and 80’s. If we can’t afford police cars, let the government buy our police officers motorcycles (which are cheaper to run), so that they are able to respond to calls for help.

12. Investment in International markets

Malawi and other African countries need to invest in international markets. This should be a strategic and long-term initiative. We need to create organisations that invest in global companies around the world, so that the dividends therefrom are wired back to our countries in Africa, boosting our economies, and thereby contributing to our continent’s economic growth. Just see this article titled Bleeding Money: Africa Is A Net Creditor To The World, Illicit Outflow Actually Exceeds Inflow Of Aid, Investment, to understand why this is necessary. It’s urgent.

Mr president, Malawians are looking up to you now. They need leadership accompanied by action, and less of the empty promises of previous regimes.

Once again, congratulations Mr President Sir!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ahmed Dassu Letter to President Joyce Banda

On Jun 7, 2013, at 2:42 PM, Ahmed Dassu wrote:

 Excellency

 I refer to your response to my request for an audience during your visit to London for the G8 summit, which was “not available. JB,” which appears both intentionally abrupt and unbefitting of your high office and public servant number one!  Therefore I feel it prudent to address in this email the issues I had wished to discuss with you had you granted me the audience, in order to avoid any misrepresentation or misunderstanding.

 That I share a passionate interest in Malawi and its future with my colleagues Edgar and Thom of Nyasa Times, as I do with many other Malawians is widely known.  Arising from this I had expressed to Edgar and Thom some concerns regarding recent political developments and the continued unabated and open corruption in the sector of public procurement, and asked if Nyasa Times would carry an opinion piece by me, expressing these concerns.  Instead both Edgar and Thom suggested that as you were travelling to London soon I should meet you, Excellency, to put across my concerns directly.  This is what prompted me to request an audience with you.

 Turning first to the political scene.  On President Mutharika death, although I had previously expressed deep reservations about your leadership in a TV interview on MTV, I was amongst the first to publicly demand that constitutional order should prevail, and that as Vice-President you should be sworn in as President.  I convinced others to do the same, including a person who had during President Mutharika’s administration been at the forefront of publicly humiliating you and who had publicly demanded press censorship – now a leading office-bearer in your party, the PP. 

 Indeed on your swearing-in as President, in common with a majority of Malawians, I considered this as a Godsend for a new beginning for Malawi; this conviction was further strengthened by the words of wisdom in your inaugural address to the nation – full of promise and hope.

 Sadly, in office instead of being the stateswoman we had all expected you to be, you practise the politics of marginalisation and victimisation based on whether one is perceived to be your supporter or not. Instead of honouring the high expectations we Malawians built up on your assuming office, your Presidency is built and sustained on the foundations of Members of Parliament, now transformed into political prostitutes who who have been induced to defect from their own parties to your party by patronage and corruption , which the high office of President enables you to practise. Given the opportunity I would have pleaded with you, Excellency that it was not too late for you to live up to the high expectations and hope for a new beginning that were aroused on your ascendancy to the highest office in the country.  That you should focus on how Malawians judge you and how they will perceive you in posterity, and be the stateswoman that the world assumes you are instead of the power hungry, corrupt, vindictive woman, engaged in theft of public funds and who will do whatever it takes to remain in power, which is what a majority of Malawians now see you as doing.  What we see is you practising the politics of marginalisation and victimisation, all glitter in orange with no substance where it concerns democracy, accountability and transparency. 

 You are not minded to accept that you were not elected to the high office of President, just as your party was not elected to govern.  It is blatantly obvious that you are subjecting Section 65 to the patronage and corruption to sustain you an unelected President, in office instead of leading Malawi by consensus.  You have followed in the footsteps of President Mutharika and set aside Section 65 by encouraging resort to courts in the usurping of the powers of Parliament. You have condoned and sheltered those ‘political prostitutes’ who have defected to your party. In a parliamentary democracy there can be no more damning indictment.  Sadly the Speaker himself has fallen victim to allowing the usurping of the powers enshrined in the Constitution for Parliament and become a political prostitute himself.

Turning now to the issue of business, I believe that Edgar and Thom had conveyed to you the need for the wiping out of corruption in government procurement so that companies like mine and others which were prejudiced during President Mutharika’a administration could be encouraged to submit competitive tenders for fertilizer and in other areas of government procurement and thereby reduce costs and improve delivery.  

 It may be foolhardy to ask you to recall, so in the light of what has since transpired, so permit me to remind you that as Vice-President you had publicly said that President Mutharika had institutionalised corruption in government procurement of fertilizer and that you would be exposing the corruption. So it was reasonable, your having implied President Mutharika was corruptly awarding government contracts to selective companies, that these companies were guilty accomplices in the corruption of which you accused President Mutharika.  However in office you have proved no less corrupt, in fact even more so, as immediately on assuming office you proceeded to award contracts for the supply of fertilizer to the very same Indian-owned companies, except for a black indigenous Malawian who, because of his tribe and colour, was identified as a supporter of President Mutharika, when in fact he was no more a supporter of Mutharika then were Abdul Master, Apollo or the other Indians who are paying you millions of Dollars in corrupt deals.

 Indeed the vast unexplained assets and resources now at your and your party’s disposal since you assumed office are ample evidence of the high level of corruption in your government.  I go so far as to challenge the very concept of the Supplementary Fertilizer Subsidy Programme as being a manifestation of the unprecedented corrupt practices and an instrument for the bribing of voters with corruptly acquired funds by you. For as if you were cheating children in a kindergarten you cloud your corrupt misdeeds by telling Malawians that “I personally and my friends will fund the fertilizer for the Supplementary Fertilizer Subsidy Programme”. Where will the funds come from? No doubt the public purse that you are busy looting.

 And who are these friends other than those who are awarded the government contracts by you corruptly?

 In conclusion let me add that I know that in writing to you I expose myself to your reknown vindictive nature and possible victimization by you.  But I shall persevere whatever consequences I am made to suffer, for the struggle for a better, democratic, free Malawi, free from the hunger for power of individual politicians like you have turned out to be, is one I have engaged in since 1972.  My commitment to Mother Malawi is for Malawians to judge.  Indeed, I am convinced posterity will judge me a far better citizen of Malawi  than contemporary politicians like you have done.

God Bless Malawi

 Ahmed Dassu

Source: The Oracle