Why Peter Mutharika’s recent outbursts are evidence confirming he is out of touch with poor Malawians

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Last week,  the president of Malawi came out to angrily defend his New York Trip, and justified hiring a private jet (amidst an economic crisis), and taking out a large entourage to the UN, which he said was 106 strong, not 110 as most media outlets had initially reported. Basically, he rubbished the claims as the ones I wrote about here.

Mutharika claimed that many of the people who went with him were either self sponsored, or sponsored by other organisations. He also claims that the hired private jet was used only for the five-hour trip between Lilongwe and Dubai, and not for the entirety of his US Trip, as some media outlets claimed.

Complete with banging of his fist against the table, and language which is definitely not statesmanlike (‘nonsense’ and ‘stupid’ are two of the words the president used), language which is reminiscent of the last days of former president Bingu Wa Mutharika, Peter Mutharika told Malawians that he was already a millionaire when he entered politics, and that he can’t steal from them. He said he hired the jet because he did not want to wait at airports for 10 hours ‘like a fool’. He also called for an apology from those who criticised him, including from Zodiak radio and the Malawi Congress Party.

However many people have been irked by his outbursts, probably more so than the initial transgression, suggesting that his anger shows just out of touch he really is with ordinary Malawians.

And here’s why:-

  • In the interest of transparency why have we not been told the names of all the organisations which funded some of the delegates? Shouldn’t Malawians be told which organisations funded which individuals if what the president is saying is to believable? Further, shouldn’t these organisations tell us exactly why the funded such people, and what benefit that ‘investment ‘ would have for Malawi in the short to long term ? In addition, shouldn’t those organisations who privately funded members of Mutharika’s entourage speak up and justify why they couldnt have used their monies to fund much more pressing issues, such as funding district hospitals for example, which just this August Voice of America reported that they had reduced the meals they gave to patients to one meal a day, from the recommended three. Couldn’t those organisastions instead use the money they had to help employ the recent graduated doctors the government was failing to give jobs to? If the government cannot tell Malawians how many people were paid for by the tax payer, and exactly how many people were privately funded, and which those organisations were, then its difficult to take seriously what Mutharika said during that press conference.
  • Further, if these organisations he talks about cannot justify in black and white their reasons for paying for such a large entourage, and the direct benefits to the country – at such a difficult time for many Malawians, then they too are part of the problem holding Malawi backwards. Because which sane human being goes out to blow $600,000 + on flights and accomodation to New York when there are people who are dying because of lack of medical equipment in the hospitals; equipment which would cost a small fraction of that sum to repair? When we are told that 2.8 million people face hunger due to food shortages caused by the most recent floods? How about the exercise of empathy? The exercise of good judgement, and genuine exemplary leadership….
  • About the private jet, I’ll let someone else do the talking. For some strange reason, Malawian presidents always seem to get into trouble with private jets:
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  • That comment (“no single African leader went to New York on a Commercial Jet ” ) in the president’s speech is simply appalling…. because how many African countries are struggling in the same way that Malawi is suffering? How many African countries have as many shortages, a struggling economy, low poorly paid workers, hunger and high crime rates, how many have a free-falling currency, how many are grappling with a corruption crisis in which at least $2 billion went missing? How many are failing to improve their economies as Malawi is due to all these problems? So if Malawi’s problems are unique in a twisted kind of way, why should our president compare us with others who are flourishing, or at least doing far much better?
  • About the president’s comments of a ‘vicious kind of politics’..One must wonder why the President won’t take positive criticsm, acknowledge his mistakes, and apologise for bad judgement. It’s the president who must apologise to poor Malawians, not Zodiak or MCP…Why would people criticise him if he was doing what was right? It’s not the first time people have criticised a Malawian government or a Malawian leader over excess or bad decisions. From recollection, I remember very well that commentators and the media criticised Bakili Muluzi’s government when they made bad decisions; they criticised Bingu’s government when he erred, and most recently they criticised Joyce Banda – because of her government’s constant mistakes. Why then does Peter Mutharika think he is immune to criticsm?

Malawi needs a leader who is more like Mahatma Ghandi, or Fidel Castro, and not an out of control lover of luxury and pleasure that brings to mind dictators like Benito Mussolini.

The International minnows and their minions

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The term Minnow is an English noun used to denote a small freshwater Eurasian fish of the carp family, which typically forms large shoals.  The term has been used (among other definitions) to denote something that is small or insignificant, be it a person or an organization.

And I’m using it as the subject of this article because last week, the Hindustan Times quoted international affairs expert Dr Kanti Bajpai, who is professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School in Singapore, as saying India’s Narendra Modi’s decision not to make an address to the United Nations General Assembly at the 70th session may be interpreted as siding with an Indian school of foreign policy that doesn’t ‘..want to be in the company of the international minnows too long’

The writer of the article quotes Modi to have said of such international gatherings like the UN General Assembly, that there are “Lots of small countries with their small problems.”

It is therefore somewhat surprising, amusing let alone ironic when you read that some countries are taking large entourages to the very same gatherings at which they are somewhat frowned upon by delegates of much larger countries.

Uhuru Kenyatta travelled with 40 people, Malawi’s Peter Mutharika took an entourage said to have been around 110 members, whereas the Prime minister of Bangladesh had an entourage of 227 members!

Before he left, Peter Mutharika gave a speech which some commentators claim was effectively an SOS over Malawi’s problems. So why then take such a large entourage when he claims that Malawi is in trouble? In particular, the Government of Malawi recently conducted a Food Security assessment for the 2015 / 2016 period, which concluded that

  a total of 2,833,212 people will not be able to meet their annual food requirementt during the 2015/16 consumption period. This represents 17 per cent of the country’s total population.

It went on to state that the Government needed US$146.378 million to procure 124 thousand metric tons of maize to prevent a food shortage crisis which could quickly develop into a humanitarian crisis.

If Malawi had done some deals with investors and the economy was recovering, why would anyone sensible question the wisdom of going to the UN with a whole horde of people?

If Mutharika was taking the top 100 businessmen from across the country, irrespective of party affiliation (as most western leaders do when they travel to say Saudi Arabia, India or China)  to scout for opportunities, collaborations or business or to attend strategic meetings, why would anyone sensible question it?

The problem is Malawi is currently free-falling, Oil and gas licensing were suspended, the floods devastated land and crops, and will affect harvest, donors have pulled out of budgetary support and are refusing to resume, even the IMF has closed the taps, and you have a president taking loads of people to New York???

Between the president’s departure last week and today, we’ve learned that:-

  • The government of Malawi will be spending ~ K144million Kwacha on the airfares of Mutharika’s entourage.
  • That K238 million is being spent on accommodation alone for 111 people.  That makes a total of K352 million ($636,000) of taxpayer’s money being spent on Accommodation and airfares, without accounting for allowances, which are not coming in cheap.
  • That the president has hired a private jet – a Bombardier Global Express at a cost of US$4 million for the duration of th trip.
  • Speculation on social networks online is that the President’s step son is part of the entourage, as well as a chief and a PE teacher. We do not know if this is true, or why they went? How will their inclusion benefit the country or indeed what will they add to the trip?? Surely Malawians must be told why were they selected and what they will add to the trip?
  • Also part of the entourage is a lady who accompanied Mutharika only because the first lady is on the trip.
  • From one ministry 3 Directors went to New York, each with an allowance upwards of K9 million (US$16,000, and that’s besides the other staff members accompanying them)
  • Peter Mutharika and Ben Phiri are travelling separately so that they shouldn’t be seen in the same place, to give the false impression that Ben Phiri is not working for the government even when in reality he still is working for Mutharika.
  • There are some who claim the UN is paying for the trip, but our sources including some people close to government officials dispute this. Malawi is going to pay for their own bill, and any news that the UN is footing the bill is designed to mislead. If donors are paying why haven’t they explicitly declared so, seeing the situation in the country?
  • Last year, someone who went to the 69th Session of UN with the president blurted out in a drunken stupor,that he had been paid $10,500 for the days he was in New York. There is no reason to suspect that the officials accompanying Mutharika are being paid less this time around. Or is there?

Last year, Mutharika returned from a trip to the US and Malawians were told that he had received promises (or was it signed agreements) of investment totalling around US$600 million from some investors. While I can’t recall how many people he took along with him for that trip, how many of those investment promises he received have since materialised into real investment or real tangible projects?

I think there is need for more accountability and responsibility on the part of the presidency. Minimally, I think numbers of officials going to the UN should be capped at a figure such as 13, and allowances of officials of African government should be capped at modest sums. In particular, why should the head of state of a poor country sleep in Waldorf Astoria in New York , paying over $10,000 or is it $15,000 a night when millions of his country’s citizen are struggling with daily life, and live on less than $3 a day?  I think just as a matter of concern for other humans, for other people, just out of what in Malawi we call umunthu, expenses for all officials including the president should be capped at $500 a night. You can’t be that insensitive when people, real people in your country are suffering. It can never be right, and such selfishness is the cause of all human problems. I’ve seen this attitude again and again amongst the ruling class (even in Britain). There are some people who assume that just because they are doing well financially, everyone should be doing relatively okay. This is never the case.

So, all that these expensive trips do is give credibility to critics who dismiss them as self-enrichment schemes, which on some level they are.

When will Malawians leaders learn to be accountable? With all the poverty our country faces, should we really be throwing money around like this?

I think we should legislate to have laws that can remove representatives if they are unable to meet the expectations of their constituencies, or if they abuse their power. I think that is the way forward to counter corruption and self-enrichment.

Also, when the largest economy in Africa, Nigeria, took around 30 people (according to NAIJ.COM the number is 22) to the UN, does it really make sense for tiny Malawi, one of the poorest countries in Sub Saharan Africa, to be taking entire clans, complete with chiefs to New York?

Perspective

For those of you who say the amount Peter Mutharika will be spending is minimal, lets not forget that there are many American tech giants which began with capital of less than $4 million let alone $635,000. Facebook for example, a company now worth billions of dollars, once received $500,000 in seed funding from Peter Thiel , the PayPal Co-founder, in 2004, for a 10% stake. My point, the money Mutharika is wasting can be better invested into ventures that could greatly benefit the country in the short to medium term; it can be invested into young people, instead of blowing it on luxury and unnecessary spending at the expense of an already burdened tax payer.

One final thing … 🙂  the word minion. A minion, for those who do not know, is defined as a follower or underling of a powerful person, especially a servile or unimportant one. Where in Narendra Modi’s reality that definition places Mutharika’s 110 underlings is anybody’s guess.

UN rights office welcomes Malawi leader’s condemnation of attacks on people with albinism

27 March 2015 – The United Nations Human Rights office today welcomed Malawi President Peter Mutharika’s strong statement condemning the recent spate of attacks on people with albinism in his country and urged that the measures he outlined to arrest those responsible for such attacks and better protect albinos be launched “without delay.”

“We hope that this series of measures will result in a significant improvement in the security and well-being of people with albinism in Malawi,” the southern African country where at least six incidents have been reported this year, said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Mr. Colville welcomed President Mutharika’s statement last week in which he called on security agencies in Malawi to be placed on high alert, to arrest people responsible for such attacks and provide maximum protection to people with albinism.

And this week Malawi’s Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Patricia Kaliati, unveiled a five-point plan of action, which included the development of an education and awareness programme, strengthening of community policing structure, research to understand the root causes of the problem and what is done with the body parts of people with albinism.

We “urge the authorities to ensure that the Government’s action plan is fully implemented without delay,” Colville told reporters at the bi-weekly press briefing today in Geneva, Switzerland.

Noting the Minister’s reference to the Government considering appealing against some lenient sentences, the spokesperson said: “We would welcome this as well, and note that earlier this week a man received a sentence of just two years after being convicted of attempting to kidnap his 11-year-old niece Mina Jeffrey.” Her uncle later reportedly said he had been promised $6,500 for her body.

Attacks against albinism had traditionally been recorded in Tanzania, Burundi and Malawi, Mr. Colville said, noting that it was a recent phenomenon in Malawi, while attacks have recently been reported in Mozambique.

The UN has expressed revulsion at a recent spike in gruesome attacks against people with albinism in several African countries where in the past six months, at least 15 albinos were abducted, wounded, or killed, including three such incidents last week.

In Tanzania, in early March, President Jakaya Kikwete promised to put an end to the current wave of killings in that country, saying he will not allow them to escalate as they have done in previous years.

“We have been informed that the Tanzanian authorities, in particular the Attorney General’s Chambers, have started to develop a plan of action to raise public awareness and fight against impunity,” according to spokesman Colville. “However it appears that most of the witchdoctors/arrested over the past few weeks have now been released.”

“We once again call upon the Tanzanian authorities to take prompt and firm action to ensure accountability for the crimes committed against people with albinism and to take effective measures to protect this particularly vulnerable group,” he said.

Mr. Colville also welcomed the establishment of the post by the UN Human Rights Council of an Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights of persons with albinism.

“This important new mandate will help give a voice to people with albinism and contribute to their protection, through a dialogue with concerned States, enhanced awareness raising and reporting, and the provision of advisory services and technical assistance,” according to the human rights spokesman.

Source: UN

Con Artists: Deception, deception and more deception

The typical con artist of the 21st Century is a puppet organisation whose employees have important sounding job titles, wear suits, have well manicured fingernails and sport pricey haircuts. None of that amateurish I have a gun give me your money or I’ll blow out your brains twaddle.

This morning, I found myself reading a hilarious article that suggested that the World Bank (of all the neoliberal outfits out there) was fronting some initiative designed to help Africa in preventing pricing irregularities of its minerals, in the process saving the continent billions of dollars?

Yeah, essentially that’s what it says…which is… how do I put it….dishonest, or at least not entirely truthful, if one is to be mild-mannered.

Yes, it will be good for people to know the actual price of their country’s minerals, but who exactly are we talking about here. Aren’t the prices of commodities evident and freely available to the public on international markets? Aren’t the people working in Natural resource departments of government agencies somewhat a bit more savvy (and knowledgeable) than the local man on the street? All you need is a computer (or even a mobile phone) and an internet connection. Don’t tell me government ministries of natural resources across Africa don’t have access to an internet connection to enable them to check the price of Platinum or Rare Earth Minerals on the international market…or are too incompetent to do so?

Which is why I think this initiative is merely a distraction. Having a map of your country’s natural resources and the cost thereof doesn’t immediately translate into physical or tangible gains. It doesn’t mean that you, the native, controls, owns or has the real benefit of those natural resources. Or does it?

At the most this is a PR stunt designed to mislead, a nefarious ploy to distract the people’s attention from the unfair, unethical and illegal state of play, where African resources are owned and exploited by foreign corporations who have no interest whatsoever in improving the lives of African people. It’s purpose in my view is simply to provide an illusion that something is being done, when the fact remains that nothing of any real substance is being done. It’s as hollow as announcing to the world that the UN is considering a resolution against Switzerland and other Tax Havens, to stop them receiving illicit funds from third world / developing countries, and then doing absolutely nothing else other than that annoucement….no action, zero! Meaningless.

So, you can mineral map the whole world if you like, but the locals in third world countries will still remain deeply afflicted by poverty, often going without, or with very little; there will continue to be poor or non-existent healthcare facilities, hunger and disease will continue to run amok, corruption will remain high, wars will tear the landscape and displace millions … as in the backdrop, an alliance of tycoons and wealthy billionaires multiply their wealth – their catalyst, a resource that should be owned by Africans, and yet isn’t.

How many African companies have contracts to mine minerals in North America? How many have contracts for oil extraction in the North Sea, or off the coast of Australia? What percentage of Canadians own Multimillion dollar companies registered in Canada? Similarly, what Percentage of Nigerian/ South Africans / Malawians own multimillion dollar companies in their own countries? Those are the questions the World bank or indeed any serious commentator should be asking, because addressing the disproportionate imbalances or anomalies in those questions is what has a far higher potential to reverse capital flight from Africa and third world countries. That’s what has a higher chance of improving the plight of the people of Africa. Not mineral mapping…or some silly PR stunt.

It can never be right, whether you have a mineral map or not, no amount of sugar-coating or window dressing will ever put that unfair state of play right. The truth is there has been a clearly indisputable economic unfair advantage gained by western countries (helped by wars, bad policies and stupid African leaders), and something serious must be done to reverse and rebalance the playing field. Half-hearted deceptive stunts fronted by agents of the neoliberal right will only harm the little sincere good that others are currently working on.

If you really want to know what this is all about, the ending of the article itself says it all:

BDs2

 

Visa facilitation as a means to support tourism growth, socio-economic development and job creation

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Yesterday an update appeared on the Malawian president’s Facebook page, in which she informed her social media followers that she had participated in a ‘.. Ministerial Roundtable of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation at Victoria Falls’. The topic for discussion at the forum was ‘visa facilitation as a means to support tourism growth, socio-economic development and job creation’.

Considering that the themes of infrastructure, airports and increased cross-national trade within Africa have popped up several times in discussions and articles on this website (for example here, here and here), I think her angle on the issue is commendable, and deserves a mention.

Recently, the Sudanese Billionaire, Mo Ibrahim expressed his displeasure during his address at the 11th Nelson Mandela lecture, with the visa regimes in Africa, saying:

“..The second issue is African economic integration. Only 11% of our trade is amongst the Africans. We refuse to let our people travel from one country to another. We always need a visa. And l also say, sadly, although being Sudanese, whenever l travel in Africa l always carry a British passport, because l am welcome.

My colleague here, a Member of our Board, had huge trouble in getting a visa to be able to join me here. He was a Secretary General of the United Nations, a board member, just to get a visa here is a major trouble. But with my British passport l am welcome here through your immigration lines. Is that acceptable?..”

One can only hope that these kinds of initiatives — which clearly will have a tangible economic benefit to Africa – do eventually get implemented by the countries concerned, and do not end up onto the large pile of broken promises by political leaders past and present.

The full update on the Facebook page is as follows:

Good evening my friends

Today I attended a Ministerial Roundtable of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation at Victoria Falls, on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia where I addressed participants on the topic: ‘visa facilitation as a means to support tourism growth, socio-economic development and job creation’.

I addressed participants that our continent possesses many places of great beauty and I went on to talk about our beautiful country, Malawi, which happens to be one of the most beautiful countries for tourists attraction as we are blessed with a large freshwater lake, surrounded by white sands and full of a diversity of fish species and country boasts of wide open skies, beautiful rolling hills and mountains that offer rare experiences to climbers, bird watchers and adventure enthusiasts.

I made it clear that Malawi’s description as the ‘warm heart of Africa’ does not just refer to our inviting climate or the deep red of our sunset. It aptly describes the welcome you will receive from all Malawians as we are indeed very friendly and “warm hearted people of Africa”!

While talking about tourism I addressed participants that , tourism promises immense opportunities for growth of our economies and job creation; however millions of people continue to face unnecessary barriers to travel. These barriers include complicated and expensive visa processes; difficult and therefore expensive transport connections, lack of integrated border management systems and security threats.

For example, according to research by the United Nations WorldTourism Organisation; and World Travel and Tourism Council, facilitating visas among the G20 countries alone would create an additional five million jobs by 2015. This is a clear indication of the impact simplified and user friendly visa system can have on our economies.

It is my view that Visa Facilitation has the potential to enhance regional integration, intra-regional trade and easy movement of capital and people between countries and regions.Therefore, visa policies and procedures are among some of the most important instruments influencing tourism and investment. The development of policies and procedures for visas as well as other travel documents is closely linked to the development of tourism. Furthermore, the quality, reliability and functionality of visas have a direct correlation to number of arrivals at a destination.

In lieu of the above reasons I am calling for regional interconnectivity amongst our nations which may entail improving the current state of transport and telecommunications infrastructure and facilitating institutional improvements to optimise the efficiency and capacity of road, rail, water and air transport and the social sectors in education and health.

I believe that this in turn has high potential on enhancing economic growth; thus contributing to overall objective of poverty reduction. The link between tourism and poverty reduction is well known as one of the fundamental contributions is job creation which is part of our government’s economic recovery plan that my government is pursuing.

Thank you all for your support and prayers

May God bless you!

Good night!

Dr Joyce Banda
President
Republic of Malawi “

Reshaping the African Politician – Nick Wright

reshaping-african-leaderIn my quest to find progressive views and forward-thinking ideas which if embraced could potentially improve Malawi’s economic situation, I found myself interviewing Sir Edward Clay, the former British Ambassador to Kenya, whose interview will be posted on this website soon. He spoke about some very interesting things, including introducing me to another individual, a  British historian in the form of Nick Wright, who has spent several years in Africa, including some time in Malawi. It is my pleasure to share with the readership of  this website his insightful observations:-

1. You’ve had some exposure to Malawi and Africa in general… if you were to summarise your experiences, what has been your African experience?

My wife spent several years as a physiotherapist in Mulago Hospital, [in] Kampala. We had several Ugandan friends from that experience. After leaving our jobs in Australia, we enrolled in the (British) Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO): I as teacher of English in Chimwankhunda Community Day Secondary School in Blantyre, Malawi; she as physiotherapist at Malawi Against Polio (MAP), also in Blantyre. We were there for two happy years. I became interested in Malawian politics at that time and started as Malawi correspondent for the London-based Africa Confidential. Journalism of this sort continued for several years after our departure from Malawi in 2001 and obliged me to make several return visits to Malawi in order to conduct interviews. I met the leaders of all major Malawian political parties and the heads of some government departments, foreign embassies, aid-agencies, newspapers and business enterprises.

2. Most of the African countries in which you spent time in gained their independence around early to mid-1960’s. And at the time, Pan-Africanism was probably at its peak, with a freedom fervour sweeping across the continent, something that can probably be compared to what we recently witnessed in North Africa with the so-called ‘Arab spring’; It’s now close to 50 years since those ‘glorious days’, but to what extent in your view have the goals or overarching expectations of ‘independence’ conceptualised by the founding fathers of African countries been realised for the majority of their citizens?

Nkrumah’s pan-African ideal of the 1960s was never adopted because arrogant African presidents, like Hastings Banda, were (and still are) too attached to the trappings of a threadbare sovereignty to be able to surrender all the flags, palaces, UN flummery, and motorcades. I think the Western powers had an interest in divide and rule, too.

I once wrote an article which mourned the collapse of the East African Federation for just such reasons: “Central Africa’s Sovereign Issues”. Regional federations, as stepping-stones to wider unions, make good sense for Africa – especially for land-locked, resource-poor, Malawi – and they must not be allowed to remain the modern taboo that Kamuzu Banda made them.
This is another example, I’m afraid, of too much power in the hands of Presidents who scorn institutions like Parliament, the Judiciary; the printed media; the Civil Service, the Constitution which are set up to be their “checks and balances”. Presidents are told by everybody around them (until they are toppled) that they are God Almighty, and they come to believe it. Only Nyerere came close to the ideal of a model, modest, president, and his modesty was treated with contempt by the others

I developed a healthy respect and liking for individual Malawians but a very strong feeling that Western aid policies were failing Malawi badly. Why? Because: (1)they fed complacency, idleness, irresponsibility and corruption within the Malawian elites; (2)they fed arrogance amongst the expatriate community who were forever in the company of grateful and respectful poor people; (3)they created passivity and feelings of helplessness in ordinary Malawian people, including those in government who had their responsibilities taken away from them. Whilst being aware of the many individual benefits brought to poor Malawians by individual aid- projects, I felt that the real beneficiaries of aid-money in Malawi were: (1)state-presidents and their family members, friends, and hangers-on; (2)the staff of a multitude of NGOs and aid-agencies, and (3)expatriate consultants expensively employed by DFID, the EU, the UN etc to write expert reports. Bingu wa Mutharika was on the right track with his angry denunciations of Western aid but his protestation was undermined by his own lavish personal spending and his grotesque toleration of corruption. How can a person who makes all the decisions in Malawi and whose immediately previous experience was in minibus driving and in the corrupt bureaucracy of COMESA(Bingu) or small business (Muluzi), be trusted to act solely in the public interest of Malawi? Bakili Muluzi was more likeable as a man than Bingu but identical in his failure to distinguish between personal and public.

3. And if such goals and expectations have largely not been met, what are the main reasons as to why they have not been met?

Far too much unchecked power is in the hands of individual Malawians, especially the President, because of the “Big Man” [similar link here] culture which prevails in the country and the weakness of public institutions. The independent national newspapers, like The Nation, do a reasonable investigative job but are easily intimidated by threats to their advertising revenues and by their own lack of resources; the MBC public broadcaster is entirely under government control and biased in favour of government; the Malawian churches retain a sporadic consciousness of their responsibility as “public conscience” of Malawi but are often distracted by their own factionalism. The Parliamentary committees occasionally exercise oversight on public spending but only when in session and they are often starved of vital evidence by government departments and tend to divide on party-lines. The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is widely considered to be only for “small-fry” financial criminality, and firmly under presidential control where corruption itself is often centred. Western embassies, (individually and collectively), sometimes exercise a restraining hand on the presidency through their aid-policies, but their staffs are usually too comfortably entrenched in their own luxurious lifestyles, and too suspicious of each other and of China, to risk serious confrontation with the president. The Executive arm of government (effectively the President) is overwhelmingly powerful in Malawi, and this patrimonial model of government filters down to all levels of administration. “L’etat c’est moi”

4. While there has been visible progress in some parts of Africa, when one travels in other parts, especially the rural areas, the story of suffering is the same. If it’s not wars and ethnic violence, then it’s disease and poor healthcare, or famine and hunger, else it’s lack of resources, poverty, corruption…the list goes on.  After over 50 years of foreign intervention and billions of dollars in aid, what in your view is preventing Africa from getting its act together?

Aid is ruining Malawians’ self-respect and their natural honesty and capacity for hard work. Its gradual removal will cause as much consternation in Western donor capitals (“What will Bob Geldof say about all the hungry people?”) as it will in some of the poorest households of Malawi (“See how our politicians can’t provide “Development”). But it is a “bullet” that must be “bitten” for the greater long-term good of Malawi. The Fertiliser Subsidy (FISP) which absorbs most of the agricultural budget has become a millstone around the neck of Malawi’s agricultural development.

The subject of overseas aid is a very important one and for the reasons explained above. Why should the presidency take note of competing institutions when the Executive is virtually guaranteed free money from overseas? Why should government departments do their jobs properly when overseas experts with university degrees in International Development seem to know all the answers? Why should Presidents feel the necessity of proper financial accountability?

All aid should be phased out. The endless tinkering between “good” and “bad” aid will not do for Malawi any more. It is ALL bad! If its abolition means the collapse of Western-style democracy in Malawi, then let it go. It will return in a different, better, African, form!

5. One of the problems that has been cited as holding back the growth of African economies is the relatively low levels of Venture capital investment into Africa, when compared for example with the Venture capital investment that has been flowing into Asia or South America. Do you agree?

Venture capital is largely absent from Malawi, except in uranium-mining at Kayelekera, and in tourism (i.e where Malawian control and profit-taking is minimal)

Nick Wright has worked in the History Department at Adelaide University (1975-1991) and for Africa Confidential as its Malawi correspondent (2003-2010).

Other Articles by Nick Wright: