Friday, December 21, 2007

WFP Malawi programmes suffer a financial setback

A Three year Social Protection of Food Insecurity and HIV/Aids Programme that was expected to be implemented by World Food Programme (WFP) from January 1, 2008 has stalled because lack of funds.

WFP come up with a programme that was to tackle widespread poverty and hunger across Malawi with the spectrum of interventions that provide emergency food support, disaster risk reduction as well as encouraging development through nutritional, educational and health related projects, according to information sourced on WFP report produced in November 2007.

The programme is expected to benefit 1.2 million Malawians, every year for three years, who are living in widespread poverty and hunger across the country.

WFP spokesperson Matthews Kumwenda said the programme has stall because donors have not yet fulfilled their pledges and that WFP does not have enough resources to proceed with the programme.

The project was a carry over of caseloads of projects that were benefiting HIV/Aids affected people, malnourished children and pregnant/lactating mothers which are scheduled to end, in the country, on December 31, 2007.

Kumwenda said WFP is remaining with money that would see the programme up to February next year and if the donors, who made the pledged to finance the programme will not come forth about 1.2 million Malawians would be affected.

“We have got maize that can be distributed up to February only and if no donor is going to come forward to assist that means we are going to cut down the number of beneficiaries and reduce the rations,” he said.

He also WFP would not be able to assist in the likehood that the country experiences heavy flood as the organization has no money to carry on such kind of projects.

Recent Metrological Department reports predicted that the Malawi would experience above normal rainfall and there is high likehood of floods.

In the report WFP said: “With no adequate resources to commence the project activities in January, there is a high risk that WFP Malawi may not be able to respond to floods when called upon to support victims. As early as November 16, 2007, there have been floods and hailstorms reported in seven districts with almost 2000 households affected.

“The Government of Malawi is constrained in terms of resources to handle a large scale flood disaster, and may not be able to cope with any farther floods as we move towards the peak of the rainy season where floods have been predicted,” read part of the report.

Commissioner for department of Relief and Disaster Preparedness Lilian Ng’oma said she was aware of the situation which WFP was in and that Malawi government has set aside money that would be used to respond in any eventuality.

“We would also rely on other NGO and faith groups, many others would come in,” she said.

She said Malawi has already started experiencing heavy storms in some places and that it will need the input of the donors.

WFP said the project focuses on disaster risk reduction and protecting the livelihoods of food-insecure and vulnerable people.

WFP assistance will address the food needs of households enduring successive shocks to health, food production and income that are at risk of hunger and poverty. Life-saving support will be given to people made food insecure by HIV/AIDS and to households with transitory food needs as a result of shock.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The beauty that is Malawi

Malawi is endowed with natural beauty. On December 13, I and several colleagues left Blantyre for Mulanje with escorting Pierre Cherruau a journalist from France who visited the country recently.

In the picture Cherruau and the rest of the team enjoying themselves at Dziwe la Nkhalamba in Mulanje

Reducing Southern Africa to a mere village

Quest for knowledge is a vital ingredient in all human endeavors. Greed for knowledge has forced a human being to undertake dangerous, hazardous and even fatal escapades.

The drive for a human being, in all aspects is to know, understand and utilize anything that would make him or her assume recognition in any endeavor he or she had undertaken.

The quest for knowledge has forced man, since time immemorial, to jump into a space ship and zoom to the uncharted spaces. It has forced man to hit the bottom rock of the deepest sea; it has also forced man to climb the tallest mountain.

The same quest for knowledge forced me, a reporter from Malawi to apply for an exchange programme, which NSJ was coordinating and I was attached to Public Eye, the leading newspaper in Lesotho.

Taking into account that Lesotho is within the Southern African region, and also after making several trips to South Africa, I had sketchy a picture of Lesotho politically, socially, economically and culturally.

With the fusion of cultural elements of the Bantu people and economic elements of the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) which both Malawi and Lesotho belong, I had a picture of Lesotho which was more like South Africa economic wise and more like Malawi culturally. I was slightly wrong.

Armed with my knowledge of journalism, on April 31, 2007 I stepped into the Basotho land through the Maseru Boarder with South Africa for the first time, virtually with nothing to worry as I thought after working for a weekly newspaper in Malawi, a weekly in Lesotho would be a continuation of what I do in Malawi.

The first element to hit on my face was the fact that if I had to do my job well and enjoy my two months stay in Lesotho I had to learn Sesotho, the country's national language and I had to do it quickly. Lesotho is a country whose people enjoy speaking its language and nothing more.

My first days at Public Eye newspapers were basically spent on acclimatising; I was trying to understand the daily operations of the newspaper. Everything was a little bit different in the way the day to day operations were being conducted and I had to be fast in everything, to adapt.

Public Eye is a weekly newspaper that comes out on Friday, however, all the stories were supposed to be on the desk of the News Editor by Monday, unlike in my country at the newspaper I work, Malawi News a weekly also, stories are supposed to be ready by Thursday noon.

This departure, brought into me a sense of discipline to adhere to those new deadlines at least if I had to have my stories published.

Lesotho print media industry is comparatively small to Malawi. The country has got no daily paper; it has only one newspaper, Public Eye, in essence because the other so-called newspapers are printed on A-4 bond paper, looking more like a school magazine than a commercial newspaper.

Working in such environment would sound easier for every journalist taking into account that there is no serious competition, but in Lesotho the story is different, almost every newspaper printed in South Africa finds its way into Lesotho, in other words, Public Eye's competitors are none other the South Africa giants including the Sowetan, The Star, Mail & Guardian, The City Press and all other big papers. .

The big challenge to reporters, mainly at Public Eye, was to make the paper survive in such a juxtaposed market. Obviously the onus was on the reporters to come up with stories that would capture the interest of the Basotho people to give preference to their local newspapers when it is on the market with those big and well established newspapers.

As a reporter, in a new environment, seeking information, almost anything and everything was a way to take. Things that were basic and common to the Basotho people were strange and compound to me.

For Example, one day I asked why the Maseru City Assembly would allow people, including the Deputy Prime Minister, to keep cattle, right in the backyard of their houses in the city, a thing which is unheard of in Malawi. They shrugged their shoulders.

This other day I wondered why women in Lesotho, mostly those who have children, take their first child's name add a prefix 'Ma' and assume the name as theirs replacing their real names. I was told that was part of their tradition. Actually I was told a woman, in Lesotho, is legally recognised as a minor. I did a story, not for Public Eye, but for Malawi News. In Lesotho it was not newsworthy.

My seeking for explanation and answers for news articles and also as a survival tactic, sharpened my interviewing skills, my perception, sensitiveness and understanding of issues.

I had to understand issues before any attempt to write a story. I had to take into account all elements of social-economic, cultural and political issues so as not to offend or disappoint the people of Lesotho or not to attract scorn for myself for publishing something which I did not understand.

My stay is Lesotho would have been a nightmare or less eventful if the reporters at Public Eye had decided to abandon me and my other colleagues, Sinqobile Ndlovu from Zimbabwe and Augustine Mukoka from Zambia.

Masepoine Mokhetho, a female reporter, Thabang Loko, a sports reporter, Monke Sepamo a photographer, Thabo, a graphic designer and the News Editor Tapera Chikuvira made it possible for me and my friends to find Lesotho habitable.

The crew, at different times and in different situations, tried within their powers to make us understand what Lesotho is all about, what the aspirations of the people of Lesotho are, what is it that piss them off as well as what made the people of Lesotho different from people from other areas in the region.

It is not surprising to note that up to this date I always have an account of their lives, what they are doing and even their hopes. Networking or interaction has not been limited to the reporters in Lesotho. I have been in touch with Augustine and Sinqobile.

These people despite being friends, they have turned out to be my source of information. If I want information in their country I do not hesitate but to drop a line to them, and I am assured of their cooperation.

Such kind of cooperation has made the Sadc region as one village with journalists networking in such a manner that one would think they belong to the same publishing house and posted in different bureaus.

The cooperation has also increased confidence in journalists within the Sadc to tackle regional issues as they happen to have practical experience of the regional relationships.

To me anything to do with Lesotho generates interest because partly, after staying two months in that country, I regard the country as my home.

But would I tell Malawians my experience? The attempt to publicize the programme was through the stories I was writing for my newspaper in Malawi when I was in Lesotho.

As a reporter, anything that was a bit strange to me, though not to Basotho, I was writing a story for my Malawians audience.

In such a way I come back from Lesotho wiser and I believe so too are Malawians, since they were benefiting from the stories I was doing when I was in Lesotho.

My stay in Lesotho also assisted my critical analysis of the newspaper we produce; I have a benchmark to compare. Whether we are doing well in Malawi is for others to tell, but since then I regard myself not as a Malawian reporter but a regional reporter.

Aford ponders alliance with DPP

Alliance for Democracy new administration ponders of establishing links with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Malawi News has established.

Aford Executive Committee is expected to meet in Lilongwe on Tuesday where among other things the party is going to discuss possible alliance with the ruling party.

Malawi News source within the party, however, said the suggestion is expected to cause stir among the party gurus as some people view the suggestion based on individual benefits not in the interest of the party.

“Some people believe the suggestion come in as some of the top officials of the party have just won government tenders to make some constructions in Lilongwe,” said the source.

He said there some members have agreed to oppose the proposal.

“It will be very easy to defeat the proposal because is it going to come from a district governor, those who are propagating the idea has selected one district governor to make the proposal and would be seconded a member of the executive committee.
“While it is not a bad idea, somehow people are suspicious with the canvassing that is going on,” he said.

Aford deputy Spokesperson Kingsley Jere, while confirming the meeting would be taking place on Tuesday in Lilongwe, said he was not aware of the intended proposal.

Jere said the party at the moment still stands by its resolutions at the convention when it nullified all alliances that it had.

“What the President Dindi Gowa Nyasulu said about alliances was that the party is rebuilding itself and it has to go alone. I am not aware of any alliance talks,” he said.

Jere said he does not know any connection between the companies that were awarded the contracts and the party since the companies would belong to individual not the party.

Soon after being ushered in the office, the new Aford Executive Committee terminated the alliances which the party had with UDF.

DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said, while the party has not yet approached the party, the party has an open door policy and it can work with any party in the country.

“It is the wish of the State President to unify Malawians and no party in the world would refuse to work with another party,” he said.

Loveness Gondwe to form own party

Once might Alliance for Democracy (Aford) would soon find itself without a party representative in parliament as the sole Member of Parliament, Loveness Gondwe, contemplates forming own party.

Gondwe, who is currently in Portugal, has been lately flying around world canvassing for possible partners.

Gondwe husband, Yeremiah Chihana, said he does not have enough details on the issue but said the party would likely to be called Labour party.

Chihana said his wife has been to South Africa, Namibia and several other countries where she has been discussing with potential partners.

“I do not have enough information, but I am sure by next week everything will be known,” he said.

Aford Deputy Publicity Secretary Kingsley Jere said he was aware of the information that Gondwe, once she is back in the country would be tendering her resignation.

“We have information that she is forming her own party and that she has been flying outside the country sourcing for funding,” he said.

He, however, said that would not affect the operations of the party since, with the new leadership, it is working on retaining its old glory.

“We will be meeting in Lilongwe soon where we are trying to strategies as well as coming up with a programme to market our new president and the executive committee,” he said.

Gondwe was the remaining MP for Aford after losing several to President Bingu wa Mutharika’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and death.

The founding member Chakufwa Chihana died two years ago. Aford was once a formidable party winning 33 seats in the first general elections in 1994.

Gondwe has been acting president when the party was sailing through turbulence times—splitting into two camps—after the demise of its founding leaders.

Gondwe boycotted the convention which marshaled Dindi Gowa Nyasulu and the new Executive Committee into office.

If Gondwe quits the party, Aford for the first time in 13 years would have no representative in Parliament.

One book for 10 people

Malawians could be a bunch of idiots who have no time for books and newspapers, and if anything they are just idiotic lots who have unlimited time for nothing. That’s a typical fallacy of hasty generalisation.

Walking in the streets of Blantyre, Lilongwe and even Mzuzu during lunch or knocking off time, scores of middle-aged men and women would be seen moving up and down carrying bunches of books.

Books that are so heavy in their hands that they have to tilt when they are walking. And taking a closer look at one book, one would only understand the reason why young men and women take the trouble of carrying those kinds of books.

An even closer look could reveal the title of some of the books and lo! Banner titles as ‘Introduction to Economics level 2, or ‘Advanced Diploma in Marketing’ would greet one inquisitive eye. It is just inevitable those people have to carry those books.

Malawi National Library is no longer a place where you can find books that one can read for pleasure; National Library has been reduced to just an extension of schools as school going Malawians have turned the Library into a preparatory centre for any kind of examination.

Malawi, the country of over 14 million people, would be said to have fewer writers and by extension therefore, few people would read books for the fun of it. But this could also be just a fallacy.

In Paris, France, in metros and parks one finds people with their heads buried into their books, they talk less; they interact less and to some extent, may be they eat less as well. In short, on the outlook one would think the French read more books than Malawians.

However, the Malawian situation would also manifest in people of Lesotho, Zimbabwe and South Africa. It would be very difficult to see an African displaying the novel he is reading, let alone the biography of a certain popular personality.

Africans do not read newspapers in minibuses, a good negligible number of Africans have access to ipods to listen to music while travelling. It is all just a new phenomenon.

But surprisingly an average African is more knowledgeable than an average European. An average African would know who the current president of USA is, how the Venezuelan President failed to get his way on the recent elections.

My assumption would be that an average African would read more books and have more information than an average European; however the hazy picture we all have is that Europeans are better of than Africans in terms of reading culture.

Where do they get the information? By traditional Africa likes sharing. Africans, including Malawians would share anything ranging from food to sometimes, in certain traditions, spouses.

Through this mentality of sharing, Africans are well informed and have access to a lot of information they seem not to have. If I buy a Compact Disc of Etienne Mbappe chances are that it would find its way into over 20 homes within a short period of time. The same applies to books, newspaper and magazines.

An average African is at a very economical disadvantage that buying a Chinua Achebe book would be more of a luxury, while there is a serious quest for knowledge; financial limitations are obvious the stumbling block.

It is obvious that there is serious confusion between reading culture and buying culture, I will emphatically agree that Malawians, like most Africans, do not like to buy literature materials but that does not mean they do not read. It’s the absence of the buying culture that makes people to make a sweeping statement that Malawians do not read after all.

Of pampered failures and satisfied officials

I would hate to associate myself with foul language at any time of the day, anywhere! I would hate myself if I could condone the use of foul language at anyone, anywhere! I have a religious background and it is obvious that religion frowns at the use of vulgar language.

Sometimes I do not understand why a person so angry should insult another person; however I have come to accept that in some line of duty some of the things are unavoidable.

Those people who had or still have an opportunity to work or visit a country like South Africa would attest how rough, in language and action, South Africans are. You just have to be vigilant and quick to survive in South Africa. The principle of hit before you are hit rules in South Africa.

In my life I have come into contact so many times with the use of vulgar language be it at place of work or otherwise. I understand in some cultures within Malawi it is acceptable to use vulgar language in anything including thanking a person.

Naturally bad words are just bad. However, people tend to use foul words when they are angry, unsatisfied or helpless, in short people tend to use vulgar language when they least expected that they are going to use the words, when the emotions surpass expectations.

I have heard people—who, by virtue of their position in a society, and are supposed to be exemplary—calling one another bad names and insults and other unpalatable vocabulary making thousand of people cry with laughter.

Football is a game of emotions and the world over, there are numerous examples on how people expressed or express their emotions. Winning teams have got their way of expressing happiness and losing teams have got their way of reacting to lose.

Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United, once after losing a game whizzed a football boot at their star player then David Beckham and Beckham sustained a cut above the eye.

Here we are talking of big names in football and after the incident (not soon after) Beckhan left the club and Ferguson stayed put. It was water under the bridge as some people say.

In Malawi I have heard spectators showering insults at Malawian players, so too I have read unpalatable writing relating to Malawian teams perennial underperformances.

For those of us who are privileged enough to watch games from the open terraces, it is an order of the day for Malawian supporters to heap insults at our good national team, every time our team loses, which is more often.

One Fam official is on record to have described some Malawi professional players, after losing a match in South Africa, as ‘mbuzi za ma professional.’ That official was not relieved of his office because of that.

Frustrated supporters use unpalatable words elsewhere in the world, then what is wrong with one person Steven Constantine, at the heat of frustration, say one or two f-words to our proud failures who parade in the name of national team.

Like some tribes in Malawi, the use of f#*words among Europeans is nothing but normal, they would use it in front of their wives, their children even in front of their in laws.

As a nation it would be imperative to understand other people’s back ground and willing to accommodate it.

I was actually shocked to realize that instead of Malawians chiding our pampered players who are continously embarrassing the nation with their underperformance, we are wasting our energy trying to fault Constantine.

It is shocking that instead of reacting to the poor performance of the teams, football officials in the country ganged up against Constantine on an issue far related to Constantine.

I am really shocked, and of course amazed by our Under 20 football players, how they managed to divert the country’s wrath from themselves to Constantine.

Constantine’s outbursts have been used as a mere scapegoat and it is unfortunate to realize everybody bought this cheap move, that is from the minister of sports himself to the president of Fam Walter Nyamilandu, desperate for another term to the last man in the street.

The story here in Malawi in on how Constantine insulted our good boy, how he insulted foreigners, nobody is talking about how these boys who wasted millions of Kwachas of our hard earned tax money.

Who would have been clapping has for the boys who have just been booted from the competition, who would allow some misguided boys to mess up his lucrative job. I understand Constantine bitterness, the guy pockets over K2 million a month and who would allow somebody to mess up such a deal.

We might have problems with Constantine and we might wish to find way and means of chucking him out of the country, but cornering him for some words he used in the line of duty would be overstretching our marks.

I found the minister remarks in the paper over this issue misplaced, while we appreciate that he is the minister of sports I think it is high time the minister desists from commenting on every issue related to football.

I would wish one football player, in his careers that have never experienced such kind of treatment from the coaches and officials to cast the first stone at Constantine. Otherwise we are wasting our energy negatively.

About 2.7 million Malawians living in ultra poverty: Any escape

People have used the clichés like: Living below poverty line or sometimes, Living on less than one US dollar a day: so much so that the clichés meaning has been diluted. However the clichés remain as meaningful as they were 10 years ago.

From a distance these clichés would look like some rhetoric economic jargon formulated somewhere in the corridors of Bertwood compound in the suburb of the New York in the USA.

However, as foreign as they might look or sound, realism stares squarely on the face of over millions of Malawians. At least 22 percent of Malawians are living way below the poverty line.

Facts on the ground reveal that over 2.7 million people in Malawi are not really living on assumed one US dollar a day; they are actually living on some money basically I the ranges of below K44 a year.

Preposterous as it may sound but it is real. Human Development Index—2006 and 2005 Integrated Household Survey indicates that about 2.7 million Malawians are living in ultra poverty.

In short in Malawi there are people cannot afford a square meal a day in their lives, the basic United Nations (UN) indicator of poverty. These people are actually below the 52 percent of Malawians—about 6.4 million who are leaving below poverty line or they are earning less the minimum one US dollar a day.

Loose mathematics would lead to a conclusion that some Malawians—in ultra poverty category—would earn about K3.60 a month and a shocking K0.01 tambala a day. Now this is poverty.

For instance, take a Members of Parliament (MP) in Malawi—for argument sake—who gets over K300, 000 a month, mathematically getting about k10, 000 a day, obviously these MPs live way above poverty line and contrast with a K0.01 a day of the voter—the person who put them in the office.

However, the sad story about Malawi or Malawians is that the MP’s K10, 000 a day take home package is as good as K0.01 the poorest of the poorest get a day because, both living slightly below or slightly above the poverty line are, effectively the same. Vulnerable!

Some million of Malawians could be slightly above the poverty line, or slightly below the poverty line, some would be way below the poverty line while other would be up above poverty line, but through an umbilical code of some kind they are joined ,one fact remains that they are all exposed to poverty.

“Any slight change on the economy it would mean a change in the whole status of people in the country. lt would be easy for those living above the poverty line to fall below or those below to go up depending o the situation, people in Malawi are vulnerable,” said Dr Blessing Chisinga, a political scientist at Chancellor College University of Malawi main campus.

Chinsinga made this observations when he was presenting a paper during the workshop in Blantyre when Institute for Policy Research and Social Empowerment (IPR SE).

Chisinga presented a case in his presentation titled Understanding Poverty and Vulnerability where it was indicated that all almost all Malawians would be regarded as simply poor because most of the people living above poverty line in Malawi re merely ‘poor people of tomorrow’.

“One can be vulnerable but not necessarily poor especially for those earning their live hoods just above the poverty line—these people are sometimes referred to as tomorrow poor since their live hoods are precarious and may not be able to withstand any serious shock.

“Vulnerability does not simply refer to those people who are likely to become poor in future due to an unexpected shock but also those who will remain poor those who will fall deeper into poverty and those who may fall into poverty due to unpredictable fluctuations such as seasonality,” said Chisinga in his presentation.

“If the Kwacha could fall today say with 50 percent, most of the people who are slightly above poverty line today would fall under, that is the risk we are living in,” he said.s

Currently only 37 percent of Malawians live above poverty line and out of these about 45 percent are more vulnerable because they live slightly above the poverty line while 63 percent lives below poverty line with 22 percent living way below.

These would simply mean Malawians are technically poor. This is not new fact. Currently Malawi, under 2006 Human Development Index complied by United Nations Development Programme, is ranked 166 out of 178 of the poorest countries in the world despite the micro-economic growth that have been achieved in recent years.

Since 1995 several interventions, through formulation of well articulated juicy polices like Poverty Alleviation programme, Poverty Eradication, Targeted in Put programme, Vision 2020, Malawi Growth Development Strategy and the fertiliser subsidy programmes. Malawi was expected to move an itch out of poverty, but nay Malawians are as poor as they were several years ago.

These Safety Nets have been effective in mitigating several economic hardship but they have failed to alleviate poverty for the past 11 years.

In 1990 Malawi was ranked 138 out of the 178 countries that UNDP and in 2005 Malawi is still the poorest country with a steady decline in health care delivery, education, economic growth and general living standards.

Institute for Policy Research and Social Empowerment (IPRSE), a Non Government Organisation (NGO) specialised on policy matters, is working on a new concept. Social Cash Transfer as a social programme.

The programme is being piloted in four districts of Mchinji, Likoma, Salima and Machinga where over 3 000 house holds are receiving money, on monthly basis for their basic needs.

IPRSE Director of Programmes and Development Paul Msoma said Social Cash Transfers programme aims to provide basic social protection to sections of the population, who for some reasons, beyond their control, are unable to provide for themselves.

“The Cash transfer Programme is attached to conditions like regular attendance of schools and health services. In contrast to emergency programmes which are designed for temporary relief, cash transfer scheme are permanent programmes that transfer cash on the regular and reliable basis to House Hold or persons that meet certain criteria,” he said.

However, the pre-condition for the establishment of the Social Cash Transfer are political will, administrative capacity and financial resources.

“Political relevant groups like government, political parties, parliament, religious leaders and civil society should understand this programme is apolitical, he said.

The pilot project has proved that House Holds receiving grants use them for food, health care for family, for basic education and investment in physical capital that can provide a future source of income.

“The additional purchasing power to the House Hold has a multiplier effect and strengthens the local economy and the empirical evidence show that Social Cash Transfer kick starts virtuous cycle.

The programme is also being implemented in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Zambia and Ethiopia in Africa, in Asia the programme is being implemented in China, India, Bangladesh and Nepal while in Latin America the programme is being implemented in Brazil, Mexco, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Ministry of Health rolls out new Malaria drugs

Ministry of Health on Thursday this week rolled out the new malaria drug replacing the Sulfadoxine-Pyrimethamine (SP)—Fansida and Novida’s—which has been on the market for over a decade.
Principal Secretary in the ministry of Health Chris Kang’ombe confirmed that hospitals in the country would now start dispersing the new malaria drugs—Lumefantrine-Artimeth and Amudiquint-Artesunate.
“We have officially launched the new drug the ceremony was in Mchinji,” he said.
For the past weeks, Ministry of Health has been orienting clinicians’ throughout the country on the new drug.
A clinical officer who was conducting training at the country’s major referral hospital Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) Paul Pensulo said over the referral hospital could only start dispersing the new drug after the over 600 personnel at the hospital have all undergone the training.
“QECH would not start soon because training is still underway, we are having a three day workshop for 60 clinicians, we can only start dispersing after we have finished with the training,” he said.
QECH Administrative Director Thom Chisale said his hospital is expected to roll out the new drug in January next year.
“All the trials have been finished and the drug has been approved,” he said.
Lumefantrine-Artimeth and Amudiquint-Artesunate are combinations of four drugs would replace the SPs which are no longer effective in fighting malaria.

According to internet information sourced at website Zambia was the first African country to adopt an artemisinin-based combination treatment as its national policy.

The website indicated that malaria treatment and control have been undermined by the emergence of resistance to commonly-used antimalarial drugs such as chloroquine (CQ) and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP).

“Unacceptably high resistance to commonly used antimalarial drugs prompted the choice of artemether-lumefantrine ( AL ) as first line treatment for uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria.. The safety of AL has been extensively reviewed and several trials, in Africa all of them in children, have demonstrated its efficacy.

“ AL exists as a fixed tablet formulation and it has been registered in a large number of countries under the names of Coartem® or Riamet®. The fixed tablet formulation helps to overcome problems of compliance associated with non-coformulated combinations,” reads part of the website.      

Muluzi to appoint own running mate

The sole UDF presidential aspirant Bakili Muluzi, who is also the party’s National Chairman, is going to appoint his own running mate if the party’s convention schedule for December 19, 2007 passes the amendment proposal of Article 39 (b) of  the party’s constitution. Malawi News has established.
Top on the agenda during the convention is the election of the UDF presidential candidate and his running mate, the party delegates are also expected to amend Article 39 (b) of the party’s constitution that empowers the delegates to appoint the presidential candidate and his or her running mate.
The said article reads in part: “Party presidential candidate and his or her running mate for the National Presidential Elections shall be elected by the national conference preceding the National Presidential Elections.
However, the amendment Article would be empowering Muluzi, the only known presidential aspirant in the party—not the delegates, to handpick his own running mate.
UDF spokesperson Sam Mpasu confirmed that the said Article in the party’s constitution would be presented to the delegates for amendment.
Mpasu said the decision to amend the constitution was proposed by the National Executive Committee (Nec) saying the Nec decided to amend the clause to revert to the old system.
Mpasu said 1993 convention the UDF presidential candidate, then Bakili Muluzi, chose his running mate, Justin Malewezi, however the party amended the clause when at, 2003 convention, it abolished the position of the president in the party and left the leadership of the party in the hands of the national Chairman not the president.   
“This means that the presidential candidate shall handpick his or her own running mate,” he said.
Article 39 (i) of the UDF constitution empowers the Returning Officer of the elections at the convention to declare winner any member who has not been challenged at any position.
In part the Article read: “Where the Returning Officer receives only one nomination for any office, the nominee shall be regarded as duly elected to that office and it shall not be necessary for the national conference to vote for that office.” 
Mpasu said, so far nobody, apart from the party’s National Chairman Muluzi, has put up his or her name for nominations or consideration in the forth coming party’s conference for the position of the party’s presidential candidate.
Mpasu said he was surprised that the party’s Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala announced that four people would be contesting with Muluzi for the position of the presidential candidate when four others withdrew their candidature in respect of the Muluzi.
“We will seek clarification from the Secretary General regarding who else is disrespectful to the national chairman when four party gurus withdrew their candidature out of respect. That is very surprising,” he said.
Mpasu said four members, himself, Friday Jumbe, Cassim Chilumpha and Brown Mpinganiira had interest in the presidential candidacy but withdrew to give respect to the Muluzi, who had then shown interest to contest in the national presidential elections.
But UDF Deputy Secretary General Hophman Makande said the party would not know other presidential aspirants before the national executive committee of the party has vetted them.
“Names of nominees are posted in a box and they would only be known when the UDF Nec vet them names and we are waiting for the Nec to announce names,” he said.
However, according to the Article 39 (f) (i) of the party’s constitution, Muluzi would be limited to choose his running mate within the UDF fold as it forbid the selection of person outside the UDF party to the position of the presidential candidate and his running mate.
One political observer, who is an Executive Director of a human right organization Malawi Watch, Billy Banda said the proposed amendment would have an effect on the loyalty of the party members as allegiance would be shifted from the party to the individuals, who have absolute power to make appointments.
Banda said amending constitutions to suit individual needs erode the democratic principals and personalize institutions.
“Despite that if anything happens to the incumbent the possibility of somebody to rise to the position without the blessing of the electorate would be high. However the positive part of it is that it would help in solving the presidential quandaries like that have been seen in president Bingu wa Mutharika and his vice Cassim Chilumpha,” He said.
At the 2003 convention UDF delegates elected Muluzi’s anointed candidate Bingu wa Mutharika and his running mate Cassim Chilumpha who proceeded to win the 2004 national presidential elections. However the two fell out when Mutharika quit UDF and form DPP, Chilumpha remained in UDF. 

Friday, November 30, 2007

Teens of the 80 get set tonight

Tonight is the night, teens of the 80's are turning the hand of the clock of the musical world as they stomp their night at gigantic Comesa Hall in Blantyre.

The dance which has been organized by Events & Promotions Consultancy will be the first of the series that are going to be organized throughout the country.

One of the organizers Mwiza Mtegha the event is more of memory joggling and the teens of the 80s should expect a spill of good old music.

“It is down memory lane and people should expect maximum fun, we urge the teens of the 80s to come in large numbers at this is their time,” he said.

Mtegha said there will be a number of dancing competition and winning memorable prizes.

"The prizes will be part of spicing the show, we hope people still remember their dancing antics,” he said.

Break-dance, Robot, House and all other dancing antics of the 80s will be on call tonight

Meag Interim President Lewis Chiwalo

The Malawi Economic Empowerment Action Group (Meeag) and the Indigenous Business Association of Malawi (Ibam), bodies that were established to fight for the economic empowerment of indigenous Malawians could not agree on how to merge the two groups.
Allegations of hidden political agendas were blamed for the failed merging.
Malawi News Reporter Rex Chikoko, this week met Meag Interim President Lewis Chiwalo to seek his side of the story, Excerpts:

We have noticed that there is kind of disagreement between your organisation and Ibam over the supposed merge between the two organisations. What is the problem?

Well, there is not much of a problem at the moment, only that it is the issue of the merger that broke down at one moment, but there is not much problem as far as I am concerned, there was just some misunderstanding on the way forward. We are still interested in pursuing the merger issue if they are interested.

Media reports suggest that there are some political powers behind these disagreements, what is your take?

That is not really correct, there is no political power behind our organisations, in fact our organisation is non partisan and at the same time we do not see the reason why someone should come in our organisation with political agendas when Malawi is a democratic country where anyone is free to register a political party, so that I absolutely not correct.

Your organisation and Ibam agree that you have similar objectives. What is it that is making the two organisations fail to merge, is it something to do with leadership problem?

Why can I not let that question pass as of now, to answer that question would be pre-empting what is supposed to be done on the ground, the issue of merger is likely to come in again in future. That question would be well answered at the later stage.

In your press release you indicated that you were at one time members of Ibam what made you leave the organisation and form another group with similar agendas?

I did not form another group, I joined another group, let me make a correction there, when Ibam was formed I was one of the members, and in my personal view we never took off the ground up until the other organisation was formed, I thought possibly by going to the other group we would move forward and break off the ground, that was the more reason why I joined Meeg.

What was new in that new organisation?

There is no much difference between Ibam and Meeg, perhaps the only difference possibly is that the new organisation looks at a broader picture of the economy while Ibam concentrates on the business spectrum, that is the only difference, but I thought I would play a major role in Meeg than in Ibam to make sure that we meet our objectives to at least look at the broader picture of the economy and assist government on the way forward in economic advancement.

Change of name here is coming out as the only stumbling block to the two groups possibility of working together, how do you suggest the groups can work together to circumvent the problem?

Let’s make it quite clear here, we launched this organisation in January this year and we have been holding so many meetings that have been attended by people from all walks of life. In one of the meetings some members of Ibam came to attend and having realised that we share their views, they proposed that we should merge we were very flexible and accepted the idea having seen that if we form one common front we will achieve our objectives. Unfortunately because of some misunderstanding the issue stalled.

However let me indicate that there was a task force composed of members of the two groups who were mandated to come up with recommendations on the merger way forward, some the recommendation was that there should be a change of leadership, but things never worked as the other group changed their mind and asked us to join them. Having said this, what people should appreciate is that economic empowerment issues are more complex than we view them, in that case we should be able to accommodate as many minds as possible, what we are saying is that unless we open up and let others come in we are not going to achieve our objectives.

So far, how far have gone with Meeeg?

We have done so much, we are coming with a business development strategic plan that would be sold to government and engage it to changing some of its policies. It is a long way to go and we need combined forces to forge ahead. We are going to reach out to Ibam, they are our partners in development, and we are almost one. The only thing is that we had a slight misunderstanding at a certain point which to me I know that it has been cleared, we talk to each other and we have discussed the way forward. And we have not really shelved the idea of merging; possibly in future we could sit and resume the discussions.

Any last word?

I appreciate that people are now able to see what we are trying to do, we can not leave all these huge tasks [of developing the country] to government alone, we have to come in and assist in areas we feel possible we can assist. Government is a big institution that has so many activities so could have a lot of grey areas and our role is to assist in these grey areas so that at the end of the day Malawi would achieve meaningful economic development

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Air Malawi pockets K33m on Bingu’s Italy trip

Government is expected to cough about K33 million in payment for Boeing 737 300 airplane that President Bingu wa Mutharika chartered on his way to Rome, Italy and Kampala, Uganda to attend a high level special event on Aid for Trade and Food security and Commonwealth meeting respectively. Malawi News has established.

However, the airline is also expected to blow some millions of Kwacha in payment for the another plane, the company borrowed from a South Africa airline Inter-Air which take over the 737 300 routes.

The president left the country on Tuesday boarding the Malawi’s biggest aeroplane 737 300 Kwacha to Italy the trip which also take him to Uganda where he is expected to attend the Common Wealth meeting.

A source at Air Malawi said the airline has invoiced government to the tune of K33 million for the one week trip the plane undertook with the president.

“Air Malawi has provided everything for the trip including allowances for the pilots, ground fairs, fuel and we have invoiced government about K33 million.

“However, I would not tell how much Air Malawi is paying for the 109 capacity earoplane which it has borrowed from a South Africa to replace the 131 capacity Kwacha which is on hire,” he said.

Air Malawi public relations officer Gaffel Nkolokosa confirmed the government's chartering of the Boeing 737 300 but refused to disclose how much government paid for the earoplane or how much they were paying for the earoplane that they hired to take over kwacha's routes.

“The request was made three weeks ago and arrangements were made to replace the chartered plane.” he said.

Air Malawi Board Chairman Jimmy Koreia Mpatsa, while he could not disclose how much the airline pocketed from the transaction, said Presidential Charter is a source of pride for any airline as it demonstrates the confidence that a State President has in such an airline.

“In the present case, it is even more so considering that the aircraft will be flying the Malawi flag to destinations where we do not operate to. In this regard,this charter will go a long way in promoting our country to the world at large and I feel the State President should be commended for humbling himself to fly in an Air Malawi 737 300 all the way to Europe instead of opting for other more luxurious aircraft that are readily available on the market for charters as others have done in the past,” he said.

Mpatsa said whilst the 737-300 is on charter the company have to continue with normal scheduled flights hence the leasing of an aircraft from Inter Air.

“This is normal and all the airlines do the same.Airlines charter or lease aircraft to complement their fleet whenever need arises.As a matter of fact you may wish to know that most of the aircraft being used by various airlines are leased and not owned by them,” he said.

Maneb dumps exams printer

Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb) is said to have engaged a United Kingdom (UK) renowned examinations printing company Stephen Austin and Sons to re-print the botched 2007 Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations. Malawi News has established.

Government, in a press release signed by the Principal Secretary of Education Anthony Livuza this week ordered the re-admission of five papers of the 54 papers that 2007 candidates wrote in the just ended examinations.

Malawi News source at Maneb said, at the meeting that was held in Lilongwe, Maneb officials agreed that they should engage the British printers to print the five papers that are expected to be re-written.

“They are still working on the papers but are in constant contact with the UK based printers Stephen Austin and Sons,” he said.

Maneb this year changed examinations printers from the traditional printer Stephen Austin and Sons for the South African printing company Universal Printers, a thing which some quarters believe to have led to the massive leakages of the examinations.

Government, through the Ministry of Education admitted the leakage of examinations which Maneb Chief Executive Matthews Matemba dismissed as bogus when it was first revealed that there was a leakage.

“The decision to nullify, redevelop and re-administer the examination has been made so that those candidates who were exposed to leaked examination papers do not have an unfair advantage over their colleagues who wrote the same examination without any assistance,” said part of the press release.

Government ordered that the new papers to the re-administered over three days in mid-December, 2007 and the subjects concerned are English I, Biology I, Chichewa II, Agriculture I and History II.  
It is known up to now why Maneb switched printers and efforts to contact Maneb officials proved futile as Matemba’s telephone went unanswered.

Deputy Minister of Education Olive Masanza said the ball was now in Maneb’s court to make sure that the examinations were as secured as possible.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Cancer patient dead in SA

Cancer patient Mphatso Mhango, who government recently sent to South Africa for further treatment
died before undergo the operation in that country, a Family member has confirmed.

Mhango left the country for South Africa on October 21, 2007 and died two days later.

A family member Vilunjike Manda said Mhango passed when she was given blood at it was discovered
that she had no sufficient blood for the her to survive the operation.

“She died when she was waiting for the operation. Doctors said the tumor had gone dip into the
brain and she would need alot of blood if they would operate on her,” he said.

Manda said the problem was aggravated because of the delay removing the tumor.

Mhango waited for almost three months for government to locate a doctor in South Africa to operate
on her, after a Referral Committee had already recommended for her referral.

Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH), where the patient was admitted had to sent her home
because would not continue keeping her at the hospital when she was supposed to be in South

Mhango was referred to QECH from Mzuzu hospital, three months ago where doctors at QECH also
referred her to outside the country for further treatment, however two months down the line the
patient was still in the country.

Minister of Health Marjorie Ngaunje said every Malawian has got a right to treatment and
there was not special treatment for VIPs when it come to referring people to outside the country

Poor preps botched MSCE exams

…leakages come about due to fewer papers printed
By Rex Chikoko
The 2007 Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations fiasco was caused by Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb) poor preparations. Malawi News has established.

This years MSCE examination, costing a whopping K218 million of the tax-payers money—was total chaotic with examination papers flying all over the country before the date for writing the papers were due, candidates writing photocopied examinations, while others being quarantined waiting for examinations papers while examinations were in progress.

Malawi News investigations revealed that Maneb made several preparatory mistakes ranging from changing examinations printing companies, ordering fewer examinations papers to late delivery of examinations to the centres.

A South African based company Universal Printers—specialised in production of point-of-sale items, signage, cartons, magazines, telephone directories, direct mail products, self-adhesive and unsupported labels—won the contract to print MSCE examinations out-favouring a UK based company Stephen Austin & Sons, specialists in production and distribution services for examination and Assessment Authorities worldwide.

Stephen Austin & Sons have been printing examinations for the Malawi in the past.

In a specified tendering, opened in January this year, four foreign companies’ submitted tenders to print the 2007 examinations. The companies included Stephen Austin & Sons, Kadimah, Universal Printers and Government Printers. Apart from Stephen Austin & Sons all the companies were South African based.

According to Malawi News’ highly placed source at Maneb, despite Stephen Austin & Sons emerging the winner of the tender, South African printing companies won the printing of MSCE and Junior Certificate Examinations.

In August 2007 high powered officials left the country for South Africa for final monitoring of examinations where it was reported that everything was going as planned.

However a hitch came about when the printers would not deliver examinations in the required seven days before the commerce of the examinations and late discovery that fewer papers were printed against the registered number of this year’s candidates.

Universal Print Group Export Business Development Manager Neville Gurriah, in an email response, said the Supply Agreement with Maneb, due to the confidential nature of the scope of work undertaken - precludes the organisation from communicating with any third parties on any matter.

“We trust that you will understand our position,” Girriah said.

MSCE examinations arrived in the country between October 6 – 8, 2007 a day before the official commencement of the examinations on the October 9, 2007 leaving Maneb with less that 24 hours to inspect, verify and distribute the examination national wide.

Surprisingly in the finance budget of the 2007 finance budget report –appendix 11 under Printing Expenses vote number 630, Maneb set aside K66, 171, 734 as printing costs which included K20, 428,424 for Air Freight, but this years examinations came into the by road.

“The packaging was poorly done because at Police Headquarters in Lilongwe where they offloaded the examinations they discovered that plastic papers they used to wrap containing examination envelops busted.

“Normally examinations are expected to come in a well sealed cartons but it was not the case with MSCE. The examinations were sealed in plastic wrappings,” said the source.

The source said it was discovered that close to 89,000 papers of the 2007 MSCE examinations were printed despite registering about 101,000 candidates for the same examinations.

The discovery of paper shortage resulted to the authorization of photocopying of the examinations and the activity was being carried out in the Manuscript Section of Maneb office.

However the problem soared when the machine in the Manuscript section broken down and the photocopying of the examinations was transferred to Malawi Institute of Education (MIE) offices in Domasi, Zomba.

An official at Domasi on condition anonymity confirmed that on Wednesday October 17, 2007 Maneb officials sought the services of the printing office but he could not elaborate.

Despite Maneb authorities discrediting the leaked eaminations papers as bogus several arrests were made however the police said they were not really involved on the arrests and they would be waiting for a report from Maneb on what transpired.

Police headquarters spokesperson Willie Mwaluka said although several arrests have been made involving the 2007 MSCE examinations, the police had no information because the police involved in the arrests were hired by Maneb.

“Those officers were officially hired by Maneb and anything to do with examinations is handled by Maneb officials. We will be waiting for official report on how many were arrested after the examinations,” Mwaluka said.

But through regional and district police public relations offices Malawi News established that three people were arrested at Soche Technical cluster centre, two people were arrested in Machinga, three people were arrested in the central region while at a Maneb official caught the whole class Natola CDSS going through examinations papers at night and two were arrested in Chitipa at least one person was arrested.

Soche Technical cluster centre Blantyre Secondary School, Chichiri Secondary School and Likangala Secondary school were some of the centres where quarantine due to shortage of papers was taking place on daily basis. In these schools photocopied examinations were being provided to cover up for the shortage.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Proroguing and Muluzi's elligibility Sam Mpasu says:

The United Democratic Front (UDF), has recently been in the news over the eligibility of its National Chairman Bakili Muluzi to contest in the forth-coming general elections. The party also took a swipe at President Bingu wa Mutharika's controversial proroguing of parliament. Our Reporter Rex Chikoko met UDF spokesperson Sam Mpasu and sought the party's position on a number of issues. Excerpts:

Some concerned citizens intend to take the issue of Bakili Muluzi's eligibility to contest the 2009 presidential elections to court, as a party what is your stand on the issue?

We, in the UDF, are very surprised that matters that are internal to UDF are attracting so much attention outside the UDF. I can assure you that Mr Ben Phiri and his company have absolutely nothing to do with the UDF. We have been solving our problems and the party has been in existence for over 15 years now. Naturally the UDF is a Malawi party so whatever would happen to UDF, many of its members in the UDF would be affected, but what I can assure you is that we have a [Republican] Constitution that clearly demarcates lines of responsibility and the judiciary in this country is responsible for the interpretation of the law. I may have my own view and everybody else might have his own views. It does not matter, what matters is what the judiciary says.

In the interest of UDF followers was it not necessary for the party to come up with a final position on this issue?

This issue is coming, apparently, just because our National Chairman Dr Bakili Muluzi has got his name mentioned by some people within the party urging him to go and stand for the presidential candidature elections at the forth coming UDF convention. And we are saying, according to our constitution, anyone who wants to contest for the position of the president, is free to do so but there are procedures to be followed, first you should submit one's name to the National Executive on a proper nomination form for the National Executive to vet, in other words for them to certify that you are indeed a bonafide member of the UDF and it is the National Executive Committee that will forward that name to the convention. It is the convention that elects the presidential candidate so right now I do not understand why everyone is foaming and threatening, we have not yet gone to the convention and people are talking about courts and so forth, this is crazy.

You mentioned the convention, when is the party holding one?

We planned to have the convention in April last year, naturally nothing worked, we had our problems. The then Acting National Chairman Dr. Cassim Chilumpha was charged with treason and we had a lot of other problems, so we postponed. There is a working committee now which is still looking at the convention issue, they have made tentative recommendations that the convention should be held on 16 November [this year] but their recommendations have not been discussed by the National Executive Committee to either approve or modify.

As we are going towards the 2009 presidential and parliamentary elections, what is the UDF strategy?

I cannot tell you the strategy now, we will come up with a strategy. Much of it will be in secret and confidential. Our programme will come out in our manifesto document which will be a public document.

There is a belief that some people who were expected to contest against Muluzi in UDF are working with Concerned Citizen to take the matter of Muluzi’s eligibility to court. What is the position of the party?

Anyone who is giving out the impression that UDF is divided, that some UDF people are working with bodies outside the UDF is talking nonsense. It is a cheap trick to divide the UDF and it cannot work. We are totally capable of solving our own problems if there are problems.

It has been noticed that Muluzi is frequenting his visits to the United Kingdom, some people say he is going there to meet possible financiers of UDF, how would you explain these two issues?

Dr. Muluzi, like every Malawians, is perfectly entitled to go wherever he wants to go, to take a holiday whenever he wants and to have friends wherever he has. I do not think this is a matter for political speculations or political insinuations, he makes private trips when he wants to. I do not think anybody has got a moral right to ask why does he do this.

There is a belief that UDF as a party has got no money and it is Muluzi who has got money and it is also said Muluzi is financing MCP president John Tembo, would you please enlighten us the position of party finances and Muluzi's relationship with Tembo?

Why don’t you talk, in those terms, about 30 something political parties that we have in the country? Why should UDF always be connected to money, money money. Everyone knows that UDF, like any other party, in parliament, gets a lot of money from parliament, from the state. Is that money coming from Dr. Muluzi's pockets? Regarding financing of MCP that is utter nonsense, there is no reason Dr. Muluzi, either as an individual or a party leader, would give money to another political party. I have heard about this, not only about Dr. Muluzi but a lot others. It is wrong. There is no way the UDF would give money to others, we have got our own needs, we got district, regional, secretariat offices to run, we do not have money to spare for others. This is mere speculation, MCP gets money from parliament, it is the largest party in parliament why would they need any money from UDF?

Is there a departure in the relationship between the UDF and MCP as evident in the way the two parties have handled the issue of proroguing of parliament? UDF has taken the matter to court while MCP said would rather leave the Speaker to handle the issue.

I do not think you should read too much into this. UDF and MCP are not the only parties in opposition, there are several other parties in the opposition and we do not always work as coalition partners, we are not one party, we are different parties, so it is natural that we have different solutions to a problem, we have chosen to go to the court because we think President Mutharika abused his constitutional prerogative, he did not consult the speaker.

As a former speaker, how different would you have handled the issue of proroguing of parliament? or where do you think the president got it wrong?

The president got it wrong, he should have known the meaning of prorogue. Apparently he did not know, because if he had known , he would have known that he is ending the entire session of parliament, he should have, if he wanted, consulted the speaker, and the speaker has got legal resources and he would have been properly advised. The effect of proroguing is that the whole session has been brought to an end. And had he consulted the Minister of Finance what was at stake, Honorable Goodall Gondwe would have, certainly, advised him against proroguing on the day he did.

The president has called upon the speaker to resign following the issue surrounding Malawi-Mozambique electricity connection bill, what is the position of the UDF on the issue?

The president is trying to push the blame to the speaker and it is unfair. This is what he did with Ishmail Wadi and Gustave Kaliwo. There isn't anyway Speaker [Louis] Chimango and Clerk of Parliament [Maltida] Katopola could have prepared those presidential documents on their own, forwarded them to the president Mutharika and Mutharika signing those documents without realizing the full legal implications. What I believe has happened is that the President has realized that he has put himself in a very very embarrassing situation, he is a party to a fraud. To pretend that a law was passed is a big smudge on the government’s integrity. The World Bank is a very important lender all over the world and no government has ever- ever attempted to commit a fraud on them, and had this gone, this country would have been in terrible, unimaginable situation. And I have a feeling the President intends to set up Chimango as a scapegoat to save his face.

There is a general feeling that the political situation in the country would retard development and that sometimes the President is forced to make those decisions because of the political situation in the country, what is your take?

You do not commit a crime, you do not commit fraud because there is political bickering, it is just not on, here is a President who was duly elected and sworn in, he swore to protect the constitution. He has no excuse for violating the constitution. He has, not only moral, but constitution authority, to uphold the laws of this country. So there is excuse for him, political problems have to be solved politically and he must know how to solve them.

Thanks for the interview, is there anything you would wish to discuss?

I do appreciate that a number of Malawians and a large number of your reader are interested in what is happening in UDF, We do appreciate that, but we do have interests to protect so we do urge the press to assist as in disseminating the truth, not speculations. We have spokesperson, we have officials channels and we are ready to answer any question.

Hospital send patient home

..Government still looking for a specialist in SA—Ngaunje
By Rex Chikoko
Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH), a referral hospital in Blantyre Malawi, has discharged a patient, suffering from a cancer, despite the referral committee of Ministry of Health recommended that she should sent to South Africa for further treatment.

The patient, Mphatso Mhango, was referred to QECH from Mzuzu hospital, three months ago where doctors at QECH also referred her to outside the country for further treatment, however two months down the line the patient is still in the country.

One of Mhango's relatives,Vilunjike Manda, said it was surprising that government was failing to facilitate the transportation of the patient despite the referral committee's recommendation after assessing the gravity of the situation.

“Nobody is telling us what is happening and to make matters worse the patient has been discharged without telling us the way forward,” he said.

Manda said he has been taking up the matter with the hospital authorities but they have been directing him to ministry’s head quarter.

“We were told that it was a benign tumor which if operated on quickly the patient will get work, however the case has been worsening while the patient was in hospital.

“We do not know the idea behind discharging the patient when she was supposed to be going to South Africa for treatment,” he said.

A Member of the Referral Committee Dr. Mathias Joshua, who was also the Acting Hospital director at the time the decision was made said government is trying to identify a doctor who would attend to the patient when she went to South Africa.

“We are currently looking for a doctor in South Africa who would to the operation, once the doctor has been identified she is going to be sent for operation,” he said.

However, Dr Joshua would not tell how long it would take to identify a doctor based on the urgency of the matter saying: “The process of sending her to South Africa has started and someone is looking for a doctor.”

Minister of Health Marjorie Ngaunje said much as she was not aware of that particular case she said the process of sending a person outside the country further treatment takes time.

She said there is a government agent in South Africa who search for doctor when a referral case is forwarded to him and that the patient can only leave the country when the doctor has been identified.

“It is not easy to find a specialist in South Africa, there are a lot people who are waiting to be sent for further treatment,” she said.

Ngaunje said every Malawian has got a right to treatment and there was not special treatment for VIPs when it come to referring people to outside the country hospitals.

“Human dignity is supreme in sickness and there are no VIPs when it comes to sending people outside the country for treatment,” she said.

Concerns have been raised that government favours government dignitaries when it comes to referring people for outside treatment despite that those people are financially capable to seek treatment else where.

Referral Committee was established to be recommending patient, mostly those who would not afford to pay for their treatment, to outside hospitals.

It has been observed that government dignitaries, when they are sick, are quickly send to outside the country's hospitals even if the ailment would be treated locally.

Monday, October 1, 2007

HIV vaccine trial fails

HIV vaccine trial, which was being conducted worldwide including Malawi, has been halted after Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB), the body that was responsible for the monitoring the progress of the project, discovered that the vaccine was not effective. John Hopkins Project, an institution responsible for the project in Malawi confirmed.

John Hopkins Project Director Dr Newton Kumwenda said DSMB met on September 18, 2007 to review results of the interim efficacy analysis they concluded that the study will not meet its efficacy objectives and recommended that trial being stopped.

On a report posted on September 21,2007 on Merck website—A United States of America pharmaceutical company that was producing the vaccine— announced that the vaccine did not meet its objective and failed to prevent infection.
However, Dr Kumwenda said the latest findings of the vaccine efficacy failure would not affect Malawi participants as the institution did not enroll new volunteers for more than 2 years.

About eight Malawians were injected with a vaccine, HVTN 050, Merck V20-018 vaccine—that contains three HIV genes—in a Phase I, whose objective was to establish the safety and immunogenecity of the vaccine.

“The HIV Vaccine trial being conducted in Malawi is a Phase I safety and immunogenecity trial. The HIV vaccine candidates although similar, the two trials are different.

“Although the data for this finding is specifically from the STEP V520-023 trial , all study sites involved in similar Merck/HVTN vaccine program are advised to cease administering trial vaccine but to continue all other study follow-up procedures,” he said.

JHP spokesperson Fatima Zulu said the organization will continue monitoring the health of the eight Malawian participants as per agreements until the time that was agreed upon expires.
“We will continue monitoring them because we know that some of the side effects would take a long time to come out,” she said.

On Merck website, however, the company indicated that volunteers who had received at least two vaccinations and who were HIV negative for at least the first 12 weeks of the trial, 19 cases of HIV infection were observed in the 672 volunteers who received vaccine and 11 cases were observed in the 691 volunteers who received placebo. 

"In addition, the vaccine did not reduce the amount of virus in the bloodstream of those who became infected; HIV RNA levels approximately 8 to 12 weeks after diagnosis of infection were similar in the vaccine and the placebo arms.  The geometric means of the HIV RNA levels in the blood of infected individuals, the standard measure of ongoing HIV replication, were approximately 40,000 copies/mL in the vaccine group and approximately 37,000 copies/mL in the placebo group,” the website said.

Merck & Co., Inc. is a global research-driven pharmaceutical company dedicated to putting patients first.  Established in 1891, Merck currently discovers, develops, manufactures and markets vaccines and medicines to address unmet medical needs. 
The Company devotes extensive efforts to increase access to medicines through far-reaching programs that not only donate Merck medicines but help deliver them to the people who need them.  Merck also publishes unbiased health information as a not-for-profit service

Malawi stand to lose World Bank loan

Malawi stand to lose the World Bank loan on the Malawi-Mozambique Connector project if President Bingu wa Mutharika will not call for parliament within the 17 days , the remaining period of the 90 days of the Bank's approval on the said loan.

The Bank approved US$ 48 million for the Malawi-Mozambique Connector project on July, 17, 2007 and the 90 days period is likely to end on October 16, 2007.

The Mozambique-Malawi Transmission Interconnection Project, the second phase of the Southern African Power Market Program, will connect Malawi to the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), allowing two-way energy trade between the two countries. Information obtained on the World Bank website indicated that the project would ensure much-needed diversification in Malawi’s electricity supply and allow the export of any off-peak power surpluses saying it will also provide Mozambique’s energy sector with a new revenue source.

However, President Bingu wa Mutharika, on September 14, 2007, invoked Section 59 (1b) of the country’s constitution that empowers him, in consultation with the Speaker of the National Assembly, to prorogue parliament which was expected to deliberate and pass the bill.

Mutharika justified his action saying the opposition Members of Parliament were refusing to deliberate some important bills opting for the implementation of Section 65 of the constitution. He also accused members of parliament of spending K310 million in the four months they have been meeting.

World Bank's official Janique Racine for Africa Region responding to Malawi News questionnaire said following the prorogue of parliament the project cannot become effective and the Bank cannot release funds as yet.

Racine said as part of Government clearance process, legal agreements may have to be ratified by a country's legislature and certified that the agreements are legally binding on the state.

“The bottom line is funds cannot be released before all the conditions of effectiveness are met and country processes are completed, which is normally expected to be within 90 days of Board approval.

“The executive branch of government took it to Parliament for authorization. We have seen that Parliament has not yet approved because the Parliament session which could have done so was prorogued. This means the project cannot become effective and the Bank cannot release funds as yet.” she said.

She said once parliament authorizes the agreements and a legal opinion is received by the Bank certifying that the agreements are binding on the state, a ceremony will be organized to sign the funding agreement.

“For example in Malawi an Authorisation Bill is passed by Parliament. This country process may last up to several months.This process must be satisfactorily completed along with any other conditions of effectiveness, before the loan or credit is declared effective, and ready for disbursement.” she said.

Racine said she would not tell what would happen after the elapse of the 90 days because; "Usually it happens within the 90 days, maybe the country might ask for an extension.”

Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe said the proroguing of parliament would delay the implementation project that would also affect the provision of electricity.

Gondwe said failure to authorise the bill affect the implementation of the project but was quick to say that there was nothing government would have done.

“We will just wait and see. It is the opposition that rejected to discuss the bills. Of course this will delay the implementation of the projects,” he said.

Gondwe said the bill would be put forward for the next sitting of parliament which he said he did not know when next seating was expected to be called.

Former Finance Minister Friday Jumbe, who is also UDF spokesperson on finance matters, said government shot itself on the foot when it prorogued parliament before money bills were authorized.

Jumbe cited electricity interconnection and improvement of water supply as some areas that would suffer because of the decision to prorogue parliament.

“The issue might not have an impact right now but they will affect the other budgets to come. Government is delaying itself in implementing these projects,” he said.

Legal Affairs Committee of parliament wrote the World Bank on September 20, 2007 asking it not to recognise bill number 8, purportedly urguing that president Mutharika signed for the bill before parliament passed it.

Racine confirmed the Bank receiving the letter from Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament but said they would not act upon it because the Country Manager Timothy Gilbo was not in the country.

An economist at Polytechnic, University of Malawi constituent college, Abel Mwanyungwa said by proroguing parliament it meant government would not be able to borrow money from international organizations and government.

“If government is to go ahead to implement the said projects that would mean government has to borrow money locally and unfortunately this will mean the increase in inflation and definitely going back where we are coming from,” he said.

At the time of proroguing 39th session of parliament eight bills were on the order paper. Other bills that has also been affected due to the prorogue of the houses included Bill 14 on security, Bill 17 on national registration, Bill 15, Penal Code amendment, Bill 16 on police Bill 4 and Bill 13 on constitution amendment and also local government election amendment bill.

Parliament was also expected to discuss the appropriation of Value Added Tax bill and Taxation amendment as well as confirmation of the Auditor General and Chief Justice

Solicitor General Anthony Kamanga said there was nothing that would be done apart from waiting for the bills to be re-presented in the next seating of parliament.

“Some of the bills are not new, they were formulated last year so they would be presented at any time,” he said.

However Malawi Watch Executive Director Billy Banda called upon government to recall parliament stating that there were a number of important bills that needed the attention of the house other that Section 65.

“Section 65 can be handled whether parliament is in session or not but there are other necessary issues that need disposed urgently,” he said.

Banda cited the impending approval of the Chief Justice and Auditor General and the appropriation of the taxation bills.

“Government business has to be finalized,” he said.

The 39th session has been characterized by adjournment including a one month mourning period of the demise First Lady Madame Ethel Mutharika and the disagreement on the priorities on what was to start between passing of the national budget and the declaration of seats vacant of members of parliament that were deemed to have crossed the floor following a June 15, 2007 Supreme Court Appeal a landmark ruling on Section 65.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I am back

Activities of the past four weeks have been tiresome. For three weeks I was shattling between Blantyre and Lilongwe doing investigative training and later I went to South Africa for the same.
What would you expect?
Hmmmmmm! lets wait and see

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My apology

I have not been able to update my blog because I am out of office on other duties

Monday, July 16, 2007

Maize export to leave Malawi hungry

. No trace of last year’s 400,000 mt

By Rex Chikoko

There is no mechanism to monitor the export of maize to neighbouring countries, a development that could leave the country without maize for local consumption during the lean period, Malawi News has found out.

The situation is compounded by the fact that government and Admarc have not yet started buying maize from farmers to keep for local consumption three months after harvest.

The delay by Government and Admarc to start buying the crop has given private traders leeway to buy off the crop from the farmers at a price lower than government’s recommended K17/kg, which they are exporting to Zimbabwe and Swaziland. In the two countries, maize is said to be selling at minimum price of K32/kg.

Malawi is said to have a surplus of 1.3 million metric tonnes of maize, on top of last year’s 400,000 metric tonnes. But Admarc has exported all its stocks to Zimbabwe while the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) has got only 90,000 metric tonnes in stock for emergency only, our source close to NFRA has said.

The source revealed that since the lift of the ban on maize export three months ago, over 100,000 metric tonnes of maize have already been exported to Zimbabwe and some stocks and that some of it has found its way to Swaziland.

The source said the exporting of maize is threatening the country’s food security as there is no mechanism to police the exporting exercise.

“[For example], one wonders: where is the 400,000 metric tonnes surplus we had last year. If anything, the country has got only 90,000 metric tonnes and this maize is strictly for emergency use,” he said.

Asked who is keeping the 400,000 metric tonnes from last year’s harvest which President Bingu wa Mutharika has been talking about, our source who is close to NFRA said no one knows where it is. The source said it is not safe to conclude the maize is with the farmers.

The source said before the lift of the ban to export maize Admarc had 25,000 metric tonnes in stock but it has since exported over 39,000 metric tonnes and is expected to export 11,000 metric tonnes more to meet its 50,000 metric tonnes tender allocation.

Malawi News investigations discovered that an average of 3,000 metric tonnes of maize leaves the country through Mwanza boarder alone on a daily basis and it is believed that the figure is bigger considering that it is not only Mwanza border which is being used as an outlet.

Agriculture Parliamentary Committee chairperson Vitus Dzoole Mwale said the country is heading for disaster, as government has not taken heed of his committee’s recommendation to reserve enough food for the country.

Dzoole Mwale said while on the ground it is believed that there is surplus of the staple food, in reality the country does not have enough reserves since Admarc has not yet started restocking.

“We asked government to declare maize a protected crop so that it can easily regulate the purchase and selling of the commodity but nothing has happened. We have seen private traders dictating the selling of the crop and unfortunately poor farmers are not benefiting from the sales,” he said.

Dzoole Mwale said government would not have any excuse for not buying maize from the farmers since the money for the exercise was already allocated.

“We are heading for a repeat of 2001,” he said.

Mwale blamed government for allowing private traders to buy straight from the farmers saying there is no regulation and monitoring of the purchase of maize which is likely to be abused by some traders.

Admarc Chief Executive Charles Matabwa refused to talk to Malawi News on Thursday.

But Agriculture Ministry Principal Secretary Patrick Kabambe said the ban on maize export was not fully really lifted and that government was regulating the private traders who are exporting maize.

“The ban was lifted temporarily and it is not every private trader who is allowed to export maize. Those allowed have to seek permission from NFRA before exporting,” he said.

He said the Immigration Department at the border posts was responsible for monitoring maize export licenses.

He also said NFRA and Admarc will soon start buying maize from the farmers.

Kabambe challenged that the country has got enough maize and that what Admarc was selling was last year’s stock, saying: “We have to sell it off because if we are not going to sell off some maize, the price on the market will crash.”

He also disputed reports that some maize was going to Swaziland, saying while the Swazi government approached Malawi to buy its maize, no agreement has been signed between the two countries.

Kabambe also said government has been encouraging farmers to keep enough maize for consumption in their homes.

But Immigration Department press officer Pudensiana Makalamba said she was not aware if her department was given the mandate to monitor the export of maize.

During 2000/01 growing season, Malawi realized a surplus of over 200,000 metric tonnes which was sold to Kenya by the UDF-led government in anticipation that the stocks would be replenished from the following year’s harvests. The development left over one million people without food and government was forced to import maize.

An interview with Dausi, Ex MCP vice President

Main opposition Malawi Congress Party second vice president Nicholas Dausi resigned from the party last Sunday. Malawi News reporter Rex Chikoko sought Mr Dausi’s explanation on why he left the party which he has been loyal to for a long time and his political future in DPP. Excerpts:

Your leaving MCP has attracted different opinions some say it was long overdue while others say it is a biggest betrayal of a party which you have served with loyalty. What is your take on this?

I think, people have a right to express their opinion but my leaving MCP is purely on a matter of principle. After carefully thinking and discreet decision I arrived at a very critical and thoughtfulness. Having seen the present trends on how MCP is treading, in most cases when we have acted against the wishes of the people. For example MCP has only just lost three members of Parliament, yet the party is in the fore front refusing to pass the budget at the expense of people’s lives just because of three MPs, whose interest and whose battle were we fighting for? MCP is being used as pawns in a game of poker. MCP must know that it hinges on the ideals, philosophy and the legacy of the late Dr Kamuzu Banda, he first and foremost encouraged development, unity and hard work. These are being propagated at the moment by Dr Bingu wa Mutharika and his DPP. The other thing is the past 10 years of UDF rule, the MCP went through terrible victimization, arresting Dr Kamuzu Banda, expropriating his properties his names were erased it is unfortunate that the leadership of MCP chose to still be associated with such kinds of political friends. Dr Bingu wa Mutharika has restored all what was erased and that sanity is prevailing now. I think it was right and proper for me, a man who cherishes discipline and loyalty and the man who love Kamuzu to leave MCP and join DPP. I would follow anyone who respects Kamuzu regardless the party belongs to.

You have been fighting DPP since its inception and suddenly you have changed heart what would you expect people to make out of this sudden change?

What really broke the Camel’s back was that…well let’s talk about the present situation; you know certain revolutionist of Guinea Bissau once said ‘we must always do things within the context of our time’. Now what are the context issues of our time politically? There are two important issues, the first one is a national budget the second one is section 65, nobody is against all these issues but in life there shall always be priorities and the first priority, in my view, is that let the national budget pass because it is for the common good of the people. While section 65 has to be applied I believe you cannot forsake the national budget, I think it was political suicide and the fact that it was moved by president of MCP, who would have been the leader in propagating the virtues of Kamuzu and that were national development, hard working and self-reliance and discipline, I said I think I need to part ways.
The other thing is the bishops who wrote a statement regarding the political situation in the country saying while section 65 is there, let’s prioritize the budget. I was a publicity secretary of the party and I was told to respond to the bishops statement. I think I cannot do that because I am a staunch follower of the church’s magisterial teachings. MCP in 1992 after the lantern letter had a bad relationship with the Catholic Church, but over the years the church has been advising the political leaders. I think I would not have gone against my conscious to speak against the church, so I said I cannot take it anymore I would rather be used on other things but definitely not against the church.

You expressed happiness when the Supreme Court ruled on the validity of Section 65. Do you still hold the same opinion now that you have changed sides?

What we are saying is that there are two issues, the national budget which was already presented by the Minister of Finance, and even honourable [John] Tembo, honourable Aleke Banda, honourable [George] Nga Mtafu described it as a pro-poor budget, that means it will benefit the poor Malawians. So we are saying first and foremost let us pass the budget, the other things will follow in their order of priority. We are not saying no to section 65, it is a constitutional provision which is valid. But you cannot halt the whole development just because you want to get rid of people. By the way MCP has only three people who left party, these people have never insulted honourable Tembo and for MCP to be at the forefront of wanting to remove these people while others have lost over 30 MPs and yet they are in the background. What is it? Are we being used?

The opposition fears that once budget is passed, government will adjourn parliament indefinitely and subsequently section 65 will not be discussed. What is your take on this argument?

I do not discuss matters that are before the court.

The reasons that you have presented for your departure are political. Is there no provision in political parties that such kind of differences would have been sorted out within the party system?

I leave it to Malawians to judge. Dr Peter Chiona, the first vice president left MCP, Hon Kate Kainja, the Secretary General left MCP, Hon [Bintony] Kutsaila left MCP, Ted Kalebe also left the MCP, definitely there must be something, somewhere, wrong.

What are your expectations from DPP from now till the 2009 general elections? What role do you expect to serve the government, the president, Are you looking for a position or something?

Not necessarily looking for a position. A tooth paste tube if pressed at the middle, it will come out but the best way is to start at the bottom. Dr Kamuzu Banda, in 1993 during a National Executive meeting, once said in politics there is no hurry. There so many brilliant people in DPP those that have built the party. I have just joined the party and you do not expect a new comer to say you are all not this and that and I am this no! I will support Dr Bingu wa Mutharika and DPP to my best of my ability.

There is a strong belief from other commentators that you would like to contest as MP for your area. That means you will have to compete with Hon. Davies Katsonga. Now that you belong to the same party, have the two of you compromised on who should be the candidate or how do you intend to handle the matter?

The advantage of democracy is that people are the best judges than yourself and the other thing is that Hon Davis Katsonga is a relation to me and would not want to drag a family war into the street. I think everything has its own logic and too early to start speculating. I have great respect for Hon Katsonga. Let’s respect other peoples positions.

Several times you have been quoted as denouncing political prostitution within political parties, how would you describe your move to DPP?

I have never used the word political prostitution, it does not auger well with Christian morality. I have been saying nomadic politicians, wandering politicians. I have moved and I think it is my constitutional right. I think it was right and proper to leave MCP and join somebody who subscribes to Kamuzu’s ideologies.

What are your regrets for having been in MCP ?

Certainly nothing. The only thing that holds MCP together is Kamuzu’s legacy. I am missing nothing in MCP. What people must know is that not everybody in MCP loves Kamuzu. I have so many examples of people who have Kamuzu’s badge on their lap everyday but they do not love Kamuzu I do not want to say more.

Do you think MCP is missing anything by your defection?

They have described my move as good riddance. It has been traditional that when one leaves a party trading of bad words follows I do not want to engage in that. I wish MCP all the best God should bless them.

Who are the notable names that are remaining in MCP in the Southern region now that you have left the party?

The regional treasure has left as well…mmm! All I can say is that I only remember one name, Mai Dinala I think she is the only member remaining in the southern region

Monday, July 9, 2007

This is how sanitation situation in Malawi schools has reached. A school girl intering on of the toilet at one of the primary schools in Mchinji district which lies about 100 km away from Malawi capital city, Lilongwe.
It is believed that the problem of sanitation has increased the droprate of girls in school.