Monday, May 21, 2007

BT primary schools as taps run dry

. Pupils health at risk
. Govt yet to pay K5m

By Rex Chikoko

Ministry of Education’s failure to pay water bills for primary schools in Blantyre City has put at risk lives of over 124,000 pupils, who have to use nearby bushes to relieve themselves, Malawi News can reveal.

Some 22 urban primary schools have been operating without running water for over six months, forcing pupils, at the schools most of which use water closet toilets, to help themselves in the bushes around the schools.

Notable primary schools that have been badly hit by the water crisis are Henry Henderson Institute (HHI), Blantyre Girls, Chilomoni, Limbe Girls, Kanjedza, Limbe, Mpingwe, Chitawira, Manja, Ndirande, Nyambadwe, Chirimba and Kapeni Demonstration. Blantyre City has 53 primary schools.

Education authorities admitted that the water situation in schools was a serious health hazard to primary school pupils and suggested closing the schools to avert an outbreak of waterborne diseases in the schools.

A Malawi News visit to Chichiri Primary School one of the badly affected schools, revealed the school is now not cutting the overgrown bush around the premises because it is now serving as ‘toilets’ mostly for grown up girls.

Chichiri Primary School deputy headmaster Wilson Khamula said the situation was ‘very’ pathetic at his school as most of the classrooms are self-contained resulting in an unbearable stench from the toilets which suffocates the students when they are learning.

Khamula said the school, which has 1,800 pupils, has been relying on the goodwill of neighbouring institutions that have been assisting them with ‘some’ water, basically to clean the toilets and reduce the stench that has been causing discomfort to pupils and teachers.

“We are really concerned with the health of the pupils. This place is littered with human excreta. We cannot stop the pupils from relieving themselves. However, the situation is embarrassing when it involves grown-up pupils, mostly girls.

“We apply chlorine to reduce the stench, at least, near the administration bloke. As for drinking water, we ask the pupils to bring from home,” he said. Scores of water bottles pupils carry from their homes were lined in front of every classroom when the Malawi News visited the school.

Ironically, the handy bush which pupils have turned into a toilet happens to be the water catchment area for Blantyre Water Board, which disconnected the water at the school because of outstanding water bills.

Khamula said the school owes the utility service provider K287,000 in unpaid bills. He said although the school reported the problem to the Blantyre Urban District Education Office, nothing has happened.

“If I had the authority, I would have closed this school,” he lamented.

Blantyre Urban District Education Office Desk Officer Enock Kanjedza, speaking on behalf of District Education Manager, said the situation in Blantyre City primary schools is due to the small allocation of funding from government for water bills.

“An accumulative water bill of primary schools in Blantyre city hovers around K400,000 a month but government only gives us K100,000. Right now we owe Water Board K5 million. This issue is being handled by both Ministries of Education and Local government,” he said.

Kanjedza said pupils are using nearby bushes around their premises to relieve themselves. He concurred with Khamula on the need to close the schools to safeguard the lives of pupils.

There has been communication between Ministry of Education and Blantyre Water Board appealing for reconnection of water in schools.

A letter dated March 1, 2007, signed by Education Ministry Principal Secretary Anthony Livuza, to Blantyre Water Board, appeals for reconnection of water. It says the disconnection of water at the learning institutions would affect the facilitation of school feeding programme underway in schools around Blantyre City the Ministry has embarked on.

The letter also said the reconnection of water in primary schools would also address the sanitation problems which “are already being experienced in the schools”.

In another letter also dated March 1, 2007, Livuza also appealed to Treasury to intervene by processing funding to Blantyre City Assembly through the National Local Government Committee.

In an interview on Thursday, Livuza said he was not in a position to know the progress on the money saying if released Treasury would channel it through Ministry of Local Government that controls assemblies, which in turn, control primary schools in assemblies.

“With the decentralization programme management of primary schools are under assemblies, Ministry of Education is only involved in policy issues,” he said.

But Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government Wezi Mjojo said the ministry referred the issue to Blantyre City Assembly to pay the water bills because the affected schools are under the assembly’s jurisdiction.

“We advised the assembly to pay using money from Property Rates. Blantyre city assembly and all other assemblies in the country are responsible for primary schools within their assembly,” she said.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Editor in-cheif suspended over court document

A Court document that implicated a manager at one of Malawi’s leading banks—National Bank—in sex scandle has resulted in Blantyre Newspapers Limited (BNL) boss, Jika Nkolokosa being suspended indefinately for publishing the story.

The Blantyre Newspapers Limited(BNL), the publishers of three newspapers in Malawi, The Daily Times, Malawi News and The Sunday Times, published the story based on the court documents, however, directors of the publishing house suspended the editor on what they ‘termed as a business decision’.

National Bank holds accounts for the publishing house and the publishing company also owes the bank millions of Kwacha in loans.

The Blantyre Magistrate court delivered a judgement, which implicated a dead catholic priest and a Bank Manager in a love triangle involving a family of— an unknown businessman.

A senior reporter of the publishing house Caroline Somanje wrote the story and was published in Monday edition of The Daily Times, however the management of Blantyre Newspapers Limited suspended the editor —indefinately and also summoned the reporter to the disciplinary hearing.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Conditions for cabinet casualties

Parent political parties for casualties of Thursday’s Cabinet reshuffle the United Democratic Front (UDF) and Republican Party (RP) have said they will not automatically take back the fired ministers, Jaffalie Mussa and Bazuka Mhango.

President Bingu wa Mutharika dropped Mussa as Ministers of Sports and Culture and Mhango as Minister of Justice from his increased 42-member Cabinet Thursday replacing them with Khumbo Kachale and Henry Phoya, respectively.

While in government the two remained members of their sponsoring parties---UDF and RP.

UDF spokesperson Sam Mpasu said Mussa had to go through a process of evaluation before he could be accepted back into UDF.

“You see, UDF did not remove him. It was him who made a decision to leave UDF and join the DPP. But the circumstances have now changed for him. As a party, we have our own interests. We don’t want to have Trojan horses people who say they are UDF today and they are not tomorrow.

“If he expresses interest to join the party, then he will go through the normal process where we have to evaluate him just like any person, who wants to join a party,” Mpasu said.

The UDF spokesperson, however, said his party has always kept an open-door policy whereby those who want to leave the party are free to do so and those who want to join it also do so.

But RP spokesperson Effie Somanje said the party would only accept Mhango back if he came to the party with one mind of serving it.

“In the last sitting of Parliament, Mhango said RP does not exist. It had to take Deputy Speaker Mcheka Chilenje-Nkhoma to defend the party. What do you make out of that person?” she asked.

Somanje said the party does not have problems with Mhango coming back if he first reaffirms his loyalty to it.

Gwanda Chakuamba, President of New Republican Party (NRP), an RP splinter group, said the party would not rush to offer amnesty to Mhango as there is Section 65 in court which would determine the fate of MPs deemed to have crossed the floor in Parliament.

“They should not rush in joining their former parties. Let them wait for the ruling on Section 65. We can only take them back after the ruling,” he said.

The Supreme Court of Appeal will on June 4 rule on Section 65. The ruling will determine if those MPs who joined other parties crossed the floor.

In the reshuffle, Mutharika has added nine new faces in the Cabinet, increasing it to 42.


Government bureaucracy, procurement procedures, low absorption capacity and slow donor inflow are some of the factors that have affected the implementation of the 2006/07 budget, Economic and political analysts have observed.

National Assembly recently announced that Parliament will be meeting from May 21, 2007 to discuss the 2007 to 2008 national budget. However analysts observed a number of developmental activities that were budgeted in the 2006/07 budget are yet to be implemented.

The experts observed that the 2006/2007 national budget has made notable strides in economy recovery, food security and microeconomic stability, but failed in implementation of development infrastructures which has been attributed bureaucracy.

Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) Executive Director Andrew Kumbatira observed that government was doing well in implementing the Recurrent Account but said low absorption capacity in government civil service was affecting the implementation of Development Account.

He bemoaned the civil service inability to spend the money allocated in the budget in a specified period which resulted in low budget expenditures in ministries and government departments.

Kumbatira cited an example of Ministry of Health, which he said used only 40 per cent of the money which was allocated to the ministry in the 2006/07 budget.

“When ministries and departments under perform it means development slows down and also means budget will not make the intended impact and no meaningful dent can be made on our poverty,” he said.

Kumbatira attributed the slow implementation of the budget to the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the civil service in the country which he described as a vehicle to the implementation of budget.

“We would like government to quickly look at the civil service reforms to make the civil service more efficient and effective to be able to implement the budget fully,” he said.

In the K140 billion budget, document number four, highlights several developmental programmes and projects, which are yet to be implemented about ten months after the budget was approved.

Malawi News investigations revealed some of the developmental projects and programmes highlights in the 2006/07 budget that were to be implemented, are still at the planning.

In Ministry of Education, about K538 million was set aside for the purchase of learning materials and desks, K145 million which was meant for the construction of 40 community day secondary schools, K100 for the rehabilitation of four national secondary schools, K903 for the development and rehabilitation of University of Malawi K371 million for the University Trust Fund and K40 million for University of Science and Technology while K15 million was set aside for the construction of school for the special needs students. However non of the projects has been implemented.

In ministry of Health, despite the drug shortage in the country, money amounting to K494 million for the purchase of medical supplies was set aside while K200 million was earmarked to construction of Blantyre District Hospital.

Some of the under utilization of allocations in the K140 billion budget included the construction of Chiromo bridge in Nsanje pegged at K236 million, K2.7 billion was approved for the rehabilitation and sinking of boreholes while K84 million was set aside for rural electrification in 58 trading centres in the country. The rural electrification programmes was set to complete in September 2006.

A Member of Parliamentary Committee on Budget and Finance, who is also MP for Mzimba East constituency Abbie Shaba described the 2006/07 budget as a mixed bag saying it achieved its objectives despite some shortfalls.

Shaba said, though budget cannot achieve all its objectives, 2006/07 managed to make strides in food security through fertilizer subsidy programme, private sector participation as well as roads rehabilitation through public works programmes.

“Through this budget we have seen the construction of roads like Kamphata, Ntchisi and Zomba-Jali-Chitakale,” he said.

He, however, said the Budget and Finance committee—which was meeting this week—noted that there was delay in distribution of learning materials in school, construction of girls’ hostels, sinking of borehole and also construction of teacher training schools and purchase of drugs.

“The problem is in developmental projects we are using donor money which needs transparency and accountability. The procurement procedures are also long, complicated but unavoidable. There is slow progress in procurement procedures,” he said.

An economist, who opted for anonymity, said there were a number of factors that affects the implementation including natural disasters and inflow of donor money.

“Some of the money which the donors pledged in the 2006/07 on development Account was not yet in due to procedures in various foreign governments. The problem is that they fund direct to the projects.

“In the event of natural disasters money can be diverted from on vote to another. Our budgets have always been theoretical,” he said.

Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe said some of the projects were at the planning stage, some were still waiting for donor funding while some projects are not started because there was no money for the projects.

Gondwe cited the Chiromo bridge project that waiting for money from Japanese government while rehabilitation of University was under planning.

“There is no money for the construction of 40 community day secondary schools,” he said

Gondwe, however, dismissed the assertion that civil service has no capacity to implement the budget saying the availability of money was a problem not the human resources.

An Economic lecturer at University of Malawi, Polytechnic campus Abel Mwanyungwe the 2006/07 budget has succeeded in stabilizing the countries economy but there was a big problem in the implementation of various programmes and projects.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


President Bingu wa Mutharika, today, has once again blotted his cabinet a bringing several several deputies ministers. The president has also taken over the troubled ministry of education, from Anna Kachikho, making himself a head of two more potifolios on top of the presidency.
More to come.....

Politics of food security

For a woman Margret William, the politics of the world--fight for positions in government would be nothing. Staying in Mwanza district, about 100 kilometers away for Blantyre, Malawi's commercial city, she is one of the many peasant Malawians who are surviving on hand out.

William, 43 years old, caste her vote in 2004 general elections to choose a member of parliament and a president that would lead her and her piers out of miserable life they were leading.

The hoped, after hearing so many, campaign messages that from the day the MP’s and there presidents would be sworn in she would experience an automatic transformation from poverty to riches. Nay it never comes.

Two years down the line, with a hole and a watering cane, William and her friends have decided to change her life completely with or without assistance from government.

About 19 women of Kanduku village in Mwanza district decided to launch a big fight against hunger at house hold level by instituting an irrigation scheme that saw the group planting three times a year.

"We plant different kind of crops and we can say that things are working for us," she told the Minister of Irrigation and Water Development Sidik Mia, who visited the irrigation to appreciate the efforts of the women.

Mia shocked with the fact that the women were watering their plants using watering cane, promised to assist the women with a motorised pump. There was deafening ullulations.

"You have sorted out our problem," William said on behalf of her fellow women.

The member of Parliament for the area Davis Katsonga, who is also a Minister of Defence, went a step further: "I will buy eight bag of ferliser," he told the women.


Wednesday, May 2, 2007

What should be expected from this blog

Sometimes it is imperative to voice youself out. As a journalist I write stories that some of them do not manage to cross the borders of Malawi. But I need space out there and this is the only way I would enjoy my space in the world. This is my world and I will ake sure that I enjoy my world.

On this blog I will be posting all my stories published and unpublished. My opinions on different matters affecting Malawi, Africa and the world.

I will tackle issues ranging from politic, social, religion as well as entertainment and sports.

Comments are welcome

About me

I am a journalists working for Malawi News in Malawi.

A member of Society for Proffessional Journalists (SPJ)

A member Investigative journalists and Editors (IRE) Only seven in Africa

Practically I handle almost every subject that comes my way.