CULTURE

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CULTURE
Paramount Chief Lundu of Chikwawa has declared that legalized chamba and legalized commercial sex work are not Malawian culture. This initiates a very interesting discussion, better known as a can of worms. The question it raises is: what is Malawian culture? For “culture” we can look up the dictionary which says:
“Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving.”
That is a big mouthful, and takes a minute or two to take in. If you read this ttentively it becomes immediately clear that culture cannot stay the same over time. These beliefs, experiences etc change for the whole group from era to era. Just take the example of Christianity: this was not Malawian culture before Livingston brought it in. But today it is very much part of the collective belief system of the group called Malawi. 200 years ago it was unknown and the religions were true African religions like Nyau and such. Over time Christianity has become part of the belief system of the majority of Malawians. So then the question is: how does something become Malawian culture? And do we have one Malawian culture, a National Culture like Hastings Kamuzu Banda was striving for, or do we have different cultures in different regions? The answer is obviously both: we have collective national belief systems like our National Anthem which is doubtless part of Malawian culture, and we have more local cultures like Gule Wamkulu in the centre and different cultures in other regions.
Then types of culture evolve to suit the needs of a population as the country develops. We all strive for development of the country, and this means that we strive for change. This change will be reflected in the culture. For instance the Gule Wamkulu is changing, but not disappearing: in the 1950s there was very little cash economy in the rural areas. So in the dry season the village would have nothing else to do than sit together and create big Gule Wamkulu structures. These days in the dry season people go around looking for paid work to raise money and to contribute to the development of the country economically. So there is less time to create big structures, and these are rarer than they used to be 50 years ago. At the same time with more cash, dancers receive tips. This enables them to be more professional about the dancing, and spend time practicing rather than going around looking for Ganyu. So the dancing professionalises, and this can support tourism, which brings in foreign currency, which supports the economy. Again development. Culture develops along with the needs of the population, and drives development at the same time.
Also there are groups of Malawians who create and enjoy for instance Chichewa hip hop music, and this has clearly become part of Malawian culture over the past decades. How does something become Malawian culture? Who decides what “is part of Malawian culture” and what “is not”, like Chief Lundu stated? The chiefs are custodians of tradition, but not always in the best position to decide about modern culture, like hip hop. And what if we decide that something should become part of Malawian culture because it improves the country and suits the needs of the population. Then we integrate it into our cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions. One example is the mobile phone. It helps us run our businesses and maintain our contacts, and has grown very popular in very short time. It used to be foreign, but now it is integrated in our system. Likewise with the car, piped water, electricity, radio, democracy just to name a few.
The statement that legalised commercial sex is not part of Malawian culture now may be correct, illegal commercial sex is clearly part of the experience of many Malawians. Which according to the definition includes it in Malawian culture. If today, legalised commercial sex work is not part of Malawian culture, we can make it Malawian culture tomorrow if we decide that legal sex is better suited to our nation than illegal sex. It is up to us as a group to decide, and to instruct our representatives in Parliament and Government to make sure the laws reflect the needs of Malawians. We shape our culture according to our needs, that’s the power of culture and the power of the Malawian people.

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Blantyre Water Board should be renamed Blantyre Water Shortage Board.

We have had it with Blantyre Water Board. It is not only me, you see women carrying water on their heads every day in Blantyre. Is this the 21st century? You would think we are back 200 years, but evidently in those 200 years development has not taken its right course. And that is due to bad leadership. We should not take it. The Consumers Association of Malawi is not doing anything for us, where are you Mr Kapito?? Have you fallen asleep since the days of Bingu, when you were standing up for the rights of the people? Come on, take your responsibility, and act.

What we need is to go higher up. The Blantyre Water Board itself is not doing zip for us, so we need to go to the Big Boss himself. We elected Mr Mutharika, so he can serve us. Now we need him, we need decisive action and if Mr Kapito does not insist, we will ourselves.

PETITION:

YOUR EXCELLENCY, PROFESSOR ARTHUR PETER MUTHARIKA,

WE ARE IN A DIFFICULT POSITION BECAUSE YOUR EMPLOYEES ARE NOT DOING THEIR JOB RIGHT. WHAT WE WANT FROM YOU IS TO FIRE THE WHOLE MANAGEMENT OF BLANTYRE WATER BOARD AND REPLACE THEM WITH PEOPLE WHO HAVE THE CAPACITY TO GET THE SYSTEM WORKING. BRINGING IN GREEDY FOREIGNERS IN A PPP HAS NOT WORKED, AND WE KNOW THAT THE MANAGEMENT IS PLACING CORRUPTION ABOVE THE DELIVERY OF THE WATER WE NEED. WATER IS LIFE, AND WE HAVE A RIGHT TO LIFE AS GUARANTEED IN THE CONSTITUTION OF MALAWI. AS OUR BROTHER HAS FOUND OUT THE HARD WAY, CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS ARE NOT NEGOTIABLE. WE HAVE HIRED YOU THROUGH ELECTIONS TO SERVE US, NOW WE HUMBLY CALL ON YOU TO REPLACE THE MANAGEMENT OF BWB IMMEDIATELY, AND TO BRING THE CORRUPT PEOPLE THERE TO JUSTICE.

THANK YOU,

THE POPULATION OF BLANTYRE

PP? no PP!

It is surprising how many comments we get about Khumbo Kachali and his coup in the PP. The PP is not a force to reckon with to begin with. It was a coalition of people who were booted out of DPP by Bingu’s paranoia who, through none of their own doing, were propelled into power. Khumbo Kachali is a man with limited intellectual capacity as his record shows: moving hospital beds as an election stunt backfired, he was implicated in an attempt to blackmail Paladin into paying a large amount of money, he told off the people of Malawi when he said Banda and him were not going to stop making expensive trips when the public kitty was empty because: “we do not visit their mothers homes”, and Kachali jumped ship like any other crosstitute when he was not chosen to be Banda’s running mate in the last elections. This man is not capable, and he is not to be taken seriously.

Secondly, the PP failed majorly in the last elections, even though they plundered the public kitty for their election campaign, which was only based on hand outs, not on policy.

The PP does not perform, has never performed, and will never perform. Let it die a natural death, the country will not be any worse off.

Reverend Nick Chakwera going into (American) politics

In Saturday’s column Reverend Nick Chakwera shows his true colours: he is a politician, more than a cleric, and promotes American -foreign- political culture.

He talks rightwing American politics to such an extend that he lost connection with the Malawian situation. In effect, he is promoting privatising all that can possibly be privatised, including health care and education. In the US we see what this does, even when it has been done only very partially: glaring inequality, no opportunities for the children of the poor, and consequently astronomical crime rates.

He asks: do you want to pay your neighbours hospital bills? And if you don’t, he concludes that health care should be privatised. When we all know what that means in the Malawian situation: the poor will die like rats. The same can be applied to education, and in a way it is already being done: government retreating on education, lowering funding with every round of inflation, has undermined the great system we used to have under Kamuzu Banda: that also the children of the poor could access higher education if they had the talent. It was state funded, so the whole state would profit from a good and broad knowledge base. Not any more: even the publicly funded education is impossible without bringing funds from home, and more and more education is private, which means it is only accessible for those students who have well funded parents. This seems to be the direction that Nick Chakwera wants to go: only the children of the rich get education, only the rich can access health care, and so on. And the poverty trap will be much worse than it is now. And then, when the poor are in a hopeless situation, what other way is there for them than crime to get to a decent level of living? NONE. And that is exactly what we see happening now, and it needs to stop. Our politicians need to stop enriching themselves at the expense of the population and come up with creative solutions for the problems that plague us.

And Chakwera is out of touch with Malawi when he promotes the ideology of the American Christian Right. He should know better than that, but the fact that he fills his column with imported politics instead of religion shows he has run out of ideas and is just copy-and-pasting the ideas of his American (neo-colonial) masters.

Budget support

We read in the newspaper that government and EU are talking about budget support again. Fine. It was clear that we were heading towards a failed state without it: the government was not paying its bills and even the salaries have been delayed. There are no drugs in hospitals and licensed teachers are not being employed, all because government is not capable of balancing its books.

Gondwe says the EU has a long list of tough conditions. The only condition that is being revealed is the passing of the Access To Information Bill (ATI) into law. This is great: every well thinking person in the country wants this law, it will create another instrument for accountability of government (which in a democracy is the employee of the people; we are the boss of the president and all of government). The only people opposed to it are the ones who are stealing, lying and cash-gating our money away from us. The corrupt people. They seem to be powerful, because they have managed to hold up this bill for more than 20 years: since Muluzi was president.

  • Muluzi government: no ATI law.
  • Mutharika Government: no ATI law.
  • J Banda Government: no ATI law.
  • Arthur Peter Mutharika Government: is it finally going to happen with a little help from the EU?

But if the EU is so hell-bent on Access To Information: Why don’t they give us the information we need: the conditions for budget support? Why don’t we all know which are the conditions? Both our government and the EU people know the list. In the name of access to information and accountability of both EU and Malawi Government: let us all know the list of conditions, so we can see for ourselves what we need to do to get the salaries paid, the bills paid, development projects running again.

Another idea for the honourable MP Minister Chiyembekeza

Another idea for the honourable MP Minister Chiyembekeza

Recently the honourable MP Minister of agriculture Chiyembekeza said that people with criticism but no ideas have nothing to offer. His own policy looks like he has only limited ideas to offer so let’s help him and have something to offer.

At some point recently Mr honourable Chiyembekeza mentioned that Malawi will not move away from tobacco as the main forex earner. This is retroactive action that will take us back to the post. He can say a lot, but the international health organisations led by WHO (World Health Organisation) are not impressed with a minister from a very small country with one of the smallest economies of the world. They are moving on in their fight against disease including the diseases caused by tobacco. IN western countries tobacco use is steadily and quickly declining. In the growing economies of the East, mostly China and India, tobacco sales may be slightly growing, but as these countries develop at lightning speed (contrary to the snail’s pace of Malawi) the consumers there are going to demand protection against others tobacco smoke from their governments. In other words: it is not going to take long for these countries to also achieve lower and lower sales of tobacco. In the long term tobacco is not a feasible mainstay of the economy.

What we need is action now, not action in the far future. We need to be prepared for the inevitable changes in the world economy. What we need is diversification. Crop diversification, away from only tobacco, towards many others, like chilli’s, macadamia nuts, cashew nuts, peppers, coffee, tea, etc.
Another important forex earner could be tourism.

For the diverse crops the biggest challenges for the farmers are know-how on growing them in varieties that will fetch good prices on the world market and access to markets.

In the first instance, what farmers need are good extension services, which were in place during Kamuzu Banda’s days, but that were neglected ever since. They need to be revived with refresher courses, and good budgets to work and to travel in their respective areas. The success of commercial extension services in the Integrated Production System (contract farming) are a case in point how much there is to win with recommended agricultural practices. This is where the honourable MP Minister Chiyembekeza comes in: his ministry is responsible for extension services.

Secondly: access to markets. This is well established for tobacco with the auction system and now the IPS. But for other crops farmers have trouble reaching the world market. Again this is the responsibility of government: they need to have parallel systems for other feasible crops from smallholder farmers, to connect them to the world market. AHL (Auction Holdings Limited) is well placed to diversify, even though they are infamous for their corrupt practices. These should also be rooted out by government: AHL needs to have a vigilant anti-corruption policy with strong complaint services for anyone who feels having been disadvantaged by AHL staff or policies.

All this together should keep the honourable MP Minister Chiyembekeza busy, and I hope he understands that many people complaining do so out of patriotism. If he gets this type of criticism, he better take it to heart and thank the complainant for supporting government. He should stop complaining about the population himself and get to work.