Transferring a journalist for doing the job is bad practice. It seems the tax payer (that’s us!) funds a DPP propaganda station, which is a waste of our money. The Ministry of Information should know better than this: transferring a journalist because he asks a question about the current issue of homosexuality. We already had the bad rap over Viola banning ZBC from a press conference because he had picked a fight with one of their journalists. Now we get another case of censorship, which has no place in a democracy. Shame on MBC
At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
Jesus said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.
There is no vision or direction in our government. Do these people want to be right wing capitalist, or do they want to be left wing socialist? We cannot know, and they don’t know themselves. Look at this:
They are unbundling Escom, in order to be able to privatize the generation part. It is not possible to privatize transmission: privatized capitalist constructions can only work with competition. If there is no competition, then the company holds a monopoly and can charge any money it wants. The consumer has no choice but to pay. And with transmission, clearly it cannot be efficient to build more than one transmission net to cover Malawi. So transmission must be government controlled, which in the current time means a para statal.
But with generation this is different, there you can have different companies generating electricity and selling to Escom Transmission. These companies, in theory, would be in competition and would compete to deliver the best service for the best price. This is neo-liberal logic, which in actual practice often fails to perform. For now there is only one generating company, and it remains to be seen if there will be more coming in. For now the investment climate in Malawi is not good for capitalists, so we have no idea if any company would be interested to invest in such a volatile investment climate. That means that Escom Generation would be the only company in the field, and it would hold a monopoly. It can charge what it wants for its power, and Escom Transmission can only decide to buy. Then Escom Transmission will have to charge us the price Escom Generation is charging plus the overhead of Escom Transmission. Electricity prices will sky rocket. This means a further push on inflation and further damage to the investment climate.
Most political systems hold that public utilities like electricity should not be privatized but be under the control of a democratically elected government. Our government has decided differently, it will follow the extreme neo liberal logic that privatization is always better than public ownership, even though internationally there are a lot of bad experiences with privatizing public utilities. Extremely right wing capitalist policy.
On the other hand the government is building a sugar factory in Dowa. This is manufacturing. Most political systems hold that manufacturingshould be done by the private sector as opposed to public utilities. Only extreme socialists and communists will want manufacturing in government hands. Moderates will want public utilities controlled by government and manufacturing controlled by the private sector because experience shows that in manufacturing, the private sector is indeed more efficient thatn government, and that certainly holds for our extremely inefficient and corrupt government. This has already been shown: government has not by any measure been capable of completing the project in time or within budget. This is an extremely left wing communist policy.
Is our government moderate, then they hold on to public utilities, and leave manufacturing to the private sector. But they do the opposite so we have the worst of both worlds: extreme left wing and extreme right wing. There is no way to figure out which way our government is taking the country, except that it may be that the logic follows personal profits for some powerful people, instead of a clear cut policy.
The Malawi government has come under pressure to change its policy on homosexuality, but it has not budged.
The police in the Malawian capital Lilongwe has mistakenly arrested two men on suspicion of homosexual activities. This is in contravention to the government policy of a moratorium on the anti-gay law, which stems from colonial authorities. The Malawian constitution from 1993 prohibits discrimination on any ground, which legally includes homosexuality, but the ever slow Malawian Parliament has failed to adjust colonial laws to the Malawian constitution.
After the arrest, some Christian hardliners, followers of American Evangelism, have tried to put pressure on the Malawian government to re-enact the outdated colonial law, and put the Malawian constitution aside. Government upheld its moratorium on the anti-gay law, in line with its policy to wait enforcing the law, until the constitutional court has reviewed its constitutionality.
Is the Malawi government serious about climate change?
Now the government has decided to build a coal fired power plant at the highest cost for any single project in Malawi since independence. Everybody knows that coal is the most polluting, dirty type of fuel on the planet. And it adds, more than any other fuel, to climate change.
We have been victims of climate change, mostly caused by industrialized countries. Look at the devastating floods in January. This is how poor people suffer from the overuse of fossil fuels. Now Malawi, instead of fighting climate change, is going to add to it in the worst possible way. The excuse is that more power will attract Direct Foreign Investment. But which company wants to invest in a site where it will be flooded? Where the population is suffering instead of producing? No company.
Also Malawi is splitting up Escom (Electricity Supply Company of Malawi) into two separate entities, to facilitate privatization. In her best seller “This Changes Everything”star writer Naomi Klein shows that privatization makes it impossible to combat climate change, and that the way to deal with climate change is collective action and government action. Not privatization: making Escom a private company makes sure it will strive for maximum profit. Maximum profit is not in climate friendly renewable energy techniques, it is in fossil fuels, where a big part of the cost is heaped upon the poor in the form of climate change. So privatization of Escom drives the climate change that causes droughts and floods.
This government is not serious about the poor, it is serious about more money for the rich (which shows in the climbing GINI coefficient). We need to put pressure on the government to get serious about our needs including the fight against climate change.
We are not only facing short term problems (economic meltdown, total collapse of government financial management and consequential non-performance of government) but also a very real long term problem. With the widening gap between rich and poor, fast population growth, climate change, international neo-liberalism which is not challenged in Malawi in any meaningful way, we are creating a growing pool of youth with no future. In other African countries this gave rise to Islamist terrorism. I do not expect that, because the Islamic section of the population is too small. But it is an economic problem, more than religious. (The large majority of Muslims worldwide abhor terrorism). And terrorism can take a Christian form (think of Joseph Kony) or any other.
We need to look at the future of the young generation, and the generations to come, and it does not look good.
If we look at the countries north of us, we see a terrible cycle of violence, being met with violence, growing the problem. International intervention only worsens the situation. We need home grown losutions. We need to narrow the gap between rich and poor. We need to create a vibrant economy. We need to meet the unmet need for family planning. We need effective governance, which is sorely missing. I cry for Malawi
The president spoke beautifully on the anti corruption day function. Patriotism and all. Change of mindset. This needs to be followed up by policy, a policy that promotes good governance.
The mindset that the President wants to change does not come out of no-where. It is not like Malawians have a propensity for corruption. The “deeply entrenched corruption” (words of the President) in Malawi comes, not out of a defect in Malawians’ morality. It comes out of an environment in which corruption is rewarded, and honesty is not. That environment needs to be changed for the good of all.
At the moment the individual who pursues his/her own interest at the cost of the population is rewarded. But the one who promotes honesty is being kept out of the loop. We need to reverse this trend with a number of strictly adhered measures that make corruption more difficult and punish the perpetrator.
- A change in labour laws that make corruption a reason for immediate dismissal, even before the criminal has been convicted (convictions always take years in Malawi’s s l o w judicial system) Standard must be a repay of all illegal gains at the cost of the organization.
- Immediate passing of the Access to Information Bill with inclusion of all documents with no time limit, and without the limiting clause that the documents must be “for the excercise of one’s rights” Any government documents that are not endangering National Security must be public. If a document is claimed to endanger National Security a strong motivation must be given.
- Big signs in all government offices with the rights and duties of office bearers and the rights and duties of the population in Chichewa and English and where needed in the local language. The signs must show contact details for the complaints procedure. For instance in Admarc depots, for people being shortchanged when buying maize, and at roadblocks, to show which goods can freely be transported and for which ones a license is needed, and how to obtain the license.
- Empowerment of the ACB, Fiscal Police and Financial Intelligence Unit with staff and equipment, and cars from the Presidential Convoy, together with their drivers and fuel allowances.
- Training of the police, immigration service, road traffic and other offices perceived to be corrupt (according to the Malawian population in the TI report) with classroom training as well as role play (like Forum Theatre): what do you do if you notice corruption? Role play, the police officer can take the role of the actor playing the colleague noticing corruption.
- A website publishing all regulations, anything left out is not legally binding. A website can be updated in real time, so this is perfectly feasible. This one will work mostly for bigger projects as the local population has limited access to internet. But for building project and such it is important. It will also attract more Direct Foreign Investment, because an investor wants to know the environment he/she invests in.
- Overhaul of the regulatory framework: Transparency International has found one of the biggest drivers of corruption is unclear regulations and procedures. Simple regulations that are strictly enforced will level the playing field for the private sector, and limit corruption. O the other hand, the current situation with very complex regulations which are intermittently enforced produces corruption. If the individual duty bearer can decide which rule to enforce and which one to ignore, this is a recipe for corruption.
- All regulations must have time limits, so no handouts can be solicited for quick processing of any regulation. Again there must be a clear, quick and effective complaints procedure.
The Zero Tolerance on Corruption Policy of Bingu was far from perfect, and it lost steam after a few years, but it has shown us that in the first few years Bingu could limit corruption with sufficient political will. This did grow the country in the right direction. But he also showed us that loss of political will turns back the gains very quickly. We need a long and persistent fight against corruption to turn the tide and make Malawi beautiful and efficient again.
Today in a BBC interview producer Ian Brennan of the Zomba Prison Project said something very interesting.
On Saturday, the Weekend Nation wondered why the amateurs of Zomba Prison get a Grammy nomination, and no Professional Musician in Malawi has gotten to that point.
Ian Brennan, when quizzed about the quality of the musicians in Zomba Prison answered:
“What I was looking for in this project is not musicianship. I was looking for expressiveness.”
Get the point?
The professional musicians in Malawi may be lacking on musicianship, or they may not. But they certainly are lacking in expressiveness. For a professional you expect a professional level of musicianship and some of our musicians have reached that. But that is not where it ends. That is
where it starts. Once you have learned to speak, you need to have something to say to be an interesting speaker. Most of our musicians say very little (“Move to the left, move to the right. Oh girl you make me feel alright” That, for the level of poetic technique: right does not rhyme with right. It rhymes with light, with quite, with might, with spite, but not with right. Now that is only technique, but lyrics like this are so uninspired they could never aspire to any artistic enjoyment for the listener) That is lyric wise, but also musically you need to come up with something expressive.
Something that will surprise the listener, something that gives the feeling of: Wow, I have never heard that before. If you have, why listen to someone imitating someone. And much Malawian music imitates an imitation. Each time it looses expression, and by the time it gets imitated by an imitator it’s gone.
Originality, personality, authenticity, creativity. Call it what you want. But that is what we need. And you need musicianship to be able to pull it off.
For the third time I imagine a manifesto of a political party that goes beyond the usual nothingness of Malawian politics. This time it is the labour party. I imagine not a “New Labour” party, but a classic one. The British “New Labour” is just another name for neo-liberal-but-a-little less-neoliberal. Again this is NOT the situation according to John K Black. This is the opinion that a labour party would sustain in Malawi. The idea is to show that there are real alternatives in politics, that a government needs to choose from. Politics is not a technocratic exercise, it is the expression of an ideal for the country.
The population of Malawi is being exploited by a small group of ruling class. The proletarians work, the ruling class rules and enriches itself at the cost of the population. This needs to stop, it needs to be improved. We can do better than this, and the MILP (Malawi Imaginary Labour Party) will do better for the population.
- Economy is at the heart of the Labour vision for the country. What goes wrong now is: widening inequality. Lowering standards of living for the majority of the population, widespread poverty, and soon hunger. All this can be improved, and the MILP will improve s soon as we get into government. We will narrow the income gap, improve living standards and the general standard of life for the common Malawian. This can only be done with a strong government system. At the moment labour laws are not bad, but they are not enforced. MILP will send missions to all businesses to enforce good working conditions. Minimum wage will be raised to the level needed to sustain a family of four. This will be religiously enforced. With the difficult times Malawi is going through, the rich will have to shoulder most of the burden of the crisis as the poor simply do not have the carrying power. This means taxes for the rich will go up, while wages for the poor will go up. Government will create jobs for a large number of people. At the moment International as well as big Malawian companies are making astronomical profits at the expense of the people who do the actual work: the labourers and farmers. Minimum prices for agricultural products will be guaranteed by government, so farmers are not being ripped off by big companies or unscrupulous traders.
- Agriculture: the FISP is the much needed support for the poor. Malawi cannot do without it (for this read Stephen Carr). We will clean up FISP from corruption so it will be both affordable and effective in supporting those who need it: the poor. The already privileged will not get the opportunity to divert the inputs from the poor. Government will guarantee minimum prices, if necessary government will buy at these prices, and resell later when international prices have recovered.
- Civil service: the country needs a strong government system. At the moment civil servants are demoralized by bad organization, underpayment, and lack of resources to do a good job. All this is caused by bad management, corruption and nepotism. The civil service will be reorganized without lay offs: civil servants will be empowered to do a good job. Ghost workers will be removed, and those responsible for the vice will be brought to justice. No longer will the higher echelons of the civil service be immune to law enforcement. They will be required to do the job well, and without corrupt or nepotistic practices. This will free up the money and manpower to make the government sector strong, the strength of Malawian society.
- Education: it is clear to everyone that the mass of Malawian population cannot afford the astronomical rise in school fees that the current anti social government is trying to lay on it. Primary and secondary education must be free of charge, and of high quality. Tertiary education will be charged lower than currently and for talented individuals from poor background a strong system of scholarships will be available. Quality in all areas of education, including vocational training, needs to be improved in order to enable the population to make a good living and develop the country.
- Health care: the rot in health care needs to be stopped, and the best way to do so is to make the whole ruling class use the same system as the population: no more flying out for elite treatment. Instead improve the system here until it can meet international standards. We do not need inequality in this most important human right: the right to life.
- International politics: Malawi will engage with other developing countries (South-South initiative) to form a block against International Capitalism, so exploitation of the Global South will end. We will engage with other sub-Saharan countries first, but also contact countries in South America, Asia, Arab World and Southern Europe to form a united front against exploitation by international capitalism. We will engage also with workers unions and other entities of the disadvantaged in the west. This way we can form an international coalition that will not allow the current divide-and-conquer politics of the ruling classes in the west.
Malawi is a rich country, but its inhabitants are poor because a current ruling class are conniving with multi-national companies and their servants in western governments and institutions. We will not give away our mineral wealth for a pittance, or allow tax holidays for the rich. We will stand up for the common man, not for a “national interest” of the rich.
Improve Malawi, vote Labour, vote MILP
Again I imagine a party that has an ideology that goes beyond stealing from the public kitty. Today I write a manifesto about the direction of the country according to the Imaginary Conservative Party of Malawi, NOT ACCORDING TO JOHN K BLACK!
The conservative party of Malawi is very concerned with the way the country is going down the drain. In the old days, our country was properly run, people had food, a roof that did not leak and shoes. These days most people are poor. Pornography is corrupting our morals, learners are lying and insulting teachers, and even the President is not safe from insinuations and lies. The country needs to get back to its former glory, when the civil service worked hard, the population worked hard, and the people in office worked hard.
- Morals: we need to get back to our religious roots, we should get rid of homosexuality, pornography, immorality. We should honour our culture, we should honour our roots. We should honour the Chief, the Head of the Family, the Head of State, and above all God. We cannot allow criminals shooting our police officers and innocent citizens, we cannot allow lies and defeatist talk about our office bearers. The Censorship Board needs to be empowered to save our children from immorality flowing over our borders. Lawlessness must be dealt with convincingly. We need to get back to the Malawian standards of Obedience, Unity, Loyalty and such. Permissiveness has its limits.
The police will strictly enforce the law, criminals are not tolerated. The minority of corrupt officers will be dealt with in the strictest manner the law allows. The majority will again be motivated to serve the national interest and fight crime effectively.
- The economy is in shambles because of the hand-out mentality, because of a lack of hard work, and because people are busy criticizing instead of working. Get-rich-quick ideas will not develop the country. We need to empower the ordinary farmer to grow by supplying inputs and loans, reviving extension services, and by empowering Admarc to serve the interest of the population.
The private sector will be strictly regulated to serve the interest of the country, and not their own greed at the cost of the Malawian population. Government will buy crops at reasonable prices, and supply the buyers according to their needs. Currently we see that every Jim and Lack started growing tobacco, many of substandard quality. This has suppressed prices which is only good for exploiting foreigners. The industry needs to be properly regulated by government, so that the right amount of high quality tobacco fetches good prices.
- Education: we see a wild forest of private education institutions that are giving out all kinds of titles of questionable worth. We must bring back sanity to the education sector. The government education system is the backbone of a morally educated people. We do not need millions of worthless degrees. The government will strictly enforce education standards, and provide good education in government schools. The schools will be regulated so we produce graduates of the right kind of specialization in the right amounts to develop the country. Because the farmer is being empowered to grow well, the population does not need fancy degrees. The government will provide jobs for all graduates, who will develop the country in state enterprises.
- Health care: health care was properly organized pre 1994 and there is no reason that government cannot do the job now. We need to revisit the organization of the sector, and put everyone in the right position to guarantee services to the population. Laziness and incompetence will not be tolerated, the majority who is of good will will be empowered to treat diseases. Drugs pilferage was unheard of in the days before 1994, these days will be brought back.
- Civil service: We need to put the civil service back to work. They have been demotivated by a minority of lazy corrupt civil servants. These types must be rooted out. Sanity must prevail in the civil service, so the civil servant works hard for a reasonable salary, and the civil service will be kept free from corruption.
We need to bring back the glory days of Malawi, and we can.