WITCHCRAFT ALERT

witch-hunting-africa_picThe recent bouts of witchcraft accusations in Neno, Karonga and other places, combined with lynching and murder make for an ominous view of the immediate future.

As was shown in “Economic Gangsters” by Fisman and Miguel, witchcraft accusations are a coping mechanism in times of immediate poverty. Unproductive members of society, mostly the elderly and orphans, are accused of witchcraft and subsequently removed from the community by chasing or murdering them. This diminishes the burden on the community to care for unproductive people.witchcraft-2

In South Africa witchcraft accusations against the elderly were very common up to the time there was a general government pension paid out to them. This changed them from an economic burden to an economic asset. Witchcraft accusations were a thing of the past, from one day to the next. This shows how witchcraft accusations are caused by extreme poverty, and can be prevented by relieving extreme poverty.malawi-006

In Malawi we have a very difficult situation with immediate hunger, because of bad governance and aggravated by adverse weather conditions (floods and droughts). Our inadequate government is not capable of relieving the problems, donors can only do so much. As the hunger situation grows worse, the witchcraft accusations will worsen to, and our government is doing nothing, other than an empty call by the president, to improve the situation.

What we do not need is a President promoting calling on supernatural powers in the form of National Prayers for Rain, with the predictable result that assorted religious leaders start blaming the government policy on homosexuality for the drought.

We need implementation on the ground.

What we need is:

  • Immediate relief food for those in trouble
  • Economic policies that will lower inequality
  • Government policies that will restore donor confidence, ie government keeping records of donor money (and our tax money too, please!)

 

Education and finance

 

Yesterday the BBC had an interesting “Africa Debate”. The question was: “Can Africa Education Aheadafford free education?”. As the Action Aid participant pointed out this was the wrong question. The question should be: “Can Africa afford NOT to have free education?” And the answer clearly is NO. Africa cannot afford to NOT have free education. And Malawi as an extreme case surely cannot afford it.

We need to look at this with a long term vision. Education pays off after a number of years, as the learners are active in productive positions. And, contrary to Malawian style, politics should have a long term vision. Politics is not solving some current little challenges. That should be done by higher civil servants with a little guidance from the politician. But the real politics should work like this: the politician has a vision what the country should be like ideally in, say, 50 years. This will be guided by the politician’s ideology. In the case of education one would say:

deafd0b5257c846c0f_5fm6b937q“In 50 years we should have a highly educated population and every child in the country should have the opportunity to develop his/her skills to the limit of his/her ability.”

Every policy decision we take should be guided by the question: “Will this bring me closer to the ideal than I say “Yes.” will it take me further from the ideal than I say: “No.”

Thanks to the ineffective policies of our governments Malawi is the poorest country in the world. This means only a very small part of the population can afford to pay school fees for their children. We want a highly educated population in 50 years. If the large majority parents cannot pay for the education of their children, the state must take over as the only alternative. We will not raise school fees, as that takes us further from the ideal. We will lower the school fees. At the same time the quality of education in Malawi is so low (thanks to the continuous underfunding by successive governments, and to the ineffective and corrupt organization of the ministry of education, think of the scam with school books by Sam Mpasu as only the tip of the iceberg) that we have a very high drop out rate, and those learners who complete their education have low skills. So we need better quality also to achieve our ideal of a highly educated population in 50 years. This means urgent reorganization of the ministry of education combined with heavy investment in education. The country needs it.image

Then we have the second goal: “every child in the country should have the opportunity to develop his/her skills to the limit of his/her ability.” Those children who were so unfortunate (through no fault of their own) to be born to low income parents should have the same rights as children who happened to be so fortunate that their parents happened to be rich. That means that school fees should be affordable to all, and in Malawi with its dismally low minimum wage, that means no school fees at all. All talented children should be able to access primary, secondary and tertiary education of high quality. For their own development and for the development of the country.

education-loan-2The conclusion is: no school fees, better quality education through reorganization and heavy investment.

This will cost money. The money can be mobilized in the short term by austerity for the highest levels of politicians and civil servants: lower their perks, do not appoint more paper shufflers, cut back on useless travel and allowances, prosecute the corrupt ones, so they pay back their illegally gotten wealth and are fired, so they draw no more public money.

In the medium term: organize government record keeping so much less money will be lost, and donor money can be accessed again.

It is not Rocket Science, it is common sense.

Youth and sex

 

We see the issue of family planning (or contraceptives) framed in terms of macro 7aab33a9526649704ca9bf59f66bf8cfplanning. “We need to curb population growth” and such. But we should look at it at an individual level, the level of human rights. Women’s liberation is only possible when women have the means to control their fertility. Where men can (and do) run away from an unplanned pregnancy, women get stuck with a child in a situation where they are not ready to take care of it. Most of all, the child is the victim: growing up in a situation that is not conducive for a well rounded and fulfilling life.

The term family planning presumes a family, and there have been plenty of testimonies of young people’s trouble in accessing contraceptives. Many shop keepers refuse to supply condoms to unmarried youth especially girls.

fpoptionschartethiopiaBut we need to take young people seriously. They have to make their own decisions and when adults are interfering with their choices they do not learn and cannot grow into well decision making adults.

One of the important areas for youth do decide are their own bodies, as in the title of a famous American feminist book: our bodies, ourselves. The youth need to have the agency to decide for themselves when they are ready to have sex. We as adults can support them by making sure they have the information and the means they need to prevent STIs and unwanted pregnancy. The choices are their own.

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We need to supply comprehensive sex education at an early age, before they become sexually active. After that it may (and in many cases will) be too late. They may have contracted an STI (including HIV/Aids0 or unwanted pregnancy.

Countries that have early comprehensive sex education in their school curriculum (like Denmark and Netherlands) have very low rates of teenage pregnancy, abortion and STIs including HIV/Aids.

We need to educate the whole population including service providers up to the level of shop and bottle store operators on the need for the youth to take their own decisions and to have access to information, contraceptives and services.

 

AID AND DONORS

51-g8du7knl-_sx318_bo1204203200_The thinking about the actions of the donors on budget support has been around for quite a few years. It has been very clearly explained in two books on aid:

The white man’s burden, by William Easterly

And

The trouble with Africa by Calderisi

Easterly argues that budget support functions more as subsidy for corruption than for the development of the country or support for the population. He proposes to channel all foreign aid through NGOs rather than governments, and that governments need to keep their house in ordeer by themselves. This idea is very attractive as NGOs are more cost effective than our government. But the amount of monies channeled by the biggest donors to Malawi cannot be absorbed by NGOs alone. This means that only about half the traditional budget support is now coming into Malawi via NGOs.

Calderisi argues that donors talk a lot about good governance and their support for it, but that they keep on giving aid to those regimes that do not practice good governance. He assumes this will motivate governments to practice good governance. In Malawi this appears not to be true: government refuses to do anything other than “business as usual”.

When these books came out a few years ago, their ideas seemed quite good to me, and I wondered why donors would not read them humanitarian20aid20by20donor202008and practice that. Of course these donor machines are very slow to react to new ways of doing things, but now they are clearly practicing the ideas in these (and other) books.

If our government wants to regain donor support, they can read in these books what needs to be done in the longer term. (the short term has been outlined by the donors themselves in a secret 20 point document, which we as the population do not get to read, which undermines the basis of democracy. How do we know who to vote for, if we do not know which requirements have not been met by our democratic representatives in government.malawi-norway-government-resources-industry-development-world-improve-challenges-export-dependency

I have a strong hunch that government is not reforming for two different but related reasons:corruption-in-africa

  1. The government system has been corrupted for so long and to such a degree that reform is going to be difficult. Reform of any organization is difficult, there is always conservatism. Reform that goes against the immediate short term interests of those involved (the corrupt) is even more difficult. An organization that is as corrupted as the Malawi Government has resistance top to bottom. On top of this it is very difficult to take measures against non-performing civil servants, hindering a hard approach to those who sabotage reform. In government there is so little management capacity that these reforms are difficult to implement.
  2. Many of the people responsible for the reforms are benefitting themselves from the chaos through corruption, and are not inclined to improve the way the government organization functions.

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Our predicament is this: donors can channel their funds via other channels, and fund NGOs and such. But we as the tax payer are stuck with a corrupt and non-performing government machinery that takes our money but does not provide the services for which we are paying tax.

We are in a difficult predicament. Who knows a solution is invited to contact me to implement it.

MEC, MEC, MEC!

 

The MEC has made the 2014 elections into un unprecedented chaos. It has a deficit of 758M kwacha, The top brass have given themselves illegal bonuses and sold cars to themselves under the market price.commn_emblem

These people do not belong in the office they are in. They ought to be fired for incompetence and prosecuted for corruption. Why are they kept where they are?

Do they know something about the elections and the outcome that brought Mr Arthur Peter Mutharika to power? Or are they being rewarded for making enough of a mess of the elections?

When will we find out? Probably only after they are being brought to justice.

 

Gay issue is imposed from abroad

While we are in a difficult situation, with an economic meltdown, a crime wave, a government that does not keep track of any money, aid freeze, climate change, and more, we are being confronted with an attack on our gay community that has never been seen before in our history.

The history is clear: when we were colonized by the British they imposed an anti gay law on us, which did not comply with our traditional values of love, peace, understanding and forgiveness. They imposed a western style Christianity on us that is homophobic instead of accommodating.

gaysouthafrica1When we wrote our own constitution we made sure it guaranteed rights for all. But some oversight forgot to change the colonial laws in conformity to our own constitution, for which we voted and which we adopted. The South Africans made sure gay rights are explicit in their constitution, we have them there, included in the human rights chapter.

Our democratically elected government has decided to suspend the colonial (anti-gay) law until the constitutional court has had the opportunity to bring it in line with our own constitution.

Some police made a mistake in Lilongwe, when after protecting two men suspected by a mob of having gay contact; they inflicted bodily inspection on them. This was a bad oversight, but it needed not to escalate. Only, some foreign Christian hardliners saw a parallel opportunity to the interference they committed in Uganda, and started stoking the fire.

706x410q70marelise-vd-merwe-lgbti-rightsWe need our police, judiciary and jails to deal with the rising wave of serious crime, including house breaking, violent robbery, and even murder (Njauju!). We do not need an extra workload on these essential services from an angle of consenting adults practicing their sexual orientation in the privacy of their own bedroom. We need a strong effort to keep violent crime ken-msonda-304x175in check. We do not need foreign Evangelists stoking the fire of homophobic feelings in a section of the population. And we certainly do not need a failed politician calling for murder to get attention for his stalling career.

 

Surreal

 

Reality has a tendency of being more surreal than anything we can dream up. And our government has done it again: they are not producing any kind of audited financial statement. They have not a single month of bank reconciliation. This government is simply not tracking any of its money (the money is yours and mine!).

finance-and-insurance

What is going on? Is this simply a matter of laziness? After us the deluge and tomorrow never comes? Or is it a way of allowing everyone in the system to take their pick and never be found out? Is this a policy of don’t ask, don’t tell, do steal?

The people high up in the system, the ones that take the decisions, are the ones who have the most opportunities to take from the system, and they have the most to lose when financial systems are closed and the money is going to its intended purpose and not into some unscrupulous individuals pocket. It seems this is a way of facilitating a latter day Cashgate.

finance

The population suffers because services are not financed, and because taxes are ever raised higher to finance the theft and inefficiency that inevitably results from no financial controls.

The people low in the system, the ones that are doing the work we, as the population, need, are suffering too: they are not hired, or not paid, or paid too low and too late. The ones that are close to the fire (the public kitty) are the ones on Capital Hill. If they do anything, they produce beautiful papers that are not being implemented. But some of them may be doing other things, like advocating for themselves to fly to the UNGA or some other foreign destination, and claim allowances of up to U$250 per day in externalized forex for going shopping. Others may even do illegal things to get their hands on the tax money that is yours and mine.

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We do not need a hiring stop for nurses, doctors, teachers, and even street sweepers. These are people that are doing the work you and I are paying taxes for. We need to lay off the entrenched Capital Hill overcrowds that are not even producing the financial statements we are paying them for. And the higher up, the more responsible they are for the mess the country is in.

The donors have a more luxurious position than we do: they can decide to channel their funds through other channels than the leaking stealing government ones. They can (and do) set up their own projects, so the money goes to its intended purpose. They buy drugs for us (from foreign tax payers money!) and transport it themselves to hospitals, so only on one level will they get stolen, rather than on the many levels of the government system. And we don’t even know what gets stolen, because the accounts are simply non-existent.

But we as a tax payer, we are forced to pay ever higher taxes, levies, fees and what-have-you, forced by a state that does not fulfill its mandate. Its “social contract” that binds us to obey the government. Our social contract has been broken unilaterally by our rulers, our national non-performers.

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The London’s Economists’s Intelligence Unit is warning of social unrest. Hunger riots and such. We need to prevent that, by being pro-active, and remove the parasites that are not accounting for our money. The ones that are not providing us with the quality education, health care, security and other core government tasks, not to mention water, electricity, and infrastructure.

Brace yourself for hard times. Be proactive in holding government to account. And if all else fails (and we are close) we can take drastic (as yet unspecified) action.

THREE ARMS OF GOVERNMENT (OR FOUR, OR FIVE?)

 

In any democratic system we are supposed to have three arms of government: the legislature, which makes the laws and also keeps oversight of the executive, the judiciary which interprets the laws in any case of conflict, and the executive, which executes the laws. In many African countries the executive has overshadowed the other arms of government, which does happen in Malawi. The legislature eats out of the executive hand, being bought with privileges, bribes and illegal lucrative government contracts. The judiciary lets itself be bullied into submission to the executive (maybe they are also backhandedly allowed to take bribes, maybe the executive does not care, probably a combination of both). This means there is no opposition to the executive, which perform dismally and is corrupted top to bottom.

civil-society

With no opposition in government, the opposition moves to civil society and press (sometimes referred to as the fourth arm of government). The press can only expose, and does so pretty continuously. This to the chagrin of government, but otherwise it cannot really interfere. Civil society is a bit more difficult to deal with for government: they can and do appeal to international bodies like the UN commission for human rights, or some international judiciaries that Malawi has signed on to. This exposes the lack of patriotism in government, but otherwise it is again pretty toothless.

 

If the complex of government and its closely allied private sector cronies is the ruling class, then civil society and to a slightly lesser extend the press are middle class. They oppose the bad practices in government from a middle class vision. They cannot do otherwise simply because they are middle class. The middle class has a middle class vision.

But now, who represents the large majority of the population? The proletarians, in Malawi overwhelmingly smallholder farmers, with a few labourers. They have no representation, and do not form a block against the other powers: the ruling class and the middle class.

Now government people, often the President Himself, get very annoyed with the opposition they get from civil society and even more from the press. But, one would ask, why bother? The middle class in Malawi is very small, and the abysmal government policies do everything to keep it that way. With education so badly funded and supported, and the threat of draconian rises is school fees over every student’s head the next generation of middle class may well be even smaller than it is today, keeping the ruling class out of any threat to its stealing, lying and bullying.

If the ruling class were more cynical, and less vain, they would not bother to react to a middle class that due to its lack of size has no power to threaten the privileged position of the ruling class.

 

The new ideology

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While Africanism forms a good start for our ideology, it is not enough to analyse the world we live in, and formulate solutions for the problems we, as a nation and a continent, are facing.

While Africanism is right that most of the rich live in Europe and these days Asia, it does not explain why some indigenous Africans are very rich, and most are very poor. It is clearly true that multinational companies are extorting obscene wealth from us, they are doing the same from proletarians elsewhere. Clearly, in India and China the poor are almost as bad off as in Africa. The proletarian class in the western world (Europe and North America) is smaller, but it is there. It is mostly composed of ethnic minorities, some migrants, some indigenous.

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We should look beyond borders and beyond our continent. We should see how some indigenous Africans are conniving with multinational capitalists. Our local ruling class are nowhere near on equal footing with the global power brokers (just as the western politicians are not). Our African ruling class are only lackeys of the Global Big Men2f4e492f381cf19f683838e8841ecc2a, the real capitalists.

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Nevertheless, they make themselves accessory to the rape and theft of our continent, for the modern equivalent of thirty pieces of silver.

In practice, this means that we cannot count on our ruling class to develop the country or the continent. They are accessory to the poverty that we are enduring. We need to look beyond them.

2013-02-malawi-bromelkampOn the other hand, thanks to the sabotage of our education system by the ruling class (which is much more systematic than the one theft by Sam Mpasu) our proletarian class, in Malawi mainly smallholder farmers and agricultural labourers, are so uneducated they are not capable of making these analyses on their own. They live in a system comparable to Europe in the late middle ages, using hoes for cultivation, and dependent on the local chief for the land that supports their survival (hopefully).

Malawi farm woman

The alternative would appear to form an avant-garde of developers that represent the proletarian class, and take over from the current ruling class (not necessarily violently). But we have seen in Russia/Soviet Union how such a system turns into its own opposite and becomes a ruling class of its own, hardly better than the previous ruling class.

marksism-leninism

We need a longer process than that. We need a group of dedicated intellectuals, who are capable of making analyses, of seeing through the dominant rhetoric of “development”, and are capable of translating that into an ideology that the proletarian class can understand. This requires not so much knowing the rights answers. That would only dump slogans into the mind of the proletarian. We need the opposite: we need the capacity to ask the right questions, to problematizes the dominant rhetoric for what it is: a hegemony of thought that supports the physical (and financial) dominance of the current ruling class. The proletariat knows its

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situation, and it knows the answers to the questions, but it is not aware of the questions, because of the mind numbing thought control that goes with the dominant rhetoric, that excludes the proper analysis by the proletariat. It is a “common sense” ideology, that makes any analysis that threatens the powers-that-be into “non-sense”.

class20warfare4We need to look beyond borders, and find allies in other African countries, in countries beyond Africa, even in the Western World there is a social justice movement that looks to a better world for all, not just for the self. We need to forge international ties with the well meaning people, those who have expertise in educating the proletariat, to form a multi national movement (maybe connected to occupy?) that

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has the power to stand up to the power of the multi national capitalist.

Look beyond Malawi, look beyond Africa. Do not look at geography. Look at class.

Gay again!

 

The newspapers today are full of the gay issue to the point that the unsuspecting reader may think there is nothing else in the country than homosexuality. Both newspapers sport 4 articles, with the Weekend Nation adding on a column by Trapence of Cedep and Malawi news an editorial comment.

To add on to this overdose I am writing about the issue again myself.

The amount of disinformation and unfactual wording is appalling and both newspapers of quality unworthy.

In the column of the Christian fundamentalist NC we can expect this: fundamentalists are marked by their conviction that their own opinion is more truthworthy than the factual truth.

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But in the Nation the journalist FG talks of suspension of part of the constitution, which is untrue: the constitution supports gay rights, it is an old colonial law that opposes them. The answer by the religious interviewee makes another mistake: he talks about gay marriage, while no one in Malawi is proposing to legalise gay marriage. What we are discussing is decriminalization of homosexual activity, shich is quite a different matter.

Then some writers fault government for its suspension of prosecution of suspects of gay activity. However this cannot be called illegal: the ministry of justice decides on the policy of prosecution: there is in every society a limitation to the capacity of the prosecutor. Someone will have to decide on priorities. That someone is not parliament, that someone is the executive arm of government, in the person of the minister of justice. Parliament makes laws, judiciary interprets the laws when a case is brought in by the prosecutor. The executive executes the laws, and has the authority to decide on priorities in this area. It is a wise decision to suspend the prosecution of people who are harming no one, and are practicing their orientation in private, and prioritize crimes that do victimize people, like murder, robbery, house breaking, violence and such. We should not misuse our limited capacity in the police, judiciary and penitentiary system for people who are causing no harm to anyone.

Then there is journalist JJ who advocates that homosexuals need “help” rather than punishment. This is strange because there is no ”cure” known to man, homosexuals are homosexuals and that is their identity. By the same token, the help that is needed is information on HIV/aids and other STIs from a same sex perspective, and this is made impossible by criminalization.

WE need a factual discussion, not all this illogical sloganism.