ARRESTS!

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Malawian government is deeply dysfunctional. As long as it was prepped up by donors, the dysfunctionality was covered up a little. But now, the donors are under pressure from populist nationalist parties in Europe, who want to slash aid; in the US the same is shown in the popularity of Donald Trump. Western governments simply cannot afford to give aid which is being stolen by a rich elite in the recipient countries. So until there is serious action against corruption in Malawi, and the government finance system is reasonably effective, budget support is not returning.

 

fisp-malawiIn the history of democracy in Malawi we have seen one slightly more effective government: Bingu wa Mutharika I. His second term was marred more than any other government by corruption, inefficiency and other flaws. In his first term, he managed to implement a large policy that reached the population: FISP (Farm Input Subsidy Programme, mostly subsidized fertilizer). This got him unprecedented popularity: a president who does something for the population! After the later Kamuzu years and the lost decade of Muluzi, this was a great improvement.

The problem is that it is very difficult to replicate, because it was only possible in the unique circumstances that Mutharika was in at the time (and that he lost in his second term).

Mutharika came into the Presidency sponsored by UDF, but he early on ditched the Front and started his own political party, the DPP. With the UDF he also ditched all the political debts that the party (much of it in the person of the previous President Muluzi) had made, to win elections. In Malawi it appears necessary to buy support from many influential people in order to win elections. This means that the democratic value of Malawian elections is substantially undermined. Often the support is bought with (sometimes silent) promises of opportunities to enrich oneself, once the candidate has won elections. This gives rise to enormous corruption, nepotism, and incompetent people being appointed. Also the office bearers know they are not in office for performance, but for the support they have lent in the past. So their policy in office is not enlightened by striving for excellent performance, but by cashing in on (often corrupt) opportunities for self enrichment.

In his first term Bingu wa Mutharika was not marred by this kind of problem: he had ditched all that with UDF/Muluzi. This gave him the unique opportunity to do something for the population. On the other hand, for his re-election he got entangled in the corrupt practices that are the norm in Malawian politics, and his second term was a disaster.

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If we look at the implications of this situation for the future, it does not give reason for optimism: in the usual situation the President will be hindered by political debts, which will take over governance. He (or she) cannot push through the policies that will benefit the country, but is bound to practice nepotism and allow corruption and self enrichment. We see this happening now: donors demand anti-corruption policies to be implemented, but the government is not complying. The ATI bill has been butchered to a point that the law (if acted upon) will be toothless. The government is not producing audited accounts or bank reconciliations. This means the opportunities for theft and corruption are plenty. And donors know it. They are not giving in. They channel their aid through other organizations, mostly NGOs. But these NGOs do not have the absorption capacity that the big government machine has, and only around half of the budgeted aid is being disbursed. This has huge implications for the economy and that is what we see happening now.

Meanwhile the population is suffering: the FISP is off track, the hospitals have no drugs, the education sector is losing the little quality is used to have, the currency is losing value with the run-away inflation the government policy is generating.

If my analysis is correct, we have little hope of solving our problems with the current youthbenefits-png-300x190political system in power. We cannot rely on opposition politicians generated by the same system that has produced such horrible governance in the past. We need new faces, new people, new types of politics, and above all: the abandoning of the all encompassing clientele system that characterizes Malawian politics. We need to look beyond Capital Hill, to the real population on the ground. We need to move away from the top-down power structures that are currently paralyzing the country. We need bottom-up empowerment, from the grass roots.

This is not to say I advocate for violence and revolution. I am afraid that will be worse than the problems we are in now. We need empowerment without violence, which means: non-violent resistance. Peaceful mass demonstrations and civil disobedience. To insist on accountability, and to elect new people who are not infected with the clientele system, and nepotistic tendencies.

This is not to say the change can go without sacrifice. If we look at parallel developments i the past in the developed world we see that there conservative powers used violence to stop even the gradual change that was taking place. In Eastern Europe, where the great Russian revolution effected massive change the loss of life was much bigger.

Here we see that the current DPP administration is willing to put the law aside when threatened, even by the in-crowd of Capital Hill: it has unlawfully arrested several opposition politicians. And traditionally the government is much harsher with extra-Parliamentarian opposition as evidenced in the police shootings of unarmed demonstrators on 20 July 2011 and the murder of Robert Chasowa. If we want improvement, if we want development, we are going to have to brace ourselves for tough, even murderous reaction. uganda-food-riotsThe alternative is not very up-beat either: already people are dying of hunger and economic violence from the ruling class.

If the CSOs do not organize the protests, there will be spontaneous food riots and such, which will be violent and uncontrolled. Times are hard. What do we do?

 

INFORMATION!

The resistance of the executive against the Access to Information (ATI) bill is interesting. Their total butchering of the bill before tabling it in Parliament shows that they do want to stop the population from getting the information they are constitutionally mandated to. The strategy is clear: until the bill is passed into law, the issue will remain over the ruling classes head like Damocles’ sword: it can strike at any moment. But when a totally impotent bill has been passed into law, the issue can be put at rest, while the law is impotent: the information can be refused referring to one of many provisions in the law. And the recourse, going to court, is going to take forever, especially considering that the executive hold the power over the judiciary in the Malawian situation: the head of the judiciary is directly appointed by the President. (And as Bingu wa Mutharika has said: How can you be independent of the person who appoints you?).

However, the fight over the ATI bill illustrates the situation in Malawi quite clearly: it is a fight between the ruling class (conservatives) and the middle class (or bourgeoisie) . While Tom Khanje of MISA maintains that the ATI law will be for al Malawians, it is hard to see how it will be used by the smallholder farmer to improve his situation and relieve the stress of imminent hunger that looms over every one of them currently.

In the long term, the middle class ruling may give a better situation for the smallholder farmer, but that is far from clear. When the middle classes of Europe took power, through the French Revolution in France and step by step in Britain, the proletarian class was no better off than before, until they put up a long and bitter struggle. The improvement of their situation was achieved step by step, through political and trade union work, but that was far from peaceful, and it took a long time of suffering. The end result was that the working class I Europe got to improve their situation, paid for by the population in the third world, first through colonialism, now through neo colonial rule, according to neo liberal standards. The local ruling class is made to implement neo liberal policies in exchange for a luxurious lifestyle. The proletarians here are paying the bill. The resolution is hard to see. There is no other part of the world left to replace the current proletarians in the third world, who can create the wealth that is consumed by the first world.

In Malawi, the challenge is to involve the majority of the population: the small holder farmers (and other oppressed groups). Generally, small holder farmers are very lowly educated because the education system is kept in a sorry state. This robs the class of the intellectuals that could provide leadership for a small holder farmer movement. The few who manage to get a decent education tend to forget about the whole class and, according to liberal logic, opt for individual betterment of their lot (and pass on some to their family). We cannot blame that for this choice, especially in the current times. But it does little for the improvement of the situation of the lowest earning group in Malawi, the small holder farmer. Ideally we would have some intellectuals from the middle class devoting themselves to improvement of the education, including political consciousness, for small holder farmers and their children. This could conceivably create a group of intellectuals from the farmers’ class who can create a core of a movement that does not originate from the middle class (with all their concurrent values) and make change for the better possible. Top down organization is not good enough. Look at the recent “all inclusive” indaba organized by the top down thinkers of PAC: some token representatives of encapsulated women and youth organizations were let in; the decisions were taken by rich old men (and very few rich old women). We do not need middle class people speaking on behalf of the oppressed classes, we need platforms for the oppressed to speak themselves. The proletarian is the expert, and we need to make the ruling class listen, instead of mediating, and disforming the messages from the field.

The current top down thinking prevalent in Malawi does not provide this needed perspective. Bottom up, farmers need to rule for themselves.

 

PAC INDABA: RICH OLD MEN

 

There was something unnerving at the PAC Indaba, that was supposedly “all inclusive”. As 2013-11-11-malawi-gender-photo-woman-w-kidswe have all seen in the media from the photos, the lists of participants and the quotes: there was nothing like gender balance. (the only prominent women were Kabwila and Kaliati) Religious institutions like PAC tend to have this problem. The Catholic church and Islam ban women from decision making posts categorically, but all other faiths suffer from the same bias against women.

So the conference was not inclusive in terms of gender balance, while the (slight) majority of Malawians are female.thyolo-5

But what about other balance: age for instance. I need to confess I did not check the age of every participant, but from the ones we know and the photos we can see that the large majority were old. While the Malawian population is overwhelmingly young (80% under 30 years) at the PAC conference the very old were clearly in a majority.

If we look at income, we know that the participants were all without exception drawn from the rich, the ruling class. That is again against the grain of Malawian society: 85% of Malawians live below the poverty line. So it was far from inclusive in that area also.

Farming-in-Malawi-008I do not need to stress the rural/urban divide: it is the same story.

This conference was far from all inclusive. It was very exclusive, excluding the large, large, large majority of the population. And then the Honourable Ken Msonda manages to claim he is representing the people!

What we need is a conference where the ruling elite is put in the hot seat. Where the participation reflects the population of Malawi.

  • Gender balance: 51 female, 49 male
  • Income and possessions: 2 rich, 13 middle class, 85 poor
  • Age: 80 under 30 years, 15 between 30 and 60, and 5 over 60

And then demand that the government delegates explain the gap in their wealth against the wealth of the participants. Their access to health care. Their 500px-poverty_gap_ratio_malawiaccess to education. Their access to clean water and sanitation. Their access to security. You name, it can be discussed. And the conference will come with recommendations for the redistribution of knowledge (education), power (influential positions) and income (money)!

That is all inclusive. This PAC Indaba was exclusively male, exclusively rich, exclusively urban, exclusively powerful, exclusively old. This Indaba  does not contribute to the solutions we, the people, need!

 

MASS DEMONSTRATIONS!

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It appears at this time most CSO leaders agree that mass demonstration are too risky for the moment.

We all remember how on 20 and 21 July 2011 Bingu sent the police out to shoot at us with live ammunition. He had 20 of us killed those fateful days. This is a heavy toll to pay for a demonstration from which we will never know what it delivered to us. Did it force Bingu out of office? We don’t know even if it contributed just a little. But we do know that 20 brave young lives were cut short by brutal police force.

dppcar-burnt1-300x225In the meetings between police and CSO organizers, the police threatened that at (possible) follow up demonstrations the police would use more brutal power than they had done on 20-21 July. Twenty brave young lives cut short, twenty families loosing a loved one and in many cases the nsima winner of the family. This was a heavy toll to pay and a heavy responsibility to bear for the organizers.july20

They gave in to the threat of murder and violence, to the blackmail of the powerful, the ruling class, the oppressor. At that time it was clear that the population did not want Bingu to continue his rule.malawi_flag_new_old

Remember: the flag change, the academic freedom saga, the shortage of fuel, drugs, forex, even sugar, the worsening economic situation, the style of rulership.

malnourishedWe have a slightly different type of problem now, but not that much. There is wide spread hunger now, which is if possible even worse than the situation under Bingu. Then it was mostly the middle class who suffered. But now it is mostly the poor, and they are always hit hardest. For them there are no reserves, even in good times. Let alone now, two years after Arthur Peter Mutharika got the presidency, but fails to use his power to steer the nation.

The style of leadership is also very different: Bingu ranted and looked for trouble with everybody. From the street vendors (Dongosolo), to the Parliament (Prorogued!), to the neighboring countries (illegal shipping through Mozambique, fights with the Zambian authorities) to international relations (expelling the British high commissioner) to his own civil service (“I am frustrated”) to the whole population he called “chickens”.

Arthur Peter has a different style: nothing.37523233-295

…………………..

Deep silence.

…………………..

A little lie here and there, and then:

Nothing

……………..

Silence.

……………..

The kwacha falls.

……………….

The economy tanks.

………………..

Donors demand improvement in financial management.

………………

Nothing.

blantyre8_110720One wonders what would happen with mass demonstrations. Would it be nothing? Probably the lower placed section of the ruling class will start lethal action, and we will have deaths again.

A heavy responsibility for the organizers. On the other hand: people are dying of hunger now. That is also lethal violence from the ruling class. We don’t know how many will die in either case, but the choice is difficult. Are we going to buckle under the threats and blackmail from the police (is government, is ultimately the responsibility of the President. The buck stops there.) What do we think?

Please let me know your thoughts.

Should we follow the President and do nothing?

…………………….

Should we demonstrate?

Should we do something entirely different?

I don’t know.

 

 

Prevent anarchy

Cultural hegemony is the control the ruling class exerts over the culture. There is quimedia-spoonfeeding-cartoonte some leeway within a culture for different opinions, but there are limits to what is accepted as within “common sense”. These limits are defined by the ruling class. In most cases the media are controlled by the ruling class, and used to reinforce this hegemony.

In Malawi however, we are at a crossroads: the power of the ruling class is disintegrating. There are two forces contributing to this: on the one hand the hiding-the-mapliberal forces of the (small) middle class in society are gaining power, with support from the outside: most donor countries have liberal values in their hegemony, and are supporting these. For instance the (US) Millennium Development Corporation is forcing liberalization of Escom as a condition for their sizable donation to Escom. Similarly, donor pressure has been exerted to liberalize the media. There are private newspapers now (as opposed to under Dr Banda) and private radio stations. Recently a number of private television stations have been licensed.news_86767_0

These private media are owned (and controlled) by upper middle class individuals, and their editorial policies support liberal values. Only the ailing state media are controlled by the ruling class, and are (inconsistently) supporting conservative values. But they are losing listeners and viewers.

ytdAt the same time the government has made such a mess of its financial management, and stolen so much donor money, they are not being funded by the donors any more. They are losing financial clout as well as ideological power.

With the state the government is in, it cannot take very long before it collapses. We need an alternative in the making, to prevent chaos comparable to Somalia or Libya. The CSO forces in the society need to form a historical block, that can support the population.

285466_213191698727667_100001105148914_608232_4686839_nAt the moment the need is so great that action seems unavoidable. But with the lack of leadership it is directed at the wrong groups: elderly women are lynched on witchcraft accusations, homosexuals are being abused, children die in the stampedes around subsidized food distribution at Admarc depots, petty corruption is the order of the day. It cannot take long before this gets out of hand, and government is powerless because of a combination of inefficiency, incompetence and insolvency. We need to direct the action preparedness of the population towards those responsible: the democratically elected government.

A PAC meeting with government invited is not going to do it, it is too late for this powerless and incapable government of taking the lead. Remember how under Bingu the PAC essentially dissolved itself under bribes and threats of police firepower. We need the civil society to take initiative, and forget about government; government is crumbling.

We need to  create a new paradigm of common sense. One not based on the axiomas of the ruling class, but a new style of ideology, our own hegemony of common sense.

A decisive position that creates an alternative to the current powers that be is the only solution to the threat of total anarchy and chaos; our cultural hegemony can create the ideas we need to survive as a nation.

Patriarchy

Our country is in trouble. Hunger looming, economy in free fall, a lack oMALAWI HUNGERf security, no rule of law. The only thing thriving is corruption. We have a deep problem, that requires thorough thinking and far reaching changes to find lasting solutions. A maize handout does temporarily relief the hunger of some. But it does not touch on the underlying problems, that caused the situation in the first place.

In the fast changing world of the 21st century, the old, the tried and tested, yesterday’s wisdom, is not the best solution for the future, or even the present. We need to rethink ingrained ways of doing things, we need to cope with a modern world. We need to re-evaluate the standards and measures which have been useful in the past, to see if they are applicable to today.

689a95a3954a0f00de327492759d1274The way we raise our children, the school system that educates them, the work relationships, the organizational models, the structure of our government system, our economy, and our whole society need to be looked at critically. We need to take example from successful models elsewhere, and reinterpret our own past, present and future.

We raise our children to show unquestioning respect for authority, in the family the father. If the father is not present the elder male, if no male is present the elder female. And if an authority feels threatened or even just challenged, some may resort to violence (hitting a child)!patriarchy-134102395x

This patriarchal system is extended over all of society:

The rich assume authority over the poor, the male over the female, the heterosexual over the homosexual, the elder over the younger. The poor young girl is always on the receiving end.

We have just seen that yesterday’s wisdom is not always today’s best action. So the reign of rich old men over our country may be a contributing factor to our sorry state of today. We have had five Presidents. Four rich old men, and one rich old woman. They have put us in a bad situation, with hunger returning like a clockwork. They have assumed authority above the law, even above the constitution. And they have put the country in misery. The freeze of direct budget support by donors has laid bare the inherent weakness of our government system.

bee-africarisingToday there is a little bit of a challenge to the patriarchic rule of government: a small urban middle class, represented in the media and civil society organizations (including religious ones) is trying to hold government to account. With little success. The President assumes the authority to lie to the population (tabling the ATI bill, enough maize in stock, providing hospitals with drugs, no Malawian will die of hunger). Occasionally a President may get angry and bang the table, or start ranting. But otherwise, they just carry out business as usual, in the certainty that the great majority of the population, the small holder farmers, are not organized enough to stand up for their rights, and challenge the patriarchy that puts them in misery.hqdefault

Organizing the urban proletariat is possible as Karl Marx proposed in his many writings. This is how the Russian revolution was won over the Czar. It is more difficult to organize small holder farmers, who by nature tend to be more conservative than the urban population, and who live physically spread out. Still there are examples of organized uprising of the farming population, most notably the Chinese revolution, organized by Mao Ze Dong. After years of organizing in the field, he came into a situation with a very weak central government, and his major opponent Chang Kai Sheck was heading an organization too corrupt to put up much resistance.

p10004732Here in Malawi in the 21st century we do not have to let it get to a violent revolution. We have a nominally democratic system. But we do need to challenge the patriarchic and lawless rule of our current ruling class. This is not easy, because the masses have been deprived of any tools of meaningful opposition against the patriarchy. The ruling class has systematically sabotaged the education system for the poor, by under-funding, corrupt theft of the little funds available, and by holding on to outdated top-down styles of teaching.

We need to supply the proletariat, the small holder farmers, with the tools to analyze the situation and hold office bearers to account. This means supplying them with an alternatives to patriarchal systems of organization, and with the intellectual tools to analyze how they are put in a disadvantaged situation. They need to know there are alternatives to the current organization of society, and the advantages that other systems may bring to them. They need to have tools to fight corruption, extortion and exploitation. They need to do this themselves, actively, not by asking favors from the powers that be. Favors will never change the system, rights will.

 

No oil from lake Malawi!

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Chaponda (not the minister of natural resources, but of foreign affairs!) announces he has made contacts with some officials from Georgia and Kazakhstan about oil drilling in Lake Malawi.

fishing-boats-lake-malawi-22987943There is considerable opposition against this idea from all walks of life. Fishermen, tourism entrepreneurs as well as patriotic Malawians who want to see the Lake clean and beautiful.

With Kayelekera we have seen how mining benefits the purses of a few, but does nothing for the population of the area, or the population as a whole.

oil-pollutionNow experts from these two countries, Georgia and Kazakhstan, that is very suspicious. Both countries are infamous for their violations of human rights, and lack of respect for the opinion of the population, as well as for disrespecting the environment when drilling for oil.

Joyce Banda even managed to get advice from Nigeria, arguably the worst in human rights and environmental violations in the oil industry.

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If anyone wants to drill for oil (with the current oil prices this is not going to be very profitable for anyone, compare to the low uranium price impacting on Kayelekera) it should not be the people who polluted the environment, and who violated human rights in undemocratic countries. If we need to get advice, we need to get it from the likes of Norway, who drill cleanly (if possible) and with respect for their population.

stock-photo-renewable-energy-windmill-solar-panel-and-sunflower-187472465But we should not be investing in fossil fuels anyway, that is old fashioned dirty technology that causes the climate change that makes so many Malawians suffer from drought, hunger, floods and what have you. We should be investing in renewables: clean energy, and no fuel costs.

We do not need Chaponda to interfere, it is not his area. We do not need these human rights violators as well as environment polluters in our country. Stop oil drilling in Lake Malawi!

 

Emergency!

Homophobic violence, witchcraft accusations followed by murder, children trampled at a stampede at Admarc. The population is getting desperate, and violent. However the action should be channeled to the proper target: the government that caused the current crisis and is not doing anything substantial to stop it (some people are rumoured to be involved in maize speculation, actively worsening the situation!).

Can our civil society organize demonstrations like the one that removed Bingu from power?

We need a list of concrete demands like:

  • Pass the ATI bill into law undiluted
  • At least 90% of essential drugs available in all hospitals 90% of the time
  • Enough maize at all Admarc depots to satisfy demand

Civil society, please do something before we get more murders happening!

Lack of Ideology? No!

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It has been said that in Malawi political parties lack ideology. That stifles both debate and governance. In my view, they do have ideology, but the ideology of all is the same: conservatism.

Many conservatives dislike the whole concept of ideology: they view society as an organic body that cannot be explained with the (necessarily simplified) model of an ideology. This results in the view that big changes in society will upset the fragile equilibrium, and should therefore be avoided. This leads to the desire to conserve what is there, which is the essence of conservatism.

martyrs-300x225Conservatism is marked by respect for hierarchy. When the newspapers do not submit to the president’s hierarchy he calls on them to stop “negative reporting” or even yells: “This nonsense has to stop!”. When civil society organizations did not submit to Bingu’s hierarchy he became very angry and banged his fist on the table, and started yelling at them. When the population did not submit to Bingu’s hierarchy he had 20 unarmed demonstrators murdered. The current administration is sabotaging the ATI bill, which would improve accountability, and thus undermine their personal authority.

speaking-at-reformsConservatism seeks to conserve what is there (hence the name conservatism). We see that, in spite of the slogans “business unusual” and “civil service reform” and the emergency of the situation, Arthur Peter Mutharika refuses to change the government’s way of doing business. We keep sliding closer and closer to the abyss, but inertia remains.activity_667_1_m

Conservatism seeks respect for tradition, which is exemplified in the reverence of Malawian culture, the respect for chiefs without reviewing their efficacy. It is shown in a paternalistic approach to the population (Bingu even calling the population his “children”!). The MCP’s Chakwera repeatedly called for a return to Dr Banda’s ways (without explaining how this can work in the very different international environment).

one-of-the-demonstrators-carrying-a-poster-photo-jeromy-kadewere-600x450Of course, keeping everything the same, which is the core of conservative ideology, is in the interest of those people who are privileged now: the ruling class. And they are the ones who are keeping all political parties on the one line of conservatism. This is pure selfishness. It has lead to the economic and social disaster we are currently involved in. We need a way out, and conserving everything the way it is is only going to keep us going on the same course: towards wholesale disaster. We need change, we need different ideologies, and we need them quick. Action is called for.

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Culture

 

We often use the concept of culture. And the concept of Malawian culture. The idea comes back often in the gay debate, as in: homosexuality is not Malawian culture.

xxx.jpgIn this type of reasoning culture is a key concept. It is worth looking into it a bit deeper, because it can be quite a bit more complicated than we might assume at first sight.mutharika-umthetho-3

If something (such as homosexuality) is deemed not to be Malawian culture, then how do we define “Malawian culture”. First we need to define culture. There are quite a few different definitions used. The Oxford dictionary gives the following definition: “the ideas, customs and social behavior of a particular people or society”. If we take it that the people or society is Malawi, then we can see that some people define homosexuality as falling outside the customs, but on the other hand, since Malawian homosexuals are undeniably practicing their sexual orientation, it is part of the social behavior.

3163031-largeAnd then: who defines ideas and customs, and who defines which ideas, customs and behavior fall inside the definition of “Malawian culture” and outside the definition?

In this area it is interesting to look into the ideas that were introduced by the Italian philosopher Gramsci, and further developed by the French philosopher Foucault. They hold that there is a dominant group malawi_gay_menin a society, the ruling class, that takes hegemony over the culture, and defines what is “the culture”. This cultural hegemony takes many forms. In the gay debate in Malawi, homosexuals have long been kept out of any of the public debate. The word was not used, the concept was not part of any public life. This, keeping an issue or a group of people out of the media and public debate, is called “symbolic annihilation”. When Monjeza and Chimbalanga came out of the closet, a lot of Malawians appeared surprised that homosexuality existed in Malawi. In the slipstream of this couple and the (characteristically hysterical) reaction of Bingu wa Mutharika, it became undeniably clear that there is a homosexual section of the population in Malawi. Testimonies were published, and the anti-gay movement was forced to stop denying the existence of homosexuality. The debate shifted to decriminalization.lgbt-uganda-africa-gay

If the ruling class decides what “Malawian culture” entails (exercises cultural hegemony), then who is this ruling class? It clearly cannot be just the people in government, it is a much wider network of people born from the ruling class (or sometimes a product of social mobility). The clergy tends to take on an important posture when homosexuality is concerned, and some seem to find they have the monopoly on moral issues. (This is debatable, considering the conduct of many of the clergy, both in sexual and in financial matters). Pretty much all of these clerics are Christian or Muslim, religions that were bishop-mtumbukaintroduced into Malawi fairly recently. The start was 18th century for Islam, and 19th century for Christianity. But only in the last few decades became these two religions dominant over traditional Malawian religions. So here the question arises: how can the representatives of these foreign religions take the lead in deciding what is and what is not Malawian culture?

f7485bba68a572cc9c0cd72ae784a98aThe village culture of Malawi, which is the culture of the large majority of Malawians, is much less publicized because of the socio-economic status of villagers who, due to their lower income, are less connected (most of them cannot afford smart phones, computers and internet connections) and they are geographically further from the newsrooms and other places where decisions on publication of issues are made. Most of the opinions from the village we hear on cultural issues in the media are from village headmen. These are the ruling class of the village, and the publication is mediated (and thus influenced) by the (overwhelmingly) middle class journalist. Only knowing that he is speaking to an urban middle class person influences the expressions of the villager.

In our culture and education system we have been conditioned to conform unquestioningly to authority, be it elders, teachers, rulers or people from a higher social mpasuclass. We conform to what we assume the authority wants to hear. This way it becomes very difficult to publicize village culture, so like homosexuals in the past, the village becomes less publicized and consequently symbolically annihilated. This confirms the (mistaken) notion that Malawian culture is identical to hegemonic (ruling class) culture. The ruling class (those who have power over the media and other areas of society) prescribe what we are supposed to define as Malawian culture. I protest against this. I define my own culture without calling it “Malawian Culture”. Monjeza and Chimbalanga (and everyone else who deviates from what the ruling class defines as Malawian culture) have the same right to defining their own culture as Bishop A or Sheik B or Pastor C.