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Malawi

Nomads hire expatriate TD

The Nation Online - Mar, 27/09/2022 - 5:33am

Mighty Mukuru Wanderers FC have hired an expatriate technical director (TD) Mark Harrison barely days after the 4-0 humiliation they suffered at the hands of their age-old rivals Nyasa Big Bullets in the semi-finals of the FDH Bank Cup.

Confirming the hiring of the new TD, who has replaced Eddingtone Ngónamo, Nomads chairperson for public relations and media liaison, Clement Stambuli, said the 61-year-old has been hired on a two-year contract with effect from October 1 and will head the technical panel, including overseeing the reserve and youth teams.

Harrison: I can’t wait to get started

He said: “Harrison has vast experience both as a tactician and a former player.

“He played football at top level in Europe as a goalkeeper and has coached a number of top teams both in Europe and on the continent.”

Harrison’s track record includes stints as goalkeeper coach for English Premiership side Everton where he also coached their Under-23 side and Champion.

Among others, in Africa he has coached Caps United in Zimbabwe, Mpumalanga Black Aces, Chipa United and Golden Arrows in South Africa, Township Rollers in Botswana and more recently Gor Mahia in Kenya.

His notable achievements include winning the Botswana top-flight league with Rollers in 2016 and winning the Chibuku Super Cup with Harare City in Zimbabwe in 2017.

Stambuli said his main target will be to create proper developmental structures for the youth and reserve sides which should translate to the success of the senior team.

“We want to see proper transition. Mark will also be actively involved with the senior team in an advisory role,” he said.

In an interview from Cape Town yesterday, the Briton said he is excited with his new challenge.

Said Harrison: “I am absolutely excited and I can’t wait to get started, I am just waiting to tie up a few things.

“The club has got its ambitions and there have been changes in the recent past.

“Obviously, I need to watch a few games and get an idea of where we are and bring in European model and mentality.”

He also said his immediate task will be to improve the standards of play as well as the coaching staff.

On what he makes of the Nomads’ chances to chase for the title, Harrison said: “Realistically, it would be a far-fetched dream to think of the title.

“You are talking about a team [Nyasa Big Bullets] that has not lost a game and there is a 15-point gap and that would mean hoping that they lose five and we win all games. It’s crazy, it’s unrealistic, it’s not going to happen. We have to be planning for next season.”

The Nomads are sixth with 37 points from 20 matches while the People’s Team top the table with 52 points from the same number of games.

On Ng’onamo, Stambuli said he has seen out his year-long contract.

However, in an interview yesterday, Ng’onamo expressed ignorance on the hiring of a new TD, saying he is still contracted to the Nomads. He said: “I have not heard anything pertaining to that from the club. Maybe it is mere speculation because there have been a lot of unsubstantiated rumours. After all, why would they replace me?”

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Categorie: Malawi

Ministry to probe cholera spike

The Nation Online - Mar, 27/09/2022 - 5:15am

Ministry of Health has announced plans to conduct a study to establish the cause of the rise in cholera cases during the dry season in the country.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said in an interview on Monday that while it is normal to have a cholera outbreak during the dry season as long as there are poor sanitary conditions, the steady rise in cases was making the situation “beyond normal”.

Cholera isolation camps have been set up in affected districts

“We will conduct a study to find out if there is anything triggering such a rise in cases despite the fact that it’s the dry season,” he said.

The country first registered a cholera case in March this year at Machinga District Hospital. The case was from Balaka District. During the same month, Nsanje District registered some cases.

Thereafter, cholera spread to six more districts in the Southern Region between April and August, Nkhata Bay in the Northern Region and Nkhotakota in the Central Region also registered cases.

As of Sunday, Malawi had cumulatively registered 3 314 cases, including 99 deaths, making this year the worst since 2001/02 when the country registered 33 546 cases and 968 deaths.

The statistics show that Nkhata Bay has registered 677 cases and 17 deaths while Blantyre has recorded 571 cases and 23 deaths. Rumphi is the third worst hit with 424 cases and 10 deaths followed by Nkhotakota with 351 cases and 11 deaths and Mzimba North, which mostly covers Mzuzu City and surrounding areas, with 327 cases and one death.

According to a Ministry of Health cholera update issued on Sunday, the disease is now killing three to four people in every 100 cases.

World Health Organisation states that the fatality rate is not supposed to be more than 1 per every 100 people.

However, this year’s cholera outbreak during the dry season has surprised the ministry, calling it “beyond the norm”.

Chikumbe said there is now need for collaboration among different stakeholders, especially councils.

Malawi Environmental Health Association has since tipped authorities to maximise efforts in fighting cholera as the rainy season approaches.

Meanwhile, Karonga, Rumphi, Nkhata Bay and Chikwawa district councils issued bans on cooked food and eating at mass gatherings.

Nkhata Bay district commissioner Peter Jimusole said other efforts put in place to contain the outbreak include proper use of pit latrines, drinking safe and treated clean water and observing good hygiene.

During her tour of health facilities in Blantyre, Minister of Water and Sanitation Abida Mia last week expressed concern over the rising cases of the disease.

She said the ministry understands that the reason behind the spread of the outbreak is lack of access to clean water.

In April this year, Ministry of Health conducted a cholera vaccination campaign in eight districts of the Southern Region to contain the outbreak. The ministry also distributed chlorine to fight cholera.

The first cholera case in the country was detected in Nsanje in 1973.

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Categorie: Malawi

Macra says open to licence fee revision

The Nation Online - Mar, 27/09/2022 - 1:21am

Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) says it is open to review broadcasting licence fees stakeholders have described as exorbitant if concerned parties follow procedures.

Macra spokesperson Zadziko Mankhambo said this in an interview in a response to our questionnaire yesterday amid calls by the Media Council of Malawi and Media Institute of Southern Africa

Macra Headquarters in Blantyre

(Misa) Malawi Chapter for the regulator to consider reducing the annual broadcasting fees currently pegged at $5 000 (about K5 million).

The two media organisations argue that the fee was too high for most media houses that are already reeling from financial challenges worsened by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mankhambo said besides the fee, Macra is also not comfortable with calls to waive revocation of licences for broadcasters with arrears, saying there is no provision under the Communications Act that provides for the same.

He said acting contrary to the Act would go against one of the key roles of a regulator which is to level the playing field.

Said Mankhambo: “Macra is a fair regulator and so long as the proper procedures and proper justifications are submitted, Macra has no problem with considering the same.

“In addition, Macra is the regulator that charges the least fees in the Southern African Development Community [Sadc] region.”

He said the regulator will continue to engage Misa and the Media Council of Malawi as they are major stakeholders in the media industry, adding Macra always appreciates their efforts and activities in trying to uplift the media industry.

“The call from Misa is welcome and we will continue to compile such views as suggestions on how we can improve,” said Mankhambo.

He also justified the quoting of the licence fee in dollars, saying it helps to make the fees stable.

Misa Malawi chairperson Teresa Ndanga yesterday said the concerns being raised are not new. She said they have been engaging the government for several years.

She said: “We have had meetings with both the ministry and Macra. We have also written them on the same. These concerns are not new and as I indicated, even media managers and owners have written the Tonse Alliance administration through the Ministry of Information and Digitisation about the same issues.”

Media Council of Malawi chairperson Wisdom Chimgwede said licence fees should be reasonable but not be cheap to avoid affecting standards.

Macra has embarked on an exercise to enforce compliance in payment of licence fees by operators in the communications sector.

The exercise has seen Capital FM, Rainbow Television, Angaliba Television, Ufulu Television, Sapitwa FM, Joy Radio, Ufulu FM and Galaxy FM having  their licences revoked.

However, two days after its closure, Macra approved a new broadcasting licence for Capital FM.

Misa Malawi and Media Council of Malawi estimates that 250 full-time jobs will be affected due to the closure of the television and radio stations.

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Categorie: Malawi

Maldives, Malawi establish diplomatic relations

The Nation Online - Lun, 26/09/2022 - 11:29pm

Malawi and Maldives have formally established diplomatic relations with the hope to boost the economies of the two countries.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Nancy Tembo and her counterpart from Maldives Abdulla Shahid signed the agreement on Saturday on the sidelines of the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York, USA.

Tembo (2L) with Sahid (C) after signing the agreement

According to a statement released by the two parties said the establishment of diplomatic relations will pave the way for new opportunities for the two countries to work together.

Tembo is quoted as having said: “The agreement shows that the two countries seek to achieve common goals in areas of mutual interest.”

Sahid said he was pleased that Malawi and Maldives have finally signed the joint communiqué establishing diplomatic relations.

“This will open fresh avenues to enhance our cooperation in support of our shared interests.

“Cultivating meaningful partnerships with friendly countries remains a key priority of the foreign policy of [Maldives] President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih,” he said.

Sahid said Malawi is the 182nd country to establish diplomatic relations with his country.

Maldives, a popular tourist destination, is an archipelagic State located in southern Asia, situated in the Indian Ocean. It lies southwest of Sri Lanka and India, about 750 kilometres from the Asian continent’s mainland.

Currently, the Malawi High Commission in New Delhi, India, mainly facilitates technical cooperation, investment, financing cooperation, trade, social development, and consular matters in the southern Asia State. The Mission also serves as a base for Malawi’s management of bilateral relations with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, and Sri Lanka on a non-residential basis.

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Categorie: Malawi

Commercial banks recall £20, £50 notes

The Nation Online - Lun, 26/09/2022 - 10:40pm

Local commercial banks have advised Malawians in possession of £20 and £50 banknotes to deposit them with their respective banks before September 30.

In a statement issued on Friday, Bankers Association of Malawi (BAM), a grouping of the country’s commercial banks, said this follows the withdrawal of the legal tender status of the two banknotes by the Bank of England.

BAM chief executive officer Lyness Nkungula said in the statement that banks will not accept the notes in question after September 30 2022.

“We, therefore, advise all customers in possession of the said notes to immediately deposit them with their respective banks before 30th September 2022,” she said.

Nkungula said the banknotes will become obsolete and will no longer be used.

The £20 and £50 banknotes are being replaced with new polymer ones are considered more durable.

The Bank of England started withdrawing the old bills from circulation when the newer polymer £10 and £20 notes were first issued in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

The new £20 note from the Bank of England will feature prolific British painter Joseph Mallord William Turner while the £50 will highlight mathematician Alan Turing, according to a statement issued by Bank of England.

According to the bank, further changes to banknotes and coins will be made following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, although this will be a transition and the money currently remains legal tender.

The Queen was the first monarch to feature on the Bank of England’s banknotes and her image has been synonymous with Britain’s currency.

Her image has also been featured on the banknotes used in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

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Categorie: Malawi

Ministry urges caution as summer festivals roll out

The Nation Online - Lun, 26/09/2022 - 10:22pm

The Ministry of Health  has said event organisers need to exercise caution this summer so that they do not act as hotspots for the cholera outbreak.

The ministry’s spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said despite not issuing any order to stop the events, they fear that the cultural and music events happening this summer may defeat their efforts to contain the cholera outbreak which has now affected 20 districts in the country.

Women captured in rehearsal ahead of the Mulhako festival

“We feel that we should slow down on these events until the situation improves just like we did during the Covid-19 pandemic. The fear is that these events may help to escalate the outbreak. At least what we can do is to slow down,” he said.

Chikumbe further urged district councils to play a leading role in fighting the outbreak by enforcing their bylaws to ensure that the disease is contained.

He said: “We need a multi-sectoral response to deal with the outbreak. As Ministry of Health, our task is to treat those who the disease has hit, but the task of preventing the spread of the disease lies on every individual. Gatherings of more people are a big worry for us.”

 On Sunday, Mulhako wa Alhomwe chief executive officer Pius Mvenya told reporters that they will proceed with this year’s annual cultural festival under strict measures to prevent cholera and Covid-19.

He said this at Mulhako wa Alhomwe headquarters at Chonde in Mulanje ahead of the celebration scheduled for October 9.

Mvenya said: “The preparations are almost done. At least 1 000 litres of the local brew has been distilled already. We are on track. Our guests have also confirmed their participation, including the guest of honour.”

He claimed that government was trying to stop their celebrations a move he branded as political.

But Chikumbe refuted issuing any order to stop the celebration.

He said: “We don’t have cholera here and we have engaged Ministry of Health and have advised us on what to do. So far, we have already purchased 2 000 litres of hand sanitisers, we have hired five water bowsers and restored running water around the premises so we are on track. Whether cholera or not, the festival will still take place.”

In a separate interview, one of the organisers of the event, Elida Mawononga invited all Lhomwes to participate in this year’s cultural festival.

“Some were saying the festival will not take place, but I would like to encourage all Malawians to come and enjoy a celebration of the Lhomwe culture,” she said.

Some of the major festivals that have taken place in the face of the cholera outbreak include Umhlangano wa Maseko, Umthetho and Kulamba that took place in Zambia, but had many Malawians, including President Lazarus Chakwera in attendance.

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Categorie: Malawi

Ifmis challenges in councils worry Icam

The Nation Online - Lun, 26/09/2022 - 9:46am

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Malawi (Icama) has decried the use of an outdated Integrated Financial Management and Information System (Ifmis) in councils, saying it may negatively impact on public finance management.

Icam acting executive director Charles Chimpeni expressed the sentiment in a response to a questionnaire that unsupported management systems may lack the updates to the software meaning that it can be running on outdated software.

This follows revelations on Wednesday by the National Local Governance Finance Committee (NLGFC) that councils have continued to use the expired Serenic Navigator accounting software, which even Microsoft Corporation stopped supporting in 2020.

Said Chimpeni: “The risk poses a threat to the integrity of the data. An outdated software may make the government more vulnerable to viruses, malware and other attacks, which has potential to compromise the integrity of the data.

“This in the end may negatively impact the reliability of the data in Ifmis. This may defeat the whole purpose of investing in the Ifmis where the intention was to strengthen controls in managing public resources.”

Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency executive director Willy Kambwandira earlier said revelations show that the country’s taxes remain vulnerable to abuse.

He said: “It seems there are no genuine commitments to stop this abuse. This could be deliberate and there could be some public officers who are benefiting from this mess. Government needs to walk the talk on public finance management reforms.”

Malawi Local Government Association executive director Hadrod Mkandawire on Wednesday admitted that the expiry of Ifmis contract with Techno Brain was impacting on public finance management in councils.

“In councils when the system is down, there is no immediate support from the centre. There have been efforts to link local Ifmis with the central government but nothing has been done on the ground,” he said.

Recently, the National Audit Office released audit reports of 28 districts on the audit of the 2020/21 Financial Statements, out of which four, Nkhotakota, Chitipa, Dowa and Phalombe, had unqualified opinions. The remaining 24 attained qualified opinion while Neno had an adverse opinion.

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Categorie: Malawi

Lilongwe DC stops Wednesday demos

The Nation Online - Lun, 26/09/2022 - 9:45am

The Lilongwe District Council has stopped Human Rights Ambassadors (HRA) from holding demonstrations on Wednesday because police are overstretched to provide security to the marchers and third-party property along the route.

But co-chairperson of the organising committee, Kingsley Mpaso has said the council’s decision was politically-motivated. He said they will seek court redress on the matter.

Protesters set tyres on fire during previous demonstrations

In a letter dated September 22, Lilongwe district commissioner Lawford Palani cited the deployment of police officers to various fuel service stations as the reason law enforcers are constrained to have human resources to provide protection in the proposed demonstrations.

The letter also said police officers have also considered the voice note by Ben Longwe, one of the HRA members, in which he is said to have encouraged violence among protesters.

The letter reads in part: “In line with the above stated provisions, and pursuant to Section 101 (1) as read with Section 105 of the Police Act of 2010, you are being advised to postpone your proposed demonstrations on the national security point of view.”

However, Mpaso maintained that the demonstrations will proceed as planned as they are not convinced with the reasons outlined by the council.

“The police know very well about the right to demonstrate and it is their responsibility to protect us. This is politics at play. We have done this before; we have marshals and the police to protect people and property. If they feel overstretched, let them call the Malawi Defence Force to support them,” he said, adding that their demonstrations will be peaceful.

HRA plans to hold demonstrations in Lilongwe on Wednesday, to ask President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice- President Saulos Chilima to step down or call for a referendum for allegedly failing to govern the country.

They cited the high cost of living and shortage of essential commodities such as fuel, forex and medicine in the country’s hospitals as a sign that President Chakwera has failed. The protests are expected to start from Wakawaka via Old Town (Area 3), to Parliament building where the leaders will make a speech and then proceed to Capital Hill to deliver a petition.

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Categorie: Malawi

Police risk contempt of court over promotions

The Nation Online - Lun, 26/09/2022 - 9:43am

Malawi Police Service risk contempt of court for failure to comply with a court judgement in favour of 50 graduate officers who sued over promotion grievances.

In February this year, High Court of Malawi Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda ordered the service to promote 53 graduate police officers, who dragged the Inspector General (IG and Attorney General (AG) to court over salary and promotion disparities based on a 2017 functional review.

But eight months after the judgement, it has emerged that police have partially complied with the judgement.

The court gave the police 30 days to, among others, change the officers’ grades and also pay them arrears, which is the difference between new and old salaries from July 2017.

In an interview last week, one of the affected officers Chitenthe Kachali said: “I can confirm that they only changed our grades two steps upwards, but we have not been promoted to corresponding ranks and we have also not received arrears.

“With these delays, we are planning to ask our lawyer to sue for contempt of court.”

But in an interview yesterday, National Police spokesperson Peter Kalaya said the matter was water under the bridge as the service has complied with the court order save for a few minor issues.

He said: “We have complied with the court order. The promotion was effected. The remaining part is quite small and we are working on it. It has taken time because we are engaging other offices as well.”

A police functional and structural review conducted in 2017 led to promotions for several officers and their grades were changed but the 50 officers, who had self-upgraded to degree level while in the service, were left-out leading to a court battle.

In his 10-page judgement, Nyirenda faulted the police for not considering the 50 graduates.

He ordered the police to promote the aggrieved from I and H to grades G and F, respectively, within 30 days from February 8 2022.

In addition, the court also ordered that claimants be paid salary arrears from July 1 2017.

In May this year, the AG filed in the court seeking the stay of the order but his prayer was declined.

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Categorie: Malawi

ACB to engage DPP on withheld consent cases

The Nation Online - Lun, 26/09/2022 - 9:30am

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) says it will engage the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to find the way forward on cases submitted for consent before the amendment of the Corrupt Practices Act.

The amendment, championed through a Private Member’s Bill, has paved the way for the graft-busting agency to prosecute cases without seeking consent from the DPP.

In a written response to our questionnaire, ACB principal public relations officer Egrita Ndala said they will be consulting the DPP on the cases in due course.

She said: “Generally, a law does not operate retrospectively and we believe this law is not an exception. Therefore, the bureau will work with the office of the DPP for a way forward on cases which were submitted for consent before the amendment Bill was passed.”

Ndala said the ACB will work to have the cases taken to court, but did not guarantee speedy conclusions, saying, that involves many players.

She said: “The bureau will endeavor to work hard and ensure that the cases whose investigations are concluded and have sufficient evidence to warrant prosecution, are processed timely so that they are taken to court as soon as that is practicable.

“But in terms of the speed of actual hearing of the cases in court it is not only the court that determines that. The court itself and the defence are part of that equation.”

However, private practice lawyer Justin Dzonzi said there was no need for the ACB to get back to the DPP on consent.

He said: “If in case A, the ACB had conducted its investigations and submitted an application for consent to the DPP, and the DPP refused to grant that consent as a result of which case A is still pending, then the ACB can reopen it.

“If they are convinced that a criminal offence was committed, then they can lay fresh charges and proceed. Criminal offences have no static limitation, in other words, if you commit a crime today, even if it takes a thousand years, you can still be prosecuted.”

Dzonzi said the ACB’s decision to go back to the DPP may only be office politics.

“I really don’t see why they would have to go back to the DPP because in any event, what would the DPP do? The DPP cannot give consent in retrospect but I think more importantly, they no longer have to give consent. So, I really don’t see why the ACB is taking the position that it is taking,” he said.

Last Wednesday, Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo said the amended Act should not be used as a divisive tool among prosecuting agencies.

He encouraged all prosecuting agencies in the country to work together. Bad blood between the DPP and the ACB came to light after incumbent DPP Steven Kayuni refused to grant the bureau consent to prosecute a case involving corruption suspect Zuneth Sattar’s agent Ashok Nair.

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Categorie: Malawi

Malawi gets K15bn EU boost

The Nation Online - Lun, 26/09/2022 - 9:25am

The European Union (EU) has approved 15 million euro (about K15 billion) assistance to Malawi to help narrow the food security gap for 3.8 million people between November this year and March 2023.

The package, announced in a statement on Saturday, is part of K600 billion the European Development Fund has extended to cushion vulnerable people from a potential food crisis, mainly resulting from the impact of the Russia and Ukraine war.

People receiving relief maize during a previous exercise

Under the financing arrangement, beneficiary countries, including Malawi, are expected to receive varying amounts.

Reads the EU statement in part: “This will help partner countries and vulnerable people to cope with the unjust consequences of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, notably the current food security crisis and related economic shock.”

The EU’s gesture has come at a time when Malawian taxpayers are expected to foot a whopping K76 billion bill to feed the 3.8 million food-insecure people.

Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) commissioner Charles Kalemba said at a press briefing in Lilongwe on September 15 2022 that the funds will be needed for the implementation of the 2022-23 Lean Season Food Insecurity Programme.

Dodma said the bill represented 70 percent of the investment Malawi Government pumped into the 2021-22 Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP), the Tonse Alliance’s flagship programme aimed at achieving food security by providing vulnerable households with subsidised farm inputs.

Both Kalemba and Dodma spokesperson Chipiliro Khamula could not be reached when The Nation sought their reaction to the EU gesture.

In the EU statement, c o m m i s s i o n e r f o r international partnerships, J u t t a U r p i l a i n e n , emphasised that the EU’s swift and comprehensive response to the food insecurity demonstrated solidarity towards its partners.

Reads the statement: “ I t hel p s shoul d e r the consequences felt worldwide of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. In the short-term, we are helping families with food and nutrition assistance and helping countries to buy the food they need.”

T h e s t a t e m e n t also quoted the EU commissioner for crisis management Janez Lenarcic as having said that global food insecurity is a thing of utmost concern.

He said: “Data shows that tens of millions more people are facing food shortages compared to an already difficult year last year.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine dramatically exacerbated the situation for the most vulnerable in the world who are already facing the consequences of conflicts, the effects of climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.”

According to Lenarcic, the EU remained committed to supporting the most vulnerable people and that it is further advocating for sustainable development-oriented solutions to ending hunger.

A published mid-year update of the Global Report on Food Crises estimates that up to 205 million people currently face high levels of acute food insecurity in 45 countries.

At least 3.8 million people or 20 percent of the population in Malawi is expected to face high levels of acute food insecurity, the highest figure in the last five years, according to the latest Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac) report.

The report shows that the hunger situation will extend to 21 districts between October to March next year.

The report attributes this likely deterioration to the lean period, the continued impact of the war in Ukraine on food prices and the devaluation of the local currency by 25 percent.

Reads the Mvac report in part: “The fertiliser uptake for most of the farming communities was lower than all previous years. The war in Ukraine has resulted in the recent months to a devaluation of the currency by 25 percent.

The hardest hit is projected to be the Southern Region where all districts have been affected with Nsanje, Chikwawa and Balaka being the worst hit as has been the trend in the past five years.

Out of the total figure of those projected to face acute food insecurity, 3.2 million people live in rural areas while 623 000 reside in the country’s four cities of Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.

At 3.8 million, this is the highest number of acutely food-insecure population in the last five years compared to 3.3 million in the 2018/2019 consumption year and 1.49 million in the 2021/22 consumption year. The projected acute food insecure populations were the lowest in 2017/18 and 2019/20 consumption years, having registered 1 042 412 and 1 062 663 people, respectively.

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Categorie: Malawi

K50 billion Tractorgate loan matures

The Nation Online - Lun, 26/09/2022 - 9:25am

Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs says the $50 million (about K50 billion) loan Malawi Government obtained from Exim Bank of India in 2011 to procure 177 tractors and other farming machinery has matured.

The ministry’s spokesperson Taurai Banda said the development means debt servicing has started and that the country is expected to pay about $58 million (about K58 billion) over 25 years to clear the loan.

Some of the tractors that were bought with the loan

He said: “The loan has an average interest rate of 1.5 percent per annum. The loan has a repayment period of 25 years, including a grace period of 4 years.

“The loan is being serviced from the consolidated account of the Malawi Government, just like any other loan.”

The farm equipment deal turned sour after it emerged that politically connected and other individuals benefitted from the equipment meant to promote agriculture mechanisation. Investigations by the Office of the Ombudsman found that most of the people who bought the equipment meant for hiring out to smallholder farmers got the same for a song.

But Banda said government recovered part of the money from the equipment dubbed as Tractorgate, saying the Ministry of Agriculture deposited the funds in government accounts.

He further said subsequent deductions are being made directly through the government payroll of each officer who bought the equipment.

Banda said: “Of course, some tractors and shellers are still available and being accessed by farmers. The idea behind the facility was to assist in mechanisation of agriculture activities.

“So, some tractors and shellers are available at various agriculture development divisions [ADDs] for hire by interested farmers at a fee which is contributing to agriculture productivity.”

In an interview at the weekend, Ombudsman Grace Malera said her office is still following up on the Tractorgate case and that there is some progress in resolving issues that were raised in the Ombudsman’s report on the matter.

She said her office is following up on implementation of the directives in the matter. However, she said responsible authorities have achieve 80 percent compliance.

“When you look at our chart in terms of rate of compliance, the Tractorgate is actually one of the cases where the compliance went up all the way to 80 percent in terms of directives that were given,” said Malera.

In its 2020 report, the Office of the Ombudsman detailed how some of the tractors and other farm machinery bought using the $50 million facility were illegally sold to public officers and other farmers in total disregard of the country’s laws.

The sale was allegedly disguised as a routine public auction of government equipment and K143 million could not be traced after the auction. Out of 177 tractors, only 77 were distributed to ADDs across the country.

In the report, the Ombudsman asked the country’s prosecuting authorities to crack down on State procurement chiefs implicated in the scandal. Some of the Tractorgate beneficiaries were politically-linked individuals.

Malera said her office is encouraged with the progress that is being made to have the issues resolved on the matter.

“You will recall that there was a directive that the relevant ministries should issue an apology that was complied with. There were other administrative actions that government ministries, departments and agencies were supposed to do, that have since been complied with as well,” she said.

The Ombudsman’s report also called for an apology to the people of Malawi, which government belatedly issued following a court action.

Two senior public officials, notably the Secretary to the Treasury and Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture were later found in contempt of court for failing to adhere to some of the recommendations.

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Categorie: Malawi

MAM chairperson addresses Muslim scholars in Egypt

The Nation Online - Lun, 26/09/2022 - 8:49am

Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) national chairperson Sheikh Idrissah Muhammad has asked Muslim scholars in the world to intensify efforts in pursuit of Shariah knowledge.

He made the call yesterday in Cairo, Egypt when he addressed delegates to a two-day 33rd International Conference of Muslim Scholars, which was officially opened on Saturday by the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah-el-Sisi.

The theme of the conference, which is in Arabic, is ‘Ijtihad, meaning ‘Effort in Pursuit of Shariah Knowledge is an Urgent Necessity of Our Era’.

Muhammad (R) being welcomed by Alizzah and some Malawi Embassy staff in Egypt

MAM publicity secretary Sheikh Dinala Chabulika, in his presentation yesterday made available to The Nation, Muhammad is quoted as having called on the scholars to intensify research towards improving Shariah knowledge across the world.

“He urged the scholars to address the ever-changing events and developments in our modern times,” he said.

Chabulika said the events and developments that Muhammad urged the scholars to focus on relate to judicial, socio-economic, health and other areas.

On arrival in Egypt on Saturday, Muhammad was welcomed by the president of the country’s Muslim scholars, who is also the secretary general of the Ministry of Endowment, Dr Muhammad Alizzah.

During the visit to Egypt, the MAM chairperson also interacted with leaders of charitable organisations in that country to see how best they can help on developing Malawi  

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Categorie: Malawi

Sports Council launches guidelines for associations

The Nation Online - Lun, 26/09/2022 - 7:20am

Malawi National Council of Sports has launched guidelines all sports associations affiliated to it are expected to follow to improve sports management and enhance accountability.

The guidelines were launched during the sports conference held last week which was organised by the Ministry of Youth and Sports in collaboration with Sports Council in Lilongwe.

Presented the guidelines: Madise

A booklet containing the guidelines, signed by the council’s board chairperson Sunduzwayo Madise, states that all sports associations shall be given up to six months to submit copies of their constitutions, regulations and policies.

The guidelines, among others, seek to enhance vision and mission of the Sports Council, provide acceptable standards of good sport management and promote values of good governance.

The booklet reads in part: “[The guidelines seek to] assist national sport associations and other stakeholders to appreciate and understand standards and conduct that are respected and valued within the sport sector.

“To provide a deterrent against unacceptable behaviours and practices which may be detrimental to sport development and assist sports associations to embrace best practices in sport leadership.”

It also says for any sports association to be recognised by the council, they must have a constitution that is in line and approved by it and with dictates of their respective international federations.

The booklet further says associations will be required to hold annual general meetings and elective general meetings as stipulated by their constitutions.

Reads part of the booklet: “An association must have a strategic plan and related implementation plan, produce a work plan and calendar of events, have an office with at least one permanent member of staff and physical address.”

It also states that a president of an association should have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree while a secretary should have a minimum of a diploma offered by an accredited academic institution of higher learning.

Under the guidelines, associations will also be required to declare all sources of funding from within and outside Malawi and provide annual audited accounts.

In an interview yesterday, Sports Council spokesperson Edgar Ntulumbwa said failure to meet the conditions shall have repercussions.

He said: “The guidelines were read out to the associations during the conference and we expect them to abide by them  failing which, there will be consequences.”

Netball Association of Malawi  vice-president Chimwemwe Bakali said they need more time to go through the document and see how they can align the contents with their constitution.

On the other hand, Malawi Amatuer Boxing Association vice-president Francis Kadzakalowa welcomed the guidelines.

He said: “They have come at a right time when sports is not doing well and from the look of things, the guidelines have touched both on technical and administrative aspects.

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Categorie: Malawi

Tracking antibiotic-resistant germs

The Nation Online - Lun, 26/09/2022 - 7:08am

In  Malawi’s overwhelmed hospitals, doctors are worried about growing resistance to antibiotics, the drugs used to treat deadly bacterial diseases such as tuberculosis and meningitis.

The lifesaving workforce is concerned that people keep dying of treatable diseases.

From their murmurs, abuse of the vital drugs, even for diseases that could be treated using other medicines, leaves them with few or no antibiotics for tackling deadly killers when it matters.

However, new data from 14 sub-Saharan countries, including Malawi, finds that only five out of the 15 antibiotic-resistant germs listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as priority pathogens are being consistently tested.

However, the multi-country findings released at the African Union on September 15 shows that all five demonstrated high resistance. 

The study was carried out by the Mapping Antimicrobial Resistance and Antimicrobial Use Partnership (Maap), a consortium spearheaded by the African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM) in partnership with Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

It provides stark insights on the under-reported depth of the continent’s antimicrobial resistance (AMR) crisis and policy recommendations to address the emergency.

ASLM director of science and new initiatives Dr Pascale Ondoa said: “Africa is struggling to fight drug-resistant pathogens, just like the rest of the world, but our struggle is compounded by the fact that we don’t have an accurate picture of how antimicrobial resistance is impacting our citizens and health systems. This study shines a much-needed light on the crisis within the crisis.”

The study financed by the Fleming Fund provided insight into the antimicrobial resistance burden and consumption in the 14 countries where most available data is only based on statistical modeling.

This effort is the first of its kind to systematically collect, process and evaluate large quantities of such data in Africa.

WHO has repeatedly termed germs resistance to antibiotics a global health priority and one of the leading public health threats of the 21st century.

A recent study published in the Lancet journal estimates that, in 2019, nearly 1.3 million deaths globally were attributed to antimicrobial resistant bacterial infections. Africa was found to have the highest mortality rate, with 24 deaths per 100 000 attributable to the crisis.

ASLM chief executive Nqobile Ndlovu: “Across Africa, even where data on antimicrobial resistance is collected, it is not always accessible, often recorded by hand and rarely consolidated or shared with policy makers.

“As a result, health experts are flying blind and cannot develop and deploy policies that would limit or curtail antimicrobial resistance.”

The researchers reviewed 819 584 antimicrobial resistant records spanning from 2016 to 2019 from 205 laboratories across Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Eswatini, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Other samples were collected from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Gabon and Cameroon.

They also reviewed data from 327 hospital and community pharmacies and 16 national-level AMC datasets.

Researchers found that most laboratories across Africa are not ready for AMR testing.

Only 1.3 percent of the 50 000 medical laboratories forming the laboratory networks of the 14 participating countries conduct bacteriology testing.

And of those, only a fraction can handle the scientific processes needed to evaluate AMR.

Researchers also found that in eight of the 14 countries, more than half of the population is out of reach of any bacteriology laboratory.

“The paucity of antimicrobial resistance testing services for 10 out of 15 of the priority pathogens identified by the WHO for causing the greatest threat to human health indicates that AMR levels are likely underestimated, which may directly impact patient care,” said Dr Geetanjali Kapoor, head of One Health Trust, India.

Worrisomely, across the 14 countries, clinical and treatment data are not linked to laboratory results, making it hard to understand what’s driving the growing resistance.

Out of almost 187 000 samples tested for antimicrobial resistance, nearly 88 percent had no information on patients’ clinical profile, including diagnosis and origin of infection; presence of indwelling device such as urinary catheters, feeding tubes and wound drains often associated with development of healthcare-associated infection comorbidities or antimicrobial usage. The remaining 12 percent had incomplete information.

“The disconnect between patient data and antimicrobial resistance results, coupled with the extreme antimicrobial resistance burden, makes it incredibly difficult to provide accurate guidelines for patient care and wider public health policies,” says Africa CDC AMR programme coordinator Dr Yewande Alimi.

Alimi says collecting and connecting laboratory, pharmacy and clinical data will be essential to provide a baseline and a reference for public health actions.”

 The research also found that only four drugs comprised more than two-thirds (67 percent of all the antibiotics used in healthcare settings. Stronger medicines to treat more resistant infections (such as severe pneumonia, sepsis and complicated intra-abdominal infections) were not available, suggesting limited access to some groups of antibiotics.

Deepak Batra, IQVIA head of Public Health in Africa and Middle East, says the findings highlights a dual problem of limited access to antibiotics and irrational use of those available.

“As a result, people don’t get the right treatment for severe infections and irrational use of antibiotics drives antimicrobial resistance for existing available treatment options. Routine monitoring of antimicrobial consumption could help monitor the limited access and irrational use,” says Batra.

Based on the findings, the future of modern medicine and treatment not infectious diseases hinges on our ability to control antimicrobial resistance.

I hope Maap inspires more investment in essential data collection and desperately needed resources,” said One Health trust president Dr Ramanan Laxminarayan.

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Categorie: Malawi

As Covid evolves, scientists split the difference

The Nation Online - Sab, 24/09/2022 - 8:50am

 The fast-changing Covid-19 pandemic has left scientists globally with no time to blink.

At the National HIV Reference Laboratory in Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi, Dr Bernard Mvula and his team are tracking the Covid-19 virus as it changes wave after wave.

Every day, the laboratory scientists, who detected Malawi’s first Covid-19 case in April 2020, receive positive samples from all regions to isolate any emerging variants.

“Covid-19 has made scientists think faster. Before the pandemic was discovered in December 2019, science was in slumber. But the pandemic jolted us to develop tests and sequencing faster than before. Even vaccines no longer take decades in the making,” says the biomedical scientist.

Mvula became the head of the national laboratory at the Public Health Institute of Malawi in May 2016.

His team works day and night to track the spread of Covid-19. The virus has claimed over 2 600 from over 86 000 cases confirmed in the country.

“At the start of the pandemic, we used to work overnight, even during weekends and public holidays. There was no time to rest as the pandemic claimed lives,” Mvula recalls.

Since July 2021, the laboratory has been testing how the fast-spreading coronavirus is evolving. Splitting its genes and analysing results using computers, the scientists detect changes likely to affect prevention, transmission, treatment, and severity. They call the process genome sequencing.

Mvula explains: “The workload remains huge. At the start, it wasn’t easy to get samples that qualify for sequencing, but we have been sensitising other labs to collect suitable labs. We were sequencing about 50 samples a month, but now we can sequence 100 to 200 samples.

“The procedure could take five to seven days as some steps had to be done at night. Besides, we have to go as far as Mzuzu, almost 400km away, to collect the samples, which sometimes have low viral loads for sequencing.

With funding from the Government of Ireland, Unicef Malawi supported the Ministry of Health in improving Covid-19 testing. The boost included the provision of vital chemicals, training of five officers in South Africa, information technology such as four computers and software, and physical skills-sharing meetings for a better understanding of the virus’ genetic material. The support might include some international exchange visits.

“Since 2020, the Government of Ireland has provided US$ 2 183 176 to the Ministry of Health through Unicef for Covid-19 response in Malawi. The valuable support has made a direct impact on the lives of thousands of Malawians,” explains Unicef Health Specialist, Mesfin Senbete.

Mvula also adds that, “The support was timely because genome sequencing helps us understand the genetic material of the coronavirus to figure out how it has changed from the first one detected in 2019. This helps us warn the public health system to recommend necessary changes in how the nation is fighting or treating Covid-19.”

The demanding process is exciting to the scientists who churn out new science that shapes the national and global response, including vaccine experiments.

“Before the Covid-19 pandemic was confirmed in Malawi, we never thought of doing genome sequencing in the country. We had few trained scientists, but we lacked basic equipment and needed to train more personnel on the bench to do sequencing ef fect ively. We thank the government and our partners for building our capacity so that the nation can better respond to the pandemic,” he says.

As Covid-19 prevention required everyone to avoid crowded settings, some scientists learned new skills online while others went abroad to hone their vital know-how.

“The support from partners has changed how we test for Covid-19. We needed this support because the equipment, reagents, and training are expensive and not locally available,” Mvula states.

Since sequencing started amid the third wave, scientists have detected the Delta and Omicron variants.

“When we detect a variant of concern or interest, we alert the Ministry of Health so that the country can quickly step up preventive measures, treatment, and immunisation,” says Moses Chitenje, the understudy of Mvula.

Before the upgrade, the laboratory was sequencing HIV. The fine detail of the virus that causes Aids helped improve preventive measures, testing, treatment, and mass awareness.

This has proved vital in reducing Aids-related deaths that turned Malawi into a nation in mourning at the turn of the millennium. Then people were dying like flies, and funeral parlours lined the country’s streets.

The National Aids Commission reports a dramatic reduction in Aids-related deaths from 64 191 in 2005 to 12 978 in 2016.

Turning the HIV laboratory into a Covid-19 situation room personifies how the country is building on past success and proven science to combat the new pandemic.

“The main challenge is that we do not have enough technical knowledge, and we need more knowledge in bioinformatics,” says Mvula. “Besides, space is not enough, so the laboratory needs to be extended, or we have to build a new one elsewhere.”

The scientists can afford a smile despite the long struggle to split the difference between the initial virus and its mutations.

“It is too much work, but we are happy to have the novel technology that enables us to track the changes in the pandemic to alert our health system and global actors. So far, we have shared findings from 88 samples with the global community. We are glad that this innovation is saving lives.”

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Categorie: Malawi

Government should relinquish full control of energy sector

The Nation Online - Sab, 24/09/2022 - 8:41am

 We are still here in Mulanje, Lhomweland and still enjoying the unqualified service of the servant-sisters of Hafu-wani hotel, inn, motel, lodge, or resthouse. We have vowed to still be here until we witness the Mulhakho wa Lhomwe cultural festival in October at Chonde.

The last time we attended the Lhomwe cultural activity, we got bags and bags of that human-productivity root this area is famous for. We expect to get even more this year, process it to powder, and export some bottles to our brothers in Russia, Ukraine, Japan, USA, and Marambo.

Meanwhile, we have had to leave for Manolo Village, in UTonga, to mourn Fumbani Ching’oli Chirwa, son to Malawi Congress Party founding president, Edgar Orton Ching’oli Chirwa.

Fumbani became a sudden ‘celebrity’ when, in the early 1980s, he was abducted and charged with treason along with his celebrity parents, Edgar Orton and Vera Chirwa. The open air trial of the three proved why the traditional court system had to go and get buried in a concrete vault never to resurrect.

At the trial, traditional chiefs, half of them asleep, made a mockery of justice repeating what they had been coached to say.

Elsewhere, the trial of Orton Chirwa would have been turned into a novel or film. Elsewhere; not here. Elsewhere; not here, Fumbani would have died rich. Elsewhere; not here, Fumbani’s story would have been part of the history of Malawi.

You may recall that, one day last week, while still here at Hafu-wani we discussed over dinner and a bottle of fantakoko, what Joyce Banda, the president of Malawi who succeeded our beloved (ka)Ngwazi Bingu wa Mutharika, did to rectify the fuel and electricity problems that had bedeviled Malawi during (ka) Ngwazi’s time and 10 wasted years before that.

We observed that Joyce Banda had decided not to rely too much on institutions like the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera). She only consulted them as a matter of fulfilling the demands of democracy and constitutionalism. Mostly she directed what should be done and her directives worked. Leadership that consults too much rarely gets things done. Leaders must be like parents who clearly know the difference between their responsibilities towards their children and limits of their children’s rights and privileges.

Those who are old enough will recall that since the Malawi government created funny institutions like Mera fuel prices have soared without justification and supply has been erratic at times. Before the Meras of this country were given power to reap where they do not invest, fuel importers and retailers were free to sell fuel at prices they determined were profitable enough for them and affordable enough for their clients. Petroda, the same company called Oilcom in East Africa, would charge lower and we Malawians would choose to queue there but the government jumped in to force everyone to sell fuel at the same price. Why should that be the case in a liberal economy?

The Malawi government is now a regulator of the energy sector, through MERA, an importer, through NOCMA, a producer through EGENCO, and a Distributor, through ESCOM. If the real private sector was involved in the energy sector, some of the problems we witness in this small country would not be there.

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Categorie: Malawi

Peace, not mere absence of war

The Nation Online - Sab, 24/09/2022 - 8:38am

 September 22, 2022

September 21 is the International Day of Peace. This is a day peoples of the world reflect on that diamond for existence: Peace.

In Theologico-Political Treati s e , the I talian philosopher captures the essence of peace. Although he wrote in 1670, it rings true today than ever before.

Peace, he wrote, is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.

The first Malawi leader Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda used to claim Malawi was a land of peace, calm, law and order. Even his Malawi Congress Party (MCP) was built on the premise of peace, tranquility and progress, apart from the four cornerstones of unity, loyalty, obedience and discipline.

Peace is vital. Peace is necessary. Without peace, we all run mad.

It is difficult to say if today Malawi is a peaceful nation. It is very difficult to say if Malawians are peaceful.

In the first place, we agree is not at war, military warfare, we can’t say we are totally at peace.

Peace is also supposed to entail a virtuous existence. We have so many so-called honourable people in our midst, who are supposed to show us the way to virtue, but are they?

We are not at peace of people devoid of virtue are at the helm.

Virtuous people must be upright and should stand on higher moral grounds. If leaders promote a spirit of nepotism, in-grained corruption, total fraud and deplorable dishonesty are not fit to lord it over a peaceful people.

Peace, Spinoza continues, is a state of mind. This, ultimately, is the socialization of peace.

You are not at peace when you spend a quarter of your time seeking where to get fuel. There is no peace at all when you spend hours on end on the queue at one gas station where you find the commodity. Is it peace enough when you are the next to refuel the pump returns to desert-like dryness?

There is absolutely no peace where electricity becomes the Holy Grail.

You have no peace where your businesses are failing to operate due to lack of power.

This very week, the Ministry of Education released a report 3 546 primary and secondary school students died last year alone. There is no peace to learn that that is an average of 10 pupils being sent to early graves, mostly because of lack of proper medical care. If you find peace in such a state, you have another working definition.

The question has been raised on the legality or illegality for the country’s citizens to foot the medical bills for Mary Chilima, the spouse to the Vice-President. A leaked memo (whether leaked at the Office of President and Cabinet or the State House is beside the point) shows a reminder to President Lazarus Chakwera to allow Treasury to release K311 million for her treatment in South Africa. It is disturbing that the amount is a little higher than what three constituencies can get in the Constituency Development Fund.

There is no peace without justice. Often, it is said, there is peace where justice is seen to be done. It is always bothering to see how much peace does the former President Bakili Muluzi has, where justice has not been served on him for about 20 years. How the wheels of justice have been slow on his corruption charges is baffling. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Who will grant Muluzi some peace the day the rest of the world will know he is guilty or not guilty?

Where there is no justice, there is no peace. Which is why some people can go on the street to protest against the selective justice on Mussa John, found guilty of chamba possession. Why the courts did not offer an option for a fine will only bamboozle you.

One needs not repeat what has already been said that others found in possession of heavier loads of the hemp were only asked to pay a fine.

Prison is meant to reform people. Obviously, the boy has learnt his lesson by now and it certainly must please His Excellency, as the Law states, to pardon the young offender.

Peace is the disposition for benevolence. Yes, this is the nature and character in one to do good. If you have the prospensity to spend at the expense of your subjects, you scarcely have peace. You scarcely have peace.

By the way, how much longer are we at the Unga?

May peace be upon us all.

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Categorie: Malawi

Mercenaries on the prowl

The Nation Online - Sab, 24/09/2022 - 8:31am

 This week, we have seen an outpouring of anger over a leaked confidential memo which revealed that President Lazarus Chakwera had approved an expenditure of K311 million for Mary Chilima, wife to Vice-President Saulos Chilima, for her medical treatment in South Africa.

Some argued, mostly on their Facebook pages and other social media platforms that the amount was excessive to be spent on one person. They contended that such an amount would make a huge difference and enable many Malawians to access quality healthcare if invested in the country’s public healthcare system. Others said at a time the economy is bleeding, it is insensitive for the government to spend such an amount on one person. And yet others said the Vice-President’s wife is not entitled to receive medical treatment outside the country on government ticket.

They also argued that if government invested all the money VVIPs spend outside Malawi receiving medical care, the country can have hospitals capable of providing specialised treatments.

“We would no longer have to be wasting millions of dollars every year to pay for treatment abroad. Even Mary Chilima would have been treated in Malawi. I’m aware that hundreds if not tens of Malawians are currently in India for medical help,” someone wrote on his Facebook page.

Also writing on Facebook, another person poured scorn on the system in Malawi which he said favours the rich who are funded by taxpayers to get medical help while poor Malawians are forced to use their savings for the same or languish.

“Our health system is pathetic. People that are not supposed to die are dying because of poor health services delivery. These top government officials—the President and Vice-President, and their families—fly outside the country to get better treatment. They use taxpayers’ money. This must come to an end.”

So many things have been said. Some genuine complaints but a majority of them just unbridled anger driven by emotions and devoid of logic or not backed by law at all.

Take, for example, an argument by one commentator that Mrs. Chilima should not have gone to South Africa with local security because the South African government provides security to all VVIPs when they go to the Rainbow Nation. Serious? Then we should not have been seeing foreign VVIPs with their security personnel when they visit Malawi because even here government provides security to such people. It is clear there is something about VVIPs’ security we really don’t know or choose not to appreciate.

If someone wanted to argue that K311 million was bloated, then at the very minimum they should have volunteered a breakdown of approximated costs for air tickets, food, accommodation, local transport, etc. and for the number of days Mrs. Chilima and her entourage would be in South Africa. But not just arguing because K311 million sounds huge. Or because someone has said it is huge. People should learn to appreciate that VVIPs enjoy privileges not available to everyone even in an economy that is bleeding like ours. Regardless of their political persuasion, people should also learn to isolate politics from entitlements.

Agreed, our health care system is not up to the mark, largely because of lack of state-of-the-art equipment. We have a top-notch medical school that churns out some of the best medical cadres in the region. But without equipment, they cannot use their expertise. That is why a privileged few will always fly to South Africa, India, Kenya, United Kingdom, etc., for medical care on the taxpayers’ expense. It’s not out of the ordinary.

Government did not start spending on VVIPs’ spouses with Mrs. Chilima’s medical trip to South Africa. We learnt in 2007 when the former First Lady Ethel Mutharika (may her soul continue resting in eternal peace) died that she had been receiving treatment in South Africa and France, as well as a number of other European and Asian nations. Was she not travelling to those countries and receiving medical care on the taxpayer’s expense? Those criminalising the K311 million expense on Mrs. Chilima’s medical trip to South Africa should have started with pouring scorn on all other previous expenses on VVIPs’ spouses. For not doing that, we are compelled to conclude they are mercenaries cashing in and subsisting on demonizing their masters’ political opponents.

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Categorie: Malawi

‘A culture of thievery has been institutionalised in Malawi’

The Nation Online - Sab, 24/09/2022 - 8:27am

The office of the Ombudsman released a report a few weeks ago that lays bare the rot in the management of the K17 billion meant to finance the Covid-19 response plan at the peak of the pandemic in February 2021. Our Staff Writer JOANA CHAGUNDA caught up with the National Alliance Against Corruption chairperson Moses Mkandawire to weigh in on the state of corruption in Malawi.

Mkandawire: People ought to take responsibility

Q What is your take on the new report?

A Firstly, is to appreciate and thank the office of the Ombudsman for releasing it. Despite that the prevalence of Covid-19 relief fraud has been known for the past two years or so, the enormous scope and its disturbing implications are only clear in this kind of a report. This confirms that there is a lot happening in our civil service. It means we are much more geared towards allowances as opposed to the key issue of delivering quality service to the people. The report tells us that the systems are rotten, and broken too, and they are not benefitting the common person. The country’s elite and those politically-exposed or connected individuals are the ones mostly benefiting through access to irregular allowances, deliberate delays in payment of goods and services procured, wasteful expenditures, improper accounting and procedural procurement systems that they create. This is sad. However, this calls for major public reforms which, unfortunately, have been terribly difficult to implement for reasons known to those who are in the corridors of power.

Q Some civil servants were arrested for mismanaging Covid-19 funds, but so far, no one has been prosecuted. Would you know why?

A We have a slow process of investigating and prosecuting suspects in cases of abuse of public resources. Reports indicate that over 60 or so were indeed arrested last year, but few, if not all, were not prosecuted. There are a number of reasons for that. Firstly, we have not invested much in institutions of law enforcement. I think the country has few professional prosecutors. And yet we all know that prosecutors are the entry points into the criminal justice system given that they decide whether a case that began with an arrest could be prosecuted and what charges could be brought against the suspects. They have substantial influence over how a case progresses from a particular standpoint. Therefore, investment in prosecutors would have a huge impact in generating positive and speedy results, and thereby enhancing public trust and confidence in such institutions. Of course, litigation is the only strategy in addressing the criminal elements of this nature. As it is currently obtaining, the situation is not encouraging as it is failing to provide the much-needed deterrence. This tells us that corruption and fraud is here to stay.

Q Could this be politically-motivated?

A Not necessarily. Much as there is a close correlation between politics, outbreak and the effects of Covid-19 pandemic given the tensions that are exacerbated between and among the various political institutions, but I do not think this is the case. The only challenge, however, is that a ‘culture of thievery’ has become so institutionalised. There is no sector that has been spared. Corruption has not seen the face, tribe, creed, gender locality or age of an individual. It’s extremely unfortunate that nobody seems to care that the Covid-19 resources are coming from the vulnerable individuals and small business, among others, who toil to pay their taxes to support such response mechanisms. We have failed to protect the hardworking Malawians and the integrity of the lifelines that have been provided for by the National Assembly through our national budgets. It is unfortunate that the full extent of the law has not been used to curb such criminal activities.

Q How do you rate Tonse Alliance administration’s fight against corruption?

A It’s a 50-50 kind of situation. We all recall that the Tonse Alliance was preferably voted into office on the platform of stamping out corruption. The [Bakili] Muluzi case, Sam Mpasu case, the 2012 Cashgate, the Maizegate, Escomgate, among other cases, are a few examples of cases that happened before the current administration. Some of these cases made ordinary Malawians become terribly angry and eventually ejected the Democratic Progressive Party out of power. The coming in of the Tonse Alliance was in the anticipation that they will restore order by preventing all those who suddenly became rich and enjoyed the swanky vacations, built luxury mansions and bought cars because of theft of taxpayers’ money meant for development as well as Covid-19 response mechanisms. We are, however, wondering that the systems and practices have not changed as anticipated. The civil service is still intact. Some of these civil servants are not concerned with the shifting on the school calendars, including the mode of learning for our children, the lockdowns that came with the advent of Covid-19 and that both the people of Malawi and the key institutions of government have been tested to the core. We, therefore, need radical changes to turn things around.

Q How will this Covidgate affect the already staggering Ministry of Health?

A It’s not just the Ministry of Health that has been negatively impacted. It’s the whole government machinery. The ‘culture of allowances’ is killing this nation. In this case, a lot more people who could have otherwise accessed essential health services, be it in terms of information, drugs and general quality treatment, were not. Some Covid-19-related deaths could have been avoided had the resources been used for the intended purpose. A lot more health personnel could have been engaged or more health facilities could have been provided, particularly in rural areas where access to such services remains a huge challenge. This, unfortunately, will continue to be the situation, and the greatest victim is the powerless and voiceless common person.

Q What should be done to bring to justice those who mismanaged public funds and, also, to bring the cases to their logical conclusions?

A It’s unfortunate that we keep on talking about the same issues over and over again. People ought to take responsibility. Any public officer who is alleged to have mismanaged public resources ought to be interdicted, investigated and prosecuted within reasonable time. Time is very critical in all this. We cannot take 10 years to conclude a particular case. That tells you we are in serious problems, no two ways about it. Someone somewhere is not working or they are sleeping on the job. The problem, indeed, is what has been stated above. But this is a time when we should invest and reform the Ministry of Justice, through the Director of Public Prosecutions, to ensure that each district has a representative to be dealing with such matters swiftly. Government ought to be vigilant in creating mechanisms that can detect and disrupt Covid-19 or any emergency-related fraud and theft schemes as well as continuously warning all those who would want to exploit national emergency to steal taxpayer-funded resources from vulnerable people. All other institutions and individuals should play their rightful roles in fighting the vice.

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Categorie: Malawi