Covid-19 spreads to all districts

The Nation Online - 7 ore 28 min fa

All 28 districts in Malawi now have confirmed coronavirus (Covid-19) cases after Rumphi registered its first two cases this week.

In an interview yesterday, Rumphi District Health Office (DHO) spokesperson Bwanalori Mwamlima said the two cases involve a 70-year-old man and a 32-year-old woman.

He said both cases are locally transmitted infections which were identified at Rumphi Boma and Mhuju in the district, and that contact tracing of the two is underway.

A health worker conducts a Covid-19 screen

Said Mwamlima: “The male patient is said to have travelled to Mzuzu where he contacted a relative who is a confirmed Covid-19 patient. This male patient had been taking antibiotics for some time. He tested positive to Covid-19 on June 25 2020.

“The other patient tested positive on June 26 2020. Currently, both patients are self-isolating in their homes where they are being followed up by health workers accordingly.”

He said 11 Covid-19 tests have been conducted on the contacts of the two and that all health workers who previously attended to the patients have been put on quarantine while their samples are being tested.

“We are currently following up on more people who could have been in contact with the two patients,” said Mwamlima.

He has since urged people to strictly observe Covid-19 preventive measures as stipulated by the Ministry of Health.

On Tuesday, epidemiologist Dr Titus Divala asked government to urgently institute measures to halt the further spread of the pandemic, whose figures continue soaring.

He said: “There is need to formulate a Covid-19 Bill, containing the key evidence-based approaches, finances, epidemic management structures up to community level, relationship to government departments, among others, and seek parliamentary mandate for the management of the pandemic.”

Malawi Health Equity Network  executive director George Jobe also asked government to reinforce the Covid-19 guidelines set up by the Ministry of Health so that the country’s fight against the pandemic is effective.

He said: “When the first case was reported, people took it seriously, and followed the rules, but this changed because a minister was given mandate to be announcing cases and some people thought it was political. Let technocrats continue handling the response.”

Last month, Chitipa district commissioner (DC) Humphrey Gondwe  became the first prominent public servant to have died of coronavirus. Six other civil servants who had been in contact with the DC also tested positive.

On 20 March 2020, Covid-19 was declared a National Disaster in Malawi and on April 2 2020, the country registered its first three cases of coronavirus. This was followed by a lockdown announcement which was challenged in court.

The cumulative number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Malawi as of yesterday was 1 265, including 16 deaths and 260 recoveries. Out of these, 639 are  imported infections and 581 are locally transmitted, while 45 are still under investigation meaning the total number of active cases is 989.

Categorie: Malawi

Conflict over control of Limbe market, depot

The Nation Online - 8 ore 12 min fa

Rival committees allegedly based on political affiliation are fighting for the control of Limbe Market and depot in Blantyre.

The development follows Tonse Alliance win in the June 23 fresh presidential election.

Soon after Malawi Congress Party president Lazarus Chakwera’s victory on Saturday night, Limbe Market Tonse Alliance members on Sunday tried to wrest power from DPP members who were in control of the market and bus depot, but ended up fighting.

Tension still ensued yesterday when we visited the facilities.

Police captured at Limbe Bus Depot after the fracas

In the morning, minibus touts from rival committees engaged each other in running battles before police intervened to calm the situation.

In an interview, Limbe Depot Minibus Touts chairperson Alfred Chikhungwa said people were politicising the issue.

He said: “It is not about which party is ruling the country at a particular time.

“We have been serving every government. This is not the time for others to take over simply because the regime has changed.”

On her part, Limbe Market Tonse Alliance chairperson Maggie Jere said it has always been the tradition that when regime changes, market leadership also changes.

She said: “Limbe Market DPP leadership should surrender power to us. We do not want any more squabbles.

“They are clinging to power because they want to continue collecting money.”

Blantyre City Council spokesperson Anthony Kasunda said they have launched investigations into the matter.

He said: “The council collects revenue from bus depots and terminals.

“The council has launched an investigation into the allegations that there are some individuals that are forcing minibus operators to give them money.”

Categorie: Malawi

Chief commends NGO for governance lessons

The Nation Online - 8 ore 22 min fa

Traditional Authority Chilooko of Ntchisi has commended Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre (MHRRC) for training his subjects in governance and development issues.

The centre trained area development committees (ADCs), youth clubs and women action group members in leadership skills and local governance structures under Enhancing Citizen Voice and Action in Local Governance and Development Project.

In an interview yesterday, the chief said he was pleased that his subjects now understand development and governance issues.

Chilooko: People will be able
to track projects

“People are also able to follow up on development issues in the area. Before the project, they had no knowledge of what role they can play in the development of their area,” said Chilooko.

He also commended organisations implementing various projects in the area which has a population of about 90 000.

Chilooko Youth Network chairperson Evelyn Malanda, who is also Chilooko ADC vice-chairperson, said the training has empowered young people to demand transparency in projects and do public expenditure tracking.

“Many people undermined the importance of youth clubs, but through this project, they have a different perception as the youth now participate in development activities,” she said.

Rose Tadeyu, a community member, said she will now be able to question duty-bearers on the progress of some projects in the area.

“There are some projects that take long to complete. With the training, we will be taking duty-bearers to task over such delays,” she said.

MHRRC capacity development officer Limbani Phiri said they are optimistic that the youth will take part in implementing various projects in the area.

The project is being funded by Dan Church Aid.

Categorie: Malawi

Lilongwe District Council elects new office-bearers

The Nation Online - 8 ore 26 min fa

Lilongwe District Council yesterday held a full council meeting where Luciano Botomani was retained as council chairperson.

Botomani scooped 38 votes, beating three other candidates.

In an interview, he said it was an honour to have retained the seat, a  sign that his contributions were good.

Botomani promised to work hard to ensure implementation of projects in the district.

Elections underway at Lilongwe District Council yesterday

“Lilongwe is a big district and needs commitment so that development activities are implemented,” he said.

Lilongwe district commissioner Lawford Palani expressed satisfaction with the voting process.

He said the council will continue providing  technical support to the chairperson and his deputy.

On her part, Lilongwe North legislator Monica Chayang’anamuno (Malawi Congress Party) urged the chairperson and his deputy to remain committed towards serving the council and its people.

“I ask councillors to be vigilant and help government bring sanity in locations where gulewamkulu masquerades are reportedly demanding money from people in the name of celebrating Tonse Alliance victory,” she said.

Lilongwe District has 18 members of Parliament and 34 ward councillors.

Categorie: Malawi

Karonga communities learn to prepare nutritious food

The Nation Online - 8 ore 36 min fa

Karonga district director of agriculture, environment and natural resources Raphael Mkisi says lack of knowledge in preparing nutritious meals is leading to malnutrition among under-five children in the district.

He made the remarks on Tuesday at Mwenilondo Primary School  during food processing demonstrations aimed at teaching people how to prepare nutritious meals.

“Karonga produces various foodstuffs, but the problem is that many people do not know how to prepare nutritious meals,” said Mkisi.

Mwangolera (R) appreciates the processed food

He said under Programme for Rural Irrigation Development (Pride), the district will train people on how to prepare nutritious meals using locally available foodstuffs.

In an interview, village head Mwangolera said she was optimistic that the food processing and preparation training will improve children’s nutrition.

“There are malnourished children in the village who will benefit from eating the nutritious food their mothers will be preparing,” she said.

Mwangolera said she will encourage her subjects to eat meals that contain all six food groups.

Stunting in Karonga is at 28 percent compared with the national average of 37 percent.

Categorie: Malawi

Chakwera urged to respect human rights

The Nation Online - 8 ore 40 min fa

Human Right Watch (HRW) has asked President Lazarus Chakwera to use his electoral victory to reset Malawi’s human rights record by capitalising on the goodwill from Malawians and the global community.

A statement issued yesterday and signed by HRW Southern Africa director Dewa Mavhinga stated that Malawi faces various human rights challenges, including rising economic inequalities, poverty and recurrent food insecurity.

Said Mavhinga: “President Chakwera should place respect for human rights and rule of law at the centre of his new administration. The new President needs to put into action his own words that his victory at the polls is a victory for democracy and justice.

“President Chakwera should give particular attention to improving the lives of people in Malawi who have suffered inequality and discrimination. The prevailing goodwill from the people of Malawi and the global community should not be wasted.”

Chakwera and First Lady Monica captured during the swearing-in

He also askeds the Chakwera administration to ensure that the rights of all, particularly marginalised communities, are fully respected.

Mavhinga said: “Since 2014, at least 150 crimes have been reported against people with albinism, including killings, abductions, grave exhumations, and threats. Malawi’s laws prohibiting consensual same-sex relations foster a climate of fear and fuel violence and discrimination.

“The lack of clarity about the legal status of same-sex conduct leaves LGBT people vulnerable to arbitrary arrests, physical violence, and routine discrimination.

“The government should reaffirm the moratorium on arrests for consensual same-sex conduct issued by the Justice Minister in 2012 and move rapidly to decriminalise such conduct.”

In an earlier interview, Public Affairs Committee (PAC) spokesperson Bishop Gilford Matonga said Chakwera should address the needs of the people to avoid fighting with them.

In his acceptance speech after swearing-in in Lilongwe on Sunday, Chakwera said his adminstration will pursue Malawi’s dream, not just as servants accountable to voters, but as stewards of the hopes of millions of children, born and unborn.

He said: “The dream that binds us together is for us to enjoy shared prosperity, not just freedom. For of what use is freedom from oppression if you are a slave to starvation? Or freedom from colonialism if you are a slave to tribalism? Of what use is freedom from tyranny if you are a slave to poverty?”

Malawi Electoral Commission chairperson Justice Chifundo Kachale on Saturday declared Chakwera, 65, winner of the June 23 fresh presidential election after he amassed 58.7 percent of the vote.

Chakwera becomes Malawi’s sixth President, knocking out immediate past president Peter Mutharika.

Categorie: Malawi

Covid steals tobacco farmers’ big dreams

The Nation Online - 8 ore 48 min fa

During his 15 years as a Malawian tobacco farmer, Boniface Namate has had to overcome many difficulties growing the plant that is the country’s biggest export earner.

Namate had banked on a bumper crop this year and had hoped the proceeds would enable him to buy a new car and even build a new house.

However, the coronavirus pandemic has seen the 56-year-old’s dreams go up in smoke.

Due to restrictions imposed to control the spread of the virus in Malawi—one of the top 10 tobacco producers—growers were barred from physically attending the auctions where prices are set.

That has left farmers feeling cheated by buyers.

A farmer yields the export leaf

“We are not operating normally as there is no interaction between the buyer and the grower. Because of this, there are trust issues,” said Betty Chinyamunyamu of the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi.

When the auction season opened in April, Namate and other small-scale farmers said their earnings had indeed evaporated.

“The prices that came from the auction are not what we expected. We are devastated,”  he said.

Burley leaf from Malawi makes up 6.6 percent of the world’s tobacco exports. Known locally as “green gold”, it is Malawi’s top crop in terms of employment. It also accounts for over 50 percent of foreign exchange earnings and 23 percent of tax revenues.

So, when its 50 000 growers suffer, the country has every reason to be worried.

Last November, the United States restricted tobacco imports from Malawi over allegations of worker exploitation and child labour.

And the coronavirus has turned up the heat on farmers even more.

In trouble

Once he saw the prices being set in the first round of auctions, Namate immediately knew he was in trouble.

He had been expecting his first bales of 1 116 kilogrammes to fetch up to $1 500. Instead, he received a meagre $540.

And out of three tonnes overall from this year’s harvest, he had hoped to make around $6 000 in total. But now he says he will be lucky even to make $1 500.

“I was devastated because I had planned a lot of things with the money,” said the Ntcheu farmer.

He is even contemplating abandoning the crop altogether.

“Even my family has threatened to stop helping me in the fields if I insist on tobacco farming,” Namate said.

Another farmer Alick Munthali, who has harvested eight tonnes of tobacco in Rumphi, finds himself in a similar predicament.

“We don’t know how much the tobacco is fetching and we have no opportunity to negotiate the price with the buyer,” said Munthali, who has been growing the crop since 1989.

“It is difficult to sell your crop when you are not physically present,” he said.

Nevertheless, auctioneers and large-scale growers insist that the farmers are being short-changed by buyers.

“Farmers are not cheated on the sales,” said Felix Thole, chief executive of Tobacco Association of Malawi Farmer’s Trust, which represents large-scale growers.

He pointed out that growers continue to be represented on the market by farmers’ associations.

“Auction sales bidding continues by the individual buyers, only this time around there is no chanting of the prices. Buyers continue competing and the highest bidder gets the bale,” Thole argued.

Nevertheless, it appears the farmers now have a friend in power.

During his stint as the main opposition leader, Malawi new President Lazarus Chakwera openly stated that the farmers have been unfairly treated for years.

“The farmers have been abused,” he told AFP. “The government gets a lot of foreign earnings through this particular industry and yet the farmer is treated like a labourer that should not even prosper,” he said.

Categorie: Malawi

Flames should expect tight fixture —Mzava

The Nation Online - 9 ore 37 sec fa

South Africa-based estranged Flames captain Limbikani Mzava says Malawi should expect a tight fixture next year following the postponement of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) on Tuesday moved the biennial tournament to January 2022, while cancelling the 2021 Women’s Afcon.

He said: “It points to a tight fixture as we will also have to play the 2022 World Cup qualifiers next year.”

Mzava: It will be tough

On his part, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu said  the postponement will help Malawi prepare thoroughly for the qualifiers which will be rescheduled.

He said: “It is a blessing in disguise as it will give us ample time for preparations.

“On the other hand, the lack of activity and long lay-off of the Flames will disturb the excellent form that the Flames acquired, having performed extremely well  at last year’s Cosafa tournament and qualified for the next phase of the World Cup preliminary rounds.

“So, we need to devise a robust plan on how the team can gel quickly so that it does not lose its form, but continue from where it left off.”

On the prospects of national team coach Meck Mwase’s contract expiring in the midst of the Afcon qualifiers, the FAM president said: “His contract will be reviewed accordingly.

“All I can say is that the overall performance of the coach will have to take into account the impact of Covid-19 on the Flames over duration. This is beyond the control of everyone else.

On his part, Mwase said: “There is nothing we can do about it. Football is suspended everywhere because of the pandemic.”

Malawi is in group B alongside Burkina Faso, Uganda and South Sudan.

They are currently third with three points from two games, having beaten South Sudan 1-0 in their opening qualifier before going down 2-0 to Uganda in their second match.

Categorie: Malawi

Nomads players protest pay-cut

The Nation Online - 9 ore 1 min fa

It never rains but pours for Be Forward Wanderers players as their Japanese sponsors Be Forward Limited have effected a further 10 percent salary cut, making it 60 percent in total.

The decision has not gone down well with the players who  have protested the move.

In an interview yesterday, the Lali Lubani Road outfit’s captain Alfred Manyozo Jnr said players have agreed not to accept their June salaries until the issue is resolved.

Nomads players have rejected their June salaries

He said: “I received a phone call yesterday [Monday] from our team manager informing me that our June salaries have been deducted by 60 percent and not 50 percent as was agreed with the executive committee.

“I informed my fellow players about the development and they asked me to inform our officials that they will not accept the salaries until this issue is resolved.

“It could have been better if they [officials] had communicated on the development  before effecting the cut other than taking us by surprise. How are we going to pay for rentals? This is sad.”

Wanderers chairperson Symon Sikwese said the executive was equally taken by surprise by the development; hence, it was difficult for them to inform players in good time.

“We were also shocked to see that June salaries had been cut further by 10 percent. It is quite a challenging period for us since we don’t have any other source of revenue.

“Covering the gap with gate collections could have been an option, but unfortunately games are yet to kick-off [due to the Covid-19 pandemic],” said Sikwese.

Asked how they will handle the situation, he said the executive committee will meet to map the way forward.

In May this year, the Japanese reconditioned car dealer resolved to cut the club’s sponsorship by 50 percent and attributed it to effects of Covid-19.

The sponsorship coordinator Mike Butao at the time defended the cut, saying the sponsor’s business had taken a massive hit due to the pandemic.

He said: “Things are kind of tough in Japan now as there are no ships coming in and out of that country, meaning no sale of cars till the situation improves. It will take a long time for things to get back to normal and we will review the situation month by month.

Categorie: Malawi

No honeymoon for Chakwera-Chilima

The Nation Online - 9 ore 3 min fa

Now that the dust has settled, I would like to extend my hearty congratulations to President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera and Vice-President Saulos Klaus Chilima on their election to the presidency through the June 23 2020 fresh presidential election.

Through the ballot, 58.57 percent of those who cast their votes entrusted the management of the country to the Tonse Alliance ticket pair of Chakwera and Chilima, which contested under the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) ticket.

During the campaign trail, the nine-party Tonse Alliance leaders made a number of glorious promises that might have probably swayed the majority of the voters to give them the key into government.

There was a blend of key promises from manifestos of MCP and UTM Party launched in the run up to the nullified May 21 2019 presidential election. One of them that excited the masses was relating to selling a 50 kilogramme bag of fertiliser at K4 495, instead of the average market price of K21 000, led by Chilima.

Worth noting is that the fertiliser price was promoted or marketed as “universal subsidy”, meaning each one of us would walk into a shop and get his or her bag at K4 495. In reality, though, Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu said there are strings attached to the deal. To qualify, one needs to be a smallholder farmers and the maximum they can get are two bags each.

While the K4 495 price under the Affordable Input Programme (AIP) is lower than the K5 000 an estimated one million beneficiaries of Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) were to pay, it could be a recipe for disaster in the short to medium term if not well balanced.

Pressure points include the increased number of beneficiaries and the burden the same could pose on foreign exchange and domestic revenue in general. Mind you, the public purse will already have lost some pay as you earn (Paye) following the expansion of the zero-rated tax bracket from K45 000 to K100 000.

I expected theMinister of Finance, to explicitly explain the mechanics of the AIP, including the cost implication in the national budget. The ‘discarded’ Fisp was pegged at K35 billion, but was benefitting one million. Its successor is targeting 3.5 million, including 10 kg cereal seed and 20kg legume seed.

Then there is the promise of one million jobs during the first 12 months in charge. This, again, could be a tall order, especially in the face of economic stagnation resulting from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. In his provisional budget statement, Mlusu said the increase of Malawi Enterprise Development Fund (Medf) loan allocation from K15 billion to K40 billion, which would “gradually” rise to the promised K75 billion is projected to create employment for at least 600 000 people. Well, in a way, I found the minister to be too simplistic given the realities in the economy right now.

The question of the minimum wage is another potential pressure point to successful implementation of the campaign promises. The reality on the ground is that even at the current rate of K35 000 per month, many middle class families are struggling to pay their domestic workers. There are many being underpaid. Imagine a civil servant taking home K100 000 and is expected to pay his/her domestic worker K50 000? I see many letting go the domestic workers which will in turn worsen the unemployment rate.

During the planned consultations with Malawi Congress of Trade Union and Employers Consultative Association of Malawi, government would do the masses justice if the minimum wage issue is tackled holistically. There should be segmentation of the minimum wage. Honestly, expecting an individual providing food and accommodation to pay at the same rate as a corporate employer is not fair deal.

To quote the campaign promises, Malawians are now in the Promised Land of Canaan flowing with milk and honey.

Not that I doubt the capability of the Chakwera-Chilima leadership. I hold the two in high esteem as go-getters. Nothing is really impossible, but in implementing the promises, it is important that authorities balance the same with realities, otherwise some economic gains made in recent years could be washed away.

Expectations are sky high. There is simply no honeymoon in the presidency.

Categorie: Malawi

Managing work related frustrations

The Nation Online - 9 ore 9 min fa

Everyone gets some frustrations at work from time to time. Of course like everything else, some people get more frustrations than others.

Some experience much bigger frustrations than others. But, we all face frustrations from time to time. I have had my own share sometimes.

Along the way, I have learnt how to deal with them better. The best teachers were my mentors. When I have big frustrations, I turn to my mentors to help me out. It turns out that if I dealt with the frustrations on my own, I may not have done as well as I did with the help of the mentors.

Without the mentors, when one is frustrated, he or she is likely to act and decide out of emotions. A good mentor will help you to remain calm and to deal with the frustrations in a more objective and in a wiser manner. Therefore, the first step to take with frustrations is to try and involve your mentor – especially in cases of big frustrations.

This also explains why is it important not just to have a mentor but to have a good mentor who is mature, well experienced and calm. A mentor that can give you good guidance. Not a mentor that when you share frustrations then he or she gets even more shocked and frustrated. A good mentor should be able to tell you the opposite of your big feelings without fear.

The one temptation that often comes to the mind of a frustrated employee is to slow down on work. Typically, if the employee used to work very hard—coming early to work and knocking off in the night long after the official time, he or she will now want to only work during the normal working period.

A frustrated employee sees no reason to come to work before official time or to work beyond the official time. Even the pace of work, the output and the passion for work will all be impacted. This is the normal temptation that everyone experiences when frustrated.

I remember one day, several years ago, my boss did something that frustrated me. I had been working really hard – usually 10 to 14 hours per day plus at least half a day at the weekend. The day I was really frustrated, I knocked off at the normal time.

In the night, I was planning to go to work the next day like most people did – which was some minutes after the normal office time, against the trend I had of arriving in the office at least 30 minutes before normal time. I wanted to slow down my work rate. Then came the other thought. “What will I achieve with this change? I am really thinking that I am punishing my boss or my work?”

Sense started to come back to me. I then abandoned my emotional ideas of slowing down work. The reason was that I realised that in the end, I was going to badly affect my own career. I had been developing my career well and was growing at a good pace. How I reacted to this frustration was going to determine whether that career growth was going to be sustained or curtailed. I chose to sustain the growth of my career and development of my skills. It was not an easy decision though.

I had to swallow my pride, kill my ego and suppress my emotions. That is what we all need to do when frustrated. This is a very important part of dealing with frustrations at work. If you do not master this solution, frustrations will badly impact your career growth.

In short, let not your frustrations change the way you work. The maximum you can do with frustrations is to have a discussion with your boss or the Human Resources manager so that they can help you to have a conducive environment where you thrive.

At the minimum, remember to involve your mentor so that you are able to make sober, objective and wise decisions on how to deal with the frustrations that you are experiencing. All the best as you deal with frustrations at work!

Categorie: Malawi

New IFMIS rolls out

The Nation Online - 9 ore 21 min fa

Accountant General Sungani Mandala has touted the new Integrated Financial Management and Information System (Ifmis) which went live yesterday, saying it will automate government financial transactions.

He said the new Ifmis has “strong security features that makestheft of public resources almost impossible”.

The new Ifmis replaces the old version of the software Epicor 7.3, which was due for upgrading since it was installed in 2005.

In a written response on Tuesday, Mandala said all technical staff tasked to operate or access the new Ifmis have already been trained.

He said the system has a wider scope of functionalities which include asset, projects, contracts, inventory and fleet management.

Mandala said the public sector will now be using electronic funds transfer for its payments unlike using cheques. It will interface with various other systems to enable seamless information flow between systems and improve revenue management.

Capital Hill in Lilongwe where Ifmis was breached in 2013 resulting in theft of billions of kwacha

He said: “The new system comes with an electronic document management system [EDMS]. This solution will ensure that necessary documents required for any transactions are attached in the system. This will resolve the problem of missing documents at a later stage when required for audit.

“The new system will be using automatic electronic reconciliation of statements. The department will be getting electronic bank statements from Reserve Bank of Malawi that will be loaded into the system to facilitate automatic electronic bank reconciliation. This will ensure that government will be current with its reconciliation”.

Mandala further said the system has enhanced security controls through the use of fingerprint (biometrics) for critical stages in processing transactions compared to the old Ifmis system that only used password as a security feature.

Mandala explained that the EDMS facility will eliminate the problems associated with poor record-keeping in ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

Findings by British forensic auditors Baker Tilly in 2013, established that the old Ifmis was grossly abused, especially by lower management accountants in the civil service, resulting in the plunder of K23 billion.

The Malawi Government has spent about K5 billion on the new Ifmis whose supplier is Twenty Third Century Systems, which also works in Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Nigeria.

The system also introduces the automation of employee loan management that will enable recording and management of loans, which is currently done manually and that every month after deductions are effected, the loan record will be updated automatically.

Budget preparation in the past has been done outside the Ifmis, but with the new system, Mandala said MDAs will be preparing budget estimates right in the new Ifmis.

Centre for Financial Inclusion and Literacy Consultancy managing director Abel Mwenibanda, in a written response on Monday, said the new system does not only speak of the expected improvement in public financial management, but also reminds  Malawians of the economic hardships which they suffered resulting from the loopholes in the old system.

“Treasury will do justice to the citizens by fully complying with the system’s procedures and processes without seeking to beat it through short-cuts and other unscrupulous ways,” he said.

Mwenibanda said this is an opportunity to restore public trust in financial management.

In 2018, the Malawi Government awarded a tender to supply Ifmis software to the Zimbabwe-based firm at a bid price of $13..8 million (about K10 billion).

Categorie: Malawi

What Malawians want

The Nation Online - 9 ore 25 min fa

On the day the President and the Vice-President were sworn in, I asked my Malawian friends and colleagues (not a representative sample by any means) to reflect on the issues that the government ought to prioritise in the coming months. This is what they said.

1.   An effective, contextual and amplified response to combat Covid-19.

2.   Harnessing, rather than side-lining, the country’s assets and resources, including women (especially rural women), land and the youth.

3.   Public sector reforms should not just be initiated but also completed. An important focus should be to root out nepotism and ensure that all appointments, including a smaller and inclusive Cabinet, are merit-based. The goal should be to promote a disciplined, motivated, vibrant and efficient civil service. Similarly, professionals, not just politicians, should be considered for ministerial appointments.

4.   Addressing systemic corruption and mismanagement. The need of the hour is to move from the rhetoric to reality. All public officials should be able to account for their wealth and corrupt individuals should be prosecuted by an empowered Anti-Corruption Bureau. Similarly, key institutions such as the Malawi Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Law Commission should be adequately financed and empowered to protect hard-earned democratic freedoms.

5.   Avoid ostentatious behaviour. This would mean smaller motorcades for VIPs and cutting down on hefty travel and related allowances and benefits to convince Malawians that their leaders are genuinely interested in advancing the welfare of the nation.

6.   Reducing dependence on aid. Some Malawians believe that donors do not provide adequate policy space for their leaders. In addition to traditional donors, how the new leadership negotiates assistance from China, India and other powers will be crucial.

7.   Mobilising domestic resources. Reducing donor dependency requires a viable strategy for greater domestic revenue generation to fund a pro-poor, pro-youth and dynamic national budget. Related to this is the capacity of the Malawi Revenue Authority to efficiently collect revenues based on current tax legislation.

8.   Undertake a thorough review of all legislation. A clear and realistic national development plan with measurable outputs is needed.

9.   The Covid-19 pandemic provides an opportunity to fast-track digital inclusion for all. The cost of participating in the digital age is leaving Malawi behind.

10.               Foster a constructive dialogue with the legislature.

The President’s speech, during his swearing in ceremony, contained all the right messages with the goal of unifying the country. He also consistently pointed to his partnership with Veep Saulos Chilima, which sounds promising, especially since past relationships between the presidents and their deputies have not always been very amicable. This election has offered the country with a unique opportunity to consolidate democracy and charter a new course for economic growth and development.

Categorie: Malawi

Income per capita to fall 1.8%—IMF

The Nation Online - 9 ore 25 min fa

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita or income per person could narrow by 1.8 percent as Covid-19 pandemic threatens to slow the country’s growth.

The IMF’s June Regional Economic Outlook for sub Saharan Africa, which puts Malawi GDP growth at one percent, says the standard of living will fall to about $392 (about (K290 672) this year from around $400 (K296 000). 

The report titled A Cautious Reopening says outlook for 2020–21 is considerably worse than expected in April and it reflects a weaker external environment and measures to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, which have been accelerating in the past few weeks in several sub-Saharan Africa countries, including Malawi.

Reads in part the report: “Economic activity this year is now projected to contract by some 3.2 percent, markedly worse than the 1.6 percent contraction anticipated in April. 

Ngwira: We are assessing the impact

“On average, per capita incomes across the region will fall by seven percent relative to expected levels back in October 2019 and close to levels seen nearly a decade ago.”

The IMF has since warned that the downside risks could materialise if health systems are overwhelmed, given that many economies have reopened before the infection has peaked.

Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) spokesperson Mbane Ngwira, in an interview on Tuesday, indicated that the bank is assessing the Covid-19 impact on growth, with one percent growth put as the worst-case scenario.

He admitted that the GDP per capita would decline this year. 

Said Ngwira: “The Covid-19 pandemic is a health issue and we take cue from health authorities. At the moment, we do not know how it is going to develop or end.

“However, in our worst- case scenario, we expect growth to be around one percent or even go into recession. This definitely will have a negative effect on the GDP per capita and livelihoods of Malawians.”

Malawi’s GDP per capita has been stagnant for some years, a reflection that poverty levels in the country have not changed at about $400 in a year.

This is despite that key macroeconomic indicators have largely remained stable and favourable due to what authorities have attributed to sound economic policies.

For instance, inflation  rate has largely been in single digit and interest rates have also declined following cuts in policy rate to 13.5 percent. 

Further to this, the kwacha has also remained stable at around K740 to a dollar.

The Covid-19 pandemic is, however, threatening the macroeconomic environment with IMF projecting that the pandemic is likely a cause the first increase in global poverty since 1998.

The World Bank estimates indicate that in sub-Saharan Africa, the pandemic could push about 26 million more people into extreme poverty in 2020 and up to 39 million in case downside risks to growth materialise.

The Bretton Woods institution further said that income inequality is expected to increase as lockdowns disproportionately affected informal sector workers and small and medium-sized companies in the services sectors.

Chancellor College economics professor Ben Kaluwa said in an interview that the agriculture sector remains the biggest single contributor to the country’s economic growth, but the Covid-19 pandemic threatens to disrupt agricultural value chains on top of other sectors.

Categorie: Malawi

Music fraternity unfazed by rising Covid-19 cases

The Nation Online - 9 ore 52 min fa

Despite coronavirus cases steadily rising in the country, the music fraternity appears to remain steadfast on its resolve to continue hosting live music performances.

Even fans and event organisers seem not moved by the increased prevalence of the global respiratory infection disease, whose numbers as of Tuesday had reached 1265, with 989 of them being active and 16 deaths recorded. On Tuesday alone the country recorded 41 new cases.

This has, however, not deterred music event organisers from planning fresh events some of them scheduled for this weekend while others are slated for end of the month.

Notable among them is a show slated for Club 20 Four 7 in Kameza Blantyre, which is expected to feature Skeffa Chimoto and his Real Sounds Band and new music sensational Wikise and Saul Chembezi and The Vibes Band.

Music fans continue to attend shows in large numbers

Entertainment powerhouse Entertainers Promotion (EP) has also announced what they are billing as the Utsi Tuluka-We Are Back Concert (Itsanana), scheduled for July 31 at Motel Paradise in Blantyre.

The show is expected to be headlined by Lucius Banda and Zembani Band as well as Black Missionaries Band.

Club 20 Four 7 owner of Macdonald Moyo, in an interview, said the race between financial survival and prevention of Covid-19 has proved to be a difficult combination. He said as the cases increase, they hope that the disease will disappear soon.

“I don’t know why the talk has shifted to endangering people’s lives. Is it because politicians are done with their campaigns?” asked Moyo.

EP director Tonderai Banda said the recent rise in new cases has provided them with a serious homework on whether to proceed with their planned event or not. He said the final decision will be arrived at once they meet their partners.

A music fan from Lilongwe’s Area 23, Linda Mkandawire, said she alongside her friends patronised live music performances while fully aware of the risk, but they cannot do anything because they miss the entertainment.

“Imagine I resist the temptation of going to a show for fear of contracting the disease. The next day I am in a minibus which is equally congested and get to the market which is full of people too. It doesn’t make sense,” she said.

Another fan from Blantyre,  Joseph Chisuse said: “At first the disease appeared like a mere fallacy that is why it never bothered to go to the shows. But now the threat is getting real while on the other hand we need some entertainment.”

Linda Kamanga, a Ndirande resident said she goes to the shows because, she needs to relax.

“I work hard and I deserve a break every now and then. On top of that, I think Covid-19 is being blown out of proportion,” she said. 

Categorie: Malawi

CAF gives FAM K225m Covid-19 package

The Nation Online - 9 ore 54 min fa

Football Association of Malawi (FAM) will receive  $300 000 (about K225 million) from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to help it mitigate the Covid-19 impact.

This was agreed during a CAF executive committee video-conference on Tuesday aimed at discussing the future of competitions and other related issues following the Covid-19 pandemic.

CAF said in a statement that it has set aside $16.2 million (about K12 billion) Covid-19 package for its member associations with each member entitled to $300 000 (about K225 million).

Nyamilandu: Executive committee will decide

FAM president Walter Nyamilandu, who was part of the teleconference by virtue of being a CAF executive committee member, described it as crucial towards the fight against the pandemic effects.

“We have lost revenue through loss of sponsorships and gate collections, among other channels. It is, therefore, pleasing that we will benefit from this grant,” he said.

Nyamilandu stated that they will discuss at FAM executive committee level how to use the funds.

“We may use it on national team or other areas. There are a lot of projects that require resources. So, the executive committee will decide,” he said.

Football is among the sports codes worst hit by coronavirus as the top-flight TNM Super League has been dormant since last December.

The pandemic has driven teams—most of which rely on gate revenue,  into financial challenges. Some of the teams are currently struggling to pay the players.

The situation forced FAM to introduce the Covid-19 Relief Fund through which it is paying players, referees and technical officials around  K40 000 each monthly.

Categorie: Malawi

Cear in rail maintenance

The Nation Online - 10 ore 28 min fa

The Central East African Railways (Cear) is today expected to carry out maintenance works at Churchill Road level crossing in Limbe, Blantyre.

In a brief statement issued yesterday, Cear states that the maintenance activities will involve removal of some of the rail infrastructure and replacing it with new materials.

Motorists have since been urged to use alternative routes so as to avoid any inconveniences while maintenance, scheduled to last up to midnight is underway.

A Cear passenger train at a station

Reads the statement in part: “The maintenance activities will involve removing of the road surface to replace rail infrastructure and applying new road surface thereby making the road impassable for motorists.”

Following the maintenance works, the statement adds, Cear’s passenger train, which departs at 8am, will not be proceeding to Limbe.

Cear will instead use their Blantyre Wenela Station for arrivals and departures during that period.

Last November, lawmakers and stakeholders at the seventh stakeholder meeting of the Nacala Corridor operations organised by Cear and Vale Logistics asked railway companies and government to put up incentives to entice businesses to use the railway.

The discussion was part of Cear and Vale Logistics’ initiative to solicit views from communities on the work of the railway company and give an update of rail operations along the Nacala Corridor.

Chief loading stock officer in the railway department under the Ministry of Transport and Public Works, Madalitso Kuyera, admitted that railway transport is underutilised yet it presents enormous advantages.

On his part, Cear managing director Gustav Stein said the company, whose plan is to increase revenue, welcomes ideas that would help it achieve its goals.

Categorie: Malawi

Prison staff rue congestion

The Nation Online - 10 ore 29 min fa

As coronavirus cases keep rising nationwide, inmates at Nkhata Bay Prison remain at high risk due to the congestion at the facility, authorities have said.

The former president Peter Mutharika’s declaration of a State of National Disaster on March 20 this year due to the pandemic, led to the closure of schools and measures such as decongesting the country’s prisons.

But in an interview on Tuesday, Nkhata Bay Prison spokesperson MacDonald Migolo said the facility did not decongest despite submitting 116 names of inmates to the Presidential Committee on Pardon to release them.

“We were asked to submit names of inmates with misdemeanours or petty crimes such as minor theft and those that had served a good fraction of their sentences, but no one has been released yet,” he said.

Nkhata Bay Prison is holding more inmates than its capacity

Migolo said Nkhata Bay Prison is yet to register a Covid-19 case, but he feared for the eventuality.

According to him, the prison has enough buckets for hand washing though sanitisers are inadequate.

However, Migolo is hopeful that the new administration of Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima will speed up on decongesting the prison.

In April this year, 1 392 inmates walked to freedom from the country’s congested prisons courtesy of an initiative funded by the European Union (EU) to fast-track the review of some prisoners’ cases and decongest the facilities amid Covid-19 pandemic.

World Health Organisation recommends that people should all the time observe social distancing, wash hands with soap regularly and wear face masks.

The prison has a capacity of 80 inmates but it has 176.

Categorie: Malawi

‘I’ll consult appointees’

The Nation Online - 10 ore 32 min fa

Hours after one of his partial Cabinet appointees turned down the offer, President Lazarus Chakwera has said he will consult nominees before announcing any appointments.

In a daily update posted on his Facebook page, the President also said he and Vice-President Saulos Chilima have made progress on the formulation of a full Cabinet he indicated would have “no more than 30” with women accounting for at least 40 percent.

Said Chakwera: “On this second day, my administration presented a [provisional] budget to the people, whose representatives have duly passed it.

“This budget covers the necessary functions of government for the next four months, during which time we will work on a full budget.”

The President said the appointees would be at liberty to reconsider accepting the extent or form of their involvement in the event that demands of public office change, with assurance of no remonstration or recrimination on his part.

He was apparently referring to the decision by Modecai Msisha, a senior counsel (SC), who on Tuesday turned down his appointment as Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.

Msisha, who was Chakwera’s lead counsel in the presidential election nullification petition case, said he did not want to be seen as benefitting from his client.

On Tuesday, Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu presented a K722.4 billion four-month provisional budget, which has attempted to meet campaign promises of the newly-ushered Tonse Alliance administration led by Malawi Congress Party (MCP).

In his update posted at midnight on Tuesday, Chakwera—who quit the pulpit as head of Malawi Assemblies of God in 2013 to join frontline politics as MCP president—highlighted deliverables in the provisional budget.

The deliverables included the preliminary fertiliser subsidy at K4 495 per 50 kilogramme bag to 3.5 million smallholder farmers, a proposed adjustment in the minimum wage from K35 000 to K50 000 and expansion of the zero-rated tax bracket from K45 000 to K100 000.

He also mentioned an increase in loan schemes such as Malawi Enterprise Development Fund (Medf) from K15 billion to K40 billion with prospects to gradually rise to the promised K75 billion.

The President, who teamed up with Chilima of UTM Party as his running mate, also said he spent his second day in office getting reports from parastatal organisations on the status of their operations.

He said he would soon update the nation on steps to be undertaken to address challenges facing the State-owned companies.

Reacting to Chakwera’s report on his Twitter page, Blessings Chinsinga, a political and governance commentator based at Chancellor College—a constituent college of the University of Malawi —described the gesture as a good start.

He said: “Wow! Reading a presidential report for the first time beyond the Sona [State of the Nation Address]! A good start.”

Chakwera’s interim spokesperson Sean Kampondeni was yet to respond by press time to our question on the frequency the President will be giving such updates. He said he was in a meeting last evening.

Besides Mlusu, Chakwera’s partial Cabinet has Chilima as Minister of Economic Planning, Development and Public Sector Reforms and Dowa East legislator Richard Chimwendo Banda—who is also MCP director of youth and Leader of the House in Parliament—as Minister of Homeland Security.

In his first appointments, Chakwera also appointed as Attorney General lawyer Chikosa Silungwe, who was Chilima’s lead counsel in the presidential election nullification petition case.

Chakwera triumphed in the court-ordered June 23 fresh presidential election with 58.57 percent against 38 percent for the then incumbent Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party.

Categorie: Malawi

Contracts freeze

The Nation Online - 10 ore 35 min fa

President Lazarus Chakwera’s administration has suspended contracts government recently awarded to pave the way for an investigative audit.

In a memo dated June 30 2020, new Chief Secretary to the Government Zangazanga Chikhosi advised all heads of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) about the development.

“The temporary suspension is made in order to carry out a quick audit of prospective contracts, to ascertain a number of things, including the transparency and credibility of the processes and procedures followed and decisions made,” reads the communication from the Office of the President and Cabinet.

The letter also asked the controlling officers to go through the Chief Secretary before awarding any new contract.

The development comes amid speculation that in the run up to the court-ordered June 23 fresh presidential election which ushered in Chakwera, some multi-billion kwacha contracts were approved allegedly to the benefit of some unknown government officials; hence, the move by the new administration to institute an audit.

Calling the shots: Chakwera

In its Procurement Prior Review Report, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority reported that “just before” the fresh presidential election in June, 81 contracts valued at K52 billion were approved and that in May another lot of 93 contracts worth K22 billion were also approved.

The recently-approved contracts include construction of the controversial Mzuzu Youth Centre and stadia for private football clubs—Nyasa Big Bullets and Be Forward Wanderers in Blantyre—as well as construction of a Olympic standard swimming pool at Kamuzu Institute for Sports in Lilongwe in readiness for African Union Olympics in 2022.

But in an interview last night, Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture Principal Secretary Chancy Simwaka said he was not clear whether the memo from the Chief Secretary talks about prospective contracts or those already awarded.

He said he understood the memo as having advised MDAs to engage with the office of the Chief Secretary to seek clarification.

Simwaka said for stadia projects, a contract was awarded and contractors were already on site while for the Mzuzu Youth Centre and the swimming pool procurement was in progress.

A letter from PPDA dated June 30 2020 indicated that the authority had granted a go-ahead to the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture to award the K19 billion Mzuzu Youth Centre project. The no-objection letter coincided with the communication from the OPC also issued on the same day.

The OPC communication comes days after the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) asked Treasury to provide details regarding payments made to anyone from June 1 2020.

The ACB also issued another instruction prohibiting anyone from changing ownership of their lands, houses, vehicles or any assets without the bureau’s vetting.

Reacting to the communication from both ACB and OPC, one senior government officer said the new administration had knowledge that some contracts were dubiously awarded and expedited to benefit certain individuals; hence, undertaking the audit.

Said the official from OPC: “If there was nothing wrong there was no need to spend money and time to look into the contracts. There is serious and genuine suspicion.”

The source said the audit exercise would review some contracts recently approved, but not yet awarded and those under execution “on which there is sufficient suspicion to do an audit”.

Procedurally, all contracts from MDAs, legally referred to as procuring and disposal entities (PDEs), are required to go through the PPDA which grants a go-ahead.

Further to this, all high-value contracts go through the Government Contracting Unit in the OPC and ACB for vetting.

Thus, the proposed audit raises a serious question on the role of relevant authorities tasked with the responsibility to vet contracts.

When contacted last evening, PPDA director general Elias Hausi said he was yet to see the Chief Secretary’s circular; hence, could not give an informed response.

However, he indicated that the issue to do with fraud in contracts can be better handled with relevant authorities such as ACB and sometimes Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs that vet contracts.

Said Hausi: “Our role is to look at procedures. If the contract has followed procedures in line with the law, we grant a no-objection. If not, approval is withheld. So, we are not everything in this game; we have other agencies that have a role to play.”

On whether the OPC-sanctioned audit was a vote of no confidence in his institution, ACB director general ReyneckMatemba said the OPC circular had not specified targeted contracts.

“We only look at specific contracts; high-value contracts and single sourcing. I wish we had a list then I could easily tell which ones we handled or not. But we welcome the audit initiative,” he said.

Categorie: Malawi