Thursday, June 28, 2012

PRESIDENT JOYCE BANDA, CALLISTA, KALIATI & KACHIKHO: AN ECCENTRIC POLITICAL CLIQUE


One big reason why I want to meet former President Bakili Muluzi concerns his biography as narrated in his 190 page biography “The Voice of a Democrat”(Mau Anga)

The day I borrowed that book from a friend I anticipated for an in-depth account of a man who fought the “stupid one party system” oops forgive me for that. I mean the man who ousted Kamuzu Banda, (this is the man who fought the “stupid federation”) Muluzi ruled for ten years and I am not here to analyze the pluses and minuses of his rule.

The day I meet him, we will not only play bawo and sip coffee. Muluzi must tell me why he gave me a raw deal in his biography. Why half of it was filled with speeches he made during his presidency. Why his book never said anything about his family. Why it never said anything about his lowlights and highlights as a person.

Let me hasten to say that he did a good job by including some old pictures which show him dressed in a shirt (not tucked in), a pair of hanging trousers and a pair of slippers (Pata-Pata). That picture told a good story Your Excellency. 

Talking of biographies, Bingu departed without one. I wish he had spent more time on writing a biography than the “African Dream” (By the way, would someone tell me the Publisher and International Standard Book Number-ISBN- for that book)

State Presidents are a national asset and we always need to have their lives on almost all prominent shelves (both in libraries and shops) in the country.

Time has come for Malawians to know their presidents; where they come from, what they have done in life academically, socially, politically and economically (may be that might bring to fruition the notion of Presidents declaring their assets; by the way, who needs them to declare if we already know of their wealth through their biographies?)

This is why I have today decided to highlight a few things that have caught my attention as I read through several newspapers that date back to the early 90s. These are accounts that involve some of our politicians.

Now, because the current president is a woman, allow me to narrow my attention to a faction of women who positively and negatively have impacted our political landscape over the years. President Joyce Banda is where she is today not by chance and the facts highlighted herein would help her construct a relevant manuscript when she decides to put her life account in black and white.  

Hold your breath ladies and gentlemen, let’s get served.

Her Excellency Mrs. Joyce Banda entered politics officially as Director of Women in UDF. Hitherto she had served as chair of ADMARC where Anna Namathanga Kachikho worked as Executive Officer.

Having won a joint award with former Mozambique President,Joachim Chissano, Joyce Banda became the chair of the board of Hunger Project in Malawi. It was her influence that initiated the recruitment of Callista Mutharika, then Chapola Chimombo, as Executive Director of the institution.

Both Anna and Callista quit their positions to run as Members of Parliament in 2004 on United Democratic Front (UDF) tickets. Anna in Phalombe North and Callista in Zomba Likangala. Guess who chaired the UDF primaries in those constituencies? Joyce Banda, who at that time had already been an MP for five years.  

Both women lost the primaries and they vehemently accused Joyce Banda of failing them in favour of other candidates.

The two decided to proceed with the campaign as independent candidates. The bad blood that had been created between the three women was evident during the campaign as they castigated one another (Callista and Anna on one side, Joyce on the other)

Kachikho went on to win against UDF's Justin Mokowa while Callista also triumphed against the party's G.L Mulombe. They both rejoined UDF afterwards.

Though she lost her seat five years later, Callista found her wings when she entered State House as First Lady in 2010. The very moment Bingu and Joyce Banda stopped seeing each other eye to eye; the First Lady took sides (the bible teaches us that the two become one, right?)

Bingu aggravated it by taking away the Safe Motherhood Ambassadorship from Joyce Banda and gave it to his wife.

Callista never disappointed her husband. Whether donating blankets to a hospital or attending a girls’ function at Zingwangwa Secondary School she always made sure she attacked Joyce Banda in some way. She reminded Malawians that they could never be ruled by someone who is not a Professor and a mere mandasi seller. (The President has always told Malawians that she is more than proud to be called that)    
Enter Patricia Kaliati.

When the Ministry of Information was split from Tourism after she quarreled with her Principal Secretary, Beaton Munthali, Kaliati prevented the new Minister of Tourism (Callista), from occupying the offices at the Ministry of Tourism. All Ministers of Information preferred to use these offices.

It took the intervention of Bingu through Office of President and Cabinet (OPC) for Kaliati to give way. I don’t know how Kaliati reacted the first time she learnt that Bingu had decided to marry Callista.

Then came the moment when Joyce Banda crossed paths with Kaliati . As Vice President, Joyce Banda had powers to give orders in the absence of Bingu.  

One time Bingu went to China. Meanwhile Kaliati had a trip to China too. She sought permission from Joyce Banda then acting President. Permission was not granted. Joyce Banda told Kaliati she could not travel because her presence as minister would be needed when Bingu would be opening the New Parliament Building some days later. Kaliati appeared to have listened.

After that order Banda left for USA two days later. In her absence, Kaliati sought permission from Chimunthu Banda, then acting President, to travel to China.

Permission was granted. Joyce Banda felt Kaliati was insurbodinative and complained to Bingu.
Bingu didn't act. 

Another fall out.

Having read all this, you might be asking “Where in the equation does Anna Kachikho fit?” Read on.
Kachikho was part of the silent troops waging a silent battle against Joyce Banda all this time. (Don’t be na├»ve to think that Kachikho returned to DPP after a short stint in Peoples Party only for fear of Section 65) I beg to differ.

Even had she found solace in PP, she had to deal with the fact that she had played a great role in Joyce Banda’s political turmoil before she became President. (Do I need to remind you how some overzealous cohorts of Bingu have been denied membership in PP?)    

Kachikho has another political battle she has been executing; this time not against Joyce Banda. Remember that Kaliati and Kachikho also don't see eye to eye because of their fight of supremacy in the Lomwe belt.

If we are to limit our focus on Joyce Banda, Anna Kachikho and Patricia Kaliati then their triangle has also been characterized by power struggle all along. 

They all have been ministers of Gender, replacing each other in that order. This gave them more access to women (a powerful constituency in any political movement).

The most influential of them as minister was Kaliati. Besides castigating her predecessors as weak, she also stopped women from dancing for Vice President Joyce Banda, saying only the President deserved the privilege. (I wonder if she might say the same today)

All the four are still alive; very much part of our population. Currently, Joyce Banda has the Jokers from the cards. She together with Kaliati and Kachikho must face the electorate at 2014 albeit on different levels.
I don’t know how long again it might take for Malawi to have another female President. Whether Kachikho, Callista and Kaliati will be that other person, I don’t know.

If President Joyce Banda is to write a biography (a thing I highly recommend), she must include this information as a chapter in that book. Malawians would love to know her not from the day she became Vice President or President but from the day she was born 62 years ago, what she has been through in life, both good and bad.

However, the other three cannot be ignored because they have helped shape the destiny of our country.

Ladies and Gentlemen let’s put our hands together for Malawi’s most influential clique of women politicians.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

WHY ON EARTH SHOULD I GOOGLE PETER MUTHARIKA?


Sometime early last year when the country was politically getting darker by day, Chancellor College (Not Chanceller College as MBC TV puts it) stole some considerable attention. Probably the country most prominent politician that time, Professor Peter Mutharika, invaded the campus to hold a public lecture in the imposing Great Hall.

He was accompanied by a host of government officials from his ministry and others (that time he was Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister).

The function, broadcast live on MBC TV had no pomp but was filled with hype (This is Chanco we are talking about remember?) The students kept shouting, jeering and cheering during the entire length of the event though their most rapturous moment came when they demanded that Nicholas Dausi speak to them. 

Predictably, Dausi started his sentence with “Thomas Aquinas and Booker Taliaferro Washington of Tuskegee University. More cheers greeted the overly repeated speech introduction.  

Thereafter, the congregation was asked to ask the Law Professor any question in relation to his career and what he had said in his presentation.

A young lady who was shaking uncontrollably stood and asked Peter to tell the gathering more about his life.
The law Professor never hesitated. Standing up slowly, he stepped forward and positioned himself right in front of a stack of old-looking microphones.

Hitting the microphones twice just to make sure that they were working, (he likes that by the way, am planning to propose on being his Public Relations consultant in 2014) he cleared his throat and started smiling.

“My name is Peter Mutharika,” The girl who has asked the question was still standing, still shaking (I recall). Peter said some a million other things in a minute and screeched to a halt.

Tacking his specs up, he looked at the girl and roared with a grin “If you want to know more about me, just Google Peter Mutharika” The Great Hall shook with laughter, cheering, whistling and all the conduct that comes along with The Chanco Philosophy.

Amid the cheers, jeers and all that, the girl was stepping backwards, using her hands to search for her chair behind.

Peter had made it clear; he is just not any other dude. His profile can be found on Wikipedia through Google. Not a mean achievement at all. How many of us would have our profiles floated on Wikipedia?

After that lecture, I started following Peter and his campaign with keen interest. As he was being branded as Presidential material, he wielded so much power such that his presence at any place was coupled with a level of decorum beyond what a cabinet minister should get.

One time he was delegated to make foreign trips on behalf of his brother. Another time he was spotted in Mzuzu using a chopper (helicopter) that belonged to his brother. Never to mention about the cars that make part of the presidential motorcade, Peter used some of them at will.

I have never liked the idea of brothers succeeding each other, and Peter justified my fears. I saw a weakness with his strategy of getting to the top of things. You never bulldoze your way to the top if you want to make meaningful impact.

Peter Mutharika as the accomplished member of the bar and Member of Parliament is already a force to reckon with in any spectrum of political activity.

If he had allowed his name to be branded without hurting others, people would have been flocking to him by now.

If his candidacy had not victimized others it would have no problems in it. Look now, just because he remained quiet when DPP die-hards were victimizing Joyce Banda on his behalf, the tide has automatically shifted.

I laughed in disbelief last week when the DPP walked out in the middle of parliamentary proceedings. It was quite a humbling sight to see Peter standing up in frustration, whisking his briefcase away from the floor before joining his fellow members in the protest walk-out. Life has finished its circle; only God knows our future.

Peter Mutharika? Walking out in frustration?  It wasn’t the same Peter who was presented to Malawians as their next president. Not the same Peter who had all cabinet ministers giving him exaggerated respect just because of his brother. Not the Peter who at one time was delegated by Bingu to swear in Commissioners of some Presidential Initiatives.

As my mind recalls the Chanco event, I still sympathize with Peter. Had his candidacy gone through the proper procedures, he wouldn’t be struggling to re-brand his name now in a bid to appeal to the electorate.
I fear that his candidacy is going to be challenged by other people within the DPP who kept quiet during the Bingu regime for fear of political isolation.

Peter, I can google your name and be impressed with your deep and rich resume but give me one thing; Strong leadership qualities.

Steer the party in these troubled times and show Malawians that come 2014 you will still be relevant to the country’s politics.

In case you are interested to know the person writing this piece, don’t google, I am not there. Just meet me in person; I am a common Malawian looking forward to our politicians becoming better people.               

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

GOVERNMENT STRANDED OVER NAMPOTA'S DEMANDS


It is now official. Alex Nampota has agreed to leave the country’s graft-busting institution, Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB). 

However, the bureau will not have a Director anytime soon up until Nampota decides to loosen the grip as he is still not letting go and is locked in a confrontation with government to grant him hefty terminal benefits.

Since he was asked by Office of President and Cabinet (OPC) to resign voluntarily two months ago, Nampota has played a teasing game as he has chosen to stay home waiting for government to say what it has on the table.

The situation has reached a deadlock now as Nampota seems not ready to go on a silver platter and government has its hands tied.

It is believed that the former bureau chief is demanding millions (we are not going to speculate here) but his friend Gustave Kaliwo got K15 million in 2005 under similar circumstances.

As he awaits his huge package, Nampota is back at his law firm Nampota and Company which hitherto has been run by his predecessor, Kaliwo.

Nampota did not come cheap to Malawi government due to his impeccable CV and his close friendship to Bingu. His package was different from other ACB Directors because government then conceded to his demands to cover some of his amenities he used to enjoy while in his private practice.

He was the only ACB Director who almost used the Blantyre regional office as Head Office and yet the Head Office is in Lilongwe. That was part of his contract because he is settled in Blantyre.

Meanwhile the ACB can't move until a Director is appointed and endorsed by Parliament.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

BINGU & PETER PLANNED TO 'LAVISHLY' DAZZLE MALAWIANS IN 2014

Sometime last year, when all was rosy in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), presidential candidate elect, Peter Mutharika used to say a phrase that became the motto for his preliminary campaign.

“If you thought we put up a gallant campaign in 2009, then you ain’t seen nothing yet” (It’s too American so forgive me if I have rearranged it undesirably).

It kept us on our toes. Thinking of how Bingu brought in a new wave of campaign tricks in 2009, it built up our anticipation towards 2014.

For the first time Malawians saw a campaign that went beyond distribution of money and T-Shirts and caps. It came with branded products ranging from sweets, cooking oil, pens, umbrellas and many more items.

Who can forget the giant screen that moved from one township to another village, from one municipality to another trading centre. The setback about it was that it was used to castigate former president, Bakili Muluzi and John Tembo, a typical Malawian way of doing politics.

However, for 2014 as Peter said on several occasions, we had not seen anything yet.

We now know that Bingu and Peter had other ideas to dazzle the population. Reliable information filtering through our ranks indicates that Bingu had planned to spend hundreds of millions of kwachas to ensure that his younger brother becomes the country’s First Citizen.  

In a replica of the American Presidential Election etiquette, the two brothers were going to criss-cross the length and breadth of the country in two of the state-of-the-art Brazilian made super double-decker buses. Each one of them was going to use his own bus.

(For the benefit of my international audience, Malawi last used the old model double-decker buses in the early 90s. I will not say much on recent developments lest I dilute the contents of this write up)  

The two buses were going to be branded and restructured to suit their taste. (We all know that their long stay in the West transformed their taste to levels not compatible to a common Malawian’s lifestyle)

We are still not sure whether the two had agreed on which deck they were going to occupy. I bet Bingu would have opted for the top deck. As for Peter, just ask him, he might have an idea. 

Some of the generic features in the buses are an average of six television screens with DVD, air conditioner, saloon heaters, washrooms, fridge and toilets.

Our research indicate that one bus can cost an equivalent of K150 million.

The revelations do not come as a surprise because Bingu’s reign was already punctuated with lavish spending such as the SUV Hummers on his convoy and his insistence to purchase a top-range Maybach 62.    

I know that at this juncture, some of you my dear readers are starting to create your own theories and attachments to reality on the ground. Unfortunately, I will not substantiate to the fact that just because the brothers wanted to use two buses then those are the ones you see on the roads of Malawi. I live beyond the narrow reasoning of speculation.

However, we are all eager to see whether Peter will still decide to continue with the flamboyant campaign plan. I wish 2014 would come very soon. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

CORRUPT OFFICERS BUYING PENS AT K2,500 EACH USING YOUR TAXES

During my early primary school days I developed a dream (Let me confess that mine was in black and white). I recall that time we were using slates to write on or worse still we would write on the ground and the teacher would go round and mark our work from there.

I can’t remember how I convinced my parents whenever I passed the “ground assignment” with flying colours.

Back to my black and white dream. I always longed for the day when I would write on a piece of paper using a pen (we used to call them ball pens).

Then came the most awaited moment; First term in Standard Five. We were given exercise books and pens. Oh my my, I wrote the whole day and I can’t remember what I scribbled in that first book.

In between the Slate Age and Pen Revolution we had also used pencils but they never appealed to me. I always wanted a pen.

The school pens were free and after some time my aesthetic taste started improving and I longed for more. I occasionally stole my father’s fancy pens so as to look different among friends at school.

I didn’t know how much money my father paid to get those fancy pens and as I grew up and started asking for money to buy my own, I was given amounts like 50 tambala to buy one.

Afterwards I did not follow the cost of a pen and things have remained so up until lately when I was told that the price had shot to K2,500.

It shocked me so much such that I tried to look back at the country’s economy since the early 90s. I tried to calculate all the devaluations that have taken place since then (excluding the current one) but my scanty economics knowledge never satisfied my curiosity. A pen? Costing K2,500? Really?

In the midst of my struggle, a friend confronted me and told me I was a mere village boy who does not understand the dynamics and variety of taste. I agreed with the person and told him to take me to any shop at Blantyre Market and show me a pen that cost that much. He was dumbfounded and asked me to go with him to an upmarket shop along the Victoria Avenue.

There then I realized I had done a bad job in explaining to my friend on the real issue at hand. I have no problem with people buying pens at K2,500 with their personal money but when they do that with public money, it pains me.

This story must go to our Members of Parliament. Lately, they have been deliberating on the just presented National Budget and one of the issues under discussion is what the country should do with the Presidential Jet.

As things stand I do not know which side of the debate I should take. Even if I give my views, our President will still travel and she needs comfortable means to get wherever she wants.

Surely, the debate has been limited to one question “To sell or not to sell?”

Malawi Congress Party which pressed for the jet to be sold during the Bingu regime has now changed tune and they think Mrs. Joyce Banda can use it (I miss their logic though)

However, what our MPs don’t know is that as they are busy weighing the options on the jet they should also have been talking about what the nation should do with The Pens. Pens? Yes Pens!!

What about them?

Somewhere behind the chamber, people are purchasing pens using public money; Nothing wrong with that.
But the anomaly has come due to revelations that those pens are being bought at K2,500 each. Give me a break. You mean we can spend time arguing on the jet just because it is costly to manage when the country is wasting money buying expensive pens for officers to use?

Unsullied and verified information has it that prices at this institution are inflated to astronomical levels such that a pen that can be bought at K50 market value is pegged at very unrealistic value.  

There is more happening at this institution. The National Audit Office sent Auditors some four months ago to the institution and they have come up with issues that require management explanation.

Sadly, for the past month or so, management has been running away from furnishing the auditors with information.

Surprisingly, Treasury has sent more auditors from what they call Central Audit and they have unearthed the following:-

-          The institution procured stationery worth over K70 million in 3 months from July to October 2011 yet right now there is no stationery.

-          Members of the Management team have been drawing pool fuel for their official vehicles yet government pays them fuel allowance every month end.

-          A consultant who was contracted by Internal Procurement Committee (IPC) to do a consultancy on the Conjunction Bill (As Muluzi would say ‘I repeat again for the second time, CONJUNCTION BILL’) was paid twice for the same job over K3 million. 

(Somebody still wants me to say Injunction but again I say Conjunction)

-          Inflating of prices is the order of the day. Besides the pen cost, a plumbing invoice of about K800 000 shot up to more than K 3million. 

This is sickening. I cry for my country, the more we try to create a corruption free society, the more Malawians have their hard-earned taxes being abused left, right and centre.

We cannot cut extravagance on Presidential needs while at the same time failing to live within means thereby spending public money on things we can do with less or we can do without. 

May be activist Ben Chiza Mkandawire wasn’t wrong when sometime last year he called on Malawians to Occupy the Institution.
   

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

ISN'T THIS THE MOST CORRUPT INSTITUTION IN MALAWI?

A consultant paid twice for the same job (some K3 million) and pens bought at K2,500 each. Plumbing services valued at K800,000 pegged at K3 million.

This is the kind of corruption taking place at one public institution you trust so much. Find out more 2moro on dalitsopublicforum.blogpost.com