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Friday, April 4, 2014

AP Photographer Anja Niedringhaus Killed: The cruel World of Journalism

NIEMAN 07, a great teacher, mentor and friend.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A veteran Associated Press photographer was killed and an AP reporter was wounded on Friday when an Afghan policeman opened fire while they were sitting in their car in eastern Afghanistan.
Anja Niedringhaus, 48, an internationally acclaimed German photographer, was killed instantly, according to an AP Television News freelancer who witnessed the shooting.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Malawi is at the right juncture to say goodbye to Donor aid

Aid has remained a contentious topic, here at home in Malawi and anywhere in the West or East. Western Governments rush to pull the plug on aid whenever a scandal breaks out, not because of the critical look at the issues, but die to the associated headlines in their local media.
In the United Kingdom, the coalition Government is cutting benefits by almost £3billion which simply means, some of the free services the British poor were getting will be chopped or numbers of beneficiaries reduced.
The opposition Labour is crying out loud that the gap between the poor and the rich is widening and that the ruling Tory and Lib dems policies are not covering the majority working class.
One would be a fool to keep on waiting for the UK to deliver its aid to another country in similar fashion a before.
The end of the cold war and the 2007 financial crisis should have served all developing countries a wake up call and change the way we do business.
Malawi, like a majority of other African countries will be celebrating 50 years of independence, but in a state of poverty and mounting challenges that nobody seem to have a clue how to address them.
The colonizers left Africa without any plan, only returned in form of businesses and globalization to dominate and exploit African mineral resources.
Africa is changing, we have had minerals and critical resources and continue to discover more.
The combined gas and oil in Africa today means we can competitively claim economic growth to that of the Gulf region. The oil and mineral dollars are flowing into Africa at a higher rate than at any other period.
However Africa and its leaders have for the past 50 years failed to build capacity, we have concessioned everything from transport systems to mineral mines to the same people that first mined them using our fore fathers as slaves. 
The company's that own the majority of shares in Africa mineral resources have no interest in developing Africa. The story of Nigeria is one critical example where if oil, ranked among the highest in the world, has failed to change the lives of millions of Nigerians who just need a $1000 dollars to start producing own food and up keep.
In Malawi, we concessioned the Urainium our first large scale mine to an Australian company which opens and closes at will. We are sure on the same road on Niobium and oil exploration on the lake. The other exploited mine is Chimwazulu which produces ruby that is sold for £500,000 on UK or USA mineral markets. I could not believe when I saw my own mineral on an auction channel fetching
While we have no financial muscles to do the same works, but we can seriously earn adequate earnings but providing a clear guideline to shareholding. 
Government should own 50 percent of all shareholding on natural resources in the country. That should translate into tax breaks on investment and equipment and expertise for the investor as part of our contribution.
All contracts should be for a maximum 50 years allowing skill and share transfer to Malawians. The Central Government should hold only 35 percent of the shareholding, while 10 percent should be held by the District Council in which the mine is located and the village and area Development Committees where the mines are located will have the remaining 5 percent.
The profits from such a set up will ensure equitable distribution of the wealth realized and avoid the cases of areas where minerals are extracted for ages without being reinvested back into such communities.
From mining, a similar shareholding model should be given to tourism resorts only that Government should hold 20 and the communities the remaining 10 percent. All money paid as part of tourists coming to Malawi at least 40 percent should be returned and be kept in Malawi to ensure that even those booking and paying online on foreign banks are accounted as part of the countries revenues.
Further communities around tourists establishments will directly benefit as shareholders including supplies of basic items such as food, when the shareholding fund becomes a cooperative for expanding opportunities for the people in the area.
With the millions of dollars Nyika, Vwaza, Liwonde, Lake Malawi, Lifupa, Nkhatabay, Mulanje and Mangochi has realised from tourists visiting the country, its sad 50 years on that the Councils and local communities there continue to wallow in poverty. The question is who benefited. Jobs could have been created at local level.
Malawi and Africa does not need aid. It is in the obligation of the United Nations charter to create a prosperous and economic world. It is in the obligation of those that used slave trade, colonised us and milked us through unfair trade, to start investment programmes that will change the face of developing countries. Instead of piecemeal donations of £20 million every year, why not agree to finance export processing zones worth £5 billion for UK companies to produce cheaply in Malawi and a readily available market in the UK.
As we celebrate 50 years of independence, we should start renegotiating some of the strange conditions that are attached to to loans or grants given.
Within our own means, if I were the leader, I would pull the plug on the K60 billion subsidy and divide the country to become processing centres for specific crops for sale.
I would subcontract commercial farmers with a fixed price and invest K10 billion for them to grow 5 million tonnes of maize which Government will buy for reserves and Admarc spending a total of K20 billion for the exercise.
For the remaining K30 billion, I would use K3.5 billion to create 300 earth dams for small scale fishing and irrigation, that is at least 2 in every constituency for a start. Use an extra K3 billion for new irrigation system for flood prone Lower shire, Karonga and Salima and hunger dry areas of Balaka to grow cotton, rice and other hot temperatures crops. Maize will be grown when the flood risk is low using irrigation.
The remaining K20 billion can be a new fund for farmers to borrow fertiliser and repay in a season suing cooperative structure.
I am sure within the K60 billion we spend we can produce more maize and other crops, fish and most importantly engage millions of Malawians in real economic activities.
It will be up to the Trade Ministry and companies to find markets for produce, while graduates with specific skills in packaging and processing can set up industries supported by the funds to value add the crops for export market.
We can open Malawi as Africa's financial and IT services centres, expand and training more young people in all sectors and skills and in 20 years, we should be talking of flying to the moon using own built techonology.
Malawi has, like the rest of Africa, capacity to change its course and destination with a 50-50 relationship with the so called donors.
The IMF and World Bank should equally re-shape their focus into skills development programmes for developing countries for Africa to tap and maximise its new found wealth.
Finally, the good thing out of the cashgate is that for the first time we are all vigilant on Government resources. Nobody I can say will be able to dip into coffers the way they did with impunity. Thanks in part for the political will demonstrated in dealing and opening up the process.
With such an opportunity means the 30 percent we lost due to theft of national revenues is now plugged.
If we can retain 30 percent, it means the donors 40 percent now only 40 percent remains. We can cut some of the useless luxuries we give to the top 100 of the Civil Services and recoup the 10 percent.
It is possible to change the way we do business in Malawi after 50 years and start refocusing our energies to become a competitive economy harnessing the God given beauty and peace with fertile soils and hardworking people.
I agree a better Malawi is possible in the next five decades!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Why is everybody holding information

Everyone has been left with one question, is it really true nobody knows where the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 is? The answer is yes and no.
Yes to the fact that the civilian population really does not know where the plane disappeared to. The NO is that the military establishments of United States of America, China and others like Vietnam, Philippines, India and possibly Turkey and Israel they have an idea or possible location of the plane.
The whole razzmatazz is about politics and intelligence. The Malaysian Government will not survive long, confidence will wane and more importantly its image has shaken to the core. They have to democratize quick enough to restore the confidence of its own population. Thats the real cost to Malaysia.
But what about the other countries?
The challenge is that the area is of vital political, military and intelligence interests to all major powers.
It was the scene of the World Wars, Vietnam war and eventually the Cold War!
Who wants to reveal their military, intelligence and other assests.
There are 634 air strips across the area, there are many more hidden equipment of spying or intelligence gathering in the area.
No wonder the plane cannot be found, it might have landed on a wrong airstrip!
Someone I am sure knows where it is but cant say where for fear of upsetting their friends and foes.
This week I am sure it will be found, likely as a wreckage though I pray for the best!
Politics remains the real reason the plane has not been found!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Violence has no place in our democracy

Once upon a time,we all looked at United Democratic Front as a party of terror. Stories of late Luke Hara's Mercedes targeting Brown Mpinganjira, of Gwanda Chakuamba and Dr. Hetherwick Ntaba running for their dear lives in Kasungu, of late Chief Wimbe taught a few lessons by notorious Zimba, the story of Sheikh Bugidad a target of then Jangiya. The list of violence was never ending. Everyday, a new democratic Malawi saw fear replacing openness and darkness slowly descending that people no longer trusted their politicians, political systems and resorted to silence.
In 2005, on 5th February exactly President Bingu wa Mutharika ditched the UDF, every Malawian celebrated the same. The majority thought the UDF had provided enough lessons to what not to do in a democracy.
When UDF partnered with MCP in the 2009 General elections, it was the "party of rapists and murderers joining the party of death and darkness" according to the late Chakufwa Chihana in 1993. People resorted to DPP fearing the worst of the two parties.
DPP won with one of the overwhelming majority, across tribal, regional or any political power base. Malawians of all walks of life rose above petty splits and gave President Bingu wa Mutharika a vote of confidence to continue his development agenda.
Immediately the second term started, by July 2010, exactly 10 years when Muluzis rule in October 2001 had started detoriating, Malawians were in for a shock.
The list is endless.
The flag was redesigned by one person and shoved across our throats, proclaiming we had developed beyond recognition with  the three buildings in Lilongwe. Section 46 restricting press freedom was hurried. Spooky stories of ghosts at State House saw Journalists arrested.
Then violence began.
Zodiak Station vehicle was burnt, so too were Undule Mwakasungula's offices, yes of course the house of Reverend Sembereka at Balaka, add that to the office of Rafik Hajat's Institute of Policy Interaction in Blantyre.
Journalists were openly intimidates at airports that Mike Chipalasa of BNL had to be accorded State Security after a presidential press conference, then Vice President Joyce Banda came face to face with fatal accident at Kanengo when a mysterious lorry hit her official mercedes benz.
Threats of street fight, proclamations of tit for tat and abuse of Malawi Police Service for political purposes was rife. At one point the Malawi Defence Force was dragged into politics sending them to Mulanje to stop former President Bakili Muluzi from addressing a rally.
Nothing could stop the DPP from holding on to power. Being a journalist everyday meant living in fear, sleeping at different locations. One colleague Phillip Pemba received a direct call of his houses whereabouts in Chilinde. The poor young man black as I am went white as blood drained out his brain.
Then Malawians got tired of the system and took to the streets. of course some of the loud mouths in town went into hiding, many simply failed to come.
But at Biwi, on July 20, 2011, perhaps Malawi's most violent day in our democracy, I came face to face with a group of at least 3,000 young people. Singing "achoke" and telling everyone within their ear shot, time had come for Malawians to be respected not used as slaves.
The Government response against its own citizens was brutal. We counted 21 dead bodies and many still live with bullets as there is nobody to send them for specialist removal of the life scars. The most painful story from July 20, was not my beating, or the hacking not by people but by Malawi Police Service of peaceful people we had gathered at Lilongwe CCAP and my two colleagues Amos Gumulira and Isaac Kambwiri were hacked by law enforcers. But that is not the story.
The story is that of a young boy Ishmael of Lumbadzi about 11 years, who was at his fathers gardern watering vegetables. When he heard riots, his first instinct was to run back home. He run but he had to cross the main Lumbadzi-Mponela road. He still lives with the bullet and disabled. A gift from President Bingu wa Mutharika and the Malawi Police Force. Nobody remembers this boy and all politicians that pledged mountains to him are yet to deliver anything.
Every morning, this young boy wakes up with a bullet, every pain that comes with it is a reminder that DPP given power is a disaster not to politics, but to even young boys who had nothing to do with politics.
After 20 July, early September morning of the same year, Robert Chasowa who had made deals with several people was found dead. Killed in cold blood, his sin was to speak and be suspected of spreading documents that people never wanted the public to know. Afterwards UDF Presidential candidate Atupele Muluzi's convoy was waylaid and stonned in Thyolo after Bvumbwe area.
The same yesterday 16th March 2014 happened.
Two lives were taken away, one policeman and another citizen. They had a right to life as much as anyone in Malawi.
Peoples will try to find excuses. But something is wrong with the DPP and the party needs to find a formulae to disassociate itself from violence.
Five days to the incident, DPP President candidate Professor Peter Mutharika addressed a rally at Songani in the constituency and home of President Joyce Banda. Nothing happened to his rally or troupes of supporters.
Democracy and Human Rights record of Joyce Banda are rare among our four Presidents so far. She has demonstrated capacity of tolerance not seen a long time in Malawi. Fear today has evaporated that people can call and attack President names. Neither does the ruling party have a monopoly of venues for campaign.
At least this campaign we thought we finally were seeing a tolerant system to democracy.
Not until people had to be killed in the name of politics.
Its time for DPP to purge within its ranks violence perpetrators or the party brings back memories of July 20, Robert Chasowa and adding to its list Superintendent Julius and his colleague.
Parties that kill whether in or outside power should be banned from Malawi, magazi sazoloweleka!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Solving cashgate in a day: Parliament can do that

The cash-gate report is out and analyzing all the stories Malawians will not want to hear anything but who is involved. They have their own theories and gossip-our prime trademark- about what really happened. Its sad that some credible institutions are even resubmitted the same evidence taken from ACB to ACB and claiming to be discoveries.
In a country which strives on conspiracy theories, no amount of legal work, rhetoric or explanation will convince anyone, especially those eagerly waiting to be in State House that anything tangible is being done. The audit was done by a British firm and the results were all coordinated and released by them, nothing seem to have been the case, everyone now is accusing everyone of tampering because the theories are that are circulated by others we tend to believe are not proven.
The amount looted is K6.8 billion (US$15million) much lower than the trumpeted US$100 million the world was meant to believe. Even if I chose the higher K13 billion (US$20 million) there is a huge gap between what we have wanted to believe and the reality on the ground.
However despite all logical thinking, Leader of Opposition has pegged his estimate at around K50 billion (US$65 million or thereabout) The amount is less than what we believe was stolen.
The problem is that whatever is being done, nobody has trust in the next person. Everyone speaking have their own agendas. Look at Civil Society, they want to demonstrate 60 days before elections or really it is strategy of trying to position oneself for future appointments likely to come with May 20, 2014.
Two days ago I wrote about thinking outside the box and Malawians coming to realise that 50 years of our independence have generally been a waste. We have delegated out citizenship responsibility including holding all those we need to account now asking us to praise sing them.
We have colossal leadership failure in CSO's, Government, Politicians and dare to say even the comical Religious leaders who are busy inflaming religious division and milking unsuspecting Malawians in the name of heavens.
I will not even dare to touch the issue of rotting bodies at Kamuzu Central Hospital. Every trip to a Malawian hospital, any hospital leaves me weak and drained emotionally. They are death centres and people getting angry for the dead not the suffering to me smacks hypocrisy. Jesus candidly puts it, let the dead mourn the dead, Malawians should be mourning and fighting for a better healthcare system for the poor that are sick and now waiting death in hospitals. Our anger or holy anger is always misdirected.
Now since we are still a "very very angry nation" over cash-gate, we should accept that cash-gate can no longer be dealt in a normal and usual way.
This applies to all that have wrongly benefited from state coffers, bought public properties at a song and more importantly were paid monies for works not done.
The forensic audit report makes clear who got the money without paying. We cannot continue waiting for courts, which are slow, nor wait for these wrongful billionaires to use the justice systems to circumvent what belongs to Malawians.
My simple proposal is that all parties should agree and rush to convene Parliament while Civil Society should make sure they camp there to see within hours that a new bill "CASH GATE AND ILLEGAL PUBLIC FUNDS PROCEEDS FORFEITURE ACT" enacted.
Lets agree, all those that have stolen from the public have suspended their rights to public recourse of doing things, including fair process of the law. If we blame cashgate for causing the dead at Kamuzu Central, our anger should include that equal and proven amounts stolen from the public purse be pursued immediately.
Now what will this act do:
1. Empower Police, ACB and Justice department to recover all properties, monies and assets from all those paid by Government funds in equal value without any court proceeding.
2. Audit all recipients of public funds including political parties that get funding from Parliament and recover any misuse of funds.
3. Enact a death penalty for anyone caught stealing public funds or life sentences for those abetting and benefiting from stolen funds.
4. Recover all properties accumulated by all public servants from 1994 to date that cannot be backed by any means of incomes sources or business that indicate profitable margins equivalent to period and investments made.
5. All businesses with Government contracts should publish their tax returns, number of contracts held and which Ministries for the period starting from 1999 to date to determine businesses that have milked Malawians through collision with politicians or civil servants.
6. All organisations, including Civil Society and charity groups and aid organisations raising money on behalf of Malawi should declare through published and audited reports on how much is invested in Malawi including the total received each year.
7. Bar all suspected criminals with cases involving Government or public resources from running for a public office to avoid undue political influences in event of winning seats.
8. All businesses owned by politicians or registered in their names or spouses names should be banned from doing business with public institutions.
9. All Presidential and Parliamentary candidates should declare their assets as part of nomination forms presentations and should be published accordingly. The Auditor General should immediately verify all declared items. Any unverified declarations should qualify one for disqualification.
10. All businesses found inflating, colluding or receiving stolen public funds should be de registered and banned from conducting business in Malawi. This should include banks that fail to follow laid procedures.

Lets draft this bill together and we can have our MONEY back by March 10, 2014. It will be a law better than some funny and comic laws we tried to introduce in the past. I know the ill gotten wealth owners will say I am mad, am I? Otherwise nothing will change and come 10 years time, there will be another gate scandal.
In 1995 we had the Secucom scandal, later the Apex and Mercedes scandal, in 2001 we had the K187 million, Education books scandals, Maneb scandals, the final one was the Keza and the K1.7 billion cases then we had the Maybach scandal, then we moved to procurement, bus and Jet acquisitions, then we had Ndata, Waterways and Nsanje Port and Mota donations before we went to MHC and City Council scandals, before crowning it with a K61 billion deceased estate. We now have the cashgate.........wena lets grab our monies and properties back, we will talk democracy on voting.........

Monday, February 24, 2014

Angry and tired politicians; why this years campaign is dull!

There is something wrong and conspicuously unappetizing about the flair, looks and even body language of our politicians. They look angry, very angry and in most cases detached from the same people they are trying to convince to vote for them.
Almost the whole lot of our 11 Presidential candidates for May 20, 2014 lack charisma and warmth that will show us they are human enough to be our leaders. Seriously all image makers should tell our candidates to smile a lot, joke and pretend with their election things will be better.
They look like angry grand fathers and mothers. Ask those that attended rallies this weekend will agree with me, nobody is telling Malawians anything new, just like lack of any good news.
They are so detached some of them will be telling people that there is no maize in Admarc at a rally when a stone throw away maize vendors are angry that over supplied Admarc maize has killed their businesses. Yes maize now is selling at K5000 it never hit the desired and prophecised K15,000.00.
This write up is not about serious issues, its about the depressing manner our candidates are postulating our future, their personal anger and indeed their prophecies of doom.
Malawi will not end with this election, neither have we read all the manifestos to see if the 11 candidates really have a solution to our poor healthcare, poor education, poor farming methods, the closure of Chikangawa forest, looting of public properties and funds, lack of coherent structure to translate knowledge into practical result oriented programmes, thieving politicians and civil servants, dwindling ethical culture, stealing prophets and prophetesses misleading Malawians and reaping them their hard earned money by promising false salvation, absence of real opportunities for the young generation, hey the list is endless.
Now go back and read all the stories from the weekend rallies, only angry words, no manifestos and not even interaction with ordinary citizens.
Our candidates are behaving like the Late Dr. Kamuzu Banda whose only public acceptance of an item from "his people" was the Lion Skin from Inkosi ya Makosi Gomani.
Our leaders dont interact or pretend to listen to the voters, they come to podiums and preach to the voters, tell them they are hungry when they have maize in their home. People want to move out of poverty through proper empowerment mechanism not maize debate for the whole year.
The opposition and governing parties are all engaged in carnival displays of power.
Next rally check how many body guards they have, how they carry "special chairs" for their Honourable behind to sit on.
Come on, when are you engaging with the voters. Like stop talking and allow voters to ask you questions at a roadside. Stop waving from your expensive VXs and say hallo to the kanyenya sellers ask them if they have any ambition and what would they do to move out of poverty.
I am asking our candidates to wear a human face and start speaking like collective entity. Dr Chakwera does that one better only that MCP officials need to find real material for his speeches like "How" things will be done differently than now.
If they want to be human, I would like to see Peter Mutharika drop from his car, dance and greet the youth morale with genuine smile not plastic ones. He should not hide at VIP stiff and always protected as if the next Malawians is full of nsabwe.
Atupele has tried to have a smile and walk, now he needs to engage the people.
Masten JB has managed to lift pail of water, moved into homes, she needs now to further engage Malawians.
Mark Katsonga and the rest are still preaching from podiums like Mutharika.
President Robert Mugabe knows how to move crowds, these dry speeches will tire people from listening to our candidates.
If you want to learn some political humor , even just  a greeting, I suggest you order some from President Bakili Muluzi. Listen but dont copy word by word, you will end up apologizing.
Can we have people pump in some life in our campaign, jokes, creativity and human faced candidates give hope to Malawians that after May 20, there is a bright shining Malawi.
Pano eeish, it seems if some of them wont win, despite that they are 11 and only one will win, Malawi will become something different.
If you want to sale something, you sound positive, hopeful and make your case.
The rhetoric so far has been from Angry, I mean very angry and tired politicians........perhaps the youth are really needed now!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cashgate Report

Many Malawians are dying to know what happened. This report as sanctioned by the National Audit office and presented to Parliament represents one of the most rare cases of transparency on the African continent. Malawi will never have someone still our money again, thanks to the political will of our time:
Follow this link to get scanned report:

Friday, February 21, 2014

2014 and thinking outside the box, why the Youth are the biggest losers despite technological advances

This week I promised a closer scrutiny of the three youthful Presidential ticket candidates and how they meet or fail to meet the aspirations of this generation. What I will never say is if at all they fit the cap. But in the many discourses that I participate within seven days preceding this write up, something interesting happened. WhatApp, a sms free application was being bought off for USD16 billion by Facebook. These two initiatives represent young people thinking outside the box.
It is the story of WhatsApp Co-Founders, both rejected by Facebook years ago that I found stimulating enough as a challenge to our young generation. Sometime back I wrote how the Youth were the biggest losers despite engineering most of the Arab spring revolutions. After each revolution, the old guard were quickly recognized as representatives of the people and not the youth who fought the cause. That is the same reason why the Youth today are demanding the resignation of Libyan Parliament, brought down the new Tunisian Government and in Egypt the turmoil still goes on.
Add Central African Republic, Oil disruptions in Nigeria and the new South Sudan Civil War, it tells you that generation transition is very critical to what Africa and countries like Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe will look like.
When Presidents like Jacob Zuma are booed at public funerals, its time his generation started re-examining whether the country needs the "revolution song of 20 years of age" or need to practically address the issues that are at the heart and core of the needs of South Africans which basically are employment, employment security, equal opportunities and access to public resources by all.
This is what has kept my mind dancing the whole of this week. Does Atupele Muluzi, Sosten Gwengwe and Saulosi Chilima represent anything new to this generation. Will their politics border on castigation, leader worship or really drive policy towards mass empowerment, funding for creativity and growth in the private sector?
Are we not asking too much from the three, whose age range is 35 to 41 to shoulder responsibility of reeducation and re positioning of Malawi to become a competitive or even Silcon Valley of Africa like the way Estonia has done in Europe?
I am a student of history and politics and I have come to conclusion that our politics has failed Malawians. The first 50 years had narrow focus and slowly the transition to democracy only worsened out situation to where Malawians stopped having standards and even confidence in themselves.
I know I am touching a raw nerve but that is the brutal truth we need to serve each other if the next 50 years Malawi will at all be different from the current mess and directionless nation we have become in the past 20 years of democracy.
Lets examine last week first. There was a statement from Soulosi Chilima, the DPP presidential runningmate, his focus was on the old glory of the past. The the Peoples Party presidential running mate Sosten Gwengwe launched a motor- cycle Kabaza in Lirangwe and Atupele Muluzi the UDF presidential candidate addressed rallies with nothing really new on the table. All these in the next 20 years will be part of influential thought leaders of Malawi and their beliefs sound more of the same that has got Malawi to where we are.
The lets shift to the Civil Society. Two groups addressed press briefings. The main speakers at one were people like Leon Matanda and Habiba Osman who are young people whom I hold in high esteem and have worked with them at various foras, and on the other there was again my comrades in Youth work Fryson Chodzi, Bright Kampaundi and Fred Kadammanja who once carried authority and bulled everyone who would stifle youth voice.
Unfortunately the two press conferences dominated by young people had nothing to say about youth bu politics. The Matandas press conference focused on President Joyce Banda resigning or being disqualified for some strange reason they could not speak before presentation of papers and the other by the Chodzi's was on something that the DPP is aware of cashgate or something closer to it happening during its reign.
These, include Chilima, Gwengwe and Atupele represent the next generation of thought leaders for Malawi.
I am ashamed that with the last week activities, I would not think the youth of Malawi will represent anything change but more of the same now. They have absolutely no idea that as we finish 50 years of our independence, we need to move outside the box and start addressing real issues.
I was going to be happy if the two press conferences by the "partisan Civil Society" was demanding a signed moral declaration from all Presidential Candidates to do the following should Malawians trust them with power on May 20, 2014:
-If above Government retirement age of 60 to serve only one term and allow democratic succession within the party.
-Voluntary declaration of assets and publishing their assets in at least two most read newspapers at the start and end of their terms.
-Enactment of the 2008 constitution as reviewed by the Law Commission within three months in power.
-Voluntary commitment to have 20 Ministers without deputies
-Voluntary commitment to allow all criminal cases on cash-gate, constitutional and other challenges be prosecuted to the end without being dropped.
-Publishing of all tax returns, contracts and business related to office bearers like President, Cabinet and Members of Parliament
-Freeze in salary increments for President, Cabinet, Members of Parliament and Principal Secretaries  for five years
-Commitment to avoid nepotism, giving business to party aligned officials etc.
These are the few but crucial areas I would expect a Civil Society to be advocating towards an election where all candidates pretend to be democrats and listening persons until they assume office at State House.
But alas! Civil Society is speaking as Nicholas Dausi describes them, "Barking dogs" for parties than anything worthy for Malawians.
The problem of everyone talking politics and thinking is a solution to all Malawi woes is deep rooted. Commentators whom I admire like Henry Kachaje postings on social media are more political nowadays than inspiring thoughts he was trademarked with. Even Prophets in Malawi are now without a shame "prophesying" outcomes of elections that the ridiculousness of the whole comedy has reached its peak that all the 11 Presidential candidates have been told they will win, when simple logic tells you only one winner will be President come May 21.
Reverend Zac Kawalala postings on Facebook are now political, that its now difficult to separate Magede Si Wandale, Pato Phoya, Taonga Botolo, Humphrey Mhango, Chancy Mtambo, Suleman Chitera, Malenga Chienda, Ackson Kalaile Banda our politicians on FB from some men and women I thought were thought leaders for Malawi.
Not only religious leaders, businessmen and women like George Mnesa, Mark Katsonga and Helen Singh have all joined politics and trying to make a buck there, everyone else seem to think politics and becoming a politician is a solution to Malawi's problems.
The catch word is youth and politics. 
Malawians have abdicated their thinking roles and participation responsibility and now all we talk is politics.
Politics and politicians has failed Malawians for the last half a century, but the amazing speed at which everyone wants to quit their jobs and become a Councillor or member of parliament.
The sad part may be only five to ten percent of them really know what to be a Councillor or  Member of Parliament is. Many are promising their stooges jobs in Government and I know of opposition Presidential campaign team members who have already shared position. One has even said he will personally make sure he gets my job. I have laughed just as felt sad on the vision of this so called "New Generation."
But when I argue that Malawians can think outside politics, stop blaming Government for the lost 50 years and start looking at how we can change, I always find everyone trying to convince me that we are a hopeless people that only Government can solve the mess.
Today I want to start looking back at our nation and its people. How they thought outside the box and how some of them were finished by politics. The biggest lesson I want us to critically examine is that politics is not a solution and equally while Government can play a critical role, it is us, US AS MALAWIANS that we can change our country.
Malawians have to stop suspending their responsibility to to develop their country.
I will start with the past.
Malawi's past gives you plenty of lessons of people who worked hard and made it without Government. The first person was Chester Katsonga the father of Mark Katsonga and Davies Katsonga. He built the Lingadzi Inn and another place at 5 miles in Zomba. Of course politics was the cause of his demise and end.
We have Dr. Desmond Phiri, a very proud thought leader and writer self educated through correspondence at University of London. Today you have millionaires who cannot study part time because they are busy attending political party rallies or cases. Knowledge is power, even when you have billions of kwacha you might need some new thinking to stay and match the ever changing world.
These are self made Malawians, ambitious and grew their business outside politics. Many were finished when they attempted politics.
We had Mr. Chinsima who onwed Kudya properties, we had a cinema at Soche and  a Hotel, a Lodge at Liwonde called Discovery Lodge and another at Balaka. He owned the land from Naperi river up to St Pius Church and used it productively without politics attached. He created employment, business opportunities for suppliers and provided for hundreds. This is a Malawian worth emulating. His demise saw an end to an empire.
We had great men in Blantyre like Malenga's of Tuwiche bus service, Muluzi shared Jakumusi, James Makhumula of Yanu Yanu Transport, Mr. Damba of Mwanza Hotel and Damba transport, Mr. Kansawa of Tikumbe Limited.
These were Malawians that dared and went into investing and being productive without waiting for politics to change their course of life.
We had many people trekking to South Africa including Dr. Kamuzu Banda where they were educated and many returned and invested in Malawi.
We have Mr. Khondowe of Kang'ombe Investments, Mr. Gondwe of Ufulu Gardens, the Late Sauzande, the Late Chenda Mkandawire, Late Mzumachalo, Albert Kamulaga, Asedi's the owners of Shire Highlands, Kambiri and Boadzulu, the owners of Wankulu, Blue Bird Motel, the Kalinos, Zodiak Broadcasting Corporation, Capital Radio, Power 101, the Phekanis of Chitawira supermarket, the owners of Iponga, the Kaphukas', Jesmans of Ntcheu, mining areas.
No the list of Malawians that have done well outside any political affiliation is amazingly high that a few, about 50 Ministers each Presidential circle and party cronies.
Young Malawians can start setting up goals and trying to find solutions that staying on computer late each night on Facebook working as stoogies of politicians.
University dons should not be embarrassed like John Chisi having to be rejected by Electoral Commission when they can attract millions of dollars for research into our colleges.
Knowledge translation programmes from Research centres should be the focus of the Ministries and private sectors if Malawi will change and transform.
Government, should no longer provide subsidized fertilizers but adopt a model that if one is given inputs this year, he should repay some of it with the crop or cash to buy another set of inputs at 20, 40, 50, then 100 percent price for successive five year graduation period.
The culture of handouts, Malawians should start accepting that we cannot afford free healthcare, free education, free inputs when we can afford to buy chinese dumps like toothpicks, drink anything from sachets to kachaso via spirits and greens.
The most rich and profit making companies are Mobile Phone, Chinese and Micro loans programmes.
In less than 10 years almost 5 million Malawians have mobile phones despite their poverty status. Each buy as litllte as K30 airtime each day "just to greet" their friends. The handsets costs money and mantaining them is costly. The only winners are the phone companies.
When Malawians claim they are too poor to pay for a small hospital fees that could be used to replenish aspirin, you would be shocked the "very poor" after using a free ambulance to Kamuzu Central, Queen Elizabeth or Mzuzu Central, they do shopping from air time to scary looking hair wigs that have no value at all to their lives.
Cosmetics which are skin burning turning our once dark chocolate ladies to chameleon brown and red skins, hair wigs known as mesh, cheap macaroni and spaghetti, cheap slippers and shoes are all hall marks of our markets in Mzuzu and Lilongwe and the shops by Nigerians, Burundis and Chinese continue to be fully stocked while we wonder where our foreign exchange disappears to.
Everything is traded mainly by foreigners as Malawians with money fail to think outside the box and start trading and competing the way Zambians, Tanzanians and Mozambicans do.
Start a tailoring, thats where everyone will end up in the neighborhood. Start a taxi at car rank, everyone will stop thinking of anything, open a bottlestore, 20 will come up and push each other down, start going to Dar es salaam to import things or Johannesburg the next bus will be full of copycats who will just sink their capitals borrowed from Blue or any other authorised loan sharks.
Teachers in rural areas go to dance or do politics than having their free hours in he afternoon developing farms that can transform them.
Those that find a two million will spend it importing car and get a profit of K200,000 in four months yet with green beans you can make K400,000 during the same period at lower production costs.
Asians are breeding chickens, with one company selling 7 million chickens a weak which fetches around 1.5 billion cash from our kanyenya, restaurants and home buyers, include eggs, zipalapasilo and animal feed, you are talking billions from the same class of people whom you call poor and living hand to mouth.
Malawians are poor because we have told them so and continue giving them handouts.
The biggest challenge of this generation of Malawians is to stop thinking like 1964 where we blamed white people, now transfered to Government and start thinking outside the box and develop ones ambition step by step.
There is very strange fear among young people to start up anything. Many think trekking to Johannesburg or Ireland is the easiest solution. I have come to those that do so, they learn basic principle of life. You have to be focused, disciplined and work hard to earn a living.
Youth like Chilima, Gwengwe and Atupele should stop thinking and promising paradise but challenge young people to seize billions of opportunities that do not need Government for one to benefit.
If the next 50 years of Malawi have to rewrite our miserable past, we should all stop looking at politics as a solution and all of us rushing to join it. Lets look at our capacities to develop.
This week I will end with three of my closest friends who graduated at Poly, Chancol and Bunda round 2007. All of them went looking for jobs. The Poly graduate went into teaching in Government, after a few years joined a well paying private school where he still is. He lives with his family because he claims cannot afford a decent house, he is waiting for a dream job. His parents rose through ranks at their work place, we used to live together in Zingwangwa, Kudya before we went to Namiwawa. He has all latest gadgets but no heart to take a risk to be independent when he earns more than an average Malawian.
The second from Chancol we grew up together in Area 18 he still lives with his family too. He could not go into teaching because it is for losers. He stayed two years no work, now he works at Airtel Call Centre for a miserable K45,000 a month. He has the latest phones on loan, drinks with big shots from collage, and to me has no idea when he will be independent.
The Bunda graduate went into teaching at Private school later at Mitundu Secondary School. His earnings are around K76,000. He bought some land, used his skill grew maize, beans and soya. He made K500,000 first year. He expanded his land along Blantyre road to include a dimba. He made his first million in 2009. He now has five dams, all year round production of green maize, sugarcane, irish potato and a quarter he rakes in average of K3 million. He stopped working, he is building his house near Nanjiri.
These are the three close friends and graduates of our college.
The sad part, is that the first two represent the majority of us today. We work and work and work, thinking only of cars, gadgets and appearance. There are few who are taking the risk with much less income than us and are making it out there.
My friend at NBS bank was posted to Mponela, he told me this year he has started farming feeling he missed the boat in town, buy taking a loan to buy a car instead of investing in something worth while.
It does not need a Government for me to sale my produce or my ideas. It takes me, only me to decide my destiny.
Dr. Chinkhuta of Freedom Farms, a mere farmer showed us with organic fertiliser, irrigation and with no academic papers. William Kankwamba from Kasungu harnessed the wind from his own ideas.
Malawi to me is a land of opportunities, I have stopped talking politics. I have had enough of expectations rising up and down. I now believe the next 50 years belong to how this generation defines itself.
We can follow more of the same path, or we can change.
Since I picked my new job, I have had 19 requests from colleagues, family and friends. One wants a loan to buy tobacco because he saw his neighbor has done it. Two ladies, only two ladies want laptops to help in their education,the rest of the breakdown is 1 Xbox game consul worth K500,000, 6 Iphone 5s worth K2.4 million, 5 tablets worth K1 million, smart phones, timberland and some money simply for drinking.
Such requests, save for the laptops make me sad. Even if Jesus Christ was a President, a culture of handouts is entrenched. Lack of priorities we accuse Government and politicians is much in us. Lack of personal vision and goals looks like our national pride.
For Malawi to change, lets stop talking or joining politics for once, lets start working within our families, communities and areas, from there we will be able to demand services, accountability and better leadership from our politicians.
I dare all Presidential candidates to immediately allocate 20 percent of their campaign funds to small revolving loans for youth and women instead of asking them to wriggle and paint themselves for you.
Malawi watsopano, wopanda ndale, ndiwotheka..........
This debate has been enriched by Mtheto Lungu, Kondwanie Chirembo, Chancy Mtambo, Dennis Imaan, Fungati Ntintha, Betcherani Tchereni Mbuya, Zalimba Khanje, Tarsizio Malumbo Ngoma, Kondwani Farazi Chikadza, Verson Maseko, Ignasio Walinase, Elias Nyirenda, My own Uncle and sparing partner Timothy Nundwe, Aleke Mphasi,  my dear brother Kondwani Banda and Mcleod Chimulenje who I hope will agree that we can develop by leaving Government from our priority thinking. If you have more ideas lets argue email me at I will post as many ideas as possible. Malawi at 50 should be our priority now!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Malawi Elections 2014: Big losers and Intra party democracy

Well the week’s carnival is over, so too is our sheer love of pomposity, gluttony and admission that our politics need a lot of fresh thinking. I wrote somewhere how the opposition keep criticising Government wastefulness on Presidential convoys and ferrying of people, and this week, they fell right into the same trap. I have very little optimism of seeing these blitz loving leaders changing, if at all they make it to State House.
Gwanda Chakuamba as Minister of Agriculture in 2005 spent K10 million of a BMW X5 and when chided that Malawi was experiencing food shortage he answered bluntly: “Even if you asked Kamuzu, that’s the car I love, a BMW” later there was an attempted purchase of May Bach and finally a jet, whose controversies seem not to die, even when it is no longer in our possession.
Dr. Bakili Muluzi left us many vocabulary to last a century, one of it is that the opposition first agenda is to go into State House, look at speeches made by celebrated new comers, they seem to make the former president look like a prophet of politicians.
Enough of the past, let’s look at this week for starters. Since everyone has presented nominations papers, I will start with big losers this week. Next week we will look at pairs, in March we will examine manifestos and in April we will analyse the campaign period, in May we will do constituency by constituency predictions before we vote. In June we will review the electoral process.
Of course this is a fantasy outline of this blog, I have two exams in May to prepare, voting and full time job, so I need to re-work my life time table to ensure that I am available to fulfil all the commitments.
Let me welcome in a special way Mr. Atupele Muluzi, Mr. Sosten Gwengwe and Mr. Soulosi Chilima to the new scrutiny platforms. We will deal with the question of youth participation versus ma Cadet, Morale or Young Democrats or Young Patriots and their exclusive ideas of youth empowerment.
It is funny how our politics plays out, after noticing how Atupele was drawing youth crowds, every major party is rebranding from being gender sensitive to Youth-Friendly, as a youth worker, we welcome the drastic in change, by other parties, though it confirms our lack of ideology. Next time a Bishop of Catholic Church runs, hope we won’t see defection to the Catholic Church by all parties. Anyway we gained as Youth.
Now who are the big losers?
Of course the biggest loser of the week is Malawi’s State Vice President Right Honourable Khumbo Kachali, who has been left out as runningmate by President Joyce Banda and her Peoples Party. The others in Peoples Party include Honourable Uladi Mussa, Honourable Henry Phoya, Honourable Brown Mpinganjira and Honourable Chris Daza who were speculated to have been possible candidates. I am reluctant to add Honourable Fahad Assani because he is only new in mainstream politics as having been known mainly in legal circles.
The other is Honourable Ken Kandodo who was a subject of gossip caught on tape by one presidential candidate alongside Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda that they were unsuitable material. Remember the MIJ reporter who went into hiding?
Do I blame the President? That’s the question this article will seriously tackle.
Before we talk of Peoples Party, lets add the Democratic Progressive Party. DPP President unlike President Joyce Banda opted for an outsider, outside his National Executive in the name of Saulosi Chilima. The losers in the DPP include Vice Presidents Dr. Hetherwick Ntaba, Nick Masebo and Yunus Mussa. Others are Secretary General Jean Kalirani (the only powerful woman outside the circle) , Goodall Gondwe and Henry Mussa. They have been singled out because they were mentioned as possible runningmates in the media and social media at large. How they react after Chilima came is not part of this article.
But you see in 2009, Late President Bingu wa Mutharika opted for Dr. Joyce Banda leaving people like Goodall Gondwe and Henry Chimunthu Banda who were being touted in the media and public circles. The same happened to the then State Vice President Dr. Justin Chimera Malewezi, late Aleke Banda, Mr. Harry Thomson, Mr. Sam Mpasu and Mr. Friday Jumbe in 2003, when President Bakili Muluzi opted for Late Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika, an outsider to lead the UDF.
UDF President Atupele Muluzi has equally dumped his unknown Vice Presidents who include Iqbal Omar, Mr. Chituwo and a Mrs Mponela and Secretary General Kandi Padambo, and opted for Dr. Godfrey Chapola, who has not been an active politician elsewhere.
The trend continues. The Malawi Congress Party provides lessons on intra party democracy, electing right Vice Presidents at convention and the power of the National Executive over their leaders if Malawian parties will move from being personal properties of their leaders to democratic institutions.
However two casualties in the Malawi Congress Party are Retired Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo and Mr. Jodder Kanjere.
The other two losers outside the political parties are Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda who was forced to make a tactical withdraw after failing to find a platform to enhance his political ambition and the same fate that former Transport and Public Works Minister Mohammed Sidik Mia faced after dumping the Peoples Party.
The failure by Right Honourable Chimunthu Banda who became 50 years last year was the final blow that only one of the three branches of Government will appear on the Presidential ballot in 2014. Chimunthu Banda is the head of Legislature, a very influential political platform while Retired Chief Justice Munlo was the head of Judiciary until 2013.
That leaves only President Joyce Banda as a Head of the Executive and former deputy since 2009 to have tactfully played her political cards and claim the top prize. It is however sad we could have measured the power of Executive, Parliament and Judiciary over Malawian population had the three stood as candidates and running mates. A delayed lesson for our political scientists.
Who is to blame? Now that we have this background dating as far as 2001 when people like Brown Mpinganjira were forced out of UDF to from the National Democratic Alliance for opposing Muluzis third term.
Is it coincidence that Vice Presidents in Malawi rarely last to the next election and cannot go up the ladder save for Dr. Joyce Banda’s unique circumstances? Will the young ones survive the turbulence or will they be dumped at next election?
There is a political lesson to be learnt that in 2019 we should not see angry people, shunning public events for being left out nor resigning from their parties in a haste if they have never to make it on the ticket.
It is important to start in 1999, soon after Dr. Bakili Muluzi won his second term.
Dr. Muluzi by the time he won, the UDF face had radically shifted from founders to new comers. Strong characters who started UDF like Sheikh Shaibu Itimu, Mr Edward Bwanali, Dr.Collins Chizumila, Professor Alufeyo Chilibvumbo and others had died. People like Arthur Makhalira had lost in Zomba, only praise singers remained and had gained power include Late Dr. Dumbo Lemani, Davies Kapito nd others.
Late Aleke Banda was shifted from the powerful Ministry of Finance to Agriculture and later Health, Brown Mpinganjira was being accused of setting parallel structures while delegation to Vice President Malewezi was limited cartoon activities of opening workshops and attending funerals on behalf of the President. One should have wondered why we needed the office after 1999.
However as much as everyone in UDF was aware than Dr. Muluzi was setting himself for  a third term, Mpnganjira, Lemani, Speaker Sam Mpasu, Finance Minister Friday Jumbe and all others failed to form a United front and force a declaration from their President that he will respect the UDF constitution and retire. Even gurus like Malewezi and Aleke Banda were quite in their silence.
The fall of Brown Mpinganjira in December 2001 alongside Peter Chupa and Dr. Cassim Chilumpha, the open fight with Mpasu in Parliament indicated the greed among most of our senior politicians. Quickly they ganged together and fought BJ until he was ousted.
The political joke was they were still too many left. Malewezi, Aleke , Mpasu, Thomson and even Lemani among others, all hoping to succeed Muluzi.
When he pulled a third joker, they loved their positions more than Malawi and by now Muluzi had a good spokesperson Speaker Davis Katsonga to do his biding in Parliament. Even when Malawians cried against the UDF young democrats and the third term, all senor Ministers in UDF pretended they never heard it.
In the end it was Reverend Daniel Gunya, Father Constantine Kaswaya of PAC and Anglican, Reverend Peter Kaleso sacked from Cabinet for opposing the third term, Dr. Cassim Chilumpha and Jan Jap Sonke who moved and joined a coalition led by Opposition parties including Chakuamba, BJ and others to oppose the third term.
In other words people like Aleke, Malewezi, Jumbe, Mpasu and others waited Malawians to fight on their behalf. Well MCP was split and Aford went further to even move a motion for third term.
Muluzi did a kamikaze on all their political lives, he opted for an outsider Bingu and paired him with the rebel Chilumpha. It was a classic political comedy as people left UDF in a hurry to look for new platforms, suddenly being aware of UDF evils when they could not speak weeks before thinking they will be the chosen one.
This is a classic example of how most of our politicians have found themselves left out even today.
Fast forward to Bingu, by 2009 Cabinet Ministers were busy gossiping each other to Bingu than building solid political bases. Joyce Banda managed to get grassroots poplar bills like Wills and Inheritance Bill, sealed the Chinese deal and earned praise on her charity work, others went to report each other daily and were nowhere near public causes.
Of course the gossip between 2005 to 2009 included reports to Bingu of Ministers such as Ken Lipenga, Henry Phoya and others being sighted at Bakili Muluzi’s BCA house. How these other Ministers spotted others has always been a source of fun in my mind, they themselves might have been hiding in Muluzis bedroom when these other Ministers arrived. That’s the only explanation I would give to any question of myself being sighted at some strange place.
Bingu opted for a popular name and face among the poor. They cried. I don’t remember who resigned but many failed in their elections.
Dr. Joyce Banda only enjoyed her term for a year, then they were back the gossipers, a bridge was quickly build and two people JB and Khumbo Kachali were isolated. The battle lines were drawn when Peter Mutharika was pushed to the front and finally when Bingu married Callista, hell broke loose for then Vice President.
The Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda could have made history if he spoke against abuse of a fellow DPP founder, but everyone went quite. And it was Ministers again, insulting her walking difficulties in public, while jostling to become Peter Mutharika’s runningmate.
When the flag was changed, it was Ministers justifying the hollow “we have developed mantra” others jumped and justified advert ban on newspapers, laws such as section 46 targeting the media, injunction bill.
When Malawians were tired sleeping at filling stations, forex shortage, insulting speeches, many of the losers today including the Speaker protected their positions and could not speak with the suffering Malawians. No Malawians do not need leaders who cow down when they are in comfort zone and only speak when they are out.
President Joyce Banda and Atupele Muluzi were the only political faces daring Bingu during his extreme days. Many preferred to keep quite and let Malawians sought their anger.
Transition came, they had no shame of joining the new administration and swallowing their vomit just a week ago.
Today when they cry that they have been left out, send angry social media messages, some of us look at their contribution to mother Malawi.
If our National Executive Committees of all political parties did not specialise on hero worshipping, gossiping and fighting among themselves, they could have approached their party Presidents a month ago and tabled the issue of running mate, lay a criteria and task a special committee to bring up CVs which they can scrutinise and agree upon.
If our perceived politicians want to make it to high position, selfishness and self-destruction mode of gossip and internal fighting should be replaced with open discussion, confrontation and strict internal systems that allows intra-party democracy.
Everybody should be committed to finance, support and develop the parties and speak when Malawians are crying for their leadership. Keeping quiet and hoping Presidents will pick you is not a strategy.
Some went for players on mountain praying and fasting the whole three days, I hope they are not cursing God for being left out. It is lack of intra-party democracy, love of money and selfishness that has seen people being left out since 1999.
Unfortunately, quitting parties is not a right decision now, it is rethinking your strategy, reaching out to more Malawians, developing your political strength through networking, humbleness and being for the people than for the President that one will be able to build his future political base. For those above 50 its time to retire, the running mates this election have shifted one of the qualification to include YOUTH and it will be so until 2034.
The unnecessary fights among those below the Presidents, gossip and selfishness today has cost majority of our experienced politician their progress. We can learn from the past, or we can continue doing nomadic politics of dumping one party to another, and fade like the Alliance for Democracy into a shadow of itself.
I will therefore, not blame therefore Dr. Joyce Banda of PP, Atupele of UDF and Professor Peter Mutharika for their choices. Dr. Chakwera was tabled the running mate issue in their executive and the executive decided. The experienced politicians should come down and start examining their roles in strengthening intra-party democracy before coming down and crying to Malawians. Fighting each other leave strangers to take over your positions! Bitter lesson to all!
Tell Friday Jumbe, Mark Katsonga, George Mnesa, Helen Singh,  James Nyondo, John Chisi and Davies Katsonga if they love Malawi, they should not make the ballot paper unnecessary long, it costs money to print longer than shorter 8 million ballot papers! Can they not learn from Kamuzu Chibambo!
Next Friday: Gwengwe, Chilima and Atupele and the dancing youth at party rallies?

Disclaimer: I am a Malawian citizen with equal rights to comment on my country’s future and opportunities. I believe my compatriots can take into account of such fundamental right before screaming our party loyalties. I write in my personal capacity.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Nelson Mandela's funeral: Barack Obama's speech

To Gra├ža Machel and the Mandela family; to President Zuma and
members of the government; to heads of state and government,
past and present; distinguished guests - it is a singular honor to
be with you today, to celebrate a life unlike any other. To the
people of South Africa - people of every race and walk of life - the
world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us. His
struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph. Your
dignity and hope found expression in his life, and your freedom,
your democracy is his cherished legacy.
It is hard to eulogize any man - to capture in words not just the
facts and the dates that make a life, but the essential truth of a
person - their private joys and sorrows; the quiet moments and
unique qualities that illuminate someone’s soul. How much
harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation toward
justice, and in the process moved billions around the world.
Born during World War I, far from the corridors of power, a boy
raised herding cattle and tutored by elders of his Thembu tribe -
Madiba would emerge as the last great liberator of the 20th
century. Like Gandhi, he would lead a resistance movement - a
movement that at its start held little prospect of success. Like
King, he would give potent voice to the claims of the oppressed,
and the moral necessity of racial justice. He would endure a
brutal imprisonment that began in the time of Kennedy and
Khrushchev, and reached the final days of the Cold War.
Emerging from prison, without force of arms, he would - like
Lincoln - hold his country together when it threatened to break
apart. Like America’s founding fathers, he would erect a
constitutional order to preserve freedom for future generations - a
commitment to democracy and rule of law ratified not only by his
election, but by his willingness to step down from power.
Given the sweep of his life, and the adoration that he so rightly
earned, it is tempting then to remember Nelson Mandela as an
icon, smiling and serene, detached from the tawdry affairs of
lesser men. But Madiba himself strongly resisted such a lifeless
portrait. Instead, he insisted on sharing with us his doubts and
fears; his miscalculations along with his victories. “I’m not a
saint,” he said, “unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps
on trying.”
It was precisely because he could admit to imperfection - because
he could be so full of good humor, even mischief, despite the
heavy burdens he carried - that we loved him so. He was not a
bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh and blood - a son
and husband, a father and a friend. That is why we learned so
much from him; that is why we can learn from him still. For
nothing he achieved was inevitable. In the arc of his life, we see
a man who earned his place in history through struggle and
shrewdness; persistence and faith. He tells us what’s possible
not just in the pages of dusty history books, but in our own lives
as well.
Mandela showed us the power of action; of taking risks on behalf
of our ideals. Perhaps Madiba was right that he inherited, “a
proud rebelliousness, a stubborn sense of fairness” from his
father. Certainly he shared with millions of black and colored
South Africans the anger born of, “a thousand slights, a thousand
indignities, a thousand unremembered moments…a desire to fight
the system that imprisoned my people.”
But like other early giants of the ANC - the Sisulus and Tambos -
Madiba disciplined his anger; and channeled his desire to fight
into organization, and platforms, and strategies for action, so men
and women could stand-up for their dignity. Moreover, he
accepted the consequences of his actions, knowing that standing
up to powerful interests and injustice carries a price. “I have
fought against white domination and I have fought against black
domination,” he said at his 1964 trial. “I’ve cherished the ideal of
a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in
harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope
to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I
am prepared to die.”
Mandela taught us the power of action, but also ideas; the
importance of reason and arguments; the need to study not only
those you agree with, but those who you don’t. He understood
that ideas cannot be contained by prison walls, or extinguished by
a sniper’s bullet. He turned his trial into an indictment of
apartheid because of his eloquence and passion, but also his
training as an advocate. He used decades in prison to sharpen
his arguments, but also to spread his thirst for knowledge to
others in the movement. And he learned the language and
customs of his oppressor so that one day he might better convey
to them how their own freedom depended upon his.
Mandela demonstrated that action and ideas are not enough; no
matter how right, they must be chiseled into laws and institutions.
He was practical, testing his beliefs against the hard surface of
circumstance and history. On core principles he was unyielding,
which is why he could rebuff offers of conditional release,
reminding the Apartheid regime that, “prisoners cannot enter into
contracts.” But as he showed in painstaking negotiations to
transfer power and draft new laws, he was not afraid to
compromise for the sake of a larger goal. And because he was
not only a leader of a movement, but a skillful politician, the
Constitution that emerged was worthy of this multiracial
democracy; true to his vision of laws that protect minority as well
as majority rights, and the precious freedoms of every South
Finally, Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit.
There is a word in South Africa- Ubuntu - that describes his
greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in
ways that can be invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to
humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with
others, and caring for those around us. We can never know how
much of this was innate in him, or how much of was shaped and
burnished in a dark, solitary cell. But we remember the gestures,
large and small - introducing his jailors as honored guests at his
inauguration; taking the pitch in a Springbok uniform; turning his
family’s heartbreak into a call to confront HIV/AIDS - that revealed
the depth of his empathy and understanding. He not only
embodied Ubuntu; he taught millions to find that truth within
themselves. It took a man like Madiba to free not just the
prisoner, but the jailor as well; to show that you must trust others
so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a
matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with
inclusion, generosity and truth. He changed laws, but also hearts.
For the people of South Africa, for those he inspired around the
globe - Madiba’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time
to celebrate his heroic life. But I believe it should also prompt in
each of us a time for self-reflection. With honesty, regardless of
our station or circumstance, we must ask: how well have I
applied his lessons in my own life?
It is a question I ask myself - as a man and as a President. We
know that like South Africa, the United States had to overcome
centuries of racial subjugation. As was true here, it took the
sacrifice of countless people - known and unknown - to see the
dawn of a new day. Michelle and I are the beneficiaries of that
struggle. But in America and South Africa, and countries around
the globe, we cannot allow our progress to cloud the fact that our
work is not done. The struggles that follow the victory of formal
equality and universal franchise may not be as filled with drama
and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less
important. For around the world today, we still see children
suffering from hunger, and disease; run-down schools, and few
prospects for the future. Around the world today, men and women
are still imprisoned for their political beliefs; and are still
persecuted for what they look like, or how they worship, or who
they love.
We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on
behalf of peace. There are too many of us who happily embrace
Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist
even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and
growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim
solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate
dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us who
stand on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism
when our voices must be heard.
The questions we face today - how to promote equality and
justice; to uphold freedom and human rights; to end conflict and
sectarian war - do not have easy answers. But there were no
easy answers in front of that child in Qunu. Nelson Mandela
reminds us that it always seems impossible until it is done. South
Africa shows us that is true. South Africa shows us we can
change. We can choose to live in a world defined not by our
differences, but by our common hopes. We can choose a world
defined not by conflict, but by peace and justice and opportunity.
We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. But let me
say to the young people of Africa, and young people around the
world - you can make his life’s work your own. Over thirty years
ago, while still a student, I learned of Mandela and the struggles
in this land. It stirred something in me. It woke me up to my
responsibilities - to others, and to myself - and set me on an
improbable journey that finds me here today. And while I will
always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be
better. He speaks to what is best inside us. After this great
liberator is laid to rest; when we have returned to our cities and
villages, and rejoined our daily routines, let us search then for his
strength - for his largeness of spirit - somewhere inside
ourselves. And when the night grows dark, when injustice weighs
heavy on our hearts, or our best laid plans seem beyond our
reach - think of Madiba, and the words that brought him comfort
within the four walls of a cell:
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
What a great soul it was. We will miss him deeply. May God
bless the memory of Nelson Mandela. May God bless the people
of South Africa.