Government hides the truth


If you go to one demonstration and then go home, that's something, but the people in power can live with that. What they can't live with is sustained pressure that keeps building, organisations that keep doing things, people that keep learning lessons from the last time and doing it better the next time.
Noam Chomsky

Power is a drug on which the politicians are hooked. They buy it from the voters, using the voters' own money.
Peter Newman

Mhlako

Mhlako
The Mhlako Triumvirate

Monday, May 16, 2011

ARE ALL OUR PRESIDENTS THIEVES? PATRONAGE, AND PREFERMENT - UPDATE

PREFERMENT BY MALAWI COMMUNICATIONS REGULATORY AUTHORITY (macra)
A FOUL STINK AT MACRA

Only three days after I posted the main item below a clear indication of what I had been highlighting has been given by MACRA's handling of the latest licence issued to Celcom (100% owned by Mulli Brothers).

The new 'home-boy' business has been given special licence terms that put them in a more favoured position than the existing telecomms operators. According to a report in yesterday's Sunday Times, the four existing licence holders have questioned MACRA's actions and are demanding that they be given similar terms and conditions.

Should the new company go ahead and operate under such favoured conditions I will campaign for a boycott of their services. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

ARE ALL OUR PRESIDENTS THIEVES? PATRONAGE, AND PREFERMENT

APOLOGIES FOR MY LONG ABSENCE!
My apologies for a long absence, I have been fighting pain for a few months and sitting down to write anything requiring thought and time has been too much for me.

ARE ALL OUR PRESIDENTS THIEVES? PATRONAGE ANDPREFERMENT

In politics perceptions are all-important. The voting public decides on the basis of probability and incomplete information that any unusual increase in the apparent wealth of powerful officials, their family, close associates or apparent business partners is the result of the illegal or dubious abuse of office or criminal activity. The constitutional provisions for the President and other officials and their spouses to declare their assets, liabilities and business interests and to place their affairs in a beneficial trust have had no practical effect. These declarations, if made, have not been made public. They have not been subject to audit or other competent professional verification process. There have been no penalties for non-submission, late submission or non-compliance. With such a scenario our Presidents may be tempted to believe that they will be able to acquire wealth while in office without any subsequent scrutiny.

Naturally, high officials, especially presidents, find it easy to recruit established businesses with unscrupulous owners to assist them in the unfair acquisition of wealth. We perceive that there are many indications that this actually happened during Muluzi’s presidency.

During the latter days of his presidency, I publicly questioned the source of his apparent new-found wealth. I had been close to him in the struggle for the change to multi-party democracy. I was well aware that his business affairs could not be classified as flourishing. His trucks and buses were non-runners. Granted, he had a sugar distributorship and a well-established tobacco farm but, I guess, they were not prospering to the extent that he could live the sort of expensive life-style that he was able to display after his accession to the presidency. We have seen how, soon after he stepped down, his ‘investment’ in Keza House went sour.

When President Muluzi was in office it was an open secret that the Kalarias in Lilongwe were his close business associates and that their business interests were quite diverse. I was interested to learn from a recent report in the press that there is now a dispute between the Kalarias, the former president, and his family members concerning the sale of the ‘Muluzi’ shares to their former co-shareholder. No doubt the courts and the lawyers will be able to resolve the issues. But we will be left with unanswered questions. Were these business interests ever disclosed as required by law? With whose money were the businesses funded? If the Muluzis made any actual investment into the businesses was there sufficient wealth as declared to pay for the shares? If not, what was the consideration for the Kalarias to be persuaded to take on the Muluzis as shareholders? After all, no one gives away their wealth without some easily understood motive. Without a proper answer suspicion must remain that it was the power of presidential patronage and preferment.
We do not have satisfactory answers. The fault lies with us. We appear to accept that each new president will immediately become wealthy and that we have no right to question the process while he is in office. Our media has too small a reach and has poor resources for deep investigative journalism.

We should be aware of what is happening now.

The Mhlako Syndrome – (Mhlako wa Alhomwe – the Lhomwe tribe’s cultural movement now chaired by the President)

The perception is that President Mutharika favours his ‘home boys’. The Governor of the Reserve Bank, the Secretary to the Treasury, the Inspector General of Police, the Chief Justice, the head of the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB), the Postmaster General and the Chief Executive of the City of Blantyre  (to mention just  a few) are all fellow tribes-people. I do not imply that any of them are unfit for their posts or that they would compromise themselves in any scheme to defraud the nation. But what is happening?

Another home boy, a certain Mr. Mulli via his business, Mulli Brothers, seems to be in a prime and favoured position in the acquisition of assets or in other businesses where government has a hand. Many, many months ago we heard that Mulli Brothers had purchased the former Bestobell premises on Bakili Muluzi Highway, Blantyre to be the headquarters of the next phone operator yet to be licensed by the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA). It came as no surprise to read in the press this week that the licence had been granted after proper assessment of competing bids by MACRA to Celcom, a new telecoms company 100% owned by the Mulli Brothers. Who else did we expect it to be?.

Proud Malawians may be happy to see more investment by local companies rather than foreign. Unfortunately, the undisclosed Cabinet policy of ‘empowerment’ seems to empower only one company! There is no suggestion that shares will be made available at any time on the stock market – a way to truly empower a broader spectrum of the populace.

I have not been keeping notes but I seem to recollect that the following businesses have been acquired by Mulli Brothers:
  • Chitakale Tea Estate
  • Malawi Tea Company
  • Chombe Tea Estate
  • National Bus Company
Mulli Brothers have been in business for some years in transport, produce buying and export. But for a company to make so many acquisitions in such a short time generally requires a large amount of credit. We expect that cash inflows from existing businesses could not have generated sufficient surplus for such large acquisitions or for the establishment of new businesses.

In a statement credited to Mr. Mulli in the news report the new phone business will require an investment of K42 billion (US$280 million). This appears to be something of an exaggeration but it is what he is reported to have said. Where is the money to come from? The rumours months before the award of the licence were that there was a Chinese investor and technical partner - no word of that now or yet.

Many companies that had diverse holdings and interests have found it better to specialise in related businesses. Agro-industry/transport/telecommunications are hardly complementary. One must then ask whether credit is being extended based on proper assessment of risk. And here we must look at the Malawi Savings Bank (MSB) which is wholly owned by government (it belongs to us!). By a strange coincidence, the Secretary to the Treasury is also the Chairman of the bank.

Question: what is the exposure of OUR bank to Mulli Brothers? Can we trust that any credit arrangements have been truly arms-length? We have only to see what happened at Malawi Housing Corporation where well-connected individuals including the Minister of Housing, Minister of Education (brother to the President) and the Attorney General appear to have been able to purchase houses at very favourable below-market prices in ‘sweetheart’ deals. The MHC is, of course, owned by us. We do not appear to be getting the best value for our interests.

While all this is going on, our formerly not very wealthy President appears to be suddenly very rich having acquired Ndata Estate for a rumoured K70million and where he is, by repute, building a sixty room mansion. While all this is going on the Government has been unable to pay the salaries of many of the civil servants including teachers, nurses and police.

 Will Mulli be Bingu’s Kalaria? What will happen to the businesses at the end of the Bingu era without the power of patronage?

Are our affairs in safe hands?

You may wish to guess what my perception is!


Monday, April 4, 2011

TWO THINGS TO KILL FOR – RELIGION AND PATRIOTISM

TWO THINGS TO KILL FOR – RELIGION AND PATRIOTISM
AND TO KILL DEBATE – ‘OUR’ CULTURE
DE-LINKING THE ‘GAY’ ISSUE
On Sunday, 3rd April, Capital Radio chose as its topic for the lunchtime debate and phone-in programme:
Same-sex marriage versus foreign aid; the attitude of the NGO’s.
They did a disservice to what should have been the main issue of contention:
Is the criminalisation of homosexual activity between consenting adults contrary to the Malawi Constitution?
By introducing the threat of suspension of foreign aid by the donors because of the Malawi Government’s poor governance record, Capital Radio provided an environment in which the Government could place emphasis on the issue of ‘gays’, patriotism and hurt national pride where they know that popular feeling is on their side rather than on the overall governance/human rights situation.
To keep people firmly on issue the alternative subject for debate could have been:
Should the donors withhold aid because of the Government’s alleged poor record on governance and human rights?
No mention of the ‘gay’ issue which is, perhaps, in the overall context, the least in importance as far as the good governance of Malawi is concerned. It is an area that has yet to be tested in the Constitutional Court.
RELIGION AND CONFLICT
"With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." -
  --  Steven Weinberg
Those people in Afghanistan who beheaded United Nations personnel because some crackpot religionist in America burned a copy of the Quran; those Protestants who blew up a Catholic police officer in Northern Ireland because of his Catholic faith; those Sunni Muslims in Pakistan who blew up Sufi Muslims because they are ‘heretics’ – and all within the last week - were probably considered by their families and many in their communities to be ‘good people’.
Religion is divisive. It dehumanizes the ‘enemy’. The victims are seen as less than human; not the same as ‘us’. To kill is to do god’s work.
Theological religion is the source of all imaginable follies and disturbances; it is the parent of fanaticism and civil discord; it is the enemy of mankind."
- Voltaire / 1694-1778 / Philosophical Dictionary, 1764
All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
-Thomas Paine

The Malawi Constitution is based on a universal code of human rights. The few countries that do not adhere are those theocracies such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and other countries with repressive laws or a reputation for mistreatment of their citizens. Many political and religious leaders defend the Malawi stance by stating the number of countries that are yet to decriminalize homosexuality. If they were to list them it would be seen that they are not the countries that Malawi should be proud to be associated with!

The Constitution of Malawi is quite clear: there is freedom of religion. Religion is a personal choice. Moral codes, as interpreted by believers, vary with religion or branch of the religion and even within the branch from one individual to another. While there are accepted codes of conduct within all societies, many defined by law, there is not one moral code that can be agreed by all. Whilst democratic governments are generally appointed by majority vote that is not constitute a dictatorship of the majority. To contend that the moral code of the faith held by the majority must be applied to all is to cause disharmony and invite conflict. Arguments against the decriminalization of homosexuality based on any religious concept of morality are, therefore, not valid.  


PATRIOTISM

Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons. 
 ~Bertrand Russell

We do not consider patriotism desirable if it contradicts civilized behavior.
-Friedrich D├╝rrenmatt

It is indeed galling, if not demeaning, for it to be pointed out that your nation cannot go it on its own. The sentiment is that we should wean ourselves off foreign aid. When and how that could be done is another matter. It cannot be done without pain. But for the sake of national pride, the sentiment appears to be that we should tell the donors to keep their money.
But this sentiment appears to be selective and is raised only in connection with sensitive or emotive issues such as what to do about homosexuals. The same sentiments are not expressed when other issues relating to NGOs and support for governance and the rule of law are concerned. These are seen as affecting the total populace. As for the ‘gays’ – well they are a repulsive minority, morally outrageous, an abomination in our midst and they do not have a right to be as they are – or so goes the popular dialogue.
It is a pity that the donors have been a little over-enthusiastic in pushing the pro-gay agenda. I say this, not because I am not pro-gay but because the issue has merit which those of us who support the decriminalisation of homosexuality should be able to argue. When donor sentiment raises national flag-waving and talks of sovereignty it becomes counter-productive and the real arguments will not be countenanced by a hostile public.
CULTURE

When one looks back over human existence, however, it is very evident that all culture has developed through an initial resistance against adaptation to the reality in which man finds himself

In any culture, subculture, or family in which belief is valued above thought, and self-surrender is valued above self-expression, and conformity is valued above integrity, those who preserve their self-esteem are likely to be heroic exceptions

 

Culture is dynamic. To quote culture as an argument against change is to deny its very nature. There is no agreed single Malawi culture. There are many common threads. Many of these are not exclusively Malawian. The culture of Malawi changes with the generations. Foreign religions have almost completely displaced the traditional yet traces of these are still to be noted amongst adherents of the ‘new’ religions. For many, Christianity or Islam is accepted as part of their culture. In fact, it is recorded that within thirty years of the introduction of Islam amongst the Yao all knowledge of traditional religions had been lost completely. Other aspects of foreign culture have been painlessly adopted and the changes have gone unnoticed. There are moves afoot to put an end to cultural practices that would tend to spread HIV/AIDS such as kuchotsa fumbi.

Furthermore, the Constitution guarantees that everyone can follow the culture of their choice. Unfortunately, the cry of ‘culture’ is used to put an end to argument. Yet this is no reason not to enquire into the validity of an argument.

 

THE ‘GAY’ ISSUE

 

The Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals and 362 admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn't mean that God doesn't love heterosexuals. It's just that they need more supervision.

Now that we have removed religion, culture and the donors from the debate, let us look at the real issues. We must explore the facts and probabilities. But, first, let us get rid of the myths:
·         Homosexuality is not a culture. Homosexuals are found in all cultures and in all race groups.
·         Homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice. It is a natural state.
·         Homosexuality is not the same as paedophilia.
·         Homosexuals do not recruit heterosexuals.
·         Homosexuality is not a western import.
·         The decriminalization of homosexuality will not result in the sudden conversion of heterosexuals to homosexuality although many, now living the lie of a heterosexual lifestyle will now be more inclined to honestly display their sexual orientation.
So what are we frightened of?
It is an indisputable fact that some people are born with the body of one sex and the feelings of the opposite. We have all observed that men and women think differently, have slightly different talents or aptitudes etc. Tests have been devised to ascertain the sexual orientation. Time and again ‘gay’ people have been demonstrated to have characteristics that are the opposite of their physical sexual attributes. MRI scans of brain activity clearly show that ‘gay’ peoples’ brains react to same-sex pornographic pictures but not to opposite sex. Many gay people have been aware since childhood of their differences and many parents have noticed the differences in their children from as early as 2 years of age. Current research indicates that hormonal influences on the foetus in the womb cause such gender imbalances.
Homosexuality is not the norm. It is estimated that between 2% and 5% of the population is homosexual. That is true of all race groups and all nationalities.
What danger do homosexuals pose to our society?
With say a 2% gay population there is no danger that Malawi with one of the highest birth rates in the world – now at 6 children per woman – will run out of replacement human stock. In fact, the population is growing at more than 2% per year and the strains of overpopulation are clearly to be seen.
Homosexuals are not going to sexually assault our children – or, at least, no more so than we note among the heterosexual male population where sexual abuse of minors is becoming increasingly common!
Now – what about the sexual act between homosexuals? A homosexual is no more capable of denying his or her sexuality than is the heterosexual. To DEMAND that the heterosexual Malawian should not assuage the sexual urge would be demanding far too much. To demand the same of the homosexual is also too much to expect. For them homosexual it is natural to have pleasure with persons of the same sex. We know that the human body was not designed for such acts. We know that it will not result in children being born. But when a man and a woman engage in sexual activity they do so for their pleasure and having children is generally only an accident of the encounter. In fact, with modern contraception, the otherwise natural outcome is prevented.
Does homosexual sex harm you or society in general? I think not. Is what adults do in private any business of anyone else? The answer is NO. And it is no business of the State or the law-givers or law-keepers in a rights based dispensation.
Disgusting! Did I hear you say ‘disgusting’? Perhaps you find it so. But what do men and women get up to in the privacy of the bedroom or in the ‘Rest Houses’ that cater to the sex traveller? I am sure that many of them get up to all sorts of ‘disgusting’ things. But you do not ask your neighbours what they do for their pleasure. Just look at the condom adverts:
Comment from users:

Shannon O. - Jacksonville, Florida reviews the Lifestyles Kiss of Mint.
The mint aroma is heavenly and oral sex is greatly enhanced by the mint flavor. We both loved using them.

Now, why would you want flavoured condoms if you wanted only regular sex? Disgusting! Maybe. But it does no-one any harm and is no-one else’s business – let alone the State’s
What are we going to do with them?
So, homosexuals are here in Malawi and they will continue to be born. They have no choice as to how they develop. They just ARE. They are our brothers and sisters, children, uncles, aunts, cousins, neighbours, employers, employees, teachers, doctors, academics, priests and just plain Joes.  At the moment they live in fear of discovery. They live a life of lies.
Must we continue to hunt them down and lock them up for fourteen years? It will not change their nature. It will not change their sexual desires. And it will cost the state money to keep them. There is no profit to anyone.
In other countries where the old ignorance gave way to an understanding and a change in the laws allowed homosexuals to ‘come out’ and live life honestly as they were created there has been no damage to society, no-one has been harmed. In fact, we will be denying our nation the services of useful citizens.
It has been noted that many homosexuals are exceptionally talented – perhaps more in proportion to their numbers than are found with such talent in the rest of the population. They are artists, actors, entertainers, musicians, fashion designers, beauticians, hairdressers, dancers. They have been famous politicians and gifted scientists. The world would be a poorer place had it been denied their talents.
As one observer said:

Homosexuality is god's way of insuring that the truly gifted aren't burdened with children.

 

Let us accept that they are all welcomed as fellow-citizens. Let us not be swayed by religious leaders or populist politicians. Let us not be distracted by the NGO issue. Or the donor aid issue.

 

Let us be understanding and tolerant. Let us continue to push for the removal of unjust laws from our statutes.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

SUNSET OVER MALAWI. TIME FOR A NEW FLAG?

THE JOURNEY AND THE NEW FLAG
You climb into the minibus. It looks OK from the outside. Even the seats are in reasonable shape. But once on the road it becomes obvious that something is wrong. The driver reassures you.
“It’s just come out of the garage. Everything has been sorted out.”
But still, you are a little uneasy. You decide to see how things go. And then you hit the rumble strips at Linthipe Bridge. The driver loses control. The brakes fail. Several die. Others are injured. The driver blames Satanism.
What really happened? What went wrong?
  • The driver was lying. The minibus had not been fixed.
  • The passengers should have told the driver to stop so that they could get off.
  • Satan was nowhere to be seen but someone had to be blamed
CHANGED BEYOND RECOGNITION
Malawi, so we have been told by the driver (himself a former minibus operator), has changed beyond recognition since he took over the wheel. It changed so much for the better in a few short years, changed beyond recognition, that it deserved a new flag showing that the rising sun had reached its zenith, shining benignly over the country.
Was the driver lying? Well, yes! Or he had been misinformed. Much of the apparent rapid growth was based on reports of higher crop yields, especially of maize and cassava. Open market crop prices during many of these apparently bumper years indicated that maize, our national staple, was not abundantly available. The government attempted to suppress the report that would give a lie to the official figures. However, it is now available here.
If basic food production was overstated so too are figures for GDP and growth. And the ‘economic’ miracle, like most miracles, is seen to have been a mirage.
In spite of an excellent crop in the 2009/10 growing season, the daily life of the average Malawian seems not to be improving. Industries are suffering, fuel and forex shortages are affecting all businesses. Businesses are laying off staff. Many companies are finding it difficult to pay their creditors. More and more are selling off non-producing assets such as vehicles and properties to provide operating capital.
And the ‘passengers’ are getting restless. The NGO’s, the churches and business associations are grumbling..These are the Linthipe rumble strips. And already, before the crash, our driver has identified the Devils – the donor partners
STOP THE BUS, MR. PRESIDENT, YOU ARE LOSING CONTROL. WE WANT TO GET OFF!
When sun has risen and has reached its zenith, there’s only one way for it to go – down into the fading sunset.
I’ve designed the new flag to reflect that situation. 

FACTS & FIGURES – HOW DO WE MEASURE UP?
Sources:
Gross National Income US$ per capita:                                     166th out of 170 nations
Human Development Index                                                        153rd out of 169 nations
Population below poverty line                     55%                        18th out of 141 nations
Aid as a percentage of GDP                       26.2%                      6th out of 120 nations
Purchasing power parity                                                              143rd out of 229 nations
Purchasing power parity per capita                                              163rd out of 163 nations
Gross National Income per capita             $134.28                     166th out of 170 nations
Household Final Consumption                   $131.467                   132nd out of 136 nations

Clearly we still have a long way to go.

NOTE: Some of the above figures may not be up to date. Any recent improvements will have been slight. They are, though, good indicators of the size of the task that faces our leaders.






Thursday, March 24, 2011

POLITICS.REQUESTS WE CAN’T REFUSE. ASIAN BUSINESSMAN LOSES K4M TO CONMAN

POLITICS.REQUESTS WE CAN’T REFUSE. ASIAN BUSINESSMAN LOSES K4M TO CONMAN
It was reported in the Daily Times of 23rd March that MR. Farook Kali of Suncrest Creameries had been persuaded by a confidence trickster to part with K4 million thinking that the trickster was acting on behalf of senior Government figures including Peter Mutharika, Minister of Education, younger brother of the President and presidential aspirant. Needless to say, spokespersons for the DPP and Peter Mutharika have denied all knowledge and have roundly condemned the perpetrators
I know Mr. Kali and many members of his family. I know them as well-established and reputable people whose businesses have been built up on hard work and application without, apparently, the necessity for bribery. Bribery is a hidden affair. It is only when we notice a rapid and inexplicable rise in wealth or the acquisition of business to the detriment of apparently more worthy operators that we begin to suspect it. Let me say, then, that I do not suspect that the money handed over by Mr. Kali was in any way intended as a bribe. Because the case will no doubt end up in the courts I have not approached Mr. Kali for his story. In fact, the details of the story do not form the subject of this article.
There is always a close linkage between big business and politics. America is a prime example. The cozy relationship of Washington law-makers with the big banks has helped produce the financial mess that America and much of the world is now in.
We can speculate as to why Mr. Kali thought he had to part with so much money. The reason may lie in the poor state of our democracy.
The Asian business community has been the subject of the President’s diversionary tactics, blamed without evidence for the current forex shortage (and not for the first time). As convenient scapegoats, Asians feel insecure. When approached for funding by political parties or individuals in power or who they believe may shortly be in power, they feel that Government agencies may be directed to target them and their businesses or refuse them government business if they do not pay up. With so much at stake, it is difficult to refuse. How many businesses, no matter the race or nationality of the owners, could withstand the full combined assault by the Malawi Revenue Authority, the Fiscal Police, the Immigration Department, Health & Safety inspectors?  What inconvenience and misery, even if there is nothing to hide!
When we look at the composition of Parliament and the hierarchies of the main political parties, the business community is not all that well represented. Between our political parties there is nothing to choose in the way of philosophical differences. There is no party of ‘labour’. There is no party of ‘business’ or ‘free trade’. There is no party of labour because the unions have yet to gain sufficient strength and the support of the working class. There is no party of business because many of those who have the knowledge and ability and who may find themselves in opposition to the government of the day,  fear that they and their businesses, will also be targeted or that they will be excluded from government business.
There are no regulations concerning political party funding. There is nothing wrong with businesses or individuals making contributions in support of politicians and parties who represent their interests or accord to their political views. However, such donations should be made public and hidden contributions should be penalised.
We can only guess at how many businesses are ‘persuaded’ to contribute out of fear; how many contribute out of the hope of favour and how many contribute to the cause that they believe in. It is up to the ‘honest’ fearful ones to stand firm and refuse to give. That will leave mainly the favour seekers. G
There is widespread speculation that inducement (i.e. a bribe) is needed in order to obtain government business. Of course, while a Government is in power it is unlikely with our weak ‘independent’ watchdog organs of government that anything will be revealed or that any high-ranking person with the right contacts will be prosecuted.
There are even wider concerns that monies voted to projects do not end up being spent on the projects or that government facilities do not receive what has been budgeted for them. That raises the spectre of theft and misappropriation by government officials or office holders.
Our donor partners who have invested so much in Malawi over the years for an inadequate return are not blind to these developments. Where the Police are seen as agents of the executive and the rule of law breaks down; where the Constitution is breached by those who swore to uphold it corruption and cronyism will become rampant. Can we blame them for making the statements that they have recently threatening to hold government to its agreed standards as a pre-requisite for continuing budget support?
Malawi, we are in deep trouble.