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


The Mhlako Triumvirate

Monday, February 28, 2011


Unlike the Inspector general of Police I am not too proud to apologise when I have made a mistake. So to Airtel and the Malawi Government spy department, I apologise if I got it wrong. Shortly after I posted the blog one reader, Seth Miller, whose comment appears below, gave me details of similar problems which Airtel sorted out for him. Everything is up and running again so perhaps a technical hitch.
I am not normally paranoid about security issues as regular readers of the blog may have already discerned. However, in light of the recent boast by one of our Ministers that the Government had invested in equipment to track and identify 'seditious' internet material from within Malawi, I hope that I will be forgiven for making the connect between a big "403 FORBIDDEN" and the installation of such equipment.
As for spying on your own people - which Hetherwick Ntaba, special bigmouth to the President admitted - I had my say in a short interview aired by Capital Radio last week - damning the practice.
Successive governments in Malawi - no exceptions - have spent more time and effort in spying on their own people who they suspect of being unsympathetic to the 'government of the day', in reality the President and the 'ruling' party, than on the identification of real threats to the nation from external and internal sources. I do, of course, admit the necessity of identifying credible threats to the incumbent president or key personnel.
What successive governments fail to appreciate is that it MUST be the GOVERNMENT OF THE DAY or the PRESIDENT OF THE DAY that become the subjects of criticism or adverse comment because they and not the opposition are the ones who make and implement the policies that we may not particulalrly agree with, especially like now when the economy is in tatters at the hands of a so-called Economic Engineer who is completely intolerant of any hint of criticism and  is intent on robbing us of our hard-won rights.



I have been highly critical of Bingu and his Government. For about a week I have been  seeing occasional '403 Forbidden' messages when I have been using the Airtel GPRS Internet service. As of late this morning I have been unable to access any of my sites.
Fortunately, I am still able to use other means oc access. However, if my suspicions are true, this censorship is a grave breach of my constitutional rights to privacy and to freely broadcast my opinions.
Airtel must give us an explanation.
When Governments shut down the Internet you know that things are really getting bad. This is one of the first hints of truly oppressive intentions.
It is true, then, that the Government has installed equipment to monitor us. But why does Airtel act as a Government agent?
A luta continua.


You said we are your children. Let’s get the relationship straight. You are my employee. We do not need a father. We need a President who will do what we employed him to do and that is to carry out his programme of development and governance in line with the promises he made when we elected him and in accordance with the Constitution which you swore to uphold – a Constitution which you appear not to have read. Either that or you swore a false oath contrary to the religion which you profess to follow.
I do not need to be told like a naughty child that you will fight me on the streets. When did we ever see you on the streets? Where were you when we were fighting Muluzi’s Policemen on the streets to prevent him from becoming President for Life? We were part of the active civil society that cleared the way for you to become President.
We are not here to be spied on like enemies of the State. We may not be for you any longer but we are definitely for our poor country which you and your cronies are bringing to ruin. When things were showing signs of improvement you asked us to judge you by the work of your hands but when things are going bad those same hands appear to be helpless. When we start asking awkward questions you want to crack down on us; to use the Police to intimidate academics; to muzzle the press; to intercept private correspondence; to hamstring the courts.
We do not need to see our money wasted on glorifying you or your family. We do not want to see you employing your wife when we already have an internationally respected Vice President active in the field at no extra cost to the taxpayer. Birthday parties, funerals, engagements, weddings – these belong to your family. Let those who want to curry favour with you pay for them. And then let the ACB check on where those relationships lead. We should not have to wait until you are out of office to find out.
Strange, really! Some of those big boys who are to be seen hanging around you were also hanging around Bakili. When you first came into office and threatened to crack down on corruption, they left the country. They were not seen around for a number of years until they realised that things had not really changed. There they are again – enriching themselves at our expense and, who knows, perhaps enriching you in the process. You certainly seem to be much richer in office than you were before. Perhaps you would care to tell us where all the money is coming from. Can we have a conducted tour of Ndata?
And we do not want to see massive amounts of money for State House expenditure – discretionary, unaudited expense. And all this money for the Green Belt Initiative - is some of it going to be wasted on the dam at Kapachira? (Another Nsanje Port style white elephant in the making) How many of the inhabitants of the Shire Valley are going to be thrown off their land to make way for commercial agriculture?
Mr. President. Call the American Ambassador over for a chat. Ask him just what the American Government spends on its first family’s personal affairs. Pangali. Palibe. Na ghamu. Nkawa. Palije. Zilch. Nada.
We are not related. We should not see any state monies or resources wasted on your domestic affairs. You should be made to reimburse the State for all of this ego-boosting nonsense. Oh – but I forgot! On the birthday front you did not want to be outshone by your hero, Mlamu Bob, who had five birthday cakes the same week. While Mugabe said that he had the brain of a young man he obviously did not have the lungs. He took a heck of a long time to blow out the candles – and I do not think there was the full 80 plus complement. I hope, Mr. President, that your lungs have the puff to carry you through the coming struggle that you seem to invite. A struggle that would, if you were to win, give you primacy over the Constitution. A struggle that could be the end of Malawi in which the citizenry matters or has a say.
The people of Malawi do not want to fight with their President. But you should take note of what people driven to desperation will do. Ben Ali, Mubarak – out. Brother Leader shaky. Others not feeling too secure.
Better to listen now before the people are driven to desperation.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Lessons for Malawi from North Africa

More and more Malawians believe that our man in Malawi and his praise singers have lost the plot. Everything, once again, revolves around the person of the President and the maintenance of crony privilege. Forex shortages, fuel shortages and official obscuration of the truth give the impression that the economy is no longer in the safe hands that we so trustingly voted for in 2009. We rightly wonder whether anything can change before the much awaited 2014 general elections – assuming, that is, that we will have an Electoral Commission by then. Given recent developments that looks increasingly less likely.  But, if things do not change our economy will soon be in tatters.
Current events in North Africa, where corrupt and despotic leaders and regimes are beginning to crumble, have set many people dreaming of regime change here in Malawi. Those who believe that this scenario could be replicated in Malawi should take a reality check. The US-based Intelligence organisation, Stratfor, in its weekly Geopolitical Weekly report entitled Revolution and the Muslim World, places current events in a historical perspective relating to other revolutionary periods in history makes a number of perceptive observations on the nature of revolutionary change.
 The key principle that appears to be driving the risings is a feeling that the regimes, or a group of individuals within the regimes, has deprived the public of political and, more important, economic rights — in short, that they enriched themselves beyond what good taste permitted. …. Any regime dominated by a small group of people over time will see that group use their position to enrich themselves. ….. avarice emerges along with the arrogance of extended power ….. And we can add to this that they are people who were planning to maintain family power and money by installing sons as their political heirs.
In any event, the real issue is whether these revolutions will succeed in replacing existing regimes. Let’s consider the process of revolution for the moment, beginning by distinguishing a demonstration from an uprising. A demonstration is merely the massing of people making speeches. This can unsettle the regime and set the stage for more serious events, but by itself, it is not significant. Unless the demonstrations are large enough to paralyze a city, they are symbolic events. There have been many demonstrations in the Muslim world that have led nowhere; consider Iran.
It is interesting here to note that the young frequently dominate revolutions like 1848, 1969 and 1989 at first. This is normal. Adults with families and maturity rarely go out on the streets to face guns and tanks. It takes young people to have the courage or lack of judgment to risk their lives in what might be a hopeless cause. However, to succeed, it is vital that at some point other classes of society join them.
A revolution only of the young ..  rarely succeeds. A revolution requires a broader base than that, and it must go beyond demonstrations. The moment it goes beyond the demonstration is when it confronts troops and police. If the demonstrators disperse, there is no revolution. If they confront the troops and police, and if they carry on even after they are fired on, then you are in a revolutionary phase. Thus, pictures of peaceful demonstrators are not nearly as significant as the media will have you believe, but pictures of demonstrators continuing to hold their ground after being fired on is very significant.

This leads to the key event in the revolution. The revolutionaries cannot defeat armed men. But if those armed men, in whole or part, come over to the revolutionary side, victory is possible. And this is the key event. In Bahrain, the troops fired on demonstrators and killed some. The demonstrators dispersed and then were allowed to demonstrate — with memories of the gunfire fresh. This was a revolution contained. In Egypt, the military and police opposed each other and the military sided with the demonstrators for complex reasons obviously. Personnel change, if not regime change, was inevitable. In Libya the army has split wide open.
It is this act, the military and police coming over to the side of the demonstrators,  that makes or breaks a revolution.

Let us hope that the current regime in Malawi does not, by its stubbornness, drive the nation to such desperation. Do I detect a change? Recently, the Police in Zomba acted correctly by facilitating the demonstrations. The President has issued an invitation to human rights NGOs to meet with him. Unfortunately, he has not divulged his agenda and, without an agenda, a number of NGOs have expressed unwillingness to attend. Country-wide demonstrations are planned for next week. This will be a crucial test of the Government’s change of mind or a change of heart within the Police Service.
All we need now is a President who respects the Constitution and a Government that will repeal all of the recent changes to the law that have been aimed at undermining our constitutional rights.
What else do we need?
A truly independent Electoral Commission
Unbiased national TV/Radio
The issuance of new licences for would-be TV and radio broadcasters
A depoliticised Police Service

Saturday, February 19, 2011


ALARM - Government to go ahead with Phase 1 at Kapachira before the promised study has been done?

This Government that has already shown its pig-headedness by constructing an idle port at Nsanje seems hell-bent on wasting the tax-payers' money by going ahead with Phase 1 of a massive, 42000 hectare irrigation scheme without having first completed the studies that the Ministry of Irrigation promised the nation in a press release dated 11 November 2010 signed by the Permanent Secretary, in response to an article that I had written for a local newspaper expressing my concerns and reservations.
TO REMIND: "Government is currently in the proces of identifying a consultant to undertake additional studies as gap-fillers considering issues that have been raised in recent past which are viewed to be relevant to the implementation of the Project. Some of the identified gaps include appropriate choice of irrigated crops; well-defined management structure; potential for public private partnership (PPP); cost recovery and sustainability issues; property rights; proper assessment of water availability and siltation issues."
If the consultants who have been working on this project for more than 12 years have not properly considered such critical issues in all that time I doubt whether the Government has had the time, in just 3 months, to identify a consultant and receive a comprehensive consultancy report answering all these 'gap-fillers'.Certainly, there can have been no detailed engineering designs, the necessary environmental impact assessments or local population sensitisation.  This is a Government effort to bulldoze through another ill-considered 'white elephant' and expensive construction project - to the benefit of whom is hard to tell. It looks like a civil servant's attempt to persuade the Technicolor Dreamer that something good is about to happen.Mr. Maweru (PS), this is not going to make your reputation at all!
Resulting on part to the publicity that we gave, the World Bank sent a team to Malawi. I was one of a local group that met with that team together with their colleagues from the African Development Bank and the International Finance Corporation (the commercial investment wing of the World Bank Group).
It became obvious from that meeting that the grouping had serious reservations about the viability stating that the work done for the Malawi Government by CODA, Government's regular consultants on this scheme since 1986 or thgereabouts, was not sufficient for them to go ahead. The World Bank stated their intentions of commencing a process that would answer all the stringent conditions that they ahve to apply to their funded projects..
I guess that the Malawi Government has realised that they have very little hope now of getting funding from either the World Bank or the African Development Bank. The Ministry of Irrigation seems intent on frustrating proper procedures by sourcing investment from organisations that do not share the concerns that we, the World bank and ADB have for a variety of reasons from environmental, to societal through economic.
Recently a group of twelve Koreans from Hyundai Engineering, Korea, accompanied by an official of the Irrigation Ministry visited the Majete/Kapachira site telling people that they have been awarded the contract for Phase 1 - the water offtake. They stated that they would construct a dam at Kapachira, not at Hamilton Falls inside Majete Wildlife Reserve as previously planned.
There is no point in constructing a water offtake until the downstream issues have been settled.
We will attempt to obtain information from the Ministry of Irrigation and will post regularly to this blog.
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Those who are not familiar with the scheme and our reservations can read all about it in our on-line magazine pictured above. You do need a reasonably good internet connection. Click here 
As a result of quantitive easing (QE) in America there is a lot of newly created 'money' looking for a home. This money is fuelling the new African land grab and speculation in food and commodities. It is speculation, not shortage, that is driving up world food prices. This is one of the factors causing disaffection in the Arab world. Malawi must be vigilant. Any money coming in for 'investment' must not have this speculative factor!

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Nandolo denies that he owes his appointment as Blantyre City's CEO to his work for the Mhlako wa Alhomwe cultural body inspired by his fellow Lhomwe tribesman, President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Malawians are becoming increasingly more disturbed by the preferential selection of  the President's 'home-boys' to top positions in the Government, civil service and state-related bodies. The appointment of Ted Nandolo is just the latest. Ted was for many years head of the NGO co-ordinating body, CONGOMA. NGOs in Malawi have traditionally acted as checks to the excessive acquisition of power by the executive. As a leader of the 'parent' body, Nandolo had been seen as a defender of human rights, constitutionality and the rule of law.
Should it come as a surprise that our 'heroes' can be so easily wooed away to become part of the government mechanism of oppression. Tribe before country! Pocket before the common good!
As we consider Nandolo's appointment we must  keep in mind that he is also the presidentially appointed Chairman of  MACRA, the Government organisation that controls and co-ordinates communications in Malawi which include radio, TV and telephone operator licensing. The position of Chairman is non-executive. However, chairmen of state organisations who are seen to be the unofficial mouthpieces of the executive can easily pervert the operations of the boards of directors. MACRA has long been seen as partial in the way it handles broadcasters who may be thought too critical of government or to have adverse political bias. Furthermore, it has found excuse after excuse for delaying the issue of licences to the many would-be  TV operators. The last excuse I heard was that they had no chairman. They have one now - Ted Nandolo. So why delay further? The conclusion is obvious. Government controls content on state-owned TV and radio and fears the effects that an indpendent, well-balanced  TV will have on a viewing public used to a regular diet of propoganda; news of the President and his 'nominated' successor and  the so-called first lady who has supplanted the elected Vice-President in the public view.
In an interview with Nandolo broadcast on Capital Radio on Wednesday, 16th February, it was suggested that it was his Lhomwe tribal affiliation that had led to his appointment. He denied this, stating that he had been appointed to the position of Chief Executive of the Blantyre City Council 'on merit'. When asked where his loyalty lay; to whom he would be reporting, he stated: "The appointing authority, the President. But I will be reporting via the Minister of Local Government" - or words to that effect.
The refusal by the Lilongwe City Council to permit a protest March in the city only two days earlier and the arrest of the organisers by the Police was still fresh in the mind of the interviewer. This led to his questioning Nandolo on the matter of constitutionality and the role of the local councils in the process. Nandolo did reaffirm the right of citizens to protest but, obviously very embarrassed by the conflict between what he knows to be correct and what he knows his 'Boss' will expect of him, he qualified this by saying something to the effect that the City Council had the right to decide whether the subject of the protest had merit. In his opinion the shortage of fuel at the filling stations no longer had merit and Lilongwe City had been right to ban the demo.
Ted! Ted! Who can we trust? You know that you are now a paid lackey; that you are selling your own people to the devil - the devil of your own self-interest and the oppressive plans of your home-boy President.
Unfortunately, this same control-all President has ensured that there are still no functioning elected local government representatives. They are the ones who should be recruting the chief executives. They are the ones who should be assessing the merits of competing applicants for the job. Part of the process would  be to come up with a list of qualifications that would merit consideration. Do you have the specific qualifications? Did you go through a competitive process for an advertised post that will be paid for by the CITIZENS? Tell us. Did the President consider and call  you and other hopefuls for interview? How else would he know of your competence? Is he, himself, competent to judge? He is not the employer or even an agent of the employer! If you do not do the job to our satisfaction it is our local representatives, not your home-boy, who should sack you.
As for demonstrations, you know as well as I do that this Government and its agents of oppression, the Police FORCE, are determined to prevent any demonstration of dissatisfaction with the Government, the President or their agents. You know that we have the right to demonstrate on anything that we consider needs a public airing or even any rubbish from our rambling minds. That is the nature of our hard-won freedom.
How can you stoop so low as to make such public statements that reveal your duplicity?
We, the people, will put an end once again to tyranny just as we did with Kamuze and Bakili. You may sit on the top of the pile - for now. Enjoy it while you can. Mutharika cannot put the lid on for ever. Our leaders never learn.
The High Court has always confirmed the right to demonstrate. It will continue to reconfirm that neither the Police nor the local authorities have any say in the matter. Their concern should be to facilitate and guard against illegal activity during demonstrations. If the Police can provide escorts for the frequent Big Walks on the public roads then they should be able to extend the same courtesy to demostrators.

A reminder - Constitution of Malawi. Section 38 'Right of Assembly':  
Every person shall have the right to assemble and demonstrate with others peacefully and unarmed. Basithu!

Question: Is this just a temporary post? Any truth in the rumour that Nandolo is favourite for the vacant position of CEO of the Independent (???) Electoral Commission? 
We haven't seen anything yet!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Respectability in Malawi comes in two forms – a priest in his dog-collar and a banker in his suit. The image of the priest/holy man/self-styled prophet/bishop has become tarnished over recent years by stories of celibates with ‘wives’ and families living in the village supported by maize-mills bought by doting parishioners; men-of-the-cloth caught interfering with little boys, or ‘apostles’ sending their mistresses to Europe to abort incriminating pregnancies.
That leaves us with the bankers. By bankers I don’t mean those smiling guys and gals beavering away behind the counter but the men and women at the top, behind the scenes, who are manipulating our wealth (sic) and the wealth (sic) of the nation. Ours have not reached the pinnacle of perfection on which the ultra-respectable international bankers perch. But that narrow perch is looking increasingly less secure and the reputation of the squatters is in tatters.
Not to put it too finely – the world financial system is in a mess. These ultra-respectables and  their politician accomplices are no longer able to hide their crimes – crimes that have destroyed the wealth of millions of people around the world and whose greed has driven many nations, states and municipalities into bankruptcy. But here in Malawi we have hardly been touched.
The massive demonstrations we are seeing around the world are indicative of a malaise that has been, in part, fuelled by the criminal ‘banksta’ rip-offs. Their ill-gotten gains, surplus money provided for them by governments on behalf of the newly-impoverished taxpayers, is looking for places to make more. Speculation in food is one of the paths chosen, putting the cost of basic bread out of the reach of the many. Malawians in general are unaware of the massive upheavals in parts of the world which are seen as stable and wealthy. But – just as you don’t trust the cloth of the clergy any more, don’t trust the international black suits that we see on our TV screens.  Just reflect that at the recent Davos meeting, where the richest and most powerful people in the world get together, French President Sarkozy and  Jamie Dimon, CEO of J P Morgan (one of America’s TBTF too big to fail banks ), had a virtual public slanging match. Such disagreements in the past would have been settled in private. Massive changes are coming to our world and we, in Malawi, cannot avoid them. Our traditional ‘donors’ are themselves in deep financial distress. I guess that any excuse to cut aid will be pounced upon  - as we have seen recently!
When I was a teenager, John Steinbeck was my favourite author. He covered the distress in America at a time of massive social and financial reordering as the economy collapsed due to the machinations of the controlling financial elite – those guys in the black suits. And now they’re back.
Illustrated by extracts from Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath set in Depression America of the 1930’s John Quinn’s essay is the most comprehensive and revelatory presentation that I have read. I recommend it for anyone who wants to put the present situation into that historic and enlightening perspective..
Click on this link to download it.
by Jim Quinn - Burning Platform
The lesson to be learnt for Malawi is that our multiple ‘I’s’ must become a unified ‘We’. When we agree that we ‘own’ the problems communally we will defeat the ‘suits’ who set out to enslave us.
One man, one family driven from the land; this rusty car creaking along the highway to the west. I lost my land, a single tractor took my land. I am alone and bewildered. And in the night one family camps in a ditch and another family pulls in and the tents come out. The two men squat on their hams and the women and children listen. Here is the node, you who hate change and fear revolution. Keep these two squatting men apart; make them hate, fear, suspect each other. Here is the enlarger of the thing you fear. This is the zygote. For here “I lost my land” is changed; a cell is split and from its splitting grows the thing you hate–”We lost our land.” The danger is here, for two men are not as lonely and perplexed as one. And from this first “we” there grows a still more dangerous thing: “I have a little food” plus “I have none.” If from this problem the sum is “We have a little food,” the thing is on its way, the movement has direction. Only a little multiplication now, and this land, this tractor are ours. The two men squatting in a ditch, the little fire, the side-meat stewing in a single pot, the silent, stone-eyed women; behind, the children listening with their souls to words their minds do not understand. The night draws down. The baby has a cold. Here, take this blanket. It’s wool. It was my mother’s blanket–take it for the baby. This is the thing to bomb. This is the beginning–from “I” to “we.” - John Steinbeck


The local and international press (and the Minister of Justice) got it wrong. The revision to the Malawi law was not about farting but about other forms of fouling the air. Nevertheless, it got Malawi almost as much publicity as Madonna did! It even inspired a lesson to be used by teachers of English as a Foreign Language (TEFL or ESL). Teaching of English as a Foreign Language is quite a difficult discipline - I know, because I found it very difficult. I just managed to pass in 2003! To see how complex it is and to find out how Malawian farts have helped in the teaching of English or if you are a EFL teacher who would like to use the lesson in order to teach English click here.

Monday, February 14, 2011


President Mutharika's statement at his party's recent Valentine Fundraising dinner illustrates why he is no longer our Valentine. The 2004 election was our engagement and all was sweet. 2009 was the wedding. Like many love-affairs it could not survive the marriage!
After two weeks of silence while the people and the economy of Malawi suffered due to the most severe shortage of fuel in the country's recent history, all that he could say - and that in direct contradiction of what his own minister had told us - was that it was due to congestion at all of the ports serving Malawi. These are the ports that we have been using for decades. Of course, the President has not done anything to make things sweet between us and our neighbours.  They are rather tired of being blamed for all our woes knowing full well that our Government is trying to shift the blame for its incompetence and broken policies.
It seems that he was stung into belated action by the news that Malawi's main Human Rights organisations plan to march on parliament in Lilongwe today, Valentine's Day. Instead of making a balanced assessment of the problem and stating what he and his government were doing to rectify things, as one would expect of a 'Professor' (albeit an honorary one) he set out to lecture Mavuto Bamusi, the principal co-ordinator of the protest. He also made unsubstantiated allegations against Bamusi in person stating that he was acting only to please the donors in order to obtain funding. It would have been better for his image had he maintained his protracted silence.
Mr. President, let me remind you once again that without the actions of the NGOs Bakili Muluzi would have become President for Life and you would have been a public nonentity. But power and position swell heads. It is obvious that you have lost touch with reality. Continue to live in your cloud cuckoo land where your every wish becomes a reality - in your dreams. All around us we see that your much lauded 'success' has been based on lies fed to you by sycophantic politicians and senior civil servants. For the sake of the future of this nation, and I say this as one old man to another, let us bequeath something better to our progeny. Wake up to reality and get on with the job that we elected you to do! Admit your mistakes. Llisten to your people.
It is 7 a.m., one hour before the demonstration is due to start in Lilongwe. I hear that the City Council have 'forbidden' the march. The City Council has no such power. Furthermore, they are illegitimate having been appointed and not elected as our Constitution demands.
Our Constitution gives us the right to assemble and demonstrate peacefully and unarmed. The High Court has frequently upheld this right. I hope that the demonstrators are prepared to march even though, I guess, that THE PRESIDENT'S Police FORCE (not our Police Service) will do all in its power to prevent it.


In spite of the reasoned arguments from organisations, NGOs and donor governments, the Government of Malawi not only did not decriminalise consensual adult same sex acts they created a new offence by CRIMINALISING lesbian acts,
As Vice-Chairman of the Association for Secualr Humanism in Malawi I reproduce that letter here.

                The Association for Secular Humanism
                      P.O. Box 2340                   Tel /Cell:              + 265  88 8853150
                     Lilongwe                                        email:       
7th December, 2010

His Excellency,
The State President of the Republic of Malawi,
Ngwazi Professor Bingu wa Mutharika
State House, Lilongwe

Your Excellency,
We, Secular Humanists put life on this earth and the well-being of our fellow man at the centre of our lives. We promote a free-thinking spirit of enquiry, rejecting all dogma.

Knowledge grows as a result of free enquiry. New knowledge influences societal attitudes and promotes change as it spreads. The rejection of knowledge as a result of pre-held dogmatic beliefs is to be decried. As Sir W. Drummond said:  He that will not reason is a bigot; he that cannot reason is a fool; he that dares not reason is a slave.

It is bigotry that influences debate on homosexuality in Malawi. We believe that most of our fellow men are well-able to reason for themselves. Those who have the ability to reason but dare not because of the fear of condemnation, by faith groups in particular are, indeed, slaves to organizations that historically have often attempted to halt the advance of knowledge.

It is true that most Malawians, often prompted by ignorance and fear, currently claim to be disgusted at the thought of same sex relationships. A more tolerant attitude can only be encouraged by dissemination of the facts that have been revealed by recent discoveries in the fields of genetics, inter-uterine foetal development and exploratory scans of the sentient brain. It is a responsibility of Government to promote scientific research and critical thinking. This may be contrary to the wishes of various faith groups but Government must provide balanced leadership.

Your Excellency, we believe that you are capable of assessing the evidence and will have no fear of publicly accepting the inevitable outcome by refusing to approve of Parliament’s move to criminalize same sex relationships between consenting female adults and will subsequently initiate moves to decriminalize same-sex relationships between consenting adult males.

Homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice. Research indicates that it is a natural state that comes about by a mixture of genetics and development in the womb. The Royal College of Psychiatrists (2007) stated: “It would appear that sexual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment.” Sexual orientation is therefore not a choice. Professor M. King of the University College of London states: The conclusion reached by scientists who have investigated the origins and stability of sexual orientation is that it is a human characteristic that is formed early in life, and is resistant to change. Scientific evidence on the origins of homosexuality is considered relevant to theological and social debate because it undermines suggestions that sexual orientation is a choice.

It is obvious from this that homosexual man has no more control over his attraction for his own sex than heterosexuals for the opposite sex. Sexual attraction is one of the strongest ‘forces’ in nature. It is no more sensible to expect a homosexual to practice celibacy than for heterosexuals. To punish anyone for following their own nature is unjust.

Homosexuals, by virtue of sexual orientation, constitute an identifiable group. As such, they are entitled to the protection under Section 20 of the Constitution which prohibits discrimination “.. under any law..”  on the grounds of  “…  other status.” Therefore, we consider that the existing law is discriminatory as is the law currently awaiting your consent.

Same-sex relationships are ‘crimes’ without victims. It is our belief that the law should not criminalize an activity that does no harm. We ask, also, what conviction and imprisonment is expected to achieve. It CANNOT change a person’s natural sexual orientation. It does not protect society since homosexuals are not intent on persuading heterosexual persons to change their sexual orientation and adopt a homosexual lifestyle.

Homosexuals do not pose a danger to society. Government should not be a slave to religious dogmas. Sir, you will notice that many known homosexuals are very talented and productive members of society. The performing arts are particularly blessed with their talents. They live and work in tolerant and understanding societies. They cause no damage. For example, you will have seen Anderson Cooper on CNN who hosts his own current affairs programme. He is homosexual. Would you want to imprison him if he lived in Malawi? Sir Elton John’s music has brought pleasure to millions. His touching performance at the funeral of Lady Diana is still remembered by many. He is ‘gay’. Would you want to imprison him in Malawi? Certainly, not. Then why would we want to imprison our own brothers and sisters who, by an accident of birth or early development, are different from the majority? Why should we expect them to live a lie and hide their true personalities from family and friends?

We entreat you to reject bigotry, follow reason and reject the slavery of the mind. In this way, Sir, you will have no difficulty in resisting the criminalization of ‘lesbian’ acts and will, we hope, promote the repeal of the current cruel and discriminatory laws and not to consent to the current revision on lesbian acts in the Penal Code. Our laws should also be in conformity with global trends so that Malawi does not become a focus on unnecessary ridicule.

Your faithfully

George Thindwa
Executive Director
Association for Secular Humanism

Saturday, February 12, 2011


A false sense of security

Malawi came to a virtual halt for two weeks as the petrol and diesel pumps ran dry.Petrol and diesel is now coming back. No doubt we will be lulled into a false sense of security, forgetting that this last episode just happened to be the worst of over a year of CRISIS MANAGEMENT while our Chief Economic Engineer remains strangely silent after all the hoo-haa of his book launch in Addis Ababa where an invited audience made polite noises about our Saviour, the Ngwazi. Apparently the African Union (AU) was not as generous to our Ngwazi, the outgoing AU Chairman, as he would have liked because they declined to pay the $9000 per night charge (if the reports are correct) for his Addis hotel. A straw bed in a cow shed was good enough for the Christian Saviour but not good enough for ours. I am sure, however, that anything the AU considers of an adequate standard for their Chair would have been good enough for  most of us and should have been good enough for him. But, then, when you have 'saved' a whole country and preached to the rest of Africa how the rest of them could do it - you are entitled to the very best. Now Malawi is saddled with the bill. It's nothing, really. The forex that could have been saved may have bought another ten or so second hand Japanese cars which our middle class find affordable but of which, according to our Minister of Finance, there are too many on our roads and their thirst for fuel the reason why we have none in the filling stations. $9000 per night is nothing for a sovereign country which can afford to pass up the chance of billions of kwacha of donor assistance for our power generation and the fight against disease.
But I digress. My advice to my fellow Malawiams is: "Be prepared!". There are no signs that the real underlying problems of forex shortage and fuel outages are about to be fixed. We are not now back to normal. The last two weeks were our NEW NORMAL.
The rest of the world is looking at electric cars to gradually replace petrol and diesel powered vehicles. But we don't have enough electricity and we've just, on a matter of sovereign pride, wasted the chance of generous US assistance to improve the situation.

The second age of steam

At the break up of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland the aircraft owned by the Federal Government's airline, Central African Airways, were shared out amongst the three former partners. Air Malawi started with, as I remember, an ex-World War II Dakota DC3 and a De Havilland Beaver. There may also have been a Vickers Viscount which was the only one with turbo-props. The others had thumping internal combusion engines running on aviation grade petrol. I was at Chileka Airport on the waving platform watching the flights take off and land. All the flights were either turbo-prop or turbine (jet). Into this procession trundled Air Malawi's ancient DC-3 with its radial engines spluttering and banging. We might be poor in Malawi but we do have a sense of humour. From the crowd came a laughing comment on our poor old 'plane: "Ndege ya malasha". ("Coal-fired 'plane")
We don't have any oil of our own. We've chopped down most of our forests. We can't afford imported fuel and we've thrown away the chance of generating more electricity.
When one door closes another opens. There is always an opportunity for some clever businessman. We've got coal in Malawi - we just need to dig more out of the ground. That's going to take some time. The steam age will have to wait a while and we may have to go back even further.

Animal power

In the meantime we have animal power. It is good to know that, apart from the 'ngolo' that is made throughout Malawi, we can import a variety of animal-drawn vehicles. Unfortunately, we do not have enough horses or even the correct breeds. Whereas foreign royalty can parade in graceful gold-plated carriages pulled by elegantly caparisoned horses, we will have to rely on lumbering oxen. The lucky ones among us may be able to get hold of a few donkeys. The really rich (and the Presidential convoy) will import very expensive thoroughbred horses.
There's a wide variety of animal-drawn carriages still being made (Check the catalogue. Click here). There are 2-seater 'sports' models; public transport carriages, luxury coaches and even dog and goat-drawn conveyances more suited to the lower orders in society.

So, brothers and sisters, resign yourselves to a slower pace of life. We will communicate at the speed of light but travel at the pace of the horse.

And just think of all manure you can shovel up off the streets replacing all that expensive imported fertiliser.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Grand March and Peaceful Demonstration on Fuel Crisis
Invitation to participate
The Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) has organized a grandmarch and demonstration in collaboration with civil society networks and institutions which include but not limited to the following: Civil Society Coalition for Quality Basic Education (CSCQBE), Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN), Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU), Councilfor NGOs in Malawi (CONGOMA), Malawi Human Rights Youth Network (MHRYN), National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives (NOMN), Malawi EconomicJustice Network (MEJN), MANERELA, just to mention some. This is a Grand
March and Peaceful Demonstration against the persistent and continuous fuel shortage in the country and it is also labeled as THE BIG BICYCLE MARCH ON THE FUEL CRISIS.
The civil society Grand March and Peaceful Demonstration on Fuel willtake place in the capital Lilongwe this Monday 14^th February 2011 from08:00am outside the PACIFIC HOTEL, City Center. The march will finish at11:30 am. The protesters will march and demonstrate all the way to the Office of President at Capital Hill, via the Parliament gates. This is a peaceful demonstrations and it is organized on principles of non-violence.
Members of the general public and any other willing persons are invited  to join the peaceful march. If you can, we ask you bring:
   1. a bicycle (if you can, not a must, but extremely important if you can manage to bring one)
  2. a whistle or a vuvuzela
  3. wear red and black attire or any similar combination (not a must but extremely important)
  4. tell your friends via email, or sms or by word of mouth about the march and why it is important for them to take part in this peaceful non violent march against the fuel crisis. 
This important event. Remember to come with a friend and in large numbers. For further clarification, you may call HRCC or any of the civil society organisations listed above.
Mavuto Bamusi
National Coordinator
Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC)
Tel 01 77 52 52/01 77 46 04/0888 292 240/0888 892 24