Richard Msowoya: The next second vice President for Malawi

24 04 2009

If MCP wins the May 19 elections then former Minister in President Bingu wa Mutharika’s administration Richard Msowoya is expected to be the third powerful man in the country as the second vice president, a position only held by late Chakufwa Chihana.

 

Actually the position was specially created and the constitution amended for Chihana as one of the tactics by Bakili Muluzi to ease the pressure of his minority government after the 1999 elections.

 

MCP had already shown interest in Msowoya when the party’s president John Tembo wanted him as his running mate only to be stopped by the Nkhoma Synod of the CCAP but now Tembo has put it to UDF that if their alliance wins then Msowoya should be considered as the second vice president.

 

MCP is still currently in negotiations with the UDF on the strategy they will use to oust Bingu wa Mutharika out of State House and how they will share the spoils if their alliance wins.

 

Sources within the MCP disclosed that the party’s President John Tembo has already discussed with his top senior party officials on the proposal and has presented it to the UDF for consideration.

 

MCP spokesperson Ishmael Chafukira while declining to go into details of what is being discussed confirmed this week that the MCP is gunning to have someone from the north as second vice president when the alliance wins the May 19 elections.

 

“Naming the running mate is the prerogative of the presidential candidate and naming the second vice president is the prerogative of the president. In this case that prerogative to decide who will be the second vice president lies with the President (Tembo),” he said.

 

However, Chafukira added: “But the fact of the matter is that it is indeed true that MCP would want to have the second vice presidency to go to the north. We believe Malawi is one country and that such position should be spread evenly. That is our thinking.”

 

He said this will likely be reflected in the memorandum of understanding (MOU) to be signed between the MCP and the UDF once the negotiations are through.

 

“We are still negotiating as a technical committee. We have not yet come to a conclusion yet,” said Chafukira, when asked to confirm if Tembo has indeed proposed the name of Msowoya.

 

Sources in the MCP said Tembo had a meeting with some of the members of the technical committee members from his party last Saturday at his Nyambadwe residence in Blantyre where he told them that Msowoya is slated for the position of the second vice president.

 

The source said Tembo said it would not make sense to leave out the north when the president is from the centre and the vice president (Brown Mpinganjira) is from the south.

 

UDF spokesperson Rob Jameison said since the negotiations have not yet been finalised it would be “speculative and very dangerous to make any comments on what is being discussed.”

 

Msowoya himself said he has not been communicated of this ‘good news’ to him.

 

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Is universal subsidy promise real?

24 04 2009

United Kingdom says will only support sensible farm inputs programme, targeting the poor, thereby putting all the promises about universal or fertilisers cheaper than currently available in serious doubts.

 

 

British government Department for International Development (DfID) is one of the major donors to Malawi’s fertiliser subsidy programme but the department has clearly say that in the next crop season it will only continue supporting the programme if the cost remain sensible and still targets the productive poor who cannot afford the inputs at full commercial price.

 

DfID’s statement comes amidst campaign promises ahead of the May 19 elections from various political parties who some are telling voters that once voted into power they will do away with a targeted approach of the programme to make it universal to accommodate all Malawians including commercial farmers.

 

In an email response to a questionnaire regarding the operations of the programme in the last three years DfID Strategic Communications Officer Andrew Massa said evaluation has shown that the current distribution system of using coupons to target the most needy has so far been effective.

 

“DFID will continue to engage Government in policy dialogue to ensure that the cost assumptions for the programme are sensible, that targeting is evidence-based, and that sustainability considerations are strengthened and encouraging private sector participation,” said Massa.

 

Most of the political parties on the campaign trail are promising a universal subsidy while others are talking of free fertilizer to the targeted poor and also a reduced price of the commodity to all farmers.

 

Currently government is using coupons to targeted beneficiaries a system that has attracted criticism from the opposition parties who said the system was prone to corruption and also marginalize other would be beneficiaries.

 

Massa, however, said the evaluation has shown that identification of beneficiaries and distribution of coupons and inputs have improved this year as compared to previous years.

 

He said DFID will support Government to learn lessons from the targeted system to deliver a ‘smarter’ subsidy programme.

 

“The independent evaluations highlight the importance of making sure people get fertiliser in time, and of effective targeting to ensure the right people – the productive poor who have land but who cannot afford fertiliser at commercial prices – benefit from the subsidy.

 

“The 2006/7 evaluation suggested that targeting could improve. With effective targeting, the development impact of the programme increases and Malawian taxpayers get greater value for money,” said Massa.

 

He stressed that the programme in its current form was intended for a designated number of the “productive poor” who cannot afford the agricultural inputs at full commercial cost.

Massa, however, said despite the current global financial downturn funding to the programme will not be affected next season since he said the UK Government remains committed to reducing poverty and promoting growth in Malawi.

 

He said DfID expects a decrease in the cost as well as a reduced number of beneficiaries of the programme this year due to the decrease in the prices of both fuel and the fertiliser itself on the world market which led to high cost of the programme last year.

 

“The current declining fuel and fertiliser price is a positive development for next year’s program, and it should reduce the cost of the programme and mean that commercial fertiliser is affordable to more people, (thereby) reducing the need for subsidies,” said Massa.

 

Massa said so far DfID was impressed with the impact of the programme, which he said has reversed more than a decade of food insecurity and dependency on food aid, contributed to the country’s annual growth rate; and reducing the number of households at risk of hunger from 5 million in 2005/06 to 670,000 in the current lean season.

 

Commenting on government campaign promises that the fertilizer subsidy will be reduced to K500 per 50 kg bag Massa said: “DFID looks forward to cooperating with Government after elections to discuss the pros and cons of any changes to the current subsidy programme, to help ensure it is a ‘smart’ subsidy.”

 

According to Massa DFID is providing £20m () over a period of four years to the programme through the ministry of agriculture and food security.

 

He said the support include seed subsidy, which apart from providing affordable seeds also encourage adoption of improved seed varieties; participation of the private sector in the procurement and distribution of fertilizer; and the introduction of a variety of risk management tools including weather insurance to ensure available and affordable food for the poor.  

 

In addition to the farm inputs subsidy support, DfID also provides £22m () per annum in budgetary support.

 

Massa also said that despite the global economic downturn the UK government still aims to give £75 million in aid during the next year.

 

During the ongoing campaign the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has been telling voters that once voted into power the party will introduce a universal subsidy programme that will benefit all Malawians including commercial farmers.

 

MCP spokesperson Ishmael Chafukira in an interview maintained that the current targeted coupon system has not assisted Malawians but has only managed to bring problems and miseries to the farmers.

 

“However, DfID is not the only donor which MCP, once in government, would go into partnership with. As MCP we will roll out our programme, put in on the table and if they will not appreciate it we will approach other donors,” he said.

 

The United Democratic Front (UDF) has been promising people free fertilizer to those who can not afford the commercial prices and also that the commercial price will be reduced to K2,500 per 50 kg bag to benefit everyone. Currently fertilizer is sold at the commercial price ranging from K5,000 to as high as K13,000 per bag.

 

UDF spokesperson Rob Jameison said the current coupon system is badly managed the evidence being the shooting up of the budget from K19 billion to K29 billion.

 

“That is bad management and although DfID is saying it is satisfied and believes it has been, on the ground it hasn’t been helpful and not corruption proof especially where people and chiefs are always at logger heads due to the distribution of the coupons,” he said.

 

Jameison said the plummeting of the fuel price on the global market means that the price of other commodities such as fertilizer will also drop and make it possible to lower the local prices as well.

 

He also said Malawi has been importing 50 per cent of the fertilizer as baked stone which he said can be produced locally as the country already has raw materials.

 

“It is not a case of looking for more funding but rather a case of managing the programme properly. Our will be a scientific approach to make fertilizer affordable,” added Jameison.

 

Alliance for Democracy (Aford) on the other hand said once voted into power the party will increase the current targeted figure of 1.5 million to 2 million beneficiaries who will be given free fertilizer while the commercial price of the fertilizer will be reduced to K2,500 per bag.

 

Aford presidential candidate Dindi Gowa Nyasulu said even without donors this can be possible to be supported by the national budget only if government can cut on other unnecessary expenditures such as the purchase of expensive fleet of vehicles and travel.

 

“If we reduce other expenditure we will be able to raise extra money to get the fertilizer for free distribution to 2 million people. We will actually not increase the budget or get extra money from the donors, this will be money from our own budget,” he said.

 

Currently the country consumes more than 200,000 metric tones of fertilizer and this year out of that government spent K29 billion to buy 170,000 metric tones of the commodity.

 

It is estimated that if government is to introduce a universal subsidy it will need almost K35 billion in the budget to meet the cost. 

 

 





MEC mess: what lies ahead of the May 19 elections?

24 04 2009

It is now clear that losers in the May 19 elections will have an easy scapegoat for their loss. The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).

 

 

It is doubtful whether political parties would readily accept the results of the elections following a spade of unsatisfaction and accusation over the problematic performance of the electoral body.

 

Almost all the players in the forthcoming elections including the major political parties-DPP, UDF and MCP-have risen up in arms accusing MEC of various disparities in the election process and commentators have predicted that if the problems are not handled properly chances are high that all the losers in the election will not accept the results.

 

However, MEC dispelled such fears maintaining that the results will be credible as the commission was doing all it could to correct every emerging problems.

 

MEC spokesperson Fergus Lipenga said the commission has already agreed with the political parties that the verification exercise which was dogged by various problems should be opened for a second round as a remedial measure.

 

“The problem of the voters roll is purely of technical nature and is in no way a threat to the conduct of free and fair elections,” added MEC chairperson Anastanzia Nsosa through a press statement released after a meeting with the political parties held on Thursday.

 

Nsosa also said during the second round of the verification exercise the commission will increase number of teachers who are verifying the computerised voters roll to expedite the process while political parties will also be free to appoint monitors for the exercise.

 

Mzuzu University political commentator Noel Mbowela said with all the problems dogging the electoral process chances were that losers would not readily accept the results of the May 19 elections.

 

“There is a lot of outcry from all angles which in the end will make the elections uncredible,” said Mbowela.

 

He said the problems which MEC was facing now could have been prevented if the electoral body was visionary and foresaw that these elections would be different from all the previous elections.

 

“They could have known that these elections are different especially after Muluzi indicated that he would be contesting but it seems MEC was sleeping all along,” said Mbowela.

 

He also said another issue that will raise problems would be the independence of the electoral body.

 

“MEC has not acted very independently. It actually failed to come with the right decisions at the right time. MEC lost some credibility because this time it seems the problems are enormous. How they are going to sort out the problems we don’t know,” he added.

 

Centre for Human Rights Rehabilitation (CHRR) Undule Mwakasungula said he was hopeful that MEC as a professional body will be able to manage the problems well but said the most important things was that the political parties should give their support to the electoral body.

 

“Political parties should look and identify the shortfalls and I don’t think MEC cannot just sit without any action,” he said.

 

Mwakasungula said it would be wrong to push all the blame to MEC while the body has been given questionable support in terms of resources to have adequate staff.

 

DPP secretary general Henry Chimunthu Banda who this week expressed reservations on how MEC has handled the registration and verification of the voters roll also hinted that if the problems are not corrected his party would not have trust in the May 19 elections.

 

Chimunthu Banda said the DPP was suspicious of the electoral body after noting that most of the anomalies in the registration process were mainly in the party’s strong hold.

 

The DPP secretary general could not precisely say whether DPP would accept the results if the party loses.

 

“If nothing gets corrected to allow all the 5.9 million Malawians to express themselves then you can fill in what that tantamounts to,” said Chimunthu Banda when asked if the party is accusing MEC of rigging the elections.

 

UDF Alliance spokesperson Humphrey Mvula also said with the current situation it will be difficult for the losers to accept the results.

 

“The results will not be good and will be hardly acceptable by most of the stakeholders. The problem is that MEC has become too large and turned into the electoral process itself,” he said.

 

Among several issues Mvula cited the current problem with the voter registration roll which he described as disastrous.

 

He also said the UDF does not subscribe to the idea that MEC should use manual voters roll during the voting saying that move can easily open loopholes for rigging.

 

“The opposition has not seen the registration records and has no control over cameras or the register, this information is controlled by commissioners appointed by one person who also has interest. There is a danger that they can create as many registers as possible,” said Mvula.

 

He called on MEC to rework on the voters roll, saying there was still time to do that for the sake of ensuring that there will be free and fairs elections.

 

MCP spokesperson on Parliamentary affairs Ishmael Chafukira could also not say whether the party would accept the results saying at the moment there is no question of the MCP losing the elections.

 

However, he added: “Whatever outcome of the elections will raise eye brows, especially if the DPP wins there would be uproar from all the players.”

 

Chafukira said DPP’s complaints on MEC as being hypocritical after the party has “all along thrown its weight behind MEC.”

 

“We know that there is a deal trying to hoodwink Malawians and fool us,” he said, while describing the whole electoral process as ‘very’ messy.

 

“Even the registration it was like a laboratory experiment while the whole process lacked consultation and communication with stakeholders. MEC has always been making unilateral decisions,” said Chafukira.

 

He also said the MCP has never been comfortable with the composition of the electoral body’s commissioners who Chafukira said were appointed without thorough consultations with all stakeholders.

 





AU Talks: Was it a waste of time?

24 04 2009

 

Two prominent African former leaders Joachim Chisano from Mocambique and John Kuofour from Ghana flew into Malawi for what they called preemptive mediation ahead of the May 19 elections. The two were sponsored by the African Union (AU).

 

Among several issues the AU talks resolved that all players in the forth coming May 19 elections should avoid inflammatory and hate speeches during the campaign, but none of the parties has kept the agreement as evidenced by various statements made during recent political rallies.

 

However, since the campaign started it is clear that the two just wasted their breath, resources, time and everything. Political commentators have described the AU initiated talks between government and opposition political parties as a waste of time and an insult to the two former leaders, especially Chisano who actually chaired the talks.

 

Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) executive director Undule Mwakasungula in an interview said it was sad that despite the agreement which was signed by the DPP, MCP and the UDF leaders, all the parties still insult each other during their campaign rallies.

 

“I think the memorandum of understanding has been pushed aside. It was really a waste of time and the recent developments are an insult to the AU and the former Mozambican president who chaired the meeting,” he said.

 

He also said it was sad that during the campaign all the speeches from different party leaders were more of personal attacks than on issues affecting Malawians.

 

Mwakasungula said these attacks would not help the country but divide and polarise it while at the same time promote hatred among the party followers.

 

“The most important thing is that the campaign should be based on issues regarding on what the parties would do for the country. As a country we accepted multi-party so that we can co-exist,” he said.

 

During DPP recent rallies President Bingu wa Muntharika has been telling his supporters that they should not vote for MCP president John Tembo since he said he was a killer.

 

Muntharika went on to chronicle people who he said were killed by Tembo such as Dick Matenje, Aaron Gadama, Twaibu Sangala and David Chiwanga.

 

While the MCP during its recent rally in Ntcheu the party’s running mate Brown Mpinganjira told the people of the district that Muntharika hate the district and that is why he dismissed former minister Marjorie Ngaunje, police boss Olive Kumbambe, and Escom chief executive Kandi Padambo.

 

Mwakasungula said people in the country were tired of such speeches which he said do not create a conducive environment for development.

 

“This is also an insult to the victims. The politicians are using the victims’ sufferings for their own political interests yet they have not done anything to assist them,” he added.

 

Political commentator from Mzuzu University Noel Mbowela said political parties in the country should be aware that politics of castigating each other was outdated and not in line with the current democratic desperation.

 

“I think it is unfortunate that the political parties have decided to ignore the AU MOU. However, to me the point of trigger is the ruling party. DPP as a ruling party is supposed to be exemplary but it seems it is the first to break the rule and the others are just following suit,” he said.

 

Mbowela said although propaganda and castigation is regarded as part of the political game that propaganda can be done with attacks at personal levels.

 

DPP secretary general Henry Chimunthu Banda said he does not think that what his party and Muntharika have been saying during their political rallies amounts to hate speeches or character assassination.

 

“As a party we do not condone hate speeches we will only remind people what happened since 1964. I don’t know whether to consider as hate speeches reminding failures of other leaders,” he said.

 

Chimunthu Banda also said when Muntharika chronicled the alleged killings by Tembo he was just outlining facts of what the MCP president did and that can also not amount to hate speeches.

 

“It is a fact that these people are no longer here, it could have been different if those referred to as being killed were still around. These are only facts,” he said.

 

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) spokesperson on Parliamentary affairs Ishmael Chafukira said his party was sticking to the AU MOU but he pushed the blame to DPP saying it was the only party which has “blatantly violated all the 14 points in the agreement.”

 

“Almost all their rallies they engage in very terrible attacks which would not help Malawians but only promote hatred and animosity. As MCP our rallies are based on issues,” he said.

 

Referring to the MCP comments in Ntcheu Chafukira said Mpinganjira during the rally was just pointing out the truth.

 

“Hate speeches has an element of a lie or falsehood in it with the intention to incite hatred and animosity. You can see that there was no hatred in that speech, it was just talking about facts,” he added.

 

UDF Alliance spokesperson Humphrey Mvula said his party was still subscribing to the objective of the MOU but said the problem was that the government was abrogating to fulfil its required role to make the agreement work.

 

“UDF went through that process on its own cost which showed a spirit of commitment and volunteerism to the cause. The problem is that the MOU demands that the DPP or government delivers 80 per cent of the 14 points, but so far nothing has been fulfilled,” he said.

 

Mvula said among government obligations to the MOU include freeing the public broadcasters TVM and MBC, and the police and cease its hostilities and holding other political players hostage.

 

“I don’t want to agree that the talks were a waste of time but government instead of fulfilling its role it has gone overboard to set a barrage of hate speeches against the opposition. Unfortunately, it is the same people who signed the MOU who are in the fore front doing that,” he said.

 

Mvula warned that if government side continues with the “barrage of accusations” the opposition will have no option but to retaliate with their own attacks.

 

An official at the AU secretariat in Lilongwe said the AU does not think that the process was a waste of time but said it was up to the involved parties to follow what was agreed.

 

“The agreement was made by themselves AU did not force them, it was unanimously agreed,” said the official who declined to be named and referred the details of his response to the speech made by Chisano, who also said it would be up to Malawians to have the agreement work.

 

AU initiated the meeting involving the DPP, MCP and UDF as a preventive mediation process to avoid any crisis that might come following disagreements over the elections results.

 





Chiefs join DPP campaign

24 04 2009

The daggers are now drawn. The campaign in Malawi has reached its climax. But to many the issue is beyond campaign but minding who puts your bread on the table.

Some chiefs in the country have joined the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) political campaign, openly telling people to vote for the party and its presidential candidate.

The development has however attracted criticisms from members of the civil society as well as other political parties involved in the May 19 elections describing it as unfortunate and a disgrace to the chiefs.

But, both government and the UDF has said to solve the issue of the chiefs getting involved in politics there was need to amend the Chiefs’ Act which talks of chiefs to work to support the government of the day in its development endeavours.

In an interview one of the chiefs Inkosi Yamakosi M’mbelwa who is among those recently openly campaigning for the ruling party admitted that he is campaigning for the DPP saying the current administration has done well to justify the chiefs’ call to their subjects to vote for President Bingu wa Muntharika.

“It is a fact that Bingu has done better and if we compare with the previous administration you can see that he has performed and all what I am doing is telling the people that if we are to continue with the development then they have to vote for the current president,” said Inkosi Yamakosi Mbelwa IV in an interview.

He said to him calling people to vote for a presidential candidate who would assist the country was part of the fulfilment of his responsibilities as a chief.

Mbelwa also said what he is doing was not contradicting the Chief’s Act since he said the Act openly calls for the chiefs not to be partisan but work with the government of the day.

“If some people are worried that I am campaigning for Bingu, let them come into government and do well, I assure them that they will have my support,” he added.

Other chiefs who have come out in the open urging people to vote for the DPP and its candidates also include Traditional Authorities Chikowi of Zomba, Mazengera of Lilongwe, Nyambi and Kapoloma of Machinga. During a DPP campaign rally addressed by Muntharika at Songani Trading Centre Chikowi openly told the gathering that he will woe his subjects to vote for the DPP and its candidates to make sure that the incumbent president wins the May 19 elections.

Mazengera also openly urged people to vote for Muntharika during the launch of the central region DPP campaign at Civo Stadium in Lilongwe. While T/As Nyambi and Kapoloma, speaking to the state radio MBC during a news cast on Wednesday evening, also called on people to vote for the DPP and President Muntharika as a way of thanking him for what he has done for their areas.

The two chiefs were commenting on the newly launched electrification project at Nselema in the district. Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) executive director Undule Mwakasungula described the development as unfortunate and going too far on the part of the chiefs.

“These chiefs are forgetting their roles as custodians of traditions and culture. If there is a change of government what would these chiefs do?” wondered Mwakasungula. He said his organisation recently received complaints from some concerned people and aspirants on the involvement of some chiefs in the campaign trail.

“They even mentioned Inkosi Yas Makosi M’mbelwa that he is going around telling people not to vote for anyone else but Bingu and DPP aspirants,” he added.

Mwakasungula explained that the role of the chiefs during the campaign period is to promote good leadership and point out to people the qualities of a good leader and not to point out a particular individual to be voted for.

He also said in some areas the chiefs are even telling some of the political parties not to conduct rallies in those areas saying the area belongs to a particular political party.

“But that is promoting divisions among Malawians, our chiefs should refrain from such conduct that would polarise and divide the country. If chiefs want to profile individual candidates let them do that to everyone not only a the selected ones,” said Mwakasungula.

He said so far CHRR has embarked on a campaign meeting political leaders as well as chiefs to sensitize them on the chief’s roles in the elections. University of Mzuzu political commentator Noel Mbowela described the behaviour of the chiefs as “very much against the chiefs’ professional code of conduct.”

“We expect the chiefs to be neutral. Let us not forget that they are human beings, they also registered as voters and have their own political affiliations. As such the chiefs are free to to discuss some of the issues but that should be in private and that does not give them a mandate to go in public and tell people who to vote for,” he said.

Mbowela said chiefs in the country are very influential to their subjects and their public declarations can be taken as forcing people who they should vote for.

“This is not only for chiefs but even members of the clergy are not supposed to campaign for a particular party or individuals,” he added.

MCP spokesperson on Parliamentary affairs Ishmael Chafukira said by campaigning for particular political parties and individuals the chiefs are opening themselves for abuse.

“This is very sad but unfortunately the tendency will only make the chiefs subject of verbal attacks by politicians. Chiefs should know that they represent a population comprising of people of different political affiliations,” he added.

UDF Alliance spokesperson Humphrey Mvula said the chiefs behaviour was creating confusion and undermining the traditional leaders’ noble role of leading their subjects.

“If the side which the chief is backing loses it means the chief also loses credibility among his or her subjects,” he said.

Mvula said there was need to clearly define the role and functions of the chiefs through the Chiefs’ Act to delink the chiefs from political manoeuvring.

He said chiefs should be aware that their position are not appointed posts but derive their mandate through heritage and traditions.

“Chiefs are born in the house of chiefs. These people can be provided for by the government of the day through the national budget but that should not be an appendage for them to be partisan,” he added.

Section 12 of the Chiefs Act gives powers to the President to appoint and remove anyone from the office of Paramount Chief, Chief or Sub-Chief.

Minister of Local Government George Chaponda agreed with Mvula saying the chiefs can not be blamed for supporting government since that is provided for in the Act and he said is a practice which both the MCP and the UDF were following when they were in power.

“The Chiefs Act provides that the chiefs have to work with the government of the day to promote development and customary matters. Personally, I haven’t seen chiefs campaigning for political parties but if a chief is at a political rally and say government has performed, these are just facts and not campaigning,” he said.

Chaponda added: “It is the Chiefs Act that clearly promote that partisan and if anything the Act has to be changed to reflect that they are not supposed to work with government. Unfortunately, that will mean that they will not be getting money or housing from government.,” said Chaponda.

Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) spokesperson Fergus Lipenga said so far the electoral body has not yet received any complaints from any of the political parties or other stakeholders on the behaviour of the chiefs.

“We had a meeting yesterday and we told the political parties that anyone with a complaint should come to us and we will investigate. If we receive such complaints the commission will decide what to do depending on the findings of the investigations,” he said. Lipenga said the problem was that most of the political parties and stakeholders were just complaining but they are not coming forward to report such complaints to MEC.





The story of James Mbowe Nyondo: Never know might be Malawi’s next President

4 04 2009

 

In the Bible, the book of Acts of the Apostles to be specific, there is one interesting story of Pentecost, Saul (as he was known) who was a devout and zealous Pharisee who took it upon himself to persecute the then small but growing Christian community. The book, actually says he was present and approved the execution of one Christian martyr Stephen.

 

However, later Saul met Jesus, changed his ways and was renamed Paul and became one of the most staunch apostles preaching the word of God and proclaiming the name of Jesus wherever he went. He even went further to be a leading apostle and ended up planting churches. Paul is regarded by many faithful as the main pillar of the modern day Christianity.

 

Going through and listening to the story of James Mbowe Nyondo one of the presidential hopeful in the May 19 elections, is like revisiting physically the story of Paul in modern times.

 

Just like Paul who started his life as a zealous Pharisee, Nyondo on the other hand also started his life 41 years ago as a zealous traditional believer who looked at Christianity as only for white people and took a white man for an enemy.

 

“My earliest memories of worship are of the spirits of our people. Traditions and beliefs were very much part of my early education. I remember being told that the God, Christians talked about was for white people. It was embedded in my mind and heart that a white man was not my friend,” writes Nyondo in his biography on the website of the Servants for the Nation an organisation he runs.

 

During his college days Nyondo even went further to form a group known as ‘Enemies of Jesus’ to ‘preach’ against God, Jesus, the gospel and white people in general.

 

Ironically, Nyondo is now a staunch believer in God.

 

Further irony is that he changed his way of thinking at the hand of a white man and as he put it he is what he is today it is also because of another white man who saw him through his troubled years when he could not even afford to pay for his education.

 

The way he carries himself and throughout the interview he does not hesitate, at every opportunity to proclaim the mightiness of God throughout his life.

 

Even asked how sure he is that he would make it to State House come May 19 Nyondo again leaves his fate in the hands of God: “Should God see it fit to make me the next president of this country, then I will make it.”

 

However, asked about his church he says he goes to any Church of Christ.

 

“By Church of Christ I mean any church that believes in Jesus Christ. Like sometimes I go to the (Malawi) Assemblies of God which to me is a Church of Christ,” he said.

 

But, how did the story of this man, who tried to walk in Apostle Paul’s footsteps and seem so daring to get the much converted position, start?

 

“My life started in the city of Lilongwe where I did my primary school at Lingadzi, now known as Chimutu,” he started, while admitting that he could not remember the years.

 

 

In fact throughout the interview at his Area 10 residence in Lilongwe, except for a few rare events, he does not place years and dates to his experiences. Interesting he could not even remember the year he graduated from the University of South Africa with his first degree in Law.

 

Nyondo was born on May 14th 1968 and his parents originally came from Cheni Village in the area of T/A Mwaulambya in Chitipa. His father Barnett Nyondo is actually village headman Mwenicheni himself while he talks of his mother as a housewife. Nyondo is a first born in a family of nine children of which three died.

 

Apart from Lilongwe he has also lived in Karonga and Rumphi and attended other several primary schools including Nambuma boys, Kiwe, Rumphi and Masamba.

 

The father though now retired is still working on contract at Bwaila Hospital in the same city and resides at their family home in Area 15.

 

Born in a family where the father was working in government as a medical assistant Nyondo said life was not so rosy for him during his childhood.

 

“I should say I grew up in a poor family where life was not all that easy,” said Nyondo.

 

Actually he only got the taste of money when he was already a man. “I got my first million kwacha when I was thirty-years old,” he said.

 

Fortunately, that first money in his bank was also the turning point of his life. Nyondo started to look at life differently and think seriously on what can be done to turn around the fortunes of the country.

 

He thought this turn around could only be achieved if the youth are empowered with resources and not building multi-million kwacha structures across the country just for the sake of glory.

 

“Some of these projects are being undertaken just because our leaders would want to be remembered that during their time this is what they built, but actually they do not benefit the ordinary people. And you will see that at times when the initiator of such projects leaves office those who succeed him do not want to continue for political reasons.

 

“So rather than spending millions of kwachas on such huge projects we would rather spend money on empowering the people especially those in the age group of 18 to 40s because these people have ideas to push this country forward. My government will have the conscious for the poor,” he puts forward one of his ideas which he said would be put in motion once he is voted into power.

 

After his primary school at Lingadzi, Nyondo went to Dedza Secondary School, popularly known as Box 48, then to Likuni where after completing his Malawi Schools Certificate of Education (MSCE) he was selected to University of Malawi’s Chancellor College.

 

It is not clear where his political ambitions started to that question he just said: “I think those who know me way back since primary school, and secondary school, and my brief stay at Chancellor College I have always been on the side of the weak and this is one of the things that interest me so much. That is why I decided to go into politics.”

 

“At college I was a law student but very active politically. With the coming of multiparty politics, one of the first members of UDF as a student, I left Malawi because did not want to live under the Banda regime. Law was actually not my dream career, helping people if you call it a career is what I love doing,” said Nyondo, who entered Chancellor College as an education student but later switched to law.

 

With this background he does not accept he is a new comer on the local political scene saying after a break and after he had picked up himself he revived his political interest way back in 2002.

 

“I wouldn’t say I am new. Probably, just because in Malawi if you have been criticising government and go to jail it is when you are called a politician but we are all politicians. I started getting involved in politics in 2002 when we started sending resources such as books to MPs, to students at Chancellor College, the Polytechnic and Kamuzu College of Nursing.

 

“In 2006, when I came back home we also started assisting different people in different parts of the country and people can testify to what we have done so far. Part of my projects has been rehabilitating boreholes across the country. If you talk of criticising government and getting to jail as being a politician then I would say I am new and I plead guilty to that,” said Nyondo.

 

He explained that even his project to work with independent MPs also dates back to 2006.

 

It was while at college that Nyondo met Professor David Day and his wife Charlotte. According to him immediately after their encounter with him, Day and his wife knew that the young man detested the family because they were white and Christians but the family “kept on reaching out and caring for me anyway.”

 

“Dick Day always looked forward to seeing me, his enemy. He was a mystery to me because I was accustomed to receiving hatred from the people I hated. He had one weapon toward me, love,” he added.

 

Professor Day gave Nyondo two books to read – “More Than a Carpenter” and “Evidence That Demands a Verdict” both by Josh McDowell.

 

These books and Dick’s family living example of true love convinced him that he was way off in his ranting and condemnation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that marked his sharp u-turn to start believing in God and Jesus and in his own words the end of the Enemies of Jesus.

 

However, the year 1992 could have been the end of a dream for young Nyondo. This was the year he dropped out of Chancellor College after failing to cope up with the academic life at the highest institution of learning, according to his own account.

 

By then he was into his second year.

 

Although, Nyondo said he opted to drop out of the university to escape the embarrassment of being ‘weeded’ as he was ‘not a good student academically’ the then 24-year-old Nyondo and the soon to be the president of this country come May 19 (that is if Malawians are ready to give him their vote), did not give up his ambitious life.

 

“Although I dropped out of college I told myself to keep on working hard in whatever I do. My belief has always been to work hard and when things don’t work well don’t despair,” said Nyondo as he explains his path from that college boy 17 years ago to a now fully mature man ready to take the challenge of ruling the country.

 

Indeed he did not despair and in a bid to break through and start life all over again he found himself trekking down to South Africa.

 

And that was the beginning of his long winding journey to the man he is now.

 

Hard work and with some bit of luck, which he attributes to his strong belief in God, years later Nyondo found himself up on his feet again and now he is set to break the local record as the first independent to pump in hefty sums of money into his campaign.

 

In fact, he has already made heads roll after he volunteered to assist with payment of nomination fees to the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) for some of the independent aspiring parliamentarians. So far, he says, he has assisted almost 120 of them.

 

Although he is not comfortable to disclose the actual figure, it is an open secret that with the payment of more than K12million for the aspiring MPs his campaign run in millions of kwachas.

 

“I have indeed raised a lot of money from well wishers both from within and outside the country. Actually during this campaign I am spending millions (of kwachas) every week,” he discloses but still dodging the question of how much exactly he has pumped into the campaign

 

But how is he making it to raise such millions.

 

“It is all about networking and a belief in God. You know the problem with most people is that, when they make friends they expect to gain something instantly but I will tell you that some of the people who are assisting me financially I have known them for a long time without getting anything from them,” explains Nyondo.

 

Part of his network include a fund-raising drive through his website where he said people are giving in whatever small amounts they can afford. Some giving in as low as US$20 (an equivalent of K2,800).

 

Nyondo’s initial stay in South Africa has not much to write home about. He said for quite a number of years he did not do anything meaningful to his life.

 

“I was doing odd jobs,” this is all he could talk about his early life in South Africa.

 

However, in one of his many writings he mentions of volunteering at an orphanage known as Kids Haven in Johannesburg and this is the place which saw an end to his misfortune after an American millionaire couple Pastor Theo Wolmarans and his wife, from San Antonio in Texas spotted him and instantly adopted him.

 

“This family started paying for my education and basically started doing everything parents do for their children. I completed my Law Degree at the University of South Africa before proceeding to University of Texas in the USA,” he explained.

 

Nyondo is proud of talking of having two sets of parents – the Wolmarans and his Malawian parents—and call himself a child of two worlds.

 

And if you ask him about how many children are in his family he fondly say there are three girls (all whites) and a boy (himself). “Actually the only black in the family,” he proudly adds.

 

“These are the people I look to as my family, they have done a lot for me and supported me. However, I have to stress that it would be wrong to say that this family is funding my campaign because what they are doing is just like any other parent would do, they are responsible for my welfare,” he said.

 

Wolmarans is the founding pastor of the Christian Family Church.

 

It was in the USA where Nyondo started coming closer to politics. At the university, he said he studied Business and Governance and due to the connections of his adopted family, he walked in the corridors of power in the offices of the Texan government.

 

“This was like my learning process. I learnt a lot on how government is run because I would spend several days at the office of the governor,” he said.

 

After graduating with a degree Nyondo did not bother to look for a job but went straight establishing his own business James Nyondo Enterprises, which he was running with his wife Lucani, a South African he married during his stay in South Africa.

 

“I met my wife in the East Rand of Johannesburg and I have been married for nine years, my wife is an accountant, also a graduate of the University of South Africa. She is the family Accountant, campaigns with me, chief advisor, confidante and best friend,” he explains of his wife.

 

He then shifts topic to talk about his business life: “The business, which was a consultancy firm, did not last long. Basically, I am a public speaker and public speaking is what I have been doing all along. People have been paying me for such public speaking events.”

 

Citing one of his highlights in life Nyondo said at one time he made a public speech during a National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC in February 2006 in the presence of the then president George W. Bush.

 

His speeches encompasses a lot of topics but his most favourite topics he said are on why after several years of independence most African countries are moving backward and not forward; and on why good intentions do not materialise.

 

Nyondo, who has a three-year-old boy Mulisya and a 16-year-old form 4 girl Pamela, seems to have left a mark in the USA.

 

In 2004 he was commissioned an Honorary Texan by the Texas State Governor and one of the American authors William J. Federer had dedicated one of his books Three Secular Reasons Why America Should be Under God to Nyondo “for his tireless effort as a builder of the nation of Malawi.”

 

The book includes excerpts from inaugural addresses of all the 43 Presidents of the USA, except Barak Obama, who just took office this year.

 

In Texas Nyondo is actually referred to as a Prince among his peers, friends and business associates.

 

“This is not something strange, it just came out because I come from a family of tribal leaders in Chitipa and when I explained this to the people of Texas they started calling me a Prince. Actually from an early age I was groomed for leadership through my father’s tutelage,” he explained the title.

 

In fact, he comes from the area of T/A Mwaulambya who, according to him is from the linage of the Nyondos.

 

Explaining his roots on the website Nyondo said: “My father is Mwenecheni. “Mwene” means Chief and “Cheni” is the name of the land. I am the next Mwenecheni, my son Mulisya will be Mwenecheni after me, and his son after him.”

 

And in the interview he adds to this: “You know had it not been for the British who wanted the only Kings and Queens to come from England we could have been talking of myself coming from the family of kings.”

 

Here he slimly gives out his hate for the whites earlier in his life which he attributes to his earlier upbringing.

 

In his biography Nyondo also attributes his current political ambitions to his upbringing. He explained that throughout his formative years, his father kept telling him that he was not an ordinary boy but a great leader.

 

“Everywhere I went, I carried a king inside of me. My father made me believe that I was carrying a much greater person on the inside than what people were seeing and it was just a matter of time before the great man emerged,” he writes, and it seems the great man in Nyondo is about to come out.

 

Reflecting on his campaign, apart from his vision for the youths, Nyondo also has several lessons to share with Malawians.

 

“My mother taught me that my education is not my own but for my country,” he stated.

 

On working and financing independent aspirants who most of them are probably only gold diggers ready to dump him once they are voted into Parliament, he gave out lesson number two: “I already anticipated that, yes some would want to do that. But, I will not let the fear of mistakes to deter me from serving my country.”

 

And another lesson is that Malawians should “be prepared to sacrifice something today so that we get a better tomorrow.”

 

However, Nyondo always philosophical in his sentiments said this sacrifice should not only be limited to ordinary citizens but be extended to leaders as well.

 

“The way our leaders do thing it is like they tell Malawians to sacrifice for their country while the leaders get the sacrificial offering,” he said referring to the opulent life which most of the leaders in the country are associated with.

 

Nyondo’s campaign seems mainly to target and geared to appeal to the youths but his ideas also stretch to how he would turn around the tourism and agricultural industry in the country to really make them viable and beneficial to the ordinary poor Malawians.

 

But he warns: “I can not do whatever plans I have if I am not in government. If I want make it, I will keep on doing the projects I am doing now but I will continue at a smaller scale. So my only plea is that people especially the youths should vote for me so that I should be able to implement my plans.”

 

To James Mbowe Nyondo the mission is to be part of solving the country’s problems instead of pointing fingers at others for failing to push the country forward.

 





50-50 women campaign in shambles: women against each others throats

17 03 2009

Now daggers are drawn. In a typical dog eat dog or brother eat brother style women are up in arms fighting their fellow women on the way the 50-50 women campaign is being implemented.

The fight follows the revelation and government admittance that the 50-50 Campaign will not include independent aspirants has opened a can of worms with the two coordinating offices differing on the issue while the Women Caucus in Parliament has condemned the programme callings a cheat.

The 50-50 Campaign is being coordinated by the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the NGO-Gender Network. However, in separate interviews the two bodies differed on the issue of leaving out of the independent women aspirants.

Spokesperson for the ministry Silas Jeke confirmed this week that the programme will only assist 134 women who are affiliated to political parties leaving out independent candidates, however, the Chairperson of the NGO-Gender Network Emma Kaliya said the programme will support, both materially and financially, all the 206 women aspirants.

Jeke, who is also the ministry’s deputy director of social welfare, said the 50-50 campaign was supporting only those women in political parties because the focus of the programme is to mainstream gender into decision making party machinery.

“Political parties are more unified, we can not support an independent person because she is not a party machinery and also it is like almost everybody wants to be an independent,” he said.

Jeke added: “We can not satisfy everybody’s aspirations and expectations. No organization or government can be expected to fund somebody to get a post. We are just supporting them through the contributions. It seems the women are looking for somebody to come to their rescue but they should understand that we are only contributing.”

On the different stand between his ministry and Kaliya’s NGO-Gender Network Jeke just said government was supporting the network, without elaborating further. Chairperson of the Women Caucus in Parliament Lillian Patel said it was surprising that the implementers of the campaign has made a turn not to support independent aspirants after promising that all women, regardless of who they are, would be assisted.

“As far as I am concerned and the way I understood it they were going to support everyone,” she said.

Patel also attacked the implementers of the programme for the delay to start supporting the women through media coverage and releasing funds and campaign materials saying this has affected the operations of women in their quest to go to Parliament.

“We were promised that we will get the campaign materials on the World Women’s Day but up to now nothing is happening. In addition, nobody has received any financial support as promised. Time is now running out and everybody thinks that we have all the money. Even our parties are not helping us because they think we are being helped by the 50-50 Campaign,” she said.

All women interviewed expressed disappointment that despite ‘noises’ made in the media by the co-ordinators of the campaign and also the fact that donors already released funding for the programme no single woman has benefited from the programme.

“We feel that something is not going on well. It is now only two months to go before the election, by now we could have been assisted. We feel cheated and we strongly condemn what is happening because it is more of a lip service than action,” said a member of the Women Caucus in Parliament Esther Mcheka Chilenje-Nkhoma.

Chilenje-Nkhoma who is also the first Deputy Speaker of Parliament and an independent aspirant in Nsanje said the women were also surprised that the co-ordinators were always changing tune on the support procedures.

She said initially they agreed that the women would be given K100,000 to assist them with the nomination fees to the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) but later changed that the women should pay on their own and be reimbursed later.

“With this change some women even failed to present their nominations papers. Now they are talking of giving us the funding after March 20. We are now fed up with this lip service because instead of assisting women the Campaign is actually closing the doors for the women,” Chilenje-Nkhoma said.

She said it is time that those coordinating the Campaign should stop talking on it.

“After May 20 we also don’t want someone to cerebrate and claim that the women who will win were assisted because these women are working on their own,” Chilenje-Nkhoma added.

She also condemned the move to sideline independent aspirants saying at no point did the co-ordinators say that some women will be left out of the programme.

Both Patel and Chilenje-Nkhoma said it was only Pacenet which has been going in various constituencies encouraging constituents to support and vote for women. Pacenet is not part of the NGO-Gender Network involved in the 50-50 Campaign.

Some of the NGOs in the 50-50 Campaign incude Civil Liberties Committee (Cilic), Association of Progressive Women (APW), Society of Advanced Women (SAW), National Electoral Systems Trust (NEST), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Women Lobby Group, and NCS Net.

National Rainbow Coalition Party candidate for Mzimba west Loveness Gondwe challenged the Ministry of Women and the NGO-Gender Network to produce a list of women the Campaign has assisted so far. She said the initial agreement was that the women will each be assisted with 1,000 T-shirts, 200 pieces of clothes, K100,000 for the nomination fees and K350,000 as seed money to fund the campaign but all these have not been given to any of the women candidates.

“They should stop using women as a tool to get money from donors because we feel this is already too late for the support,” said Gondwe, who is also standing as a presidential candidate for her party.

UDF candidate for Thyolo Thava Trifonia Dafter said the women were in the dark as to what plans the coordinators of the 50-50 Campaign have.

“It seems this programme is not for us but may be for those standing on a government ticket. The problem is that most of the women can not get assistance from other sources because everybody thinks we are already being assisted,” she said.

Eteanor Koloviko, also a UDF candidate for Blantyre north, said it was surprising that after 11 months of talking about the programme nothing is happening on the ground. She also said the decision to sideline independent candidates was discriminatory.

“We are all women whether one is an independent or is from a party,” said Koloviko.

Kaliya, however, said all the 206 women aspirants regardless of their status have been targeted for the assistance if they will be successful after MEC scrutiny.

She said the complaints from the Women Caucus of Parliament just shows that the women do not understand how the campaign was working.

Kaliya said apart from the actual money the Campaign also involved support through community mobilization, lobbying to political party leaders, training and capacity building. She said the problem was that the Campaign had a budget of K320million but so far it has managed to raise only K152 million from different donors.

“All this money was put together and some was given to all nine NGOs which are assisting us in the implementing of the programme, some of it was also given to the Ministry of Women while a small portion was given to us for administration. It was donors who did all the calculations,” said Kaliya.

She explained that out of the money K20 million has been put aside to be distributed to the candidates after March 20. Kaliya said the decision to give out the money after the nominations have been successful at MEC was done to avoid instances where some women would benefit but ending up not contesting after their nominations have been disqualified or rejected.

“This delay is not of our making,” she added.

Kaliya also dismissed the assertions that the 50-50 Campaign promised to pay the K100,000 MEC nomination fees saying the issue was never agreed upon.

On campaign material, She said the process has delayed due to procurement procedures. However, she said the process was now through and a supplier, who will be paid directly by the donors, has been identified.

The 50-50 Campaign is aimed at bringing the number of women in Parliament to at least 50 per cent. Currently the house has only 43 women out of the 193 parliamentarians.