Youths blame Malawi Media for their Misfortune


By Gregory Gondwe

It is early in the morning in the squatter and hilly area of Masasa Township which is part of Mzuzu City in Northern Malawi.

Edison Kamanga and his wife, Mercy Kalambo both aged 19, are parents of two children. They got married at the age of 16.

Deeply in love at that time, the two thought love would conquer all. They dreamt of a life in abundance, with all their necessities at hand.

But life has presented its reality to them; the two live in a one bed roomed grass thatched house. They depend on piece works for survival. At times, their children eat once a day or sleep on empty stomachs.

The young husband Edison now confesses that early marriages are full of problems.

He points an accusing finger at the media that it never came to his rescue in the first place because he never realized that life would be full of gloom and doom.

“How I wish the media especially the radio stations brought programmes that really connected with us; I have experienced hard life which has made me realize that an early marriage is a torture,” says Kamanga.

“We have experienced a multitude of problems and we are now used to them. What I used to do before make me regret that I wished I had lived my life better because I think my approach to these issues was really childish.”

He says now that it happened, there is nothing he can do apart from opening a new leaf and starts another life again, as the media continuously teaches.

His equally young wife Mercy says she is currently suffering the burden of taking responsibilities that are beyond her age, due to lack of attention to what the media used to reach her with.

Unlike her husband, Mercy says the media informed her of the dangers of early marriages, but there were other forces that pushed her into the current situation:

“Through the media, especially radios, I used to listen to either explanation that we should not be rushing into early marriages while still young or having sexual partners, because that will eclipse our future,” she recalls.

She says whenever she could hear such advice she could believe it, but the moment she left home, the advice would also evaporate from her mind.

“On radios I hear women advising us that once you get married while still young you still need to hope for the future and taking the opportunity of going back to school,” she says; “At least this advice is timely.”

Shupie Munthali aged 19, also from the same area as Mercy says she had an opportunity to complete her secondary education at Karonga Girls Secondary School, but was enticed into marriage by a married man.

While she says she has herself to blame for her problems, Shupie thinks this would have been different if the media had done more to reach out to as many girls as possible with advisory messages on the dangers of early marriages.

“My wish is that journalists should visit schools and talk and interview girl pupils and students. They should be encouraging them to listen to radio programmes that advise them,” she says adding that they have learnt a bitter lesson.

Early pregnancies are on the increase in the Malawi’s Northern region, at least if statistics at the region’s Mzuzu Central Referral Hospital are anything to go by.

The Hospital receives five to six teenage pregnancies on a daily basis resulting into two to three deaths of mothers and five to six deaths of the babies within the same period.

The health facility’s HIV/AIDS section, which is known as the rainbow Clinic, treats around 320 cases of pregnant teenagers on monthly basis. Out of this figure, an average of 150 is found HIV positive.

Mbumba Chitowe Nurse Midwife Technician at the facility’s Antenatal Department says the media is encouraging the youth to be visiting their youth friendly facility.

“I think the media is trying to help us because nowadays we have a lot of the youths coming here for the services that we offer,” she says.

She, however, states that the media should still take a further step.

“In fact they should be coming here as well as in the communities regularly so that they can compare the two scenarios and advice accordingly on how best we can work with the communities to try to help them more,” she says.

But another Nurse Midwife Technician Linda Kalambo says the media needs to do more.

“The media should help us sensitize the community on the problems that we have on teenage pregnancies. When the teenagers come to the labour ward or the maternity it means they are already a problem and all we have is to ensure that they or the babies do not die during delivery,” she said adding that the media has to take a preventive measure.

Such experiences have prompted the mushrooming of several organizations which are assisting the youths in these situations.

However, the organizations also believe they cannot do enough without the media.

Hippo Honde is Executive Director of Youth Right Care and Support Foundation – YOCAFO which is based in Ekaiweni in Mzimba still in the northern part of Malawi. He says the media needs to do more.

“The media is doing something but not at the extent that we expect because you know most of those that are concerned live in rural areas where media practitioners have problems in reaching out to these areas,” says Honde.

He says this is where he can confidently declare that at a certain degree the media is not doing enough in covering such issues.

Girls with a Vision, a Mzuzu City based organization says most girls are not aware of their health rights and the media unfortunately is also not well conversant with the details.

Executive Director of Girls with a Vision Sophie Munthali says it is not the fault of the media that the situation is like it is.

“We cannot blame the media, it is our role together – NGOs and the media – if we start finger pointing then we will waste time,” she says. “The media should also come up with their different programmes on how they can engage NGOs and the youth to act as a preventive measure; I think that’s what the other role for the media is all about.”

Robert and Pushpa Jamieson are media trainers and consultants with Population Reference Bureau – PRB.

Robert says if the youth are complaining that the media is not doing enough then there is no smoke without fire.

“If that’s the impression out there, then basically the fact of the matter is that the media is not covering issues of population, certainly not of early marriage as much as they should,” he says.

He said they have since intensified training media practitioners to improve the situation.

“We have are trying to make aware to the media that there is much that we as a media can do,” says Jamieson who says the training is intensive.

“Journalists are taught that first of all, it is important to get all the facts; and to get all the facts they have got to be able to go out and speak to the people that can give them the statistics and data that is important to write the story that create right information,” he explains.

Even when the journalists are being trained across the country, Pushpa says the media is supposed to be equipped so that child marriages like one of Edison and Mercy should be avoided.

Wanangwa Mtawali works for a privately owned Joy Radio and he thinks the Malawi media is doing enough and it remains the responsibility of the youth to use the information.

“I think as media we may not accept the fact that we are not doing enough, but perhaps the truth of the matter is that they are certain issues that may happen which do not come to our attention,” explains Mtawali.

But on second thought he adds: “As a reporter sometimes I cannot be in a position to be everywhere at the same time.”

On another hand Edith Kayira a journalist working for state owned Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) says there is room for improvement:

“As journalists I believe we have a responsibility to civic educate the rural masses on the need to prevent early marriages.”

She further explains:”But as far as sensitization campaign awareness is concerned we are still lagging behind in terms of reporting on such kind of issues.”

Even when the journalists are being trained across the country, Pushpa Jamieson says the media is supposed to be equipped so that child marriages like one of Edison and Mercy should be avoided.

“The media can never say they have done enough about this particular issue of early marriages; we can now make sure that the stories and articles that are coming out have got more information, they are more well researched,” she says.

She says the stories also needs to be attractive to the youth by ensuring that sometimes such articles have a human face put to it in order to make a difference.

Perhaps it is high time that the media increased its scope in covering issues that would really help the youth to stop engaging in premarital sex which is not only booming the population but also increasing poverty levels in Malawi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Malawi to introduce new Kwacha Currency Series


Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) has said it will soon introduce new Malawi kwacha currency series for both the notes and coins and that for the first time Malawi will have a new K1000 note denomination.

RBM Governor Dr. Perks Ligoya explained that the review for the new currency series will comprise six note denominations of K20, K50, K100, K200, K500 and a new K1000 note and coin denominations of K1, K5 and K10.

Dr. Ligoya then explained why the central bank has decided to introduce a new currency series.
“The main objectives of introducing a new currency are three fold,” he said.

The first reason, Ligoya said is to minimise production costs and increase operation efficiency – by reducing banknote and coin sizes.

He said this will be achieved as the change will modernise banknote designs in line with changing international trends by adopting features that enhance banknote durability by looking at issues of varnishing, edge stones and cornerstones.

He further said this enhancement will also be achieved by adopting user friendly features for the visually impaired by coming up with larger fonts now.

Dr. Ligoya also explained that the changes will improve security against modern counterfeit threats since they will now adopt modern and effecting security features.

“The currency review has resulted in the sizes of the K20, K50 and K100 notes being reduced by over 20 percent on average whereas the K200 and K500 notes size have been trimmed by more than 30 percent on average,” explained Dr. Ligoya.

He added that the coin weights on the other hand, have been reduced by over 60 percent on average and the diameters have also been made smaller.

“This will make the currency much easier to handle and store,” he said.

As an initiative to roll out public awareness campaign, Dr. Ligoya said the bank will at the appropriate time embark on an extensive country wide awareness campaign to educate the public on the appearance of the new currency and more importantly the anti-counterfeit security features on the new notes.

“The public should, therefore, take keen interest to be familiar with the new currency to avoid being cheated with counterfeits,” he said.

The bank says people should also realise that on the transitional period both the new and old currency will run side by side as legal tender and the exchange arrangements.

“In the meantime, members of the public are encouraged to bank their excess cash for easy exchange of the old notes with the new ones,” Dr. Ligoya said.

The Lukewarm Government Media


Rightly put, the Department of Information under the Ministry of Information and Civic Education was the institution that was supposed to handle publicity and coordinate the local and international media during the whole time that the body of late President Bingu wa Mutharika was lying in state, up to the time that he was interred in his magnificent mausoleum – that oozes affluence.

My observations on how botched up they handled the whole event, especially during the burial, has persuaded me to ask them to better wake up and stop living in medieval age.

To start with, they should have realized that burial of a State President is not small news and more so when the foreign dignitaries that came to pay their last respect included Presidents, Prime ministers and deputy presidents as well as head of institutions.

Granted, the department arranged for Press Cards, but they never explained that within the so called Press Cards there are others that were reserved for media practitioners that were more equal than the others, under the tag of VIP.

This was not known until it was the time to take the body to the grave, and the Police Officers manning entrance to the Mausoleum started sending back some journalists. I was stubborn when they asked me not to enter because the ID that the department gave me had no VIP prefix.

Well, it was a pity to find that the photo journalists for our dailies were kept outside at the expense of the international media.

Come to think of it, how stupid, dull and sorrowful can it get, when you cannot be allowed to the grave of your father and yet allow people that have come to console you during your bereavement to be closer to the very grave.

What it meant was that you would find that international Newspapers are showing the world the final resting place of Mutharika while local newspapers had nothing to show.

I was with James Chimpweya and Amos Gumulira at one time who banked their hopes on a promise from the department of information officials who said four journalists would be allowed inside at a time due to limited space.

While I was able to see through such folly arrangement, either the department officials pretended not to see it or they are so dumb that they could not realize that, you cannot remove a journalist from an ongoing activity because they might miss the big story.

Indeed, hours on ended the journalists waited for their turn to get inside, which were never to be because as I am saying only a half journalist would have allowed to be plucked out of the spot.

What is surprising is that if the guys that are supposed to allow our media to operate freely do not give room to their compatriots, then who will?

Now, mingling with the international media that our information department was trying to please, also show that they also faulted our department big time, with frustrations that came because they were riled by lack of any forward movement.

One Kenyan journalist wondered why the department of information could not have taken the initiative to turn one tent into a fully fledged media centre where journalists would be breaking from the long and winding ceremony to be relaying news to the outside media especially considering that real time news delivery is the in thing.

SABC came prepared because with their own gadgetry they were able to tap satellite signal and send television pictures back to Jo’burg.

The other journalists patronised our telecommunication companies by buying dongles from selling points but ended up crying foul because the internet device just could not provide the facility they claimed they have. This was a shame.

If a proletarian like I could have foresight that there was big business to be tamed at Ndata long before the final day, how come marketers or whatever they call them from Airtel Malawi, TNM, MTL and Access never realized this?

Their connectivity was a sham. I use Blackberry services provided by TNM and it could not even bring the required EDGE as all it gave me was some funny GMS that uselessly never helped matters as I could neither make nor receive any call.

Likewise, my Airtel line was showing full network and yet it could not even allow me to call out or get in-coming calls. In other words, communication was not existent at NDATA during the event.
Unless the Department of Information wakes up and stop living in medieval, then we will have ‘a charade’ of media coordination during the on-coming AU July Summit in Capital Lilongwe.

In the first place, looking at how docile our telecommunication firms are, the Information Department would need to approach them and open their eyes.

I have problems with the way the government underutilizes the Department of Information and I have written on countless occasions lobbying for some change where, the department can even operate its own TV and radio stations.

At the back of my mind I know some accomplished journalists that work in the department and I have high respect for the department thus far.

But I have a problem when the professionals in the department start towing political line which is already blurred with bureaucracy but they choose to exaggerate the existing red-tape approach in the government system by making life of their colleagues even more unbearable.

Lucius Banda sings Bingu again


I don’t believe that Lucius Banda’s tribute track for late President Bingu wa Mutharika ‘Kuwala’ is the last that we have heard of him and the fallen President.
The relationship between President Mutharika and Lucius cannot, in any descriptive attempt, earn anything close to being rosy.
Politics and Lucius will also never be separable. Ironically, he once declared that he will only concentrate on love songs, which were never to be the case; songs full of political innuendos and some briskly attacking the political authority of the powers that be kept on coming.
‘Mabala’ – his maiden album – was a litany of atrocities that the first President Ngwazi Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s government is believed to have committed.
The subsequent albums that followed were merely pointers to President Bakili Muluzi on how his governance had gone off beam; afterwards Muluzi took it upon himself to invite Lucius to the executive residence where he was anointed.
At first, he was a strong critic of Muluzi and he thus rightly called himself, the soldier of the poor, but soon after meeting Muluzi who later became his political God Father, the soldier of the poor became the soldier of Muluzi.
He never took it kindly when Muluzi was a subject of ridicule and this completely changed the tone in his music, which nonetheless kept selling.
Then in the political fray entered Bingu wa Mutharika handpicked by Lucius’ Political God Father.
Just within his top notch quality composition skills, Lucius released the all time political campaign track ‘Yellow’. This is one number that even when one was never going to vote for UDF of Bakili Muluzi, you still wanted to listen to it.
In fact, it is undisputable that this track wooed a percentage of voters towards UDF.
Lucius and his Zembani Band travelled the length and breadth of Malawi with UDF political heads and by the end of the campaign he had made 70 performances. He says despite all this, Bingu pretended that he never knew who he was; thus lack recognition.
Then there was also lack of reward, although the party provided a seven-tone lorry and band equipment, it was never to follow what was agreed that he would be rewarded after Bingu’s victory.
And this explains why he moved a motion in parliament to have impeachment procedures for a sitting president and what came out is something that still makes Lucius seethe with anger.
After only enjoying the status of a Member of Parliament for two years between 2004 and 2006 he did not only found himself out of the august house but had to spend 67 days in Prison.
Now tell me if Lucius is not justified to exact the pain he suffered at the behest of the late President Mutharika by exposing the ills of his government through his music?
He says he has forgiven Mutharika, but I don’t know what he means? That he will never sing about the ills of Mutharika again or will, of course sing about him, but only about the good things that, like his political God Father Muluzi, Bingu registered in his first term?
One thing for sure is that Lucius would occasionally sing about Kamuzu and I doubt very much if he will not sing anything again about Mutharika; more so if there will emerging issues or developments to compare him with the incumbent Joyce Banda.
And talk of Joyce Banda, I am anxious to see Lucius’ next album because he has become our music political barometer. We use Lucius to gauge how far we can go with expressing our dissent over the current political authority through music.
He has those poetic dubbing pieces, like the latest ‘Life’ which, like all the songs he has released during the tenure of Mutharika infected the rest of his albums never to see any airplay on television as well as radios operated by the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).
I hear he is leading a lobbying machine to have President Joyce Banda open up the airwaves for his ‘banned’ music. At the moment, the President has just emerged from our folds and we share the same disgruntlement over duty bearers who had let greed get the better of them and left us all whining.
Now that she is the Duty Bearers-in-Chief, will she still share our plight, won’t she become another intolerant leader who will ban any music that suggests she is out of step with the accepted norms of governance?
We have not yet heard how things are between Joyce and Lucius as politicians who were once eating from the same UDF bowl. Are we going to see anything better in terms of who places the interest of musicians at a better tier if comparisons between Joyce and Bingu have to be summoned?
Having read my wild intimation, do you still believe we have heard last of Lucius and Bingu?
May the Soul of President Bingu wa Mutharika Rest in Eternal Peace.

A Befitting Dirge for Bingu


The first time I wrote about President Bingu wa Mutharika was when this column was appearing for the second time. It was titled “Mutharika – The Musician”.
I had discussed President Bingu wa Mutharika not as the then head of the Malawi state, or an accomplished economist, but because he had proven to us all that he was also a musician of sorts.
President Mutharika collapsed on April 5, 2012 while giving an audience to a cabinet member after he had already met two. He suffered a cardiac arrest that eventually killed him.
In March 2010 I also wrote here that ‘Veep Joyce Banda Sings in Nkhatabay’.
It was something to do with Gray Mtila, one of the country’s accomplished musicians. He worked in the Malawi Police Band after graduating from Nullhall Music College in the United Kingdom.
He also became the first black teacher of music at the glamorous Kamuzu Academy, but after retiring from there, he led and taught a number of church choirs. His death, though sombre, was during a church sermon where he collapsed at the pulpit and was pronounced dead of a heart attack.
The two men Gray Mtila and Bingu wa Mutharika have a very direct link to President Joyce Banda and how sad that they both died doing what they were called to do, and both died of heart attack.
The three, Gray, Joyce and Bingu have had a significant role in the music industry of the country.
To start with, I wrote at that time that the late President Mutharika’s musical talent came to the fore during the 2004 campaign, when politically; music also decided the pace of the campaign when musician Lucious Banda came on the scene with his hit single ‘Yellow’.
Then, Mutharika would sing out former Zambian President Dr. Kenneth Kaunda’s ‘Tiyende Pamodzi ndi Mtima Umodzi’ verses which never captivated anyone musically.
But having gained the incumbency, eventually, and formed his Democratic Progressive Party after ditching the United Democratic Front it looks like he got a totally new mettle for his musical capabilities.
Now this ‘Tiyende Pamodzi’ mantra had a different swirl to it, now that it was being sung by the first citizen who gave it an executive appeal. And when one of his Members of Parliament, gifted music producer and singer Joseph Tembo, [of course the name is now preceded by the title Honourable] took ‘the executive singing toils’ into the studios and manipulated it with his wizardry, what came out is still a hit.
To show how outstanding the track has become one has just to measure how it is still terrorising the beer halls as well as the dance floors.
With the President’s musical involvement, one would not have been surprised to see how many old and new artists went home composing one song after the other.
Exist Bingu wa Mutharika enter Gray Mtila.
Mtila is the man who sired one girl Joyce, who stood out amongst her siblings; she married a lawyer Richard ‘Mwanabola Shoeshine’ Banda who became Chief Justice in his homeland as well as in the Kingdom of Swaziland.
Joyce Banda was said to have joined the musical fray, like Bingu and her late father, when she started singing since 2006 but in the confines of her Malosa home in Zomba.
She however jumped parameter as she went to Nkhatabay South-East on August 1, 2010 where she sang in presence of her husband, two daughters and her sister.
The singing was through the Gray Mtila Music Trophy which she established in honour of her father the musician. In Nkhatabay alone, a whooping half million kwacha was spent for the competition.
Considering that there has been a deep connection of music to the two executive heads I have expectations that our music industry would do us kind with some tracks.
Lucius Banda, I know will forget his sour relationship with late President Mutharika and eulogize his life and works as not only the first citizen of the country but also an ‘accomplished’ musician.
Likewise a congratulatory song for President Joyce Hilda Mtila Banda won’t be that bad, considering that she is a daughter of a complete musician who even taught the art.
Mutharika has also enjoyed compositions from artists in the likes of members of parliament Bauleni M’mana, Billy Kaunda and Joseph Tembo at the time that he was welding the executive powers that was bestowed on him.
Now that he is dead, a ‘dirge’ for the departed leader would be a befitting farewell gift, considering that he has also left a musical legacy that needs to be appreciated as equally as politicians and government will be planning to honour him as much.
Feedback: drummingpen@columnist.com

President Joyce Banda – Take Heed


Dear Madam President Joyce Hilda Mtila Banda,
Let me first congratulate you for making it to the hot seat.
You have always referred to Presidents Bakili Muluzi and Bingu wa Mutharika (May His Soul Rest in Peace) as ‘Abwana’ – Your boss.
And I feel anxious that now you are the ‘Boss’ yourself.
When you fell out of grace with your second boss President Mutharika, you became ‘wiser’ and talked so much on how best the government was supposed to run so that the common man out there is the ultimate beneficiary.

I believe your conduct will also prove on whether or not what you were saying was all garbage or you had a point.
In His veritable wisdom God has put you on the mantle of leadership so that you put some breaks to the rampaging wheel of the economy which long lost its track and is straying in the bush; but in order to ensure that what contributed towards its derailment is reversed, everything is in your hands so that the country can get back to its prosperous ways.
You must be very lucky person to become the country’s fourth President. The position you are occupying Madam, was first occupied by late President Ngwazi Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda. But you are lucky because you have seen where your colleagues went wrong and where they slipped off it is where you will put your footholds for you to keep going and in the end create a perfect regime, although perfection is only for God.
Forget that your mediocre performance will be palliated by your being a woman; I for one would expect you to perform, nonetheless.
Don’t ignore the hospitals
I want the South Africa Rands or the US Dollars every time I seek for it at the bank. I need to roll down my vehicle at a fuel pump and fill the tank without much ado. I want to be diagnosed properly and treated with suitable medicine every time I am sick.
Remember, President Mutharika thought he would fly to foreign hospitals to get treatment when he will become sick and no wonder he paid a deaf ear to all the cries from our villages that public hospitals had no medicine.
But God never rendered him the opportunity to get sick first so that he enjoys the attention of medical experts of the world. He had a cardiac arrest while deep in his line of duty and died soon later.
Reproductive Health
Your Excellency, in 2010, you became a member of the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health and I know it is not in vain that your presidency will mix well with this for the benefit of our country, considering our maternal, child and neonatal mortality rate.
Would you please re-look our situation and establish if at all our efforts to reduce the figures and fulfill our bit on the MDGs was due to lack of political leadership or inadequate resources? Imagine we are the second worst country in the world after Sierra Leone that has a shocking maternal mortality rate.
I need to commend you for the drastic actions taken less than a week in office when you directed that the two gynecologists who have been waiting for an appointment letter to start working at the Ethel Mutharika ‘Safe Motherhood’ Hospital do get such letters as quickly as before close of business on the day you made your directive – thus April 10, 2012.
Search the Forex for us
We have deficiencies in the supply chain of our fuel as well as sugar, not to mention medicine. All this I know is because some where somehow the executive botched up in ensuring that forex was available.
On Medicine, what UNICEF and other donors did and supplied medicine into our hospitals is shameful.
While we all applaud them for the gesture, it is a shame because it is like people organizing themselves to start fending for your family because as the father you have failed to provide bread on your table.
I need to remind you Madam President that when we were voting for you and your predecessor on that single DPP ballot, we were in fact, hiring you to take care of our purse and provide for the country by ensuring that forex is available so that by extension, we should also have medicine, fuel as well as ensuring that there is no cut for all the supply chain for our basic necessities.
What it means is that when you failed to provide these, it will be a vote of no confidence, that your predecessor failed to accept and instead used force to cling to power when he even murdered over 20 youths on July 20 last year.
I know you were never given an opportunity to show your leadership skills and ensure that you were doing what we voted you for, now you have no excuse.
We know your predecessor said fighting corruption was his number one mission. But was it not apparent that all that gibberish was meant to hoodwink donors into giving us their monies when we were not up to it, no wonder they stopped us in our tracks.
Declaring your assets
Instead, the President who had nothing on him when he was ascending to power became a multi-millionaire overnight in all the currencies.
He built a multi-roomed, up-stairs home at Ndata, he started dishing out millions to all and sundry, he used to allocate millions to state house and then to the presidency in the national budget which he was failing to account for.

He became so big headed that even when parliament would summon him he thought he was larger than us the voters who had hired him for a short period to take care of our country, to explain to us through parliament how he was managing our resources.
I don’t want to trouble you to go back to our constitution and read this so I will provide it for you right here.
Section 88 A (1) of our Constitution reads and I quote:
“The President and members of the Cabinet shall not hold any public office and shall not perform remunerative work outside the duties if their offices and shall, within three months from the date of election or appointment, as the case may be, fully disclose all their assets, liabilities and business interests, and those of their spouses, held by them or on their behalf as at that date; and, unless Parliament, such disclosure shall be made in a written document delivered to the Speaker of the National Assembly who shall immediately upon receipt deposit the document with such public office as may be specified in the Standing orders of Parliament.
(2) Any business interests held by the President and Members of the Cabinet shall be held on their behalf in a beneficial trust which shall ne managed is such manner as to enclosure conformity with the responsibilities and duties of their offices.
(3) The President and members of the Cabinet shall not use their respective offices for personal gain or place themselves in a situation where their material interest conflict with the responsibilities and duties of their offices.” End of quote Madam.
Now how come your predecessor is said to have acquired a Presidential Villa and Yatch in Portugal at a whooping price of US$18m; built Ndata which is worth 14 billion Malawi Kwacha; lavishly spent 200 million Malawi Kwacha on his birthday; acquired a $60m hotel in Portugal through the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) and ordered that Malawi Savings Bank (MSB) at Ginnery Corner in Blantyre do extend a K400M loan to Mulli Brothers Ltd to purchase Bestobell.
In the first place President Mutharika never declared his assets and I should also hasten to ask you, did you ever declare your assets as Vice President? If anything he used to brag about how rich he was then when he was conducting political rallies as if that is what the quoted piece of legislation above says.
For your benefit Madam, President Mutharika was a bad financial manager and he miserably failed to run his Bineth Farm in Zimbabwe which forced him to get back here to try his hands on a minibus business which also failed miserably.
It was only after President Muluzi’s greed for power having hit a wall with attempt to stay in power for life through open term bill, supported by Opposition leader John Tembo and third term that he started looking for a ‘bovine’ personality he would install on the seat and remote control from the backseat.
At the time Muluzi made Mutharika Deputy Central bank Governor he had nothing on him. And it is surprising he started dishing out such big monies like that.
I suspect lack of the country’s knowledge on the wealth of the President before he ascended to power is where the problem of stealing from our coffers start from.
Madam President, I know I have been to some of your property including your lakeshore home in Chintheche; which is imposing yes and I would not be surprised if you improve it further.
It will however be wrong if such improvement will start raising eyebrows and while you will feel so big not to bother give the nation an account of how that has been achieved, as was the case with your predecessors, I hope you will spare us such a headache this time round, by at least attempting to make any unconvincing effort to explain.
Nepotism
I always wonder Madam President what fuels what? Does nepotism fuel gluttony or it is gluttony that fuels nepotism? Your predecessor President Mutharika was a shame that you need not emulate.

He was so myopic that he divided the country on tribal lines, something his previous colleagues never did.
With his Mulhakho wa Alomwe tribal grouping, he filled all influential positions in the country with his kind. Just check the head of Judiciary, Central Bank, the Police, Immigration; I am not sure about the Attorney General and the Malawi Defence Force Commander, MRA, MACRA, Head of Treasury and the list is long.
Unashamedly, he never had any conscious and those that were supposed to speak against it, were never taken seriously. What is disturbing is that those that were benefitting to such divisive acts never listened to the voice of reason.
You have an opportunity Madam President to better this record or correct things.
Within your ranks you have one similar character that feeds on nepotism in Brown James Mpinganjira. If you so decide to give him any position ensure that his wings are clipped, so that he does not soar higher that reason.
Relationship with the Media
Remember where we first brushed shoulders Madam President? It was while I was working at The Chronicle Newspaper which your predecessor finished off; for he never let the media operate as a free entity and vital organ of our democratic apparatus.
You went ballistic when I wrote a story about you while at the Ministry of Gender and how you managed UNICEF provided resources meant for Orphans and Vulnerable children.
Lucky for me I had all the necessary documents that I showed in your face when you summoned me and my Editor Pushpa Jamieson.
I vividly remember how you threatened me that your husband was a retired Chief Justice and that you would sue me for the story and you never forgot about the issue. Every other time I called you for a different story you would still remember it.
There was a time you were with your fellow lady ministers in Parliament and when I greeted all of you, you never responded, and still showed your anger two years after that story was published.
Now I know how you personally feel about the media and I am now very afraid of the whip that you will hold over our heads as you watch our every move while discharging our duty as the fourth estate.
I know this might also be aggravated by a team of your Media Machine that you will put at your state residence and your office as has been the case with your predecessors.
Propaganda Machinery
I remember to have confessed at one time that chivalry, that virtue I must show the institution of the State House to demonstrate my deference to the residence of this nation’s first citizen seem to have been eluding me.
Pity, it was not out of my own making; I don’t want it to continue feeling the same.
I have known from experience that a composition of people who run the state house second guess their purpose and grope in the dark as a result in order to find meaning of why they have to be where they are. They thus become a propaganda machinery that infiltrates the media apparatus of the state like MACRA, MBC etc. I hope your appointments will avoid this Madam.
State House Media Team
It is demeaning to make out that the State House thinks it should co-exist alongside the mediocrity of righting the wrongs of the media, believing that it walks within its ‘holier than though’ attitude it desperately tries to exhibit through its cheap propaganda as was the case with Mutharika’s style.
Not in a too distant past, we had a kind of personnel who religiously believed in the propaganda of ‘Press Release Theory’.
They had all the characteristics of shenanigans and sycophants who wrongly thought they were within their parameter of duty to scurrilously dispute anything that appeared in the media about President Bingu wa Mutharika.
The strange thing is that even when these people are replaced, they tend to continue from where their friends left off.
Good example is even when Charles Namondwe entered the scene as new Director General of State Residences; he was trying to walk the same route that had seen others fall by the wayside.

He never revoked any memory to tread carefully realizing that he took over from an overzealous Chief of Staff of State Residences Ken Zikhale Ng’oma who ended up shooting himself in the foot.
In my experience as a media practitioner I have realized that the State House institution, to start with, is a fortress of ‘secret information’ be it common and classified where when you stumble unto something that needs your seeking its clarity whoever is in custody of such information shortchange you with utmost pleasure.
When you salvage the little information that is adding up, write a story as a result, they turn ballistic, and become sententious about a version, which they say, is precise but nonetheless still scruffy.
It is a pity they are bigheaded and never see it of relevance to put records within their taste when a journalist is developing a story.

Until a story is written and when our Septuagenarian leader took notice and chastised them or realizes on their own that some shouting from Mutharika is on the way, then they would rush to dispute the story through a press release.
As a media person, my duty is to crack the reticence associated with what I call public information like how the taxpayers’ money is extravagantly spent. It is common knowledge that the State House staff will be sanctimonious when giving out any version of story for public consumption knowing well whose skin they have to protect.
The observations above are reprieve of blame shifting where authority fails to accept that it is failing to look at the picture with open eyes and realize that the media and the state house will never share the same point.
Even if we write stories that are to the taste of the directorate of the state residences still some sectors within it will find them lacking.

Nevertheless, since we will be trying to find out information that belongs to the public, which the statehouse gatekeepers will try to hide, then we will always be on the wrong side of what the state house perceives to be without its description of professional norm and ethics.
The President’s Office Media
That is about your statehouse media team; now there are also bad signs with the team at your office, talking from experience.
With Mutharika, whatever anybody wanted to believe I had concrete grounds to declare that he, or his lieutenants, was always trying to manipulate the media to set his agendas in motion.
While we still lamented for government’s contribution or lack of it in delaying the adoption of the much talked about Access to Information Bill by developing cold feet towards its realization, I find all the sanity to surmise that it is for the same manipulative objective that this bill is still a pipedream.
You see, whenever I was looking for any information from the office of His Excellency, whatever or however undemanding that information may be, I would be told to wait by Mutharika’s all-knowing Press officer.
It was either he was busy in a meeting or he would promise to get back to the enquiring journalists after finding out from the president; he rarely did though.
It was understandable considering how sensitive the position for these media guys at such places is as it thrives on the whims of the president and things become worse when the occupant of such a seat was very unpredictable on his bad days as was the case with Mutharika.
But it even became distasteful when the technocrats or officers in the ministries behave likewise or sometimes just more than the president’s press office; pretending to be the best custodians of public information in their domain. This is confidential information protected at the expense of transparency and accountability.
MACRA and LICENCES
It is by extension of the same proclivity that you find bodies like Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) behaving like politicians. They have flimsy excuse to threaten closure of some broadcasting stations and worse still refuse to issue licenses to deserving operators.
Just how do you explain how a well established media house like Blantyre Newspapers Limited (BNL) or Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) would be denied licence but president’s tribal grouping Mulhakho wa Lomwe and his family who have never done any media business qualifies for a TV and radio licence. Is this not taking Malawians for granted?
I would be so saddened Madam President when you will continue refusing the deserving the licenses and end up providing one for the Joyce Banda Foundation.
Then there is that Spy MACHINE, do you share the reasons MACRA advanced, justifies its acquisition?
Cleaning MBC
Then there are state controlled broadcasters, the Malawi Broadcasting Station (MBC) television and radio stations. You cannot forget how mere employees of the institution like Bright Malopa and his clique used to insult you as if you were not their boss.
Madam President, the lesson you learnt from such behavior should teach you a lesson on why there is need to free the corporation so that it can act professionally.
If you think what your predecessors were doing is okay, and then it is unfortunate that Malawi is blessed with leaders of your kind.
Learn to know that it is not an issue when you stretch a muscle neither is it an issue when you belch or attend a wedding of a relative.

We have no business paying tax to watch you or listen to you doing this on our television and radios. We hired you right from our villages and therefore you are a human being connected to these relations first.

It is folly to always follow you with state cameras and microphones when you are visiting Domasi or Chintheche to cheer up with relatives.
Madam President, MBC has some of the most talented journalists in the country, but can you see what a circus it became. An accomplished journalist like Charles Chikapa was thrown out into the doldrums. Joshua Kambwiri was penalized merely for coming from the same area that you hail from. Is this the way we are supposed to suppress talent and progress?
This madness has to stop, and I think it is you who has to give sanity to the way the state broadcaster is to operate. It will be difficult if you will surround yourself with praise singers, because they will be blind or deliberately blind to your shortcomings.
I am in deep doubt that you are any different from your predecessors if going by your appointment of Dr. Benson Tembo is anything to go by.
Here is a man who was in the management of MBC at the time Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda used it as a suppressing tool. Dr. Tembo is the same person who perpetuated his manipulative charge even under President Muluzi when he was the pioneer head of the then Television Malawi.
You cannot describe how it operated then as professional. And this is the person you appoint again and knowing how you used to chastise workers at MBC when you were a cabinet minister for not covering you enough, I know we are back on the same circumstance for another vicious cycle.
The most unfortunate thing is that the grassroots are sensitive to any mistake that you will make and they will give you, your prize or God will do it on their behalf.
I wish you all the best your Excellency President Joyce Hilda Mtila Banda.
Yours Sincerely
Vitus-Gregory Gondwe

CD and Phone Music: What is better?


These days when you are moving in our streets be it in Zolozolo, Chibabvi, Area 23 or Kawale, Chilomoni or Nkolokosa you find that there is sometimes a lot of sound clash where phones that have facilities to play and store MP3 or whatever MP is there are playing competitively.

When you are travelling within these locations in public transport even long intercity journeys you find that everyone has a head set on, drowned into a choice of music loaded into their phones or iPods.

But are we aware how poor in quality the sound that we are listening to from our phones and iPods is, as compared to the music that was recorded and stored in compact disks (CDs)?

This week I want to bore you with some technical stuff about how these things work although I am going to do it through the knowledge of a few gurus that I researched on.

The process of ensuring that this music really does pack into your phone or iPod storage is called digital compression; it allows your phones or iPods to carry hundreds of songs. This is the process that allows a song to go from being a very big sound file in its natural state to a very small file in your phone or iPod; this makes you unbelievably carry your entire record library in your pocket.

The talk with boys these days, no, girls as well, is how big, in bytes, their phones or iPods are; because this goes with telling one’s status. What it means is that the bigger the byte storage, the more the music the owner will boast carrying.

But some experts say when you over compress your music into your gadgetry you remain with poor quality where the sound of a snare drum with a very sharp attack, now sounds more like somebody padding on a piece of leather or something like that. An auditory perception professor in the department psychology at the University of Minnesota Dr. Andrew Oxenham has his specialty in how our brains and ears interact. He also started out as a recording engineer.

Blogger Robert Siegel asked him to explain digital compression where he said its challenge is to maintain the quality of a CD, but to stuff it into a much smaller space. Prof. Oxenham says: “Let’s think about how digital recording works.

You start out with a very smooth sound wave and we’re trying to store that in digital form. So we’re really trying to reproduce a smooth curve [with] these square blocks, which are the digital numbers [the 1s and 0s that are used to encode sound digitally].

“Now, the only way you can make square blocks look like a smooth curve is by using very, very small blocks so it ends up looking as if it’s smooth. Now using lots and lots of blocks means lots of storage, so we end up using [fewer] bigger blocks. Which means we end up not representing that curve very smoothly at all.”

He further says the difference between the smooth curve and the rough edges you end up with in the digital recording, you can think of as noise because that is perceived as noise; It’s perceived as an error, something that wasn’t there in the original recording. The trick is to take the noise — which is the loss of fidelity — and just make it so you can’t hear it anymore.”

Such noise that we carry in our phones and iPod which we mistaken for music are disturbed to become what is now called “masking.” Siegel thinks it this way: You’re having a conversation in a quiet room, and you can hear every word, every mouth noise, and every stomach rumble.

But if you were having that same conversation outside on a busy street, you’d get the gist of what was said, but you’d probably miss a few words.

The traffic noise would mask them. Prof. Oxenham says the loud parts of the music are in this case giving the coding system a lot of leeway to code things not quite as accurately as it would have to, because the ear is being stimulated so much by the loud sound it won’t pick up very small variations produced by the coding errors. In other words, he says the loud parts of a recording are used to “mask,” or hide that noise produced by the rough-edged squares of those digital 1s and 0s.

The Professor however says there are really different levels of MP3 coding where sometimes you can go from much less data — which people can hear the difference — to higher levels of coding which take up more space on your MP3 player but sound better and are basically indistinguishable from a CD. He says he would argue that under proper listening conditions — if it’s really indistinguishable from the CD as far as the ear is concerned — then one can really have not lost anything perceptually.

Then Prof. Oxenham says he likes the convenience of portable MP3 players, but ultimately, he prefers going to concerts, which means if we go to bands where Lucius Banda or the Blacks are playing, we get the raw full undiluted sound.

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