TAMTAM per una buona lettura

Un breve tamtam che racconta una storia che continua

Dice della cantante Scozzese in visita in Malawi per sostenere la lotta contro l’AIDS e in particolare sostenere una rivista chiamata Big Issue Malawi che è molto particolare ed esiste in vari paesi dell’Europa e dell’Asia – ora anche in Malawi. Il prezzo di vendita di due euro, viene diviso in due parti. Metà va all’editore e metà a chi vende la rivista così da permettere una forma di guadagno che renda il venditore capace di crearsi un fondo per un progetto che lo rendaa autosufficente nella vita. Un’iniziativa che non è facile da portare avanti in Malawi dove il potere d’acquisto di tanta parte della popolazione rimane attorno a un dollaro al giorno. Iniziato nel 2009 continua bene aiutando tante persone particolarmente povere.

La Montfort Media stampa questa rivista come sostegno ad un’iniziativa che rimane valida perchè il contenuto racconta la situazione sociale e lo sviluppo come ricerca di iniziative anche molto semplici e vicine alle possibilità della gente. è un modo di affrontare la povertà.

Annie Lennox visits street paper in Malawi

Published: February 20, 2011

The Scottish pop star Annie Lennox on Friday visited /The Big Issue/magazine office in Blantyre as part of her first trip to this southern African country as a Scottish Parliament-appointed envoy. Addressing the street paper’s vendors and support workers, Lennox said: “I think you are doing great work. The street paper has transformed people’s lives at a grassroots level. The effort your organisation puts in from the top trickle down and that is very important.” The magazine, set up with support from Glasgow-based charity, International Network of Street Papers (INSP), has enabled 400 homeless and vulnerably housed vendors to earn a living since its launch in 2009.

Annie Lennox

Annie Lennox in Malawi

Annie Lennox at Big Issue offices in Blantyre with Big Issue’s Executive Director Omega Chanje-Mulwafu

Funded by the Scottish Government, the magazine prints 1,500 copies every two months and is sold on the streets of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu, Zomba and Mangochi. INSP’s Executive Director Lisa MacLean said: “We are very proud of The Big Issue Malawi/for the work they are doing getting people experiencing poverty and homelessness off the streets and into work. “The Scottish Government has been a tremendous supporter of the partnership between INSP and /The Big Issue Malawi/and their contribution to our poverty alleviation work in Malawi has been significant. The successful visit of Annie Lennox today will only help to further endorse the good work of /The Big Issue Malawi/in the years to come.”

Following a tour of /The Big Issue Malawi’s/distribution office, Lennox invited vendors to sing some songs with her. She said: “Music is a great vehicle for sending messages to people. It is an international language.” Referring to her own SING campaign against HIV/AIDS, she said: “When you come to any African country, the first thing that happens is that people sing. We did it today and when we go ahead to other places, this is what happens. I called my campaign SING for that reason.” A long-time campaigner, Lennox witnessed positive change in the area of HIV/AIDS prevention on her latest visit to the African country.

“My campaign is about talking, about [creating a] dialogue, because this is about fighting a stigma. Keeping silent is deadly, but transformation is taking place in Malawi. I have been to places where ten years ago things would have been different.”

“I visited villages where people living with HIV/AIDS would have been cast out ten years ago. Instead of that, tribal chiefs are now welcoming people living with HIV in the community – giving them support and not discarding them and excluding them. The stigma is slowly being reduced.

Malawi ranks among the world’s least developed countries. The majority of young, urban adults search for jobs that do not exist and frequently become homeless.

The stigma surrounding homelessness is huge, as it is often associated with begging, sex work and HIV, leading to the exclusion of homeless people from society. /The Big Issue Malawi/ works to address many of these problems. Talking about the problems remaining in the country, Lennox praised the efforts of the street paper: “This is real grassroots transformation and I am very encouraged by what you are doing. Everyone can play a part [in creating change]. I am just one person and I do as much as I can. Together we can inspire other people to start to focus and stay committed.”

The Big Issue Malawi’s Executive Director Omega Chanje-Mulwafu was “delighted” with the visit by the Scottish celebrity, claiming her encouraging speech “will boost the vendor morale”. Sara Sangaya is one of the street paper’s vendors in Blantyre. “I am a widow looking after orphans and I get much of my needs covered from selling the magazine in the streets. Though I cannot fulfill all my requirements yet, I am certain that I will make a step forward with the help of /The Big Issue Malawi/.” Scottish Parliament Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson joined Lennox on part of her visit to Malawi. The President of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Scotland Branch (CPASB) said he was “highly impressed” with the efforts made by Scottish and local NGOs on the ground. Just hours after his return to Scotland, he commented: “The poverty you encounter when you visit a country like Malawi is at a level we don’t have here in Scotland. The problems are huge, but what I came away with is a realisation that by putting in very little, you can achieve an enormous amount.” “We visited many projects supported by Scottish NGOs and organisations. One hospital matron had tears in her eyes when she told us how much child mortality had decreased since a new ward was built. That touches you. Annie [Lennox] and I are both convinced of the need for continued support in Malawi. We want to tell people in Scotland: ‘Don’t stop the work you’re doing. It is making a huge difference.’”

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Di seguito un’intervista fatta a una radio privata del Malawi – Capital Radio – da uno dei più famosi avvocati del Malawi. Il tema riguarda la situazione attuale che sta sconfinando nella dittatura. L’aver proibito anche una semplice manifestazione, l’aver passato una legge che permette al ministro di chiudere qualsiasi giornale, guidare un paese come fosse una fattoria privata…

Lawyer blasts Bingu dictatorship

A top lawyer Ralph Kasambara has told a private radio that President Bingu wa Mutharika’s autocratic style of governing has reached beyond trite bumbling. He observed that Mutharika now has successfully emasculated Parliament and, contrary to his oath of office, considers himself unbound by the Constitution, statutes and Court rulings. Malawi is now clearly a full-blown, one-man dictatorship. “In a country where you cannot demonstrate properly, the press is being muzzled and the like, yes that’s dictatorship and that’s what Malawi is going through,” Kasambara who served as first Attorney General of Mutharika government told ‘Sunday Roundtable Discussion’ programme on Capital Radio.

Kasambara

Kasambara: Malawi now full-blown dictatorship

“The President, the Professor is intolerant, you cannot have the whole head of state going in public and naming an individual that he must not demonstrate,” said the lawyer in apparent reference to Mutharika’s attack on Mabvuto Bamusi coordinator of Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), an umbrella for dozens of civil society groups. Bamusi, who is coordinating the civil society to protest crippling fuel shortages, was singled out by Mutharika in remarks aired on state radio that he should not be inspired by the Egyptian revolution where President Hossin Mubarak was forced by protests to resigns. Bamusi said they are no calling for Mutharika to stand down but to resolve the country’s ongoing fuel crisis while some Malawians say they want to ‘Mubarak’ their ruler.

The former Attorney General said demonstrations are lawful activity even guaranteed by the Constitution. He said police have no right to give permission to citizens but Malawians are supposed to notify them since you don’t ask for permission to exercise your right. Government has been using the armed security forces to block citizens from peaceful protests against fuel problems and other issues of concerns. “We should not blame the President’s advisors.

The President, a professor, is old enough, he knows what he is doing, he knows what is happening each day he wakes up, members of the army, intelligence, police brief him daily and if something goes bad we should not blame his advisors it is his own making,” Kasambara said.

The lawyer then described Malawians as ‘very peaceful’ people who do not voice out their concerns and suffer in silence. Citizens says banning peaceful protests is clearly contrary to what voters had in mind in 1993 when they chose a multi-party system of government and politics; and clearly has a corrosive effect on the general level of ethics and public morality in the administration of the country. Mutharika is being accused of bulldozing his way out to run roughshod over Parliament, courts and Malawi democracy. In his seven-year presidency, Mutharika has not hesitated to show contempt for Parliament and the court.

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E per ultimo, un testo apparso sul giornale The Nation, sabato 19 Febbraio dove il 77enne presidente sta pianificando una grande festa a livello nazionale per il suo compleanno (In Malawi dove l’età media è sotto i 40 anni, dove manca la moneta estera e la benzina dice raphael Tenthani… è troppo per il paese).

C’è anche la voce che sarà una giornata di vacanza…

Purtroppo sembra sempre di raccontare solo storie tristi, ma rimangono storie imperdonabili anche in un paese abituato al silenzio e all’obbedienza.

Who’s fooling who?

Hey, in case it passed you over the Big Kahuna will turn 77 this Thursday.

Congratulations are indeed in order, especially in a country whose life-expectancy teeters under 40.Maybe it’s only me but I think the big birthday bash we have organised for the old man is rather uncalled for, if not outright insensitive. I mean, Malawi is going through twin historic crisis: lack of foreign exchange (forex) reserves and fuel, the dreaded twin “F”. Good leaders must be seen to suffer together with the common man, albeit only symbolically.

Symbolism is important in politics.

When the 26-year-old unemployed university graduate Mohamed Bouazizi torched himself thereby sparking the insurrection that led to the fall of the government, Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali paid him a visit in hospital. That gesture alone, although it saved neither poor Mohamed nor the government, showed Ben Ali had climbed down from his ivory tower. So celebrating lavishly with the ‘birthday boy’ is ill-timed. The money that has gone into the preparation and execution of the big day-long bash may not be enough to buy two tankers of petrol but forgoing merry-making in this time of crisis would have meant a lot to several people. Of course birthdays come once a year but you don’t throw a party when a neighbour has lost a child.

This is no time to throw a national feast. There are a lot of undocumented deaths of Malawians who could have otherwise been saved had an ambulance ferried them to a good hospital in time. But because of the “now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t” situation of fuel many ambulances are grounded.While we are on that I think during this time when the common man is struggling to fill up his jalopy the president should have cut down on the number of vehicles on his convoy. Last time I encountered my dear leader’s convoy I counted some 32 vehicles and he was only going to his private Ndata Farm! Most of us applauded when those unpresidential gas-guzzling Hummers disappeared from the convoy only to be dismayed to note that they were replaced by other gas-guzzlers. ìm not suggesting that the presidential convoy “drink” all our fuel but if he made the gesture of reducing the length of his convoy Bingu could have shown that he is with us in this time of need. This could of course not have solved the fuel problem overnight but surely the symbolism could have been massive. Imagine the anger that wells up in peoplès hearts when the president’s kilometre-long convoy whizzes past a kilometre-long fuel queue. I wish Bingu were able to disguise himself and listen to the anger among his people. He may have intelligence people around but I know our sleuths only feed the old man with cheap gossip mostly to destroy other people and total lies to massage his ego.

By the way, why is it that four months into the fuel crisis nobody seems to have a clue about what the problem really is? First it was Symon Vuwa Kaunda rubbing our Mozambican cousins the wrong way by blaming the crisis on imaginary hold-ups on a Tete bridge only to be contradicted by deputy Foreign Affairs minister Stevyn Kamwendo who blamed the same on congestion at the ports of Beira and Nacala. Pedro Davane, the Mozambican envoy, politely called our bluff and told us to stop blaming Maputo on the crisis. He told us point blank: “You’re failing to pay for your fuel!”The Petroleum Importers Limited (PIL), who have nothing to gain from playing politics with the crisis, confirmed Davanès point that they can’t get enough forex to square accumulated debts and pay for fresh supplies.

We have such a bad debt record, the good men and women at PIL told us, that we were certified not creditworthy and therefore we were put on COD (Cash on Delivery) basis. No cash, no fuel. As the crisis grew from bad to worse government sobered up with Energy Minister Grain Malunga and his Finance colleague Ken Kandodo telling us through our elected representatives to forget the politics, the real reason was indeed lack of forex. The two ministers were frank in their presentations, candidly telling us that we need US $24m to procure fuel supplies to last a month and about US $300m for a year. And yet our chief cash cow, tobacco, only infuses about US $400m into the economy /per/year.

Out of this, Kandodo said, we have to buy not only fuel but drugs and fertiliser among other essentials.

I think this was an explanation Malawians have been waiting for for a long time.

Malunga and Kandodo painted a frank albeit bleak picture. We know of course this forex sorry state is partly self-made; we should have been keeping our jet-set president on the ground a little longer, we should have been prudent in the way we handle donor funds and we should have resisted the urge to race back to dictatorship by enacting some crazy laws that are scaring away several donors. But that notwithstanding it is still comforting when ministers attempt to give us the ‘real’ reason about the sorry turn of events.But as we were appreciating that we have structural problems we may not solve overnight, here comes Bingu throwing spanners in the works! He said the crisis has come about because of congestion at the Mozambican ports. My! ìm not sure what we hope to gain by resuscitating a reason already convincingly rubbished by the Mozambicans.

The president has put everybody off balance. I don’t see the Mozambican envoy coming back to contradict Bingu, no, that’s out in the diplomacy rule-book. And we are always told Parliament is a ‘house of records’ meaning that what Malunga and Kandodo said is stored for posterity. Now in the wake of the presidential statement are the ministers going to eat their words?Former president Bakili Muluzi famously said “government is serious business”. Indeed I can detect a bit of amateurism in the way we are handling government business. I mean, when the top dog in government starts contradicting his own senior ministers you should know you have a crisis, a serious one, on your hands. What comes out of the president’s mouth must be above reproach because he is the last man when it comes to policy. But sadly in this case the Malunga-Kandodo statement makes a lot more sense than that of their boss.

Look, before we make a State House-sponsored trip to the ports of Beira and Nacala to appreciate how congested the ports are let’s look at a few things.

Firstly, we are not the only landlocked country that depends on those ports.

Zambia, for example, also procures its oil products from the same ports but if you spend more than five minutes at a service station in Lusaka it must be because you are buying full tank.Bingu may be right about the congestion but then Malunga and Kandodo said we need US $24m to procure enough fuel to last a month. However, when Perks Ligoya at the Reserve Bank of Malawi only manages to get US $5m for our fuel the mathematics becomes simple. I don’t need to be an economist to realise that the pittance the central bank chief released will only buy fuel enough to last less than a week. So if the Zambians take US $30m to Beira and we have a mere US $5m surely we will be experiencing the congestion more than our neighbours because we will be required to return to the queue more often. I mean, it’s simple logic here; if I need a full tank to drive around the city for a week but I only top up by, say, K700 it means ìll be returning to refill often. So, with due respect, the congestion scapegoat simply doesn’t tick.

Solutions, not blame-games

What is most disturbing in the whole twin “F” imbroglio is that we are behaving as if we have just become landlocked yesterday. I mean, we have been landlocked since the time the British and the Portuguese partitioned us. During the 30 years under Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda we were still a landlocked country. The status didn’t change under Muluzi.Now if we have been landlocked all these years what has gone wrong all over a sudden for us to start experiencing this twin “F” problem now? Under Banda and Muluzi we were dependent on the same tobacco and yet if my dad missed for some hours it wasn’t because he was stuck on a fuel queue. Can we say the physician and the businessman had better hands at managing the economy than our well-read, well-decorated economic engineer? These are uncomfortable questions but somebody must ask them if we are to find lasting solutions. Perhaps this is the more reason why, as a country, we should ensure smooth transition from one government to the next. I mean, Bingu may be a good economist but his status wouldn’t change if he drove to BCA Hill and asked for ideas from his predecessor whenever he is stuck somewhere. And indeed most of Dr. Bandàs henchmen, including his longest-serving central bank chief and finance minister, are still with us. Bingu should be able to send Kandodo, Joseph Mwanamveka and Ligoya to Area 10 to ask John Tembo what he was doing when faced with depleted import cover. All in all what we want is permanent solution to this twin “F” crisis. Contradicting statements from those in charge of things will only leave us with the foreboding feeling that our economy is on auto-pilot and the entire Capital Hill is out fishing in Salima.