Sunday, 15 February 2015

Aller Satan

For many, it was a normal Sunday morning worship. For me, it was different. A service in French, with occasional English interpretation. My French is very basic to enable me to order food, take a taxi, buy some groceries, and buy credit for my phone and everyday living. It is like "one word at a time" and someone has to speak slowly for me to be able to follow the gist of the communication, C'est la vie et je ne me plains pas.

Assemblees De Dieu is located in II Plateaux 7eme Tranche, less than 5 minutes walk from where I am staying. The church is still under construction but being used. It has open sides thus you are able to enjoy the fresh breeze coming from the hot and humid Abidjan.

My experience at the church signifies the fact that God is awesome and that in our diversity, we are able to worship and praise him in the way we feel comfortable. I have never been an advocate or appreciated what I call "disorganised worshipping". My thinking has always been that God is orderly - at least looking at the structure of creation. "On the seventh day he rested". This thinking has always led me not to appreciate the Pentecostal type of worshipping. Years ago, I attended a service of worship at Assemblies of God in Malawi and I remember how uncomfortable I felt. That is years ago and thus was not prepared at what I was to see at my new place of worship.

The message was simple and powerful. Which Jesus do we worship? The one that performed miracles in the bible, conceived, born, crucified, died and rose again on the third day? Or we have created our little Jesus - who performs different magic in 21st century?

Then came those 30 minutes of mind boggling worship! There was this sudden change in the atmosphere. You would have thought you were watching a Liverpool match. I believe this was time for individual prayer - or let's call it "aller satan" moment. People were pacing from left to right, up and down the aisle, speaking, praying, shouting softly, shadow-boxing, gesturing, emphasising points. I did not know what to do other than observe and say my own prayers quietly. Then, the noise vanished into this beautiful chorus led by this youthful band in front, "majeste, adorer sa majeste", nous chantions (we sang).  As I enjoyed the music, back came the "aller satan" moment again. Now most of the congregants had a hand on their head. I observed that it did not matter which hand. All deep in conversation.

As I left the church, I said to God. Mon Dieu, which types of worship do you really appreciate and bless? Is it the one where we wear suits, sit quietly and sing with subdued senility? Or is it where we sing and dance for you? Or is it where we speak strange language and take the opportunity of a gym session? Then I heard a voice inside. "Those who do the above, are they people or animals"? I said, of course God, they are people, just like me. And the voice said, "all people were created in my image".

I then realised that worship is about expressing yourself to the creator. We all express ourselves differently in life. Some cry when they are happy. Others tremble when they are angry. Others scream for different reasons. Others bite their lip when in pain. All the different worships aim to praise and thank God. May God bless you for reading this testimony and may we thank him for the diversity that enriches this world - which could otherwise have been boring. It is good.

Friday, 28 November 2014

“He who would be his own lawyer has a fool for a client.” (Abraham Lincoln)

The legal profession in Malawi has become an embarrassment. They are deeply involved in Cashgate affairs and there are many instances where actions displayed are no where near expected ethics in the profession. It all boils down to the inability of the profession to manage the self regulation régime provided. This is a sure opportunity for a Government to interfere and institute regulatory regimes to manage a profession that is failing to self-regulate.

What is the main Problem? At the helm of the problem is the weak Law Society of Malawi. Just like in Malawi's political system where mediocrity leadership rules, mature and credible lawyers have left the leadership of this important Association to kindergarten lawyers with no experience and no muscle to discipline colleagues who fall outside prescribed or expected ethics. The Association's governing rules also seem also to be very weak, probably deliberately so to ensure that status quo prevails. Malawian legal fraternity need to re-think of re-engineer the Law Society of Malawi if they are proud of their profession.

Looking at the weak governance regime, new graduating lawyers without or with insignificant experience and no supervision, seem to open legal practices as soon as they are called to the bar. In my considered view, it is like allowing a newly qualified pilot to be a captain of a flight (without supervision) or newly qualified medical doctor opening a hospital and performing all kinds of major surgeries. In UK for example, If you are setting up a firm, one of the managers must be 'qualified to supervise'. If you are setting up as a sole practitioner then you must be 'qualified to supervise'. To be qualified to supervise you must have: been entitled to practise as a lawyer for at least 36 months within the last 10 years; completed a 12 hour management skills training course ; You will also need a practising address in England or Wales. I am not sure what the requirements are in Malawi, but certainly it seems it's free for all.

In last couple of years, the standards of this age-old profession of our "learned" colleagues have deteriorated (to be polite). I am aware of the old problem of embezzlement of clients' money. Of late however, we have heard of allegations where lawyers have register bogus trustees with laundered money; bought property using laundered money, defended clients in court today and next day on trial themselves; over-charged clients; one day defended clients against Government and next day became Government legal advisers on the same cases; joining Government but still writing submissions for clients in cases against Government. Some of these allegations are true others are yet to be confirmed. We also saw the legal profession's bizarre conduct during the May 2014 elections which included those in the judiciary. There was a merry-go-round of injunctions and Judges failing to understand the role of the Electoral body or simply ignoring the electoral law.

Is it not scary that citizen number 1 is in the same profession?

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Presidential Slip of the Tongue- Madam Midday One

As I finally depart from the beautiful African soils to Europe, after my brief Johannesburg stop over, political drama continues to unfold in Malawi. 2 hours is a longtime in life.  When I departed Lilongwe yesterday,  Rev Dr. Chakwera had a narrow lead and, by the time I landed in Johannesburg, Prof Peter Muthalika had regained the lead. It all points to a APM win, based on the unofficial results from constituencies. There is indication of anomalies, for example, one result in Ntchisi shows a possible doctored result with MCP results not registered. Looks weird and raises suspicions. The question is the extent of such anomalies and whether they do affect the overall results. That is a matter for MEC to resolve.

Today 24 May, I woke up to a shocker as President Joyce Banda nullified the elections using Section 88 (2) of the Constitution which says:

"The President shall provide executive leadership in the interest of national unity in accordance with this Constitution and the laws of the Republic".

There is an overwhelming condemnation of President Banda's pronouncement as unconstitutional as this section of the Constitution is not about elections according to legal experts.  I listened to the phone call which the President made to Zodiak radio to make the pronouncement. It was a tired and confused voice of President Joyce Banda who was on that line. She had withdrawn an earlier statement that quoted Section 82(2), which she called "Slip of the Tongue".  It is true that the election was a sham by any standards in terms of logistics and opportunity that this created for rigging. It is equally true that the election was going to be between the three main parties namely PP, DPP and MCP. This means that each of the parties had an equal chance to win. The fact that PP is a distant third with projected 12 Members of Parliament and that they only won the northern region vote, says a lot about lack of genuine popularity in general for the party.

The President should have been the last person to try to flout the constitution especially after Malawians defended the constitution to get her into power. The Midnight 6 still stand accused and she has now become the Midday One.

I understand rioting has taken place in some areas and the President is being accused of fuelling the riots so that she can justify the use of section 88(2). It remains to be seen whether the plan will work. The role of the Armed forces will come into play and right now there is simply speculation as to the role the Army will play. I hope though that common sense will prevail and the President will rise above pettiness and withdraw her pronouncement.

When this is dusted and done, Malawi urgently needs a THIRD FORCE which is the citizenry, to ensure that the first agenda for the next Parliament should be adoption of the recommendations of the 2007 Constitutional Review which included provision for the 50+1 requirement, bringing back the recall provision, reduction of presidential powers and separation of Executive from Legislature. If we don't get the Parliament to consider and adopt some of the recommendation that achieve this balance and reduction of power, we will have bigger problems in 2019 and before. Unfortunately Lawyers who play this game are interested parties in getting a share of the "cash gate"pie and they easily compromise their professionalism once they get into power. We also have activists who are opportunists and a are always attracted to jobs with fat cheques and compromise their stand. To avoid this, there is need for a Pact by a group of concerned Malawians and all interested stakeholders who will be committed to work on pushing Parliament until this is achieved. The group can even lobby for suspension of aid until we achieve what is agreed. The group should come up with a Written Declaration that the political parties should sign and commit to undertake within a year after being sworn in. It is our only chance.

When the Sun is under Clouds

In August 2013, I registered to participate in the Malawi 2014 tripartite elections. At that time, I was already concerned with the PP Governments failure to articulate and implement a vision for Malawi. Cash gate had not been revealed but all stories talked about how the country was bleeding from fraud and corruption. Names were mentioned and most aligned to PP and the President's family. But these were allegations.

If my Father had not died, I probably would not have had the opportunity to cast my vote. It was his death that brought me home. At his funeral on 25 July one of the mourners was Rev Dr Lazarus Chakwera. At that time, he had announced that he was going to stand as a candidate during the MCP convention. In introducing him at the graveside, Rev Nyondo wished him well and hoped that if he became President of Malawi, he hoped the Golodi road would finally be considered. Despite having listened to his church ceremonies before, I was impressed with his humility and humanity.

 On 20 May, with no regret at all, I cast my vote for Rev Dr Lazarus Chakwera, who I believe did not become the President of MCP by accident. Today 23 May 2014, having cast my vote for Rev Dr Chakwera and, as I prepare to return to Watford, UK, I  reflect on my 6 days in Malawi.  I am of course leaving without knowing the declared winner of the 2014 Presidential elections. The only known fact is that President Joyce Banda is no longer going to be the President of Malawi. It seems the political similarities between Malawi and Zambia continue to surface. This starts from comparisons between Kamuzu and Kaunda to how cardiac arrest, arrested Mwanawasa and Bingu. The other known fact is that the next President of Malawi is going to be either Arthur Peter Muthalika (APM) or Lazarus Chakwera (LC)

Indications as I leave are that that LC is narrowly leading by a few votes. The lead established is however from unofficial results from constituency tallying centres. Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) is yet to announce the official results. So like everyone else I hold my breath. However both APM and LC should know that people voted for them not just because they like them, but because they have hope and faith in their leadership for the future and Malawi's future.

Irrespective, there are lessons to be learnt from this election. First, the Power of Incumbency can be a myth in a maturing democracy especially if majority of the people cry for change. This was clearly shown in the results in Zomba the homestead of the incumbent Joyce Banda. Second, sadly Malawi still sees election as an event and not part of our democratic system which requires a functional Electoral Commission. MEC currently operates like a "Wedding Committee". This has to change going forward. Just like everyday we teach mothers regarding family planning, MEC should have an ongoing programme of voter education and establishment of electoral systems. Third, politicians need to consolidate their Party structures on the ground. This was very a visible weakness of the MCP in the North and Southern region where party structures were non-existent which made it difficult for MCP to reach out to the people.  On the other hand DPP seems to have retained local party structures that canvassed voters every other day in their weaker regions.

Going forward, the next elected President should immediately move and seriously restructure our civil service, insulating it from politics. Let's try to build a professional civil service in terms of staffing as well as delivered public services. Second, Ministers should now not double as MPs. This will ensure that MPs concentrate on their role. Third, decentralisation and devolution of power should be started with the intention of having stronger local authorities. Although elections of councillors did not attract much coverage, the future of Malawi's development lies in strong and functional District Assemblies that will have and implement local development plans. Finally, we need to go back to the 2007 Constitutional Review document to implement recommendations made including reclaiming section 64, having 50+1 provision etc. Our democracy has been compromised by greedy politicians who managed to massage constitution to fit their agenda.

To Outgoing President Banda (JB) I applaud her and the people that made it possible for JB to step in the vacuum after Bingu's death. I have no doubt that when she stepped in, she wanted to make a difference in Malawians lives. She however has herself to blame for not performing and for losing this election. She only had 2 years to utilise the goodwill shown by Malawians soon after that fatal Thursday in April 2012 when we lost our unpopular President.  She unfortunately never listened to the free and good advice offered by many genuine Malawians. I vividly remember Edge Kanyongolo's wise words when both if us we were panellist in Scotland on Malawi's democracy. It seems she preferred to listen to the sharks that have moved from party to party since 1994. I can foresee PP ending up like AFORD, a historical party. I wish her God's guidance as she waves goodbye to the power, pomp and the Orange movement. There is life after State House. A good start would be a rethink on "One Cow, one Family" and Mudzi transformation Trust outside State House.

As I leave Malawi, irrespective of who wins, I do not regret voting for Lazarus Chakwera. I believe as I have said before, he has the integrity and the heart to lead Malawi into the future. If he loses, he will be a credible Leader of Opposition. Like he said in his Press briefing yesterday, that even if he were to lose and despite challenges MEC faced, he will accept the outcome of the elections.

One phrase that I will always live to remember uttered by Rev Dr Lazarus Chakwera is, "just because the sun is under the clouds does not mean it has stopped shining". And I say to my fellow Malawians, "just because your preferred candidate has lost the election, does not mean Malawians don't need development".

God Bless us and Malawi

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

investing in Young Graduates in Malawi

My visit to Malawi was to participate in training unemployed young graduates from the various Universities in Malawi. The training was organised by T4EE, a new Malawian owned NGO, which is dedicated to imparting skills to graduates to make them employable and become entrepreneurs. I spent 3 days with a group of 60 young graduates helping them to see why entrepreneurship, not "tenderpreneurship" is the greatest career they can consider. As a person in diaspora and having gained some experience around the world, I was excited to offer my time to support these young graduates.

Over the years, there has been a debate regarding the deterioration in the depth and quality of our graduates. I cannot say with 100% confidence regarding the depth and quality of those graduating from our Universities. What, however I can say with certainty is that the 60 that I worked with were very impressive, engaging and hungry for success. Obviously by far, sharper than the politicians we have around us. What was however very obvious was that they are starved of information in general, most of which could easily be found on the Internet. Well, Internet is still a luxury in Malawi in my view, if one is to assess accessibility and cost. By the way, Rwanda has just rolled out free Wi Fi for all as they view Internet as key development infrastructure for the country:

What Rwanda has rolled out is the first step of a plan to provide Wi-Fi coverage to all schools and public buildings, markets, bus stations and hotels in the city and, in the long-term, to the entire country. In June this year, Rwanda government engaged a South Korea's KT Corp to build a 4G network that the Government wants delivered to 95% of the country, up from the estimated 10% who currently have 3G access.

I am not aware of any Malawi plans regarding Internet access for all.

Our young graduates are not only starved of information, but they also need tremendous mentorship and coaching. It was fascinating to note that some of the young graduates had already been doing "some business" whilst in campus. There were many creative minds within the group. For example, one girl started a fast food near her home because every day she saw multitude of people walking past their home. All she saw in her mind was money "walking away". She then started a computer school as her home was surrounded by schools that offered no classes in computing. One young journalists is keen to write and publish books and documentaries of Malawian rural life. One graduate engineer is in the process of establishing a small business that will be maintaining medical equipment. Another graduate by the end of programme had already established a consultancy firm to support many project ideas discussed during the training.

Their dreams die because Malawi does not have a system where we nurture these young entrepreneurs. I was happy to note that successful entrepreneurs like Tom Mpinganjira, Thomas Banda Nkosi (Steers) and many others offered their time to speak to the young graduates. I hope they will play a role of coaching and mentoring those young graduates who are determined to live their dreams.

There is also no level playing field to enable these graduates compete. With no easy access to capital as well as expensive capital, how do they compete with "TenderPreneurs" in Capital Hill who have easy access to "Government cash-cows"? Of course it is very unwise for a new young graduate to build his business on borrowed money from Banks because their businesses will fail. This is where we need "angel investors" who can invest in the ideas of these young graduates. There are a lot of Malawian successful business persons who can part with K500, 000 to K5 million as "risk capital" in young dynamic graduates with brilliant innovative ideas.

I have a conviction that we need to believe in our youth and they may not be as street-wise as our generation, but they are the future of the growing Malawi.

T4EE which stands for "Training for Entrepreneurship and Employability" is a good initiative which should be supported by Universities and Corporate Malawi. It is my hope that T4EE will in the near future target students whilst still in the University or even secondary schools to build this awareness and confidence in the young people

Thursday, 10 October 2013

On President Joyce Banda's Pending Cabinet

JB finds herself in a very awkward situation. 7 months before an election she is found in a situation whereby she has to make tough decisions, some of which might cost her the election. If she has seen the light, she must be cursing herself for not taking this decision when she had a better opportunity.

The Cabinet has been dissolved. Good riddance. The Cabinet commanded very little respect internally or abroad. The performance of the Minister of Finance without doubt has been the main talking point. On rating of 1-5 he definitely scores a 0! Not only has he messed up the Treasury, he has been clueless as to what is going on in the economy. A typical case was when the IMF chief was in Malawi. The Minister of Finance was grinning at the top table and was not in charge of his own show. His statement that day and thereafter clearly showed he reads and understands nothing.

As a person, he is a PhD and with reasonable experience and thus his brain is still useful to Malawi Government and PP. Definitely not in the Treasury.

The Cabinet has the likes of Uladi Mussa, some Zulu and many "our time to eat" personalities. No apologies, they simply have to go.

The question we should pose is; Do we really need a Cabinet between now and elections? What really is the value they will add to our democracy and development? Perhaps all efforts should be the re-aligning and strengthening of the civil service and other organs of Government. If it's a constitutional requirement, them let's have 5 -10 Ministers for example. I don't believe that Government business will in any way be affected.

Of course I am aware that the appointment of Cabinet is important during an election because it ensures that those loyal are rewarded and they have easy access to tax payers money for campaign. But my gut feeling is that the Cabinet is a drain on our resources and having no cabinet or a skeleton Cabinet would be the greatest thing JB would have ever done even if she was not elected come May 2014

Monday, 15 April 2013

Dr Lazarus Chakwela and "Tambala Wakuda"

The announcement that Rev Dr Lazarus Chakwela will contest for the hot seat of Presidency of the once mighty Malawi Congress Party has generated debate and interest. Perhaps its because a seemingly credible candidate has expressed interest to enter a field that is not for those with weaker hearts.  If MCP elects Dr Chakwela as its torch bearer, they will have secured a "credible" candidate with less known skeletons and perhaps who has some proven integrity in his social and professional life.

The unanswered question is whether Dr Chakwela is running as a preferred Hon. John Tembo's candidate. This means JT bowing out of active political life in view of the restrictions imposed by the MCP constitution.

Assuming the above is true and Chakwela is elected, what will make people either "kukwela" or not "kukwela"  Chakwela"?  The first will be people's perception regarding the "behind the scene" role of Hon John Tembo and whether MCP is really a changed party. I think they are a changed party but in life perception matters. The second will be the support he will get from within the party especially from the losing  losing candidates.  The third will be his organisation abilities, soberness, tactics and calibre of the new look MCP team that he will be available for his campaign.

In his fight for Malawi Presidency, Dr. Chakwela will certainly need coalition partners and this is where it will start getting tricky. UDF's Atupele Muluzi strongly believes he is strong candidate based on crowds he has pulled so far during his change agenda tours. I however doubt that he can be elected as President of Malawi in 2014 if UDF goes to the polls as a single entity. The most likely coalition partner of UDF would be a depleted DPP. Depending on how the case against Peter and his Midnight Six Disciples shape up,  DPP are likely to disintegrate if the case goes against them. UDF would thus jump on the chance perhaps giving the likely DPP President a breathing space to rebuild.

The love-hate relationship of UDF and DPP may however create a situation where a coalition is impossible. This may just give room to MCP to invite DPP to be their bed-partner.

The remaining smaller parties will be scrambling for remnants and their leaders will push the followers to join whichever coalition that offers a likely better future.

Here is the last question to ponder. As most politicians lie and play dirty games with electorate, will Rev Dr. Lazarus Chakwela throw away his collar and join the bandwagon?

One thing Pastors turned politician fail to learn quickly is that unlike in Church where you are not questioned on what you preach as you derive authority from the Almighty through the Bible, in politics you are questioned and challenged every second of your life.

I can only hope that Dr Chakwela understands this. Let us wish him well as his Journey continues