Sunday, 21 September 2008

From Cape to Cairo: Adios Mbeki

President J.F. Kennedy is known to have been the first to use and promote “Affirmative Action” which was introduced to create opportunities for the disadvantaged minority. The issue of “minority” is probably, key to Affirmative Action and its programmes. You could for example targeted women, gay, religious groupings, tribes etc.

The South African experiment of Affirmative Action, popularly known as Black Economic Empowerment “BEE” was introduced in 1994, as a way of bringing opportunities to those that were disadvantaged because of Apartheid policies. There has been a lot of criticism regarding the BEE programme. According to critics the policy has failed and it has only benefited a few and created black bourgeoisie, with the rest still in dire poverty.

It is interesting that the world is surprised that 14 years after BEE was introduced the policy has not fully achieved what it intended to. Was it not obvious? Did the world understand JFK at all? Affirmative action was for the Minority and not Majority. How do you create interventions for the majority? The whole essence of governance is dealing with the macro and such interventions deal with micro! So of course, the minority within the majority were able to benefit from BEE and within a decade become mega-millionaires. {Note: The argument, by all means is not to undermine some of the good programmes that BEE introduced and many have benefitted from}.

I would therefore argue that Affirmative Action, introduced to provide economic- opportunities and well-being for the majority, has catalysed the creation of a number of economic layers in the South African Society. The next Government of Jacob Zuma will have to deal with the negatives vibes arising from these layers. The prominent ones are:

1. The Corporate White that discovered that they were better off leaving the Blacks carry the flag whilst they made money in South Africa and in the rest of Africa (that was probably dormant and sleeping);
2. The new Corporate Black and emerging middle class that have benefited from BEE and silently enjoy their riches;
3. The docile flag carrying blacks that continue to wonder when real freedom is coming but still have faith and struggling every day;
4. The active flag carrying blacks that have decided to share in the wealth by any means necessary – hence engaging in crime;
5. The Afro-phobia group that sees the hard-working makhwere-khwere as enemy number one and denying them of the promised-land.

For the first group (Corporate White) they saw opportunities by quickly realising that the world was becoming flat (according to Thomas L. Friedman) and with no cold war, new technological advancement (computers, internet, and world wide-web, etc.) and more importantly the group, being accepted as Africans (following end of Apartheid) the world was at their feet. They decided to go for it and conquer Africa. They toured Africa and using the former intelligence gurus of South African Defence Forces, they targeted specific sectors (some sectors in collaboration with Government). These included Information, Technology and Communications (Cable Television (DSTV), Mobile phones (e.g. MTN), etc), Financial services (South African Financial Institutions and Banks moved into the region at amazing speed, e.g. STANBIC, NEDBANK, INVESTEC etc), Energy (Southern Africa Power Pool, Caborra Bassa, INGA dam etc), Mining, Construction, Insurance services, Airline (New routes for South African Airways), Hotels and Tourism in general (Sun, Holiday Inn etc). This was not the end. They had to bring South Africa closer to the real munthu (people). They thus targeted retail outlets to introduce South African produce/products through outlets like Shoprite, Pep Stores, GAME, furniture shops, Woolworth, etc etc. Of course by Germans allowing South Africa to have Mercedes Benz and BMW production centres, fellow Africans flocked to get the C class to manoeuvre them in their pot-holed roads. Since those that bought C-classes were influential people, then the Group Five and other construction companies were at hand to seal the potholes.

The story did not end there. When Tsotsis come to town, you need high walls and electrified fences, and a resource was already at hand – the former South African Defence force retirees who created security companies. Opportunities were just too many outside South Africa for this group. They found it a good social responsibility to be seen participating in the BEE programme. They welcomed the emerging black bourgeoisie to share the domestic spoils as they explored lucrative spoils abroad.

For the emerging bourgeoisie, life had just begun. To hell with communism they declared. They moved from Soweto to new suburbs (Sandton, Midrand etc), where they belonged, behind the wall fences and electric gates. They are the new investors on Johannesburg stock Exchange. They are the decision makers in new Government, corporate lawyers, accountants, CEOs and Managers of new emerging companies, Deal makers etc. Politics became less interesting except to ensure that the politicians shared in what they were getting. They know the game and they try to make sure the Tsotsis cannot get to them. Hard work, they say, pays-off.

A group not included which could be part of Group 2 are the business vultures that have descended on the land of Gold. These mainly include Nigerians, Chinese and other nationals from African and Asian countries. Their business lines vary from legal to illegal.

The third, fourth and fifth group have members that move back and forth in the three groups, although others may have decided to stick in one group. They happily join any demonstration. They run small businesses including the famous taxis. They are part of the thousands who passionately follow football. They run gangs in townships. They are faithful church goers. They work in factories and every 5pm they rush to get a taxi back to makomboni. They buy their groceries from little shops set up by ada Banda from Usisya or Mahomed from Somalia, or Fungai from Harare or Pinhero from Beira.

As inflation bites and this group (3,4,5) lose jobs, they start loudly calling Ada Banda Makhwerekhwere. A South African friend of mine recently returned from his one month holiday in Cape Town depressed. He now understands why it is estimated that 50 people are killed everyday in South Africa as a result of violence (robbery, mugging etc). He saw what he could term as “end of being nice to each other”. No Ubunthu. People actually look for an excuse to get into a fight. When he was in Cape Town, three people were killed following a fight. Reason? They were arguing about size of penis!! It is laughable but true. He also saw a copy of an official letter from a local Chamber of Commerce sent to a Somali business association warning them that, “Go Home. Do not get surprised if we torch your businesses”. This is August 2008!

Has all this been created by Affirmative Action? Probably not; But I believe that the choice of policy (i.e. Affirmative Action) as a solution to empowerment of majority has partly contributed to creation of a dangerous society where one can justifiably say “South Africa is a Time Bomb”. But time bombs are good when you know they exist as you can try to disable before they go off.

Adios Thabo Mbeki! I was at one time a great admirer of Poet Thambo Mbeki. I enjoyed listening and reading his speech, “I am an African”. I still believe he honestly served to take South Africa to greater heights. His philosophy as expressed in this speech was enriching and said a lot about his resolve. I quote:
“I am an African.
I have seen what happens when one person has superiority of force over another, when the stronger appropriate to themselves the prerogative even to annul the injunction that God created all men and women in His image.
I know what if signifies when race and colour are used to determine who is human and who, sub-human. I have experience of the situation in which race and colour is used to enrich some and impoverish the rest. It gives concrete expression to the sentiment we share as Africans, and will defend to the death, that the people shall govern.
Like many who suddenly think they are the only ones created to serve human-kind, he got emotive and fell under the “Third Term Sword” and his lines from “I am an African”.

Being a descendant of Khoi, the San, European migrants and Malay slaves, Mbeki made the world problems his problems and he felt it was his responsibility to contribute to solutions in Ivory Coast, Burundi, DRC, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe etc. He worked diligently and did achieve solutions – maybe not always sustainable. Mbeki is probably not the right person to stop the “time bomb” from exploding as he probably has no idea it exists.

As Africa, we can only hope that the time bomb was set to explode after another decade, because if it were to explode in the next 3 years, the dust will spread and contaminate everyone from Cape to Cairo.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Should Malawi Government finally let go Air Malawi?

According to today’s (9th September 2008) Nation Newspaper, the Government has offered British Airways-owned Comair 49 percent shareholding in Air Malawi for K490,000, (about US$ 3,500) including an "irrevocable option" to increase the prospective buyer’s stakes to 80 percent. The Nation concludes: “spelling the final death of the national carrier”.

According to the paper they sourced a shareholders’ agreement which indicates that Comair’s shares will go up to 80 percent and government will provide and guarantee loans for the new company. The paper further quotes People’s Progressive Movement (PPM) president Aleke Banda, as saying the sale will be a huge mistake for government to dispose off Air Malawi in a hurry.
"It is important to preserve some of the national assets. Actually, government should do everything possible to save the airline. I know of countries that are regretting their decisions to dispose their airlines in a hurry," said Aleke who made a similar appeal together with UDF finance spokesperson Friday Jumbe in Parliament. The two served as finance ministers before.

Opinions in Malawi are varied. I have always been for selling off the airline. I negotiated the first coming of COMAIR in 1998-99 when I was Chief Executive of MIPA. I stumbled upon their impressive financial performance when I was in a Cape Town hotel. On my way back to Malawi, I stopped over in Johannesburg and met the CEO interesting him of the Air Malawi opportunity. After a month, a COMAIR team came to Malawi and as MIPA we organized meetings with all stakeholders including Privatisation Commission. COMAIR then had 12 planes with a workforce of fewer than 400 people. Air Malawi had effectively 2 planes and with over 800 members of staff.

It stunned COMAIR. They were however keen to offer a sub-franchise of British Airways (subject to Air Malawi equipment passing the BA tests), not on account of what they saw in the books, but rather the routes that Air Malawi had, which was an added value to its strategy of targeting tourist markets. When Government at that time dragged their feet, we helped COMAIR get traffic rights to fly into Malawi (South Africa – Malawi Agreement provided for each country being able to have two airlines fly into each other’s country).

I see arguments of those that want to keep the “national asset” as trying to keep 100% of 0 instead of keeping say, 49% or 10% of 100. Air Malawi is technically bankrupt and keeping it as is, is basically betraying tax-payers in Malawi who require these resources for better use (health, education etc). Zambia has no national airline, but its airports are busier than those in Malawi. The private carrier currently operating has grown by the day.

I flipped through newspapers and websites and found what I already knew that what Malawi Government is trying to do, is a world-wide phenomenon because national airlines are no longer assets, national assets are those that give your money and not those that drain your cash. Here is a sample of what I found.

Jun 05, 2008: Serbia decides to privatize national airline
Serbia has decided to privatize JAT Airways, the Balkan country’s national airline, over the course of the summer. The flag carrier will be officially listed for sale by the end of the month,

2. Libyan state airlines to merge ahead of sell-off
Published: 25 July 2008 16:21
Tripoli plans to streamline flag carriers into single, profitable business to attract international investors.

3. Italy's national airline files bankruptcy
ROME — Alitalia said Friday it has sought bankruptcy protection, taking the first step in a plan to reshape Italy's unprofitable and debt-laden national carrier.

4. KUWAIT, April 28 (Reuters) –
Kuwait's government started the sales process of its loss-making national carrier, Kuwait Airways Corp [KA.UL] (KAC), state-owned Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported on Monday, citing the cabinet affairs minister.
Kuwait's parliament in January approved a government plan to sell 40 percent of the carrier to the public and 35 percent to a long-term investor within two years.

5. Argentina Agrees to Sell Majority Share of Its Airline
Published: July 20, 1990
LEAD: Argentina, which agreed last month to sell its national telecommunications company to Spanish and American interests, has now agreed to sell a majority share of the national airline, Aerolineas Argentinas, to a consortium led by the Spanish airline Iberia.

The few articles above highlight the reality in the world of flying. Should Air Malawi be liquidated and a new joint venture established with COMAIR? I will go for it. What do you think?

Saturday, 6 September 2008



The author argues in this paper that the current System Governance and Management of the University of Malawi (centralised management of the University of Malawi) has outlived its usefulness and is more of a liability to the development of higher education in Malawi. The current management system promotes inefficiencies in the constituent colleges that have become perpetually dependent on Government funding and are unable to raise own funds. In addition, the system has encouraged duplication of resources much of which goes to cover overheads as opposed to the core business of training and development including expansion in enrolment.

System Governance and Management

The current regulatory framework tilts more towards the old school of thought, in which the role of the government is to control tertiary institutions. There is a need to move towards the new school, which supports autonomy with accountability in universities and government regulation and oversight of non-university institutions. The need for this change is strengthened by the fact that:

· the changes in the Malawi labour market, specifically, the demands for technology and the speed with which the technology changes, require that workers have the skills to select, adapt, and apply existing technologies properly and remain active, life long learners;

· changes in the demand for tertiary education which has risen as the proportion of youth attending and completing secondary school continues to climb;

Policy & Investment Framework (PIF)

The Malawi Education Sector Policy & Investment Framework (PIF) 2000-2012 proposes policies that will guide the development of the education sector in Malawi in the new millennium. One of the key policy states that, “The Government shall aim at increasing the participation of Malawians in tertiary education from 3,300 in 1997 to 12,000 by 2012.” One of the key stated strategies is to increase the University intake of full time students by optimising use of the available physical and human resources by intensified use of facilities during nights, weekends and holidays as well as joint time tabling across faculties.

The new policy direction and strategies were adopted as, a result of work undertaken internally through institutions like Malawi Institute of Management and by cooperating institutions such as the World Bank.

Malawi Institute of Management (MIM) Report

In 1998, the Malawi Institute for Management (MIM) carried out an analysis of the university sector and made a number of proposals and recommendations on the management of the university sector. Implementation of these recommendations has been limited. Apart from the establishment in 1998 of Mzuzu University, there has been little expansion of higher education.

The MIM Report observed that central administration is preoccupied with operational matters when it should really be concentrating on providing a strategic policy framework for university operations and activities. This would result in the transfer of some of the functions, carried out by central administration, to the constituent colleges and would improve efficiency in decision-making processes.

Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper – Tertiary sector analysis

The PRSP document acknowledges that the University central office uses its limited financial resources inefficiently. It notes that the University of Malawi spends more than half of its resources on boarding and administration yet student to staff ratios remain very high. Further, the poor linkage between industry and the curriculum undermines the quality of higher education. The country can best address this challenge if colleges are autonomous, able to design and determine their own programmes. Strong constituent colleges will be able to cooperate with industry as well as foreign institutions in the best interest of their programmes.

Government proposes in the PRSP that the University should become less dependent on subvention through cost recovery and decentralization and that to support this, it would:

Recruit pro-vice chancellor at UNIMA to facilitate implementation of reform programme and business development;
Establish a National Commission for Higher Education to plan and co-ordinate tertiary activities by 2002;
Review and redefine the role of the University Office;
Reduce staffing and unit cost of administration expenses by 20%; and
Decentralize the administration to constituent colleges

The Government recognized that it could achieve its objective of increasing access to higher learning by reviewing the role of the central office. In my view, Government should go further by abolishing the office. The University office has redundant positions like numerous Registrars, Librarian, Finance people, etc. Constituent colleges have similar positions. Apart from the cost, it is the fighting over who is in charge that has deterred the growth of programmes of the constituent colleges.

Implementing Reforms in Malawi

Apart from reduced funding, the rigidity and irrelevance of the centralised management system has constrained the constituent colleges to become innovative and operate outside the defined bureaucratic boxes. Government under the PIF had proposed progressive management policies of higher education by committing to initiate appropriate legislation to promote the decentralization of public university administration. Among some of the strategies, Government states that it would amend the University of Malawi Act to allow constituent colleges, independent status by 2001 and it would establish a National Commission for Higher Education by 2002 to co-ordinate and regulate tertiary education development. If implemented, the above would have catalysed review of the current centralised administration.

Malawi has one of the lowest proportions of enrolled tertiary students per 100,000 inhabitants in the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa. Since the 1990s, several neighbouring countries have focused on expanding tertiary programs in education, agricultural sciences, communication, science and technology and their efforts have generated increasing productivity and diversification of production. In contrast, Malawi has not sufficiently focused on these subject areas. The number of university graduates has remained low and is inadequate to satisfactorily, contribute to the objectives of socio-economic development and poverty alleviation. This calls into question the proficiency of the leadership of the centralised University office as well as its relevance. There are fundamental inefficiencies, many of which arise from the small scale of operations, blurred vision and inability to implement strategies.

Though the funding from Government over the years has diminished, the University office has failed to increase efficiency in the use of resources. It is also important to note that the share of recurrent expenditures allocated to higher education (15–20 percent) is higher than the share allocated to secondary education (10–15 percent), if one was to look at the numbers whereby approximately 275,000 pupils are enrolled in secondary education while only about 4,000 students are enrolled in higher education institutions.

The inefficiency in use of resources is also reflected by the fact that an approximate average of 50 percent of university recurrent expenditure between 1997/98 and 2001/02 went to ‘personal emoluments’ and ‘benefits’ This may still be case now. On the other hand training and staff development’ received below 1 percent and ‘research, publications, conferences, workshops’ together accounted for 1–2 percent.

Reforms in other African countries

In other countries where similar strategies have been adopted and implemented, countries have seen notable changes. For example, University of Dar-es Salaam (UDSM) had 3,300 students during the 1994-95 and following reforms, enrolment tripled to 11,000 by 2003-04. One of the key components of UDSM's transformation strategy has been cost-cutting by contracting out a large part of non-academic services.

In the case of the National University of Lesotho (NUL), they decided that a more effective use of its resources would allow a sizeable increase in enrolment. NUL's plan calls for a three-fold expansion, from 3,500 students in 2001 to 10,000 in 2007. In Mozambique, there has been a quadrupling of enrolment from 4,000 in 1990 to nearly 17,000 students in 2002. Finally, since its decision to recruit fee-paying students in the early 1990s, the undergraduate enrolment at Makerere University has increased from 3,361 in the 1993-94 academic years, to 22,000—the large majority fee-paying—in 2003-04.

The main lesson from the reforms carried out by these Universities is that they started concentrating on their core business (training and development) and they made operational decisions in terms of the new programmes and growth in enrolment.

Successful Universities like University of Dar-es-Salaam have improved learning conditions by increasing faculty salaries so professors need not work outside jobs, by instituting mechanisms to monitor teaching hours, and by enabling peers and students to evaluate teaching. They have restocked libraries and begun to develop their capacities to provide information services. They have installed new laboratory equipment and provided Internet connectivity. Often they have made management more effective—in part by transferring responsibilities to faculty or department levels. Successful tertiary institutions have frequently developed new study programs to meet the demands of their countries' rapidly changing economies. Very little, if any, has happened at the University of Malawi.

Conclusion and Recommendations

In conclusion, Malawi has an opportunity to increase access to higher education, quality of its graduate and expansion of programmes if it abolishes the University Central Office and can constitute independent Universities, for example, as follows:

Chirunga University (formerly Chancellor College)
University Teaching Hospital (Medical school and Colleges of Nursing);
Bunda University (Formerly Bunda college);
Blantyre University (formerly Polytechnic)

If Mzuzu and Livingstonia are Universities, surely, the four above have the muscle, content and relevance to be independent universities with autonomy to make business and academic decisions, guided by Government regulations through a National Commission for Higher Education.

To summarize, it is clear that we need to restructure the tertiary sector (University) in Malawi with respect to funding, efficiency, quality, management and relevance. The country needs to expand university education enrolment and graduate output, but it must do so strategically to ensure that programs and graduates meet the demands of both society and the economy. This will not happen unless decentralisation is meaningful with central administration completely abolished or it is trimmed to a very small office and plays no operational function.

Malawi Economic Performance Analysis

OF UDF and II Thessalonians 3:10-12
Overview This note looks at the performance of UDF Government during their second term from 1999 to 2004. Whereas there was reasonable discipline and commitment in the first 3 years of UDF rule, evidenced by increased investment, donor flows and some stability in the economy (between 1994- 97) the second term was a disaster. UDF throughout this period made rosy policy pronouncements, and these were also contained in the UDF manifesto and re-enforced by Presidential statements during official and political meetings. These included pledges to introduce tight budgetary controls, improve fiscal discipline and eliminate corruption and abuse of state resources etc. The country experienced fiscal instability throughout this period to the extent that donors suspended donor aid and Malawi failed to attain the HIPC Completion Point under the Fund/World Bank programme.

What happened: Deceit, Public Relations, Incompetence or Ignorance?

By 2004, the following was the scenario in the Malawi economy

-An economic economic basket case with a staggering domestic debt burden, perilously low foreign reserves and no donor assistance.
- A historic inability of government to live within its means, with the budget deficit before grants ballooning to 10.5%, 18.6% and 14.7% of GDP in 2001, 2002 and 2003 respectively;
- Within the overall budget envelope, sectoral allocations of resources were re-shuffled to the detriment of key sectors such as education, health and agriculture;
- Donor displeasure with the lack of fiscal discipline and poor governance manifested itself in a virtual absence of balance of payments support from 2002;
- Government failure to control expenditure with domestic debt by 2004 in excess of K50 billion or 150% of annual domestic government revenues;
- Government borrowing drove money supply growth on annual basis to over 30%.

Throughout this period, UDF made noble statements, which included pronouncements and predictions on the direction of the economy. The statements ended frustrating stakeholders as they were not being translated into appropriate government policies. During this period, briefcase business-persons who ventured in procurement of goods and services on behalf of government prospered. It was normal for contracts for procurement of drugs, construction services and even procurement of large equipment such as “transformers” to be given to individuals, and at times Government are said to have advanced the businesspersons funds to enable them provide the goods or services. The result was shady work or indeed non- delivery of the said goods. By early 2004, for example, it was quite obvious that high interest rates and currency depreciation were symptom of economic malaise rather than the cause thereof. By May 2004, foreign exchange reserves were a low 1.2 months of import cover and total banking reserves were only 2.76 months. The UDF appetite to luxury consumption and reward to cronies (especially in public procurement) led to drain on foreign exchange which became unavailable on the market as soon it came on the market. With no donor support forthcoming, the business sector was being squeezed making the economy unable to grow.

One cannot doubt competence and economic knowledge of those in charge of the economy at that time. Following Dr Chikaonda’s departure, Hon. Friday Jumbe became Minister of Finance. Both Minister of Finance and Governor of Reserve Bank and those involved in the Cabinet Committee on the Economy (charged with managing the economy) understood basic economics and this was demonstrated in their statements, pronouncements and of course academic background. One can only conclude that the 3rd Republic (1999-2004) was full of deceit and were masters at propaganda.

UDF were masters of deceitful public pronouncements and a good example is statement by former Minister of Finance, Hon. Friday Jumbe when he presented his second budget Statement in June 2003. UDF was very good and admitting failure and placing blame on controlling officers and promising a new direction every year: and I quote;
“In the case of Malawi, high interest rates have mainly been attributed to the Government’s appetite to spend more than available resources. The resulting high interest rates have made it impossible to nurture meaningful economic activity. As a nation, we now are faced with an economy that is failing to grow, people whose abject poverty has unbelievably become part of their life. It is for this reason Mr. Speaker, Sir that the theme of this Budget Statement is Macroeconomic Stability: A Precondition For Economic Growth Poverty Reduction in Malawi.” “98. Mr. Speaker, Sir, I emphasised the need to leave within our means by only spending the resources that are available so that fiscal deficit which is a key source of our difficulties is brought to check. This is the reason the theme of this statement is Macroeconomic Stability: A Precondition for Growth and Poverty Reduction in Malawi. Government borrowing to meet ballooning expenditures has resulted in unfriendly interest rates and taxing inflation. Walking in Shoprite with a thousand Kwacha today will see one walk out almost as empty handed as one walked in. Let us desist spending more than we have in order to improve the macroeconomic environment of this country”. {Hon. Friday Jumbe, June 2003, Budget Statement}

All the promises, despite his famous Thessalonians quote, seem to have been an agreed UDF PR strategy to excite stakeholders, but in truth, no machinery was in place to implement the beautiful pronouncements.

Hon Jumbe during his 2002/03 budget presentation said, and I quote:
“ 11. Mr. Speaker, Sir, as we interface with and try to economically empower our people, we should impart the philosophy that they have the right to live and the right to feed themselves. This is also in the wisdom of Saint Paul in his second letter to the Thessalonians in which he wrote: “For while we were with you, we gave you this charge, ‘If anyone does not want to work then he should not eat either.’ For we are hearing that some of you are living in idleness, not working but busy in other people’s affairs. Such persons we direct and charge in the Lord Jesus Christ that, by doing their work quietly, they earn their own living” (II Thessalonians 3:10-12)). This means that everyone, led by the highest political leader, should think, dream and talk of prosperity and do the best they can to achieve the country's goal of poverty reduction.” {Hon. Friday Jumbe, June 2002, Budget Statement}

What Happened after the Pronouncements?

It was business as usual. The annual average inflation was 30%, 28% and 21% in 2000, 2001 and 2002 respectively The base-lending rate for the commercial banks, for example, had remained at around 46 percent since July 2001, resulting in lending rates of around 54 percent in the early 2000s making it impossible for business take-off.

Government having no source of financing after the freezing of donor support continued the consumption upsurge by borrowing on the local market using Treasury Bills. For example, between April 2003 and November 2003, total stock of TBs increased from K31 billion to K42 billion of which K32 billion were held by Banks, Discount Houses and Non-Banks, with an average yield of about 40%.

In layman’s language, what did this mean? The government’s appetite to consume denied private sector the opportunity to access resources as banks felt comfortable with risk-free lending to Government through TBs and a high yield. The 2000 -2004 period saw a major increase in net credit to government from commercial banks mainly in uptake of Treasury bills. The result was increase in Domestic Debt from 3.4% of GDP in 1998/99 to 25% of GDP by 2004 and correspondingly domestic interest rate increased from 2.1% of GDP to 9.2% o partly right. But, the question is, with pronouncements and capable Ministers, why did the economy fail to respond? Why did UDF fail to deliver? Maybe the answer is in (II Thessalonians 3:10-12)).

Watipaso (April 2007)


Relief Funeral Home was incorporated in April, 2005, as a business name operating as a subsidiary company under AWJ Holdings Limited. We started operations in April 2007 after 2 years of facing numerous challenges. Our services include the following: Body collection and mortuary, Embalming, Hearse services, Body storage, Flower services, Mobile body fridge hire, Lowering device hire, Burial service, Accessories (Blankets, sheets etc.), provision of caskets and coffins, Radio adverts, processing of Death Certificate and other documentation, Arrangement of post-mortem services and Body exports.

I once participated in body washing and preparation at the Kamuzu Central Hospital mortuary. I was bothered about the condition of the mortuary and the fact that there was “no decency in death”. The mortuary which was built to store 54 bodies was piled up with over 100 bodies. We literally had to pull out “our body” from the pile of “once distinguished individuals”. This was in late 1990s. It was only in 2004 when I decided that when I die, my body will deserve some decency. This was after I had witnessed many burials in Lusaka, which have well run professional funeral homes. I joined up with my colleagues Captain Alick Sakala, Jacob Mwanza both Zambian nationals to form the company. Joshua Nthakomwa, who is managing the company, has now taken up shares in the company.

It was very difficult to find premises to operate from. Since its incorporation in 2005, the company only found premises in 2007. The general response had been that if they were going to let out their premises to Relief, then they would never use it for other business again. So, they either out-rightly rejected or raised their rentals to unrealistic amounts so as to cover anticipated “risk.” Even in the current premises, we are not allowed to store bodies.

Malawians have for along time have been comfortable with making of coffins and providing of hearse services. Embalming was seen as a domain of hospital/College of Medicine. Most bodies prepared by Mortuary Attendants (who are unqualified) are covered in “powder soap” (surf, OMO) as a way of preservation. But we all know what happens that by the following day, bodies are in a poor state.

Unfortunately the industry being almost non-existence is not regulated and not only has Government allowed “Mortuary Attendants” to use Government facilities to make money for their own pockets, but have allowed Government, in a sense lie to the public that the Mortuary Attendants are embalming the bodies.

We operate a mortuary (at Likuni Hospital), and in the minds of many, mortuary services are for Government and hospitals to undertake. Therefore, for a private company to operate a mortuary is weird. However, the mentality is less now than it was to those who have been exposed to the concept. People are beginning to realize (though very slowly) the need for such a professional service. Relief Funeral Home is the only private sector operation in Lilongwe undertaking professional embalming and body export/repatriation.

Despite providing an essential and critical service in Malawi, our 2007 land application to construct our own premises remains shelved in Ministry of Lands.

Relief still operates on hope and it is my dream that before I die, Relief will bring full “decency in death” by providing state of the art funeral services.

Our offices (only booking and display) are at Pacific Parade, Area 10 in Lilongwe and we can be contacted on 01-265-794 875 and email: