Saturday, April 11, 2009

बकिली मुलुजी इन इदेंतिटी क्रिसिस पोस्ट प्रेसिदेंक्य?

Muluzi in identity crisis post presidency?
By Isaac Cheke Ziba

In just about six weeks the Malawi nation heads to the polls – yes the presidential and parliamentary elections. Once again
the nation will be choosing leaders – yes leaders we will entrust the affairs and administration of our country with – a
country crying out for serious leadership – leadership that can translate into improved lives of our people and their
livelihoods, of course.

While this is true and time is ticking away fast and quick, we are witnessing one major political party in what I, as an
outsider, can describe as a leadership crisis – simply meaning that the party is not ready to lead Malawi – again. You know
what party I am talking about – it is the United Democratic Front – UDF, of course!

I do not believe, for a second, that in the UDF there is nobody who sees things and issues differently from the way their
leader sees and views things. Yes, Dr Bakili Muluzi, of course. The man helped in the bundling, to the doldrums, of the once
‘mighty’ Malawi Congress Party. Their ‘might’ was both in terms of political stature particularly because they were the only
ones in existence and in power for a long time in our country – and that ‘might’ was consolidated by the fact they were a
‘mercilessly’ brutal party and they also formed a mercilessly brutal government – over the years. As if that is not enough on
the ‘achievements’ record of Dr Bakili Muluzi, the man went ahead, stood in the 1994 presidential elections and he winged
into the magnificent “state houses” of the Republic of Malawi – and he did it for the second time in 1999.

Simply put, Bakili Muluzi was president of the republic of Malawi for two consecutive terms – translating into ten years. As
Malawians we should all be aware of what happened as we all expected Dr Bakili Muluzi to wilfully wind up his presidency.
On the ticking of his watch, the Nation was taken through debates of a possible stay of presidents beyond the ‘vaguely’
indicated constitutional two terms – of five years each. We had the open terms debate; we also had the third [sad] term
debate. They were ‘sticky’ and ‘tough’ debates – not only did Malawians find it surprising, I may argue, but they found the
debates brutal too as they were accompanied by ‘aggressive’ and ‘violent’ ‘youthful energy’ from what were popularly
referred to as ‘Young Democrats.’ All these political machinations by one Dr Bakili Muluzi yielded nothing of substance in as
far as his whims and fancies were concerned.

We thought, as a nation, that is/was it! But nay! Muluzi had more ‘surprises’ up his sleeves. He took the political battles to
his ‘own’ political club. He decided to ‘leave out into the cold’ all senior members of the UDF – seasoned politicians, one
may argue, in the likes of Aleke Kadonaphani Banda, Harry Thomson, Brown Mpinganjira, Jan Jaap Sonkie etc – and opted
for an ‘outsider’ – Dr Bingu wa Muntharika. Conspiracy theorists have it that at the back of his mind, Muluzi thought Bingu
would easily be ‘manipulated’ so that he could still be in control of the affairs of government – ‘kuimba belu ali pa kaliyala’ –
to quote one of Muluzi’s famous statements. He [Muluzi] just did not leave it to fate though, remember! He went ahead and
bulldozed the UDF to change their constitution to provide for the office of ‘Party Chairman’ – the post he immediately
occupied. And conspiracy theorists have it that the position of ‘Chairman’ was, at party level, more powerful than that of the
Party President – at the time Dr Bingu wa Muntharika – a possible future President of the country at the time. All this, one
would argue, was intent at consolidating his power behind the scenes of government.

Bingu was going to have none of this ‘rubbish and nonsense’ one would speculate. As soon as he got elected, by the
Malawian people, he sent a clear message during his inauguration ceremony – that he will be his own man – and he
indeed acted, behaved and governed as ‘his own man’ right from Kamuzu Stadium where the inauguration took place.

Noting that his whims and fancies were crumbling down and fast, Muluzi decided that he will wage war – political war –
against a sitting president, one can easily speclate. “Sindingalephere kuphwetsa chubu chopopa ndekha’ he declared and
it did not take long for him to decide that it was time to come back to power – at which point the vacant seat, owing to the
departure of Dr Bingu wa Muntharika, of the UDF Party President was not filled by anybody else but one Dr Bakili Muluzi.

Crisis! Can you see one with me?

There are laws in this country as enshrined in our constitution regarding how long one can serve as president. This did not
matter to Dr Bakili Muluz, or did it?i – and probably it did not matter to the UDF either, or did it? Why do I say it did not seem
to matter? It is because the UDF endorsed their “tcheya and president” as their front runner in the 2009 Presidential polls.
As if that was not enough the man, Dr Bakili Muluzi, gathered enough courage and contained adequate audacity and gut of
presenting his nomination papers to the Malawi Electoral Commission – nay – “The Electoral Commission’ on February 4,
2009 – uneventfully.

The Malawian Nation, to a large extent, was left with their mouths agape as they wondered how on earth, after all the razz
matazz and hullabaloo surrounding the ‘new form’ of the third term bid – which may well translate into open terms once the
man gets back to Malawi’s ‘state houses’ – including the hussle pused by some, potentially bogus, James Phiri’s, Dr Bakili
Muluzi presented his nomination papers to ‘The Electoral Commission” so uneventfully – and so un-worth of news?

Reality, and probably trouble too, was brewing somewhere else. ‘The Electoral Commission’ was scrutinizing the papers of
all those that ‘asked for employment’ through it via the May 19 elections and trying hard to do anything and everything
related to ‘electoral matters’ within the legal framework with the Constitution as their guide. The UDF and a lot of its
prominent members burked, coughed and jeered at the Electoral Commission – the Commission was taking too long for
them – they edged and agitated to know. The big question was why? Why the impatience?

Oh yes, the news came – and it came hard! On March 20, 2009, Dr Bakili Muluzi was told that his nomination papers had
been rejected as a possible candidate for and in the May 19 presidential polls. He must have been gutted; he must have
been disappointed and he must have been thinking he would wake up from the ‘nightmarish sort of dreaming.’ Nay! he
wasn’t! That reality had come to stay around and in the BCA Hills. He was quick to make a statement – attributing the
rejection to some political influence from somewhere unto ‘The lectoral Commission’ – not very willing, one would say to
look inside – inside himself and his political party and their history in regard to the office of the president of the Malawi

In haste, the man sued, yes he sued the “Malawi Electoral Commission” – we are just learning that we have no such thing
as The Malawi Electoral Commission – but we do have “The Electoral Commission” – and in that very haste, and
apparently under the counsel of 24 lawyers – with three foreign ones, Dr Bakili Muluzi missed on the procedures too – and
as expected – his case was thrown out of court on procedural grounds – of course the Judges, yes three of them - offered
him the liberty to properly lodge his ‘complaint.’ Time, and to a great extent, the bigger part of the Nation, one would argue,
are not on Muluzi’s side. Sitikufuna, as a nation, akabwerebwere pa mpando wa pulezidenti ku Malawi kuno!

News emerging from the UDF camp as well as Dr Bakili Muluzi himself makes interesting reading and hearing. While it
appears he is not ready with a fresh challenge, he seems ready to go into an electoral alliance with the Malawi Congress
Party – a party that has before, and by other political players, been described as a party of ‘death and darkness’, and Muluzi
himself has referred to the leader of the Malawi Congress Party as a leader whose hands are stained with blood –
“mtsogoleri woti mmanja ake muli magazi.”

It can be argued that we are witnessing a former president of the Republic of Malawi, Dr Bakili Muluzi, in an ‘identity crisis’
post his presidency. Is it an attachment to politics? Is it his passion for Malawi? Is it personal hatred and loathing of Dr
Bingu wa Muntharika? Is it obsession with power? Is it about an indescribable emptiness inside him? Or is it about being
in power perpetually and forever till he gets demented? Or is it about a personal agenda that we may not all, fully, be aware
of? Questions! Questions! Questions!

Your answers to these questions may well be as good as mine. All I can say is that there may be a bit of everything and it all
leaves a bitter after-taste.

Saturday, February 07, 2009


The nation – yes Malawi – needs exorcising. The nation needs redeeming. The nation needs re-directing. We are 40+ years old as a self determining lot and yet we are miles and miles away from freeing our people from poverty, disease and in-capabilities that take many forms. I have dared to say, in the not so distant past, that the elections in 2009 will be about “politics vs. development” and I, further, have dared to say that the Bingu wa Muntharika government has started – yes only started – the long journey to the “promised land” where people are free, free from poverty, free from disease, free from incapability – yes the long journey to a destination where we can say it, in unison, with a renowned economist and “humanitarian” Amartya Sen that our “development is our freedom.” We can claim and reclaim it – as a people, a people of Malawi – a people determined to do something that will make us emerge “victorious” from our so many traps – with poverty at the helm.

One of the most dangerous enemies, amidst us, as a nation is “regionalism”. This ill ism has actually made us fail – in my view - as a country, to aggregate consensus on and around things and issues that matter to our people – yes the people of Malawi – from Chitipa to Nsanje and from Mangochi to Mchinji. We need to reject and abandon the platform of “regionalism” – sooner rather than later – he sooner I say, the better so that we can challenge, as a people united in purpose, a people ready to change their circumstances, the real social and economic problems that continue to beset our people. We can do it and the only way is to trust and believe in Malawians, Malawians are a people, one people, with one destiny. In the spirit of William Shakespeare we can “loose so many arrows in many directions – with only one mark as our aim – ensuring the betterment of the people of Malawi – taking them as both the means as well as the ends”. Our politics needs to engage with them so that it is them that are taking centre stage and it is them that are taking control.

I, for one, am happy with the pick of Joyce Banda as running mate of and to President Dr Bingu wa Muntharika in the forthcoming general elections. This is because I totally believe that Malawi can and should be one and Malawi can be treated as one country – with only one fragment – Malawi. There are those that think Malawi can only be represented if Malawi has three fragments – the North, the Centre and the South. We have tried this platform for ages on end – it is not working for our people – and we do need - not just a paradigm shift but a paradigm change in the way we do not only our politics but our national endeavours as well – including on the development front. Malawi is yearning for a day when all of our people – yes from Chitipa to Nsanje, Mangochi to Mchinji will have well determined three square meals a day; they will have roads that will lead them to where they are going and they are sure to come back; they will have schools that prepare not only the young ones but communities for future challenges while riding in the comforts of today – we need – and yes – we demand better politics and better engagement with communities and yes improved and guaranteed development for all Malawians in substantial, equal, equitable, considered and coherent measures.

There are divisive, hate-concocted and vile-filled sentiments emerging from certain quarters in the wake of the news that Bingu has picked Joyce Banda as his running mate. Nyasanet, for example, mainly emerging from ardent, die-hard, hard-core and unrelenting supporters of Bakili Muluzi, is awash with messages like “Bingu equates Malawi with south only; it’s Bingu and southerner Joyce Banda; Nzeru zayekha Bingu goes south and south only; Bingu snubs Goodall – picks Joyce Banda; Central, northern regions hurt by Bingu’s snubs” – and many other such invasive, divisive and evasive remarks. I say to Bingu and Joyce “ignore them and get on with the job, the campaign and engagement with the Malawian people – it is the message that you will take to them and the way you deliver – and of course the way you will carry that message through – and the manner in which you will follow through the message with action that will matter.”

While there could be many explanations why Bingu may have chosen Joyce Banda as his running mate - very much dependent on his prerogatives – one of them could be that the President, on the whole, wants to snub the fact that Malawi is and should be fragmented into three regions – I could be wrong – but definitely allow me to speculate…and in my view, his win will have started to pour cold water on this notion that we have to feed the “big bull, white elephant” of “regionalism” as we have done for many years gone by. Of course I am aware it is a gamble; it is a risk bearing in mind the other players on the political scene and the message that they had, the message that they have and the message that they will take to the Malawian people, you can not guarantee the content of that message and yu can not quarantine it – but the gamble; the risk is one worth taking as it promises, in my view, to start the process of turning the tables of “regionalism” around – again I may be completely wrong in this – but I do believe it is the right way to go.

It is to the effect that we can be one Malawi; we can be one nation with one vision why I would like to appeal to all Malawians of good will; all Malawians that want to start the process of healing the wounds of regionalism to support the BwM-JB ticket. It represents, in my view, a shift that we can follow as a country. It is my sincere hope that the ticket was hatched; the ticket has been borne and the ticket has been revealed with solid and concrete consensus within the rank and file of the DPP. If the ticket came out of an honest debate and honest process that each member – particularly those of us from the outside look at as senior members of the party agreed to it, the ticket will be sold in unison – across the country. It will be a tragedy if the ticket will actually be sold in an incoherent manner.

There will be people, intent at reinforcing, retrenching and consolidating the gutter, regional politics; they will say lots of things – some of them already coming out as above – that has to be rejected outright, all Malawians need to stand up and say we are one Malawi, we are one nation and we have one destiny.

While listening to the divisive voices, it may be quite natural for people from the central and northern region to feel a certain degree of emptiness; a certain degree of irrelevance and probably a certain feeling of being “neglected” – but that will be emanating from the fact that we have been fed on “regionalism” for ages on end – and this ticket, the Bingu-Joyce ticket, represents a big shift and that is the shift that we have to follow – as one Malawi, one nation with one destiny.

Malawi is too small to be fragmented into three; and of course big enough to work and “produce” for its people from Chitipa to Nsanje and from Mangochi to Mchinji. Bingu and Joyce have to be steadfast, resilient and forward looking. It will be tough. You will be called names from all over the place – but keep your eyes on the ball – the oneness of our country…our unity does not and should not depend on “regionalism” – it depends and will depend on good leadership and the political will to unite the country and, above all, politics that works for all Malawians.

Go for it Bingu! Go for it Joyce! You have left many people with their negative energy in quandary. 2009 will be a year of history in Malawi – may I be allowed to predict.

Friday, November 14, 2008


In the run-up to the 1999 presidential and parliamentary elections in Malawi, I had a bitter exchange of letters with Desmond Dudwa Phiri aka DD Phiri. I had just completed my second year of University then and doing some part time vacation work with the Press Corporation Health facility in Blantyre (Chichiri). What prompted me to write DD Phiri was the fact that in one of his contributions to the Nation Newspaper, he had endorsed Bakili Muluzi for President and UDF as the party that should be ushered back into power. I disagreed with him. My argument was that the UDF was failing the Malawian people as they did not seem to manage by objectives, they did not seem to have a work-plan for the nation and they did not seem to have a coherent agenda that could easily be pieced together in the policies that they were articulating and implementing. At that time, Gwanda Chakuamba and Chakufwa Chihana had teamed up – calling themselves the MCP-AFORD alliance. While they were fighting with JZU on the sidelines as he seemed to have been bypassed in the selection process of running-mate of the alliance, they seemed, to me and at that time, to present a serious agenda for the nation – may be we should actually be grateful that they never made it to power – both of them showed a serious lack of steadiness, maturity, comprehensiveness, proper judgement etc after they had lost the election and Gwanda has deepened further into very erratic political behaviour in recent times. There was another reason why I disagreed with another five years of Bakili Muluzi – the MCP-AFORD alliance presented the Malawian people with an opportunity to have two “top-flying” politicians (Gwanda and Chihana) tested at the same time and in that sense in the 2004 elections Malawians would have an opportunity to choose from the three leaders (Bakili, Gwanda and Chihana) after they all had been “tested”. It never was to come to pass.

DD Phiri, initially, reacted in the Nation Newspaper. While naming no names, he alluded to the fact that a young man, in the University of Malawi, had taken him to task for and over his endorsement of Bakili Muluzi and the UDF. His tone was not that of “appreciation” but that of dismissing “this youngman” as still very young and not knowing enough about people like Gwanda Chakuamba, Hetherwick Ntaba, Chakufwa Chihana etc. This “youngman”, this time around with a second youngman, also in the University of Malawi, featured again in DD Phiri’s column the following week – again DD’s tone sounded, at least to me, dismissive. While I seemed to enjoy the “silent” featuring in DD Phiri’s column, I was more shocked when, about six weeks or so after I had posted my letter to DD Phiri (via his Aggrey Memorial School address), a letter came through to me – behind the envelope was the school stamp of “Aggrey Memorial School” – I shuddered because it struck me, “this must be DD Phiri” and it was. All the enjoyment that I had of the silent features in his columns was gone and replaced with fear. The language was tough and intimidatory as the letter started with the words to the effect that “if your letter was written any time before Bakili Muluzi was president, you will already have lost your place at the University of Malawi and either would have become food for crocodiles or you would be on the run to somewhere unknown; so count yourself lucky that you have Bakili Muluzi as president.” This was not only shocking to me but also planted an immense amount of fear. Sooner rather than later, though, I gathered enough courage to respond – and my response was to the effect that “the beauty of democracy was that we could all express our opinions and exercise our choice – I thought I needed to counter your endorsement of Bakili Muluzi in some way as I had an opinion to express.” This one did not yield any response – neither in his column with the Nation Newspaper nor in private – till today.

My wife, then my girlfriend, Patronella Mayamiko Ziba feared for me and she always insisted on burning these letters as they may incriminate me into some politically motivated arrest. I resisted the burning. Unfortunately she got her chance when I had travelled to the UK in June 2004 and she just felt so uncomfortable keeping this big file with a lot of political correspondence with different people including the late Chakufwa Chihana. Added to her fears was the fact that I always tried to make my views known via News-talk at Capital FM and they were not views that the Government of the day would have thought were in support of their agenda for the nation – I remember in one of the shows, then manned by Benson Nkhoma-Somba that I called the UDF and its leadership “weapons of mass destruction” because they were not responsive, largely and in my view, to the needs of our people.

Close to 10 years from 1999 when I exchanged letters with DD Phiri and close to five years since there was change of government from Muluzi and the UDF – in circumstances less than democratically admirable, I still think that the people of Malawi deserve better. We need nuanced, subtle and new political consciousness.

For this to come about, we probably need to start thinking of overhauling the political arena – so that leaders start to “trust” the people as the owners of the political processes in our country, starting with and from political parties and groupings. Secondly we need to start appreciating the positive role of “consensus” around issues that matter to our people – and “consensus building”, it can be argued, is the very essence of embracing democracy. Further to this we need a youthful generation of leaders – those that can embrace Malawi as one nation without the devastating effects of “kamuzuism” because when you look around today – Bakili Muluzi quickly slipped into “kamuzuism”, Bingu has quickly slipped into “kamuzuism” – he has even accepted the title “Ngwazi”. While there is nothing much in the title itself, it has a lot of associations with the late “Lion” Ngwazi Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda and many Malawians do not have very good stories to tell about the late “Ngwazi” and we have to remember that even during the Ngwazi era, straddling over 30 years, food insecurities were a rare occurrence.

Our “prominent” political leaders, it can be argued, are all products of the same school of political thought – “kamuzuism” and that is why it can be opined, without fear of contradiction, that every one of them thinks his views should be the reigning point of view – JZU proclaims change but he can not pave way for anybody else; Bakili Muluzi has been president of Malawi for 10 years but he thinks there is nobody else who can do it other than himself – even from his own political party; Bingu wa Muntharika thinks that he does not need anybody to elect him through a convention so he can be the flag carrier of the DPP in the May 2009 Presidential election – I can go on and on here – but what we should all be able to see in all this is what Thabo Mbeki said the ANC has always resisted - “the cult of personality” as a way of running the affairs of a political agenda – except Thabo said this after succumbing to his political opponents and after there were reports of Thambo engaging in a “small” debate to allow him to stay on in power for longer than provided for by the laws of South Africa – a politically tragic end to Thabo, but he left us with a serious message that should resonate amongst all well meaning citizens of all countries, Southern Africa in particular – the “cult of personality” is not the way to go.

More and more Malawians can say it with Barack Obama, particularly young Malawians, as he says in his book entitled “the audacity of hope: thoughts on reclaiming the American Dream” (Obama 2006, pp. 362-3) that “…and in that place I think about America [Malawi] and those who built it. This nation’s founders, who somehow rose above petty ambitions and narrow calculations to imagine a nation unfurling across a continent. And those like Lincoln and King, who ultimately laid down their lives in the service of perfecting an imperfect union. And all the faceless, nameless men and women, slaves and soldiers and tailors and butchers constructing lives for themselves and their children and grandchildren, brick by brick, rail by rail, calloused hand by calloused hand, to fill in the landscape of our collective dreams. It is that process I wish to be part of. My heart is filled with love for this country.”

ISAAC CHEKE ZIBA – MSc – Social Development & Health.
Edinburgh, United Kingdom.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


“During the decades we have worked together in the ANC, we have had the great fortune that our movement has consistently repudiated the highly noxious phenomenon of the "cult of personality", which we saw manifested in other countries” (Thabo Mbeki 2008 sourced at BBC News 24).

This is one of the leaders of Africa pointing to what is generally a cancer in political leadership, not only in our country, but in most parts of Africa. What prompted me to write this short peeve is the news that is coming of a changed jzu and MCP. While I may want to give all this benefit of doubt, I have problems accepting the change wholesale and wholesome. It must be borne in mind that JZU has been on our political scene for the past 40+ years. Added to that It must further be remembered that he was one the most vocal opponents of the coming and ushering in of political pluralism in our country. The vehemence with which he articulated his opposition to democratic politics does not seem to match inch by inch with his pronouncements that he has changed. What has he changed? How has he changed? When did he experience that change himself? When did he think it was right to share that change with the country? How does he want us to celebrate his change? Does he have any confessions to make? Is he ready to let go of the mantle of power within the MCP? Or he believes in the cult of personality in as far as governing political parties is concerned?

When looked at from this angle, the change that jzu and MCP are talking about, in the view of the writer, should have taken a different form – one of which could have been “I have done my party, I therefore pave way for another leader in the party that I love most – the MCP.” However jzu has decided to choose another path for that change – “I will be the leader, as I have been for the past…years and expect that I have changed.” This is a tough call for me – and probably for many others. The very fact that he can not decide on taking the initiative of stepping aside to allow for totally new faces contesting for the top notch job within MCP sends a chill down my spine as to what change he really is talking about.

Let me try to take this issue a step deeper and further. Tracking his political diary, one will find that jzu has concentrated his campaign rallies and meetings in and around the central region of Malawi (can we outlaw these regions, by the way?). Looked at even from the surface, one wonders if jzu you really wants the whole country to rally round his “new shape and image” – if at all that new shape and image is there.

Then there is this notion that jzu has his first vice president from the south and his second vice president from the north – well and good – but if I may ask, what are the roles of “two vice presidents?” (those that have the answers please do enlighten me on this one). As for me and my thought pattern, this kind of approach entrenches the fact that MCP can only be seen to be inclusive if all the three regions are seen to be catered for. My view, however, particularly in regard to inclusivity in a Malawi that should be – not the one that is – is that a leader can be picked from anywhere, from any spot in the country and for any party and still command national support without having to look over ones shoulders as to whether or not everybody feels accommodated. The “regions” dimension needs to be looked at very critically in a Malawi that can be truly progressive as a nation. While many a politician think and feel they benefit from this regional divide, it is a divide that divides us more than it unites us and in the process we lose the agenda that can be described as truly nationalistic. “Regions” in my view, play a negative role in making us to be in a position where we can play a truly national agenda. That said, I would still love to listen to those that think our inclusivity should entail a set-up like the one MCP has adopted (and I think for a long time now)…and remember Gwanda’s presidency of the party was riddles with a lot of “pseudo-problems” that then led to a real feud between jzu and Gwanda – and some conspiracy theorists think it is because Gwanda was from the southern region. Need we require to remind ourselves that there has been nobody from the northern region taking the command in and within the Malawi Congress Party? Is this by default? Is this by design? Is this supposed to be the norm? – I do not know but probably your guess is as good as mine.

Let me be clear…saying this of and about the MCP does not exonerate the other political clubs. We see the same trend in and within the UDF. Can one honestly tell me if we have seen any other leader apart from Bakili Muluzi? And do we anticipate to see any other leader within that party in the foreseeable future? Your answers to those questions are as good as mine.

The same culture seems to be growing in and within the DPP. We have not seen or witnessed any real and tangible participation of the “people” in and within the DPP in electing their leaders. The National Governing council was decided upon in the “boardrooms” and it is becoming increasingly clear that the decision to have Bingu as the flag carrier in the forthcoming presidential elections will be endorsed in the “boardrooms”. Further to this, while there is a surge on the number of people who want to stand on a DPP ticket in the parliamentary elections in many a constituency, there seems to be dragging of feet in setting the scene for healthy competitions and eventual primary elections. One would actually be tempted to think that the decisions on who should or will stand on their ticket in the parliamentary elections may be getting decided on in the “boardrooms”. And with the fierce title of “Ngwazi” bestowed on their leader, the DPP seems even more at risk of slipping into a crashing, “unilateral-deciding” party.

While we all should applaud the coming in of a democratic dispensation in 1993, that seems all we have managed to achieve. We do not seem to have “political leaders” ready to truly embrace and contest with democratic tenets and top on the agenda that people should be involved, in real terms, in electing the leadership of political parties – not necessarily endorsements – but electing them.

“The highly noxious phenomenon of the "cult of personality" (Mbeki 2008) is real and palpable in our country and particularly in the way political parties are run – and nobody should raise hands in applause for such a highly entrenched political culture in my, our country, whenever and however it manifests itself… And with so many questions in my mind about the change that jzu has pronounced, I find it hard to celebrate it…and I may not be alone.

Isaac Cheke Ziba
United Kingdom.

Friday, July 18, 2008


I am one of those people, 32 as it is, who think I am not quite ready to take on the political challenges that I see continue to best my country - Malawi - but I remain quite interested in the political goings-on in my country. At 32, I take myself as quite youthful - others may think differently though and I do respect that; and I get quite excited when I see the "young" taking initiative to participate actively in the political goings-on in Malawi and therefore and naturally, the re-incarnation of the UDF's Young Democrats into the " UDF Youth For DEVELOPMENT" captured my attention and I still am celebrating the news. It is my sincere hope and prayer that this time round, by their own admission to the fact that they have been associated with violence before, the youthful energy in the UDF will be directed at noble causes, causes that do enhance "Development" – another aspect that attracted my attention in their re-incarnation – the aspect of development.


In their 1997 policy Document entitled, Governance for sustainable human development - United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) say it without mincing words that "Governance and human development - the two are indivisible. Human development can not be sustained without good governance and that Governance can not be sound unless it sustains human development” – what a challenge for the youth wing of the United Democratic Front!

These truths, especially to the young must appeal as basis for participation in the political machinations for our country as we can not afford to be reeling around the wheels of bad governance, forever, if we are to leave a positive posterity for future generations. And to put it into context, UNDP defines the concept of governance as "the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority in the management of a country's affairs at all levels." They go on to intimate that governance is not simple and straightforward - it involves the complexities of the mechanisms that any setting of a population chooses to enhance its governance institutions and processes through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, mediate their differences and exercise their legal rights and obligations. Good governance has many attributes - it is participatory, transparent and accountable - and it promotes the rule of law (UNDP, 1997).

Good governance seeks to empower people, it is via set of corporation with other groups and institutions, it is equitable, it is built on a possibility of sustainability and it seeks to secure people’s livelihoods and their day to day security in whatever form.


Good governance is more and more being associated with democracy...and democracy intends to shift power balances amidst many participants and these include - government, the private sector and the civil society - and while such a machinery needs to operate in unison, checks and balances have to be in place and each one of the three should have the "mandate" to complement as well as to check on the other so that it is the people in the general population that benefit from such interactions.


While power transfers in democracies are meant to be smooth and people-centred, examples abound where ab-use has been the rule other than the exception - and especially in the so called "Third world" and the last time I checked Malawi belongs to that category of the world – the third world. Most of the democracies in the third world are just developing and still under threat from clubs and institutions that exercised power in an authoritarian way. In his book "Democracy in the Third World" Robert Pinkney points out three possible sources of threats to transitions of power in the third world’s upcoming democracies and these include - former one party believers (let us remember that MCP is very much alive amidst us and the people that vehemently resisted the change to democracy are still very much around us), the Military - the threat from the military in our case has always sounded and looked very remote and we probably can sit back in our comfort zones that this may not happen - provided we stop our politicians from poking their fingers at the army for no apparent reason and lastly Robert Pinkney talks of personal threats from strong individuals. Malawi has a very palpable threat on this front from a former president who is very willing to use every tactic in the book to have another go at the bowl of power - one Dr Bakili Muluzi.

Robert Pinkney identifies this threat as being possible because "personal rulers seldom want to surrender power and also they may leave few viable authoritarian structures behind." Tracking the history of leadership in and within the UDF - only one person stands out - one Dr Bakili Muluzi. At every corner and opportunity where there has been a real chance presented to the UDF to have real power change and letting it change & cross hands, Dr Bakili Muluzi has used every tactic in the book to keep and maintain that power in and within his reach and he has almost always managed to get it onto his lap. This behaviour needs to be checked out and pointed out very very assertively to Dr Bakili Muluzi because along the way he builds structures and accumulates friends that may be party to his return to power which he may not be willing to let go even at national level - and such an attempt is not very far from having been tried - only it failed by the smallest numbers of a legitimate vote in parliament.

I am saying all this because as the youthful energy in and within the UDF was being re-launched and re-cast, this is one area they should have identified as an area that needs attention - the leadership and power transfer in and within the UDF does not have the best of a history - but to my surprise - not that is surprises me that much, the youthful energy has made its positions crystal clear, they say and I quote (The full Press Release for this group of young people is below this piece of writing): - "Our movement and its leadership fully support the candidature of His Excellency Dr. Bakili Muluzi and believe that he is the rightful candidate to lead our party to victory in the 2009 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections." Nothing could have been sadder for me and it took away a lot of my celebratory mood at the “re-incarnation” of the UDF youth wing.

Based on both, the concept of good governance and the concept of participatory democracy, the Muluzi come back project can arguably be said to be working against both.

I for one would have expected the young people in the UDF to have been asserting themselves that they need no precedents of resistance and unwillingness to let go of power - no matter how good you may be - others may be better or be just as good. Muluzi is operating within a structure that may be building too much basis for his continued stay in power - and no matter which way we look at it - it is bad for good governance and it is bad for participatory democracy.

Isaac Cheke Ziba

"What the opposition needs to do now is to acknowledge and understand that it has been outsmarted. But in politics you win some and lose some. Pick up the pieces and move on"..."the matter just falls on its feet legally and politically and good politicians should know when the matter is no longer politically viable." (Chimimba,T & Mwaungulu, D. (2008): respectively writing on Malawtalk & Nyasanet on the issue of s65 of the Malawi Constitution).

--- On Thu, 17/7/08, MNS wrote:
From: MNS
Subject: [MALAWITALK] What is the UDF Youth Wing?
Date: Thursday, 17 July, 2008, 3:45 PM


United Democratic Front Youth For Development Wing


1.1 The United Democratic Front Youth For Development (UDF YFD) is an
organisation of the youth committed to the ideals of democracy, freedom, peace
and general development. It is governed by and adheres to the policies and
programmes of the UDF, a party which championed the introduction of multi-party
and democratic system of government in 1994. UDF YFD’s existence derives from
the UDF party Constitution as amended on 24 April 2008.

1.2 The UDF YFD, as a mass youth movement of the UDF, is committed to the
creation of a united, democratic, peaceful and prosperous Malawi. It shall
rally all the youth of our country to play an active part in the social,
economic and political development of their communities and the building and
defense of democracy. In doing so, the UDF YFD shall strive to achieve
fundamental social and economic change for the benefit of all young people in
Malawi. The UDF YFD is for the unemployed youth, professional youth, student
youth and all sectors of youth in our country. Our aim is to provide a real
political home to all the youth.

The UDF YFD shall:

1.3 Strive to rally the youth of Malawi to support and unite behind the UDF
YFD and actively participate in the struggle to create a united, democratic and
prosperous society. As an organisation of democrats we aim to be a school of
excellence for the next generation of political leaders;

1.4 Support and reinforce the United Democratic Front in the attainment of
the goals of the democratization and development process of our country;

1.5 Ensure that the youth make full and rich contribution to the work of
the UDF and the life of the nation;

1.6 Champion the general interests of the Malawian youth in the socio
economic and political life of the country and promote programmes that aim to
fight for the rights of young people as enshrined in the United Nations (UN)
Declaration on the Rights of Children;

1.7 Promote unity, patriotism and self-reliance among the youth;

1.8 Strive and work for the educational, moral, health, economic and
cultural upliftment of the youth;

1.9 Promote gender equality in all spheres of life, especially amongst the

2.0 Promote among the youth, independence, international solidarity, peace
and friendship with other nations.

2.1 Promote among the youth leadership values; a crime-free society; and a
society that thrives on open debate on issues. We denounce any form of
political violence.

2.2 This transformation is taking place in a context of a difficult
political and ideological environment, where we have over the last few years
witnessed a degeneration of our core values as citizens in a deeply polarized
and divided nation. This is a struggle where our ultimate goal is social change
and social justice, including among others safeguarding and defending our
democracy and multipartyism.

2.3 Poised against us are a range of forces determined to erode
Malawi's young democracy. However, the overwhelming support our party the
U.D.F is enjoying amongst the masses creates the right platform to push forward
our agenda in targeting poverty in an integrated manner.

2.4 Thanks to the resilience of our people and their unyielding will to be
free and their high level of consciousness we are duty bound, therefore, to
rise in defence of democratic values and respect for the rule of law.


2.5 Our movement and its leadership fully supports the candidature of His
Excellency Dr. Bakili Muluzi and believes that he is the rightful candidate to
lead our party to victory in the 2009 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections.


2.6 Today our country has entered a new phase which has presented a host of
opportunities in readiness for the UDF's return to power next year. The
critical question of the day is our readiness as youth to take responsibility
both for our own development as well as the reconstruction and development of
our country.

2.7 What this means is that the youth must seize this opportunity accorded
to us by the UDF party in according us special recognition in the new
government next year.

2.8 In order for us as the youth of Malawi to seize on this opportunity and
be better equipped to fight poverty, we need to improve our competencies in all
fields we are involved; Social, economic and cultural including science and
technology, to raise our political understanding and discipline, to become
better citizens.

2.9 In order to achieve this we are in the process of developing a
comprehensive policy framework which will among others;

a) Intensify the campaign for youth economic participation in the next
UDF administration,

b) Engage the challenges of education, science and technology,

c) Participate in sports and continue to fight for its transformation,

d) Confronting the challenges of health by leading the offense against
HIV/AIDS, comprehensively.

e) Build a youth contract for a better Malawi, by forging partnerships
with other stakeholders against poverty

f) Strengthen and support the youth development institutions in the

g) Empower women, fight sexism and create gender equality through
conscience and concerted political and socio-economic programmes.


3.1 The National Conference
3.2 The National Executive Committee
3.3 The National Working Committee
3.4 The Regional Committees
3.5 The District Committees
3.6 The Constituency Committees
3.7 The Area Committees
3.8 The Branch Committees
3.9 The Ward Committees

National Conference

4.0 The highest organ of the UDF YFD, is the National Conference and it
shall provide direction and leadership to the organization and determine the
policies and programmes of the UDF YFD. It is expected that a National
Conference will take place before the end of the year to among others, elect
office bearers. In the interim an executive committee has been established to
facilitate the day to day running of activities until the National Conference
is held.

Members of the Executive Committee and Interim Office Bearers

1. The Interim President
- Hon.
David Kanyenda, LLB (MW)

2. The Interim 1st Deputy President - Hon.
Gerald Mponda,MP

3. The Interim 2nd Deputy President - Vacant

4. The Interim Secretary General -
Hon. A. A. Muluzi, MP, LLB (UK)

5. The Interim Deputy Secretary General – Mr. Charles Nkozomba

6. The Interim Treasurer General - Mr.
Linga Lemani

7. The Interim Deputy Treasurer General -

8. The Interim Director of Research - Mr.
Lancy Mbewe, LLM (UK)

9. The Interim Director of Media and Publicity Affairs – Mr. Ken

10. The Interim Deputy Director of Media and Publicity Affairs- Mr. Twink

12. The Interim Director of Women Affairs - Mrs. Yvonne Mussa

13. The Interim Deputy Director of women affairs - Ms, Happiness Munduka

14. The National Director of Sports and recreation - Mr. Kuzeni Unyolo


15. Hon. Lucius Banda

16. Hon.Ernerst Yahaya.MP

17. Hon. Angela Zachepa, MP

18. Mr. William. E.R. Jalani

19. Mr. Gerald. B. Kampanikiza

20. Mr. Maxwell C.W Nkhoma

21. Mr. Omar Ndekete

Ex-Officio Members

22. The President UDF Women's Wing (AND Deputies)

23. The Secretary General UDF Women's Wing

24. The Treasure General UDF Women's wing

25. The Organising Secretary UDF Women's wing

26. The Director of Political Affairs UDF and deputy

27. And up to 10 co-opted Executive Committee Members.


28. The Director of Party Organisation (AND Deputy)

29. The Director of Political Affairs (AND Deputy)

30. The Director of Campaign (AND Deputy)

31. The Director of Elections and Logistics (AND Deputy)

32. The Director of Legal Affairs (AND Deputy)

33. The National Director of Youth and Development (AND Deputy)

34. The Deputy Director of Sports and Recreation

35. The Deputy Director of Research

36. The Director of Local Government (AND Deputy)

37. The Director of Economic Affairs (AND Deputy)

38. The Director of Education and Vocational Training (AND Deputy)

39. The Director of Health and HIV/AIDS

40. The Director of Agriculture, Irrigation and Food Security (AND Deputy)

41. The Director of Population Affairs

42. The Director of Welfare and Social Services (AND Deputy)

43. The Director of Public Relations and Events (AND Deputy)

44. The Director of Religious Affairs and Civil Society Organizations(AND

45. The Director of International Relations (AND Deputy)

Interim Secretary General
Info; 05114500/ 05114660

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Can Good Political Governance do it for Malawi?

Can Malawi engage the gear of good governance a bit more? Would this unlock Malawi’s potential of delivering to its people desirable, of-quality, sustainable livelihoods? Can Malawians engage a higher gear of demanding accountability with all the whole marks of answerability and enforceability from their politicians? And can politicians take on the voice of Malawians as they formulate, articulate and implement policies?

Malawi is a small country in the Southern part of Africa, bordered by Zambia in the West and North-west, Mozambique in the South, South-west and South-East and Tanzania in the North. It was colonized by the British. The country gained independence in 1964 and became a Republic in 1966. In 1971, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, the then President declared himself the Life President of the country in himself becoming the “government and the law.” Throughout his presidency with the help of a single viable political party at the time, the Malawi Congress Party, Banda held an iron grip on Malawi. It was such a tight-fisted grip that any change to ways of governing, let alone democratic changes, looked a farfetched far-cry. However, in the late 1980s pressure started mounting on Banda and his political party to change course. Of particular concern was his repressive approach to governance and there were reports of atrocious abuses of human rights especially among the people Banda considered political dissidents. In March 1992, the Catholic Bishops in Malawi issued a Pastoral letter entitled “living our faith” in which they directly confronted the Banda regime and denounced the human rights abuses. This caused an uproar and the momentum to rid Malawi of Banda’s brutal rule. In the same year, a civil rights activist, Chakufwa Chihana announced that he was returning to Malawi, after several years in a Banda-imposed-exile to help aid the removal of Banda from power. The country was aflame with the wind of change that it was not possible for Banda to hold on and in 1993 a referendum was called for the Malawian people to choose between remaining under one party rule and political pluralism; Malawians chose political pluralism in the name of Democracy and the first multi-party elections were conducted in 1994 ushering into power Bakilli Muluzi. The change was that quick and substantially smooth and Stephen Brown 2000, writing for Africa Files, rightly says “no one could have predicted that within a short period of time, between 1992 and 1994, the brutal dictatorship would peacefully transfer power to a democratically elected opposition party, a process hailed as a model democratic transition”

Political governance, let alone good political governance, is a very contentious term. It can mean different things in different settings. What seems universally agreed upon though is that governance is vital for development to occur to a people in a given setting.

Governance has been spoken about by many – people, organizations, institutions and governments themselves; it is a word, or rather a concept that you find in many documents and schools of thought in today’s development rhetoric. Kofi Anan, for example had this to say in 1998 about governance when he was UN’s Secretary General, “Good governance is perhaps the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development.” The Economist, in 1999 intimated that “of all the ills that kill the poor, none is as lethal as bad government.” Not willing to be left behind in making a case about governance, the Commission for Africa, 2005 commented that “the issue of good governance and capacity building is what we believe lies at the core of all of Africa’s problems.” And the United Nations, through its Millennium Project, seems to wrap it up as they say “there is no excuse for any country, no matter how poor, to abuse its citizens, deny them equal protection of the law or leave them victims of corruption, mismanagement or economic irrationality” (UN Millennium Project, 2005). But quite rightly, ODI 2006 cautions as it intimates that governance has to be contextualised if its meaning and its appeal including measurement are to be appreciated better.

There are principles of governance that are applicable and should be embarked on universally. The World Bank identifies six dimensions of governance which can be measured in different settings using different indicators. They include: Voice and accountability, Political stability and absence of violence, Government effectiveness, Regulatory quality, Rule of Law and Control of Corruption (World Bank, 2007).

As the concept of governance will be examined under the lens of the role it plays on sustainable livelihoods (SL), it is important to make mention of sustainable livelihoods as well. SL is about a people meeting their life’s needs not only today, but tomorrow as well and for the rest of their lives. International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) describes SL as “being concerned with peoples capacities to generate and maintain their means of living enhance their well-being and that of future generations” (

Both concepts, good governance and sustainable livelihoods, affect the people. There has to be a way for the people to interact with both and ably articulate their needs and aspirations so that they benefit from both. All the literature and data synthesised in this research will be appropriated to Malawi and in settings like Malawi’s, one of the poorest countries in the world, the people’s interaction between the political governance arena and their abilities to create sustainable livelihoods should be even more important. Institutions, policies and structures should be inextricably linked to the will of the people and this calls for their “voice” to be heard and those that take “responsibility” for political leadership to be “accountable” on the decisions or omissions that they take as they discharge the people given-authority. On the whole, political leadership should be about delivery of services to the people and facilitating people’s participation in creating strategies for sustainable livelihoods.

To unravel what sustainable livelihoods really means, the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA), succinctly frame-worked by the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom will be utilized. There is the context in which People determine their livelihoods and this ha been referred to as the vulnerability context and within this the shocks, trends and seasonaity of what defines people’s livelihoods are considered. Further to this there is what has been described as Livelihood Assets – the Human, social, physical, financial and natural capital and the access one has to these greatly influences the livelihood outcomes in a given set of a population. Not less important to all this is what has been called the “transforming structures and processes which include levels of government, involvement of the private sector etc for structures and laws, policies, culture, institutions etc for processes. When all this is considered, people will embark on livelihood strategies which at he end of it all determine people’s livelihood outcomes (DFID, 1999).

It is at the point of “transforming structures and processes” that issues of governance pose potential for improving or limiting people’s accesses to assets and choice of strategies that people choose to employ to better their livelihood outcomes. People (the citizenry) should be able to influence what happens at this level and demand that their voice be taken into account as policies are instituted. Politicians on the other hand should listen to the voice of the people and they (politicians) should be willing to be accountable for the decisions they take or omit in creating an enabling environment for people to pursue strategies of achieving desirable and acceptable livelihood outcomes. The World Bank, 2004, has described this form of accountability as possessing the quality of answerability and enforceability .

Despite democratization and going to the polls every five-years, Malawi has not made any significant gains in as far as improving the quality of life of the general population is concerned. Brown, 2000 puts it more succinctly as he says “Malawi faces the major challenge of building new democratic institutions and practices and even a democratic culture in a context of enduring neopatrimonialism, widespread poverty , creating such related problems as low levels of literacy, education and health, continued economic stagnation, weak civic organizations, limited participation and accountability and profit-seeking politicians.” This has led the population to be totally indifferent from democratization as conditions of living have not changed post-Banda and political pluralism is associated with food shortages, high commodity process, badly-shaped infrastructure. (Brown, 2000). Simply put peoples livelihoods have remained the same or become worse as livelihood assets are hard to access in the backdrop of economic deficiencies and rife with political inadequacies. Good governance, this research wants to assert, can do it for Malawians using the sustainable livelihoods approach.

Every human being desires livelihoods that are of quality and sustainable. An enabling environment to pursue desirable levels of livelihood outcomes needs to be created and good political governance is one concept that can facilitate the creation of that environment. This research will be intent at examining the governance concept and its role in bringing about sustainable livelihoods. This will be appropriated to Malawi and suggestions made on how Malawi can benefit from the concept of good governance. Voice and accountability will be a dimension of governance that will be examined in detail in this research. It is expected that some policy recommendations will be made at the end of the research.

Brown, S. (2000). The Trouble with democracy. Africa Files [Online] Available on [Accessed on 21/02/2008].
Department for International Development (1999). Sustainable Livelihoods Guidance Sheets. [Online} Available on [Accessed on 28/02/2008]
International Institute for Sustainable Development (2001): Implementing Sustainability – Sustainable livelihoods: Stockholm Environmental Institute [Online] Available on [Accessed on 08/03/2008].
Overseas Development Institute (2006). Briefing Paper: Governance, Development and Aid effectiveness: A quick guide to complex relationships. [Online] Available on [Accessed on 07/03/2008]
World Bank (2004). World Development Report: Making services work for the poor. Oxford University Press. Washington.
World Bank (2004). Governance and Anti-corruption. [Online] Available on,,menuPK:1740542~pagePK:64168427~piPK:64168435~theSitePK:1740530,00.html [Accessed on 10th March 2008].
World Bank (2008). Worldwide Governance Indicators: 1996 – 2006. [Online] Available on,,contentMDK:20771165~menuPK:1866365~pagePK:64168445~piPK:64168309~theSitePK:1740530,00.html [Accessed on 03/03/2008].

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fertilizer subsidies in Malawi: An HIV/AIDS Prevention and management strategy?

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world and its economy is agrarian. More than half of the population survives on smallholder farming and lives in poverty and a good section of that is described as ultra poor. Chinsinga and O’brien, 2008 agree as they say “the economic reality is grim, 52% of the population are poor defined as per capita income of less than US$0.40/day. At least 22% live on less than US$0.26/day and are classified as ultra poor.”

Agricultural production is the sole source of food provision to the population. While tobacco, coffee and tea are the main cash crops, maize is the crop that is regarded as “food” for many Malawian families. However, the agricultural sector is vulnerable to so many shocks including adverse weather and soil nutrient depletion and these render the sector, the mainstay of the economy and food provision for the country, immensely unreliable at times. The rainy season, running from about November to March supports and sustains only one growing season (Chinsinga and O’Brien, 2008). Any individual, family or community coming out of that growing season with inadequate maize or any of the cash crops is left open to hunger and starvation as there is no tangible and stable social welfare system in the country, considering its small and low economic base, to come in handy for the people in times of lean harvests. Livelihoods stagger when this happens; and Malawi has had its fair share of chronic hunger stretching across all the three governments Malawi has had since independence in 1964. Adverse weather conditions and the ever-skyrocketing prices of inorganic fertilizers have played their role in this.

Malawi is a small country in the sub-Saharan region of the vast continent of Africa. This region has the greatest burden of disease in the world, even more so the burden of HIV and AIDS. Malawi alone is home to close to one million people living with HIV and AIDS; representing, of the 13,000,000+ people in Malawi, 14.1% of those aged between 15 and 49 (UNAIDS, 2008).

As can be deduced from this, the impact of HIV on any sector in Malawi is devastating and agriculture has not been spared. It can be argued that the loss of labour and manpower, owing to HIV, is considerably significant so as to stand independently as a factor in the low food and cash crop production in Malawi at present. Additively, the low economic growth of the country, the inability to respond to shocks of different sorts because of poverty and the constant state of food-insecurity have a significant bearing on the wild-fire-like spread of HIV – and these factors, in a compounding fashion, render the population infected with HIV susceptible to quicker and aggressive progression to AIDS; so Malawi on the whole, is caught up in a serious, devastating vicious cycle of poverty, HIV and AIDS. Save the Children UK and Oxfam, 2002 agree as they say, “there is a clear-cut two-way relationship between HIV, AIDS and food insecurity in southern Africa; the pandemic is being driven by the very factors that cause malnutrition: poverty and inequality.” (Refer to Box Two for more information).

Of all the people living with HIV and AIDS in Malawi, more than 200000 are in need of ART. Chimzizi and Harries, 2006 indicate that 170000 people, in 2006 stood in need of ART. The 170000-mark must have been passed by now and looking at Malawi’s Ministry of Health (MOH) figures of people requiring ART (Box one), it is projected that by the year 2010, 245000 people will have been started on ART but this too will be falling far short of the required need and demand if one considers that 90000 people become eligible for ART every year (Harries, Makombe, Libamba, Schouten and Lungu, of MOH, 2006).

ART demands on the body tissues and systems may be immense and the need for adequate food and nutrition may be of paramount importance as one gets treatment. ODI, 2006 augments this as they subtly intimate that evidence is emerging to the effect that adherence to treatment and the benefits from it are linked with access to food and nutrition. If one has no food, taking of medications may not count as much.

As Malawi grapples with the ever-growing need for ARV therapy, the need to prevent further infections becomes even more important and food security needs to be prioritised. It is a challenge to do this amidst other critical issues of poverty, gender inequalities, less-than-satisfactory political governance, a fragile and an immensely understaffed health care delivery system; but one that needs to be embarked on with diligence and all the political will that it deserves.

It has got to be appreciated in the final analysis that HIV and AIDS have got two major sides that need to be approximated together properly for comprehensive management strategies and if people-centred tangible results are to be realised. There is a biological dimension to HIV as well as a socio-economic one; the two so far, seem to have taken different routes and directions. There are theoretical perspectives that would aid in a holistic approach to HIV and AIDS management and this paper exemplifies two: - the Social Cohesion approach as advanced by Barnett and Whiteside and the integrated approach to prevention: Health promoting communities as articulated by Catherine Campbell. Barnett and Whiteside argue that for a long time HIV prevention strategies have concentrated on individuals and the risks they take as they engage with society – almost completely ignoring the context within which the risky indulgencies take place. They further argue that susceptibility and vulnerability to acquiring HIV and progression to AIDS and dying from it are directly related to the social cohesion and amount of wealth any society has.

Campbell, on the other hand, argues that prevention should look beyond biomedical and behavioural approaches. She advances the school of thought that HIV prevention – probably including management of effects – should be perceived and viewed as social and development endeavours. She argues that prevention should be strategized in such a way that an enabling environment for prevention is created other than persuading individuals to change their behaviour. She articulates that HIV should be viewed as a BIO-PSYCHO-SOCIAL problem – all three aspects should be brought together and operate in unison to register the successes that are sought (Campbell and Williams, 1999).

Malawi is a country that can easily be described as a socially cohesive society but with very low wealth – and according to Barnett and Whiteside such an environment offers enablement to a high HIV and AIDS epidemic like the case of India (Barnett and Whiteside, 2006). Malawians still practice a sense of belonging to what can be described as the traditional extended family set-up and this has provided, over the years, invaluable source of social capital on which people relied for several problems including ill-health. However HIV and AIDS are ripping through this social fabric so much that the system itself can palpably be seen to be getting fatigued as a direct consequence. More and more people have become ill from HIV, this is happening amidst excruciating poverty, immense gender inequalities etc and the epidemic seems to just have found a proper breeding ground to thrive (Chatterji, Murray, London and Anglewicz, 2004).

Malawi is a low-wealth country meeting fully one aspect of the Barnett and Whiteside theory for an enabling environment for the HIV spread, thrive and flourish. Poverty leads to all sorts of shocks onto people’s livelihoods including food insecurity and this alone supports a fertile environment for the spread and flourishing of HIV. IPFRI, 2004 agree as they say “HIV/AIDS and food and nutritional insecurity may become increasingly entwined in a vicious circle – HIV/AIDS heightens vulnerability to food insecurity which in turn may heighten susceptibility to HIV infection.”
There are so many ways in which this can happen and one of them is that people, particularly women, will go to great lengths to acquire food for their families and the chances of indulging in risky behaviour e.g. transactional sex become very high (Swidler & Watkins 2006). Further to this an under-nourished body is incapable of sufficiently fighting off infection and an encounter with HIV may render a malnourished body significantly vulnerable to acquiring the infection and in a spiralling fashion, progress into AIDS becomes quick and almost inevitable.

Malawi’s population has shifted from slightly below 4,000,000 in 1964 (at independence) to more than 13,000,000 in 2008. The land has remained the same and cultivation has been in almost the same fields, year in and year out. The dwindling sizes of land tenable to anyone Malawian and the inevitable depletion of soil nutrients, renders the agricultural sector, the mainstay of food production in the country, vulnerable to inadequacies leading to a population on a risky course of food insecurity (Chinsinga and O’brien, 2008). One of the strategies available to make sure Malawian families have adequate food is to try and ensure optimal production of food items, particularly maize, on these small-sized farms with dwindling soil nutrients as well as in the backdrop of a shrinking labour force in a severely income-unequal society (Refer to Box Three).

When the current government came to power in 2004, one of the things the President told and promised Malawians was to bring food to their plates. Despite serious resistance and misgivings from the World Bank, IMF, The US and Britain, the Malawi Government (MG) was determined to bring the fertilizer subsidies back – looking at it as the only way that would ensure adequate food production thereby bringing about the much needed food security to families and households. Bingu wa Muntharika, the President of Malawi, declared “as long as I am president, I do not want to be going to other capitals begging for food” (New York Times, 2007).

This may have been done HIV and AIDS-blind however, the policy seems to have worked for three years running. Malawi produced enough food supplies in the 2005/2006, 2006/2007 growing seasons and the indication is that the harvest for the 2007/2008 growing season will be pretty good too. The benefits in regard to HIV/AIDS management may be accruing.

Adequate food provision as part of a response to HIV and AIDS is in tandem with article 28 (refer to Box 4) of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) and governments need to respond and meet the demands of the article. The MG’s fertilizer subsidy policy is a defining policy in increasing the likelihood of sustained adequate, food production and provision for most Malawians and once they can be assured of food, day in and day out that will probably be a huge precondition for economic growth as more and more people may be able to participate in economic activities after food-needs are assured because food is a basic need that everybody will first try to secure before they can do anything else. This is and will be a recipe for increased household wealth and with the already long and deep running social cohesion, the conditionality for a more positively aggressive fight against HIV and AIDS may ensue – as Barnett and Whiteside do contend that high social cohesion and high wealth, more often than not results in a decreased HIV and AIDS epidemic. Increased household wealth, combined with the social cohesion will provide an enabling environment for individuals, families, households and larger communities to be more resilient to the devastating effects of HIV and AIDS as well as being in a position to negotiate new ways of preventing acquisition of the virus.

Added to this, as Catherine Campbell may argue, food security alone brings about a social state that is more stable and more productive in many ways – women for example, whose vulnerability to acquiring HIV increases with food insecurity, will be in a better position not to engage in activities that make them susceptible to acquiring the virus e.g. transactional sex. It can further be argued that food-secure families would be in a much more strong position to revisit gender relations which may lead to a reconstruction of the gender roles in a positive way and Catherine Campbell argues that this is important in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Further to this the general population at large will be healthier and as it is medically true, well nourished bodies are more resilient at fighting off infection.
Further to this, with a good section of the population on ART and there is evidence that for those that are already on ART, adherence and benefits from the treatment are optimal if the nutritional needs are adequately met and continually catered for (ODI, 2006).

The conclusions of the Durban Conference on HIV/AIDS, Food and Nutrition Security (Box FIVE) cover in subtle terms it can be argued, what Barnett & Whiteside and Catherine Campbell advance as areas that need to be looked into as approaches to preventing and managing HIV and AIDS are concerned. The environment has to be one that disables the conditions that allow for the spread and proliferation of HIV and where AIDS has already taken its toll, the environment has to be that which facilitates resilient responses by individuals, families, households and communities. Good governance, for example, works well for the people in enabling them to participate in wealth creation and bringing about social development – key areas of contestation by Barnett & Whiteside and Campbell that have the capability of strengthening, in a positive way, the fight against HIV and AIDS and its effects on populations and their social and human development.

The Malawi nation, through its political leadership, to bring about food security by employing fertilizer subsidies, should stay this course for both, food security in its own right and as an important precondition to stabilize households, families and communities rendering them an opportunity to participate better in the fight against HIV and AIDS. And for those on ART, a well nourished body is more resilient to battling off OIs and better food renders ART more effective; there also is a cost saving benefit for households; even more so for the national economy (ODI, 2006).
Further to this, it is important for the government of Malawi to look at the sustainability of the programme in the long term. Some donors do not support subsidies to farm inputs and as time goes by, even those that sympathise with the programme may become fatigued. In this regard, it is of paramount importance to look at how Malawians themselves can fund the fertilizer subsidies as donors assist with other areas; even more important is the fact that Malawi should be diversifying its economic growth strategies and activities. With food-secure families, having started in 2006, there has to be a plan, forecast and drive to let Malawians own the programme.

The grey areas of the programme also need to be addressed and meticulously policed. Some quarters argue that the programme is highly politicised which may work to its detriment. It is also highly rumoured that some corrupt politicians take advantage of the situation; they buy the subsidised fertilizer in large quantities and sell the commodity at huge profits, sometimes even smuggling the commodity to neighbouring countries like Zambia (Afrol News/The Chronicle, 2008). Accountability may be the catch word here with all the whole-marks of answerability and enforceability (World Bank (WB), 2004).

Added to all this Malawi needs concerted efforts to work on its inequalities in the fields of gender as well as wealth distribution. Gender inequalities alone bring an avalanche of problems including the spread of HIV and the entrenchment of poverty. Working for a more gender equal Malawi will bring with it benefits in terms of social and food security alongside resilient participation in fighting off HIV. And as the WB 2006, purported, Malawi is one of the most unequal countries in terms of wealth distribution. It would be to the nation’s advantage, as it tackles its myriad problems, to look at this issue and work on strategies of wealth creation and redistribution. This will serve well as a precondition for resilient fights against HIV and AIDS and its effects. Catherine Campbell puts up a persuasive case in support of strategies that change people’s circumstances and she intimates that programs to prevent HIV infection and AIDS must seek to bring about change to the community as a whole and not just within individuals particularly in circumstances where the social and economic dimensions that divide people, thereby making them unequal, are precisely the same forces that increase their shared risk of HIV infection. This, in definite terms, puts up a case for change in peoples circumstances, socially as well as economically.

Malawi should position itself for a long time of excruciating morbidly and mortality caused by HIV and AIDS as a good percentage of the population is already infected and affected, however good policies have to be in place and especially those that help to break the vicious cycle of poverty and HIV and AIDs; the adequate and affordable provision of fertilizer is one of those policies that can aid in this fight. Malawi should stay the course because if it does it will be positively contributing to the achievement and fulfilment of Millennium Development goal six. (Refer to box 6).

Afrol News/The Chronicle (2008). Malawi’s subsidised fertilizer smuggled and embezzled. [Online] Available on [Accessed on 1/04/08]
Barnett, T. and Whiteside, A (2006) AIDS in the Twenty-First Century: Disease and Globalization, London, Palgrave Macmillan
Campbell, C. (2003). Letting them Die: Why HIV/AIDS Prevention Programmes Fail. Oxford: James Currey. Bloomington: Indiana University Press: Capetown: Juta,Doubstorey. [A copyrighted copy is available on ]
Campbell, C. and Williams, B. (1999). Beyond the Biomedical and behavioural: Towards an integrated approach to HIV Prevention in the South African Mining Industry. Social Science & Medicine, 48, 1625-1639.
Chatterji, M., Murray, N., London, D. and Anglewicz, P. (2004). The factors influencing transactional sex among young men and women in 12 Sub-Saharan African Countries. [Online] Available on [Accessed on 28/03/2008].
Chimzizi, R. and Harries, A. (2006). Joint Tuberculosis/HIV Services in Malawi: Progress, challenges and the way forward. Bulletin of World Health Organization [Online] Available on [Accessed on 28/03/08].
Chinsinga, B. and O’brien, A. (2008). How Agricultural Subsidiers are working in malawi. African Research Institute. [Document sent via personal email communication with Dr Blessings Chinsinga based at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi].
Drugger, C. (2007). Ending famine, simply by ignoring the experts. New York Times. [Online] Available on [Accessed on 01/04/08]
Gillespie, S., Kisemba-Mugwera, W. and Loevinsohn, M (2004). Africa: Assuring Food and Nutrition Security in the Time of AIDS. International Food Policy Reasearch Institute [Online] Available on [Accessed on 29/03/04].
Gillespie, S. (2007). Food Security, Nutrition, HIV and AIDS. International Food Policy Research Institute [Handout given in the HIV and Development Class, Queen Margaret University].
Harries, A., Makombe, S., Libamba, E., and Lungu, D. (2006). The XVI International AIDS Conference: 5-Year Plan for Antiretroviral scale up in Malawi: 2006-2010. Ministry of Health and Population, Malawi. [Online] Available on [Accessed on 20/03/08].
Harries, A., Makombe, S., Libamba, E.,Schouten, E. and Lungu, D. (2006). The XVI International AIDS Conference: 5-Year Plan for Antiretroviral scale up in Malawi: 2006-2010. Ministry of Health and Population, Malawi. [Online] Available on [Accessed on 23/03/08].
ODI (2006). Briefing Paper 7: Food, Nutrition and HIV: What Next? [Online] Available on [Accessed on 27/03/2008].
Orr, A and Orr, S. (2002). Agriculture and Micro Enterprise in Malawi’s Rural South. Agricultural Research & Extension Network/Overseas Development Institute [Online] Available on [Accessed on 19/03/08].
Save the Children UK and Oxfam, (2002). HIV/AIDS and Food Security in Southern Africa. [Online] Available on [Accessed on 21/03/08].
Swidler, A. and Watkins, S.(2006). Ties of Dependence: AIDS and Transactional Sex in rural Malawi: California Center for Population Research [Online] Available on [Accessed on 23/03/08]
UN (2005). Millennium Development Goals. [Online] Available on [Accessed on 02/04.08]
UNAIDS (2008). Country Situation Analysis: Malawi [Online] Available on [Accessed on 29/03/08].
World Bank (1996) Malawi human resources and poverty: Profile and priorities for action. Report No. 15437-MAI. Washington DC: World Bank
World Bank (2004). World Development Report: Making Services Work for the Poor People. Washington. World Bank & Oxford University Press.