Sunday, 29 October 2017

Lucius’ new hit raises ethical issues

Review by Albert Sharra

Lucius Banda is back biting extremely, but gauchely. In a complete u-turn if measured from his last album Thank You, in which he was completely placid, Lucius slips back to his old platform slamming ruthlessly the current political leadership.

However, there is no much to write about if the just released four songs featuring in the forthcoming album, Crimes, are anything to go by. Nonetheless, one song, Chako caught my ear. The release is composed tightly, personalised, but also provoking.

In the song, you capture Lucius performing what I would call Time Part II. In Chako, Lucius sounds prejudiced. He is on current leaders, who spent most of their time abroad and are failing to deliver diligently due to what he calls lack of patriotism and ownership as they were absent during the fight for Malawi’s democracy.

Chikakhala ndi chako, abale umachisamalirira, ngati kuno ndi kwanu inu, anzathu simukanamaononga, abale munakadziwa, dzikoli tinalivutikira, anzathu muli maiko, akunja muli ku exile”

In one stanza, he gives a hint; “Ama Green Card wo”, a direct attack on first citizen, who was once yoked in dual citizenship dilemma.

Now doubles as an MP and musician: Lucius

Chako hardly goes without sensitive words such as “chitsiru chaponda ndalama” (stupid people have stolen money) creatively weaved to bury the traditional taste. As this is not enough, the hsong raises several allegations on corruption court cases. Among them is the speculated corruption report that is said to have implicated some government ministers.

While tackling some of the social issues haunting Malawi, Lucius finds himself mixing music and political interests and this raises some ethical issues in Malawian music today. Ofcourse, one may argue that he made a name with such an approach, but his current political status plunges the approach into credibility crisis, more that he sings from the opposition benches.

This raises fresh questions on whether ethics exist in music as they do in journalism and other professions, and if yes, where do they meet?

Richard Freeman-Toole in his paper titled On the Ethics of Music Composition highlights one of the critical tools to measure ethical legitimacy in music. Indeed, if applied to Chako, both ethical and credibility issues attached become naked.

“The single most powerful validating attribute an expression can have, is the ability to invoke the collective mind in the subject, thereby, giving him a super-personal experience of himself and vice-versa, the collective mind a super-personal experience of him. Therefore, since entering a transcendent state, in this regard, becomes a social act, the degree to which an expression is absorbed into the collective mind is very much a measure of its ethical legitimacy”

Precisely, despite being grounded on reality, listening to Chako soberly, provokes questions of ethical legitimacy if measured against the author’s conventional interests and efforts to incite collective action as appreciated in the lyrics. The song weaves information already in the public domain, but the artist picks the issues creatively and goes on to borrow the tongue of an ordinary Malawian.

In other words, Lucius silently adopts two critical complementing concepts used in mobilising individuals for collective action or social movement.  These are Collective Identity and Connective Action well discussed by Lance Bennett and Alexandra Segerberg in their paper The Logic of Connective Action of 2012. The paper explains how organisers of  campaigns against a particular issue use "sets of processes" to blur collective identities in a society and mobilise everyone for a successful movement through available connective action networks.

 In Chako, Lucius relinguishes his political power from being a Member of Parliament to an ordinary citizen. I would argue that this is a deliberate move for relevance sake and to make everyone feel connected to the issues raised.

With all things being equal, it is completely absurd to expect a positive song on government from Lucius at this time he is an opposition Member of Parliament. Similarly, it is hard to believe the composition is in public interests.

Toole is clear about this: “Since what we do, especially what we do to each other, defines who we are, the mix of choices we make between transient and intransient experiences is a defining feature of our ethical identity.”

Thus, the thin line that separates Lucius from his music and political interests is something that he needs to throughly rethink for credibility sake now. Using both powers behind national interests will continue to raise ethical issues. It may be time Lucius considers talking politics only when in Parliament.

The story was first published in The Nation newspaper of 27/10/17

Monday, 18 July 2016

Fears as Typhoid victims mix with communities

As Zomba continues to battle to put to contain Typhoid outbreak, there are fears for the outbreak to spread across Malawi. Following the outbreak, St Lukes College of Nursing and Malosa Secondary School released students including those infected before the school calender closing dates. How have they mixed up with their communities? Are the communities safe? How are some of teh infected students feeling now? Follow this blog for more updates and follow ups.  

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Poverty looms in Khonjeni

By Albert Sharra

Poverty continues to hit hard in Khonjeni, Thyolo. Most families have exhausted the little maize they harvested after the January floods that hit 15 of the 28 districts of Malawi. The next option is to do piece works to get money to buy maize. However, with almost everyone affected by the floods, the piece works have become scarce and families are living on one meal per day. Also hard to find is relish. In the picture, women from Mwanandi Village in T/A Kapichi (Khonjeni) are hunting for crabs to use as relish.
Usually, when maize, the staple food has not done well, smallholder farmers rely on tuber crops such as Cassava and Sweet Potatoes, but it is a different story this year. The two including pigeon peas have not done well.
There is tough time for mothers who are breast feeding as this is dependent on good diet and there are fears that many children Under the age of 5 will be hit by malnutrition. Read more on website.
Aisha Raphael is struggling to breast feed her child
due to empty stomach
Ruth Wonderford and Mary Biziwick (Front) hunting for crabs
Biziwick shows poor cassava yield in her farm

Sand-Fest back, pegged at K30m

By Albert Sharra

Sunbird Sand Music Festival returns this year at the same venue, Livingstonia Beach in Salima with a K30 million budget, organisers have said.

This is K10 million up from last year's budget and the organisers say this year's festival comes bigger and better. However, despite the pledge, organisers have kept under a tight lid most of the surprises in the festival saying they will be unveiled with the build up to the final event.

Unlike in previous years, the organisers say they will not announce anything about international artists to headline the festival until the contracts are sealed. This comes from the background that most of the international artists invited for the previous editions did not make it.

“We are publicising the festival as an event and so we are still holding on names of the artists to headline the festival. We have learnt some lessons from previous events and we want to provide something very different, but unique,” said lead festival organiser Mazz.

He also said this brings to bed the culture of attaching the festival to international artists saying being a Malawian festival, it should promote local artists.

Another notable change in the organisation of the festival, which is brought forward by Impact Events and Sunbird Tourism Limited, is the change of dates. Previously, the festival was held in August, the 2015 edition will be held on October 30 and 31 and will finish on November 1.

Deputy lead festival organiser Nkhwachi Mhango said the change in dates has been necessitated by a weather prediction by the Department of climate Change and Meteorological Services (DCCMS) which predicts that in August there will be some showers in Salima and dry days in November. The three previous festivals were marred by bad weather characterised by showers and cold weather.

"We are growing big. Our budget has increased and we are more careful in our planning so that we deliver to public's expectation. The package on offer includes drama, poetry, music, fashion and games," said Mhango

He added that they are on the scout for better and power equipment to support the artists. Mhango said Impact Events has equipment that can be used on one of the performance stages and they will be monitoring music shows to choose the best equipment that can achieve the standards they have set.

While reacting to a question that most of the foods available at the festival are expensive, Sunbird Public Relations Officer Akossa Mphepo said her office will look into the issue and ensure the foods are affordable so that every patron can access them. She however said, not all their food is expensive.
As a build up to the final event, the organisers have arranged a Sengabay clean campaign where they work with the communities to clean the venue and the surrounding community.

Meanwhile, the organisers have called upon organisations to partner with them and these will benefit from the business expo which will allow them to display their products.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Malawi’s veteran writer Aubrey Kalitera dies

By Albert Sharra
No more Aubrey Chitera pic NPL

A sombre mood will today afternoon engulf Blantyre city as scores of people and writers take a last escort of the country’s veteran writer and author Aubrey Kalitera who succumbed to a severe stroke caused  by high blood pressure and diabetes on Monday afternoon.

According to Kalitera’s daughter, Vicky, the deceased will be buried today Wednesday June 11, 2014 at the HHI cemetery in Blantyre after a spiritual mass at his residence in Manyowe Township in Blantyre.

Vicky said Kalitera collapsed at his home around 3pm on Monday and was pronounced dead at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre. 

“My father has been struggling with diabetes and high blood pressure since 2012. However, on Monday he was fine.His remains are kept at College of Medicine mortuary. The bereaved family and others have been mourning at the deceased’s home in Manyowe Township,” said Vicky, adding that the deceased suffered a similar, but not so severe stroke attack sometime back.

Writer Stanley Onjezani Kenani described Kalitera’s death as a big loss to Malawi. He described him as a writer who had an own character of writing with passion and without boarders.

Kalitera who has authored several books will be missed by the local writer’s fraternity where until his death contributed a lot through mentoring and lecturing budding writers. According to Malawi Writers Union (Mawu) president Sambalikagwa Mvona, Kalitera has been a flag career of Malawi’s writers story  and his fame dates back to the 1970’s when his writing started to compete at all levels. His first book was A Taste of Business published while in his late 20’s. 

 A year later he published A Priosner’s Letter (1979) and other books were Why Father Why and Nchiyani Mwana Wanga (2003) a literature book being used in Malawi Secondary Schools. Kalitera also enjoyed writing short stories and when they were too many, he compiled them into books such as She Died on MY Bed Side and Sweet Mag. In short feature films, Kalitera made a hit with To Ndirande Mountain With Love.

In an interview, Mvona said Kalitera is on the list of writers to be recognised as legendary writers in August this year and said they will dedicate the awards to his life.

“It is sad that he will not be around when we recognise the legendary writers, but his name is on the list and we are saddened that he has passed on just two months away to the awards,” said Mvona.

 Kalitera’s last entry into the writing competition was last year’s Peer Gynt Literary award where despite not winning, his two entries Input Subsidy and Why Poverty was among the 13 finalists out of 55 entries.

Born on February 8, 1948, Kalitera comes from Maselema village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Mlumbe in Zomba. He has left a wife, seven children and two grandchildren.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Sandra kills two birds with a stone at SAFC

By Albert Sharra

Malawi’s only designer who made it to South Africa to participate at the  just ended inaugural Southern Africa  Fashion Conference (SAFC) Fashion

Sandra, her designs impressed organisers in SA

Week, Sandra Nsonga has killed two birds with a stone by being offered two more contracts to perform at the next two fashion festivals by different organisers.

Sandra who runs Splendour designs in Blantyre has been offered a contract to participate at the SA’s best fashion week called Mercedes Benz later in the year and to perform at the second SAFC Fashion Week in October. 

In an interview, both public relations officer and casting manager for SAFC fashion week, Thandikile Khumalo and Paris Makaringe respectively said they are impressed by Sandra’s performance and they have considered her name for the next fashion week.

“We had a successful festival, we invited 20 models and designers and 13 made it. However, none disappointed and we are proud of Sandra and Tumelo of Botswana. We achieved than what we planned because we managed to get to the townships and the youths were amazed to see fashion, which is mostly enjoyed by those in the city in their yard,” said Khumalo.

The fashion week took place at the Devland Ext 27 Park in Devland city, Gueteng. Five models and designers were in action from 8pm to 11 pm each day from April 30 to May 4 in different categories namely Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Snow white and Cruella.

Sandra who also performed at the inaugural Malawi Fashion Week showcased her work in Cinderella category and according to an interview she did with one of the SA’s best private radio station, Metro FM, the young lady inspired participants and organisers of other fashion events. 
“It was a great experience and I am happy that most people were impressed by my work. Organisers of Mercedes Benz fashion week approached me right away and I am swayed and ready to maintain the reputation,” said Sandra in a phone interview on Tuesday.

SAFC Fashion Week was founded to create a platform for upcoming designers and models from without and outside SA to showcase their work, while influencing the youths to desist from immorality. The first event recognised the growing talent in Malawi and invited eight models and designers, but due to lack of funding, only Sandra made it. 

“Being our first event, we could not afford to source enough funding, but we managed to source food from Spar, transport and some money to support the designers’ stay,” said Khumalo, adding that the next will be better and bigger. 

SAFC is one of the most promising fashion weeks in RSA and according to organisers it is aimed at promoting upcoming designers while showing the world what Africa has in fashion.

A snap shot of the Malawi's May 20, 2014 polls and its drama

AU observer mission led by Sam Nujoma (2nd right) visits Chirimba polling centre

Chiwembe polling centre set ablaze by angry voters

By Albert Sharra

Tuesday, May 20 began like any other day, but with all roads busy with people rushing to polling stations to cast their votes before the lines turns long. It was the day everyone had been waiting for.

As early as 4am, most polling stations had long quees. The mood was normalmost offices except for some schools were openand business was as usual in most parts of the country.
Despite some speculated fears for a possible rigging, voters had confidence in Malawi Electoral
Commission (MEC), which a day before had assured Malawians that the elections would be peaceful and that all ballot papers were safe.

By 7am, most polling centers across Malawi had opened and citizens were casting their votes in a peaceful and free environment.

Ugly scenes erupt
Despite successfully delivering voting materials in time to most polling centres, MEC was caught in logistical problems that failed it to dispatch voting materials at some centres. Fears of effectively delivering the materials started to rock two days before the elections after MEC had
reported that it had insufficient vehicles.

Nonetheless, the nation breathed a sigh of relief after MEC had announced that government had allowed it to use its vehicles. But no communication was made on whether the vehicles will bear the Tripartite Elections (TPE) registration numbers or not.

This bred into chaos in Lilongwe after residents saw a vehicle belonging to Lilongwe City  Council (LCC) carrying election materials a day before elections. The irate people stormed the vehicle at the Civic Centre offices in Lilongwe and harassed MEC and government officials
including Chief Executive Officer for LLC Richard Hara and Lilongwe District Commissioner
Charles Kalemba. The two resigned forthwith as elections coordinators. This signaled that violence was a stone throw away and any mess would propel into violence.

“Logistical problems as said by MEC, affected the timely delivery of voting materials at some centres especially in Blantyre, Dedza and Lilongwe. This did not amuse some voters who had been on the quees for more than four hours and resorted to violence.

In Blantyre, chaos was reported at Catholic Institute (CI), The Old Blantyre Taxi Office, Nkolokoti, Ndirande, Blantyre Girls and Chirimba in Blantyre. In Ndirande, the irate voters broke into the Peoples Supermarket, but were intercepted by police before causing significant damage. They also set ablaze the voting materials and few minutes later, voters at Nkolokoti
primary school centre followed suit.

Business was brought to a halt, shops that were open closed and motorists drove for safety as the irate voters from Ndirande and CI centres closed roads with stones and burnt tires. Ndirande voters marched to the MEC offices and vandalised the commissions sign posts before being stopped by security guards. Voting at the centres began few hours
later after security officers had calmed the situation.

In Chiwembe Township, Blantyre, voters lost patience after waiting for voting materials until 11am. They also set ablaze Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) offices which was booked for the exercise.

“I am sorry for this sad turn of events. We had logistic problems and I have learnt that a number of centres have been affected and voting materials have been damaged, said MEC Chairperson
Justice Mbendera at a briefing which besides the media was attended by international observers
and diplomats, including British High commissioner Michael Nevin and European Union Head of Mission Alexander Baum.

Observers give their reports
Head of the African Union (AU) Elections Observers Mission Samuel Nujoma described the elections as free and fair. In their turn, through a preliminary report, the European Union (EU) said the elections were peaceful that everyone had an opportunity to vote freely. Missing was the
Sadc mission to whom the incumbent president is chairperson until Saturday evening.

The elections were peaceful, free, transparent and credible, reads in part the Sadc report.

Voting goes into next day
Delays in dispatching voting materials characterised by wrong materials being delivered to centres, delayed the beginning of voting in some centres. Since most of the voting materials for some centres were burnt, MEC struggled to print new ballot papers from a local printer and this delayed further, the start of voting at the remaining centres the following day and this took the voting to a third day, Thursday. Huge turnouts were recorded at all polling centres and people voted peacefully.

Vote count and MEC tabulation system
MEC planned to use a computerised tabulation of votes from all tally centres, but the system failed. Officers at the centres could not send the results straight to MEC.

We are having problems with our system and we are going for plan B. The results will be faxed or delivered by hand, said MEC chairperson Justice Mbendera at a press conference.
While MEC was struggling to get the results, official broadcasters, Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) and MBC Television were crushing towards the end of the vote count. The media houses had deployed reporters to all tally centres to report on the figures gathered from the tally

Speaking on his radio, ZBS director Gospel Kazako said their reporters were reporting on figures from MEC officials positioned at tally centres and signed by political party monitors who were at the tally centres.

By Wednesday morning, ZBS had reported that Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was on the lead and was being trailed closely by Malawi Congress Partys (MCP) presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera. In its final report, ZBS reported that DDP got
a total of 1 789 364, MCP 1 387 500, PP 1 042 686 and UDF 665 819.

Mesn and MEC supported the figures. After counting 30 percent of the votes, MEC reported that its official preliminary results showed DPP on the lead.

Based on these reports, Mesn can report with 99  percent confidence that the official turnout rate for the 2014 presidential election will be between 68.7 percent and 72.5 percent.DPP will get 36 percent followed by MCP with 28.4percent, PP will have 20 percent and UDF 13.6, said

Mesn chairperson Steve Duwa, while reading their final comprehensive report. Suicide and injunctions Thursday began with its drama. Most parliamentarians in the ruling government had fallen in the race and were busy restretegising on their next moves. While others were admitting their loss through the media, former Local Government minister Godfrey Kamanya decided not to, but commit suicide on allegations that he was receiving death threats.

Despite MEC admitting that there were several anomalies in the voting and that they will look into each complaint, president Banda went to the High Court in Blantyre on Thursday to stop MEC from counting and announcing elections results until irregularities are rectified. The court
Rebuffed her.

48 hours later, using her constitutional powers, Banda evoked section 88(2) of the constitution to nullify the elections pending another election to be conducted within 90 days. Speaking live on ZBS, Banda said the decision is to allow Malawians choose leaders of their choice and she reported that she would not contest in the elections.

However, her direction met stiff resistance from MEC and the Malawi Law Society and the High Court granted MEC an injunction stopping the president.

MEC bows down to vote recount
In a twist of events, MEC began to lose its confidence in the credibility on the results from tally centres on Saturday afternoon. It announced during press conference held on Saturday evening that they have observed serious anomalies and are going to recount all votes.

“We are not abandoning our process, but while tabulating what we have, we are going for a vote recount. We have observed serious anomalies. We will recount votes for presidential, parliamentary and local government. We had a meeting with DPP, UDF, PP and MCP and we have agreed to recount the votes, “said Commissioner Emmanuel Chinkwita Phiri.

Court Rules on way forward
MCP, UDF and PP teamed up in support for a recount and only DPP stood by its ground that there will be no recount. However, none of the two camps had the powers on what next apart from the High Court. By Wednesday, May 28, the nation was in dilemma on what next and it all ears were on Blantyre High Court judge Kenyatta Nyirenda.
It took him two days, to give his ruling and in a likely balanced judgment, Kenyatta allowed MEC to do a recount, but on the other hand advised MEC to announce the results within the specified period as outlined in the laws of the country. By then, MEC had only few hours before the expirely of the time.

MEC Proceeds to announce official results
Few hours after the court hearing, MEC through its chairperson Justice Maxwell Mbendera announced the results which favoured the DPP and its president Peter Mutharika. There was jubilation upon the declaration, hidden DPP clothes were fished out of the handbags marking the return of DPP whose 10 year reign was interrupted by the death of its president Bingu Wa Mutharika in 2008. This allowed the then vice president Joyce Banda to take over with her People’s Party.

10 hours later on Saturday, Peter Mutharika was sworn in as President of Malawi by Anastanzia Msosa at the Blantyre High Court and 48 hours later, the president was inaugurated at a special ceremony held at the Kamuzu stadium in Blantyre.
In both speeches, Mutharika called for team work with the 11 losing partries.