Malawi at cross roads

Some news tips will shock you, some will simply leave your mouth open. After a week of sparing with John Kapito on the role of Malawi Human Rights Commission, the Governments usual suspects Symon Vuwa Kaunda and Dr. Hetherwick Ntaba found a new kill in their verbal battle against the Civil Society- they had discovered a project proposal from Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for the Development of the People (CEDEP) worth K100 million or USD700,000 for the promotion of gay rights and involvement of the same group in national response to HIV and Aids.
The Honourable Minister of Justice- the Honourable Dr. George Chaponda was loped in and asked to deliver the news, as he put it, as the core reason of conflict between Government and Civil Society groups.
Dr. Chaponda, Dr. Ntaba and Vuwa Kaunda stressed that the CHRR was making noise using the Human Rights Consultative Committee beacuse they had money to promote gay rights, a sexual activity criminalised by the penal code.
That was Monday afternoon and the press did a good job to question the three on position of Government which was- it does not invade in peoples private bedrooms to see what type of sex the engage.
Parallel to this great discovery was one British High Commissioner whose diplomatic cable found itself in the media on Saturday calling our dear President Ngwazi Professor Bingu wa Mutharika- almost a dictator.
On March 6, 2011, President Mutharika asked his loyal and faithful followers to defend him. How, he cited the examples of the United Democratic Front and the Malawi Congress Party, that it was not thier leaders who defended the party, but ordinary supporters.
Bintony Kutsaira, the Secretary General who is politically sharp, Mr. Francis Mphepo- the veteran politician who does not open his mouth without a proper cuase were sent to do the damage control.
But even when you unleash such an arsenal of political mechanics in terms of Kutsaira and Mphepo, the damage was was already done. Sometimes it is better to have notes and share them with the media and stick to them. I am sure President Obama sticks to his notes as the cost of any blunder is huge.
The other element is the alleged threats that Civil Society have been recieving and many attempts that have seen publishers such as Nation Publications Limited loose Government advertising due to percieved critical reporting of its products. Ironically Government has never stopped collecting taxes from the same company it wants so much to kill.
Kill yes, if you stiffle a business source of revenue, you are trying to kill it, that is very simple.
Now a British High Commissioner decided to write, quite a fair reflection of the situation including an advice to the Civil Society to be less militant in its approach to issues.
What is our reaction, we invite them and dress them down.
Are we sure we have reached a stage where we can manage to do away with our traditional donors.
Most senior officials we spoke to last night agreed on one thing, while Zimbabwe could last after telling off Western donors, Malawi cannot afford the luxury, especially at this point in time.
The British Department for International Development (DFID) after the total United States Government grants of USD170 million annually is the largest donor in Education, Health and Agriculture.
Behaving like Iran or Zimbabwe will not help Malawi. Zimbabwe has enough minerals, it has enough Tourists to its Victoria Falls or Zimbabwe. The Chinese we seem to want to rely upon have gone into Zimbabwe because of the platinum, gold and diamond that it offers.
Our foreign exchange reserves are very low, Tobacco companies to some of us are punishing us for their own reasons, I dont think we have capacity to shut off the forex that comes as reciepts from donor inflows.
The British Investments into Malawi, especially social sectors are huge and no administration can survive without their input. This is simply a fact that all sober minded people will agree.
There are millions of people educated and trained by the British and there are many saved and suported by the same British tax payers. Sometimes misguided soverignity has ended up costing peoples lives.
Sometime in mid 2000, President Bakili Muluzi met the then Danish Ambassador Mr. Bakdal in Blantyre. Within five hours, the President phoned the Ambassadors office to ask him to come again, 320 kilometres for another meeting. The Ambassador who had just arrived uttered a certain word, which some loyal Government spies reported to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The then Minister, Lillian Patel was angry, so too the President and they expelled the Ambassador. Denmark retaliated, 400 Malawians lost their jobs after they closed their projects, over 1000 new classrooms that were to be constructed shifted to Tanzania.
We have never recovered from the diplomatic disaster caused by the egoism of the then President.
Britain is now looking for places to cut its budget. It has removed many country's from its direct support. Malawi survived this chop not because we are bright, but out of our poverty statistics and the loyalty the British have to the people of Malawi.
Sometimes, death wish is never a wish, but after making a lot of reversals over some controversial decisions, I would ask those responsible for policy decisions to take a deeper reflection on matters before emotions carry them forward.
I pray, the letter expelling the British High Commissioner wont be written, it will just be suicidal in a struggling economy.

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