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Monday, June 3, 2013

Stealing from the poor part 1: Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry should walk the talk

Having been on the road for the past 14 days, especially in the Southern and Eastern parts of Malawi. I hae come to appreciate poverty and survival of the poor. While in Nsanje they showed me Nyika, that bitter coconut like plant they eat, behind the beautiful Mulanje Mountain, they survive some of them on cow skin mixed with the almost poisonous kalongonda. Food and economy, especially the cost of living dominates the mind of the many poor whose meals for some, even during this harvest period still remains scarce that they only eat once a day, like prisoners.
I wished I had collected party cloth materials for all parties, at least the old women in Machinga, the poor kids at Nkata village in Zomba Lisanjala or the begging children of Ngowe in Marka could have found some decent clothes. I would not mind any party giving me loads of T-shirts and Zitenjes, as long as a decent cloth for the poor, elderly and young is given to them.
It is with such a troubled mind, that when I reached Makanjila, I was worn out both soul and body. Poverty in Malawi is rampant, actually too much than what has been acknowledged. The obscene vehicles that our Leaders, yes both in Government and opposition parties use do not reflect the conditions of the poor people.
I was angry with our Parliamentarians, nobody has spoken about the cost of living and realities in our villages. Some are busy politicking about President Joyce Banda's declaration of hunger. Do these MPs go home? Did they serious check about food availability in Mulanje, Nsanje, Chikwawa, Zomba Chingale and Lisanjala or Balaka as a whole? Very soon we will know who is coming back to Parliament, but my guess is as good as anybody, very few of the current MPs are coming back. That is a fact.
But before I take on Parliament for employing bouncers to be pouncing on poor Journalists when doing their work, there is the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Indusrty. Today to me, it looks like a gang of white collar whatever you can conclude.
The kwacha, since mid April 2013 has been appreciating. To the extent that my first day in the Capital City, somewhere it was trading K325 and the black market was down to K340 buying. Give or take the kwacha has appreciated by almost K80 within the last 40 days.
I have hordes of press releases, statements from MCCCI Chief Executive Chancellor Kaferapanjira and many from John Kapito of Cama and companies such as Carlsberg, Illovo, Chibuku products, Portland cement and even Airtel and TNM. The others do it silently and leave Malawians with no options but to believe their rising cost of prices everyday as justified.
Companies in Malawi actually intimidate all of us, they say if we cant adjust our prices we have to retrench your people or close down. Yet all Chief Executives continue to ride the best vehicles on the market, privilages incldung a spa in Johannesburg and dog and cat allowances.
In the USA during recession, people took on the banks, the industries that reap off people while enjoying a lot of public subsdies to run their companies.
Companies are stealing from Government. If they paid their people well, more will be taxed a a higher rate making more money for Government. Forget corporate social responsibility in Malawi.
Take National Bank of example year in, year out they make at least a billion kwacha. The CSR budget is far less than K100 million and its staff some of them still receive K40,000 disguised as temporary workers. This is a huge reap off.
Take Chipiku stores and Sana, they still pay workers K20,000 per month yet everyday Malawians spend millions in their shops.
This day light robbery has to stop.
A month ago it made sense that companies had stocks imported at a higher rate of kwacha. Though this does not apply immediately the kwacha loses value.
Today, 40 days later, nobody has made significant reduction to their prices to reflect the gaining of the kwacha. Actually should the kwacha start losing value today, they will quickly adjust their profits without thinking of the gains they made.
Today, before we blame John Kapito, whose specialisation seems to attack Presidents, lets start with this Voice of Private Sector. 
Should Malawians take Chancellor Kaferapanjira and company as advocates for well being of the country when they cannot openly speak on behalf of consumers who palm oil their constituency to exist?
Do you mean our rich Corporate Executives have become so rich that they cant think of anything but profits even when the basic fundementals are changing on the ground?
Seriously, do we need to go into the streets to force the companies to respond to kwacha movements as they do in South Africa?
Look at Tobacco Auction Floors, the earnings are automatically less for farmers due to appreciation of the kwacha, why are the Soya, Nandolo, beans and groundnuts buyers pretending as if they cant notice the movements and offer Malawians better prices for their produce.
Everyday, I undertake to travel into shops and publish prices, press leases of price adjustments and the real landing costs of each shop and direct Malawians to where things are cheaper and better off.
We cannot continue to be reaped off and we suffer in silence. If some companies think they can make profits, obscene profits while paying people peanuts, refusing to adjust prices accoridng to the kwacha, they should know the generation that allowed to abused by politicians or business leaders is gone.
Be assured, even salaries of your lowest paid employees will be published here while the list of directors of companies, types of vehicles or properties they own will be run here everyday until everyone wakes up to start playing their part is saving Malawi.
Welcome to the Centre for Public Accountability. We were supposed to launch it later in August, but the thieving attitudes of both politicians and private sectors offers no hope for any Malawian.
Perhaps when we start naming and shaming your shops and how much you pay people, how much profits you make, which Church or Mosque you pray while abusing and reaping off the poor, perhaps, we can start narrowing the gap between the rich or poor.
Even donors, international organizations and Madonas of these world who fundraise on behalf of Malawi, you will be part of this accountability project. Even private sector who sale to consumers, even local NGO's and media.
Its time we all accounted to the public. Political parties who get parliamentary funding need to be audited, they need to declare their assests including top ten office bearers before elections.
Tobacco companies too, need to declare their profits or we will publish for them and compare the USD40 annually that a tenant takes home after working for 8 months.
Welcome to the CPA, Malawi Chamber of Commerce and Industry needs to address us this week on why its members are not passing on the appreciation of the kwacha benefits when they used the same as arguement to raise prices.
CPA will not accept donations from any interested group. A website and fortnight newspaper on Public Accountability will be coming out very soon...... its time we exposed the rot and build a new, accountable Malawi for Malawians.
The next 50 years are to begin on exciting note.... 
If you know the worst paying employer who is stinking rich, send the details anonymously to kmunthali@yahoo.com or twitter @kondwamunthali 

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