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Malawian bloggers on nature, health, technology, politics and corruption

The newest Malawian kid on the blog is journalist Kondwani Kamiyala, of The Nation newspaper, one of Malawi’s two daily papers. Since launching his blog on January 17, Kondwani has posted 11 entries in a space of four weeks, making him one of the most active bloggers in the Malawi blogosphere. For his first post in February, Kondwani writes about the first time he hiked up on Mulanje Mountain, the highest mountain in Malawi and in central southern Africa. Before the hike, Kondwani had imagined Mulanje Mountain through the various myths about ancestral spirits said to reside on the mountain:

My perception of the mountain changed the day I hiked it. We never went as far as Sapitwa, the highest peak which is perched at 3002 metres above sea level. Hiking to Chambe Peak, 2,500 metres above sea level, nonetheless, is an experience on its own. Our hike began with a prayer at Likhubula Forest Office, which is the entry point to this massif.

Kondwani’s other entry for February is on an exhibition combining art and poetry, staged by two lecturers from the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, Massa Lemu and Timwa Lipenga, titled ‘The Scourge is also a Mask’. Kondwani writes:

On the surface, you would think Lemu and Lipenga would have nothing in common because, for one, the former is a visual artist at heart while the latter is a writer in her own right. But going through the exhibition, titled The Scourge is Also a Mask, you would be deemed wrong. The common denominator in their artistic life is to make Malawi a better place to live in, in spite of their different forms of expression.

Cashiers at Kamuzu International Airport

In his three most recent entries, Malawian blogger Austin Madinga discusses the suspicious behaviour of cashiers working in the parking lots of Malawi’s Kamuzu International Airport, the practice of dumping dead bodies at work premises to force employers to provide funeral expenses, and taking advantage of the power of online collaboration tools brought about by broadband Internet in Malawi . On cashiers at Kamuzu International Airport, he writes:

The cashier, on most occasions, makes sure he does not stamp the day in full on the ticket. why? So that on your way out, the guy at the exit of the park takes it, gives it back to the cashier so he can re-issue it. He can re-issue the ticket for a full 9 days before it becomes useless. Then on the 10th of February, he issues new tickets to be used for another 9 days. Then again on the 20th, the does the same thing. All along he is pocketing a number of K75's in a day.

Dumping bodies

On the practice of dumping dead bodies at work premises to extort money from the employer for funeral expenses, Austin writes:

The employee has to start to realise that in this day and age where people are dying at an accelerated rate (if I can put it that way), not all organisations can afford to transport spouses, children and members of extended families bodies too far away places simply to have people mourn for an hour or two then bury the person. Why can [sic] we simply inter bodies right where the person has died? Why take a four month baby and bury it in the village 400km away? Where is the logic? What is the reason? To sleep next to and chat with it's kinsfolk in the graveyard?

Underutilizing the Internet

In another entry, Austin decries the underutilization of broadband Internet in Malawi, arguing that it provides much more than simply sending and receiving emails. He lists Skype and its facility for free PC-to-PC phone calls, Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Google Calendar, Blogs, Instant Messaging, and photo sharing, and goes further to provide the names of specific services, such as various hosts for blogs and for sharing photographs online. On blogs, he describes it as a tool that journalists could make use of by inviting comment to their articles from readers around the world:

This is a user-generated website where entries are made in journal style and displayed in a reverse chronological order. They can focus on a particular subject such as sports, politics and local news or can simply be a personal online diary. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. Some blogs are specialist and focus on photographs (photoblog), videos (vlog), or audio (podcasting) and are part of a wider network of social media. Blogs are free to use and the most common are Blogger, Blogit, LiveJournal and WordPress amongst plenty others.

Floods and traditional healers

Hastings Maloya, another Malawian blogger, writes about the current rainy season in Malawi and the annual hazard it always brings, floods:

The rains are here once again. We should be a happy nation, as we cannot overemphasise the importance of the rains to Malawi whose economy is mainly agro-based. However, as it has always been the case over the years, problems associated with them, especially floods overshadow the importance of these rains

Next, Hastings turns his attention to traditional healers and how much that is said about them tends to be negative:

Surprisingly, much as all of us are free to say all the negatives about the medicine people, rarely are they given an opportunity to give their side of the story let alone allowed to defend themselves through widely accepted media outlets. There is a problem here.

It is against this background that I suggest that these people be given an opportunity to tell their stories and advertise their services as much as they can and through any available medium. The choice shall be ours.

Scotland-based Malawian blogger Isaac Cheke Ziba, who also started blogging in January 2007, writes about problems of leadership in Malawian politics, using the words of the late American civil right activist Martin Luther King Jr. to observe that:

It is no longer time for political leadership to be issuing bad cheques in as far as our development is concerned as a people. Time is up for development cheques given to our people by the political leadership to come back marked “insufficient funds, it is no longer time for the Malawian people to always get raw deals from “scrupulous” people feigning possession of good political leadership, when in fact, it is themselves the really care about.

The economics of smoking

Ndagha, a Sweden-based Malawian blog ran by Victor Kaonga, writes about the numbers of people who smoke in European countries. Ndagha describes the new appreciation he has gained of the work that Malawian tobacco farmers put into growing and selling the crop:

My country's main export earning is from tobacco. Its farmers (smallholder and big) put in a lot of effort to grow the leaves. I was very surprised at the size of the leaf that is exported and sold to other countries-most of them in the west. I never just understood who actually consumes most of the leaf until I visited Europe. I then understood why the leaf makes some money for Malawi though very insignificant to the farmer who works very hard. Again I now had an idea why Malawi's president Bingu wa Mutharika set the minimum price for the leaf at the auction floors in Lilongwe in 2006. After all the main buyers come from the West.

Church boundary row

Kaonga also writes about a row that has broken out between two synods belonging to the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian in Malawi, over boundaries, pointing out that such disagreement is helping raise questions that haven’t been raised before. But he wonders whether the row is a legacy of the missionary era and unresolved handover problems:

It is helping us ask questions we have never asked before. The questions about when this issue started coming up. We hear it is an old story for about 50 years. Was there a time when they disputed like it is now? How did they solve it then? Why is it a big issue now? Is this a product of missionary failure in handing over to Malawians? Is it another after-effect of the postcolonial period in Africa?

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