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Malawi: Moving on Despite the Politics of Section 65

The phenomenal story of 19 year-old Malawian blogger William Kamkwamba continues to attract attention from around the globe. William began making headlines after his appearance at the TEDGlobal 2007 conference in Tanzania, in June, where he talked about how he built a windmill using locally available resources in a remote part of Malawi where the easiest means of energy is fuel, wood, kerosene and candlelight.

Earlier he had dropped out of school after his parents were unable to afford his tuition fees. After achieving fame through the efforts of Malawian bloggers who first wrote about the story following a news item in a Malawian newspaper, and after hitting BoingBoing.net, Digg, Reddit, and Metafilter, William has now been featured on My Hero.

As videos from the TEDGlobal 2007 conference become available online, William’s speech at the conference can now be accessed through the conference’s website, on Youtube, on his blog, and also as a download. William has also been writing about how he is making use of the money people have been donating through his blog, using some of it for home supplies, as well as preparing to go back to school:

When planting season comes, I will use some of the funds to buy seed, fertilizer and urea for my family's crops of maize, ground nuts and beans.

I have also opened a bank account and put funds in so that my family is now prepared for medical, food or other needs and/or emergencies. I have started saving for the rest of private secondary school, boarding and university, too.

Still in the tech realm, Clement Nyirenda has had plenty of tech news to report about on his blog. Clement announces a campaign by bloggers around the world to unite against all forms of abuse, by blogging against this vice on September 27, 2007. Clement announces that the campaign is being driven by Blogcatalog. Clement also informs his readers that his blog is now viewable in ten major languages, by use of a free widget, from Google Translator Widget Blog. This makes Clement’s blog now readable in Arabic, German, Portuguese, Chinese, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Spanish, French and Korean. The other piece of news Clement has for his readers is the forthcoming launch, on August 29, 2007 of MyLiveSearch, which Clement says technology enthusiasts have been waiting with bated breath for.

For Clement’s African readers and others interested in Africa’s technological solutions, the most exciting news is perhaps what Clement announces as the invention of a new, low cost computer that runs on solar energy.

Inveneo points out that over 2 billion people in the developing world live in rural and remote communities that lack basic access to information and communication technologies–telephony, computing, Internet access. In response to this need, Inveneo, a non-profit social enterprise, creates and sells highly affordable and sustainable ICTs that are specifically designed for organizations–governments,NGOs,private enterprises–that serve rural communities with vital services that include education, health care,economic development,relief and telecentres. This is great stuff! You can visit their site and make a paypal donation. Theirs is indeed a great cause.

Clement reports that the computer is already available in Uganda, for US$941, which the government there says is tax-free. Clement expresses excitement about this innovation, while also observing that the cost is too high for ordinary people in rural areas, the main target of the gadget. Clement ends his post by inviting the company, UK-based Inveneo Inc, to Malawi where he says it will be most welcome.

Moving on from the world of technology, the political atmosphere in Malawi has been hyper-charged for the past two months. No two terms have so dominated Malawian discourse in the last decade as have “Section 65” and “Budget.” Section 65 refers to the section in the Constitution of Malawi which forbids members of parliament from moving away from the party that sponsored them into parliament to another party also represented in parliament without a by-election.

President Bingu wa Mutharika, who himself left the party that sponsored him to win the presidency and started his own party, asked the courts to clarify the section, in the hope that the courts would rule in his favor as well as that of more than 60 members of parliament who also left their own parties to join the president in his new party.

The courts ruled on June 15 that Section 65 was indeed valid, and tension has been the order of the day in Malawi since then. The opposition has demanded that the constitution be followed, and have tied their demand to a refusal to debate and pass the national budget, which has restricted government spending.

Peter Qeko Jere comments on the impasse and writes on his blog about the need for government to go on and spend money even without parliament’s authorization:

Government need to spend money this time on all necessary services that will directly benefit the poor Malawians because this is about saving lives. When it comes to this process, we don’t play games because Malawians have the right to life and no one has the right to create a situations that would lead to many death just because they don’t want the budget. Life is life and we don’t play jokes with it. We only live once on this planet. Even those in opposition knows that we live once and that they should not do something sick this time around that will lead to death of many innocent Malawians as it happened in 2002 when they sold all the maize.

Austin Madinga finds confusing messages coming from the United Democratic Front (UDF), President Mutharika’s former party now consigned to opposition ranks. Madinga writes that the party released a statement calling on Malawi’s bilateral donors to withdraw aid, and when finally parliament started debating the budget, the same UDF praised the Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe for maintaining donor confidence, citing the importance of donor money for Malawi:

This statement is in stark contrast to a press statement from UDF that called on donors to pull the plug on aid.
My question is which is which? I believe in both instances it was UDF speaking. Please make up your mind, you are confusing us!

Also expressing his opinions about the political situation in Malawi is M’Malawi KuTheba, who switches back and forth between Chichewa, Malawi’s national language, and English, commenting on the budget debacle:

p/s: I pray soon or later the budget impasse kumudziku will be sorted out. Koma munthu mmodzi yemwe sindikumunvetsa ndiye ndi JZU, the guy only lost three mps to DPP but why all the fuss, mwina itamavuta UDF ndikhoza kumvetsa.

I pray soon or later the budget impasse back home will be sorted out. However the one person I fail to understand is JZU (John Zenasi Ungapake, president of opposition MCP—editor), the guy only lost three mps to DPP but why all the fuss, if it were UDF making such a fuss I would understand.

As for Malawi Politics, he hides little about what he thinks of current Malawian politicians, wondering why most of them are still active, having been recycled from the Malawi Congress Party:

Why does the young generation refuse to get involved?. To serve requires sacrifice. A lot of our brothers are in the diaspora building a future for themselves and their kids. There are a lot of them out there but I will give a brief Wikipedia biography of just two that I know personally.

He goes on to mention Professor Paul Tiyambe Zeleza and Professor Tiyanjana Maluwa, two Malawian scholars based in US universities with highly coveted achievements, as some of the people who could steer Malawi’s politics in a different direction if they were in Malawi. He also mentions Jimmy Koreia Mpatsa as an outstanding Malawian touted for having resuscitated Malawi’s national flag carrier, Air Malawi. He ends his post by inviting readers to suggest more names of young Malawian achievers who should be encouraged to take over politics from the old guard:

It is the intention of Malawi Politics to encourage our readers and contributors to bring up fresh names to this dialogue. Our generation should not so easily concede to the old Gladiators. Their time came and went. Africa and Malawi is looking for economic freedom and fresh ideas.

Moving on to another topic of interest for Malawians, Victor Kaonga, a Global Voices author, writes about the dilapidated conditions at his former secondary school, Rumphi. Victor visited the school recently and took pictures that leave no doubt as to the state of disrepair the school has fallen into. Victor issues a call for alumni of not only Rumphi Secondary School but also other institutions of learning in Malawi to link up with their former schools so as to create meaningful relationships.

May be a more strategic plan is needed to revive and maintain the campus-alumni relationship so that it is more mutually beneficially than the commonly parasitic which obviously lends itself to no progress at all. But the fact remains that alumni play a crucial role in offering among others resource, inspiration and expertise to their former institutions. This is probably where we could rescue the apparent embarrassing mother institutions.

2 comments

  • makwenda

    i think malawi this is the time you should wake up and see what is happening around you,sikale pamene malawi anali talk of the world chifukwa cha anthu kumafa ndinjala,kukwera mtengo kwa zinthu,weak currency,fake money.komano palibe anthu ena amene akufunabe munthu nangati amene uja azayimenawonso in 2009,and i also dont understand you muluzi what do you want,you were president four years ago what did you do just make your own people starve to death with nothing to eat.if there is someone who is misleading you,you’re just wasting your time no one can vote for you,because they have not yet forgotten there starvetion in 2001.

  • Bula Matari

    There is a strong missing link that the political parties in favor and against section 65 are not saying. It is the recall provision for us the people. Before it’s removal, the recall empowered us to remove whomever we feel is not living up to the task and expectations of the constituency – read us the voters. With it’s removal, however, not only are politicians in total control of their five year destiny, but they are virtually left unaccountable for any screw-ups that they do in between. I don’t know about you folks, but I would rather have a representative that works for me; that speaks up in parliament, asks questions and not just makes himself present to earn a “sitting” allowance. Five years is a long time wait for democratic recourse! Yeah, at the end of the term they can face the voters wrath but why empower politicians with so much and leave those of us that put them in office with something that resembles an undemocratic democracy? If the constitution of Malawi is indeed for the people and not just for politicians, then the recall provision must be reinstated. If the politicians are put in office by us the people to represent us, then the members of parliament must be held accountable by those that put them in office. And for the democratic process to take full force, whether or not section 65 exists, the people ought to have what they need – the recall provision! Recall must be reinstated! Bring back the recall provision!

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