10 August 2020
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Roy Nkosi

Roy Nkosi

Lilongwe, June 11: Life is no longer the same, the much touch year, 2020 and sprung an outbreak that the world did not anticipate both in terms of its magnitude and the impact it will have on what is generally accepted as normal lifestyle. 

For instance, a handshake greeting is the order of the day in almost all cultures worldwide, but that is gone.

Coronavirus known as Covid-19 has brought in an element probably never heard of before, social distance in which individuals are supposed to be at least a metre apart. 

In Malawi, the disease outbreak has come at a crucial time in the country's history as preparations for a fresh Presidential election are at a crucial point.

As a matter of keeping up with preventative regulations from the World Health Organisation (WHO), government issued its own guidelines to control the spread of the virus.

Through a Special Cabinet Committee now known as a Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19, government ordered non-essential staff to work from home, closed down Churches, banned gatherings of more than 100 people, reduced capacity of public transport and stressed the importance to observe social distancing. 

To a certain extent, the measures have been followed with for example, Churches migrating to digital platforms to reach out to the congregation and government employees working in shifts to reduce crowding in workplaces.

But now that the campaign season is in full swing, what happens to the measures government imposed to combat Covid-19? 

When people flooded the streets of Blantyre on May 6,2020 as Dr. Lazarus Chakwera and his running mate Dr. Saulos Chilima of the Tonse Alliance presented their nomination papers to the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), Minister of Health Jappie Mhango who was at the time giving his daily updates on the pandemic described what happened as childish.

A day later, it was the turn of the ruling party and it was a similar story, government had defied its own measures, no social distancing and crowds flooding the city of Blantyre. 

A head of the Tonse Alliance first campaign rally in Mzuzu on May 10, 2020 Malawi Congress Party Strategist, Dr Ken Zikhale Ng'oma told Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) that 'electing a President was a priority and Covid-19 would be dealt with accordingly after the elections.

A few weeks later, Dr. Chilima told masses at a rally in Lilongwe that they should not be afraid to hug anyone wearing any of the party colours in the alliance. 

He criticised government's handling the pandemic such as repatriation of Malawians from South African who have contributed to the majority of the cases.

One contentious aspect as argued by Chilima and others that there was low death rate from the pandemic.

To date, 455 people have been found positive and with four confirmed deaths with underlined conditions.

Speaking at a rally in Zomba, the Vice President suggested that it was possible that God had spared the country from the pandemic questioning why only four people had died since the first case was confirmed in April, 2020 when the death rate was so high in other countries exceeding 400,000 according to the WHO.

A few days later, Former President Dr. Joyce Banda addressing a Tonse Alliance rally in Nkhata-Bay said Malawi has no Covid-19.
“So far Malawi has been spared from Covid-19, I urge government to use the funds it got from international financial institutions to expedite development projects in the country,” she suggested.

Making his State of the Nation Address to parliament via video link, as a preventive measure against the pandemic, President Prof. Peter Mutharika warned that 'we must be ready for the worst.'

"It is a very serious problem. If we are not careful, we will suffer far worse and long-term consequences than we have already suffered and no one will be spared," he said. 

But his words and actions do not speak to each other. The President recently went on a campaign trail in his home district of Thyolo, defying the precautionary measures imposed by his own government. 

Speaking to masses at Bvumbwe Trading Centre, Mutharika warned the public that Coronavirus was real and advised them to follow the necessary precautions. 

On that campaign tour, the President and the First Lady did not wear face masks but the microphone he used was constantly sanitized.

In contrast, Co-Chair of Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19, Dr. John Phuka has continuously stressed the need to engage political leaders on balancing between two important aspects of Presidential election campaign and the pandemic. 

"The Taskforce continues to condemn political rallies, continues to promote social and physical distancing. We are encouraging the nation to go towards procedures that support social and physical distancing. 

"We are constantly engaging with the politicians, we know that politics is important especially with the elections ahead, but we need to come up with innovations of communicating in a different way that does not put the society at risk," Phuka told Malawi News Agency (Mana). 

But the engagement as suggested by Phuka does not seem to be achieving anything at all, in as far political rallies are concerned, it remains business as usual.

Apart from the party affiliates gathering for such rallies, there are some who have no choice but avail themselves to work in such an environment. 

Take Mana Photojournalist, Govati Nyirenda as an example, he has covered a number of rallies during this Covid-19 pandemic despite the risk that comes with it.

Nyirenda said it was impossible to completely follow all the precautionary measures in such an environment. 

"As much as I tried to be cautious but sometimes I was carried away with events. Of course, I was wearing a mask throughout but social distance could not observe completely," he admitted. 

With the polling day drawing closer, the number of Covid-19 cases continue to rise rapidly with most of them being imported cases.

With doubts deeply instilled in the public about the authenticity of Covid-19 cases, life will remain as normal, and it’s up to an individual’s own discretion to follow the necessary preventative measures.

Thursday, 30 January 2020 00:00

Ink Center trains Investigative Journalists

Lilongwe, January 30: 18 local Journalists have completed a two day investigative and financial journalism training organized by Ink Centre for investigative Journalism in Lilongwe.

The training was aimed at imparting investigative reporting skills to reporters in newsrooms that have significant budget constraints and are
struggling to maintain investigative journalism desks.

One of the training, Gregory Gondwe advised journalists that they take advantage of the technological advancements and be innovative.

Making a presentation on Social media sleuthing, Gondwe said, "journalists should adopt creative ways of finding information such as the use of social
media platforms."

He said sleuthing has become an important aspect of media to find information on issues or people they are investigating.

The training comes at a time when investigative journalism is flourishing in the country with a series of stories revealing ills in the society.

 

Lilongwe, March 10: National Local Government Finance Committee (NLGFC) has called upon councils to make prudent estimates of revenue and expenditure for their councils as they prepare for the 2020/21 budget. 

NLGFC Executive Director, Alifeyo Banda made the remarks recently during commencement of  budget reviews and hearing meetings with individual local councils across the country.

Banda said in line with its constitutional mandate, NLGFC conducts such yearly hearings as a measure to provide room for clarifications and technical directions to councils.


This is done before submission to the NLGFC for consolidation.

The consolidated budgets are presented by the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development in Parliament for legislators noting.

Banda said NLGFC would, through the sessions, ensure that all council budgets conform to the guidelines that were provided during budget briefing sessions which took place earlier in the year. 

According to Banda, there are a number of aspects that have to be taken into account in the councils’ 2020/21 budgets. These include realistic local revenue estimates and alignment of budgets with national and sectoral policies.

Other considerations are appropriate allocations to various functions of the councils such as audit functions, clearing salary arrears for direct employees, PAYE arrears, related council debts and IFIMIS infrastructure.

The local councils were also encouraged to take appropriate revenue enhancement measures to ensure they collect realistic revenue for their operations.

The review for the 35 council budgets will take five days and is expected to lead to a consolidated Local Authority Program Based Budget for 2020/21 financial year for the national assembly budget deliberations.

Monday, 09 September 2019 05:47

Malawi to host AfCFTA sensitization workshop

Lilongwe, September 9: Malawi will this month (September) host a sensitization workshop that will bring together all trade stakeholders as it pushes to have the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement ratified.

The workshop, slated for September 17 (2019) in Lilongwe, is aimed at raising awareness on the pros and cons of the treaty with the hope of clearing issues that have delayed the ratification process.

According to Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism Spokesperson, Mayeso Msokera, critical aspects of the AfCFTA Agreement are still outstanding.

She cited Rules of Origin under the Protocol on Trade and Negotiations being in progress as parties develop and submit their lists of product-specific rules of origin.

“Malawi wants to ratify AfCFTA when critical aspects such as those indicated above are negotiated and this will allow us to submit complete sets of documents according to our legal procedures.

“The private sector needs to be oriented on the pros and cons. So, we have lined up sensitization workshops for stakeholders together with United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) on 17th September to make them understand more.

“From there, we hope the private sector would have understood and let us proceed to ratify the agreement,” he said.

Although he could not commit himself on the time for ratification, Msokera said what remains is to get a nod from the private sector after the orientation is done.

“For example, if the private sector recommends that we proceed to ratify, immediately the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism together with Ministry of Justice, would commence putting in place documents for ratification.

“Ratification will be done when we have complete sets of documents since negotiations are not concluded.  Once finalized, Malawi will ratify according to our legal procedures required in ratification,” Msokera said.

In a recent commentary after AfCFTA achieved the required number of countries for ratification, Director of Trade and Customs at COMESA, Francis Mangeni said even though the process has some outstanding issues, a lot of successes have been registered.

“Rules of origin and tariff negotiations need to be completed. Tariff schedules should be produced. A mechanism for addressing non-tariff barriers is also required. Some Regulations and Guidelines are also needed in areas such as infant industries and export processing zones,” he said.
Malawi signed the AfCFTA on March 21, 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda.

The agreement entered into force on May 20, 2019 when the threshold of 22 countries from the 54 that signed, ratified the agreement while its operational phase began on July 7, 2019.

Thursday, 08 November 2018 07:44

STAM warn farmers against using fake seeds

Lilongwe, November 8: Seed Trade Association of Malawi (STAM) has warned farmers in the country against the use of fake seeds arguing that they are low yielding and contribute to food insufficiency.

STAM Chairperson John Lungu Tuesday told a press briefing in Lilongwe that association would protect farmers from unscrupulous traders so that they benefit from high quality certified seeds.

“Every year our experience has been that, when we approach the rainy season, there are people who would like to enrich themselves unscrupulously by providing or making fake seed on the market.

“These seeds are very cheap to make sure that the farmers are buying from them, but we are warning farmers genuine seeds can only be accessed from reputable seed companies, reputable registered agro dealer that have been contracted to do this job,” he said.

Lungu added that the Seed Trade Association of Malawi has contracted adequate agro dealer networks throughout the country to ensure accessibility of the certified seeds so that farmers should not travel long distances to access it.

“Agro dealers have license from government and contracts from seed companies whose seeds they are selling,” Lungu said on how farmers can identify the agro dealers.

He further advised farmers against purchasing seeds displayed in open places such as those exposed to the sun or placed on chemicals like fertilizer and oil as they affect seed germination.

According to the STAM, seed companies in the country have an estimated combined total of 18,324 and 6,052 metric tons of certified maize and legume seeds respectively.

Lilongwe, May 22: Floods have become a common occurrence in most parts of Malawi and the resulting damage has had far reaching consequences on individual lives and their communities.

For people of Group Village Headman (GVH) Dzindevu and the surrounding areas in Dedza have been part of the statistics exposed to this wrath of nature.

The perennial overflowing of Livulezi River, which pass through several villages in Senior Chief Kachindamoto including Dzindevu, has often been a cause of trouble to its catchment area that spreads across Dedza and Ntcheu districts.

Areas of group village heads Ndindi, Kabulika 2 and Dzindevu have always been the worst hit in Dedza as Livulezi River changed its course during rainy season.

Gertrude Kambalame, 33, from GVH Dzindevu has come face to face with the ordeal of floods and its devastating impact.

In 2014, Livulezi River broke its banks resulting in floods in most nearby villages including Dzindevu.

“My maize field was washed away. We had no food that year and my family was forced to engage in piece works to find food. It was hard to sustain our livelihood,” says Kambalame, a married mother of five.

She adds that apart from affecting crop harvests in the area, the floods also negatively affected school going children in the area because of the closure of Gosheni Primary School.

Following these floods, communities from three affected group village heads mobilized and joined hands in constructing a sand bag block along Livulezi River as a solution to their problem.

An assessment of the river found that the right embankments of the river were destroyed by flood water resulting in a wide cut between the embankment and the river bed. The cut, which two metres deep and 150m wide, caused water to over flow.

Group Village Headman Dzindevu says after becoming tired with the occurrence of the floods, community members in affected areas engaged Dedza District Council to embark on a river training and embankment project with financial support from United Purpose.

“We cut bamboos and tree trunks and planted them on the river banks on the most vulnerable part of the river,” says GVH Dzindevu adding that the interventions were not an instant success.

“The project was successfully implemented but a year later the embankment was washed away as it could not withstand the force and volume of flowing water,” he says.

After the embankment got washed away, Dedza District Council, through Dzindevu Civil Protection Committee, sought funding from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Small Grants Scheme through the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) to reconstruct the damaged embankment using the fascine mattress technology.

This technology involves the use rafts specifically designed to shield the shoreline of rivers against erosion and they are made with locally available materials such as bamboos, stones and woods among other.

As Richard Manyowa, Chairperson of the Civil Protection Committee explains, Fascine Mattress project was to enhance resilience of the communities within Kachindamoto area in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) through proper management of risks that affected livelihood and caused some shocks.

“Gosheni Fascine mattress covers an area of about 3000 square meters. It has 224m of length and 30m of width at the widest point.

“The committee mobilized community members to gather materials for the embankment such as stones, tree logs and bamboos to conserve and safeguard the embankment and also take part in the actual mounting of the fascine mattress,” he narrates.

According to Manyowa, the project promoted community led river training, river bank stabilization and embankment protection, enhanced communities’ capacity in handling, managing natural shocks and building resilience of the individuals in the impact area.

Through the project, 200 people (100 men and 100 women) benefited through cash for work.

With the project complete, communities now feel safe because their households or fields are no longer affected by floods, according to Chief Dzindevu.

“This has enabled us to freely carry out various socio-economic activities such as farming. There is no interruption of classes in schools,” he says.

The relief of the entire community has spilled over to individuals like Kambalame who is now pregnant and awaits her sixth child.

“Am happy that since this intervention, there has been no floods. This has allowed us to grow our crops without the fear of losing through flooding,” she says.

Disaster Officer for Dedza, Zione Vyazi advises people of GVH Dzindevu and the surrounding areas to protect the environment by avoiding the cutting down trees in mountains and high areas in order to safeguard the Gosheni Fascine project.

“By protecting the trees, we are ensuring that all the works we did to erect barriers in Livulezi River is protected. DoDMA is also encouraging the people to avoid cultivating along the river banks.

“Another practice that we are encouraging them is the planting of bamboos, vetiver as well as putting stones along the river to ensure that the river bank is strong,” says Vyazi.

 

Lilongwe, March 30: Malawian Scientist, Rachel Sibande, has won a pan African competition for scientific innovations and inventions at the just ended Next Einstein Forum in Kigali, Rwanda.

Sibande, who is the founder of Malawi’s first innovation hub; mHub, emerged winner in the Climate Smart Innovation Track winning a $25,000 (about K18.3 million) award.

She presented her technology prototype on use of maize cobs to produce combustible gas which ultimately generates electricity.

Sibande told Malawi News Agency that her innovation could solve some of Malawi’s energy challenges and expressed hope that daughters of the continent may thrive in science to innovate and invent more home grown solutions.

“I take this as a challenge to do more so that there can be more passion and enthusiasm in developing innovative scientific solutions by our young people, it can be done.

“I believe we need to develop a generation of young people that can transcend from consumers of technology to creators of technology; from passive thinkers to critical thinkers. Only then can we have a generation that transcends from job seekers to job creators for themselves and others,” she said.

Speaking at the forum, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda said it may be too late for him (Kagame) to become a Zuckerberg; but he is committed to creating a conducive environment for young African leaders to become even better than Zuckerberg.

This year’s forum received 133 scientific applications from African scientists mostly pursuing PhDs in science fields such as Climate Smart Technologies, Deep Technology and Personalized Health Technology.

This is not the first time Sibande has brought home prestigious awards; she is a Google Awardee, she has been listed by Forbes, she was awarded at the World Youth Forum and recognized by the Commonwealth Polytechnic of African Universities among others.

The Next Einstein Forum is the largest gathering of African scientists bringing together over 1600 scientists and academics from Africa in different research areas. The next forum will be in 2020 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Thursday, 25 January 2018 10:02

Nsanje DHO in cholera sensitization campaign

NSANJE, January 25: Nsanje District Health Office (DHO) has embarked on sensitization campaign to equip communities with primary health care information to prevent the outbreak of cholera in the district.

Disclosing this in an interview with the Malawi News Agency (MANA) Tuesday, District Health Office spokesperson, Felix Simbi said as the rainy season progresses, the hospital has engaged communities through the Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs) to observe hygiene at all times.

“We are on the ground sensitizing communities on the importance of observing hygiene to prevent the outbreak of cholera which has already affected other districts in the country,” said Simbi.

He said the communities are encouraged to chlorinate the water they use and wash hands with soap at critical times such as after visiting the toilets, after removing baby nappies and before breastfeeding a child.

Simbi further said the DHO has already delivered medical supplies to all health facilities in the district to enable them respond quickly in the event of cholera outbreak.

Nsanje is one of the districts in the country that has not yet recorded any cholera case this rainy season.

Likoma, January 9: Construction of Likoma Community Technical College is expected to start soon after it was halted following a wrangle between the Anglican Church and the district council over piece of land where construction works had started.

Minister of Labour, Youth and Sports Francis Kasaila Monday visited the island to appreciate a new site which the council has identified for the community college.

“I want to assure the people of Likoma that the construction of this community technical college will go on. “We have appreciated the new site which is situated in council’s own piece of land and, therefore, I don’t expect any more delays. We will make everything possible so that this project takes off and sees completion within reasonable time,” he pointed out.

In September 2017, the Anglican Church stopped construction works arguing it had its own plans for the site where government started building the community technical college.

The wrangle brought fears to the island population as to whether the project would continue as it was apparent that a new site was required and that project’s time frame had already advanced and some resources wasted on the foundation.

European Union (EU) Ambassador to Malawi, Marchel Gerrmann, who accompanied the minister, said he was pleased to visit the island and see the new project site.

“The delay was disturbing as we are running out of time. This project was supposed to be completed in March.  But I’m happy to see that the council has secured own land which will accommodate the technical college,” he explained.

“As EU, we are very much interested in investing in the youth. And one way to do this is through these community technical colleges,” Gerrmman added.

Likoma District Commissioner Charles Mwawembe said youths need to be empowered with different skills for the country to realize meaningful development.

He said the community technical college would enable many youths on the island to acquire such skills.

“Previously, very few youths would access vocational training at the mainland districts which, for Likoma, was even costly,” Mwawembe said.

Traditional Authority (TA) Mkumpha III hailed government and the EU for continued support despite the land dispute.

“With what happened at the former site I had feared the worst. I though government would take the project to another district and that youths of Likoma and Chizumulu islands were going to miss out on this opportunity,” he viewed.

Lilongwe, January 8: Secretary for Education, Science and Technology Justin Saidi has underlined the importance of quality infrastructures in improving the standards of education in the country.

Saidi told Malawi News Agency Monday in Lilongwe that the country needs well educated people who could help government in implementing its developmental projects.

He said through the Malawi Education Sector Improvement Programme (MESIP), government is constructing learning shelters, classrooms and changing rooms in a bid to improve access to quality education.

“Education is power, without education we cannot succeed,” Secretary for Education said, adding that the ministry is increasing access to education regardless of zones or areas.

Saidi pointed out that, “Through MESIP, we are providing school children with infrastructures such as school blocks, learning shelters, materials for promoting girls education as well that those that drop out of school to return and concentrate on their studies.”

“Our focus is on the primary level to ensure that we give the pupils motivation as early as possible so that they are able to love school, concentrate, learn and do well in their studies,” he said.

Apart from learning shelters, the programme aims at increasing the retention rate for learners between Standard 1 and 4 as well as reducing the repetition rate.

“It has been worrisome especially at Standard 8 level where a few manage to go to secondary school. We want to ensure that all kids move from one level to another without repetition by motivating them as well as the teachers and achieving the goal of having a learned society,” he said.

According to District Education Manager for Lilongwe Rural West, Manfred Hauya, through MESIP, communities is his area have mobilized themselves to construct 110 learning shelters benefitting over 6,000 primary school pupils.

“Previously we had so many classes taking place on open air. During the rainy season it was difficult to sustain such classes thereby limiting the learning time for the pupils,” he expalined.

MESIP is being implemented with financial support from the Global Partnership for Education with an estimated cost of USD 44.90 million.

So far, a total of K2.2 billion has been disbursed to 800 targeted schools in 8 districts across the country.

Over 754 learning shelters and 69 sanitation facilities have been constructed.

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