CounterJab: Past haunts Mutharika, Thoko and poll on federalism discovers 2+2 = 4

Let us switch gears this time around and do a bunch of different things together. We will see how it all works.

Peter Mutharika

Peter Mutharika

Thoko Banda: Mugabe is an idiot

Thoko Banda: Mugabe is an idiot

Those who paid attention to what happened this past week heard about new degree programs in Gender Studies at a Malawi university. Then there was the story of top Civil Society leaders appointed to boards of various public organizations. The story of Thoko Banda  calling Mugabe a fool dominated headlines and lastly – my favourite — that of MPs rejecting federalism in a poll by one of the leading publications in the country.

Malawi, as one of the least developed countries in the world, has many challenges. According to the World Bank, 90 percent of the country’s population works in agriculture, the main driver of the economy. As subsistence farmers, most Malawians fail to make ends meet, earning less than one dollar a day.

To get out of poverty, people are told that education is the key. But education is not cheap. It costs a lot of money. And higher education costs even more.

Given the country’s many challenges, which include high unemployment, it should go without saying that the kind of education Malawians need should be in synch with the demands of the day. Elsewhere, there are signs that people are paying attention to this. A regional conference on education in Kigali, Rwanda last month drove the point home.

“It is time universities stopped producing thinkers. We already have enough thinkers,” Professor Mayunga Nkunya, the Executive Secretary of the University Council of East Africa told the gathering, according to Capital FM of Kenya. “What is required now are people who can do the work. People with enough knowledge of the job skills. They should produce people ready for the job market.”

Tell that to the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUNAR) that has introduced graduate and undergraduate degree programs in Gender Studies. With too few jobs to go around, does Malawi need these kinds of programs? This message is not only for LUNAR, it is for the whole university system in the country, as previously argued by this author. Our institutions of higher learning must heed this message and start revising their academic-based curriculum if they want to remain relevant.

Moving on, President Peter Mutharika has appointed some leading Civil Society leaders as directors of parastatal organizations with at least one named as a diplomat. Some view this as aimed at defanging the Civil Society which gave his forerunner hell over his growing autocratic ambitions.

When he was sworn in as president five months ago, Mutharika pledged to work together with the Civil Society. If the appointments are aimed at buying off the Civil Society, the action would indicate a lack of understanding of why the Civil Society acted the way it did when Mutharika’s predecessor Bingu was in power. This is not to say there are no people who are willing to be silenced at the right price, but that transaction would not guarantee the president anything.

Let’s turn to the appointment of Thoko Banda as Malawi envoy to Zimbabwe. After it was reported that Banda had called Zimbabwe’s strongman Robert Mugabe an “idiot”, at first he was evasive when asked about his comments published in 2006 by The Foreigner magazine of Germany. Apparently after he found his footing, he embraced his comments which enjoyed exposure on the BBC and other top international media outlets.

“Someone like me is not somebody to send to a place like Zimbabwe, where they have a leader who wants you to endorse whatever he does with impunity,” Banda told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.

“I am sure there are other Malawians more amenable to serving at that particular post at this particular time,” AFP quoted Banda as saying after it became clear he was not going to be sent to Zimbabwe.

If you have the courage of your convictions, why not shoot straight the first time? His latter position must have struck a chord with the West at odds with Mugabe.

The man who appointed Banda said something himself in the past that has come to haunt him.

In the same year Banda uttered his words, Mutharika spoke at a Constitutional Review Conference in Malawi where he prescribed federalism for the country, a position he does not seem too enthusiastic about today.

A statement signed by Presidential Press Secretary Frederick Ndala, says Mutharika, who at the time was still teaching law in the United States, was “only  providing alternatives and suggestions as someone consulted in his personal capacity to provide scholarly views on proposals for reviewing the [Malawi} Republican Constitution”.

When he made the “suggestion” in 2006, did he not think it was divisive as it is being falsely claimed today? In fact, other Malawians talked about federalism before Mutharika. The late Dr. Dennis Nkhwazi of opposition Alliance for Democracy advocated for federalism in the run up to the first democratic elections in 1994.

Counterjab was flummoxed by the country’s leading publication The Nation discovering and telling us that today is the day after yesterday. Got that? It said two plus two equals four. Do we not know that already? Its poll found “61 percent of MPs say[ing] No to Federalism”. The majority of those opposed were, you guessed right, from the governing party!

Counterjab is operating on a healthy dose of skepticism and doubts that the MPs who were polled fully understand what federalism is. The good thing, however, is that if the issue was to be decided in a referendum, it would also be ordinary people having their say and not just a few elected representatives. Before casting their vote, the people would have learnt about the issue they were voting on.

  • The author is former founding editor of Maravi Post who is now a Counterjab columnist on Nyasa Times
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14 thoughts on “CounterJab: Past haunts Mutharika, Thoko and poll on federalism discovers 2+2 = 4”

  1. Old APM says:

    Federalism now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. phunda says:

    Federal system is simply a practical decentralisation and devolution at work nationally. This will happen whether you like it or not. I feel sad for Eastern Region which has decided not to support the system bec oz of their working relationship with DPP and it is one of region which has been negreted yet it is one of the richest region which doesnot enjoy its worth. Selling the birth right with a bowl of soup enjoyed by one family. Work up guys, a region can not be one greedy family.

  3. Grecium says:

    Steve used to be my mentor on topical issues affecting the citizenry but lost touch the moment he was put to defend a few folks of the society.When he took over my ‘dairy’ from Claude,readers continued to enjoy those weekly submissions of stories without feeling the gap btwin him and Claude because your styles of analysing issues were almost the same.You used to be a darling of many souls but the moment you switched sides,many too elased you and anything you write now can never be taken seriously.You are a chameleon

  4. Patriot says:

    mulomo

  5. captain says:

    50 50 campaign gender at university owerenga khala maso

  6. Barrister McLoyd says:

    I think Nyasatimes guys sometimes I feel that you overdo things! What is wrong with a University rising above the bar and introducing Degree Programmes that will help make Malawi a star in Africa especially in Gender and Development. Is Nyasatimes researching her stories properly.

    Can’t you see that somewhere the Diaspora has plenty funds for Gender Programmes for Universities in Africa. Can’t you see that all sectors need gender experts for inclusive development. Can’t you see feminization of poverty, illiteracy, unemployement, malnutrition, poor infrastructures especially housing, and diseases. Time has come for you guys to be patriotic to your country.

    I am also disappointed in you in the way you write stories. They are 200% negative and most of them have nothing to offer to the reader except that they may offer them hatred, negative attitude about same people especially our democratically elected leaders even when they are trying hard to develop our country.

    Be warned! Genocide in Rwanda in 1994 started with hate publicity like what you do! If you have nothing positive to write just change your career, become a teacher, a nurse or a farmer.

    I think we need to change Malawians, we are overdoing things. Take a cold drink and relax! Let us write to contribute to our country not to destroy it. We will be held accountable by our generation and future generations if we are just this negative and empty in offering balanced journalism that provide positive and useful tips to our people.

  7. Kapoli Thengo says:

    Now I have believed those who abhorred this writer. Which university trains doers of work that do not think? Can you develop a country without thinking? Umbuli ndi fodya ndi zinthu za chabetu! Gender studies do not necessarily mean studying about women as you uneducated people think. Gender studies go beyond this generation and it is about development. Please if you have never set your foot in a lecture theatre of a university then just be quiet. Muyalukapotu apa.

  8. The major problem is that we have NATO (“No Action Talk Only”) meetings in our beautiful country.

    If only we could take action, our beautiful land would be different.

  9. Cicero says:

    The current state of affairs favours mostly the southern region with its too high population & worse still they are very good at rigging elections. If some Chewas think am joking wait for 2019 & see how Mbendera will rig elections. Never cry foul then because you think Tumbukas are stirrimg trouble. Federalism is trying to prevent genocide, which I promise Malawians who listen the voice, that one election will erupt into. If you think am wrong, ask penple in Rwanda, Ivory Coast & Kenya. Frustrations of a people led to distater Malawians of good let us diffuse this bumbie trap quickly by reducing Lomwe Terrorists that have started their modi operadi in Mzuzu.

  10. Weniweni Balakasa says:

    Please post better photos for apm. He looks like Rambo or car robber with the table cut he is making these days like an Yoo. A 75 yr man shd show the uniquiness of elde[

  11. Think Tank says:

    So Malawi has enough thinkers??? I you are one of Malawi’s thinkers, which as you claim are in abundance, then clealrly, Malawi needs thinkers!!

  12. Mfwethu says:

    How many of these MPs indeed can even spell the word itself? Malawi parliament is full of bootlickers and educated nicompoops.

  13. Mbwiye Wapata says:

    The author of this article which this distinguished paper has published has clearly demonstrated lack of knowledge on the areas tackled. The introduction of Gender Studies to him is ill-timed. What is education to him and its goals? So because somewhere thinkers are not needed,so should it be here? About federalism,Mutharika suggested it and does that show it is good? He said that as one of the contributors during the review conference and as president now,he has allowed a healthy debate on it. He has his own view on it just like every Malawian,but knows pretty well Malawians have to decide. On the appointment of CSO leaders into boards,I don’t know how that will silence them! I have seen the likes of Kwataine not being silenced previously. I thought this is a step ahead to ensure their knowledge is effectively used in contributing to the development of the country. These are professionals wo know what they stand for. Lets give them a chance and see what they are capable of doing. The appointments are well blended and good for our country. About Thoko Banda,its not a highlight of this week.. On The Nation’s survey on federalism,that was their finding. By the way,which party has the largest number of MPs in the august house?

  14. martha says:

    Eagerly waiting 4 the referendum. Federalism woyeee

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