Inside Noah’s Ark: Muckraker says ‘nothing significant’ in Malawi cabinet reshuffle

“There’s no harm in hoping for the best as long as you’re prepared for the worst” -Stephen King

The Cabinet should have been in the cauldron this week but there was really no reshuffle to write home about. A few ministers swapping desks here and there and that was about it.

Mutharika and his cabinet

Mutharika and his cabinet

Of course, I would have expected a few UDF cadres to be drafted in to make its loose coalition with the DPP seem more political than personal. But that is subject for another day.

Suffice to say that the shifting of Atupele Muluzi to Home Affairs is quite poignant. Remember the young man had an unpleasant nocturnal visit the other day. May be he is the right guy for the job for he knows what it means to be imprisoned in the fortress of one’s own abode.

But, like I said, nothing significant in the reshuffle. Let us, therefore, discuss more important national serious.

Around September last year global weather experts predicted that El Niño would hit Southern Africa. The weather phenomenon is associated with extreme weather conditions, meaning that the region would inevitably receive either too much or too little rainfall. Either scenario is disastrous in their own unique forms.

This should have jolted government into action. Authorities should have hankered down with various stakeholders to plan for the inevitable for too much rainfall automatically means heavy flooding while too little of the heavenly liquid means drought. The common denominator for both scenarios is famine.

Therefore, September was just about enough time for serious technocrats to plan to avert or mitigate the inevitable impact of El Niño.

But, for some reasons, we never seemed bothered at all. For us it was business as usual. To boot, the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services, which is supposed to guide us on weather patterns, announced that Malawi would experience normal rainfall for the 2014-2015 rainy season. Even when the onset of the rains delayed our weather gurus still maintained the country should expect normal rains.

Maybe our weathermen and women were only trying to be politically correct. You see, every ruling elite abhors any spectre of bad tidings while those in opposition always want to drum up the same for their own selfish ends.

But, while we were procrastinating, when they were finally upon us in early January the rains came with a vengeance, rainstorms et al. No sooner had the rains came than heavy – in some cases flash – flooding followed, especially in the southern region. Houses, livestock, crop fields, roads, bridges, you name it, were washed away by floods. Nearly 200 human lives were also lost in the wake of the flooding.

Nobody could have prevented the heavy flooding, of course. But if we had heeded the warning signs we could have put together mechanisms to reduce the impact of the floods. Declaring half the country ‘disaster areas’, though important, was like closing the proverbial stable door after the horse has already bolted.

We, as a nation, should know that planning works miracles most of the times. Look, what could have happened to the future of the world as we know it now had Noah of old not properly planned when he was duly warned? During his time, Noah was warned of great floods. He responded by building an ark. He ended up saving enough human beings, flora and fauna for posterity.

But, like others in Noah’s time, some Malawian officials thought the predicted heavy rains following the El Niño weather phenomenon would only mean abundant harvests!

In ancient Egypt, too, we are told Joseph, son of Jacob, had prophesised a seven-year period of great abundance and another seven-year period of great famine. The Egyptians planned for the impending famine by storing enough from the period of plenty for the predicted period of nothing.

But this was thousands of years ago. One would think in these modern times we could do much better.

But it appears we are averse to learning anything from the past. Look, some folks were prevented from even planting crops because the floods hit before they could even plant. Those who had planted had their crops completely destroyed.

That was not all. When the little maize crop that survived was about to tassel, rains abruptly stopped and most of the maize crop wilted.

Government says at least 40 percent of the harvest would be lost. But I think that is a conservative estimate. I guess we are looking at upwards of 60 percent of harvest lost.

But whether the loss is 40 or 60 percent, it is huge and its effects will likely affect all aspects of the economy and, therefore, life in general would also be badly hit.

Inevitably, this will spill over to the 2015-2016 growing season because most farming families will be too pre-occupied with survival tactics to prepare fully for the next harvest.

Without being alarmist, we could be looking in the face of a famine of the historical 1949 scale.

With people starving, so will the economy already reeling under unfavourable conditions due to the donor squeeze. The inevitable massive inflation will have a domino effect in the construction and services industries, for example.

If not properly handled all these may lead to social unrest which may graduate into political instability of the 2011-2012 proportions.

But it is not too late to salvage the situation. Government and its Department of Disaster and Risk Management should not disengage its ‘disaster mode’ gear. April, May and June will have a semblance of normalcy for people will be subsisting from the little harvest they would have salvaged and may be able to buy extra food with the little money they would have made from some cash crops that may have survived the bad weather.

But these three or so months will be just the proverbial ‘calm before the storm’. So President Mutharika should not recall Saulos Chilima from the battle front, as it were. The Vice President should continue coordinating government recovery efforts and use these months for frantic planning and resource mobilisation.

Government should take advantage of these months to move maize from the national silos at Kanengo to strategic corners of the country. It does not make sense for people of Chilumba in Karonga or Mua in Dedza or Bereu in Chikwawa to be starving while maize is rotting in the national silos.

After all why did we construct those other silos for?

Government should not tolerate the nonsense of letting the all-important maize rot in the national silos. Donors like the World Food Programme may not be moved to mobilise more maize if the national silos are still full of stock.

The success of any country depends on how it responds to man-made or natural disasters. Look at how The Netherlands made dykes to reclaim its flood-prone low-lands. Look at how Germany used the Marshall Plan to rebuild after the devastating Second World War. Closer home, Mozambique and Rwanda are shinning examples of how not to resign to fate after man-made disasters.

It is high time we stopped being a reactive country; let us be pro-active. We should not just be responding to disasters; we should be preparing for them.

And we have plenty to learn from. As they say, history is there for us to know the past, understand the present and interpret the future.

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28 thoughts on “Inside Noah’s Ark: Muckraker says ‘nothing significant’ in Malawi cabinet reshuffle”

  1. Nyani wa ku Mwananyani says:

    Many events in the new world of “global warming” defy planning, even in rich countries, achimwenne.
    And so preparing for such and such is often not possible, especially in the current era of climate change. That is why, for example floods, heavy snow in parts of North America are sometimes forecast only a few days ahead. No meaningful planning is possible there.
    Even the weather models, originating from European or north American centers, don’t always get the forecasting right. What more with a VERY poor country, like ours?
    It may be prudent for us to just accept our position: and watch and react to some of the most serious events. Even disastrous ones.
    It’s not always the government, or its bureaucrats that are to blame. Often nature defies weather science, achimwene.

  2. Good work Mr jealous down, some people were born to criticise good or bad but let’s be honest the guy is raising some important points here.I salute writing like this shows that the writer is learned look at how crear the message is, there is an atmosphere of trust in his writing,

  3. thinktank says:

    who said cabinet reshuffle is all about some ministers dropped……this is true reshuffle….placing people in ministry they can perform better..

  4. ngwiyaula says:

    May god bless leader of Malawi

  5. bratusha says:

    Anybody who believes we have serious leadership in this country then he believes anything.

  6. Vimbuza Masekese says:

    If i were APM i would have created a post for Ralphel Tenthani in my government with one job description “Criticise me as much as possible”
    Ngati APM amawerenga yekha what Raph writes i know amapezamo nzeru koma ngati wina amawerenga then report to him thats why HE is failing to appreciate his writtings

  7. mohammed says:

    Atupele ooooye Ku home affairs kuchuluka mphava open your eyes our minister young blood plays agood role in DPP regime and I hope Tupele is realman

  8. Ajijo Mapwiyamunlupali says:

    Boma ili ndilolephera. Do you know that civil servants working in the ministry of Agriculture are not paid their March salaries? Please Raphael try to ask the minister of Agriculture why this is so. Akufuna ife alangizi amalimidwe tiyende munseu? Mwezi wa January ndi February tinalandiranso mochedwa kwambiri. Kodi ife alangizi akutitola chifukwa ndife ofatsa? Please Alan resign otherwise palibe chomwe ife mukutithandiza koposa kutha ndalama zathu zamisonkho!

  9. Mike siliya says:

    Comment; thats a very good stuff ralph, kip on enlight our mother malawi. Osangoti ukakhuta kachaso wati president palibe chimene akuchita, next time anthu awa akamazakokoloka ndibwino kuwasiya. how long did they warned in advance but rent a deaf ear?

  10. Mbanangwa says:

    Give credit where it is due, Bravo Raphael Tnenthani. This is a masterpiece of art of writing and explaining reality at hand.

  11. Mhesha says:

    Don’t blame politicians. Look around yourself and think about your own performance as a father, mother, villager, priest, manager, etc….towards the development if your country. Is your contribution enuf? Are you contributing to the country’s GDP? The country does not belong to politicians alone but the majority of us ad well.

  12. Mphongo Zidana says:

    Ralph, this is another good piece of free advice. Govt take heed of this and plan in advance. Expect different worst scenarios and plan appropriate responses for them.

    Vuto our politicians don’t want to be told how to do certain things. If you try to help them, they will vilify you in whatever way they can.

    Continue doing the good work Ralph.

  13. Dday says:

    The article is good but the proven problem is that we vote for too old sicked presidents that are literary moving corpes ready to steal for their families. They have no future to think about apart from Mpumulo wa Bata. Waisting billions for their graves. Shame! All good pieces of advice are falling on dead ears since they are near to death ears die first.

  14. chingolopiyo says:

    Mr Tenthni, I salute you sir. Be known by this brand. We need more of this, than what we have been reading the past two weeks. You are in the right truck, job well done. Good piece of work. Bravo.

  15. Kennedy nali says:

    My concern here is that i’m seing the fogy cabinet, jobless for the youth. Kasi nkhalamba izi mwakana kukalera bazukulu? Shame malawi shame, please elders go home give the youth a space plzzzzzz.

  16. Che Chiwela says:

    This is indeed a gud report reminding us of predictions that our national food stock will reduce by 50 percent which in result and if care is not taken the Common Malawian will die of failing to buy an expensive bucket of maize after the month of June. This is however the right time for the Min. Of Agriculture and our collegues in the relief dept. to put in place measures and identify areas where there is Zero harvest such that pple can be rescued.It however surprises me to note that the flood relief maize we have just received is on sale accross the southern region.The question is do we really value donations if yes where are the Controls.

  17. Peter Mthiburo says:

    Well written article. Addition to that can government send or find tractors to ADDs that are in low lying places such as Salima, Ngabu, NKK, Karonga. Let them clear dambos such as Bua, Limphasa etc and help locals plant more dry weather maize that could be ready by October as another quick fix. Don’t be a sleepy cabinet!

  18. human says:

    Please not “suffice to say” but “suffice IT to say”

  19. john says:

    this is good piece. but i doubt if this govt has gotten anything. the problem we have is that everything is left to the president to push. without that people will just b sitting phwii! it is the system which is a problem.

    we have excellent ideas in offcs which govt can implement but people r too busy enriching their pockets.

  20. if we were all wishing this country well and our actions giving atrue reflection of our visions,then one day we will sing our national anthem with faces smiling and vocals eager to sing again.But if our mindset will continue lagging behind with alittle but no desire to live by the present with more focus to the future then let us embrace for the worst times to come.This country will not and cannot develop with the way we are currentry handling issues of national importance. There are anumber of reasons that have failed us develop.Firstly,our policies,weak and not strong enough to address the needs of the present without comprimising the ability of the future generations to meet their needs too.Look acountry policy and plann should be ashort to medium and long term but our policies have been dying premature deaths after millions of national resources were used for seminars allowances and bookings.How can avisionaly country plan to build ahospital that may only serve the present population and lose value when the population increase after some years,we are not moving forward as we are putting more concetration on problems that can be solved once and for all.Secondly,our taxation system,any country that is developing or is developed needs asound taxation system,if we are to check our taxation system, too much weak giving alot of room for defaulters.most of our revenue is lost because our monitoring mechanisms are just so weak.Despite being weak,our politicians make useless agreements with investors making them free agents to pay tax to goverment.again,how many of us pay tax either PAYE, VAT,withiolding tax or whatever tax?.alot of us are tax defaulters,yet majority of us expect free social services from goverment.How can anormal and mature human being expect to live on other peoples plans,imean how can you chose to be afather,father alot of children and expect goverment to feed,provide medical care,educate and employ them later?.Can you develop with that mindset?.My fellow malawians,while politicians have apart in our malnutrised development,we local citizenly have taken abiger role in pulling our country down.if we talk of disasters,how many times has goverment been warning those living in flood plon areas to move upland?.in the end goverment is losing resources meant to fund other important goverment busines but to feed those who have been affected with floods.What about the personal properties,the victims have lost and the country at large has lost too, infact it is taxes which have been washed away by the floods……to be continued

  21. aubrey says:

    You are really a genius Ralph. Wise reporting indeed.

  22. Life says:

    Again, a great piece. One that our politicians could embrace and use as a second constitution, perfect advice. I salute you SIR Makireka!

  23. pwt says:

    This is exactly, and very clear message to taken by the authority. kunyozera apa mmmm….. tichuka ndi mbiri yachabe. mr president take this plz. mr vp we know your efforts, plz save us, no hide this is purely disaster but if you act in time will add up the advantage that you have on shelf. God bless malawi

  24. Milward says:

    Typical Monday Coach! So you think it was the weatherman who warned Noah about the floods? It was God himself! By the way, so you are religious? If you are, let that reflect in what you write. There hasn’t been much evidence to support that.

    1. wardmil says:

      Get the point straight man,the issue is not about who warned who here. Its about taking heed and those are just relevant examples

  25. damasco says:

    Comment true

  26. Yambone says:

    There is alot to write home about. The people who have been shuffled around shoul regard themselves as not so important. My take is that if it pleades the president to drop and make real change in the cabine; then these three names should be on the lookout. These are regarded as outsiders notwithstanding tje fact that they are all in DPP. They are the easu targets. politically they cannot create any problem . Those not moved around are probably those that form the inner circle which the president want not to disturb. This is my take Ralph.

  27. zaoneka sizi says:

    same old recycled. kodi ana akuphuzilawa mudzawalowetsamo lilti mmipandomu???????
    tikanena za umoyo nde nyanye. anthu akamapita kunja muli akutipanga brain drain- ARE YOUR BRAINS OK TO START COMPLAINING???????????????? MAYO INE DZIKO LANGA
    BASI MAKAMWA OKHALA NGATI ABWILA MBWIBWI ZOKAMBA ZAKE NGATI AIKA MA DENTURES UPSIDE DOWN

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