Chichiri wins ATEM schools drama competition amidst bribery claims

The 2012 Association of Teaching English in Malawi (ATEM) drama competition on Saturday reached its final stage at Kamuzu Institute for Sports in Lilongwe with rumours that some play directors bribed the judges to produce results in favour of their schools.

The ATEM national finals called for the participation of three representing schools from each of the three regions forming nine theater rivals namely Luwinga, Katoto and Mzuzu government secondary schools from the north while the central region was represented by Likuni Boys’, Matindi Girls’ and Nanthomba secondary schools. The southern region, for defense of the national championship, sent Pius XII, Chichiri and Stella Maris Girls’ secondary schools.

During the competition, the audience complained of experiencing poor plays but when Pius XII, the 2011 champions, outpoured their masterpiece entitled ‘Light vs. Darkness’ the hall of was sent into frenzy as hundreds of hands were seen coming together for amazing and nonstop applauses.

Likuni Boys school performing their play

Eeeh! Komai nu ndiye mwawina kale!. Ngati lero tawonera sewero ndiye ndi limeneri, ena onse aja ndiye ayi. (If today we’ve watched a play, then this is the one, the rest were trash).

Ena aja adzilimbirana position 2 kumapita kwinako, chifukwa awawa ndi 1 kale.” Such were the echoes from the audience as Pius XII were on stage.

But contrary to people’s expectations, Pius XII failed to make it on first position instead the national championship went to Chichiri secondary school, a move that sent the audience and students ganging against the judges arguing that the results were not fair.

Malumbo Ngwira, a member of the audience, expressed dissatisfactory with the results saying he was not impressed.

“I came here in the morning when they were starting and I’ve watched all plays. And in my view, Chichiri did not deserve the first position instead it could’ve been Matindi Girls’, Pius XII or Stella Maris because these schools dished out wonderful performances more than Chichiri. I wonder why the judges have chosen Chichiri,” he said.

Moses Kapito, a musician and actor, said, “This is not fair.”

Furthermore, some schools claimed that the decision to have Chichiri on first position was fake saying this was as a result of Frank Mbewe, director of Chichiri, allegedly bribing the judges and the president of ATEM, Fanuel Mapira.

When we were coming they already had a winner,” said an angry Mr. Chikumbeni, a teacher at Stella Maris Girls’ Secondary school who continued to say, “We had an independent person who sat just next to Joy Nkweteza, one of the judges, and this person saw Nkweteza giving Chichiri 97% just after the first fifteen minutes of their play, is that fair?”

“They’re killing ATEM, that’s not fair. ACB has to probe Mr. Mapira and Frank Mbewe,” said Chipiliro, also a teacher at Stella Maris.

Fuming with anger was Hudson Gareta, director of Likuni Boys’, who said this bribing practice should not be tolerated as it discourages schools from participating in the competitions to come.

“You see, we spend a lot of money preparing for this, so it’s not fair to have others just to rape away the integrity of the competition, it hurts, seriously, it hurts,” he said.

But asked on whether the accusations are true or not, Frank Mbewe denied the accusations saying he did not bribe the judges.

“You know, the plays that I direct are always successful and maybe that’s why they’re saying so. They’re just jealousy. Let them say whatever they want to say, but I did not bribe anyone for my success,” he said.

And ATEM President, Fanuel Mapira described the complainants as just being disgruntled and that the competition was successful and properly organized.

“In a competition, losers always complain. They always find reasons to blame the organizers. On the issue of bribery, I know nothing and I cannot say anything on that,” said the ATEM President.

Nevertheless, once a decision is made by the judges there is no reverse, Chichiri secondary school remains the 2012 ATEM Champions followed by Matindi Girls’ and Pius XII secondary schools on position 2 and 3 respectively.

The competition also produced Wongani Munthali of Mzuzu government secondary school as Best Actress, Ernest Chavula of Chichiri as Best Actor while the Best English Speaker award went to Alfred Kaambankadzanja of Likuni Boys’ secondary school.

The competition was sponsored by Multichoice Malawi, First Merchant Bank (FMB), National Library of Malawi and Malawi Properties investment Corporation (MPICO).

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