CounterJab: Sorry, no room for Livingstonia Synod, Kyungu in federalism debate

Image experts advise that when you face a crisis, you must get ahead of the problem as fast as you can. You must try to be a step in front of the media which has the power to help fix the problem or make it worse.

It is clear that advisers to President Peter Mutharika did not miss class the day the topic was discussed, judging from their response to calls for federalism or secession coming from North Malawi.

After a negative reaction to the composition of his new cabinet, which drew mainly from the southern region where the party won the most votes, the administration perhaps did not want another problem — once bitten, twice shy.

Paramount Chief Kyungu : We are better together

Paramount Chief Kyungu : We are better together

It is of course a president’s prerogative to pick a cabinet of his or her choice and the president must be ready to live with the consequences of his decisions. But while the administration was caught flat footed when criticisms of the cabinet composition came raining down, this time Symon Vuwa Kaunda was quickly dispatched to the North, long considered the hotbed of political activism in Malawi, to quiet down the growing discourse.

Ranking members of the Livingstonia Synod, which wields significant influence in the region, appeared with Kaunda and labeled “divisive” those who want Malawi to abandon the unitary system of government for either federalism or independence.

The Synod’s moderator suggested that as representatives of the people, the Church should have been consulted by those calling for change — they did not even raise it during campaigns — before starting their media campaign. Obviously, the position by the Synod makes no sense, and as an apologist for those seeking change, it is incumbent upon this author to challenge the misguided views expressed by the Livingstonia Synod.

The Synod deserves the same response as does Paramount Chief Kyungu of Karonga who ought to be above politics but chose instead to immerse himself in it. He picked one side over the other. As an individual, Chief Kyungu has every right to his personal political views but he should not take sides publicly. The apology of British Premier David Cameron to Queen Elizabeth after suggesting in public – he had a private conversation with the Queen — that she was relieved upon learning that Scotland voted against independence should tell Kyungu why such views are better kept private.

Back to Vuwa and men of the collar. By appearing with the top brass of Livingstonia Synod which expressed reservations about the idea of federalism or secession, Vuwa scored for his team. He convinced the clergy and chiefs against the idea and it is reasonable to expect that some  people bought what he was selling.

Livingstonia Synod should have sat this one out. Now that is has taken sides, it is fair game. Apart from duly elected representatives of the people calling for the change, there are members of society of good standing who do not think this is a bad idea. Granted, the Synod should stop pretending as though they are supposed to be the only game in town and that those who hold a different view intruded on its holy turf!

In addition to that, the notion that the issue was not part of the campaign is of no consequence because opportunity does not operate on a schedule. An opportunity has presented itself yet again and it would be foolish to let it slip away.

When the Alliance for Democracy (Aford) felt the winner of the first democratic elections in 1994 started behaving as if nobody else mattered, Chakufwa Chihana threatened to make Malawi ungovernable. Chihana and Aford had won all seats in the North and President Bakili Muluzi understood what was at stake. The two struck a deal that saw them working together, easing tensions between the two sides.

It is remarkable that there are similarities between 1994 and 2014 election results. (Replace Muluzi’s United Democratic Front with DPP and Aford with the People’s Party. No change for MCP.) Twenty years ago, the MCP dominated the Center and the party did it again this year. PP which was nonexistent 20 years ago has a presence in the North; ditto DPP in the South.

Have we gone back to 1994? The long list of grievances presented by the North is yet to be addressed in any meaningful way. Each time concerns are raised, leaders make it look as if they are doing something but it is just window dressing.

One hot-button issue is that of quotas — merit is disregarded for a number of places at public colleges to guarantee each district a minimum — which affects students who pass very well but are denied entry. Students from the North are disproportionately affected by this.

It should be pointed out the selection of students using quotas was neither started by Mutharika nor his late brother Bingu who by the way embraced it. Bingu accused Northerners of cheating during exams; of occupying a lion’s share of senior positions in the public sector and of contributing little to the national economy.

The vitriol against Northerners started when the Malawi Congress Party was in power. At one time it orchestrated the removal and transfer of teachers working elsewhere back to the North. The teachers were accused of encouraging students to focus on activities outside school which the party said led to their poor performance in school.

Whether you are chief or a religious leader, you must be deranged to think that these things never happened and that somebody just made them up to score cheap political points against the current government. Think again. I told you that I was an apologist for the cause.

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Mutharikas, Are you really Malawians? Who and what are you to make the country apart from Thyolo cry? This is why you go earlier than you come to power. Know that the mouths of the people are worse than the AK 47 that easily arrest the heart (cardiac) of the trouble causer. I don’t think you are having good nights this time unless you tell me you are just figure of human being. Kaliati and now Chaponda will just make you die quickly as your brother did – why? Because they clause your ears and eyes for you to hear… Read more »
Kamuzu had MCP in all three regions by force using Unilty, Loyalty, Obedience and Discipline. Consequently, he had ministers from all three regions. This followed UDF who after running Malawi co-jointly with UDF had ministers from all 3 regions and so was Bingus’ DPP. When Bingu died, all ministers and MPs’ from the North bumped DPP and joined PP. The rich representation of DPP in the North was all gone! the representation was from 100% coverage was reduced to 5% coverage. The defecting candidates thought they had burried DPP together with Bingu for good. The representation at the Center also… Read more »
The Objective Person

I can see several beneficeries of quota system failing to figure out what is highlighted in the story. We have people in Malawi who have built houses in other countries and Malawi is independent of those countries but no single individual has come to say your houses should be removed to where you originate. You also have several people working abroad which means your South, Central & North will be our abroad. We are just waiting to vote on referendum.


Livingstonia synod does not speak for north Malawi neither does ntemi kyungu. They should together with all sober minds be focusing on the issues that have triggered tthe call for the federation.

Jordan Chikoti

Calls for Federal System of govt or leting north to stand alon as a country can not be a solution for the current political cricis. I feel that the best way is to address the causative agent for these calls.If the causative agent is the issue of quota,tribalism,nepotism,an unequal distribution of resources ,then why can’t we take appropriate measures for these problems?.let us be one when we are both in Malawi and in diaspora.


atumbuka makape kazikamangani kwanu manyumba abwino kwanu mkwanu


This only shows how empty you are in the head. First the issue is not about Atumbuka constructing houses in South or Centre, its about National development and equal opportunities not personal issues. Houses are built using personal money but National Development uses government resources. It only shows how empty you are that you cannot even understand the debate no wonder you are cryi g very hard for qouta system cause you can’t compete on merit. I doubt if you even went through the corridors of the University, I really doubt.


Too much nepotism in the Mtharikas governments. The issue of quota system only set to deal with the northerners. stupid. mayeso ndi amozi musiyanisa bwanji masankhidwe? Zimatipweteka.

Wawa Phumisa
There is a deviation here. Put simpler, a problem is rearing its ugly face here. When you deviate from God’s ways, problems become the order of the day. In God’s eyes, we are equals. If we were guided by this principle, issues of federalism and whatever you call it, would not have been bothering us. The Mutharikas have brought in Malawi serious nepotism that has never been known before. Even during the reign of Kamuzu Banda, we used to have many ministers from the north. Bakili and Joyce Banda had many northerners in their respective cabinets. Bingu and Pitala have… Read more »
If we had credible elections during the May 2014, we would probably have elected into government, visionary leadership that would act as a unifying catalyst to correct inevitable divisions that normally follow general elections. There is interesting terminology in information technology which says GIGO= Garbage In Garbage Out. You normally get out what you have put in. We put into power a government (DPP) that probably does not see anything wrong in permeating tribalism and ethnicity. Hence, the current surge of redeployment of parastatal and foreign postings in government positions. The acceleration of the quota system etc. How does one… Read more »
Man is an interesting creature. At this point, it is North versus South/Center. When the North secedes, another battle will begin, Tumbuka versus Tonga. Another secession debate will ensue, with Nkhatabay and Mzimba seeking to become independent and so will the trend run, until, every family becomes an independent entity. No one can claim that being a Lhomwe at this point benefits you because President is a Lhomwe. Seriously, apart from the “pride” of your president being Lhomwe, how are all the Lhomwe’s benefiting? Life is a battle that can only be won at an individual level. With hard work… Read more »

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