The Menace That Is Cancer Must be Fought

MJN addressing women on issues dealing with cervical cancer & gender based violence.

MJN addressing women on issues dealing with cervical cancer & gender based violence.


Cancer is not an easy disease to manage anywhere. It is worse in the third world. I can testify to this. I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer on February 5, 2015. The challenges it brought still play on the screen of my mind as I write.

Fortunately, Mr. Ngwata is a survivor; he lived through it all and is now cancer free; one saved from the thousands knocking on deaths open door. The story in the September 9th edition of the Nation Newspaper clearly explains the struggles and challenges he went through to beat cancer against all odds.

I first saw him in the corridors of the hospital by the laboratory. It was hard not to notice the tall thin frail looking obviously very sick man transported in a wheelchair. Judging from his condition he needed help with pretty much everything. My assumption that the lady with him was his wife was proved right about a month or so later.

Mr. Ngwata had lymphatic cancer and at the time the doctor had not prescribed any cancer treatment due to his frail condition. His is a story of life and death. He beat cancer because aside from his own courage and determination, he got the financial help that most lack in this country.

Wednesdays were our checkup and chemotherapy administration days at Adventist hospital in Blantyre. Normal routine was to either get the lab work done in the morning or come in early around twelve to two pm ready for the doctor’s appointments. The earlier you got the labs done determined the time you saw the doctor.

Normally the doctor had to finish work/rounds at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (one of the adult cancer centres) and we had no option but to wait. Meanwhile, we would share notes with other patients and guardians. We became a support system of sorts.

Notes were compared of treatments, financial struggles, spiritual healing/faith, diet, the best hospitals/clinics and many more. Normally, clinic would start around four pm but sometimes it wouldn’t be until close to six or later that the doctor would show up at the hospital.

Imagine being a patient and in pain sitting there for hours in uncomfortable chairs. Imagine having to wait for a bed to be open so you can have chemotherapy administered after consultation with the doctor as most beds would be occupied. At times, we would be given a bed in the emergency room or the paediatrics out-patient section.

Bear in mind that though some of the patients had medical insurance, there were some who paid out of pocket meaning they paid not less than one hundred thousand Malawi Kwacha ($179) per chemo session with those without insurance paying close to or above three hundred thousand ($536).

There is a great need to have a hospital specializing in cancer care, one that knows what the patients are going through. For most the cost of the treatment is one they can’t afford or begin to think about.

As Irene Chidothe, a doctor currently undergoing orientation for radiation and oncology residency writes in her blogpost titled In The Meantime, time is not on their side. The fact that our clinics don’t offer radiation therapy is not good news either. Palliative chemotherapy is administered on patients while they wait for time to meet their maker.

Kuwala Health Media Limited (KUHEM) is a non-profit organization based in Mzuzu City in Northern Malawi providing rural community health awareness campaigns on preventable and curable diseases affecting the people. Main objectives are to sensitize the communities on how best they can live their lives to prevent and get help through drama, music, presentations from credible personnel, and dances.

KUHEM provides a link between the rural communities and qualified healthcare practitioners and donors by creating a platform where they [the people] get counselling and guidance on physical, health and spiritual issues; also where we as an NGO emphasizing on transparency and accountability can source funding and resources for the various community clinics and hospitals.

If you are interested in donating or supporting KUHEM on or send a message to this blog and I will gladly connect you to them. Thank you for your support.


Malawi Queens Europe donate Mosquito nets to Chileka Health Center…



When the Malawi Queens Europe a group of about 900 women based in Europe called to ask me to be their contact person in Malawi I was excited. I love charity work of any kind so this was no exception. Yes I wanted to be part of the engine to make a difference in Malawi. It was to be their first initiative and a graduation of sorts from being on Facebook to now being and changing people’s lives in Malawi, their home country. The group decided to put together some funds after watching a comic relief where they highlighted the plight of Malawian Children and how Malaria takes most of their lives. There was a plea for people to donate some funds to make a difference. They did and it’s the reason you are reading this article.

The donation


The initial plan was to go to Chikwawa District hospital after finding out through Malaria Project but on Tuesday afternoon 14th of April 2014 we decided on going Chileka Health Center on the outskirts of Blantyre city just past the international airport. Coincidentally, Chileka’s weather is somewhat like Chikwawa in that it is hot plus they too experience high Malaria cases. We picked Chileka due to the fact that it was easily accessible and near the city. We then used the money intended for transport to Chikwawa for purchasing more mosquito nets for the donation.  

Upon arrival at Chileka Health Center we had no idea who we were to meet. After the introductions we were informed that the in-charge was not well and was absent but the ward clerk Mr. Isiah Chatayika welcomed us with open arms and answered all the questions we asked prior to making the donations.

After the questions and answers session we were informed that the health center receives donations of mosquito nets through Population Services International (PSI) Malawi via their antenatal program. In this program, every expectant mother is given a mosquito net. It then became apparent that those at great risk of getting Malaria were children over the age of five. The life span for each net is five years but when you factor in wear and tear, they may not last that long that according to some of the recipients from PSI donations. It was also expected that some of the mothers were not lucky to get them depending on whether they were present on the day of the donations.

On this day, they had their under-five clinic, scale day for the infants and their antiretroviral therapy (ART) clinic. At first we were torn on who to give the nets but a decision was made to start with the under-five then the ART clinic. We had one hundred and forty mosquito nets, one hundred of which were given to the mothers/fathers of children under five and the rest were split between the ART patients and children above five years of age.

For accountability sake we wrote down names of all recipients and each health passport was signed by the clerk ward.


What sounds like a simple event was an eye opener for me and I’m sure for my colleagues as well. We went there to donate the mosquito nets but it was clear that the health center needed more than the nets. What we brought to them was just a drop in the sea of many needs.

You see, Chileka Health Center though not a district hospital happens to be a rural hospital referral health center. It caters to Chimembe, Chikowa, Chirimba, Kadidi, Dziwe and Kavala health centers. According to the Daily Times article on the donation by Adam Phiri, their services cover forty-four villages around the center.

Aside from the maternity holding rooms, they don’t have any rooms to house other patients.

How you can make a difference

We got a chance to talk to the health center in-charge Caroline Chiponde who gave us more insight into the fight against malaria, donations and their needs at the health center.  For two years, there had been no donations of mosquito nets except for the ones donated by PSI to the antenatal clinic. She was concerned that since November of 2014, there had been a shortage of medicines especially antibiotics. She thanked the Malawi Queens Europe for thinking about the people at home and most especially the people of Chileka.

Below is their wish list:

1) Holding rooms for their patients
2) Medicines especially antibiotics
3) Staff houses
4) Expansion of the health center
Overall, I was very impressed with the way Caroline and her staff handled the donation. We worked as a team and at the end of it all, we were all smiles except for the few who didn’t get the mosquito nets and kept telling us that their children would die of mosquito bites.


In a country where people live on less than a dollar a day buying a mosquito net is not a priority but putting food on the table is. One mosquito net costs MK3,200 at PSI. Question is, after the efforts by PSI to curb the infant mortality rate through their antenatal clinic mosquito net donations, what is the plan in the ministry or health care system for the children above five who are hardest hit with the disease?

That’s some food for thought as you dig deep in your pockets and hearts to spare a little something to help your fellow countrymen. Together we can! God bless the Malawi Queens Europe.

Two Years Later…

On the 9th of December I clocked in two years since I landed home to begin the new chapter of my life. It’s been a growing up/advanced maturity phase. Life hasn’t not been easy; a reminder that our plans could change at the blink of an eye. My outlook on life has changed tremendously.

During the first year I got myself re-oriented to the country of my birth. I’m from the school of thought that one learns through criticisms and different experiences. Since we can’t make all the mistakes, it is wise to learn from those made by others. It’s a learning process worth living and one I don’t regret.

On Facebook I get asked why I came home a lot. The answer is simple. I was born, raised and belong to Mai Malawi. Besides, why shouldn’t I?

Other popular questions especially from those in diaspora are “how are you fairing in Malawi, is it safe to come back home or what’s the political climate like?”

Political Climate

Truth be told, the best indicator of the political climate would be the drama of the May 20th tripartite elections.

Based on the elections I’ve come to the conclusion that we are a confused nation, one lacking integrity, very corrupt, selfish and very unrealistic. Life at home seems normal until you hit other countries. The when sight of impressive structures like airports and roads makes one realize the selfishness and plain disregard for development by our leaders.

The new report by the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) will also vindicate me on this issue. As for most of our “new crop” of representatives, and as someone looking on from the outside, it’s pretty obvious the only agenda they want to advance is theirs. The recent pay hikes and he silence is  good indicator.

Of Healthcare and Patient Rights in Malawi

In the first year home it became clear that to get anything done I had to be firm in my decisions instead of backing down. Had I conformed to the system, I wouldn’t be sitting here about to write about patient’s rights and how we as a country are lagging behind on this front.

Around October last year my mum got sick. She complained of stomach pain. After a few consultations and ultrasounds, the doctor’s diagnosis was gas. Mum responded positively to the prescribed medicines. Looking back now, her getting better especially around December had more to do with the excitement since my sisters and her family were home for the holidays.

However, the relief was short-lived. Things took a turn for worse in January after my sister’s departure. Mum was definitely not fine. More doctors’ visits and ultrasounds were done. During one of those visits the doctor suggested that she undergo an endoscopy to find what was causing the gas. She immediately scheduled the procedure for the next available date. The results showed some gas, something we already knew.

More test followed; more ultrasounds, colonoscopy then magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the abdomen. We were desperate to get to the cause of the pain. The tests were of no help. The doctors said she was fine. Like the herbalist we had seen, they said all she needed was to change her diet by increasing the fiber intake and she’ll be back on route to recovery.

Cause for Concern

I remember her joking with some folks as we were leaving the MRI building that she was left with no other option but to go to a sing’anga (witch doctor).

Amazingly enough, since she got ill her body started rejecting meats. This was serious.

Her instinct told her it was more than gas bothering her so she asked the radiologists if there was another machine apart from the MRI that could detect her problem. A CT-scan he said. Unfortunately the only working CT-scanner in a public hospital was in Lilongwe, over 350 km away. For a shortfall fee of MK 20,000 (VIP scheme membership) we got booked for a 5:30 am pick up the next morning.

We arrived in Lilongwe at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) at 8:30am. At the radiology department I presented the doctor with our prescription from the radiologists. After reading the prescription he looked up and informed me that he couldn’t do that particular test as they didn’t have syringes. I couldn’t believe my ears and I almost lost it when the doctor suggested that for MK100,000.00, we could get the same test done at the African Bible College (ABC) private clinic instead of the MK27,000.00 at KCH.

By this time we had already spent a lot of money on misdiagnoses in the past months.

The American experience kicked in. I politely told him to do whatever he could even if it meant modifying the test that I didn’t care if they had to change the test. We were getting a scan done before heading home. After about close to three hours of consulting with the radiologists in Blantyre, mum went under the machine and got the test done. We collected our disc with the results and left for Blantyre.

We got the news the following day that the cause of the problem was a pancreatic mass. Though not sure if it was malignant or not, we were all quiet because mum’s younger sister died of pancreatic cancer.

I asked the usual questions but couldn’t help thinking of what would’ve happened had I not insisted on the scan. The doctor asked me this question, “what do you think would’ve happened to the old woman from Bolero if she had been told they couldn’t run that test?” Answer was simple “she would go home to die.” Knowing me personally the doctor cautioned that though there was loads to write about on the topic, my main focus should be on mum’s health.

Bangalore, India

On April 14th we landed in Mumbai India on a hot and humid Monday morning then connected to Manipal Hospital in Bangalore. The next day we were in consultations and tests. Mum was prepared and scheduled for surgery the following morning. On Wednesday the tumor was confirmed as pancreatic cancer. After a consultation between the surgeon and oncologists they started her on chemotherapy the following Saturday.

Two week later she went through another surgery to drain the bile ducts after she developed obstructive jaundice. Days after the surgery, she started showing signs of improvement.

Before we knew it the May 20th tripartite elections were upon us. Mum was not fully recovered yet but knowing how passionate I am about politics she supported me the best way she could by asking of news at home. I was careful not to give her too much information. If I needed a reminder of how loving, caring and understanding she is then this was it. My wish was to be home casting my vote but reality had me in India right by her side.

Road to Recovery

Months after arriving home from India mum is slowly improving and getting back to a somewhat normal routine. She is back to attending church and meetings when she can. Her favorite pastime is gardening and cooking. In the past three weeks she’s made batches of different flavors of homemade jams which she has sold to her church family. I sometimes feel she is overdoing it but the doctor advises that she is free to do what she likes. We are happy to see her happy and active.

Lesson Learned

1) Always stay positive, keep your heads a journey of sorts but we are grateful she is still with us and is resuming some of her hobbies. Me and her just spent the last month working on the church flowers almost a year after she last did them.
2) Learn how to stand firm in your decisions! I was not going to leave the hospital without a scan. I wouldn’t be surprised that some people may have had issues with my standing firm on my decisions throughout her illness even while in India. I argue it out, reason with them and together we would come up with a solution. I wasn’t going to let mum be some experiment. It helped us get the approval letter to leave for India and more. I’m glad we went.
3) Never give up! Whether it’s your own situation or someone you are helping don’t give up. Exhaust all options, challenge people and you will be happy and satisfied. Though no illness is good for a new business (mine) I’m grateful that I’m still charging on.
4) There’s a lot of work to be done to improve our healthcare system. The saying “Kuyenda nkuphunzira” (you learn more from studying other cultures or people) comes to mind. If there is ever a country that has progressed despite their high population and poverty levels and inspired me it is India.

As a country and a people we can learn from them especially in the field of healthcare. Mum was feeling better so a friend asked me what they do differently in India. I told him they care and do their jobs efficiently yet they don’t get paid much. I’ve never met hardworking, compassionate and people who do their jobs meticulously like them.

They love and take pride in their country while the opposite is true here. We read about our healthcare personnel stealing medicines from clinics to sell to our neighboring countries. How patriotic is that?

We need to review the healthcare system. As with everything else in the country, there’s a lot of laissez faire attitude in our healthcare system that it makes one both sad and scared. The lack of compassion in our clinics/hospitals is amazing. People are dying needlessly in Malawi because they are being treated for signs and symptoms. E.g., Panadol for a headache instead of finding out what is causing the headache.

I can’t speak for other departments but my opinion on the cancer clinic debate is that instead of thinking along the lines of patient care/rights, the issue has once again been politicized a topic and yet it’s of high urgency in the country. Building a new clinic in Lilongwe is fine but how about they complete the new ward at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) first? Some say the funds may be diverted to the new clinic. If this is true, then question is why when each project has a budget and money allocated to it?

One thing I’ve observed from talking to and observing several patients is that they are scared of reporting healthcare personnel for fear that they will be ill-treated next time they need medical attention. Their fear is real; I’ve seen it in mum who keeps hushing me up but has now given up. If I can’t fight for mum’s patient rights who will? Patients get screwed emotionally, financially, physically and psychologically all the while needing proper care yet they pay dearly for these services. E.g, one chemo session on VIP masm scheme is roughly about MK 76,000.00. One time when I complained of poor service the response was “monga simunalandile chithandizo mwabweleracho?” (Didn’t you get the help you came here for?)

As someone rightly put it, we survive by God’s grace.
5) Money can buy life! Let me explain and I’ll start with education. Without it one won’t likely research on what is wrong or take simple measures making an illness or life in general easier that it is. It’s common knowledge that most government healthcare institutions don’t have much to offer in terms of medicines and services. Draw backs like corruption, politics and lack of resources makes it hard for those willing to give it their all to execute their jobs effectively. One such institution is the cancer clinic at QECH. At the end of the day it’s the poor patients who end up suffering from the decisions made by our representatives.

The biggest question for me is, what is being done in the meantime to finish up construction of the new wards at QECH? Is it fair for the patients whose condition needs attention now and not two years down the road? A lot of people are losing their lives because they probably can’t afford to escape to better institutions which is sad.
6) When life gives you lemons you make loads of lemonade. I once challenged some women prisoners to keep journals of their experiences there. Some experiences either breaks you or makes you strong. Ironically I’ve never kept a journal till the day we landed in India. Between taking care of mum and establishing my business it has not been easy. There were nights in India I’d go to bed around three in the morning and be up early morning hours to start all over but every night I’d make an entry in my journal. Eventually God willing this will be a book of sorts or some series of published articles. I plan to write more about healthcare in Malawi from this experience.

I’ve taken the time to review, reposition myself, life and my business. I took advantage of the free time to read more about my trade. I’ve rearranged some plans and hopefully with time they will materialize.
7) Maktub meaning “for it is written”. If you’ve never read the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho then please do so. Good people are hard to come by these days. We’ve been blessed with family, friends and strangers who I believe were put in our paths just to help us throughout this journey. Their financial, physical, emotional and spiritual support is one we’ll forever be grateful for.

Be good to people you meet because you never know when you’ll need them.

8) Education is key! Education helps build up ones character and hopefully their confidence as well. Due to ignorance and illiteracy, I doubt very much that the masses are consulted when it comes to policies to do with many issues including healthcare. Also, for most instead of seeking proper help or a cure for their illness or problems, the thinking is that they’ve been bewitched. Some solutions can be found in books and online; if you can read you can do just about anything. Knowing the signs, symptoms or taking time to ask questions, seeking a second opinion will help prevent a catastrophic effect in our lives. Mum had two different surgeries based on guess work lined up for her. The diagnosis was not even close! Our assignment as a family is to read more on pancreatic cancer to catch it early (if possible) since it seems to be a hereditary disease. The same is true when we study various conditions and situations in our lives. Knowing what you’re dealing with helps to manage it thus one can also learn through others mistakes.

9) Love, honor, cherish and shamelessly pamper your parents and loved ones!! Very grateful to God for where I am in life, for trusting my gut feeling and packing up and returning home to stay. Don’t question God on the why’s and how’s rather be thankful and grab the bull horns and find a way of making it through all the while loving what you’re doing. It is hard I know but try. I’m thankful of where I am in life. I’m glad I came me home a year before mum got sick. It gave me time to know and understand our people.
10) Be thankful for every experience in life. Learning from my work, personal and other people’s experiences paid out. I knew we had a big case ahead of us being that pancreatic cancer is the most aggressive. I made sure to ask questions, read up on the right diet and care for mum and applied it wherever possible. My discipline and lifestyle helped a lot because I was both physically and emotionally equipped to handle the case if not I would’ve gone crazy caring for mum. I now understand why I changed it all some 5 years ago. In a way it was my boot camp for caring for her and living life in Malawi after being gone for so long.
11) Be very patient and willing to sacrifice…a lot! Lately my favorite word is “improvising” and that’s because without it you can’t survive in Malawi. A good example is how today I had to use molasses in place of gravy browning for my cakes. They turned out ok. No gravy browning the whole town. It requires a lot of patience to live here. The lesson in sacrificing comes with mum’s illness. I have to prioritize since her medicines are very expensive. I’ve found myself doing without internet, no outings bad for business but the medicines are more important. I find other ways of marketing my products. And so life goes on….

The lessons are many but I have to stop here. From my family to yours, wishing you all a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

…of shoe shopping and vetting of candidates..


I was one of the first people to go for voter registration. I was home and very excited that I’d finally take part in the one election which was not only the first for those born under “democracy” but one very interesting and closely watched election by many.

As luck would have it, God had other plans for me. I find myself in a different part of the world altogether but still feel the need to contribute my last two cents in a quest to wanting nothing but the best for our country Malawi and it’s people.

Since I’m not going to be able to vote, I thought I should do a write up about this event which may make or break Malawi. My hope and prayer is that we as a Nation will help this 50 year old man become self reliant. So, here it goes…

The best illustration I could come up with is one in the form of shopping. Two things that I’m very picky about are my shoes and politics. Comfort and durability are a must!

I’m very careful and meticulous in the way I choose my shoes. Though color is important, most will agree with me that there’s more to picking out a shoe than meets the eye.

The same is true in politics. Choosing our leaders/representatives shouldn’t be based on their looks but on what they bring to the table and how they plan to implement their policies. Like shoes, will they support us all day long without us wanting to change them after a few hours? How well will our feet adapt to the pair we have on? The last thing we want is to keep changing the shoe pairs because they are too high, too low or not comfortable.

Most politicians fail miserably at delivering or implementing policies due to lack of or for having very little knowledge on the subject matter which in this case would be governing.
It is advisable then for one to get a perfect comfortable fit that will last us a while. I say “a while” because a “long time” makes most accessories appear outdated fashion wise.

There are some lucky few pairs of shoes or leaders who fall under the category of a “long time” namely the Gandhi’s and Mandela’s of the world.

While some in Malawi have been partly ready and happen to have settled for a particular candidate to vote for, at this midnight hour others are still sorting through their wardrobe to pick out their shoes, hair style and the outfit to wear to the ball on Tuesday the 20th of May.

The scary part is they don’t even have the slightest clue what outfit will gI was one of the first people to go voter registration. I was home and very excited that I’d finally take part in the one election which was not only the first for those born under “democracy” but one very interesting.

As luck would have it, God had other plans for me. I find myself in a different part of the world altogether but still feel the need to contribute my last two cents in a quest to wanting nothing but the best for my country Malawi and it’s people.

Since I’m not going to be able to vote, I thought I should do a write up about this event which may make or break Malawi. My hope and prayer is that we as a Nation will help this 50 year old man become self reliant. So, here it goes…

The best illustration I could come up with is one in the form of shopping. Two things that I’m very picky about are my shoes and politics. Comfort and durability are a must! I’m very careful and meticulous in the way I choose my shoes. Though color is important, most will agree with me that there’s more to picking out a shoe than meets the eye.

The same is true in politics. Choosing our leaders/representatives shouldn’t be based on their looks but on what they have to offer and how they plan to implement their policies. Like shoes, will they support you all day long without us wanting to change them after a few hours? How well will our feet adapt to the pair we have on? The last thing we want is to keep changing the shoe pairs because they are too high, too low or not comfortable.

Most politicians fail miserably at delivering or implementing policies due to lack or having very little knowledge on the subject matter which in this case would be governing.

It is advisable then for one to get a perfect comfortable fit that will last us a while. I say “a while” because a “long time” makes most accessories appear outdated fashion wise.

There are some lucky few pairs of shoes or leaders who fall under the category of a “long time” namely the Gandhi’s and Mandela’s of the world.

While some in Malawi have been partly ready and happen to have settled for a particular candidate to vote for, at this midnight hours others are still sorting through their wardrobe to pick out a the shoes, how they will style their hair and what to wear to the ball on Tuesday the 20th of May. The scary part is they don’t even have the slightest clue what outfit will go with what and yet we have had a good five years of so many shameful acts like cashgate, midnight six and many others to remind us that we deserve better.

While an old pair of shoe is good and comfortable in the fact that it is broken into, there is something about a new pair of shoe that intrigues the buyer. For starters we tend to go for them because they are in a way unique from those we already have. Unique transforms by bringing in something new instead of the usual normalness. Color and style too may be a determining factor as well as whether they are comfortable or not.

We should then ask ourselves these questions before we tick beside anyone’s name on the ballot:

1) How well do we know them?
2) What is their stance as far as ideologies and moral issues are concerned?
3) What’s their cv/history in relation to their area? If they are just began to work on some developmental projects in the constituencies, was it politically motivated so that they can gain favor with the people to get themselves elected?
4) What policies do they have for the betterment of the country? How connected are they in their areas and what are they doing as far as education and basic empowerment of the people in their constituencies?
5) In light of cashgate and so much corruption, what changes are they going to implement once elected into power? Accountability and transparency should be enforced!

In politics, civics education is very important as it is one way of making sure that the citizenry practices their rights and duties creating a form of checks and balances which make it easier to hold the government accountable for its actions. A government that infringes upon people’s rights is a no!

In countries like the USA, the vetting process takes a long time and for a very good reason. People want nothing but the best qualified candidate for the position. Political offices are taken very seriously.

Ever wonder why we the citizens are taken for granted? We do a very miserable job at vetting those who represent us in government.

The above analysis sounds very simple but yet very important. Outfit picked, shoes ready, hairstyle good, makeup okay but there’s still more to be done to complete the outfit.

I believe it’s time to go back to the drawing board for the constitution or better yet why not implement the constitutional reviews already collecting dust as I write?

While it’s a must that the shoe be exceptionally great [the presidency], and that the whole ensemble should balance out, right now it’s all concentrated in one piece only.

What is needed is the right body, the right accessories and most important of all the right shoes. Not only should they last you a long time, they need to be comfortable as well. If they are too tight your feet will hurt and if the heel breaks off the pumps, then we’ll either fall flat on our faces which will then require that we get new pairs of shoes.

With less than a day to go before people head to the polls, I ask you my fellow citizens if the shopping you’ve done was worth it and if you’ve found a good pair of shoes.

If you haven’t then may I direct you to the scripture reading in the book of Judges 9: 1-21. I’d like you to read the parable of the Jotham. In life, in Malawi we also have our own brambles (thorny shrubs) vying for the highest office and the lower ones. Now the question is, do we really want another five years under the shade of such bushes? How long will we let the thorns keep pricking us like we are already dead? Do we really know the definition of democracy and what it all entails or are we just comfortable with whatever comes our way in the form of leadership?

It is high time we started demanding and going for quality, comfortable, transforming and unique leadership to better our lives. For every outfit to shine it needs a good background and I was once told that a good pair of shoes, one which is durable, strong, comfortable is the one that offers the best support. In the same wat, a solid strong foundation is essential for a strong lasting structure/building.

The one thing to know is that such change often comes at big prices. Be ready to pay for the change that will transform the nation.

Vote wisely on the 20th of May. I pray the voting process will be a peaceful one.

The beauty of politics and shoes is that we don’t have the same taste so if others don’t subscribe to your ideologies its okay. What matters is working together for the betterment of our people.

God bless Malawi!

Child Rape and Defilement: The fate of the Malawian girl child



There have been times when I’ve read an article in the paper and I rush to post the story on facebook. Another child defiled. Sentiments are the same. What causes the outrage is mostly the sentencing of the offender. Most cases than not they only get something under 10 years and it makes you wonder what the Magistrate was thinking.
Growing up, we’d hear stories about how a certain friend was being sexually assaulted or molested by the stepfather and I’d secretly thank God that after the passing of my father, my mother had never remarried. There was three of us—all girls.
I’m now a grown woman and I still cringe at the thought of a one year old being raped by a grown man. Some of the excuses are appalling! “My wife refused to sleep with me” was one of the reasons the man raped his daughter. Such are the cases that happen day to day.
Why the focus on child rape and defilement some of you may ask.
When we were asked to help with coordinating the One Billion Rising for Justice Event for the Malawi Chapter scheduled for the 14th of February 2014, we asked what exactly we were supposed to highlight as part of commemorating V-Day. The Southern Africa Coordinator Barbara Mhangami suggested that we focus on what people need to be aware of. The theme for this year lies in Justice and not to undermine the other gender based violence afflicted on our women, we felt the girl child needed more protection and since they can’t speak out on their own, then we the people must fight for their justice.
It was due to this that I felt I needed to educate myself on the task I was about to take on to see how we could come up with solutions on the issue of child rape/defilement. This would only happen by visiting some of the institutions already in place.
In a country where we prioritize safe-motherhood by making sure that the children born are negative from HIV/Aids, is it not a shame then that we still end up losing some girl(s) children to the same disease because of some unfortunate act forced upon them? The offenders usually get very light sentences as opposed to the maximum sentence of death or life imprisonment. These light sentences indirectly encourage the would-be offenders to premeditate their crimes without fear. What becomes of them when in most cases the offender never get the maximum sentence of death or life imprisonment for their offences of rape and defilement? Are the children not important too?
Below is a summary of the information I managed to get from those who have pledged their support to help the girl child. For now, we have an unofficial partnership which will provide a framework so we can start work on the ground.
One Stop Centre–Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital
The One Stop Centre is a centre built by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) with funds from DFID. Staff from the ministries of Gender and Social Welfare, Health, Police and Counselors from Fountains of Life provide a holistic service to adult and child survivors of sexual violence. The centre was formally opened by HE Joyce Banda in February 2013.

Basic statistics from the One Stop Centre at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital are as follows:
1) According to Dr Neil Kennedy as many as 1 in 4 girls in Malawi suffer from sexual violence before the age of 16.
2) They attend to at least two cases of rape or child defilement a day.
Since QECH started offering drugs to prevent HIV infections after rape the number of clients/victims has gone up.

Whether it is due to the medicine they give out or the fact Malawians are now a more open people who feel free to speak out. Either way, the good thing is that they are coming forward seeking help.

The centre is open from Monday-Friday. If you happen to go there on the weekend, medical staff from the pediatric and obstetric departments will gladly assist you and refer the file to the One Stop on the next working day.

At the moment, the One Stops in Blantyre and Zomba are the only ones with their own separate facilities while in other district hospitals they share facilities with other patients. Roll-out of One Stop services to every central and district hospital has been included in the Ministry of Health plans for development of non-communicable diseases provision.

Counseling is provided by the Fountain of Life a volunteer base organization. Their services are free of charge for all victims of sexual abuse. Three quarters of the time the offenders are people who have gained trust of the child over a period of time. They also note that the grooming process encourages secrecy thus making it hard for the child to speak out about the acts.

The other partners the centre has are the Community Child Protection Workers from the District Social Welfare Office and Community Policing from the Victims Support Unit. They work hand in hand with the nurses and doctors who handle the medical/clinical issues (collection of evidence like pictures, specimens.) Once a file has been opened and handed over to the police prosecutors, the offender will more than likely get arrested and then legal proceedings will commence.

Community Policing–Victims Support Unit, Blantyre
Like the judiciary, the police is divided into four regions namely: central, south, east and north. My next stop was at the local area Victims Support Units. One of the policemen said something interesting which got me thinking about the similarities between the raped/defiled kid and a missing child. Chances of survival for both from HIV/Aids and being found respectively depends on whether they get help within the 48 hour of the act ( I have yet to verify this with medical personnel or Google). Since almost all of the rape and defilement acts are done by someone the victim knows well, they go unreported until such a time when it may be too late to save them. Very rarely is the offender a stranger which makes it hard for the children to speak out.
Thanks to the emergence of institutions like the One Stop Centre, the victims support unit also works hand in hand with the communities through the Victims Support Unit-Sub Committees. Under this program you will find the community counselors who are trained at their respective area police stations. They also engage faith based communities to help them protect the child within their communities and villages. This is done through sensitization of Human Rights to the groups and basically letting them know that the police are their friend and not the enemy.
In 1994 the Malawi Police changed its operating procedures with the change of democratic systems of government. What that entailed was that Human Rights had to be incorporated into the system hence the introduction of Community Policing into the Police System.
While this was good in that they are friendly and have concentrated on sensitizing fellow police and the population, what they lack are child friendly facilities. Normally policemen in uniforms are a scary sight to the children. Their sight makes them think they are in the wrong so may not open up to the investigators because in their child-like thinking, they are wrong. What we needed are facilities with toys, different games and civilian policemen to put them more at ease.
The missing piece in the puzzle was why most offenders literally get away with murder considering the sentences rendered upon them and the response I got was one I didn’t expect. The police maintained that they collect all the evidence which is handed to the judiciary for court proceedings and yet the offenders still get lenient sentences. The blame game had begun.
Judiciary-Blantyre High Court
Before drawing any conclusions and finger pointing at where the system was failing the women and children, I decided to hear the judiciary’s side of the story. I was very frank with them about the police blaming them for not handling the cases to their expectations of giving out high number of years when sentencing the offenders.
“There are sentencing procedures that we as a court have to follow. We take into account the mitigating and aggravating factors” was a response I got from the Chief Resident Magistrate.
I asked if raping a 1 year old was not aggravating enough and whatever happened to the law that says that rape offenders should get a death sentence but we see a lot of them walking away after a few years. It’s more of a ‘good law’ in terms of punishment but it is then met with a ‘bad law’ when it comes to the sentencing of the offenders due to the limitation of powers of the magistrates.
Some factors come into play.
1) For instance, it was alleged that most prosecutors for the Victims Support Unit are people who have not studied law not that it makes any difference but it does help in how they handle/collect evidence and information. If they read law, they would know exactly what to expect in the court room. Most end up in that position due to the experience of dealing with such cases but the question remains; do they necessarily know what language to use in court? Do they educate themselves on the new techniques or read literature out there that could be beneficial in helping their client’s case?
2) Though for one to be a prosecutor you don’t have to study law there has to be that passion for ones job. Most cases are thrown out due to a prosecutor coming forward saying that the offender had dropped the charges. In an ideal world, they would press on till they got the offender behind bars.
The points below were by far the best ones and it took me a while to get it after I read some passages given to me by the Chief Resident Magistrate:
3) One has to understand/appreciate the law to know that while rape and defilement cases call for sentences of death and life imprisonment respectively; the factors in section 1) are scrutinized closely examining all the evidence given then starting of the sentencing which calls for the MAXIMUM of a DEATH PENALTY! The same is true with the defilement cases.

Age, whether the offender pleads guilty, if the victim felt any pain, psychological effects, physical damage/injury (in some cases the victims end up with fistulas),time already spent in custody, violence during the act, the fact that it has been an ongoing affair are some of the mitigating and aggravating factors.
4) Knowing that most prosecutors are not law literate; do they understand the consequences of the act? Unless they do, they won’ take into consideration the fact that the raped victim could end up living with HIV/Aids which is a death sentence in itself. Do they do any background checks? (Knowing that not many have records on hand it would help if they could maybe go to the communities or check with other police stations if the offender has been arrested before on a similar charge. Yes this is costly and would require some resources to be provided to them which neither the judiciary nor the police have enough of).
For one to really understand the above, one needs to know how the justice system works according to the roles/jurisdiction of the different grades of magistrates.

Magistrate grades defined
So, in most cases, you will find for example that in the southern region, where there are 54 magistrates, there are only 4 Senior Resident Magistrates. 3 of them are in Blantyre while Thyolo is the only rural district with the 4th senior magistrate. Chiradzulu and Neno are the only districts without a 1st grade magistrate. Only the senior and the 1st magistrates can hear rape or defilement cases. The 1st grade magistrates are divided as follows: Blantyre 8, while Mulanje, Mwanza, Chiradzulu and Nsanje each has 1.
The difference between the grades is what matters the most in that according to the Laws of Malawi as defined by Section 58 of The Courts Act (Volume 1 of Laws of Malawi) as read with Section 14 of The Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code (Volume II of Laws of Malawi); they each have an outline as to their limitations/jurisdiction on which cases to hear and the limitation of sentencing. The most important factor in defining the grade duties lies in their duties.
Section 58 reads as follows:
In exercise of their criminal jurisdiction of courts of magistrate shall be as provided for in this Act, in The Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code and in any other written law.
Section 14 outlines the Sentences which the subordinate courts may pass:
1) A Resident Magistrates court may pass any sentence, other than a sentence of death or a sentence of imprisonment for a term exceeding twenty-one years, authorized by the Penal Code or any other written law.
2) A court of a magistrate of the first grade magistrate may pass any sentence, other than a sentence of death or a sentence for imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years, authorized by the Penal Code or any other written law.
3) A court of a magistrate of second grade may pass a sentence of imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years and a fine not exceeding K200, 000 or both.
4) A court of a magistrate of—
a) The third grade may pass a sentence of imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or a fine not exceeding K150,000 or both;
I won’t go into the duties of a fourth grade magistrate’s because, like the traditional courts, they are currently being phased out in favor of the higher grades. Suffice to say that in as much as a penalty for rape is death, no magistrate of whatever grade may pass a sentence of death.
Some of the challenges the judiciary faces are:
1) The pay is little compared to private practice which makes most lawyers not even consider working for the government. Location is another big issue. Most would rather work in the towns than rural areas for obvious reasons.
2) Although being of national service could be enough as an incentive, there are some who feel that the judiciary human resource can do more to entice/retain graduates to take on some of the jobs even if it means being in the rural areas/districts. Houses or cars could be an incentive enough for some as they gain experience and probably move on after. The main thing is that there will be a professional magistrate on hand easing up some of the back logs in every district.
3) Under staffing can be an issue and this goes hand in hand with underfunding. This underfunding/financial issue makes it hard for (e.g.) the Chief Resident Magistrate to go to every magistrate court within their jurisdiction to review cases or check on how they are handling cases etc. This is important because they all answer to him/her. The hindrance could be due to lack of resources like cars, personnel, functioning equipments and simple things like paper.
The way forward or what we’d like to see happen to support our victims
After having read some of the law passages (in particular the ones relation to the jurisdiction of the various grades of magistrates) and listening to the Chief Resident Magistrate state his case, it is right to assume that they are doing their job accordingly considering some of the challenges they face as an institution. What was evident was that with some of the courts not have a Senior or First grade magistrate, the work load is then passed/referred to those who can assist in hearing the cases which in essence may cause a delay in the court proceedings.
At first, I was under the assumption that the lower grade magistrates hear and pass sentences on cases of rape and defilement which would then take us back to the good law versus bad law. It is my understanding that though this used to be the case; it has since changed according to the law review of 2010.
While this may be the case, to speed up some of the cases and taking this as a quick solution, lobbying the parliamentarians to review the duties of the lower magistrate courts to give them more powers would be one option to go. This could very well become a campaign issue because to borrow the quote by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn, “Women hold up half the sky”. In Malawi, the protection of the girl child should be prioritized as the women constitute for more than half of the population. When we take into account the fact that one in three women or girls will undergo some form of sexual violence in their lifetime, it is right to assume that most of the abuse cases go unreported.
There’s also that issue of them being lay magistrates, people who didn’t read the law but rather took a crush course to help in the courts based on their experience and little knowledge learned.
As I was about to leave the Chief Resident Magistrates chambers, he stood up and answered the question that had been bugging me all along, what would be the best quick fixer to the issue at hand.
1) Establishment of a Children’s Magistrate court would be of great help to the judiciary.
2) Setting up more One Stop Centre’s across the country possibly in every district because lack of resources at the rural hospitals may make it hard or impossible for the personnel to collect enough evidence or specimens.
3) Funding. In order for them to do their job effectively, they needed the funding to enable them to get their hands on the necessary resources. As they are right now, they don’t get the funding to meet their needs.
4) Engage the men to join us save the girl child. There is a great need to sensitize our men on the dangers and impact sexual abuse or any form of gender based violence can have on the victims. It breeds a world full of women who have trust issues, low self-esteem, very angry, depressed and many more mixed emotions. Who wants to live in a world like that? If we are to co-exist then there is need to get along. The earlier we teach our boys that women too matter the better off we will be as a society and a country.
5) Passion is one trait lacking in most prosecutors. If they had the passion to follow through their cases and disregard factors like corruption (an assumption of mine) especially when you read about a business man or well known figure walking away because his excuse was that she (the victim) didn’t feel any pain. Money has been known to pass hands and wrong is wrong and people need to serve their full sentences regardless of their social standing.
6) This is where we all come in as a people, as a country. At some point we have to ask ourselves why we are here on this earth. Everyone one of us was given some talent or trade that can be used for the betterment of our communities whether it’s marketing skills or medical knowledge of managing of finances. Now is the time to use them; give back to the nation. Where ever you are start making a positive difference is someone’s life. Charity begins at home. How can the outside world help us when we can’t do anything on our own?
I urge the people of Malawi to rise up for Justice for our girl child. Enough of the Violence!!

One year later…


I’ve never enjoyed moving and last year December was no exception. The decision to move back home after 20 plus years was a hard one but I was ready. My life as I knew it in the USA was over. I needed to start a new chapter of my life and home is where I needed to be.

I have an old T-shirt from the 90’s which reads “there’s no hurry in Africa”. Everything seems to move at a very slow pace here. I’ve learned not to slow down for those who don’t value their time.

When I’m asked what it is I do I fail to answer. The truth of the matter is, though I’m now a cake baker there’s plenty other activities that keep me busy.

Initially I had set up an NGO which never worked out. I came home to the realization that I didn’t feature anywhere. My role it seemed was to give ideas while others took the center stage. That was when I decided to shut up which frustrated some in the organization. I later found out that that’s the nature of most Malawians; you do most of the work and they take the credit.

After meetings with some in the organization , I was told that I needed to watch how I talked to African men. They (African men) were to be addressed with “respect “. I politely told them that if I had to watch how I talked to any of them then we’d get nothing done and that attitude was ok in their homes and not at work! I needed to know the how’s, when’s, what’s and the ifs of how the institution was run. I was accused of not trusting them of which I was guiltily of. We were there for the people in need and not the administration!

Being submissive in the work place or otherwise was not for me so I decided to walk away from it. I have never regretted that decision!

While I understand that having an organization is important for fundraising and accountability purposes, I however have done just fine working alone. 100% of money donated by well wishers has made it to the hands of the needy. When I receive the funds through either western union/moneygram or my bank account I make sure the donated money is deposited in the donors name into either the university tuition and fees or charity organizations accounts. Records of receipts are kept with me while pics of the receipts are scanned and sent to the donors electronically.

Months down the road flying solo, gloves were donated to Queens with a promise of more on the way.

One other project I’m also trying to do is to raise funds for kids living with HIV/Aids in the Blantyre area who I spend time with. There are over 300 and in need of money for activities, education and more. It’s a great challenge and I have hope that some well wishers will come forward to help.

Lastly, I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned in the past year:

1) If you happen to have good people in your life hold don’t ever take them for granted. You never know when you’ll need a push, a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear or those who will encourage and love you no matter what you’re going through in life.

There’s an old Malawian saying that goes “apawo ndi mizu yakachere amakumana pansi”. The English saying that’s close to the one I’ve just quoted is “blood is thicker than water”.

I’ve made it this past year because of the few I can say are my true friends. Sadly, my most of my family members didn’t make it on that list!

2)Time management is very important or you get nothing done. Divide your time equally or accordingly prioritizing the important jobs first!!

Time is money. I don’t waste time where I know I won’t get the results I’m looking for. Some people just make noise but won’t deliver. Target those who will help out.

3) Forgiveness. Alot has been said about and done to me. If I dwell on it I’ll get nothing done. Forgive and move on! Life won’t wait for you..

4) Trust is hard to come by! Be wise in how we choose our friends! We have too many fake people around. Those who make most noise about whom you should and shouldn’t trust are the ones who’ll likely be the first to disappoint you.

6) Learn to adapt. Pay attention to those around you. Watch and learn before you react. I’ve spent one whole year doing just that and I’m still learning. Malawi is a totally different world from where I came from and hard as it may be, it’s a livable environment. One thing I’m trying my hardest is not to feed the monster called corruption!

7) Improvise. It’s not all here but there’s different ways of doing things; make use of them. My laptop quit on me so I wrote this piece on my iPhone. For my cakes, there’s not many places to get supplies so you learn to substitute and use what’s available. It doesn’t give you many choices but you get by.

8) It’s a tough world out here! Malawi is one of the most expensive countries to live in. Not many have disposable incomes. If you’re in business or would like to invest, it’d be wise to do a thorough research before pouring money into any project. One good thing is that opportunities are many.

8) Be true to yourself. Keeping up with the Joneses attitude is what kills most businesses and people here. Do it your way. You don’t know what your neighbor had to go through to have that Benz. Cashgate is a true testimony/reminder of that, so, live within your means!

9) Wherever possible offer your help. It doesn’t have to be financial and I’m a good example of that. I connect people where I can. It’s doesn’t take much to put a smile on anyone’s face.

10) Learn which battles to fight! The image of a clean house is better than one with clutter. Don’t load yourself with extra baggage of stress, anger and many more. Be happy, give and most of all, LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST!

Lastly, be true to yourself. I know me, I’m comfortable with me, I understand me better than others. Follow your dreams, your convictions and do so with integrity.

It may not be all rosy and beautiful for some but I’m living my life my way and I’m happy…for the most part looking forward to the next 20 plus years.

Happy new year…

A letter to my family in diaspora…

Dear achimwene,

Ulendo uja ndinayenda bwino. All was well until I hit Chileka International Airport. God only knows why it’s an international airport chifukwa maonekedwe ake mungamve chisoni. You’d think atsamunda sanachokebe ku Malawi; ngati tafika kale kumudzi. Imagine my disappointment when the young man sitting next to me on the flight from Lilongwe informed me that the reconstruction had been there for almost two years. Ena akuti the delay is due to ndale. Those stories we used to hear about the rusty toilets and poor service ndizoona. Chi building chosasangalatsa olo pang’ono.

The upstairs balcony where we used look forward to spending weekends watching planes take off and land as a past time, while partaking in those nice melt in your mouth like mama used to make them sausage rolls when we were kids is no more. A huge tent some yards from the main building is now the departure and arrival “lounge”. The departure terminal nde musanene! Mumachita kusiyirana pakhomo olo poti mungakhale.

Kaya ma tourist and investors amati chani? For you to believe me, ndikutumizirani chithunzi. You’d think that our government would build better infrastructures to attract them koma ayi ndithu. I guess the good news is that a new terminal is said to be in the pipelines.

As soon as I recovered from that trauma we set off for the city. The excitement was unbearable!

Titafika pa HHI ine dabwi! Kuyang’ana udzu ngati ku game park inayake. Ma streets nde musakambe. My eyes teared up remembering the days of Ngwazi when we’d line up and clap hands as he’d pass by singing “yede yede pano palimwayi”. Memories came flooding of Prince Charles muja anabwera ndi a queen smiled and waved at me as their car drove by pa convoy although nonse munanditsutsa.

Ukukumbukiranso kuti I got my blessing from the same lineup by Pope John Paul II when he came to Malawi? How those celebrities never paid attention to you is beyond me. Mwinatu ndi ma looks anuwo eti?

Either way, the standards of Ngwazi sadly followed him to the grave. Zinyalala mtauni ngati tili kuntaya. You wonder if our leaders pass through the same town as road travel is the common mode of transportation here.

Mavuto alipo. Minibuses are it for public transport moti ndaijailila bad. Anyamata oyitanila aja amachita kundidziwa. Sadly, they are a nuisance on the roads of Malawi moti ife ma born free kuona choncho basi chikumbumtima cha a leads kungobwelanso. United Transport of Malawi (UTM) was da bomb!  Remember ma Double Decker atabwera tikumajambulitsa m’wamba muja? Pano sungayelekeze kujambulitsa pa minibus. Ma minibus enawo ngati ugwamo; so raggedy and nasty looking. Kutchena nde ndinasiya chifukwa mipando ina imakung’ambira zovala.

It doesn’t take you long to realize that at every corner of the streets there’s a policeman there just hanging out being another nuisance like the minibuses. Yawo ati kumaimitsa magalimoto checking msonkho ndi zina zotero. This is partly why ma minibus a dangerous adakali pamseu. Amawasiya dala nkumapangirapo ndalama disregarding that in the process they endanger the passengers.

Between the police and the minibuses, one never knows who the King of the road is acting like they own the country with one not following the rules and regulations per the road traffic act while the other is busy fining people the maximum when in reality they are supposed to fine you an amount up to….koma iwo amangoyambira maximum basi. As you know kuno ndi pompo pompo kulipira ma fine. Za mawa samamva nde enafe ndikushota kwathu timaswerapo pa road side ndithu.

Ndisanaiwale, barely a week after I came back home I went to see the University of Science and Technology in Thyolo. Ndimafuna ndikaone ndekha. Chaona maso chimakhulupilika! Koma achimwene inu! Remember the pictures we saw on facebook of the brick and blue colored university blocks? Dikirani ndikutumiziraninso zithunzi zake. Komatu panafa vision! And to think, that it was built close to Bingu’s village like ndalama zinali zawo. Something magnificent like that should have been in the heart of the city, Lilongwe to be precise, where all would have been able to see it and marvel at its beauty. I’ve heard rumors that za China sizilimba especially ma buildings so I pray and hope that won’t be the case. Those buildings are too beautiful. Makes me want to go back to school koma ayi sukulu yakwacha. Nthawi ino ndiyomataka-taka.

Speaking of kutaka-taka. Amayi ndinawapeza bwino ngakhale ndimangowaona munseumu ndi pa TV channel yathu yachikale ija ngati kuti zabwera pompano. All these years and they still haven’t perfected television skills eti ngati tilikumudzi. Ena aka was reading the news monong’ona. Ndikamalankhula like it’s a joke koma zoona ndithu. I feel they either need to go for training or achite out source pajatu kunjako zonse ndi outsource basi zatheka.

Iiii komanso ine! Back to amayi. I must say I quiet agree with her when she says “azimai kumataka-taka” because the way life is in Malawi today, one cannot survive on salary yokha. Nanji enafe opanda banja nde pepani kuvutika kwake. Paketi ya shuga ilino pa K372. Imagine that! More than $1 for a small packet of sugar. Cheese nde tinasiya kale kudya moti ndikupempheniko kuti chonde mukamabwera tchuti ya Christmas please bring me some mu suitcase ndidzatsukeko mkamwa.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that times are hard nde masteni akamapempha ndalama mudzingotumiza chifukwa zinthu zadula zedi and to think that people are saying bolani pano. Atitu inafikapo nthawi yoti olo kanthu m’ma shelf mu ma stores kuli mbeee! So in a way, with the coming of amayi monga mwa slogan ya Atcheya, “zinthu zasintha”!

While that is good news, the downside about being a woman in Malawi is some people underrate us and our capabilities to rule/govern. It is still a challenge in our society for a woman even though m’makomo mwinamu you see amuna aulesi akulemekezedwa when the woman is the bread winner. Tradition and culture can be a bitch!

Ulendo wakumudzi ndinayenda bwino ndipo onse amapereka moni wamafuta a nkhosa. Katundu ujanso ndinakapereka koma amalume kuti, shati munatuma ija tai yake ilibe?

Nkhani ili mkamwa, mwamvako zomwe zanachitika kuno? Ndale za beba nyatwa moti I called amalume kuwafunsa ngati atabwelerenso ku Malawi Congress Party (MCP). What was a dream has now become a reality. Ngatitu show achimwene. Would you believe me if I told you a JZU achita retire and that MCP now has a new president? Dr. Lazarus Chakwera is the talk of town moti ati zipani zina zikunjenjemera. Ena ayamba kale kumati ndale zogawa ma t-shirt ayi kuiwala kuti dzulo dzuloli amagawa awo kumisonkhano.

Vuto la ndale zakuno timangolondola zomwe anena ena lekana sitikutukuka. There’s lack of independent thinking in Malawi and we wonder why we don’t progress as a nation. Tulo teniteni. Whatever the case, I’m excited with this new development as it gives people a number of candidates to pick from and it’s also good for democracy.

Firstly, it shows that unlike other parties MCP has demonstrated true democratic conduct in their elections.

Secondly, it’s a wake-up call for other political parties in that there’s some competition going. All parties will be evaluated based on their agenda through their manifestos.  

Lastly, this election happens to be a special one since those born after multiparty will be eligible to vote. They’re college graduates with no jobs so they have plenty of time on their hands to dissect the manifestos hence can’t be easily fooled.

Umphawi kuno nde osasimbika. Like I was telling achimwene ang’ono dzulo pa Skype kuti the people are so used to being poor it can’t get worse than this. However, they are frustrated, angry at all the lies and undelivered promises by our politicians. They also happen to be hungry so won’t refuse the freebies. The politicians will need to work hard to get their votes. Ine phee pansi pamtengo kungoyang’ana zonse zikuchitika.

Yinanso ya latest ndi ya esikomu. Long after you wrote about them in your book, the monkeys are still at it ku Nkulaku. Magetsi sikuti azima liti. Pano nde they work in conjunction with Blantyre Water Board nde pepani! Ma double feature almost daily. If nothing happens kuchita kudabwa. Madzi a brown nde tazolowera moti inu kundiona mutha kundidutsa panseu ndili biii! Nde some weeks ago ma twins analengeza pa radio ati madzi ndi magetsi avutirapo due to the SADC meeting which was going on in Lilongwe. I kept asking myself how that would affect the city of Blantyre. I have yet to come up with an answer. Ndikawagwira anyaniwo I’ll let you know chifukwa I’m getting tired of their jokes!

Anyway, ndatopano kulemba panyali ndikagone mwina mawalino basi kulawira kukatunga madzi kuchitsime nanga titani. Moni kwa onse. Tell them I miss them so much and can’t wait to see them akabwera holiday.

Tsalani bwino ndi ambuye.

Your ever loving sister,


P/s Musadabwe kukusiyani ndi mau opatulika. Kunotu anthu ndoopemphera kwabasi moti nanenso ndayambapo pang’ono pang’ono. Ndimakondako kuchalichi kuti ndizikaona azimai akukanika kuyendera ma high heels.

Why pay for work that’s already salaried?

It didn’t take me long to notice many policemen around town. Funny enough, they were all traffic police.

I have nothing against them doing their job. What is troubling is that many of them are a nuisance to those on the roads of Malawi.

Tough and uncompromising as some of these law enforcers can be, you wonder how some minibuses, which in all fairness should be boarded off as wrecks, continue to ply the roads. Until you discover that they are the police officer’s number one money making machines.

This is Malawi where anything is pretty much possible especially when it involves corruption.

Some may think I’m being too harsh on the police but after having my own encounters with them, I’m sorry to say that something needs to be done about the road traffic rules and regulations.

First of all, most of them need to go back for training on how to properly handle situations on the road.

I’ll give an example. I was pulled over for driving a car without reflectors. I had no idea what they were so obviously I asked and she pointed to a car parked some distance from where I was.

I asked another question, “What are they for?” She then explained but went on to say that it was an offense because I was supposed to have them on the car from the border.

I told her I had no idea I was supposed to have them on the car and the response was “Ignorance is not an excuse!”

It was at this point that I started boiling. To cut a long story short, all plans for whatever I was meant to do that afternoon came to a complete halt.

Three hours later I was still parked at the road side after having told her that she could write a receipt and we’d see each other in court.

After she took off I asked one of the other cops where I could get the reflectors and for how much. Imagine my surprise that they only cost at the most about MK500.00 only and yet I was expected to pay a fine of MK4, 000.00. If she thought I would pay that amount she was crazy.

Minibuses always fall prey to traffic police sanctions but still continue to ply the roads.

Minibuses always fall prey to traffic police sanctions but still continue to ply the roads.

Limbe police station.

I needed a police report. In order for them to issue one they had to see the car. While outside in the car park this lady boldly told me that for her to speed up the paperwork they [the police] ask that I help them out with money for airtime so they can call Interpol to clear the car.

I informed her that the car would not have left the USA if it was stolen or still on loan.

Yes they have to do their job, but isn’t the MK5, 000.00 enough to cover the cost of them doing their job? Why should I pay extra for something that should be included in the administrative costs?

Can someone explain to me why the phone at one of the main police stations in the country are not functional or why they don’t have internet in this day and age of advanced technology for them to use and work faster in submitting forms, etc…?

Just like the traffic police, they find ways of making the extra money and yet they don’t even call the Interpol as was the case for me. A simple MK1, 500.00 for their lunch did the trick. Within minutes I was out of the office and on my way to the road traffic.

If I hadn’t gone that route, it would have meant a long wait of possibly up to a year which then meant no car on the road as that would be an offense every time they would pull me over.

Malawi Revenue Authority and Road Traffic

It’s funny how the two are government offices but when you arrive outside the offices you are greeted by people who work in sync with the government employees in the actual offices.

How the government has turned their eyes away on such practices is beyond me but it is common knowledge that the employees at these offices have their own employees who get customers and siphon all the funds that should be going to the government in form of taxes. What do I mean by this?

The people outside the offices work tax free and yet make lots of money which they split with their employers/partners. Would it be a bad idea to employ these people in government as a way of job creation? Is the government so rich they don’t need the money? And why are these people bold enough to be outside government offices like what they are doing? Is it not a crime? Should we condone this behaviour?

As for the traffic police, when I mentioned how they are a nuisance on the roads and complained as to why they don’t have a system which to use to identify who has been already stopped by one of them in a day I was told that things would not change anytime soon, that I needed to get used to them as this was Malawi and not the USA.

Sad that even the police know that the system is so messed up that they take advantage of the situation and rip people off.

Another thing I got beef with is the numerous tickets they keep handing out on the roads. Does the government have a way of checking just how much revenue is collected and actually delivered to their coffers?

I see no duplicate receipts so how can they tell if they received the money and just how much each ticket was and for what offense?

This may seem like a simple case of getting money but it can also serve them to have statistics on common offenses and what they can do in terms of training and educating the people so as to improve the standards of drivers on the roads of Malawi.


In a day when getting news is vital to dispense the necessary information to the people we are yet again stumbling on a road block. I’m not too sure if it is inefficiency or lack of money but either way, as is in the case of the police department and other institutions, funds for things like logistics, communication (internet or phone) should be in their budget.

It is sad when you are given a reporter they call you asking about logistics. Not only that, for your article to appear in their paper i.e. after you have paid for transport they want a little something to oil their palms to get the article in the paper. Shouldn’t they be the ones chasing after the news because that is why their papers are functional? Is it not their job?

Their job depends on us giving them news so really it should be the other way round, not us chasing after them but them chasing after the news.

Why is it that most people in our country want to get paid to do their jobs and yet they are already on salary? You see a lot of this in so many institutions, and it’s not funny. Failure to give them a little something will slow down any business which in turn hurts you more than it does them.

Have we got to the point where we can’t work anymore? Are we overvaluing ourselves? Could it be because we have a culture or people who think doing certain jobs are beneath them or they don’t have the time to be bothered to check on their subordinates to ensure that they are actually doing their job as required?

Sadly, to quote the bold policeman, nothing will change anytime soon. Once again, people are resigning to life the way it is.

As for me, when not on the minibus, I argue until they get tired of me and let me go.

Ignorance may not be an excuse but it is their duty to educate the drivers on the road before they issue their tickets without warning.

It’s insane that the way the economy is one should be constantly be punished for owning a car. It’s not all people with cars who have money to be handing out to the policemen. I’m a good example of that.

As for the ones in other institutions, this type of inefficiency though condoned by some should not be accepted at all. In this day and age we should be able to do away with such mediocrity.

There is a high rate of unemployment and if they don’t or can’t do their jobs effectively then maybe it’s time we went back to the drawing board; train those who want jobs.

We need to have a country where people get satisfied with their salaries and not demand extra pay to do work they are already salaried for.

The vetting process…

There’s a spot as you are driving to Chintheche somewhere in between Chia lagoon and Bua River where you are likely to get some very good fresh fish. Driving home this time around after a good 15 years, I was reminded of the times when we would stop over at Chia and get some fresh fish for supper. Life was not as complicated as today. No worries of whether the fish would go bad and no cooler box was needed as my uncle would strap the fish on the side mirrors. 

Bua River, as I used to know it, is no more. There is a new bridge now and the scenery is out of this world. On the shores of the river you see this green vegetation with trees all over. The rugged rocks and the water flowing towards the lake are a sight one has to drink in: so refreshing. The geographical makeup of the river setting like a picture out of some nature magazine was of no coincidence. It was then that I had my light bulb moment. 

“That’s why they have a lot of Salmon fish around this area. Because of the river!” I exclaimed. 
“Yes,” said my uncle smiling broadly. “I’m surprised you know that now.”

I’ve watched enough nature shows to know all that and more. If this was in North America, one would more likely have found some bears around the river. This is Malawi. In Malawi, what you see on TV, the way the bears catch the fish with their hands would be done instead by some fishermen or villagers.

As we near the place where we were to buy the fish, my uncle told me to slow down and park on the road side. We got out of the car and took a few steps to the shade by the trees. Now I knew why he likes to buy his fish here. Unlike all the other places by the road side markets, the fish at this place was ice-packed to keep it fresh. 

It was here that I was schooled on how to buy fresh fish. Though I didn’t pay much attention, I observed how my two fathers (my uncles, my dad’s younger brothers) picked out which fish was better than the others. After the selection of the fish, came the negotiation of prices. Once done, we loaded the fish in the cooler box which already had some ice we had bought in Dwangwa in readiness for the fish and headed for Blantyre. 

I was not very familiar with the other fish called Ntchira but it was fish nonetheless and that fact made me happy as the fish would satisfy my diet. At the fish market, I noticed some very appetizing smoked fish. I noticed, however, that only one man bothered to ask my uncle if he would buy any of his fish and he politely declined. It wasn’t until we were in the car driving off that I asked why he had not bought any of the smoked fish. 

His response told me that he was a true Tonga man, someone who knew his fish very well. He informed me that in most cases, by the time the fish mongers decide to smoke their fish, it is not because they wanted to but it is due to the low demand of the fresh supply so they have to improvise and smoke it so they don’t lose out on the fish sales. This made some sense because while at the roadside market, one thing I picked up was that these mongers are not fishermen themselves. They buy the fish from the fishermen at the lake and sell on the roadside. One way or the other, they too have to survive hence the smoking of the fish.

Some lessons I learned on the drive home got me thinking of how we perceive the political climate of Malawi. Rugged like the rocks in the river and yet a beautiful scenery with a whole lot of promise in the sense of the variety of politicians and people alike make it most interesting. At times, the fish, though glittery like gold, leaves a lot to be desired. Some could be rotting or not so fresh leaving a not so good taste in our mouths. Some of you may agree with me that we are represented by such people in our constituencies.

Take the Ntchira and Salmon fish as examples. It is one of the most beautiful fish families. I’ve yet to see one but I’m told some have a yellow belly and when cooked boiled on a slow fire they get a nice silver tone. It’s not the kind of fish to give to someone who is an amateur as it has way too many tiny bones in it and can be annoying to eat as one has to spend more time picking them out than enjoying the fish. When slow cooked though, all the bones are soft and can be chewed along with the fish.

Most politicians are like this fish, like thorns in ones side. We spend more time trying to hold them accountable than they do in making us happy with the job they are meant to do for us. Their work is like that fish that ends up not being appetizing at all yet was full of promises when one simply judged from its looks.
I’m not too sure about how or where the Ntchira lays its eggs but I know that the Salmon normally goes upstream to lay its eggs and when the fish is grown, it goes downstream where it is either caught in the river or the lake by the fishermen. 

I’d like to think that because it goes through the rugged rocks, dodges some predators on the way downstream and that it takes more work, by the time it reaches the open waters of the lake, it is more like a seasoned politician. One has to taste the high waters to know exactly how to swim, what the tide can do to you, and also learn some survival skills. 

As I drove on, I kept thinking to myself of the politicians we have in our country today and tried to equate each one of the ones I somewhat know of, and the fish that would best suit their personality and work performance. 

The market and conditions have to be favorable as well. It is just prudent for one to be picky when choosing a candidate lest you end up with a rotten or rotting fish. The market has to be one to provide only the best – whether the fish is fresh or smoked. No one wants to end up with the short end of a stick or losing out on any bargain. 

Sometimes, for us to get the best of both worlds, we may have to learn to smoke the fish ourselves to avoid ending up with bad fish. Hold our elected accountable is one way of making damn sure that they don’t end up being rotten. Too many corrupt politicians out there not representing as they ought to and yet they look so good on the outside like the smoked fish on that roadside. 

Sadly, I was not able to find a lot of Salmons. Could that be why they are mostly found around the rugged rocks? Do we have to go through the hard times first to get to the land of gold? I wondered. 

There’s alot of corruption and thievery going on in the country, a system that needs a total overhaul. 
I guess I don’t have to say much about what I think. My only prayer is that people will be able to distinguish the difference between the Ntchira and the Salmon and which one of the two would best suit their appetite.

I for one prefer the seasoned Salmon over the Ntchira but, I don’t like the farm breed. I like my Salmon wild, tasty and full of promise of a good meal with all the fat trimmings.image

Of missed opportunities…


This is Africa. Of the things that have almost become normal is to see politicians settling scores. These retributive tendencies include seeing those in opposition ending up in police cells and, at worst, in prison. 

Malawi is not spared this malady. This is the reason why, while the late president Bingu wa Mutharika’s brother Peter spent a third night in a cell at Lumbadzi police as I write, theories about political retribution are unraveling 

Given Malawi’s political pedigree, such theories can not just be dismissed. They always need to be proven to be without merit. 

In Malawi, like most parts of Africa, sending a politician to prison has always been seen to be retributive even when there is merit because, for one thing, the conditions in what are supposed to be reformatory centres that are jails are discipicable. 

Therefore the view is that a politician can only be taken there to be punished by his political adversaries for political reasons, regardless. Even the politicians themselves are the first to deplore the conditions in prison, but only when their turn comes to be thrown there. 

The refusal of Peter Mutharika and crew to be sent to Maula Prison illustrates very well my preceding point. They refused to enter that jail fearing the inhumane conditions inside there. Not that the conditions at their cell at Lumbadzi police are any acceptable. No, but compared with Maula, the Lumbadzi cage is some lodge. 

What is interesting is that almost all politicians that complain about the heinous conditions in prisons when they are incarcerated there are those that were in government or in position to influence effecting of reforms that are badly needed there. 

When John Tembo, the current leader of opposition, was arrested and kept at Chichiri prison back in 1995 for his alleged role in the Mwanza murders, he deplored the lack of a bed and pillows in his jail cell. 

And yet his jailing came just a few months after an administration in which he had been Minister of State and a powerful politician had just lost power it held for 31 years. 

How could someone who had been in power for 31 years complain about conditions in prisons just months after losing that power? 

Two years later, in 1997, I visited a friend incarcerated at Maula Prison. What I saw is unmentionable. It is disheartening that almost 16 years later today, things have not changed. In fact, they could even have deteriorated. And yet since that time Malawi has had two Presidents: Bakili Muluzi and Bingu wa Mutharika who did nothing to make the necessary changes.  

People get surprised why almost every politician falls sick from some ailment when they hear they will be sent to jail. The conditions are chilling. This is the reason they would rather spend their time in hospital, and most of them are seen back to their normal self when they are freed on bail. 

And yet these are the people, and their governments including their parliament are the ones , that keep spurning the opportunity to make the difference in prisons, so that in the event that they, the politicians, are sent there one day they will find better conditions by the measure of a reformatory centre.

Bakili Muluzi was in power for 10 years. This means he had 10 budgets appropriating public finances to various activities. Is it not ironic that seven years later after he left office in 2004, his son Atupele, when remanded at Maula last year, found the conditions as bad as they were before his father came into office? 

Bingu wa Mutharika too, before his disruptive death last year, had been in power for eight years. Almost everyone who refused to be taken to Maula yesterday were part of his administration and holding influential positions. It is a sickening irony that after losing power just a year ago, they are complaining and getting frightened by the conditions in prisons and police cells. What did they do with their time in power? Who did they think would improve the conditions there, if not them while in power or positions of influence? 

With these deliberate missed opportunities to effect the needed changes in prisons, sometimes am inclined to feel that it is necessary that these politicians should be locked up once in while so that probably it will get into their thick heads that reforms in our holding centres are long overdue and they can’t continue to fluff the opportunities that privilege presents to them.  

Lots of reforms need doing. It doesn’t stand to reason, as it is now, that a suspect on remand should be held together with those serving their sentences.

Our system is so horrendous and chaotic Iwould not be surprised to learn that someone on death row is housed in the same room with someone suspected to have stolen a chicken. 

To me this practice is unconstitutional as it undermines the very principle of “innocent until proven guilty” because remandees start getting the full weight of punishment before they are found guilty by a court of law.

Documented literature on life in our prisons makes it impossible for them to pass the standards as per the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or The United Nations’ Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners just to mention a few. 

It is a matter of common sense that when you are packing people in a windowless room, like saldines, you are creating a recipe for a health disaster that includes spread of HIV and Aids through rape or sodomy.  

And yet this continues to happen in our jails without anybody in authority feeling remorse and be nudged into action. 

Replacing some prisons is long over due. For example, why is the Zomba Central Prison still holding inmates when the Inspectorate of Prisons, headed then by Appeal judge Duncan Tambala, recommended for its demolition as away back as 2005?  

This level of successive negligence has now put this new administration under avoidable strain of striking a very delicate balance between investing limited resources in productive areas that will eventually rescucitate the economy and making sure its record of good governance and human rights is not tainted by the hang over of past carelessness.  

I can only hope that when the dust finally settles, this administration will see the need to act on the issue of the prisons. 

As we wait for that, maybe it time those in authority considered locking its doors to recycled brains.  

My feeling is that some of them have been over-recycled to the point that they have lost their value, while others have overstayed their shelf life, and thus can’t see things differently to influence meaningful interventions to correct their mistakes of the past.

 This will ensure that another opportunity is not missed.