Tuesday, October 23, 2012

There Goes Uncle Max!

I am still reeling from the sudden passing on of my uncle Maxwell Mlenga who departed on 13 October 2012.  A week before Uncle Max's  demise I was in his office as he updated me on his recent missions trip to Pittsburgh the US.  The usual encouragement he had for me (on 3 September) proved to be his last. I will especially cherish Uncle Maxwell's role in trying to get  the best out of me in my career and other areas. I took him like a dad; always trembling to face him when I had messed up. Indeed since my father passed on 13 years ago, Maxwell Mlenga, was the one I looked up to. 
I heard that he had been taken ill around 9am, and just five minutes from reaching the Blantyre Adventist Hospital, my brother called to say Uncle Maxwell was no more. What pain and trauma! 
Still,  I thank God for the years I had with my late uncle both in Malawi and Zimbabwe.
There goes a friendly, generous, kind, engaging, intelligent, hardworking, deeply philosophical and spiritual man. There goes Uncle Max!

PS:  Psalm 53:1 'The fool says in his heart, there is no God". Selah!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Power, Fire, Suffering

Change has come to Malawi and sooner than citizens of the country expected.  My advice to the new administration is take power as fire.  Prudently utilised, fire is a good servant, but unwisely used makes it a bad servant. Use power sparingly and lbehave as if you do not have this resource.  Malawians, I suspect, do not like overt and too much use of power by those in authority!   Look back to my entry on the previous regime's obsession with the flag change titled Learning from Others posted on 19 July 2010.  Part of  of it says:  "My simple advice to government is please listen to the people, don't force on the citizenry things they do not want, lest you find that by ignoring the dissenting voices you had engaged in a self-destruction mode or had a embraced a 'death-wish' that similarly destroyed your predecessors."
The new government had better listen to the rural masses and not act contrary to their cries! Selah!

On another note, suffering is so real in Malawi.  I keep thinking how the recent  devaluation of the local currency, (kwacha) will worsen the plight of the orphans, the widows, people with disabilities and the elderly. I keep hearing on the radio that government  in collaboration with donors will put in place measures to mitigate the impact of the change in value of the kwacha.  But how? Will my grandmother of over 80 be put on social security to receive a sizeable monthly stipend? Will there be price subsidies for the vulnerable groups? Otherwise I fear the pledges are mere hot air,  or empty talk!

Some days ago, I met a 13-year old girl from Balaka, Queen,  who lost both parents. She says her  guardians had told her they could no longer support her. Queen travelled to Blantyre to look for some family she knows to try to ask for help.  With a large sisal bag in hand Queen said 'all I want is a home where I can grow up and finish my education'.  It broke my heart to see such suffering.

Just yesterday I saw a man slumped in pain at the gates of Malawi College of Health Sciences in Blantyre. The man was near death because he was struggling to speak and looked sickly. He gave me a note which had some personal details.  I asked the guard at the Health Sciences institution to call Police Rapid Response on 990. The security official said it was none of his business or that of the college. Shocking!  I was already late for a meeting. I tried to call 990 but got no response.  I requested one of my former students, to get help  for the stricken man.  I still tried 990 as I walked to the meeting but nobody was responding.  I was saddened by the callous attitude of the guard and the lack of response from the police help line.

Friday, February 03, 2012

How long?

Happy new year folks. I hope 2012 will be a better year for Malawians especially. 2011 was such a debacle, horrible and a year to forget. The economic downturn, violent demonstrations, police brutality, degenerating rule of law and other thorns in the flesh. It was a year I was also nearly punched up by a female pastor when I tried to reason with her over empathy in a community!! Throw in the sudden departures of Osama bin Laden, Muammar Ghaddafi...you have such an extraordinary blood-tainted year.

This morning I was shocked by details on the death in police custody of Edson Msiska in Mzuzu. I broke down and cried as I heard that the post-mortem indicated strangulation and multiple wounds as some of the causes of the demise of the student who was being detained on some petty issues. I said: How long Lord Jesus? How long God Almighty, shall Malawi continue to experience such brutality from law enforcers? If God lives, may something happen to stop this barbaric and satanic behaviour.

Then I heard about the passing on of Mayeso Chirwa, a longtime friend. Mayeso's uncle Griffin Mhango used to play with my uncle Don Mlenga in a local band called Kalimba in the 1980s. I met Mayeso at MBC over a decade ago. We used to practice music together trying to emulate the greatness of our uncles. I played the guitar while he was on the piano. Sadly Mayeso left for another job in Lilongwe and our vision of having a band never materialised. He came over to Blantyre some months ago and he seemed to be in good health. We didnt talk much as Mayeso was busy, and that has proved to have been our goodbye. What a man! Rest in Peace DJ Jeso.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

The pride of Malawi

Lately, I have been reflecting on the social, economic and political woes affecting Malawi. I have felt as a country we are going nowhere with the leadership seemingly out of sync with realities on the ground...what the populace wants of it, what is needful at this hour, and being mindful of legacy. (Do African leaders care at all about the legacy they will leave behind?)
For the first time, I empathised with those that recant their nationalities and turn to be citizens of other countries!

But between 1 and 4 June, I was at the University of Pretoria in South Africa to attend a continental human rights conference. On the sidelines of the gathering I overhead a lecturer talking good about Malawi!! The tutor, a white lady was saying she likes teaching students from Malawi and Botswana.
When I drew closer and sought clarification, the woman said Malawian and Botswana students have a great attitude compared to those from South Africa. A warm glow gripped my heart. It wasn't so bad after all to be Malawian! I felt proud to be a native of the 'Warm Heart of Africa'.

It shall be well with Malawi, and may all its enemies be scattered! May Psalm 27 encourage Malawians.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Of being back and 'mbalume'

One of my keen followers on this page asked last week if I had closed shop, and I promised to revive the posts this week! True, I haven't been active since the last part of 2010 for a variety of reasons.
Talking about 2010, it is a year I faced many many struggles and for a moment I felt like giving up. But I thank God He saw me through the fire and water, and I agree with my pastor that 2011 is an elevation year. I passed my driving test last month, and also what a testimony to be healed of a health problem that started in 2007 while in Sweden and defied all sorts of medication in the UK, Norway and Malawi. But now I can testify of God's grace and healing after prayer one sunday morning two months ago at my church, Word Alive. Be encouraged, don't give up, don't give in. You will soon make it through the storm to dry land!

Coming to the current situation in Malawi, I want to comment on the struggle for academic freedom by university lecturers especially at Chancellor College and Polytechnic. The heavy-handedness by the authorities in dealing with the protesting dons won't take anybody anywhere. Where has contact and dialogue gone? Where has mbalume gone? Where is tolerance and being fatherly to squabbling children?
My concern really is the aftermath of the wrangle. I foresee brain drain hitting the tertiary education sector again. Also, we are told a number cops enrolled for some courses at the university. How will they be viewed by the lecturers once classes resume? Will it all be water under the bridge? I doubt it! Uneasy relations? Most likely! That's why we need mbalume to act as a carthasis in the prevailing bad blood between the tutors and the police/state. For those who do not speak chichewa, the main local language in Malawi, mbalume is an art of persuasive speaking that wins over the hearts of the listener.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I had a few surprises in the past week or so. A man I know very well, came to my house asking me to visit a prayer cell (fellowship) he attends on the outskirts of Blantyre. Now this chap was rubbishing praying, fasting or gifts/manifestation of the Holy Spirit as recent as April this year!! What more, I thought he would beat up after making serious but baseless accusations against me. So, when the guy came home one evening it was a sweet shock to learn that he had turned to Jesus Christ and was even urging me to go with him some day to a prayer meeting!

The other surprise was a 'missed' call I got on my phone the other day. I called back. The voice at the other end said she was Jacqueline and correctly identified me as 'Joe'. I was astonished when the woman claimed we met in Lilongwe at Cresta Crossroad Hotel and I had given her my number. After a few more questions I saw the light! It was either a prostitute or a con-woman who got my number from a newspaper advert announcing an event I helped organise in September at Cresta Crossroads Hotel!! I have heard some call-girls or female thieves get numbers from newspapers and 'flash' the mobile to lure men. I cut the line. When she beeped me hours later, I just ignored it.

The last surprise I want to mention is the issue of child labour in Malawi. Several months ago Plan International issued damning statistics about child labour in the country, and the report was met by condemnation and dismissal from Malawi government. In effect the organisation was called all sorts of names. Some days ago, I was flabbergasted to hear a minister who was at the forefront of trashing Plan International, speaking at a function launching a strategic plan against CHILD LABOUR IN MALAWI. Wow!! From proncouncements made at the conference, I think I heard something like one million children in Malawi are working in tobacco or tea estates! What a turn-around for the minister as he said government will work hard to curb the situation.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Uneasy Relations

Today as I walked along Paul Kagame road I witnessed an incident in which an Asian-looking business-man driving a car slightly hit a cyclist who had a passenger. The motorist was at fault because he turned from the road suddenly and without regard for the persons on the bicycle. What followed was interesting. The two men (apparently black Malawians) were knocked down but got up without much bodily harm. They stood and just stared at the Asian motorist, then after a few moments got on the bike and cycled away. I had assumed that the two would confront the driver for his recklessness!

The aftermath reminded me of what I heard from a certain professor two weeks ago in Salima at a workshop on conflict management. In essence the learned person was saying race relations between 'native' Malawians and those of Asian origin or Asians in general are quite uneasy and there is always simmering tension in interaction between the two groups, if I can permitted to make such a generalisation.

Come to think of it, there is very little social exchanges between Malawians and their 'Asian' counterparts. I'm not quite sure about the stereotypes 'Asians' have about black Malawians (again permit me to have such a label). But 'black Malawians' usually take an 'Asian' as oppressive, a profiteer and not interested in school but business. Actually there is a saying 'miyendo pindize ngati mmwenye mu sitolo' literally meaning a person relaxing with their legs crossed like an Asian in his shop!
Add to this melting pot a story I read in a local Malawian newspaper that some 'Asian' youths had beaten up 'black Malawians' because one of the 'locals' had dared propose love to their sister!!
I agree that the relations are uneasy between these two groups, and there is so much mistrust, fear, stereotyping and prejudices. I wonder how the situation can be normalised considering that the 'natives' and the 'Asians' have lived alongside each other for a long time indeed!

(NB: As the two persons who had been knocked down walked away I sensed fear in them, and I saw a care-free attitude in the driver who didn't even bother to check the condition of the cyclist and his passenger!)