Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Students and Industrial Strikes

Last week I attended a recruitment seminar in Blantyre for prospective journalism graduates from the Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi. I may not have been a pivotal force in the education of the students, but at least I enjoyed teaching them an english literature course while they were freshmen. Of course they have since developed in mentality, outlook and pysche. I have high expectations of this class, and the one that came after them (now 3rd year). I believe fine journalists, writers and academics will emerge from these two classes! My prayer is that the graduating class will aim high..always!

Switching to another theme, I have been fascinated by the recent spate of industrial action in Malawi. The Labour Minister Yunus Mussa has been making 'surprise' visits to companies and factories and I have seen him on TV making statements on how a particular organisation is faring on conditions of service. He has also mediated in some industrial disputes of late. I appreciate that the minister has exposed alot of rot in many companies and as a result there is hope for improvement.
My worry though is that the process will be hijacked by greedy individuals who will start instigating strikes for no clear reason, while basking in the comfort that minister Yunus Mussa will likely rush to the concerned entity and intervene. I see a busy few months for Mussa!
PS: I'm glad to learn that Gabriel Kondesi, the radio pirate I alluded to in my previous post has not been jailed and that the authorities have promised to set up a proper community radio station in his area which Gabriel will head! Way to go Malawians!! I also appreciate those that have made various donations to Kondesi including a scholarship to study locally.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Pirate, Service Delivery...

I was astounded by the story of Gabriel Kondesi a primary school drop-out who managed to come up with a 'community radio station' in Mulanje, southern Malawi. The 21-year old man contrived the 'station' from a car battery, TV aerial, cassette player and other odds and ends. Wow!! Pure genius! The only hitch was that it was a pirate radio and he ended up in trouble for his creativity.
I'm glad to learn that well-wishers and his family have managed to pay the 50-thousand Kwacha fine imposed by a court for the unlicensed radio. I appeal to the broadcasting community and business fraternity to help this young man achieve his dream of operating a radio station. Who knows what innovation Gabriel will come up with next given proper resources.
On another note I was in a government department a few weeks ago seeking to meet the head of the section for business purposes. I made two trips in vain, and when I tried to get the secretary's phone number to avoid making another fruitless journey to the office she shouted at me. 'Ayi, sindikufuna zondivutitsa ine'.
Loosely translated the woman was saying I could be a nuisance with the inquiries and she didn't want that. Really? I wondered what she was doing in that very busy and crucial office for her to say asking if the boss was around was a problem. I realised there is still a stronghold of poor service delivery in Malawi and lousy attitudes in the work place. Lord have mercy!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Rights for the Mentally Challenged and Moving On

Last week the Blantyre District Health Office moved to take off the streets of the city all mentally-challenged persons. What a sight to behold as Tv cameras captured scenes of mostly men being taken into 'custody' before being sent to Zombal Mental Hospital. Some of the 'captives' were shown lying on the floor, some making unintelligible sounds and yet others being shaved their unkempt hair.

I wondered if the rights of the patients were being respected by showing such footage on Malawi Television and in the case of Malawi Broadcasting Corporation screams and other sounds from the mentally-challenged individuals. Are we being told through such portrayals that those people do not have the right to privacy? As for me I found the scenes disturbing and disrespectful of the sick persons. Among those seized by the health authorities and policemen was a man I have known for years who calls me 'cousin' when he is feeling ok and can recognise me. Somehow I will miss his presence at Blantyre City Market.

After 10 years staying in one house in Nkolokosa township in Blantyre, I will have to move on next month end. The landlord and his sister came to give me notice to vacate the property saying their sibling was experiencing a severe financial down-turn, and has to take residence in the house. It is bitter-sweet experience! That is because it is the place I have called home for a decade and it is hard to imagine life elsewhere. But it is exciting as well to expect God's working to provide a bigger and better house which we definitely need as the family grows. Pray for me to find a house by November end preferably in the same township so that plans to host a home-cell do not get frustrated.