He is struggling to shake off the image that he cannot stand on his own and is only riding on the Muluzi name to propel his political fortunes ahead of the 2014 elections.
But, for now at least, Malawiâ€™s opposition United Democratic Front president Atupele Muluzi has every reason to sport a smile on his youthful face because his decision to resign from Cabinet has resonated with Malawians, according to a Nation on Sunday survey.
The survey, conducted through face-to-face interviews in 17 districts, the social media as well as the short messaging service (SMS), saw 750 out of 1 000 respondents agreeing with Atupele on his decision to leave Cabinet.
This represents 75 percent of the people interviewed in the opinion poll.
In the context of the rising discontent in the country over the way President Joyce Banda is managing the economy, peopleâ€™s positive sentiments towards an opposition leader dovetail with the prevailing mood and raise questions about what all this means for the Peopleâ€™s Party government ahead of 2014.
Some people polled in the survey argued that remaining in government would have been untenable for Atupele given that his party and PP are on a collision course as they both eye the ultimate prize in 2014.
One respondent, writing on Nation Online, said: â€œHonourable Atupele â€˜Obamaâ€™ Muluzi wants to change politics of castigating each other. He wants people to learn smart politics.â€
By contrast, others said Atupele should develop a thick skin for him to survive in politics, contending that the attacks PP launched against him in Machinga, which forced him to resign, are normal fodder in politics.
For political scientist Dr Blessings Chinsinga, the resignation was only inevitable given the difficult situation Atupele put himself in when he decided to join government when he has political ambitions of his own.
â€œIt had to come anyway, the fact that it happened was prudent on his part because it would have been difficult to campaign against a government which he was part of, it would also have been difficult to stage the rally at Njamba while still in government.
â€œAgain, the resignation was to exploit public sympathy and reinvigorate his Agenda for Change ahead of 2014,â€ said Chinsinga.
In his resignation statement, Atupele said he could not continue working with a group that did not understand the concept of mutual respect.
â€œAn inclusive Cabinet government entails working in collective unison to secure economic recovery and harmonise our divisive politics. I was thus appalled and mortified by the public comments recently uttered against me by some members of the government in a manner that lacked the courtesy, mutual respect and dignity that is expected between colleagues who strive together in pursuit of a common cause to serve the people of Malawi selflessly and to the best of oneâ€™s abilities,â€ he said.
Chinsinga agreed with the youthful politician, decrying what he called petty politics of attacking the person instead of concentrating on ideas.
â€œBelonging to different parties does not make us enemies; it just shows that we have different ideas. Politicians all aim at creating better Malawi and they should just focus on that and not petty issues like whether Atupele speaks Yao or not,â€ he said.
Contacted yesterday for his reaction to the survey, Atupele was coy, saying his brand of politics will try to avoid speaking on issues that would spark unnecessary clashes.
â€œLet people be the judge. As for me, I will just work hard on strengthening the party, making it credible and developing a strong manifesto,â€ he said.
He spoke highly of the upcoming policy conference which he said is unique to UDF and is his brainchild. At the conference, said Atupele, members will decide what stand to take on various issues as a party.
â€œIt is part of my Agenda for Change, to develop a manifesto that is not just done by a few people in a room, but rather it should belong to the people,â€ he said.
Atupeleâ€™s Agenda for Change, a platform he used to launch his political career in earnest, fizzled out after joining Cabinet. Whether he can resuscitate it now after leaving Cabinet remains to be seen.
On his bid for 2014 and the â€˜daddyâ€™s boyâ€™ image that continues to cling tenaciously to the son of the countryâ€™s former president Bakili Muluzi, Chinsinga advised Atupele to prove to the nation that he is his own man by tabling â€˜tangible alternativesâ€™ that will set him apart from his father.
â€œIf the UDF Policy Conference slated for next year, which I believe is Atupeleâ€™s brainchild, is successful, it will make Malawians view him in different light. He has already started taking steps in the right direction and if he just follows them, we might see him as his own man, not daddyâ€™s good boy,â€ he said.
Malawi police recruits screening under spotlight
Whatever passes for screening mechanisms in the Malawi Police Service must surely have gone to sleep when Steve Moyo Chikulupati applied for a job, went for training and was admitted in the service in 2012.
Chikulupati, popularly known as Nthini among friends and acquaintances, served two of the nine years the Blantyre Magistrateâ€™s Court imposed on him in 2000 after being found guilty of forgery, obtaining goods by false pretence and uttering false documents.
He was later acquitted by the High Court. However, police only chanced upon this information after the ex-convict had graduated as a police officer on October 7th 2012, raising serious questions about the reliability of the screening process for recruits in the service.
After graduating, Chikulupati was posted to the Police Mobile Force (PMF) in Limbe where he was working until the matter was bought to the attention of his employers during Nation on Sunday investigations.
Southern Region Police spokesperson Nicholas Gondwa said on Thursday Chikulupati was summoned to give his side of the story but did not show up without giving reasons.
Said Gondwa: â€œHe is currently on a disciplinary hearing for abscondment of more than four days from the day he was scheduled to report to Southern Region Police Headquarters. His charge is absenteeism and we are yet to hear the verdict.â€
Asked why police did not screen Chikulupati rigorously enough to obtain such information before recruiting him, Gondwa referred Nation on Sunday to National Police spokesperson Rhoda Manjolo.
But Manjolo asked for more time to get information on the matter.
Our investigations found that Chikulupati was convicted in 2000 by the Blantyre Magistrateâ€™s Court which sentenced him to nine years imprisonment with hard labour. He served part of his sentence at Chichiri Prison in Blantyre before he was transferred to Zomba Maximum Security Prison.
However, upon appeal, the High Court in Blantyre quashed both the conviction and sentence, resulting in his release from prison in 2002.
Aids crisis looms as Malawi loses crucial ARV buyer
Emily Banda [not real name] is about 55. A grandmother of six, she had three children who are now dead, leaving her with the burden of looking after the grandchildren.
Her skin is close to her bones and her eyes beam from deep inside her skull. It is a familiar storyâ€”Banda is HIV positive.
â€œI loved my deceased daughter so much that I cared less about her ailment and in the process of taking care of her during her sickness, I contracted the virus,â€ said Banda.
She discovered her condition after illness would not leave her a few months after burying her daughter. She is now three months on anti-retroviral therapy (ART). She is not fully used to the drugs and she is feeling the effects of the powerful medicines.
Banda sits in a hut in Lilongweâ€™s Area 21 flanked by three other women who also carry the HIV virus. The reason their faces brighten up is that the life-prolonging medicines give them hope that they will see another day at least.
That could all change after 2014.
A crucial donor who buys most of the anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) for Malawi will no longer do so after 2014 and unless Malawi identifies another donor or buys the ARVs herself, HIV and Aids will ravage people such as Banda and take an enormous toll on the impoverished nation.
The revelation has been discussed in a resource mapping document prepared by the Ministry of Health and Clinton Health Access Initiative titled HIV Funding in Malawi: Key Findings from Resource Mapping, published on 18 September this year.
â€œ55 percent of HIV funding in Malawi is at risk with the Global Fund grant ending in 2014,â€ warns the document.
The report says although the current grant will end in 2014, Malawi will have access to two years of funding that will maintain drug purchases for all existing patients which will allow for continued treatment, but with limited chances of being increased.
Banda and the other women that Nation on Sunday assembled in Area 21 are worried by the spectre of a potential scaledown in the distribution of ARVs.
â€œARVs gave us hope; we are now able to do manual labour to take care of our families because ARVs give us strength. Cessation of HIV funding would be killing the Malawi nation because we are not alone, there are many of us,â€ said one woman who does laundry in peopleâ€™s houses for a living.
Another woman pointed to her pregnancy, saying despite having HIV, she can afford to bear a child because of the drugs.
â€œRecall the deaths that used to be there in the late 90s. ARVs give us a reprieve. If they stop giving people ARVs, the number of orphans will rise sharply. Imagine, we are already unhealthy with ARVs; how will life be without them?â€ she said.
The woman added that without drugs, stigma will come back as it will be easy to identify those with HIV.
Martha Kwataine, executive director of the Malawi Health Equity Network, says it is time Malawi put ARV purchases in the budget.
â€œThe government must start with the forthcoming 2013/14 national budget to allocate resources for ART. That will be a way of weaning ourselves from donors. If we can start by allocating say K5 billion in the 2013/14 budget, that would go a long way than leaving the whole game to donors who sometimes impose unrealistic conditionalities to their aid.
â€œItâ€™s high time Malawi began to show its commitment to allocating resources for ART,â€ said Kwataine.
Board chairperson of the National Aids Commission (NAC) Mara Kumbweza-Banda played down the gravity of the situation, saying Global Fund is not the only partner supporting Malawi in HIV interventions.
â€œEven if Global Fund withdrew today, we will be able to manage. We have other strong partners such as the United States Government, CDC and others,â€ said Kumbweza-Banda.
However, she acknowledged the need for Malawi to avoid relying too much on donors. Kumbweza-Banda said a resource mobilisation strategy is being drafted to that effect, but could not divulge details, saying the information will only be available when the strategy is ready.
She said independence cannot come overnight, arguing that Malawi is making strides in the fight against HIV and Aids.
Out of the $354 million (about K114 billion) that was channelled to fight all diseases in the 2012/13 financial year, 60 percent went to HIV. That is a staggering $212 million (about K70 billion).
The $212 million, which comprises money from the Global Fund, Health Resources and Services Administration, and UNAIDS, among others, will shrink to $117 million next year, $84 million in 2014-15 and remain the same $84 million in 2015-16 following the decreases in funding from Global Fund and others.
According to CHAI (clintonfund.org), the average cost of treating an HIV patient for one year in Malawi is $200 (K64 000).
JB says integration key to African development
Malawi News Agency
Malawi president Joyce Banda, who is the outgoing chairperson of Comesa, has urged people in the economic bloc to work together and promote integration to put the region on a solid developmental footing.
The President made the remarks in her keynote address at the 16th summit of the Comesa heads of State and government in Kampala, Uganda, where she also handed over the chairmanship to Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni.
â€œWe need to make sure that beyond our summits, meetings and talks, we actually deliver projects and programmes that have a tangible impact on peopleâ€™s lives,â€ said Banda.
Banda said promoting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the region is crucial as the economies of the countries in the region rely on such businesses.
â€œNo country can hope to achieve sustainable economic growth without expanding and diversifying trade with small businesses. A vibrant small and medium enterprises sector can become a catalyst for accelerated economic development for all Comesa member states,â€ she said.
Agreeing with Banda, Museveni said promotion of SMEs is critical in Africa as most economies in the world have grown through SMEs and regional integration.
â€œWe need to work together if we are to prosper as Africa, we can be like China if we put so much effort and promote our SMEs,â€ said Museveni.
As one way of promoting SMEs, in 2012, the Comesa Secretariat, with funding from the European Union, launched a cluster project on micro, small and medium enterprises. â€”report by Enelless Nyale in Kampala, Uganda. She works for Mana.
Zambian encroachers worry Malawi
Malawi is grappling with yet another headache over borders; this time, it is on Malawiâ€™s western frontier where Zambian nationals have encroached into Kasungu National Park.
Minister of Tourism and Culture Daniel Liwimbi told Parliament on Thursday that government will engage Zambia to resolve the issue.
In his ministerial statement on the state of the tourism sector, Liwimbi told Parliament that some Zambians have settled inside the national park, a situation he said endangers game life in the protected area.
â€œThese people are even cultivating our land; they are poaching and we canâ€™t tolerate that,â€ he said.
Liwimbi told the House that efforts to chase the encroachers have failed, claiming that the illegal settlers keep coming back.
â€œThe situation is bad. We have already written the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and we hope they will handle the issue with the urgency it deserves. They are then expected to liaise with their Zambian counterparts on the issue,â€ he said.
Asked later in an interview why Malawi has failed to resolve the issue when it has succeeded in chasing local encroachers from the park, Liwimbi said government is trying to be diplomatic in dealing with the issue to avoid unnecessary tensions with Zambia.
â€œWe are looking at that good neighbourliness perspective that has existed between the two countries for ages to continue. Caution is necessary. However, the ministry is also aware that complacency can cost the country a fortune in this regard,â€ said the minister.
To deter poaching and deforestation, government starting erecting a high voltage electric perimeter fence around the park.
â€œThe fencing is almost 80 percent done. But we canâ€™t complete the fencing with the encroachers inside the park. We need to chase them out first and hopefully that will be done soon,â€ said Liwimbi.
Time to take responsibility for our peopleâ€™s health
Whatever the level of threat there is given the imminent end of Global Fund support for our HIV/Aids fight, there is no running away from the fact that as a country we cannot afford to leave the entire ART programme, which is a matter of life and death, in the hands of donors. We need to find a way of partly or wholly funding the programme to ensure its sustainability.
Everyone knows that once one goes on ART they cannot stop for the rest of their lives. That scenario requires that the programme be so established that it is not subjected to the problems that often come with foreign aid since any interruption or, worse still, cessation of the treatment can have dire consequences on a huge chunk of the population that owes its survival to it.
Much as all the foreign aid in this programme is appreciated, government needs to realise that the responsibility of keeping its people healthy and alive rests primarily on its shoulders and that it should make budgetary provisions for ART and only ask others to supplement these efforts. The resource mobilisation strategy that is being worked should have already been in place by now if only to show our seriousness as a nation.
One hopes government will make good of its assurance that the situation is under control because the country cannot afford the loss of even a single life simply because authorities have been caught unawares of helpless.
Flames strikers need to end goal drought
The Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup tournament which is currently under way in Uganda will provide an opportunity not only to Chiukepo Msowoya but all other Flames strikers to end their goal drought.
Flames strikers have not scored in the past 10 games, a development that is cause for worry and Chiukepoâ€™s upbeat talk ahead of their opening Group C match against Rwanda tomorrow is a source of encouragement.
However, the onus is not only on the strikers alone to bang in the goals. They need to get proper service for them to achieve that. Coach Kinnah Phiri also needs to come up with a good strategy that would enable the Flames strikers to express themselves and have composure in front of goal.
Having said that, good luck to the Flames.