Three issues dominated the media space this week. At the local level, logistical hurdles rocking the distribution of the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) materials continued to show their ugly face as the process hurtfully left thousands of prospective beneficiaries frustrated and angry. Additionally, women incensed with the increasing reports of rape and defilement continued to make protest noises, organized marches and presented petitions to authorities across the regions.
At both local and regional level, it is the enigmatic escape from South Africa to Malawi of the Bushiris’ and the ensuing altercations that have been competing for space and airtime on the mainstream media space.
With regard to AIP, it is clear distribution of the much-sought after cheap materials has been messy and chaotic, to say the least. The exercise has been dogged by multiple problems ranging from so-called network hitches to outright extortion and corruption by government officials and employees of the fertilizer distributing firms.
Prospective beneficiaries have been spending days on end at distribution points across the country. People are told there is no network for the officials to log into the system. On their part, not wanting to miss the inputs, just in case the network restored, both the young and the old, make a beeline to the distribution points some as early as 4am. They only leave for their homes at 6pm without the prized items. They return the following morning to the same horrors.
On those days when network is available, there is still nothing to celebrate for. The official price for a bag of fertilizer is K4 495, and K2 000 for a 5kg pack of maize seed. But at one distribution point that I can name, if I wanted to shame, officials want beneficiaries to part with an additional K5 000 to be served or continue to languish on the queue. The choice is theirs.
The problem is that employees of the fertilizer distribution firms are capitalizing on the loopholes in the system making it possible for them to connive with vendors to buy a bag at K10 000 and sell the same at K15 000 on the open market. The deal enables all the syndicate to pocket a cool K5 000 cut from every bag of fertilizer they sell.
Capital Hill cannot pretend it is not aware of the nationwide teething problems denting the programme. The fact is that the ministry is clueless about how to bust the cartels. Like was the case with the Fisp, the main culprits in the new programme are employees of the fertilizer companies who connive with Agriculture officials to defraud the system.
From frustration by AIP beneficiaries to the mystifying escape of the Bushiris. Where does one start from?
Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary last week beat the SA Immigration system—fleeing from that country where they were on bail after being charged with money laundering and fraud. Pretoria is confounded and stupefied with how the Bushiris—who run the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG)—made a cartoon of their immigration set-up. The couple escaped alleging their lives are in danger. They also fear they would not get justice in their trial after Pretoria failed to act on report that some officers wanted to extort money from the Bushiris. So as bona fide Malawians citizens, they want their country to protect them.
The Bushiris just succeeded in making a mockery of what is thought to be a watertight border system. The embarrassment and anger among South African from the Bushiris’ cryptic escape is palpable. Those who have spoken out through mainstream and social media have not hidden their bias against the Bushiris, starting with that country’s Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi. Among his unfounded claims is that the Bushiris have five passports each. But Motsoaledi could easily have verified this with his Malawian counterpart who is only a phone call away. He would then have spared himself and Pretoria the ridicule he has invited for reveling in spewing out a total falsehood over a simple matter.
Should we then dismiss Bushiri’s claim that the South African security and justice system would be prejudiced against him as unfounded?
Then there is the ominous desire by the mainstream media, especially through that country’s public broadcaster—SABC—to portray Bushiri as a criminal even as the issue is in court. What happened to ethics in journalism? SABC has no moral or legal justification to describe Bushiri as a fugitive ‘criminal’. Yes, he is a fugitive for escaping to Malawi. But he is still only a suspect because no court of law has pronounced him as such.
If all these issues cannot count as adequate danger and prejudice against the Bushiris to make them feel their lives are in danger, what should?