Friday, July 29, 2016

Malawi's Football Teams' Last Minute Sickness

So, the Malawi Under 17-Football National Team is out of the Cosafa Under-17 Tournament being held in Mauritius?
Yes. That the simple, seemingly less painful way of putting it.
In all fairness, the junior team did the country proud. They had less than two weeks of preparations. They played no friendly game. They left the country without getting their allowances.
And, for all these pains, they only lost to the over-aged Zambia by a margin of three goals, before humbling Kenya 5-0.
They had to face South Africa in the semi-finals but, then, the cheating Zambians were caught napping [by technology, of course] at their own game.
So, Malawi had to meet Namibia on Friday. And meet they did. And lost. I mean, Malawi.
They lost on post-match penalties six to five.
It is normal to lose through penalties, but it is the manner of Malawi Under-17's loss that has rekindled painful memories of the past. Memories associated with Malawian teams.
You see, Malawian teams lose their nerves during the final stages of a match. Sports psychologists will tell you that the most dangerous point in a match is after you have scored a goal. You are happy. On top of the world. And bound to lose track of the boundary-of-caution.
And the other team may score. Against jubilation.
But Malawi lost with two minutes to spare.
It was like, the shore was there for the taking and the boat sunk!
Peter Banda had put Malawi in front, and on course to meet South Africa in the final, when he scored in the 51st minute.
And Malawi held on, only for Namibia's Eldery Morgan to develop other ideas and punish Malawi two minutes to time.
Malawi can savage some pride, of course, and become third-place winners should they decide to come back with a load of sweet sensibilities.
But, then, Malawi are back to where they belong.
I think Malawi needs the services of psychologists. Malawi loses out on the psychological part of the game and this loosing streak must come to an end.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Promoting Poetry as a Communal Feeling

Poetry comes in many forms and tongues, but one thing brings lovers of the genre’s diverse audiences together, namely the communion of feeling. However, RICHARD CHIROMBO was the witness to an embarrassing episode when some, apparently impatient, less accommodating audience members at the land of Poets Festival shouted a well-meaning foreign poet down, only to eat their own words because poetry is one genre that should not be diluted in the liquid of translation

The man in front of the stage, Germany-born poet Richard Schuster, stood still, tactfully escaping the violence unleashed by slashing tongues by staring, long and hard, at the white piece of paper tightly held in his stable hands.
Never, during those four embarrassing minutes when some isolated audience members shouted poetry down, did he look at the crowd. The piece of paper passionately held in both hands was, surely, more patient than the unreasonable— in the context of poetry—audience members who preferred the familiar to the unfamiliar.
SCHUSTER: Here [in Malawi], people are loud
On that point, Schuster scored two obvious points: One, that he is a hardened poet, and; two, that he is a written-word poet.
Of course, it was rather apparent that some members in the audience felt that the four-minute poetry piece he recited in German did not fill an urgent need— namely, the isolated audience members’ call to partake in vernacular language poetry, or for him to quickly leave the stage.
Now, if ignorance about the nature of poetry creates discord that is uncomfortable in the best of circumstances, it was catastrophic in this moment of audience madness.
One could have hoped that the alien aspect of shouting a visiting poet down would be tempered with a little bit of the warm-heartedness that Malawians are known for. Not this Sunday afternoon, though, as— instead of at least enduring the lashes of a foreign language— they, with their slashing tongues, howled at the top of their voices.
They were outright rude;that ‘thick’, dark temperament that clings to the ceiling of good-will and gives humanity a bad name.
But, somehow, a moment of sanity from the poet on stage— Schuster—rescued the situation and spared ‘genuine’ poetry lovers the embarrassment of seeing their beloved genre being spoiled by the unappreciative element of impatience.
It was a moment— somewhere between 03: 45 pm and 3: 50 pm—very rich in irony because,while some audience members, clearly unaware that language is only one of the vehicles poetry uses to create a sense of understanding, wanted him to shrink to half his size, the pint-sized Schuster was not one to back down easily.
Instead, that moment of madness seemed to make him get more focused than before; even louder than ever. And the piercing shrieks, though they continued to rain down, came to naught.

Package of ironies
Ironically, this was supposed to be a moment of celebrating diversity through poetry; a moment, also ironically, of honouring one of the greatest vernacular poets in the country— Benedicto Wokomaatani Malunga.
Ironically, Malunga did not comment on the incident, which unfolded in front of him as he waited to receive his award, but was surely shaken to the core; taken unawares by the callousness of some audience members who demanded that the German’s poet’s pieces be translated into Chichewa or English.
Ironically, too, it was the man who presented a token of K60, 000 to Malunga, namely Malinda Chinyama, who started it all, when, while seated in the second line of concrete seats, right behind me, stood up and, while pointing at the poet and gesturing that he could not understand any German word, shouted:
“We cannot get anything. Someone should be translating. No! No! No! Why recite poetry in German when you know that no one will get what you are saying? This is what is killing poetry in this country!”
Ironically, I threw off the ‘costume’ of journalism and was the first to tell Chinyama to “please get the feeling” he poet wants you to get.
Ironically, Chinyama retorted back, as well-travelled poet Babangoni watched: [Pointing at me] “It is people like you who are responsible for the downfall of poetry in this country. You see nothing wrong when foreign poets come here and selfishly recite in their mother tongue. You accept it when people come from a far and recite poetry in German and other languages— languages you cannot understand. It is the docility you show that encourages these people to recite in foreign languages, yet they know that we will not understand any of the words they pronounce. No. We cannot accept this. That man needs a translator or he should recite in a language we understand. Period!”
Ironically, Babangoni— himself a well-travelled poet who has been to Germany— came to placate Chinyama. Babangoni found himself in an ironic situation where he could not reason with a man who, in his reasonableness, had decided to present a token of appreciation to Malunga, for service to humanity through, mostly, vernacularlines and stanzas that Schuster cannot understand.
Ironically, Schuster had politely reasoned with the audience— in the manner of a prophet who has a sense of what may come, and the patience to see what was foreseen actually unfold before his eyes— that he would recite in German, and that “I hope you will get the feeling”.
Ironically, the issue of interpreting poems recited in foreign language resurrected when Land of Poets Festival organising committee chairperson, Hoffman Aipira, invited Malunga and, by extension the presenter of the K60, 000 monetary token Chinyama, to the stage.
Ironically, the issue resurfaced when Aipira emphasised the need to honour the country’s greats while they are alive. But, against hopes that the issue of interpreting poems recited in foreign language had died down the moment Schuster left the stage, from nowhere Chinyama was at it again— this time, in front of the audience.
Ironically, Malunga was standing close by, waiting to receive his ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ when Chinyama-the-well-wisher said: “Allow me to say just a word. I was arguing with a certain journalist there that what that poet did, by reciting in a language we do not understand, is not acceptable. We should not condone that sort of behaviour.
“It does not make sense for someone to recite a poem in a foreign language. I did not get anything when he [Schuster] was reciting. We need to have interpreters. It does not make sense that someone can recite in a language nobody understands. You must think of introducing interpreters,” said Chinyama.
CHINYAMA: Foreign poets should have interpreters
Ironically, like Schuster’s German poem, Chinyama overemphasized his point for some time, taking up a minute or so.
Ironically, other audience members were apparently fed up with what he was saying.
Ironically, like he did when Schuster was reciting his poem in the German language, members of the audience shouted him down.
Ironically, unlike the German poet who did not back down but continued reciting, Chinyama bowed down to the audience’s pressure and went straight to the business of the day: presenting a token of K60, 000 to Malunga.
Ironically, Malunga, who spoke immediately after accepting the award, did not touch the touchy issue of hiring the services of interpreters during poetry performances. He did not want to dignify trivia with his authoritative voice.
Ironically, it is Schuster who was frank enough to discuss the issue in an interview later.

Poetry as a feeling
Schuster said his quick take on the audience is that the Malawian audience is different from the German audience he is accustomed to.
“What I make of this foreign audience is that, here [in Malawi], people are very loud. It provides good feedback, though. So, I value the feedback I got so much. It’s like, when you perform before a foreign audience, sometimes you do not know what to expect,” said Schuster.
However, Schuster disagreed with those who are advancing the idea that interpreters should be engaged whenever a poet is reciting in their mother tongue— which happens to be someone else’s foreign language, by the way.
He regards poetry as a human need— like food, like water, like shelter, like clothes, like love, or something like these.
“Humans need poetry. Poetry is a feeling [and not a foreign language]; from the inner to the people,” observed Schuster, who is in the country for 10 days.
Schuster might be speaking from experience. He once tried his hand at music, and was, for close to five years, a member of the German band, Eli Eight.
He quit to concentratehis energies on generating the feeling called poetry.

Understanding poetry

While Schuster played down the incident with some members of the audience at the Land of Poets Festival, it was clear that this was on the surface.
Deep down, it was clear, he was still reluctant to play very deeply within the dream-space of a demand that was so strange it was outrageous. In fact, it’s a culture that does not befit poetry.
When he said “poetry is a feeling”, he did not mean it to be a reprimand but an indulgent complaint. The very cultural exchange purpose that propelled him to come to Malawi was being put to the test.
More so because words from a poet’s mouth are primarily an affair of the heart other than the ear; so that, in cases where a foreign poet has travelled all the way to be with you, inflection of voice, facial expression, gesture, among others, become the folk of delivering the hard part of the poem to the mouth-of-the-heart.
No wonder, poet Babangoni, in his traditional coffee-coloured attire, looked on as the events unfolded— without showing any sense of amused benevolence. But the dispassionate audience can be excused for being puzzled by the paradoxical meaning of poetry, as a universal feeling, when an incomprehensible language is used to convey that feeling.
Next time, though, it would be rewarding to focus on the beauty of poetry other than the validity of the language used.
More so when chairperson of the Land of Poets organising committee, Hoffman Aipira, hinted that a number of foreign poets could grace the stage next year.
“This year’s event was better organised and more successful than last year’s, which we held on Independence Day. But, in terms of foreign poets, we did not have. We hope to have a number of them next year,” said Aipira.
While Sunday’s events are gone and buried under the rubble of history, it cannot be forgotten that self-righteousness, that Sunday afternoon, conquered not just the judgements but souls of those who shouted Schuster down, turning them into willing accomplices to selfishness in a globalized world.
They shouted him down under the influence of that compulsive and ruthless animal called fury. Although the despicable behaviour might have delivered a mild culture shock, it did not shake Schuster’s faith to the foundations. Thanks poetry, Schuster did not stop.
The benefits of poetry, it can be said, are abstract, and the whole landscape does not suddenly change because a poet has spoken, or rather recited, in a local language.
It was obvious that, if he had powers of his own, Schusterwould have been willing to work some special magic on his tongue so that he could turn his German into Chichewa.
But, then, Land of poets— which was a heroically crammed one-day schedule— was just a Malawian affair in name; the style of delivery was exclusively universal in that it was feeling-based.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Polytechnic Students Start Demonstrations

... Police start firing teargas canisters
Students from The Polytechnic, a Blantyre-based constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima), have started demonstrating against the recent fees hike effected by the University Council.
This means the students have joined the cause of their counterparts at Chancellor College in Zomba. Chancellor College has since been closed.
However, it seems that the police have been ready since morning. As early as 08:30 am, heavily-armed police were seen lining at Chichiri Shopping Mall in Malawi's commercial city.
Reports of imminent students' demonstrations had been making rounds all week.
The Polytechnic students did immediately join their Chancellor College counterparts because they were sitting examinations.
As things stand now, some students from The Polytechnic have left for home, but others-- those intent on making their position known on the issue of fees' hike-- have remained behind.
The Polytechnic is situated along the Masauko-Chipembere Highways, one of the busiest roads in Malawi.
Any demonstrations easily spill into the highway, as students often vent their anger on vehicles and passers-by.
The tear-gassing has started. What next?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

'Chancellor College Closure not linked to Jill Biden near-stoning Incident'

Chancellor College students who went out to stone vehicles and people like Jill Biden might have hoped that, after performing their day’s labour, they would go back to the college base to rest for the night, recoup energy, and prepare for another battle on Wednesday.
It was not to be.
They have received news that the college, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, has been closed indefinitely.
So, it is back home they go; to face angry parents and a world with dates, but blind dates in their case because the suspension is indefinite.
Embarrassing: U.S. Second Lady, Jill Biden [not seen], takes refuge in Eastern Region Police headquarters on Tuesday
However, Education Minister Emmanuel Fabiano – who was in the company of Biden when she sought refuge at Eastern Region Police headquarters in Zomba— has moved quickly to deny that he has not influenced the college’s decision to close its doors to students.
“I have nothing to do with the closure. I do not interfere in such matters,” Fabiano, a former University of Malawi Vice Chancellor, told Zachimalawi on Tuesday.
This means, while students at other University of Malawi constituent colleges— namely Kamuzu College of Nursing, College of Medicine and The Polytechnic— will continue learning, sitting examinations, eating, and receiving book allowances.
Chancellor College students have become willing sacrificial lambs in the battle, nobody knows what! Maybe unobstructed access to information.
“I repeat, I played no role in the closure,” reiterated Fabiano.
It promises to be a long holiday.
In 2011, when President Peter Mutharika was serving as Education Minister under his brother Bingu’s second term, University of Malawi constituent colleges were closed for closed to a year over what became known as the ‘Academic Freedom’ wrangle.
Peter did nothing to intervene and the wrangle went unresolved for close to a year.
Today, Peter is the President.
So, just as U.S. Second Lady Jill Biden failed to visit a project site in Machinga today, Chancellor College students will fail to visit their own classrooms on Wednesday.

Jill Biden Resigns to Fate, Goes Back to Lilongwe

...fails to attend pre-organised functions
...guns 'bow' to mere stones

The ceiling of U.S. Second Lady, Jill Biden’s tank of hope dropped so low that she had to abandon a trip she must have prepared for months.
Jill, wife to U.S. vice-president, Joe Biden, is on a three-day visit to Malawi. Filled in the three-day package are trips to a number of project sites.
Aborted trip: Biden [inside the building but not shown] seeks refuge in Eastern Region Police headquarters
While everything went as planned in Machinjiri, Blantyre, where Biden announced that the U.S. would provide $20 million in relief aid [through the World Food Programme], all hell broke loose in Zomba, as Biden was being driven to Machinga District, to visit a United States Agency for International Development project.
Students from Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, blocked the road at Matawale in Zomba City, threatening to pelt stones and any vehicle that ‘defied’ the order.
On this day [Tuesday], Biden happened to be one of the people— of all people— travelling on this road. Her convoy had to, in a hurry, change direction and face where they were coming from [Blantyre].
But, then, even Blantyre did not seem safe. So, Biden and her security detail—as well as Minister of Education Emmanuel Fabiano—took refuge in Eastern Region Police Headquarters, a colonial facility that looks like a museum than modern police base.
But Biden hid there, and was lucky not to come across spider webs. Or, maybe, she was entangled in them [spider webs] but did not announce such an encounter.

WHAT SHOULD WE DO NEXT? Biden's security detail seems to say

Biden spent less than an hour at Eastern Police Headquarters and, when it was time to move on, she did not go where she had intended to go [Machinga]. Love for Dear Life, perhaps, forced her to drive back to Blantyre, Malawi’s Commercial City, and back, again, to Lilongwe, Malawi’s Capital City.
She is back in Lilongwe now. She has arrived safely.
One only hopes she will, as safely, come over the events of Tuesday.

Jill Biden’s day of success
Biden will sleep today knowing that she has, at least, done something commendable today.

On the day that students armed with stones forced her to return to Blantyre, and Lilongwe, she made an announcement that will change lives.

Read the statement below to know what this is all about:

During her ongoing three-day visit to Malawi, the Second Lady of the United States of America, Dr. Jill Biden, today announced the United States is donating $20 million (MK14 billion) in food assistance to support vulnerable, food insecure communities in Malawi. This brings the United States’ total contribution to the humanitarian response to $74.7 million (MK52 billion) since October 2015.

"The United States remains committed to supporting the region, including Malawi, during the difficult months ahead. I’m so pleased to announce today $20 million in assistance to Malawi through the UN World Food Program. The announcement today brings the total United States assistance to $74.7 million since the start of the food crisis in October,” said Dr. Biden while visiting a United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-supported Food for Peace project in Traditional Authority Machinjiri.

U.S. Ambassador to Malawi Virginia Palmer added, “We are working very closely with the government of Malawi and other development partners to ensure hunger does not roll back the important development gains made in Malawi, particularly for women and girls.”

Over 6.5 million people in Malawi are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the 2016 Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC)—an increase from 2.8 million people during last year’s agricultural season. Southern Africa is experiencing a historic drought exacerbated by the strong impacts of the El Niño weather event. The government of Malawi released a disaster declaration in April 2016 due to extreme drought conditions exacerbated by El Niño.

The United States has mobilized an early and integrated response to El Niño's impacts, including assistance to meet immediate needs and adaptation of development and resilience efforts to address longer term vulnerabilities, mitigate impacts, and protect gains made. The international community must coordinate quickly and at scale now to meet immediate needs as well as taking steps with the government of Malawi to build resilience to recurring droughts and other climate risks.

Since 2012, the United States has provided over $151 million (MK105 billion) of food assistance to Malawi. In addition, through President Obama’s Feed The Future and Global Climate Change Initiatives, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is supporting activities valued at approximately US$25 million annually to reduce food insecurity, poverty, and under-nutrition by increasing agricultural production and helping communities adapt to climate change.

Jill Biden Kept at Eastern Region Police Headquarters

U.S. Second Lady, Jill Biden, took refuge in Eastern Region Police Headquarters' offices when students from Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, blocked her way Tuesday morning.
Biden is in the country on a three-day visit. She has so far annonced the donation of $20 million as part of the U.S. humanitarian response to the hunger situation facing over 6 million Malawians.
Unplanned stop: Jill Biden [not in the picture] inside Eastern Region Police Headquarters as members of her security detail go outside
Biden was on her way to Zomba, but was forced to change direction as irate students vowed to stone each and every car.
Biden had to hide at Eastern Region Police Headquarters [as seen in this picture, taken by Emmanuel Mtambalika].
Biden's trip to Machinga District, where she wanted to visit some of the projects being run by the U.S. governemnt,has since been councelled.
Biden was in the company of Minister of Education, Emmanuel Fabiano, when she sought refuge at the Eastern Region Police Headquarters.
She stayed inside, as her armed security detail stood outside.

Joe Biden's Wife, Jill, Nearly Stoned in Malawi

...Her convoy forced to change direction
...The situation is tense in Zomba City

Jill Biden, wife to U.S. Vice-President, Joe, narrowly escaped being pelted by stones in Malawi’s old Capital City, Zomba, on Tuesday.
Jill is in Malawi, after arriving on Monday to fulfill some assignments.
On Tuesday, Jill was scheduled to visit Machinga District in Southern Malawi [unofficially called the Eastern Region]. The road to Machinga passes through Zomba City, which borders that former.
However, Jill’s convoy— which caused traffic jam along the Masauko-Chipembere Highway in Blantyre around 08:30 am, on Jill’s way to Machinga— had to be forced to return after irate students from Chancellor College started pelting stones at vehicles driving on the Blantyre-Zomba-Machinga route.
Students from Chancellor College— a constituent college of the University of Malawi— are protesting recent fee hike in the university. Effective the 2016/17 academic year, the University Council has pegged fees for generic students at K400, 000 [from K320, 000] at Chancellor College; K600, 000 at the College of Medicine [from K500, 000], K450, 000 [from K340, 000] at the Kamuzu College of Nursing and K400, 000 at The Polytechnic [from 320, 000].
Mature entry students have not been spared either. At Chancellor College, those who were paying K275, 000, K300, 000 and K450, 000 [according to programme] now have to cough K900, 000 at Chancellor College. At the College of Medicine, access to academic services has been pegged at K1.4 million [from K900, 000], Kamuzu College of Nursing mature entry students have to source K1 million [up from K650, 000] and students from The Polytechnic will be coughing K950, 000 [up from K275, 000.
Chancellor College students on Monday went to present their grievances to the University Office [located 50 metres from Eastern Region Police headquarters] and went blocked by police. Running battles ensued, and skirmishes have continued today.
At least one rifle belonging to a Malawi Police Service police mobile service was dismantled yesterday.
So, it seems that Jill found herself in the cross-fire [sorry, cross-stones]. And, for her act of generosity to come to Malawi on some charitable cause, Jill’s seven-vehicle convoy was forced to return back to Malawi.
Of course, not before some stones were thrown!
The incident raises questions over the ‘intelligence’ of Malawi’s intelligence services. Surely, National Intelligence Bureau knew that the situation was tense in Zomba City. And, yet, they still advised Jill to use the Blantyre-Zomba-Machinga road.
It also raises questions about the U.S. security services. Were they not warned?
What happened to the FBI?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Zimbabwe playing double standards on imports

So, South Africa and Zimbabwe are embroiled in a trade battle of imports, when the Southern African Development Community promotes trade in the block?
I find it laughable. While it is true that South Africa behaves like Big Brother watching over little sister, and uses, to some degree, the continent as a dumping site, this can only be because South African products are durable. More durable than Chinese goods! I mean, Chinese goods designed for low-income markets.
And, in this regard, the Chinese cannot be blamed as well.
Back to the Zimbabwe-South Africa issue.
It seems that Comrade Bob is worried that the influx of South African products --including water, for nature'sake, camphor [again, for nature's sake] -- is choking local business in Zimbabwe.
So, Uncle Bob decides to limit the type of products to cross the borders into Zimbabwe, in much the same way as South Africa attempted to limit the number of Zimbabweans making it across the borders into South Africa during Zimbabwe's years of economic rot.
But South Africa is having none of it. South Africa is sending a list of 100 products to Zimbabwe. It wants Zimbabwe to choose, out of the list, which ones to ban and which ones to open the borders for.
Good move.
However, I think Zimbabwe is playing double standards. Other African countries have played the dumping-site-role for Zimbabwe and meekly--like sheep that is yet to be introduced to the word 'revolt'-- accepted the position.
Take Malawi, for instance. We have apples from Zimbabwe. We have onions from Zimbabwe. We have sweet potatoes from Zimbabwe. We have salt from Zimbabwe.
And Zimbabwe wants to control imports from other countries?
And Zimbabwe has imposed heavy import taxes on goods from other countries, South Africa and Malawi inclusive?
That must, like always, Zimbabwe's kick in the mouth of Father Africa and, by extension, regional integration.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Giddes' Chalamanda's Home-Coming

Eighty-six-year-old musician, Giddes Chalamanda, fulfilled his dream of visiting the United States of America when he left Malawi for the US on June 28.

Chalamanda made his intentions of visiting the US clear in the 1970s, when he composed Buffalo soldier, in which lyrically explained that his life-dream was to visit the U.S..

That dream has been realised, and the musician even visited the Library of Congress, where he performed alongside Edgar ndi Davis.

He also visited Washington, D.C., Indiana State, apart from performing in German Town.

Well, today, Chalamanda arrived in Malawi and I was there to capture some 'moments'

The pictures 'show' some of those moments.

Giddes Chalamanda and, the last picture, Edgar Njobvu of Edgar ndi Davis duo upon arrival at Chileka International Airport.