Thursday, July 3, 2008

This Just In . . .

“Tumalisye Ndovi dead”

“China sends medical team”

“Couples urged to be faithful”

“The leaf that brings foreign exchange”

“Archbishop Tutu urges Zimbabwe intervention”

“Anglican forms global network”

These were the headlines in The Guardian for July 1st. The motto of the paper is: safeguarding democracy and human rights.” Let’s see how they did.

Tumalisye Ndovi was the former Police Commissioner and was slated for a cabinet position by the current president. He was born in Karonga (the north), attended all levels of education ultimately achieving a law degree.

His recent nomination for a government post was stymied on charges that he committed fraud while acting as the head of an anti-fraud department of the government. He left a wife and three daughters. He died of malaria.

After a historic visit by President Binju to Beijing “cementing” the relationship between China and Malawi, China promised to help ease the dearth of physicians for their newest diplomatic ally. They have sent a team of seven: two physicians and five “specialists.” This is just the first team, the Health Department assured the readers.

“However, both the ministry and the Chinese Embassy could not indicate the time when the other team would be arriving and the total number of experts China will provide to Malawi.”

The Malawi Interfaith AIDS Association (MIAA) announced a plan to increase fidelity among couples to prevent HIV and AIDS infections. The plan is to promote a three-pronged approach: abstinence, faithfulness, and condoms.

“Any religious person knows that our bodies are the Temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in it,” claimed Robert Ngaiyaye. “People need to follow God’s law. The Bible says thou shall not commit adultery and the Koran says thou not go near adultery. If Christians and Moslems will follow that Malawi will have faithful families.”

Tobacco prices are plummeting. At the opening of the annual auction tobacco bales were at $11. By the end of the week prices were as low as $1 per bale. The Guardian reporter Frazer Potani suggests the volatility was all a ploy. The opening prices motivated the farmers to bring in their tobacco and once in line to sell, the prices plummeted. Greed and corruption were the main culprits.

Given this volatility the tobacco market is starting to crack. While this might be welcome news in Washington D.C. or the Hague, in Malawi tobacco accounts for 70% of employment and that much or more of its export income.

“Some time back being a tobacco grower was a pride, but now those days are gone because we are spending huge sums of money annual to take care of tobacco right from the nursery beds to farms . . . [all the way to the] Auction Floors,” claimed Samson Chiputula the head of one of 150,000 tobacco farms in Malawi. “I am the sole bread winner and due to the poor prices on offer I have been struggling for the past four years and depending on borrowing money from others. As I am talking to you the people from whom I had borrowed money are on my neck.”

The UN needs to invade Zimbabwe is the call of Desmond Tutu. Zimbabwe, once the pride of Africa, is now bereft with runaway inflation, rampant corruption, confiscation of property from any non-African, and open voting fraud after brutal oppression of any political opposition.

Putting his call in more direct terms Desmond Tutu said of the UN, “If you were to have a unanimous voice, saying quite clearly to Mugabe . . . you are illegitimate and we will not recognize your administration in any shape or form – I think that would be a very, very powerful signal and would really strengthen the hand of the international community.”

President Robert Mugabe, speaking at funeral, expressed pleasure that the latest polling results show him sweeping to a resounding victory.

Meeting in Jerusalem “traditionalist” Anglicans formed a global network that no longer recognizes the Archbishop of Canterbury as their head citing the bishop’s complete failure to discipline the US churches over the ordination of Gene Robinson.

The BBC reported that “the existence of a separate shadow communion is likely to have a profound impact on Anglican churches all over the world.”

In summation: a highly educated government official dies of a treatable disease, an emerging superpower can spare two doctors, a desperate plea for people to stop having extramarital sex, a 1000% decrease in the price of the nation’s one export commodity, complete lawlessness of a neighboring country where once again the UN will act with its Rwanda strategy, and the idea that Africa might be used by Western countries to advance their own theological ends. I believe the Guardian has lived up to its part of the bargain safeguarding democracy and human rights. Have we?

Ode to an Ambulance

Part of my sabbatical experience was to look behind the curtain a bit at Malawi. There has been some of this before, but not a lot can be seen two weeks. We’ve been here now almost four and the curtain has opened a bit wider.

The view has been made possible by a deal gone awry. In February I was contacted by Jodi McGill with a great offer: if First Pres would give $5000 that would “top up” the funds needed for a new ambulance. The donation would be reciprocated by allowing us use of it during the months of my sabbatical.

The ambulance was supposed to be ready in April. Well, April turned to May and May to June. When we arrived we were told it would be just a few more days and someone would drive it up for us. Well those few days turned into four weeks.

Now the vehicle is ready but wait “you can’t have it yet” said Mr. Luhana. Mr. Luhana and I have been arguing on the phone now for three solid days. Each time his story changes a bit; each time I sense the glow of “feel at home, be at home” is wearing off.

On our last conversation Mr. Luhana expressed his disgust that a $5000 donation would be worthy of such use, that more funds were needed to equip the vehicle for its intended use, and that it must be inspected before I would ever see it.

Again and again I reiterated to Mr. Luhana that while all of these things may be true they were not part of the original agreement. “I am not aware of any original agreement,” he claimed insinuating I was making all of this up.

“We need to help each other” was his other claim. To which I kept reiterating, “I have helped you already. I’ve secured $5000 US to fund the vehicle. What is lacking is your help to me.”

At this point I went up the food chain- Mr. Mwara. This is the man who has taken Paul Mkhandawire’s post and while he seems like a very nice man he also seems a bit out of touch. The two crates of medicine we brought from the US were still in his office as was the orthopedic surgical kit meant to go to Blantyre. “I am not sure what these crates are,” he said pointing to them. “Well, let me tell you . . .” I said.

Later the next day Mr. Mwara called to say he found the source of the ambulance problems. The deal was struck between Jodi and a Mr. Bandawe (who is on holiday) and while Mr. Bandawe claims his management team knew of it, it would seem the nuances of the deal eluded them. “That is fine, but will I have the vehicle tomorrow?”

As I am writing this it is “tomorrow”. I have made it clear to all parties involved that I need the ambulance to transport my family from the airport and to do this I need to depart no later than noon today. It’s 9:00 and my phone has not yet rung. O ambulance, will you ever appear?

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