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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Fare thee well Jafalie Mussa

Fare thee well Jafalie Mussa

I am a youth worker to the core. As I write, My tenure as Country Representative to the Commonwealth was lessened by a year due to my Harvard Fellowship. I still retain for some mysterious reasons the title Country Coordinator for Malawi. Apart from that, I moderate the think-tank- Malawi National Youth Dialogue. I am still Chairman of the Youth Alliance in Social and Economic Development Board of Trustees. My good former Secretary General Rex Nyalugwe is a board member and acting Chairman in my absence. My term of office for Counselling of Adolescent Youth Organisation-CAYO just started and I am not sure when I will be removed. The same for the Presidential appointment as a Board Director at the National Youth Council of Malawi. That is the long list of my involvement in youth work in Malawi. With the incoming Deputy Minister of Transport and Housing Honourable Gift Mwamondwe, together we worked on the motion to revive the Youth Week, that Parliament passed last year and the resolution is yet to be picked up by Government.
I have had a privilege of talking to each Minister of Youth since Hon. Kamangadazi Chambalo, the first Minister of Youth in a multi-party era. He and late Mayinga Mkandawire were the first Board members of the YASED. Years later when we met, they still asked what was going on at YASED.
I had an opportunity to meet and work with Late George Bundaunda Phiri, who agreed not to travel to Cuba but give me an opportunity instead to travel in 1997, which would end up to be one of the many foreign trips I would make on behalf of Malawian Youth. Though I have always wondered what Malawi benefited from the programme apart from chanting "Fidel"
Later the Ministry was disbanded and the Department was moved to Gender and Child affairs. I thought it was a joke. How could women who accounted half of the population, be mixed with children who had a huge presence in percentage terms and Youth another social sector that was huge. I dispatched a letter to the then President Bakili Muluzi and of course then Minister Lillian Patel. Our cries did not get us any fruit.
Lillian Patel was the worst Minister of Youth and later when she was moved to Foreign Affairs, Mary Kaphweleza-Banda was all smiles and accommodated Youth up to where the money issues cropped up.
At least she pretended to listen, made the right kind of noise but that’s where it ended. When we piled up pressure to change the operations of the National Youth Council, she relented, called for a Youth Review Conference and asked us to elect a Task Force to review Youth Programmes in Malawi. The Task Force was all powerful and headed by Linda Lisa Kabwila, with late Wales Chitsulo, Late Sara Mbingwa, Kossam Munthali, Prince Lwanja, MacBain Mkandawire and myself (I might have missed someone) that it was disbanded abruptly after its mandate was stretched to include planning of an all time expensive opening of the Youth General Assembly of the National Youth Council of Malawi. Bakili Muluzi opened the meeting, made the right kind of noise and went back to State House where the matters ended.
2004 Campaign, Brown Mpinganjira’s National Democratic Alliance and Aleke Banda’s People’s Progressive Movements had the right words for Youth and put young people in all structures. Muluzi responded a few months before elections by re-establishing the Ministry of Youth and put one Phillip Bwanali in charge. He became Minister of Miss Malawi and where camera’s were: sports. Despite being young he never bothered to listen to anyone in the youth work and had tones of misplaced advice. His tenure as Minister of Youth is rarely spoken of by professional Youth Workers.
New administration came and I am sure, Bingu was not sure where to place Henry Chimunthu Banda. He chose Ministry of Youth. Chimunthu is a former Headmaster and he is sharp in the head. He has the right type of diplomacy, but he is a politician.
He said the right words. I wrote him letters we met several times and he cooled us down with of promise working out something soon for Youth. President Mutharika himself had mentioned the introduction of National Youth Service as a stepping stone to ensure that Malawian Youth do have a basic skill and work spirit while in school. Unfortunately, Bingu has fast forgotten the Youth just like his predecessor who launched the National Youth Credit Scheme which benefited nobody except Sedom and UDF cronies. Youth workers had much hope in the promising Mutharika’s administration and even the Malawi National Youth Dialogue- the Youth Think Tank went on summer vacation waiting for things to happen. Nothing happened. And with full campaign already underway, I am not sure if the youth will be anywhere as an agenda.
Before Chimunthu moved to Energy Affairs he invited me to his office at Capital Hill and offered me a Commonwealth Youth Programme National Representative office. I accepted and went to sit at Commonwealth but my criticism of a shallow Government policy over the largest human resource area has never and I am sure will not stop soon.
Young people below 35 years make up to 65 percent of the population. And that challenges that society faces such as HIV and Aids, unemployment, poverty, crime, sexual reproductive health challenges such as early pregnancies, drug and substance abuse and others are all entrenched among them.
Chimunthu was limited by political room he could play the Youth card. Muluzi’s abuse of Youth in the name of Young Democrats was still in Malawian minds and Kamuzu’s Banda’s Youth League and Malawi Young Pioneers had also left unpalatable marks in many ordinary Malawians mind, that the word Youth was synonymous with bad politics.
Chimunthu should be commended to a larger extent for pushing for an audience with President Mutharika with the National Youth Council Board. Of course the fruit was a K1 million cheque to the General Assembly.
I always smile when I remember that I did my part too at Press Conferences with the State President, one direct question bore fruits not only for Youth, but for people with disabilities as well. I asked Bingu why he had not included Youth in his Malawi Rural Development Fund (MARDEF). He made assurances and a few days later Ndaona Vincent Muyaya my long time boss at Regional Youth Network took the seat as the only voice for the young people. He also remembered people with disabilities and got one too. I find it as of the best times advocacy paid well instantly.
We tried to integrate Youth into various areas, but writing to Economic Planning, Finance, Agriculture and Health Ministers directly that they should try to incorporate Young people in their programmes as part of empowering them. I received responses, some of them straight garbage and I will comment in detail on them as we approach the 2009 campaign when we are expected to endorse a particular Youth Friendly Presidential candidate and ask almost three million voters aged between 18 and 35 to vote for that candidate. Yes we intend to make the Youth vote felt in 2009 and we are planning for an early day fun with prospective candidates.
Finally Jafalie Mussa was appointed Minister of Youth. I as a Commonwealth Representative and Director at Youth Council was among the very few youth workers to ask him for appointment.
The soft spoken Jafalie is an achiever. When he was in Labour, I saw him publish a report of his activities, called up MP’s and met them and pleaded with them that Technical schools needed funding if the country was to develop, he got an increase that year. At Local Government he had a systematic way of developing systems.
The great news is that he was a good listener too. He asked to compile a report on issues that he could follow.
Of course as activists we also wanted Youth Week, which would give Youth a national rallying point. He did a Cabinet document on it and for some good reasons it was never followed up.
But Jafalie achieved in his tenure that ended on 10th May 2007 more than any Minister of Youth had achieved in setting the ground for Youth Development. He listened to technocrats, he launched the Youth Policy review, recruited district Youth Officers and moved in to change the issues that had made the Youth the last area of focus.
There is SWAP coming for Youth programmes in Health, I met Goodall Gondwe after I spoke in Scotland in 2005 and he assured me of funding for more officers. It happened less than a year later due to Mussa's nagging of the Minister.
When I left Malawi, I had little time to bid farewell to one of the greatest Ministers of Youth.
He was a great listener and implementor. For years Government only allocated 4 million kwacha for Youth programmes, the rest being ORT and sports getting a huge chunk, it substianlly increased with Jafalie Mussa who allowed us to lobby vigorously while he came in a supported our voice at a higher level. 4 mlllion kwacha would translate an investment of K2.50 for young people. Of course, David Faiti MP, then Economic Minister said the picture was narrow. But I still maintain that is the direct representative of Governments investment in Youth Development programmes- K2.50 for each one of the young.
There are people like MacDavis Chiluzi who deserves to be Director of Youth and hopefully one Khumbo Kachali will notice him.
I have known Kachali and we do talk when we meet, I should visit him at his office and talk again, but hopefully he will take the Ministry of Youth and the Youth agenda to become a national agenda. Unfortunately today he already started talking of sports. I am still waiting to hear plans for youth development.
With many youth dropping out of school, crime levels going up, with many young girls getting pregnant, no jobs insight, any economic programme without the youth will be a classic failure as seen in the past.
With a majority of young people getting infected, there will be a generation gap if the National Aids Commission and other players think youth are end users that require 200-million kwacha funding not one billion.
I traveled in rural areas to asses MARDEF, at Phiri la Njudzi in Lilongwe rural beyond Mitundu, they told me how difficult it is for youth to access the loans.
I have been to Linthipe in Dedza where a Chimwemwe Youth Club were building a Youth Centre and MASAF is unwilling to support a place where young people could learn skills, pass their leisure time profitably and avoid early sex and substances that have negative consequences.
Again, its never too late to act on behalf of the Youth as Jafalie Mussa tried. Goodbyee good Minister and Welcome Khumbo Kachali. Hopefully we shall write a longer one for you when you tenure ends.

1 comment:

Baldwin said...

These are words of wisdom!