Malawi’s culture of sexual violence and rape


Malawi’s culture of sexual violence and rape: a few accounts and some socio-cultural theoretical insights

By Mphatso Moses Kaufulu

Bio: Mphatso is a Malawian cultural and political sociologist. His interests are ethnographic research in sexuality and politics. He currently writes for iAffairsCanada on Southern African politics

The gender situation for girls and women in Malawi is in my view staggeringly deplorable. Abuse in general, be it physical, emotional, sexual and social is very widespread. Economically, the work of women is either undervalued or unacknowledged: for example, in the agricultural sector, women produce more than 50% of the total agricultural output of the country: for all intents and purposes, women and girls feed the entire country even as they are often pushed to the margins of the society. In the household particularly in rural areas, the girl-child and the woman performs a majority of the tasks associated with maintaining the home such as nutrition, household hygiene, fetching water, taking care of siblings and children and so on, to the extent that countless girls (and many women today) have been forced to sacrifice their personal aspirations in order to fulfil these unacknowledged functions. In the urban areas, class is a very important factor: girls born to families in the middle and upper classes tend to be insulated from such wider expectations, as their families can afford to employ “domestic workers” and to privately purchase, through their spending power, access and “equality” for them into wider society. They too however do fall victim to patterns of sexual violence emanating from their familial structures. Poor girls from underprivileged backgrounds do not have this classist luxury, and are thus left to confront, unprotected, the masculine vulgarities of the gender-skewed social system. In addition, the severity of patriarchal violence varies from place to place in Malawi as the country is very diverse culturally and ethnically: in matrilineal and matrilocal settings, these social pressures and expectations materialize differently as the roles of women and girls are somewhat transmuted to fulfil property transference, clan leadership and lineage-tracking functions.

But generally, privilege favours men such as myself, in Malawi who often grow up under very different social and cultural expectations altogether. For us, it is the expectation that we be outgoing, adventurous, risk-takers as we acquaint ourselves with the world beyond the homestead. Also, the cultural canon is replete with layers upon layers of norms which serve as excuses for behaviours which we exhibit which would never be tolerated from the girl-child. We are taught from early on that to be masculine (to be a boy) is to be vulgar, conniving, calculating and sexually adept. The girl-child on the other hand is raised to be ashamed of her sexuality, and especially to conceive of herself as pure primarily on the terms of her sexuality. She is expected to be sexually naïve as a sign of her purity, particularly for the purpose of being sexually innocent for her future male partner: her task is to maintain her sexual purity for him whoever he might be and sometimes whatever he might be up to. In this context therefore, gender relations are given the following configuration: men are not held up to standards of purity because socially they are seen as naturally unrestrained when it comes to their sexual orientation towards women; women on the other hand are expected to be pure solely for the purpose of being one day desired and deflowered by a man, and also as a matter of their own sense of wholesomeness. This is why in Malawi sexual promiscuity continues to be a label reserved primarily for women and rarely for men. (Note: these are social expectations. Malawian women have tremendous agency in undermining or being subversive of such expectations but the matter here is that were norms are constructed in this way, sexual violence and rape can always be dismissed and justified by a social system’s most dominant actors and its dominant discourses.)

This is why it is my view that Malawi has an entrenched culture of rape which is carpeted over whenever instances of rape emerge into the public domain. Following family meetings or other symbolic forms of settlements which are almost always intended to protect the male perpetrator (who is usually, a superior, a personal friend, a cousin, an uncle, a father, a brother and close-family friend, and so on), they are dismissed. The victim’s duty is often to forgive for two primary reasons: one, to guard against disclosing the loss of her own purity because even rape constitutes a form of defilement upon her and it (in fact, this is how rapes are usually reported in Malawian media: as defilements as opposed to rapes); and two, to protect the perpetrator’s reputation within a lens which frames his sexual violence upon her as the consequence of his maleness. (In a convoluted way, the victim is made to affirm him as merely being fully a man who was only doing what men do and thus, she is must forgive him as an affirmation of this male quality even as she grapples and struggles painfully through her own defilement which is brought about by his very violent [and indeed, intended and premeditated] actions.) Even in rape, heteronormative masculinity is affirmed and protected. I cannot count the number of times I have been told: it’s just the way you men are.

Moreover, rape victims are very frequently shamed, blamed and mocked: often, they are seen as having invited the violent crime on themselves because of their clothing, certain features of their bodies, their tone of voice, where they like to visit (that is spaces commonly seen a male spaces), the time of day they are outside female spaces such as the home, for their being naïve, for their secret need for a sexual experience which they actualize through the violence of rape, and so on. It has to be borne in mind that in a gender context in which a women’s role is to be ashamed or shy of their sexuality and sexual expression, an unspoken assumption comes to pervade in which a man very often is raised to believe that when a woman rejects his advances, she is only doing so in order to project this image of her purity and sexual naivety as a way of concealing her underlying desire of him sexually. This type of programming is in practice a license to rape a woman, and a license to feel no remorse afterwards! The man, as an expression of his masculinity, is almost socially obligated to persist against her objections until she finally accepts that which she supposedly was pretending not to want. This too is a common form of harassment: holding a girl or a woman hostage as one coerces her to provide consent when she is repeatedly saying “No”. Sometimes, a “Yes” is given only so that the girl or the woman can get away from a frightening, very uncomfortable hostage situation: this too is rape concealed in a false consent. The man, on the other hand, goes away reinforced in his belief that she had wanted to do it all along.

As far as the majority of Malawian men are concerned, sexual violence and rape seems to be seen as a secondary or side issue – or as a series of isolated incidences. There is not an awareness of sexual violence as part and parcel of the Malawian social fabric; let alone as violence which women continuously think and worry about, and navigate around.  For one, the dominant political parties never seriously discuss it except for one or two platitudes evoking the moral compass deeply embedded within Malawian culture, the heteronormative obligations that good men have towards all women (largely from Judeo-Christian and Islamic perspectives), and of course, calls to a return to law and order (those buzzwords which often mean to further criminalize the marginalized, since to my knowledge, I know not of any time when Malawi was ever particularly safe and secure for women: our very citizenship at independence was gendered and gendered it has remained) in which all crimes, of which rape is only but one, will be taken seriously once the law enforcement agencies are properly resourced (a Malawian version of “All Lives Matter” to this very critical issue of why “Women’s Lives (Specifically Should) Matter”).  Underneath these attitudes are deeply entrenched feelings of entitlement dripping in a toxic atmosphere of male privilege, and therefore widespread male culpability in this culture of sexual violence.

An old relic of colonial Malawi which also perpetrates sexual abuse against women is “domestic work”. Domestic workers are essentially servants (yes, servants) in urban and suburban areas who work inside the home of their employer and often live in a servant’s quarters within the compound or in a room in the main house. They are usually female workers who are responsible for cooking and cleaning the house, baby and child sitting while the employers are at work, and carrying out any other household chores they might be assigned such as washing and ironing clothes (as opposed to what are referred to as Garden-Boys regardless of their age who work the lands of the compound, and who may or may not live at the compound). These are a very vulnerable group of women in urban areas because they tend to be grossly underpaid, severely exploited, without power and thus indentured to their employers. They often cannot afford the expenses of living in urban areas and so, part of their work arrangement is to be offered accommodation and food plus a small salary as compensation for the work they do in the home. Cases of abuse generally, and sexual abuse in particular in which male employers rape domestic workers, will often never see the light of day. Such victims, if lucky, will be quietly dismissed and sent away. In terms of general abuse, some are subjected to severe emotional and physical suffering through verbal and even physical violence. For those who work in the Asian community, some of this abuse is motivated racially and can intersect with sexual abuse and rape as well – and this too is quite well known even though very little is ever done to address it by successive governments or even civil society. In short, sexual violence against women in Malawi takes on the intersectional characteristics of gender-cultural, socio-religious, post-colonial, economic and political oppressions. Social class ascendency acquired through marriage, educational attainment and professional development, though extremely daunting, enables some women to escape the most obvious of the intersectional aspects of this regime of sexual and general gender-based violence – but never completely.

When I was in college, between 2005 and 2009, I cannot count the number of times I heard or witnessed blatant verbal abuse of female students. Some male students would, under the guise of being drunk, tour the female dormitories on campus, shouting at the tops of their lungs, every obscene thing you can think of at the female students. There was also the notorious college bus which made two trips daily to pick-up students who lived on off-campus accommodation (at the extension wings). This bus was known in the small town of Zomba which surrounded the university campus for the notorious students it ferried, who stuck their heads out of the bus, yelling expletives about women to the people it passed in town on its trips to and from the extension wings. Within it were female students as well who somehow found a way to endure and exist in this despicable, distasteful and frankly shamefully violent testosterone-glorifying daily ritual. And all of this, without consequence. I recall writing an article about this to a newspaper which never got published: it just was not news-worthy I suppose. My own sister too, in her first year of study, had a face-to-face encounter such actions: thankfully, a dormitory guard was on hand to intervene before things got worse – and thanks to our relative privilege as the children of Geology Professor, this matter was pursued with an unusual seriousness and prosecuted. Once more: class enabled her access to what should be irrevocable public protections!

And now, in only the second week of January 2018, a musician in Malawi has released a song called Rape, in which he talks about sedating girls who refuse sexual advances with alcohol, opting to rape them thereafter. Yes, there has been some outrage on social media particularly from women but as expected, there are mostly male backers of this song as well. To them, this is just what boys and men do: alas such is their nature. Moreover, they are convinced that her “No” is really a concealed “Yes” and that deep-down, she really wants to be raped too. So far, I have not yet heard a statement from any prominent political figures either – perhaps they will speak up in the days to come when it no longer matters. Civil society activists in their isolated pockets have issued statements of condemnation. And of course, I am not surprised: what else could one expect, save for such few exceptions, from a very entrenched culture of rape and sexual violence?


This article has been written in the spirit of #malotoathu.

Broken English

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By Michelle Alipao Chikaonda 

A few weeks ago I had just arrived at a formal lunch organized for my department a few blocks away from my office building, and had gone to a nearby bathroom to change from my walking shoes into my nicer indoor shoes.  I would be catching a flight out of the city later in the afternoon for a long weekend with college friends, directly after the event, and so had taken my small carry-on suitcase with me so I wouldn’t have to go back to my office.  It was out of this suitcase that I pulled my slightly worn but still solid black patent-leather wedges, repacking my tattered Converses into the space where my nice shoes had just been, and straightened myself up for the two hour lunch.

My mother taught me, many years ago when I first left Malawi for school in the UK, to always pack a chitenje in my carry-on bag whenever I travel.  For the non-Malawians reading right now, this is a large, often colorful rectangle of wax print cloth that is always worn by women, most typically wound around the waist and legs as a type of coverall, but can be deployed to multiple other uses as well.  Because the chitenje can be so many things—wrap skirt, halter dress, headscarf (a large one but still), blanket, towel, even a thin sleeping mat if one’s situation were truly dire—she insisted it was a travel essential, and regularly chastised me if she found out I had left for the airport without one packed.  I do have to admit that my travel chitenje has saved not only me but various friends journeying with me on several occasions, and so packing one when I travel is now something I do mostly without thinking, as routine as brushing my teeth or putting on shoes before leaving my house for the day.

As I opened my carry-on suitcase in the bathroom that afternoon, one of the event’s catering staff happened to walk by, towards the sinks behind us.  Spotting my chitenje at the top of my suitcase as she passed me, she pointed and grinned.


“I like your lappa,” she said.


Lappa?” I replied, unsure what she meant.


“Yes, your lappa,” she repeated, and pointed to my chitenje.  Understanding dawning in my eyes I thanked her, telling her that it had been a gift from one of my cousins, and then we chatted for a bit.  She told me she was from Liberia, I told her I was from Malawi; we mused for a short while about the similarities between our cultures despite our countries’ geographical distances from each other, and then we said goodbye and went our separate ways.  I had to get seated at my table with my coworkers, and she had to get back to managing the event tables alongside hers.

As I walked back to my table, though, I kept mulling over the word, “lappa.”  It didn’t seem like a real word.  I know, for example, that in Kenya they say kitenge instead of chitenje; but lappa didn’t seem to have an obvious etymological root in any African languages that I knew of, and I found myself, strangely, beginning to feel annoyed at the use of what seemed to be a non-word for something that was such a cornerstone element of the African experience.  But then, suddenly, it clicked: I had just finished Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Americanah,” and recalled that the word the author used for what we would understand in Malawi to be a chitenje is “wrapper,” quite literally something wrapped around oneself.


Wrapper.  Lappa.  Wrapper.  Lappa.


Suddenly I felt transported back to my secondary school years at Kamuzu Academy; specifically, the moment when someone was reading a book or announcement aloud in English and broke a word.  Not merely stumbling over it, but loudly and proudly saying it completely wrong.  “With vigor,” as one of the girls from the popular clique used to say.  There would typically be a brief half-second of silence following the break; then, depending on the severity of the breakage, people would either zuma the person for a small mix-up (polysyllabics from our IGCSE literature texts got this treatment), or burst into a coordinated explosion of laughter for a word that the observing audience decided the speaker should definitely know better than to break (think “runch” instead of “lunch.”).  Going from wrapper to lappa would have fully counted as the latter, and as the keynote speaker at the work lunch continued trundling through her talk I nearly spat out my iced tea from the effort of trying not to laugh.  Especially being in a place, at that moment, for which no one would understand what I thought was particularly funny about lappa.

Later, though, as I was waiting at the airport to board my plane, I began to think harder about the darker currents running underneath the reflex to laugh at someone’s failures at English pronunciation, an analysis I had never taken up the challenge of while I was still a student at KA.  I wonder if part of why I never questioned it is because I arrived at school in Form 3 and not Form 1 like most of my classmates, and thus being two years behind my peers in learning the rules that governed social life at KA, I couldn’t very well waste even more time trying to understand the rules when I needed to simply and quickly make it clear I could follow most of them.  I already had a significant stack of rules that I had decided to ignore—girls shouldn’t be seen eating as much food as boys; always ask someone to walk with you to the Tuck Shop; nobody wears high tops with pencil skirts, and for that matter girls from families like mine should dress better than I did.  I could at least learn and accept the rule of immediate raucous laughter following broken English.

But I also believe, having grown up in Canada with English as my first language, that the prospect of breaking English was one of the few things at Kamuzu Academy that decidedly did not cause me anxiety; put a different way, it was a rule that was almost too easy for me to follow.  Not that I never broke when reading or speaking aloud—I did, and more frequently than even I would have predicted.  But when I did break, I confidently knew—as did everyone else, even while the class simultaneously laughed at my breaking—that this breakage was a distinct anomaly for me, rather than the possible rule that it suggested about other people who broke, a possible rule implying the existence of a fatally chimidzi mindset lurking beneath the fancy uniforms and society parents who had nice cars and big houses.

Because that’s the truth about the laughter: it was never just about the English.  It was about the suggestion, even if in apparent jest, that you weren’t actually as cultured or educated as you seemed or claimed to be, which in turn suggested that there was a place you needed to go back to that was decidedly lesser than the Roman arches and vine-tressed pergolas of the Kamuzu Academy campus.  Government school, maybe, where they ate nsima and beans for dinner seven days a week and their uniforms didn’t include ties and boater hats for special occasions, but not KA.  If you were at KA then you should have known, long before passing through its great wrought-iron gates for the first time, that the English alphabet has two separate letters for the closely related but nonetheless distinct sounds of l and r; the two may occasionally meet—look at those girls, whirling in pearls—but they should never be haphazardly crushed into each other as though one didn’t understand the difference.  That’s for villagers.

That laughter, then, was at its core not just about language, but about class.  And this is what eventually made me so uncomfortable about my encounter with the catering staffer who called a cloth wrapper a lappa: despite being nearly 18 years removed from Kamuzu Academy, many times more educated in social justice issues, and now living in a society that has no patience for that kind of humor (at least not in public spheres)—my first impulse was still to chortle.  Even after Googling “lappa” and finding out that it is, in fact, the commonly accepted term for that kind of cloth wrapper in Liberia, which is to say that even people who would have attended KA’s peer schools in Liberia use the word—the fact of the seeming bastardization of the English word wrapper still struck the same locus inside my mind.  The place that regards butchered English not as an understandable by-product of second language English speech, but rather as reflective of an inferiority of education and refinement on the part of said speaker, and which further suggests, strangely, that this is fully the butcherer’s own fault.

I could blame Malawi’s colonial legacy for this, certainly and with facility.  I could even blame the more recent reality of Kamuzu Academy’s own troubling pedagogical heritage, in which students were punished for speaking Chichewa outside of the hostels, and the majority of our teachers and administrators were white and British (on explicit orders from the founder himself, Malawi’s first post-independence President.).  But I believe the truth really lies inside how our society determines the categories of better and worse, and how those determinations manifest culturally—cities are better than villages, private schools are better than all but a few government schools; and speaking English is better than speaking Chichewa, or at least strikes a higher register in the social order than Chichewa could or ever will.

Of course there are lines that may be drawn from our colonial legacy directly into this cultural phenomenon.  But this far down the road from colonialism’s demise, I would argue that it has long been our society’s mandate and responsibility to actively, consciously, decide ourselves what our values as a nation are to be, and then insistently live by those values.  And I would suggest that with nearly 90 percent of Malawians being Chichewa-speaking rural dwellers with limited government-school educations, a value set that aggressively prioritizes English-speaking, private school-educated city dwellers is one that, in a really problematic way, has precious little to do with Malawians at all.

I still break my speech sometimes; each time I do, I instinctively find myself looking self-consciously around the room to see if anyone noticed, until I snap out of the throwback and remind myself that I am not at KA anymore: nobody is going to zuma me here.  Sometimes, if my brother or sister break while speaking I’ll immediately snort and giggle at them, as they still do when I break.  But I’m going to call that a sibling dynamic rather than an indicator that I haven’t grown up or learned anything since driving away from the Ornamental Lake, Kamuzu Academy’s reservoir, for the very last time.  These days, I’m not riding so high on my English literacy, because I live now in a country where English is the first language, and in countries where English is the first language the true literacy is cultural, a space in which I am unremediably uneducated.  Movies watched and music listened to while growing up; places visited in childhood as part of the Family Summer Vacation Repertoire; slang and signifiers that are often several historical levels deep; foods and flavors that are cornerstones of this cultural experience.  A few years ago at happy hour with some work friends, for example, while discussing the Fruity Pebbles-like taste of a particular ale, my coworkers nearly fell out of their chairs laughing when I raised my hand and asked what Fruity Pebbles were (it is a cereal akin to sugary Rice Krispies, for anyone for whom this is also a burning question).  And I have finally learned to take it in stride, rather than submitting to the despairing feeling of being hopelessly lost, as I used to over a decade ago when I still tried so hard, mostly in vain, to figure it all out.  After a certain point one can never really catch up.  But I intimately know, now, the feeling of trying desperately hard to appear literate in a language that isn’t mine and never fully will be.  And, sometimes, that doesn’t quite feel like a joke at all.

Our house: The Youth Parliament of Malawi – Part I


by Sydney Chuka

Photo credits: The Shire Porter Photography 

In the last two days, I have had the distinct pleasure of attending the first sitting of the Youth Parliament of Malawi in this calendar year. As a matter of fact, it was the first time I had any interest in entering the Parliamentary grounds. No one needed to tell us as children growing up in the days of His Excellency, the late Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda, that places of national import were off-limits to children. When I grew up in the 80s and 90s, I would occasionally see the then Zomba-based Parliament building in the newspapers. The Parliamentary building, now located in Lilongwe, is the most westward landmark in the Capital City’s “axis of power” comprised of Capitol Hill, the seat of government, and Kamuzu Palace, the official residence and office of the Presidency.

As I entered the chamber of Parliament, the Youth Parliamentarians were bustling about dressed in black trousers and skirts and white t-shirts and polo shirts.  At around 0913h, a drum was banged to signal the entry of the Deputy Speaker of Youth Parliament, Hon. David Milambe. The procession was led by the Sergeant of Arms of Youth Parliament, Edgar Mtsukwa, bearing the mace over his right shoulder. The Clerks of Youth Parliament followed closely by. It was quiet a spectacle that left me with the sense that this was not a drill; this was the real McCoy. The content of the discussions in Youth Parliament will be analysed and published in a future publication. This article will instead discuss the lessons learned in observing the deliberations. But before we get there, some context will be helpful.

The Youth Parliament of Malawi was established in 2012 following the United Nations resolution to grant the youth around the world an avenue to participate in the policy formulation at constituency, national and continental levels. The Youth Parliament of Malawi has members from all 193 constituencies and are aged between 10 and 25. The disabled are represented and are assigned wardens to assist them during the entire session. The majority of the members of the House are women and women took the key leadership positions in the House: The Speaker of the House, Mary Namaya, Leader of the House, Doreen Benson, and the Leader of Opposition, Mphatso Chanza. Unlike the nationally constituted Parliament, the Youth Parliamentarians are not elected but are selected through a number of evaluations, such as interviews and essays, by a panel that includes staff of Parliament, District Councillors and District Youth Officers. The applicants include those in primary school, secondary school and those out-of-school. The selected members of the House are subsequently approved by the Speaker of the House, presently Hon. Richard Msowoya, MP.

Upon selection to the Youth Parliament, the young men and women are oriented in the art of debate and in the protocols to be observed in the House and beyond. UNICEF has played a crucial role in the development of the Youth Parliament of Malawi from its inception. This year, the Parliament of Malawi has wholly financed the session by providing meals in the Parliament cafeteria, securing accommodation for the members of the House and in collecting them from their constituencies. The resolutions passed in the Youth Parliament are taken up to the Parliamentary Committee of Social and Community Affairs, led by Hon. Richard Chimwendo-Banda, MP, which discusses the resolutions before tabling them in the main House.

Malawi is a member of the Youth Assembly of the United Nations and as such, the members of the Youth Parliament do attend international conferences on the continent. At the beginning of a session, the members of the Youth Parliament discuss the pertinent matters being faced by the youth and independently agree on the matters to be discussed. The House is then divided randomly into a government side and an opposition side. A motion is presented, seconded and debated before the emerging resolutions are presented to the Chairperson of the Social and Community Affairs Committee. The matters discussed in this session were:

1.    Corruption in Malawi

1.1.  Causes of corruption in Malawi

1.2.  How corruption affects the youth

1.3.  What should be done to create a corrupt-free generation in Malawi

1.4.  The role of the youth in the fight against corruption

2.    Youth migration, child trafficking, prostitution and pornography

2.1.  High occurrences of child trafficking in Malawi

2.2.  Youth migration in search of work

2.3.  Prostitution as a source of livelihood

2.4.  Potential solutions

3.    Environmental management and conservation

3.1.  Disruption of classes following natural disasters

3.2.  Government’s ability to enforce environmental laws and policies

3.3.  Youth involvement in environmental programmes

3.4.  Potential solutions

4.    Facilities availed to the youth

4.1.  Youth community extension workers

4.2.  Involvement of the youth by non-governmental organisations and local councils

4.3.  Utilisation of former Malawi Young Pioneer bases by the youth

5.    Energy and mining

5.1.  Involvement and participation of the youth in mining

5.2.  Reliable electrical supply

5.3.  Potential solutions

The proceedings on Thursday were a delight to witness. The Youth Parliamentarians were respectful and shared a quirky sense of humour. One of the Parliamentarians drew an applause from his fellow members when he said that he as a Youth Parliamentarian is suffering as a result of poor shelter. We laughed as humans usually do when we have to protect ourselves from matters that are difficult to absorb immediately. We knew the weightiness of the problem but we were expectant that his next words would go to The Privileges Committee instead. The honourable member did not ask that Parliament constructs a house for him.

The deliberations on child trafficking pinpointed poverty as the primary factor leading to children being trafficked within Malawi or across the borders to earn an income in marginal working conditions. According to, a report released by Eye of the Child in April 2017 highlighted that “[out] of 58 cases of child trafficking that were reported in the study … 18 traffickers were brought to court, [of which] only 9 traffickers were convicted and sentenced.” The young Parliamentarian who cited the research concluded the point by saying that Malawi is lacking strong legal structures to handle the child trafficking cases with the necessary expediency.

The child trafficking situation in the country is closely linked to the problem of youth migration. Many young people, including myself, are compelled to seek employment in more developed countries, of which South Africa is a favoured destination. To clarify, this is not just a problem affecting the youth, it is a problem affecting Malawi’s workforce. Looking at the pay structure in Malawi in both formal and informal settings, it is no surprise that many people who really don’t want to leave find it near impossible to stay. Having listened to the argument, it is clear that Malawi is going through a silent talent management crisis. If the voice of the Youth Parliament is not heeded in the main House, the country stands to lose in the medium- to long-term.

The House also heard that in one district, an average of 25 young men and women are visiting the District Council on a business day to seek travel documents so they can go seek greener pastures that are commensurate with their aspirations. In all fairness, can you really blame them for wanting a better future? Our forefathers were ecstatic driving 4×4 vehicles due to challenging road conditions; yet this generation grew up listening to “Aston Martin Music” and dreaming of arriving at their primary school in a Rolls Royce Dawn so they can make a speech on how they made it on career day.

The discussion reminded me of Bank Alert by P-Square, an African music video that perfectly speaks to youth migration. In the video, the hero, who is not gracefully dressed, is telling the heroine that he must leave Nigeria for a year so he can make an earnest living before returning to ask for her hand in marriage. As he is having this rather sensitive conversation with the love of his love, the potential father-in-law comes out of the house. Annoyed that this seemingly poor man is whispering sweet-nothings into his daughter’s ear, he rushes back into the house to pick up a saw. Fully invigorated, he chases the hero away. The next frame opens with the title “5 years later”, the hero is now flying in a private jet back to Nigeria. He is welcomed at the airport with an entourage of Range Rover Vogues and Mercedes Benz G-class wagons. He inspects the lanes of homes that he has built whilst abroad before being escorted by Police to the home of his heroine. The potential father-in-law that chased him previously, now welcomes the hero and cannot stop throwing the cash that his potential son-in-law brought in the air. The mother is dancing the best she knows how. The heroine is the envy of the community. As a present, he hands her a Range Rover Evoque. His shameful departure is now met with jubilation.

The moral of the story is this: if the hero had not left Nigeria, he could have not been the man he knew himself to be nor could he have made the investments. The music video accurately portrays the aspirational psychology of our generation. Our forefathers did not have to leave home to achieve their aspirations. However, that Malawi is now a relic of the past. The larger question at hand for policymakers is: can Malawi sufficiently accommodate the aspirations and talents of its youth?

As in the music video, the youth don’t want to leave on a one way ticket, they actually want to invest in their native countries prior to their eventual return. In addition, the native country benefits from the mental expansion that their citizens experience whilst abroad. Think about it, what would the founder of this nation have been, had he never left home in his youth? Did he not come back? Did Malawi not benefit from his exposure abroad? Is it not the story of several of Malawi’s Presidents? Is it not the story of our generation?

Looking at the Youth Parliament, I understood how different they are from those who came before them. They were from all regions, tribes and socioeconomic strata, yet they worked together for the good of the country. Their debates could have been more thorough to encompass many more views on the issues they discussed, but what do you expect from an education system that does not expand the minds of the students beyond the examinable material? There is a need to develop not only the Members of the Youth Parliament, but all young Malawians, to be well versed on the challenges they face into the foreseeable future. The Youth Parliament is selected on merit and is therefore a decent barometer on the quality of education in the country.

However, no story is complete without its villains. The Speaker of the Youth Parliament reported that a certain publication deliberately and maliciously misquoted a member of the House. It was a sad moment for the future of Malawi. The underhanded tactics usually used by the media in the mainstream political environment were now attacking the very future of the country that they need to develop. The closing remarks of the Leader of the house were memorable. She said that the Youth Parliament was not in the House for politics, but rather for national development


This story has been written in the spirit of #malotoathu.

Top 10 music videos on DJ Ice’s playlist


2018 is here but we are still not over the music that kept us dancing last year. We met up with DJ Ice, one of the best DJs that has ever done it in Malawi, to discuss the music videos that he watched the most in 2017. Hope you enjoy his selection.

10. AKA – Caiphus Song

09. Ice Prince (ft. AKA)- N Word [Remix]

08. Mathew Gold – Magnetic Field

07. Asa – Jailer

06. Zanda Zakuza (ft. Bongo Beats) – Hamba

05. Darassa (ft. Ben Pol) – Muziki

04. Bebe Cool – Katono

03. Tay Grin (ft. 2Baba) – Chipapapa

02. Martse – Tchwe

01. DJ Nathan Tunes & Hazel Mak – Gwetsa


We hope you enjoyed watching the music videos. Also watch DJ Ice’s 2016 Best Malawian Video Mix for more enjoyable music. You can follow DJ Ice on the following social media platforms:




Catching Manchester City

Written by Sylvester Chalira

This season Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City has taken the English Premier League by storm. They have set a new English record for consecutive wins (19) and, with 59 points and 61 goals accrued 21 games into a 38 game season, they are on course to beat the existing Premier League records for points in a single season (95, set by Jose Mourinho’s 2004/05 Chelsea side) and goals in a single season (103, set by Carlo Ancelotti’s 2009/10 Chelsea team).

Such is their dominance that, barely halfway through the season, the consensus already sees them as champions. With this being the case, the question of whether any of their rivals will be able to catch them in the coming seasons arises. Below we will look at the rest of the Big Six Premier League clubs and their chances of catching up with City.



Over recent seasons Tottenham have signed talented young players and Mauricio Pochettino’s coaching has consistently improved them. They have established themselves as a Champions League club and in Harry Kane they possess a striker who outscored Lionel Messi (56 to 54) in the calendar year 2017. There’s plenty to be happy about, but despite consistent overachieving they may not possess the financial clout to attract (and keep) the best players and to win major trophies. This season they have lost right-back Kyle Walker to Manchester City and fellow defenders Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld are also looking to move on to better paying clubs. For context, Kane is their highest earner and at £100,000 per week is earning the equivalent of the average weekly salary for Manchester City and Manchester United squad players.

Tottenham are building a 62,000 seater stadium to boost their match day revenue. It is budgeted to cost £400m, a significant drain on the club’s resources. Internationally, their brand cannot match the commercial appeal (or revenues) of the other, more recently successful Big Six teams and as such they will need to start winning trophies soon to maintain momentum and hold on to their best players, whose agents will be well aware of how much can be earned elsewhere.


Arsene Wenger’s coaching methods and scouting network were once cutting edge, but have fallen behind in recent years. The majority of his signings no longer become world beaters and teams know how to exploit the weaknesses of his system. He offers stability, but little else. Arsenal will be near, but not at the top while he remains manager.

The hires of Sven Mislintat from Borussia Dortmund as Head of Recruitment and Raul Sanllehi from Barcelona as Chief Negotiator show that the transition to a new setup has begun. Future success will be dependent on the club’s next Head Coach appointment having a similar impact to the last one.


Chelsea has an excellent team, but a thin squad. Like Jose Mourinho before him, Antonio Conte fell out with his superiors when last season’s League trophy win was not rewarded with ambition in the transfer market. Unlike Mourinho in 2015/16, Conte has kept the team competitive, but it is now an open secret that he will be leaving after this season. Carlo Ancelotti is in the frame to return to the club where he won the League and FA Cup double in 2010. He would probably guarantee a more aesthetically pleasing style of football, but he (or whichever other coach replaces Conte) will need the financial backing that his two immediate predecessors were denied to catch up with the new standards being set by Manchester City.

Manchester United

The previous paradigm shifting Premier League managerial appointments were made when Arsenal hired Arsene Wenger in 1996 and when Jose Mourinho first joined Chelsea in 2004. In both cases, sports science, tactics and player recruitment in English football were revolutionised and Alex Ferguson needed to up his game (ultimately to Champions League winning level) for his Manchester United squads to catch up.

In addition to astute signings, those Manchester United sides hit their peak when young players already at the club, such as Beckham and Scholes, and later Rooney and Ronaldo, were able to raise their performance levels from promising to elite. Since joining the club, Jose Mourinho has improved the team with his signings, but his capacity to mount a credible challenge to Manchester City will be largely dependent upon Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford’s learning curves. Both are exceptional attacking talents, but they will need to match the consistent match winning impact now being shown by another young forward, at Manchester City: Raheem Sterling.

United will need upgrades at fullback, depth in central midfield and a more consistent goal threat before they can match the best, domestically or in Europe.


In all of European club football, only PSG and Manchester City have scored more goals than Liverpool so far this season. Their “fab four” up front, allied with Jurgen Klopp’s counterpressing tactics, combine for a world class attack. Virgil van Dijk’s signing from Southampton this January will bring speed, physical presence and composure to their central defence and, in a deal already agreed with RB Leipzig for next season, the acquisition of Naby Keita will add a world class midfield dynamo to their ranks.

In terms of potential, at this stage Liverpool may be the best placed team to go toe to toe with Manchester City. However, they will need to find a better balance, particularly defensively, before they can reach that level. Their goalkeepers are simply not good enough, their high pressing system is crying out for a positionally aware defensive midfielder and their inability to retain possession to protect a narrow lead continues to cost them points.

Their coach and their forwards are of the requisite calibre. Two or three gems from the scouting department could get Liverpool back in the picture for the Premier League title.


Ultimately, though, the fate of the Premier League title, at least over the next couple of seasons is likely to lie in Manchester City’s own hands. They have the world’s best coach, a talented young squad, smart administrators and virtually unlimited funds available for recruitment from the UAE’s $2.5 trillion sovereign wealth.

Board bureaucracy and media warfare with then Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho had Guardiola exhausted at Barcelona after four historic seasons as Head Coach. At Bayern Munich, despite three league titles, he was ready to move on after a three year cycle. Now, at Manchester City, he is in the second year of a three year contract. He is likely to extend this period, but the rest of the Premier League’s best hope may be that he once again gets itchy feet and moves on to a new challenge before long. It will be quite an achievement if any of his rivals are able to win the league while he remains City manager.

Christmas Snapshots

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We wanted to know where and how everyone was spending their Christmas.

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Hotel Hope: Part One

By Sydney Chuka

Photo credits: The Shire Porter Photography

 Below is the plot of the play that was performed by the children.

The first scene was set in a typical Malawian village. The set was bare. You had to listen to the context of the dialogue to work out the location. As the step-daughter sat on the floor of the deck, sorting out beans for the meal in the evening; the father came home drunk. He hurled insults at her and accused her for stealing his money. She was not sure what money he was referring to: was it the money that he had just spent at the nearby pub or was he referring to the money that he had invested in her as his step-daughter. She defended herself. He attacked her. Her mother was not home. She freed herself from his grasp. She ran for her life. She did not look back.

She found her way to the city of bright lights, Lilongwe. Determined to be an independent young woman, she was the perfect prey. A Human Resources Manager of a street gang head hunted her. Without much of an application or an interview and with approval from the boss, they abducted her into their employee. She was the new starlet of their business empire. This was the hope that she desperately needed. She attended orientation. She graduated but not one of her family members were present to see the proud smile that she wore on her face. She was a professional ruse. Her role in society was to distract men as they get pick pocketed.

Back in the village, her mother Juliet came home and found her daughter to be missing. She asked her small-village Romeo of the whereabouts of their daughter. He denied ever having a daughter. Armed with a heart of love, he beat her and the other children under the roof of his protection. The scene resounded with a different but yet applicable meaning to the Shakespearian words of Friar Lawrence; “These violent delights, have violent ends.”

Elsewhere their missing child had become a masterful pick pocket. Her beautiful smile got the attention of men. She sold an alibi that was so captivating that few would remain indifferent to. The street gang watched her every step as they were on full alert to provide tactical support should things not go according to plan. She reported another successful stint and handed over the loot. She got a meagre commission for her efforts. She struggled to make ends meet. She needed a new job that would give her a worthwhile bonus for her stellar performances. She expanded her professional offering. She solicited her first customer. She sold the only thing that was completely her own; her own body. The admission fee was K10,000. For the first time in her career, she made a profit. She now had real hope. A small reward for an otherwise costly transaction.

As she became a hit on the street, another head hunter spotted her. A gold mine she was. He invited her for a coffee and told her of their boss lady, a respectable woman who could provide access to the big shots. No more dark alleys for her. She would now eat in the finer restaurants, wear glitzy dresses and most importantly, she would become somebody. A force to be reckoned with. Same job, greater rewards. She liked the proposition. She joined. Not long after, her seven-to-five employer noticed the trails of her unexplained wealth. They called for an investigation. It revealed reports of an ever expanding social network. Her two employers fought over her.

A few months later, the golden goose returned to the village. She was ill and pregnant. The violent ending of an otherwise colourful career in the city of bright lights, Lilongwe.

As one drives through Lilongwe on the M1 road, one cannot ignore the bright red lettering “Simama Hotel”, one of the Capital City’s most notable developments in recent years; nonetheless many people ignore another hotel right across the entrance of Simama Hotel. Having lived in the Capital City for most of my life, I only discovered its existence yesterday. As much as I call it a hotel, it is not registered as a hotel, you will never see them advertised at a tourism expo; but they do have staff, a kitchen fitted to feed a large group, a dining room, guests and a checkout registry. Unlike most hotels, the staff of this hotel actually stays in touch with its guests upon their return to normalcy. It does not have late checkout fees and its doors never close. The beauty of this hotel is not in its architecture, frivolous pomp or great reviews on tripadvisor; but rather in the stories of its inhabitants: the street children of Malawi.

I contacted the organisers of the event after I saw the event on Facebook. The poster simply read “Christmas with children from Lilongwe”. Since we are a newsletter focussed on the youth of Malawi around the world, we did not need any further motivation to attend. The future of Malawi would be there and so would we. The date was set. The directions to the venue sounded simple enough but that did not prevent me from getting lost. I was to get to Simama Hotel, turn left and then a right and before me would be signpost. I drove around the neighbourhood for some 15-20 minutes, stopping occasionally to ask for directions. In all fairness, the hawkers in the neighbourhood did not even know the place. About to give up, I met an elderly lady who directed me to the Social Rehabilitation Centre. As I drove in, I realised why I could not locate the venue, it barely had a readable signpost.

Feeling guilty for showing up 10 minutes late, I got to work immediately. The children were gathered in a dimly lit room with green and black plastic chairs, cream burglar bars and light green walls. The children were playing Lilongwe Got Talent, a localised version of Britain Got Talent in which each member of the audience was also a judge. The participants would dance to the song being played. The audience would then cast a vocal vote as to whom ought to be eliminated from the contest. The dancing was competitive as every participants used every ounce of energy to twist their bodies to the rhythmic reverberations played by the DJ, Chifundo Tembo. The audience cheered fervently. The finals were between a volunteer, Jabulani Maseko, and one of the children. Jabulani was older than his competitor and from the dancing, one would tell that Jabulani was no longer close the streets, the academy of African dance. The audience unanimously voted against Jabulani. The winner stood in front looking rather exhausted. The audience asked for an encore and the winner obliged. He had fought hard. He was awarded a pair of purple framed sunglasses by one of the volunteers, a much deserved Christmas present. In an act of humility, Jabulani carried the winner when he held him by his legs. The audience cheered once more. The audience joined him on stage and they all danced along. The winner held his neck up high, head above everyone in the room. A good seed fallen on bad soil.

As lunch approached, the guest of honour had not arrived. I feared that she might not show up at all; which would be a let-down for the children who have not even been priorities in the homes of their birth. Whilst we waited for her arrival, a volunteer talked to the children of the role of their initiative, Thanthwe, a non-profit startup by Sellah Singini, Tionge Kulemeka and Violet Machika. The volunteers seamlessly filled the time with a hip hop freestyle contest, stand-up comedy and poetry recitals. Whilst this was going on, the guest of honour, Hon. Patricia Kaliati entered the room. She apologised for late arrival as there had been a mix-up after the rescheduling of the programme.

Most people know Hon. P. Kaliati as a politician but here in this unmarked building, standing before people too young to vote, she became a mother. Until now, I had not ever been in the same room with the Member of Parliament. As a student, I remembered politicians paying our school a visit to give a speech that had next to no relevance to the audience. The teachers would smile and the students, the ploy of a political photo opportunity, would clap that the speech was finally over. As these recollections were racing through my mental processor, the guest of honour started to speak. She opened by saying “Giving is not about having much but it is about the heart.” She pointed out that most of the children at the Social Rehabilitation Centre and those in the streets of Malawi actually have parents who are still living. She called on the attendants to make the right choice of having the right number of children and to make the commitment to provide sufficient support their children. She called out irresponsible men who plant children everywhere they go and subsequently neglect to meet their basic demands. Of the women, she advised them that bearing a child for a man is not a way of buying the love of the man. To the yet-to-be married youths, she said that marriage is about choosing a great prisoner, someone with whom you can work within the confines of your circumstances to raise a happy family. She said that bearing children irresponsibly does not provide justifiable grounds on which the children should now be sleeping under bridges. She told the children present that God has a plan for their future and welcomed them to take up civic duty in the country in whatever capacity they find befitting should it be as President of the Republic of Malawi or as Members of Parliament. She closed by saying a truth that should be obvious but is not as obvious: God never created a street child.

Lunch was soon served. I met with Mary Malunga, the matron of the Social Rehabilitation Centre, a part of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Community Development. She said that the children coming to the centre were either street children or were referred there as part of the social welfare programmes operating all over Malawi. Sometimes, the children get to the centre before they are even old enough to enrol in primary school. She cited that parental divisions (usually involving a step-parent of the child or grandparents of orphaned children), peer pressure in unconducive environments, and poverty were the primary reasons that drove the children out of their homes and into the streets. The centre also partners with Sweet Aroma; a faith organisation that teaches the children music amongst other things that will help them to integrate in their communities when they eventually check out. They later on performed some songs such as Udolo from their CD.

The lunch itself was special. The children enjoyed a humble Christmas feast. No one went without. The guest of honour actually served the children. They sat on their chairs and ate quietly from their takeaway boxes. I wondered how many of them couldn’t wait for the day when such a meal would be provided at their tables for them to enjoy with their own children in the comfort of their own homes. There was a harmony I don’t usually see between young children and those slightly older than them. There was no sign of bullying. No one was hustling another for an extra piece of chicken. Had the children learned to treat each other as brothers and sisters, looking out for each other’s wellbeing? The guest of honour joined the children and ate with the children; she actually went around the room getting a spoonful from the children’s boxes. The children ate together with the guest of honour.

Reflecting on the event, I realised that I watched a different kind of a Christmas play. The children were not enacting the work of a strange playwright, they were enacting their lives. Last week, I wrote about attending a different kind of Christmas Carols at Gateway Mall. Maybe the world is changing. Maybe Christmas for the young generation is not about getting but rather giving. Watching the young organisers working to organise the event, prepare the food, provide the music; it made me realise that even if Santa doesn’t land on roofs in Malawi, there are many santas in the form of young people who are devoted to improving the condition of those coming after them. The message to those children was that Rudolf the Reindeer is not here but we, your fellow Malawian brothers and sisters, are here for you. There are many stories that tarnish the image of street children; reports of theft, assault and even murder. For myself included, I avoid them where I can. It was safer to avoid them than to understand them. The term “street children” is one that I never examined at length until I spend a day with them. Watching them dance, joke, chat, perform a play, sing, eat as children do all around the world; I had the epiphany that even though they might have no valid residential address, they are just children.


This article has been written in the spirit of #malotoathu.

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