Wednesday, July 24, 2013

To be a Mother in Africa is a Curse...Lucky You Kate Middleton

The royal baby [a topic I am dabbling in plaintively] was born as predicted, the mother walked out of the labour ward without being aided; the baby actually waved at the hundreds of news-mongers who gathered there...such a lucky family, how I wish the same was true for African women...
Lucky Kate

Fatima Mphondera is just 21, she dropped out from school before she could get to standard 8 and being married at age 20 was actually an achievement; In Chidzuma village, Dowa, Central Malawi, her friends got married by 15.

Fatima is carrying child and she is in her ninth month, she potters about the waiting area at Chankhungu Health Centre located in Dowa, an hour’s drive from Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe. She constantly moves from her room to make sure the beans she is cooking have enough fire, her mother-in-law watches her cautiously as anytime from now, her water might break.

“My village is far from this hospital and when I saw that my pregnancy was advanced I decided to come and wait it out here. I can develop complications in the village and nobody can help me there where there are no nurses.

“This is my first pregnancy and I wanted to be sure I am safe, plus the chief has banned giving birth in the village, there is a fine of one goat for anyone  who gives birth in the village,” said Fatima.

But is Fatima safe? Is the baby she is carrying safe?

About to mother in one of the most dangerous places to mother - Fatima
Save The Children the international nongovernmental organisation has just released the State of the Worlds Mothers 2013 report which places Fatima in one of the worst countries to be a mother in.

Out of 176 countries, Malawi is the 144th worst places to be a mother in, that is 144 places after the best places to be in. If Fatima was a Finn, living in Finland she would be one of the luckiest mothers.

As for Fatima’s baby, all manner of risk awaits its arrival, by
the 31st December 3 million babies will have died and out of every 10 dying six die within the first month of them being sired. And Fatima’s chance keep getting leaner as her coming from a poor family makes her an eligible candidate of the curse haunting mothers as most that lose babies are from the poor strata of society.

Fatima joins the rest of the Sub-Saharan women in being justifiably afraid. In the Save the Children report, 10 bottom-ranked countries are all in Sub Sahara. In this part, one in 30 women on average dies from a pregnancy related issue. And one in every 7 babies dies before their fifth birthday.

It is almost as if this part of Africa is cursed as many indicators seem to be worst here. No wonder Bruce Willis once said in his movies that God left Africa a long time ago.

Save the Children however says most babies that die actually succumb to preventable deaths such as prematurity, infections and complications at birth.

Back in Chankhungu Health Centre, a centre that serves about 20000 people from over 5000 households in 72 villages. Fatima joins the 87 women who deliver babies there every month.
This is advanced as a Malawian labour ward can get

Jane Sibande is the Nurse Midwife at the centre and she says that they expect about 13 birth complications every month. She lists the most common complication as loss of blood during and after birth.

“We have a motorcycle ambulance and when we have a case we cannot deal with we send it to the district hospital. We are very serious with pregnancies once a woman comes here we check her thoroughly for HIV, Malaria, anaemia and possible complications so that we put her on treatment and watch her closely.

“This has worked and the last time we saw a woman dying in childbirth here was in January and it was a rare thing,” said Sibande.

Part of the success of the hospital has come with the intensification of outreach programmes. In 2008 Save the Children trained 19 Health Surveillance Assistants (HSA) at Chankhungu in community mobilization and maternal and neonatal health.
Acting HAS Supervisor at the health centre Christopher Luvela hails that intervention as a turning point in the fight against maternal mortality in the area.

Trying hard - Sibande
“We now have 19 officers, 15 placed in hard to reach areas. We go in the villages and every pregnancy we register and follow up, we offer counselling and encourage the mother to report to hospital early, that has worked and now an HSA can go a year without a home delivery,” said Luvela.

And it is not just the hospital. The chefs in the area have made bylaws against home deliveries, anyone who dares to deliver at home pays a fine equivalent to a goat to the chief and in the village a goat is too high a price.

The community has also supplied the hospital with mats for the pregnant women and guardians to sleep on.

Minister of health, Catherine Gotani Hara when asked about the report acknowledged the risks mothers and babies face by virtue of them being in Malawi and said government is in an advanced gear to try to root out the deaths.

Hara - its unacceptable

“The launch of the safe motherhood initiative shows commitment at the highest level, we don’t want to see a mother dying while giving birth and it is just one of the efforts we are implementing to fight maternal mortality,” said Hara.

Gotani said the high mortality rates can be attributed to the fact that most mothers are young and said the solution might be in keeping the girl child in school so as to keep her away from pregnancy until she is mature.

The report recommends that country should invest in empowering women, investing in health workers especially those at the front line and in low cost technologies that can save lives at childbirth.

Senior Chief Kwataine, who heads the presidential initiative on safe motherhood, said more resources are needed in the area of safe motherhood to tackle the deaths.
Melinda Gates has said: “Any report on the state of the world mothers is by definition a report on the state of the world.”
The HSAs - are there enough of them?

 So far the world is a sick and dying one and Malawi will be the witness to this and the evidence will be the way Fatima and her peers fare.

Meanwhile the royal baby is already predicted to live long....back here, if Fatima’s baby hits age 50, it will be a record as life expectancy is way below five decades.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Haunted House at Biwi

It is the Kind of tale you would expect to hear from South Africa, in the movies or places where crime grows, to think of an innocent lady being showered with eight bullets in Malawi is pristinely outlandish and as CHRISTOPHER JIMU and yours truly, BRIGHT MHANGO found out it is reality for one Lilongwe household.

The days in Biwi are usually normal and on one such a normal day, 1 August 2012, the Tumaines gathered at their Biwi residence after a day of chores, work and business. The heavy meal, the chit chat at the dinner table and some prime time television drew some yawns and by nine everyone was in their bed.

Then bang!                 

Some three hours after going to bed, brutal surprise paid a visit to the Tumaines. As the family slept a huge rock was hurled via the window into the master bedroom by some unidentified thugs throwing the family into traumatic terror.

The Tumaines were under siege; some of the thugs had by this time also breached the main door using the same trick of throwing a rock at the door as they did the bedroom window.

And the terror of the rock being flown into the matrimonial bedroom was only the beginning as the thugs aimed their nozzles of their automatic guns into the room and fired away like they were trying to smoke out a wild animal from a cave that is the bedroom.

Alfred Tumaine, the husband, rushed into another room of the house and thanks to his quick instincts and good neighbourliness he called his neighbours, only he can tell how a civilian neighbour would help a house under siege by thugs who seem too eager to put their guns to use.

But his faith paid off. The neighbours who had heard the gunshots and had gotten the call from Tumaine senior risked their lives, getting out of their houses and started pelting stones on the roof of the Tumaines besieged abode in the hope of scaring the robbers.

The gang of thugs panicked with guns in their hands, if someone heard the gunshots and yet had the nerve to throw stones they are probably too good and very brave, they thought. And so the gang left the scene with thunderous footsteps retreating to their evil lairs to redraw their evil plans.

Two cell phones and a laptop were taken by the miscreants but that was material the unquantifiable damage the ruthless gang effected is still being counted today, months after the attack.
They put 7 bullets in her...evil doers..

As the thugs tried to breach into the house, as Tumaine senior called for backup and as neighbours rallied to protect their neighbour one person was focusing all her efforts on staying alive and that person was Margaret Tumaine, wife of grocer Alfred Tumaine.

Eight of the bullets that were spewed by the dry gulchers landed on Margaret and all bullets entered her body on the area just below the right shoulder bone, directly behind her right breast. One bullet landed in the trough that is the line of the spine.
She was shot at point blank range and was left her for dead.

As if eight bullets is not curse enough, one or two thugs also stepped on her leg as they were escaping and leaving it broken.

“In all the hospitals that I have been too I have astounded many doctors who say that I am a living miracle,” says Margaret, “I am alive by the grace of God, who is alive out there after being shot eight times?”

She is a miracle alight, two of the eight bullets smashed and clogged in her spinal cord and as a result she is paralysed from the chest down.

She narrated her ordeal at her house on Sunday, braving the pain but not able to suppress it as she spoke from her wheel chair.

The bubbly busy bee of the house that used to man the chores and the children now depends on her children and husband for her everything as the only thing she can move are the arms and head.

All pictures by Christopher Jimu
The Tumaine`s freed the war in Rwanda and settled in Malawi in 2000. It’s not been an easy life; the family being together is a mystery itself.

 “We got married when we were young but the war in Rwanda nearly separated us. At one point we went separate ways for three months but by the grace of God we met again and decided to come to Malawi. Once we got a chance to move to Malawi we never looked back because Malawi is a peaceful country,” says Margaret Tumaine, plaintively.

While at Dzaleka Refugee Camp, the couple started venturing into small scale businesses and soon they were living in Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital.

Lilongwe did not offer them reprieve from the war they freed as in 2004 according to Margaret some strange looking men invaded their house in Area 22 and demanded the whereabouts of her husband.

“They pointed a gun at my forehead and I thought that was my last day. When they searched the whole house and discovered that my husband was not around they left,” she said.

When they moved to Biwi a couple of years later gunmen came at their shop, started shooting in the air but instantly left after seeing that a crowd was gathering.

Then in early 2012, said Margaret, some strangers came to her house at Biwi some of them wearing Police uniforms but they were not allowed to enter the gate because of their suspicious looks.

“I was wondering all along why these men were following us like that and what their motive was exactly. To me I knew that they were up to something because they could not be following us everywhere we went for nothing,” said Margaret.
And then 1 August 2012 happened.

Bathed and soaked in blood, Margaret was rushed to Kamuzu Central Hospital where some medical personnel reportedly predicted that she would not live.

The husband says he has been to several hospitals apart from KCH such as Luke Dae Yang, Mwaiwathu as well as Kachere Rehabilitation Centre hoping that his wife would get better but it has remained just that, hope.

“I am very devastated because the person who was looking after our kids is paralysed. All my businesses have stagnated because I spend much time looking after my wife. She cannot sleep comfortably on her own and every two hours I have to turn her meaning that I sleep little,” says Tumaine.

He says his three children are now living in fear due to the experience of seeing their mother shot.

‘Sometime my children just start crying and it becomes tough to control them because their mother is not well. Every day we live in constant fear,” says Tumaine.

He pleads with well-wishers who can help his wife get specialist treatment outside Malawi to step in and help out so that the two bullets embedded in her spine be removed.

“We were told by some doctors that if we can get proper specialist treatment outside the country the bullets in my wife’s spine might be removed and eventually she may be able to walk again, “says Tumaine.

The Tumaines thought they had fled the war, but they found another in Malawi. It is not clear whether the assailants are enemies from their original home trying to settle some feud, people whose toes they stepped on along the way or just general robbers.

Tumaine believes his wife will walk again and as he prays for help, someone is using his laptop out there and the thugs that damaged his life are probably out there too looking for the next home to wreck.

As for Margaret, it does not need to take a course in hermeneutics to guess what she puts in her prayers and the questions she poses to her God.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

God will bless your finances, make you rich this year?

As the year 2012 came to a close, everyone was up making their own resolutions for the New Year, the economy is bad and many were bracing for even tougher times but not to Pentecostal churches.

Each year, when the year ends Pentecostal churches spring to action to print new slogans and always promise good things to the masses: “2013, year of plenty, year of harvest…”

This is reflected in the messages preached in these churches where the pastor, reverend or prophet or whatever name they chose for themselves boom and declare that it will not be next year before god blesses the church goers in their finances, business, family relations, employment and many other life’s spheres.

Are Pentecostal leaders unrealistic? Do they tell their followers what they want to hear and not what is de facto? Are the leaders writing verbal cheques that the theology cannot cash?

There are tones, there are there on free to air satellite television channels, they are there on Facebook…and they are immensely popular with the womenfolk who cry even by just holding the television as the man of god prattles his hope giving message, but when the year ends, how many women are richer?

In America in one of  Pew Foundations mega-poll, which surveyed nearly 35,000 it actually found that Pentecostal goers had the lowest incomes and have the least education among the rest of the Christian denominations.

The education part is what Roger Olson picked on in his article “Pentecostalism’s dark side” where he alleged that many Pentecostals hate intellectuals and ignore real theology for their wishy washy sensational messages.

Pen Itent a private school teacher also wrote against the Pentecostal pastors who she said are betraying their members in her rant “Pentecostal Corruption: Prosperity Gospel is a Scam

“When I attend a service at this church, I hear the pastors declare that God will make everybody rich, if only they will throw what little they do have into the offering plate. Loud confident voices echo off the palatial walls of the sanctuary, while weary, struggling believers bristle with the hope of God’s “promises.”

“My impoverished friends dance down the plush expensive carpet to the altar and pull out their dollar bills (not their food stamps and government checks, though they have those also) and cheerfully give. The pastor nods approvingly, his hands folded in prayer (a shiny Rolex on his wrist), his eyes misty,” writes Itent.

In November last year, President Robert Mugabe also added his critical voice to those criticizing Pentecostals saying there are more fake pastors now than those referred to in the Bible. He also wondered how a man and wife can all have powers of prophecies as is the case with some prominent Pentecostal leaders.
Put up this picture for no reason at all

He also blasted Pentecostal churches in Zimbabwe saying they were extorting gifts from their followers by making it mandatory for them to “give” to their leaders.

And it is easy to see that it is not in Zimbabwe only that pastors promise good living to masses get their riches and in the end leave the people poorer and themselves tycoons.

David Oyedepo of Nigeria came under attack after it emerged that followers at one of his branches in England donated over 16 million British Pounds to him after he had promised them that God would restore their riches.

Mail Online reported in October that Oyedepo ferries worshippers in buses to church where they are invited to make debit card payments and taught that obeying the churches dogma would make them immune from illness.

As Pentecostals tend to be the least well-educated group of believers they make a prime target for would-be millionaire pastors. In many ways, I am as green with jealousy as these prosperity preachers are with greed, in that the scammed believers have more faith in their little finger than I will probably ever know in my lifetime.

“They would give the shirt off their backs if they believed God wanted them to, and many of them have. These people have the purest of Christian hearts, trusting the intentions of their Shepherd as they’re led as lambs to the slaughter,” writes Itent.

Prosperity Gospel theology is bankrupt, says Itent. He rues the fact that con artists who rip off people are cornered and made to return the money while pastors never return the money the rob from their followers.

Are Malawian Pentecostal leaders in the same vein? Do they target the intellectually cursed to do away with their money? That is a question for the members themselves.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Mhango Vs Thindwa on Whether God does Exist or Not?

God: does he exist or not?

This is a debate and question that has plagued mankind all through recorded history: Is there God or not? I, BRIGHT MHANGO took on leader of the Association of Secular Humanists in Malawi, GEORGE THINDWA in grappling with the question. 

I let Thindwa do his assertions on the non-existence of God and I then countered him. He approved of this article later so all is for debate and nothing malicious.

Thindwa’s take: There is no God!

Thindwa - There is no God
 Atheists like me do not say that God does not exist. Atheists have no concept of God, are without belief in him and the term God is meaningless. It is the believer that states that God exists. So the onus is on him to prove his affirmative position.

To do that, the believer must define God and show that he exists. Given this task, the believers defines God as omnipotent (very powerful), omniscience, omnipresent (is everywhere), loving, all good and Creator of everything including man and earth. The other attributes of God include that God is the First Cause and an Intelligent Designer.

The attribute of God being omnipotent fails in the presence of evil in the world. For example, how can there be an omnipotent, omnipresent, when men in Dowa hack their wives; when people suffer and die through famines, floods or earthquakes?

Then there is the question: “Who made God?” No believer has ever answered this question to date. If God is an intelligent designer, then who designed the intelligent designer, God?  It is surprising that believers see design in this world. Many of us do not. 

This is a cruel world where nature rules; floods, strife etc. There are just also many imperfections and disorder in nature. For example,  in human body, our bones lose minerals after age 30, making them susceptible to fracture, the  rib cage does not fully protect the internal organs; the reproductive and excreta systems are so close making women prone to fistula.

It is also very sad that God only survives through philosophical arguments and by the assertions and manifestations of believers, pastors or priests. Where is God?  Why is he hiding?

The onus is on him to reveal himself to individuals or group of individuals by cell phone or internet or through his own word. Let him write up the sky that he exists. All of us will then see that and prove that indeed he exists.

It is clearly from the definition of God and from the other attributes that believers are actually worshipping in ignorance. Even his doings are suspect if he exists.

Therefore, we atheists conclude that the concept of God was devised by human beings in an attempt to explain to themselves,  what they do not understand and to accord to themselves a status in the cosmos

I will end with this quote : ‘Whatever believers  cannot easily understand, they call God; this saves much wear and tear on the brain tissues,”
Mhango - God lives

Bright Mhango’s take: Thindwa, you need Jesus!

So Thindwa wants Christians to prove that there is God? The day that happens, theology as a discipline will move from the philosophy department to the sciences sections in the universities. There is no proof using science in a matter of faith.

Thindwa and other atheists fall into a deep trap where they commit the argument from ignorance fallacy, in simple terms it is like saying: “Because I have never been to Rumphi nor have I met anyone from there therefore Rumphi does not exist.” But some things exist without us seeing them, just this month a new bird species has discovered, did that bird not exist last month?

Thindwa says for example that God does not exist because there is evil in the world. To me this is what I would call a straw man fallacy, where one deviates from an argument creates his own issue and defeats that issue he created and claim that he has won the initial argument.

It is like claiming that Bright Mhango is impotent because we have never seen his children. There are many reasons why I cannot have children, choice, time or it might be my wife. God is a sovereign being, he asks no one and needs no approval to do things, he can abandon or even engender violence at will, he has done it before, it is his world after all.

Thindwa's straw man fallacy also rears its head when he uses the fact that there is no known creator of the creator to deny the creators existence. We are not concerned of who made God, we are concerned of God who cannot be made because he made time itself as we see it, we think he has a life span because we do, but the only thing we take after God is his image not his being or might.

Nature speaks of God not against him. Thindwa actually falls into my trap when he mentions the ageing, the fistulas and the harsh side of nature to say that it could not have been created by an intelligent designer.

What made nature so intelligent, then? How did man come to be? Male and female different but made to be compatible: the penis for the vagina... DNA carries all instructions for our outlook what kick-started the first ever DNA and who implanted information on that one?

Who imparted enough oxygen on earth and who suspended earth in the galaxy just away enough from the sun to allow plants to make food? What could have caused so many species from snails to rhinos to algae?

The fistulas, the floods are all explainable using science…teen sex, water levels rising and they can all be avoided and it doesn’t need God to avert a flood.

Thomas Aquinas developed five proofs of God using simple logic and without quoting scripture. He says for example that nothing in the universe can move without being moved, and if all movement is caused, who initiated the first movement? The answer is God.

The burden of proof is on all of us believers and non-believers, if Thindwa says there is no God because he cannot see one, let him also go out deep into the galaxy to see if he really is not there at the end of the galaxy.


The argument will never settle, until God comes to settle this argument and until atheists explain why some things appear to have been started by a genius. Meanwhile as Bob Marley sang: Only time will tell.

On Bus Preachers - Noise or Essential?

At Wenela Bus Terminal, and there are buses to every other part of
Malawi, some going to Nsanje, some to Thyolo but they all do not enjoy
one thing that the Lilongwe and Mzuzu bound buses enjoy: Prayer time.
Ethical or not - a travengelist barks a prayer

The practice of travengelism is getting more common and looks like it is spreading to other parts of Malawi and some people are worried that the practitioners of travengelism should get ethical.

The buses take a long time to load, hours even and when it finally does and pulls out of the depot, a man who usually looks like any other passenger booms out and calls the bus to order for some prayer time.  The preacher synchronizes his message so that by the time the bus gets to Lunzu or Kameza round about, he should get off the bus.

One such concerned person is George Thindwa who heads the Association
of Secular Humanists. Thindwa is a confessed atheist too and just
recently he was in the news after he was booted off one such bus for
protesting against a travengelist.

In an Email interview, Thindwa said the practice of preaching in a bus
is one that Malawians should not accept and he described it as
“foolishness of the highest order.”

“These bus evangelists are achieving nothing and are just mere noise
makers. Their practice main objective is to prey on the Malawian weak
minds. As usual Malawians are so feeble to be subjected to such
stupidity with raising objections,” said Thindwa.
Tindwa- the man- says its madness

Sheik Dinala Chabulika who is the National Coordinator of the Islamic Information Bureau also spoke strongly against the practice and appealed for ethics in religion.

Chabulika said started by acknowledging the importance of prayer one travels, but he said how that prayer is conducted is what these bus preachers should carefully consider.

“Prayer should never be an inconvenience, its should happen in designated spaces or open spaces where people should choose to listen, some people are sick, some are tired and some do not believe in God in the public buses.

“Prayer is good but don’t make it a burden to others,” said the Sheik. But the Bible (Mark 16:15) said go ye and preach to all nations, are these travengelists not just obeying God by doing so?

“You cannot preach to a mad man or a drunkard, what if they curse God? These actions of forcing prayer on people can cause some to curse God and that sin would be shared by the preachers,” said Chabulika.

How about the Mosques that use loud speakers to call the faithful to prayer? Is it not the same case scenario? 

No, said Chabulika, he said where he stays in Namiyango churches can do overnight prayers but as long as it is happening in designated places, there is no issue.

To Thindwa, time is now for the “madness” to end. “Bus owners or passengers should one day stand up and stop this madness. And indeed it should be stopped. It is easy to see that it is
fraud at best- the so called evangelists demanding money when they disembark from the bus!” said Thindwa.

Some people suspect the preachers of killing an easy living because they always ask for alms at the end of their message. 

Some loathe the fact that the preachers always like to remind travelers that the bus is fallible and can overturn; they also love to remind travelers of Satan who they say send his agents to travel with innocent people so as to cause accidents.

For some it is the fact that they only preach on the intercity buses that irks them, they claim the preachers are only targeting the affluent because if their aim was to preach the universal gospel, even those buses going to Nsanje or Thyolo could be blessed with their presence.

In The Caribbean Island of Jamaica, so many people complained against the practice that the public bus company decided to ban the preachers and the head of the company Admiral Hardley Lewin actually argued that the practice constitutes a breach of peace offense.

The preachers protested and said it infringes on their right to religion and expression and they complained against what they called an attempt to secularise the Island.

"They are trying to shut up the gospel and if they do, the devil will take over Jamaica. What kind of message are we sending to young people?" Atchrine Taffe, a bus preacher told The Gleaner

The issue caused a heated debate on an internet forum called with some trashing the practice and some hailing it.

 “Our people are very gullible. They just need miracles by whatever means. The Bus preachers usually pray for accident free journey and prophecy prosperity on the passengers and at the end they collect offering. They hardly ever preach a good sermon on repentance all they
do is to manipulate the passengers to give good offerings. Because "God loves a cheerful giver”,” said one arguer. 

For some, the preachers are actually a god reminder of God’s word and being, and to the preachers, some cannot deny that it is a source of living; after all if you live by the Bible, you eat by it. The important thing is that the message goes out to all nations, secular or otherwise as commanded by the Prince of Peace.