Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Visiting LGBT community address Malawi clergy


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is with great sadness that we write this letter in the hope, that for the sake of the God’s compassion and grace, you will take the time to read our testimony which follows here;

We came to this conference with grateful hearts to the organizers of the MCC for taking the courage of organizing this dialogue on such a difficult topic. We were also grateful for the possibility that we might give our witnesses as fellow Christians on what it means to be a gay Christian, especially in the light of the fact that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Malawi are unable to fulfill this function out of fear of imprisonment and/or out of fear for the church itself. This fear is very real because so often they have suffered under those who proclaim to preach the Word of God but instead make judgmental and prejudiced statements about their lives without ever listening to their stories.

When this opportunity for dialogue arrived, we were hoping that the Church shared our understanding of dialogue, that it means creating safe spaces where people of different orientations or opinions can respectfully and without fear become vulnerable to each others’ stories and background.

We were saddened that the unconditional Grace and message of love and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ were never mentioned; instead we felt that we were the subjects of severe Bible bashing by those who objected to our “international presence” stereotyping and caricaturing of what they thought were our sinful existence.

If we were granted the opportunity to speak about what homosexuality means to us – as the agenda intended, we would have shared with you that we believe our lives not just to be about sexual acts or behavior. We agree with the church worldwide that there are heterosexual acts as well as homosexual acts that are perverse and deprived of all values and norms. But as Christian gay, lesbian and transgender people, we also seek to be followers of Christ. As such, we would have hoped that you would have recognized in us fellow brothers and not international foreign voices that seek to influence you.

My story as Victor Mukasa would have been brief and vulnerable. Born as a woman, I realized from an early age that my gender identity is not that of a woman but of a man and I experienced this as a mistake of nature that gave me the genitals of a woman, while my hormones, my brain and my whole constitution and self identification has always been that of a man. I would have told you that the T in LGBTI stands for Transgender. I would have also told you, in case you doubt that we use the word ”mistake of nature”, that intersex people are living proof that such mistakes do happen. Thousands of babies worldwide are born with ambiguous genitals. This means that they have both, almost unidentifiable, male and female organs. So from the outside, it is impossible to say whether they are a man or a woman, and its often the parents, at an early age, that decide that they want this child to be a man or a woman and so they remove one sexual organ and very often thereby condemning this child to be of a gender identity that does not reflect the hormonal or emotional make of that child. This is what I would have told you with regard to gender identity and also about intersex - it is not to be confused with sexual orientation. The majority of gay and lesbian people are happy to be a male or a female and do not want to be the opposite sex regardless of what stereotypes are saying about gay and lesbian people.

But much more important than this technical information, I would have told you about the hurt, pain and rejection I suffered at the hands of the Church in this journey trying to find my gender identity. I had no choice in this matter. I nearly lost my faith in a loving God due to this rejection, but I am grateful that I discovered that it is God who made me the way I am and that His grace is sufficient for me. I am personally saddened that those that I look up to for protection and compassion, the Church leaders, are the ones who stated, at the beginning of this conference, that you regard me as your enemy.

For me, Pieter Oberholzer, it was sad that I, as an ordained South African Minister, had to be asked as my gay brothers and sisters in Christ from Malawi were too intimidated to do this. I saw this as an occasion to share my personal journey with God and the Church. I was so sure that as ambassadors of God, I would find willing ears and respect for the fact that we are all created in the image of God from my brothers and sisters present at this consultation.

I was deeply saddened, insulted and alarmed that fellow brothers and sisters in Christ compared my life to that of adulterers, prostitutes and promiscuity. I would have shared with you the ten years’ struggle with my God to take this orientation away from me. During that struggle, I have never given myself over to “sinful desires” or to a life of rebellion against God. I was called at the early age of five to serve God and my whole life was geared towards my call. It was a shock of tremendous proportions to discover in my late teens that I was emotionally, spiritually and sexually attracted to people of my own sex. I have tried everything in my power to steer away from that, including, barbaric aversion shock therapy, getting engaged to a woman that I did not love (I have never ever been drawn emotionally or sexually to a woman). By the grace of God, I discovered that if my church, the Dutch Reform Church of Southern Africa, could be so wrong in their biblical defense of apartheid, they can also be wrong in their biblical defense of my homosexual orientation. It is only by the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life that I came to accept that God created me just the way I am. I am also grateful that God has given me a partner and that I have been, for nearly thirty years, in a loving, respectful relationship with one man. It was therefore my earnest prayer that you as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ would have recognized in my personal journey and witness that I love Christ and want nothing more than to follow Him.

Through our stories hopefully you would have discovered that LGBTI Christians (Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex) cannot be defined by Men Having Sex with Men (MSM) or even, for that matter, with any reference to purely sexual acts as our lives testify that homosexual orientation is very similar to heterosexual orientation. We have not chosen our orientation neither are we driven by sexual desires resulting in certain acts. You would have heard from us, as we said in the beginning, that homosexual acts that are not born out of love, responsibility or faithfulness are wrong in our eyes and can be performed by heterosexual as well as homosexual people.

We write this letter to you, not because we so desperately want to be heard, but because we believe for the Church to be true to the gospel of love, compassion and hospitality. Now is the time to enter into dialogue with ALL God’s children, regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation. We are saddened that in our experience of the proceedings of yesterday morning, that your fear of us is a dark moment in the history of the Church of Malawi and a sad day for the grace of God.

Our prayers go with you and the rest of the proceedings, that you will allow the Holy Spirit to make you channels of hope and compassion to all those in your country that presently are hurting through the rejection by the Church and society while they are desperately seeking the community of the Church.


Victor Mukasa and Reverend Pieter Oberholzer

Mangochi, 17/March/2010

African medicine vs. science

Biblical origins of herbs
In Genesis 1 of the King James version of the Bible, verses 11 to 12 to be exact, God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

“And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”

In Genesis 1:29, "And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat."

Herbs were set apart from other forms of vegetation even in the beginning with an example in Genesis 2:5 which reads "And every plant of the field, before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew.

Most English dictionaries define herbs as a plant used for adding flavour to food or as a medicine. Traditional healers are known to plant various herbs in gardens or hunt for them in the bush including barks from trees but a large number of Africans now think it‘s evil.

Herbs are mentioned throughout the King James Bible including frankincense and myrrh, the two gifts brought by the three Wise men to the baby Jesus.

According to a Herbs in the Bible website, frankincense represents holiness while myrrh is very aromatic and resinous and is obtained from thorn trees.

“Many believe the myrrh was to symbolize the suffering that would come to Jesus in the future, perhaps referring to the crown of thorns He would wear on the cross”.

Mustard is another famous New Testament herb, mainly mentioned to note comparisons about size while other herbs mentioned briefly in the New Testament, are cumin, mint, and dill in Matthew 23:3, reads www.essortment.com.

The same Home & Garden site show that mint was popular in Biblical times as a condiment and medicine, and grown throughout the Syrian region.

Cumin was used in breads and stews and was also a popular herb for tithing while rue known as the “herb of grace” was used as medicine and in cooking.

Another herb called gall which in Hebrew translates to "bitterness" is mentioned several places in the Bible but most famously at the crucifixion of Jesus.

At that time it was mixed with wine and offered to those crucified to relieve pain, as it is actually the juice of an opium plant and therefore used as a narcotic.

The Old Testament abounds with mentioning of herbs with aloe singled out in Numbers 24:6, "..like valleys that stretch out, like gardens beside the river, like aloes planted by the Lord, like cedars beside the waters".

Coriander also has numerous Old Testament references and was used medicinally and as a spice while hyssop known as a holy herb used to cleanse sacred places is also referred to frequently in the Bible.

Numbers 19:18 shows how a clean person shall “take hyssop and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it on the tent and on all the furnishings and on the persons who were there."

Along with other herbs and spices, saffron is mentioned in Song of Solomon 4:14, when he is expressing his affection to his lover.

"Nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all the trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, along with the finest spices. You are a garden spring,..". To be likened to herbs and spices at that time was a prized compliment.

Southernwood, which is often grown today for its fragrant properties, is a species of wormwood.

Some herbs are used not only for culinary and medicinal purposes, but also for psychoactive or recreational purposes such as cannabis.

Nyanga tales

While the average Malawian usually avoids using herbs when cooking, others especially villagers still use medicinal herbs (mankhwala azitsamba) to cure illnesses and various diseases.

Others associate herbs with black magic and witchcraft spells involving the occult and satanic evil forces.

These include what is locally known as nsupa, a narrow necked calabash dressed in beads around its “waist” on an “hour-glass like figure” made from a fruit called mponda, a “poisonous” gourd forbidden to eat.

Also on the evil list is maula some kind of a magic oracle operated by a goat horn. Some traditional healers locally known as asing’anga amizimu usually treat ill patients with herbs and use a Bible or pray before administering their herbs.

WHO promoting traditional medicine

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 80 percent of the population in some Asian and African countries depend on traditional medicine for primary health care.

Likewise in many developed countries, 70 to 80 percent of the population has used some form of alternative or complementary medicine like acupuncture.

Herbal treatments are reportedly the most popular form of traditional medicine, and are highly lucrative in the international marketplace.

Annual revenues in Western Europe reached US$ 5 billion in 2003-2004. In China sales of products totalled US$ 14 billion in 2005 and herbal medicine revenue in Brazil was US$ 160 million in 2007.

But not many countries have national policies for traditional medicine and scientific evidence from tests done to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of traditional medicine products and practices is limited says the WHO website.

“While evidence shows that acupuncture, some herbal medicines and some manual therapies (e.g. massage) are effective for specific conditions, further study of products and practices is needed,” it states.

In response WHO and many member states cooperate to promote the use of traditional medicine for health care. The collaboration aims to support and integrate traditional medicine into national health systems in combination with national policy and regulation for products, practices and providers to ensure safety and quality.

It also aims to ensure “the use of safe, effective and quality products and practices, based on available evidence and acknowledge traditional medicine as part of primary health care, to increase access to care and preserve knowledge and resources; and ensure patient safety by upgrading the skills and knowledge of traditional medicine providers.”

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Kuthyola Dansi

Wow. I still remember Favoured Sisters and Ethel Kamwendo-Banda dancing for the Lord at a Baptist Church fundraiser with gospel artists in December last year. They were a marvel to watch at French Culture Centre and kept me on my toes!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lost banana capital

There was drama in Limbe the other day when City officials in a cat and mouse chase with food vendors with goods along the dirty streets confiscated this bunch of bananas from a woman hiding behind a tree squashing them on the ground with their shoes.

The woman broke into tears saying she had lost capital and expected to buy "ndiwo" vegetables and dried fish for her evening meal with her son. Friends trying to calm her down also ended up crying. It is illegal to sell food in the streets but in produce markets, shops etc.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

From metal to ashes

From metal to ashes in seconds

Firefighers putting out fire on a refuse collection truck in Limbe.

Fire destroys truck

Imagine sitting in an office and suddenly seeing people outside the window running for their dear lives shouting and screaming as if "a tsunami" is after them. When you go to check and see what has scared the "hell" out of the fleeing mob you notice a refuse truck on flames right near three filling stations.

All of a sudden a explosion sound rocks the area as the flames burn of the leaves of nearby trees just like in a movie. There is panic and fear on the faces of many in nearby buildings in Limbe thinking the fire will cause a major explosion and tragedy with petrol/diesal filling stations nearby.

The refuse truck is reduced to rubble as the high flames conqueror while excited vendors scream "the spirits are angry" while running up and down, now brave to get near the pile of ashes.

Smoke is in the air as firefighters still fight off remaining flames inside the truck with calm eventually conqueroring when the main fire is put out.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Clergy meet boots out gays

Three visiting Christian gays chased out of a Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) homosexuality consultation workshop in Mangochi are annoyed with “insults” showered on them by angry pastors.

“I am personally saddened that those that I look up to for protection and compassion, the Church leaders, are the ones who stated, at the beginning of this conference, that they regard me as their enemy, “ Victor Mukasa, a Ugandan gay activist, said.

Mukasa, also known as Juliet, attended the workshop along with Chivuli Ukwimi, a Zambian gay , and Rev. Pieter Oberholzer from South Africa. They described their treatment by the pastors as “homophobia”, saying it was worse than in Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa.

Divided religious figures during the MCC meeting in the presence of the three labelled them “sinners, unwanted visitors and demonic.“ Other pastors pleaded they be given a chance to talk so that they know more about the sensitive issue of homosexuals, lesbians, trans-gender and intersex people.

Ukwimi, who was subjected to a police search on his way to Blantyre, described the angry pastors as “modern day Pharisees and Sadducees who would have stoned Jesus Christ during his time for associating with outcasts.”

Oberholzer, with a Masters degree in theology, who had shock therapy treatments to stop being gay also felt saddened, insulted and alarmed that “fellow brothers and sisters in Christ compared his life to that of adulterers, prostitutes and promiscuity.”

Other pastors described homosexuality as a bigger and worse sin than adultery, defilement, rape, theft and murder and attacked guest speaker on homosexuality causes, Charles Chilimapunga for lecturing sociology without referring to the Bible.

A statement dated March 17 and signed by Mukasa and Rev. Oberholzer also shows their subjection to “severe Bible bashing, stereotyping and caricaturing”. The three were however full of praise for Reverend Canaan Phiri, MCC general secretary describing him as a kind father figure with Mukasa referring to him as “papa”.

Some pastors fearing a gay presentation could convert them attacked Rev. Phiri for allowing the three to attend. They also attacked journalists for showing up at the opening meeting.

However, Phiri in an interview and almost in tears said MCC invited the three to explain the difference between intersex and sexual orientation among other things.
He wanted the meeting to decide how best to treat inter-sex Christians born with both genitals and previously known as hermaphrodites.

A speaker was however briefly able to explain how his late cousin and an aunt born with male and female sex organs struggled to behave “normally” while living in a Malawian village.

“Born as a woman…I would have told you that the T in LGBTI stands for Transgender. I would have also told you, in case you doubt that we use the word ”mistake of nature”, that intersex people are living proof that such mistakes do happen. Thousands of babies worldwide are born with ambiguous genitals. This means that they have both, almost unidentifiable, male and female organs,“ wrote Mukasa.

Mukasa who works as a programme associate for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission also accused some members of the Malawi clergy of treating them like lepers and the hurt, pain and rejection suffered at the hands of the Church when trying to find a gender identity.

“I had no choice in this matter. I nearly lost my faith in a loving God due to this rejection, but I am grateful that I discovered that it is God who made me the way I am and that His grace is sufficient for me,” he wrote.

According to Rev. Phiri, being inter-sex is biological and not sinful like homosexuality citing an example of South African athlete Semenya who was condemned for allegedly having both genitals.

“We don’t understand intersex people’s behaviour because we stereotype them as homosexual which we condemn but we should differentiate between those who choose to have same sex intimate relationships and those born that way,” he explained.

The meeting finally resolved that homosexual acts and practices are un-Christian and gays were sinners who need love and prayers. The MCC also urged the government not to bow down to donor pressure to accept gay rights in exchange for financial aid.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A hill...once upon a time

Maybe my eyes are cheating me, but it looks like people are digging into this hill in Manje, Blantyre leaving it naked as they to create land to build houses. It's sad how the once beautiful and many trees on top of hills have been cut down. It's time to preserve and save our environment, people should stop wanton cutting of trees and not put up shady structures on top of hills. Haven't they heard of Napolo or landslides?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lake Malawi in Mangochi

Guys I have just returned from Mangochi where I took some time out to admire the beautiful water of Lake Malawi, birds and nature. I love my country and God has surely blessed it with beautiful scenery although some people here don't realize this, cutting down trees and polluting water bodies. God bless Malawi!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lunch is served...

I was at a braii Sunday afternoon, stuffing myself up with meat and chicken especially the "feet" on the right side of the picture, it was delicious.

In this picture, the chicken is half way done.

AIDS risk for Malawi’s gays

Research conducted in many parts of the world reveal that HIV prevalence among Men having sex with Men (MSM) regardless of the nature of the Aids epidemic is up to ten times higher than that of the general population.

In Malawi, a study done in 2008 showed 56 percent of MSMs are bi-sexual either married or having sex with girlfriends.

However, out of an estimated 10,000 MSMs in the country, many reportedly hide fearing being arrested since sodomy is still a crime and not culturally accepted by many Malawians.

Others also globally known as sexual minorities are lesbians, gays or homosexuals, transgender and intersex people.

According to a statement dated March 3 from the Unaids Reference Group on HIV and Human Rights, “the vulnerability of homosexuals is compounded by the fact that their health needs are overlooked or ignored in national Aids programmes largely because of prejudices and discriminatory legislation criminalising them.”

The Reference group which advises the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) on all matters relating to HIV and human rights is independent and does not reflect the views of Unaids.

The group has since appealed to Unaids to intensify its engagement with governments and civil society to “remove sexual orientation laws and end harassment, arrest and prosecution of members of sexual minorities” especially in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America.

They also believe that laws criminalizing sexual acts between consenting adults are violations of the rights to privacy, liberty and non-discrimination and that forensic medical examinations conducted on individuals as part of prosecutions under sodomy laws to prove homosexual conducts also violate privacy rights.

The Reference group recommends that Unaids action include ensuring safety and “safe havens” for sexual minorities and producing and using data and other strategic information that illustrates how HIV is affecting MSMs.

Others are law reform processes and supporting civil society organisations to gain access to prisons and police stations where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people are detained and “join their advocacy for their safety and the dropping of all charges based on or motivated by sexual orientation.”

In reaction, Gift Trapence, Executive Director for Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) observed that the criminalization of same sex relationships is driving MSMs underground and making it difficult to reach them with HIV/Aids related information.

“That’s one of the barriers for access to health for the MSM community in Africa and any other country. I think the only way to fight HIV/Aids is to have a holistic approach rather than having those single interventions targeting specific groups,” said Trapence.

Meanwhile the arrest of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga popularly known as Aunt Tiwo after a same-sex engagement is still making international headlines with Amnesty International recently calling for their release.

The Malawian gay couple whom OutRage!’s Peter Tatchell has described as prisoners of conscience have reportedly requested assistance from lobby groups.

Tatchell sends money to buy them food and clothes through Association for Secular Humanism in Malawi‘s Executive Director, George Thindwa who visits them at least twice a month.

Trafficked Malawian girls sell sex abroad

Malawi is a source, transit, and destination point for women and children trafficked for sexual purposes locally and to brothels abroad, particularly in South Africa, a 2009 Human Rights Report on Malawi released March 11 by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton indicates.

The Country Reports on Human Practices posted through Facebook by the US Embassy in Lilongwe also shows that victims trafficked to South Africa were typically between 14 and 24 years old and were recruited with false offers of marriage, study, or employment.

The report which credits Malawi with respecting human rights despite some problems involving the police and mob justice, provides specific and detailed pictures of human rights conditions in 194 countries around the world.

Among many other things, it says there were no political prisoners or detainees in Malawi but perpetrators of past abuses were occasionally punished, but investigations often were abandoned or were inconclusive.

It also notes discrimination against gays while crediting Blantyre Child Justice Court Magistrate Esmie Tembenu with continuing to lead a program to remove children from prisons and put them into reformatory centres.

It also notes no protective services available to Malawian trafficking victims returning from other countries in the absence of anti-trafficking legislation.

The report describes traffickers involved in land border trafficking to South Africa and Tanzania as long-distance truck drivers, minibus operators and local businesswomen, who also travel regularly to Tanzania, South Africa, and other neighbouring countries to buy clothing items for import.

Children and a smaller number of women from Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Burundi, and Zimbabwe were also trafficked to Malawi for forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation.

“International trafficking was done on valid travel documents obtained through unlawful means. The country's easily forged passport was used regularly by traffickers.

“The government continued attempts to remedy the misuse by recalling the passports and issuing a new type with enhanced security features. Trafficking occurred at both unmonitored crossing points and official points of entry,” partly reads the report on the US Department of State website.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and government officials in separate interviews confirmed putting in place measures to stop human trafficking.

According to a report on the internet identified as the South African Police Service (SAPS) Criminal Intelligence Division, more than 300 crime syndicates are operational in South Africa.

Some are suspected to operate brothels equipped with their own airstrips, helicopter pads and the latest electronic link-ups for businessmen. A number of local girls are believed to be working as high-class prostitutes in South Africa earning a lot of money.

Others are smuggled in and out of Malawi through border posts especially Mwanza. However, the annual US report on Malawi says the law does not “prohibit specifically trafficking in persons, and women, children, and men were trafficked to, from, through, and within the country. The government attempted to combat trafficking using existing laws.”

The report also shows that children were primarily trafficked internally for agricultural labour but also for cattle herding, domestic servitude, commercial sexual exploitation, and to perform menial tasks for small businesses.

“Some convicted child traffickers were sentenced to prison or required to pay fines; however, trafficking was usually treated as a misdemeanour, and perpetrators often paid only a small fine,”

The Police and the Ministry of Gender, Child Development and Community Development are also credited with handling cases brought to their attention and providing some services for victims, including counselling and reintegration assistance.

It said the ministry repatriated victims to their home villages, children were resettled with their families and most offenders were fined.

Gender, Children and Community Services Minister, Patricia Kaliati in an interview confirmed arrests and government strengthening Malawi’s borders and sensitizing citizens about the dangers of human trafficking.

“We are strengthening borders to stop human trafficking, people have been arrested for trafficking those working in gardens. We are putting measures and sensitising people under funds from Plan Malawi by putting billboards explaining how trafficking is bad as we approach the 2010 World Cup in South Africa,” said Kaliati.

She explained how her ministry’s is removing beggars, street children and girls from drinking places as a measure to also stop trafficking. Kaliati said those manning borders should make sure people are not leaving the country without valid reasons.

Maxwell Matewere, executive director for the Eye of the Child in a separate interview disclosed his organisation has handled nearly 40 cases involving trafficking to South Africa, Zambia and Mchinji.

He said massive awareness and civic education about the evils of human trafficking is needed and those living around border areas should be on the lookout.

Matewere said proper checks are also needed when issuing tickets and that safe homes ideal for protecting victims would require appropriate legislation through an act of parliament.

“Like in Lilongwe government can identify a centre and provide security. There is no security for us when handling such cases and victims are treated as illegal immigrants and not victims of trafficking. We need trained expertise to handle organised crime because mafia like elements are highly sophisticated,” said Matewere.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mozambican Dancers...

Despite it raining, these girls danced their lungs out to the beautiful rhythms and drum beats looking at the sky as if teasing while they waited for Malawian visitors. They shook their heads to remove excess water and when it was time for the real performance they had dried up. They indeed gave Malawian children a very warm VIP welcome.

Obrigado Mozambican youth

Relaxing after a marvelous performance. These Mozambican youth surely know their traditional instruments making everyone's feet want to dance marrabenta.

A mother once again

Enifa Ndeule in her 50s and living in Manje location in Blantyre grew up a happy woman raising children and living with a "workaholic" husband who although poor provided for his family.

She watched her children get married and she became a grandmother. But alas her happiness was short-lived as her daughter died and left three orphans. Mayi Ndeule is now raising the children including her orphaned grandson seen here. Her husband has aged and is not in the best of health so she is now the sole breadwinner in the family mostly relying on selling farm products.

After receiving donations for her little one from a church group, Mayi Ndeule openly wept and asked why such a "mis-fortune" had befallen her while praying to God to ease her plight. Tears flowed down her cheeks and a look of pain was written all over her face as she sobbed while narrating her story.

There are many elderly women like Ndeule in Malawi who have found themselves once again playing the role of mother by raising their grand-children after their mothers passed away. There are many elderly women like Ndeule who feel helpless as they already live in extreme poverty.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Vassula Rydén, the prophetess, seer?

Vassula and an excited Joyce
Vassula who visited Malawi last year left many in awe and feeling blessed with Malawians asking for her autograph like in this picture. She was born into a Greek Orthodox family and claims to have had two prophecy dreams in her childhood and visions of Jesus ever since 1985.

According to the Wikipedia, she has composed the messages she claims to have received in a series of books called True Life In God.

There are currently over 107 Notebooks compiled in 12 Volumes of the "True Life in God" series, which have been translated by volunteers into over 40 different languages. Since 1989 Vassula has spoken more than 800 times in over 63 countries and more than 90 times in the United States.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Successful entrepreneur at 23

Guys, when out in the field strolling and sniffing for news in some corners of Blantyre town, I decided to visit a shopping mall where one guy caught the attention of my eyes with his unique dress sense.

Being inquisitive, I entered the boutique called Michael Nyirenda Shop (MNS) and found out the owner is only 23 years-old with a MBA, a Master of Business Administration to be precise and a Post graduate diploma in Business and Management.

The young man is a genius full of ideas and selling quality suits and shoes all designer labels purchased in the UK. He sure knows how to market himself. Malawi is full of talent. Michael keep reaching for the stars, the world is your oyster!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Encounter with a Malawian Drag Queen

She wore an expensive designer Versace mini-dress smelling of expensive Chanel perfume as she walked passed me drunk wearing very high pumps in what I thought was a ladies toilet at the legendary Tracks nightclub in Washington, D.C., the United States.

It was in the early 90s and a night out on the town. I was with Malawian friends checking out clubs in town until somebody said it’s “house” night at Tracks.

The club was a trendy place visited by many celebrities and House music mainly an electronic dance was the “in” thing.

On that particular night I spotted RuPaul, the 6-foot-7 African American drag queen well known in New York club scenes looking all marvellous.

But two other “queens” I saw near Blantyre market the other day, struggling to walk across the street in stiletto boots and a wig that needed a good brush got it all wrong wearing cheap lipstick and no foundation.

Hey I’m not all that either but American drag queen RuPaul once said and I quote from a website, "I do not impersonate females! How many women do you know who wear seven-inch heels, four-foot wigs, and skin tight dresses? I don't dress like a woman; I dress like a drag queen!"

Anyway walking tall in a straight catwalk line with a lot of attitude, I couldn’t help but notice “Miss Thing” in the ladies toilet in the US, a lot of make-up but smooth brown skin, long fake black eyelashes and an 18th century wig complete with the curls.

Suddenly a Malawian girl in our group reads my mind and described in Chichewa that the woman was a drag queen, whom we had heard about and seen on TV. She used unprintable adjectives describing him because she was offended he was using the ladies.

Barely a minute later, as I was busy powdering up my face, the Malawian girl tapped me saying “Agnes, the drag queen heard everything I said, he is a Malawian and speaks Chichewa!”

I was shocked and stunned saying no way, this can‘t be real! Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think a Malawian man can be gay.

The Malawian Drag Queen was nice about the obscenities thrown at him and introduced himself (name withheld) but his stage name was Ms. Yankho. I noticed the movements of his hands, very exaggerated femininity.

He invited us for some drinks and in the next hour or so told us his life story, which college he went to, his home village, parents and family.

I broke into laughter as he kept on snapping the night away writing a big Z in the air with his right hand saying “Two snaps and a Zeee girlfriend” after emphasizing a point.

He was a nice fun person with his exaggerated self hanging around the Dupont Circle neighbourhood in Washington, DC with a number of gay businesses, from bars to cafes to boutiques…

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Teenage girl imprisoned, No reformatory centre

A 16 year-old habitual thief (name with-held) who happens to be the daughter of two police officers has been placed under the custody of Chichiri Prison female wing by the Blantyre Child Justice Court.

Currently there is no reformatory centre for girls and maximum punishment for theft if the offender is an adult is five years.

According to the same documents, the girl’s mother is a police officer at Soche Police who divorced from her father, also a police officer in Zomba in 2001.

The teenager was caught stealing items like money, handbags and phones from pupils and teachers in all schools attended and from religious figures in churches. She claimed the money was used to buy things like chips although her mother provides everything for her.

Section 16 of the Children and Young Persons Act allows the court to detain an unruly offender in prison if they cannot detained in a place of detention.

Magistrate Esmie Tembenu in a ruling also ordered the Social Welfare Department under the ministry responsible for children to be visiting and counselling her in prison.

She said the girl should be kept there until the Board of Visitors decides otherwise.

Tembenu said although the Probation Officer recommended the girl be put on probation for 30 months, she had to “find a place where she will be staying while on that probation and at the same time consider how the chain of victims whose properties have been stolen by the girl is going to feel.”

The teenage girl stole K4000 tithe from two churches, K2000 from a mosque, and cash ranging between K700 and K4000 from teachers in about five primary schools. She was once arrested and locked up in a cell at Soche police.

“When she appeared before court in a victim-offender mediation conference, all the items were recovered except for the cash. The owners of the stolen properties forgave the girl; hence she was immediately diverted to Chisomo Childrens Club for both moral and psycho-social counselling.

“She was also put on compulsory education. At the same time the sister of Bishop Kambalazaza told the court that they were praying for her at her church where she stole tithe,” reads part of the court document.

The girl also stayed at Chisomo Children’s Club for a month and was once beaten at a police station and following interventions was granted unconditional bail pending final order only to steal again from Shoprite and Pep Stores on December 31, 2009.

She has twice been remanded at Chichiri Prison female wing and pastors thinking she is possessed by evil spirits have failed to change her behaviour. Her mother had apparently barred the father from accessing his daughter.

“The court is disappointed that the parents of this girl child are looking at their daughter as part of their marital dispute, forgetting that as parents, both are owners of the child and as such they have a collective responsibility to make sure that they are raising their daughter in a comfortable environment as per section 23[3] of the constitution which provides that all children have the right to know and be raised by their parents.

“If we look at Ephesians 6: 1 -3; Deuteronomy 11: 18-19 and Colossians 3: 21 we will see that God requires children to obey their parents. God expects parents to instruct and correct their children together as father and mother. Parents whether divorced or not need to spend time with their children, caring for their spiritual and emotional needs,” said Magistrate Tembenu.

She added, “this girl child, who I may call a victim-offender, is suffering innocently because her parents have been serving their marital interests ignoring the interests and rights of their child.

Took this picture of children in Milange, Mozambique admiring visiting Malawian children

Tracing footsteps to lead me home

Greetings from the Warm Heart Africa, Malawi.

I'm a Malawian journalist who grew up in many countries including South Africa, Belgium, then West Germany, UK, Washington DC and New York in the US and I love New York.

Trying to come up with the production of my life and by compiling some of my 1000 poems into a book called ‘Tracing Footsteps’ to lead me Home with excellent photography.

I also plan to film award winning documentaries based on the history of this ancient land called Malawi and the mysteries of the Sirius star.

.....watch this space.