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So, we need donors for toilets?

A few months ago, I went to a certain district to shoot a television programme. As we made arrangements for the recording, my interviewee said he stopped reading newspapers saying they were full of negativities. He blamed the media for the country’s lack of progress alleging that media reports had a negative effect on the minds of Malawians.

This triggered memories of what President Peter Mutharika has repeatedly said that local newspapers always report negatively about his administration despite it registering tremendous progress in development.

Just this week, I met a long-time friend who upon learning that I was still a practicing journalist, blamed me and my colleagues in the media of being unpatriotic. I asked him to show me one patriotic Malawian upon which he retorted that the Mutharika administration has carried out so many development projects that have transformed this country. He shocked me when he said he sees these projects on the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation Television. Gladly, I succeeded in convincing him that the only patriotic Malawians are those breaking their backs in the field without raising their voices. The majority of us are opportunists waiting for our turn to milk the thin cow that crosses our path.

Unfortunately, for proponents of propaganda journalism, this country is pathetically short of anything positive to write home about. Just last Saturday, the Ministry of Health told the world that six out of every 10 Malawians do not have toilets. The shocker was released during events to mark the World Toilet Day in Blantyre.

The ministry revealed that because of the situation, 25 out of every 100 deaths in our hospitals are avoidable. It said 50 out of every 100 admissions are resulted from lack of hygiene. The ministry rightly described the situation as a crisis as only 41 percent of the country’s population has access to improved toilets.

As if to mock us, the theme of the commemoration was: “Where does our poo go?”

These revelations took me down memory lane when the country started erecting very demeaning bill boards where chiefs were made to declare that they have led their subjects to stop defecating in the open. Perhaps the embedded ridicule is best decoded when the messages are in Chichewa.

Scholars in communication for development or behaviour change communication argue that some deep rooted cultures call for a kind of shock therapy interventions. They believe that if the people cannot hear, they should be made to feel.

But such messages are no better than telling us that this country was discovered by the missionaries. Does it mean we did not exist before the missionaries gave us their literature and took away our land, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said?

We are so lucky that donors have to give us relief food and when we are full and satisfied, we ask them for toilets! How does one expect the media to sugar-coat the fact that we cannot account to the donors about the destination of residues of the maize that they give us?

Meanwhile, the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) has said we should brace for longer load shedding programme than the current 24 hour schedule. Escom says power generation has dropped further from the 160 Megawatts to 147 Megawatts. This is against an average maximum demand of 300 Megawatts.

Sarcastically, Escom reminds us that its role is to procure, transmit, distribute and retail the power to us. In plain language, Escom is telling us to expect days of blackout but we should blame the problem on the Electricity Generating Company (Egenco). According to the market set up, Egenco is charged with the responsibility of generating electricity and it has to account for the low generation.

But one wonders why Escom is clinging to the unsustainable last-ditch efforts to generate power using diesel powered generators. Egenco planned to have the generators installed by October last year. Escom, however, dipped its dirty fingers in the deal opting for old suppliers that it has danced with in the past years.

Today, Egenco cannot generate enough power. This is not to say that Egenco is a saint, it is an equally bad devil because it failed to have a contingency plan when Escom started interfering in Egenco’s plans for corrupt ends.

So what is there to write home about this country when we even need donors to build toilets for us?

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