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The year Mawu got new leadership

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Sambalikagwa Mvona

Exit 2020 and welcome 2021. The year 2020 brought with it challenges, the key one being the Covid-19 pandemic which affected the creative sector greatly.

Several players in the creative industry failed to achieve their goals which they set when the year 2020 was starting and, this time around, they are praying for nothing but the best.

Despite several projects being affected, some developments also took centre stage in some of the associations.

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Some associations such as Visual Arts Association of Malawi (Vaam) failed to elect new leadership in the year despite the expiry of the tenure of office for the National Executive Committee (Nec).

With some members feeling unhappy with operations of the association, Lawrence Daka and Gilbert Mpakule were elected to drive Vaam in the meantime until the election of the new Nec.

The two were elected during an extra-ordinary meeting held in April 2020.

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The current president Mike Chilemba requested Nec members to allow him to step down on medical grounds and proposed that new acting president and vice be nominated to replace him for the good of the association.

However, the association, which has played second fiddle to several other associations, is yet to go to polls with Mpakule and Daka still leading the ship. It is not clear when the elections will be held to elect the new Nec.

Vaam elections were expected to be held in 2019 but due to funding constraints the association failed to do so.

The other association that failed to hold elections is the National Theatre Association of Malawi (Ntam) whose current president is Eric Mabedi.

Ntam was also expected to hold its elections in 2019 following the expiry of term of office by the current Nec but just as was the case with Vaam, Ntam did not have adequate funds to hold elections.

The year 2020 saw progress with regional elections taking place in August, with the national elections scheduled for October. But, due to other challenges, the national elections were postponed and are yet to take place with Mabedi still at the helm.

Malawi Writers Union (Mawu), a writer’s body which has been led by Mike Sambalikagwa Mvona for years, last year held elections which saw Chikumbutso Ndaferankhande taking over the mantle.

It has been a long wait for Mawu to have a new president, having been led by Mvona for close to 18 years and some quarters accused him of clinging to power and not paving the way for young blood.

Now it remains to be seen as to how Ndaferankhande is going to change things in the association.

“There is a lot to be done for sure but I am ready for the challenge. It is not a one-man show. Together as an association we need to push and make sure that art is recognised. We need to strategise and more importantly we need to push for the Arts Council to come into effect,” Ndaferankhande said.

Ndaferankhande, who defeated Chifundo Mkwanda, said it is high time art got the respect it deserves and that the corporate world and the government needs to give it the attention it deserves in that it contributes greatly to the economic development of the country.

“Art sector is not given much support. So, I want to put it in the limelight especially the reading culture which has dwindled,” Ndaferankhande said.

He said they will start with secondary schools and ensure “that we fully inculcate a dynamic reading culture in our secondary school students”.

“There is really a great need to revamp Malawian literature so that we should compete with our counterparts in countries like Kenya and Uganda,” the new leader said.

Mvona whose term of office expired and told The Daily Times that he would not be contesting again, welcomed the new leadership and said that his door is open to offer advice wherever possible for the growth of the writers’ body.

The other members elected into Nec include Davie Chingwalu (Vice President), Rhoda Zulu (Secretary), Jacinta Chisi (Treasurer), Foster Benjamin (Publicity Secretary), Juliette Neba (Budding Writers), Fiddy Lungu (Women’s Desk), Silvester Chabuka (Religious Desk), Demetria Banda (Social Welfare Desk) and Maureen Mlenga (Disciplinary Desk).

Spokesperson of the Taskforce Charles Chisi said his take on the elections was that the members wanted leadership change and that this was seen by the attendance of the members including those who opted to vote online.

“And despite operating under a shoestring budget because of our failure to meet our budget, everything went well without any noticeable logistical challenges,” Chisi said.

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