Friday, August 21, 2009

(NYASATIMES) Malawi’s labour market imperfections, tribal inequality – Open letter by concerned citizens

Malawi’s labour market imperfections, tribal inequality – Open letter by concerned citizens
By Nyasa Times
Published: August 20, 2009

We have read with interest the unpublicised reports on the findings of research that seeks to find out the composition of labour markets in terms of regional and tribal affiliations in Malawi. This open letter does not seek to divulge the organisation that undertook the survey for fear of putting them in the line of fire.

Of particular interest among the results are the tribal composition differences that seem to exist within the NGOs and the multilateral sector (FAO, World Bank, USAID, UNDP, WFP etc).

The reports do show that the World Bank (Malawi office), FAO, UNDP and many other such multilateral institutions are dominated by people of the Northern Region and, mainly those from the Tumbuka tribe.

The reports go on to show that, although the Lomwe tribe has also improved its share of the labour market over the years since Bingu wa Mutharika came into power, the overall composition is nothing, or negligible compared to the share enjoyed by the Northern Region Tribes, which stands at 80 % in top or senior management positions.

The Yao’s, Sena’s and Ngoni’s of the Central region seem worse off owing to their mediocre composition in both the civil service and the private sector.

The reports also do show that although the Chewa are the dominant tribe in the country, accounting for over 59 % of the population, they constitute less than 3 % of influential positions in the country.

Although they enjoyed leadership for thirty years under the first head of state, the reports argue that it seemed Dr Banda was more concerned with getting grip of power, unfortunately at the expense of his tribesmen educational advantage and hence future labour market participation.

Together the reports cover 400 pages and have more details, too much to be included here, but some of the major findings are as included above. The reports have the following recommendations to the President and to the multilateral organisation working in Malawi.

The President must intervene and at times must question NGOs and multilateral sector recruitment especially in very high positions as it seems that Northern bosses are constantly using insider information advantages to recruit fellow Northern people.

For example now that the Malawi’s Senior World Bank economist (Khwima Nthara- a Northerner) is leaving the country, the probability is 100 % that the country economist position and the senior country economists position (which are vacant) will be filled by a Tumbuka (e.g any Kumwenda, Mkandawire, Munthali, Mwene—ujeni etc), which is fine until we appreciate that Malawi is not Tumbuka only and hence the multilateral organisations that work here must be able to recruit anyone, be they Lomwe, Sena, Yao, central Ngoni or even Chewas.

It is obvious that someone trying to sweep this under the carpet would argue that the World Bank conducts its interviews in a manner that is transparent etc, but the reports do show further evidence that while the White/ None-Malawian staff at the Bank are professional, in the final analysis, they rely too much on the existing staff, which of course is more northern than anything, as a result, recruitment is skewed towards cronies and northern souls.

The President must help put an end to this by devising a mechanism for transparent recruitments everywhere, failing which, it will be the Lomwe’s who will lose out as they are less aggressive and less, if not, NOT arrogant than the Tumbuka’s. It is like a battle of the Tumbukas and Lomwes (a battle of minorities), where the latter enjoy a head start in education owing to early missionary work and the latter enjoy leadership effects.

The World Bank as well as other multilateral organisation must ensure that their senior and non Malawian staff have a say in who should be hired and at times should take a step further to use other means to see whether newly recruited staff are just friends of the incumbent local bosses or whether, most likely, they are relatives.

One could think that this is not necessary as we are all Malawians, but this is not true, because if it was, Tumbukas would never think it was wise to help each other and not to help those external to the Tumbuka tribe.

This problem exists even in the Northern region, between tribes and the few non Tumbuka tribes are suppressed in various ways, at work place, school among other places. The World Bank especially, which claims to want to reduce inequality and contribute to stability Must view this as an urgent need, for to fail to do this, is to sow seeds of future ethnic disaster.

The President of Malawi should see beyond the smiles of his alleged friends from the Northen region in his dealings with them.

For instance, we know Mr Cuthbert Kachale of Zimbabwe, who claims to have run away from MCPs rule decades ago, is aggressively trying to look as though he was working for the good of the DPP.

The fact of the matter is that this secretary general of the fake Zimbabwe wing of DPP is a tribal expansionist working for the Tumbuka and Northern tribes even if it means, at the expense of the Lomwes themselves.

He is a man who has been rewarded well as his brother is now a minister and he has free time on Malawi TV as long as he talks ill of the Yao and the Chewa. What the President need to know is that Kachale is longing to make the Northern cause more dominant than ever and is seeking means of glooming the youth of the Tumbuka and Northern tribes to think the same way.

Should the president not take steps to check these people (and this is why the president MUST question Bright Malopa’s insistence to weaken Chewa DPP leaders and Yao DPP leaders though his unpopular TVM programs), before everyone know it, the labour market in Malawi will be unreachable (except for substandard positions) for non Northern people.

That implies, poor consultancy opportunities, poor everything etc poor schooling for the majority. The reports have detailed information of people at the World Bank, Fao etc who have benefited from insider information to get jobs albeit through an interview process.

As for the few non Northern people who think the reports and the interpretations are wrong, it is because they find themselves in a position where they cannot question Tumbuka motives because they fear them or they owe them some favour.

If Bingu wants to appreciate how expansionist Northern ideas are, let him assign a Lomwe, Yao, Sena or Chewa to monitor what is discussed on Nyasa Times, Nyasanet or Malawi talk. He will appreciate that this country is in fire.

So, please do the something on this Bingu.

Something foreigners, we don’t want a future Rwanda


Chipililo selemani
Deliwe, Sado
Maxwell Thom
Ashan Mtambo
Solobala Yesaya
Proud citizens of Malawi

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