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Malawi’s new leader trained in church

International | Longtime pastor begins work on economic reform and fighting corruption
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 7/31/20, 12:45 pm

During his inauguration, Malawi’s Pentecostal pastor–turned-president said he came to serve, not rule. Adding that the nation must clear out the rubble caused by corruption before it can start to rebuild, Lazarus Chakwera promised to “challenge the leadership of the judiciary to do more to root out the culture of corruption and selective justice that has shipwrecked too many of our lowest courts.”

A month after his swearing-in, Chakwera seemed to be making good on his promises. His government increased the nation’s minimum wage, fired several officials over corruption allegations, and suspended some government contracts. Christians and other observers hope the changes last and wonder how the president’s religious background will influence his leadership long term.

Chakwera spent 24 years as leader of the Malawi Assemblies of God denomination before he kick-started a political career as the head of the Congress Party in 2013. He has taught at the Pan-Africa Theological Seminary and serves as chairman at the Assemblies of God School of Theology. Chakwera attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois and trained with Haggai International ministries.

In a 2014 video interview with St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, Calif. (a Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians congregation), Chakwera said he initially struggled to accept his calling into politics: “God was not saying, I’m pulling you out of ministry, God was saying, I’m extending your ministry so that you’re able to pastor the whole nation.”

After his June 28 inauguration, Chakwera almost immediately began clearing out corrupt officials. Police in the capital city of Lilongwe earlier this month arrested the former president’s security aide over links to a $7 million cement import scandal. Authorities also detained the acting regional police commissioner, Evalista Chisale, and 11 other officers over the death of a murder suspect in police custody.

Bright Theu, a Malawian lawyer and professor, said Chakwera’s first acts as president could signal a new era for the country. “His campaign was run on promises of working to break ranks with this culture of corruption,” he said. “Until these cases get to trial, [we’ll] still be watching.”

About half of Malawi’s population does not have enough income to support its basic needs, according to the International Monetary Fund. About half of its workers are in agriculture. Following Chakwera’s promises of economic reform, the government increased the minimum wage from $46 to $70 a month and raised the income tax–free bracket to a maximum of $140 per month. The parliament passed a provisional budget to subsidize fertilizer, which will slash the price by more than half for some 3.5 million small farms.

Matilda Matabwa, the secretary-general of the Malawian Assemblies of God, told the Spanish news website Protestante Digital she hoped Chakwera’s faith will positively influence his leadership style: “We are certain that he shall continue to be the servant we have known over the years, serving and leading this nation.”

Getty Images/Photo by Luis Tato/AFP (file) Getty Images/Photo by Luis Tato/AFP (file) A police officer at the site of an attack in the village of Angwan Aku in Kaduna state in Nigeria

More herdsmen attacks in Nigeria

On the night of July 24, gunmen opened fire on the village of Zikpak in northern Nigeria. The attackers killed at least 10 people, injured 11 others, and burned down at least five homes, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported.

Daniel Bala, who survived the attack while returning home from choir practice, told CNN his uncle died in the carnage: “They burnt his house and he was slaughtered like a goat.”

Suspected armed herdsmen have stepped up attacks against the predominantly Christian farming communities in Kaduna state in recent months. At least 80 people died in July alone, 48 of them just last week, CSW noted.

“The decision by the Kaduna state government to extend an unsuccessful curfew to cover more areas is deeply perplexing and must be reviewed as a matter of urgency,” said Mervyn Thomas, the group’s chief executive, calling on the Nigerian government to take more action. —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Hani Mohammed (file) Associated Press/Photo by Hani Mohammed (file) A healthcare worker treats a likely cholera patient at Al-Sabeen hospital in Sanaa, Yemen.

Two diseases ravage Yemen

Tens of thousands of Yemenis are likely suffering from untreated cases of cholera, while the coronavirus continues to overwhelm the country’s healthcare facilities, leaving people afraid to seek treatment.

The number of suspected cholera cases dropped unexpectedly by 50 percent since March, according to Oxfam on Tuesday. During the same period last year, that number increased by 70 percent, coinciding with the start of the rainy season. Cholera is a waterborne disease that thrives in places with poor sanitation.

“Rather than show that Yemen has cholera and COVID under control, the low official numbers demonstrate the exact opposite,” said Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemeni country director.

The agency warned rainfall usually increases significantly in August, which could trigger more cases. The World Health Organization projected that half of those diagnosed with the disease would die if left untreated. Siddiquey called for more international funding to ensure people in the war-torn country receive lifesaving assistance. —O.O.

Getty Images/Photo by Khaled Desouki/AFP Getty Images/Photo by Khaled Desouki/AFP Mawada al-Adham on TikTok

TikTok videos lead to prison sentence

An Egyptian court slapped five women with two-year sentences and $19,000 fines for sharing “indecent videos” on a social media app.

Officials detained Haneen Hossam in April after she posted a three-minute video to her 1.3 million followers on TikTok offering girls cash to post videos and meet men virtually.

Mawada al-Adham posted satirical videos on TikTok and Instagram. Authorities arrested her in May.

Authorities charged three other women with helping Hossam and al-Adham manage their accounts. The state-run al-Ahram newspaper said the defendants violated the values and principles of Egyptian society and disturbed public morals.

Egypt has cracked down on social media influencers. A court last month sentenced Sama al-Masry, a belly dancer, to three years for inciting debauchery after she posted a dance video on TikTok. —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Oded Balilty Associated Press/Photo by Oded Balilty Itay Zalait’s display in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Israel

The last supper of Israeli democracy?

Israelis on Wednesday morning found a pop-up display with a life-size sculpture of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu eating cake alone at a feast with fruits and champagne. The artist set up the 33-foot exhibit in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, where protesters have gathered throughout the summer to call on Netanyahu to resign over a corruption scandal and the country’s economic crisis.

Artist Itay Zalait said the fake banquet, inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s 15th-century mural of Jesus at the Last Supper with his disciples, symbolizes the last chance to act: “He’s practically finished this meal. and he’s now at the stage of the dessert, which is referring to the last minutes of time we can do something to save Israeli democracy.”

Netanyahu denounced the work as a death threat in a Twitter post and warned the nation has “no room for incitement and threats of murder.” —O.O.

Will Ukraine find peace?

A new cease-fire that went into effect on Monday brought hope that six years of fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists could finally end. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky agreed to the terms earlier this month.

Zelensky’s office called it a breakthrough, but within days, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported 111 violations of the cease-fire, including 22 explosions.

Ukrainian Orthodox leader Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and Brovary urged Christians to pray for lasting peace in Eastern Ukraine. More than 14,000 people have died in the conflict, which has damaged or destroyed homes, schools, hospitals, and energy infrastructure. —Julia A. Seymour

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD's Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria. Follow her on Twitter @onize_ohiks.

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  •  Ernest C Beisner's picture
    Ernest C Beisner
    Posted: Fri, 07/31/2020 04:50 pm

    I thank God for Pastor Chakwera's elevation to the presidency, and I pray for that in his position he will do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. But it saddens me to see that his raising the minimum wage is offered as an example of the good he has done or will do. As I explained in my 1988 book Prosperity and Poverty: The Compassionate Use of Resources in a World of Scarcity, despite the best intentions of legislators who impose it, the minimum wage's actual effect is pernicious in two ways. First, it interferes with the freedom of individuals to exchange work for pay on terms of their mutual agreement---that is, it curtails liberty. Second, by pricing those without sufficient skills to earn it out of the labor market, it deprives them of both the income and the opportunity to learn the skills that would enable them to earn not just that but even more---which is why Nobel Prize-winning economist James Buchanan wrote that another economist "really disqualifies himself as an economist by" by supporting the minimum wage.

  • OldMike
    Posted: Fri, 07/31/2020 05:01 pm

    Africa has so much turmoil. Malawi and new President Chakwera appear off to a good start. A man and a nation I'm going to be praying for. 

    Mr. Beisner, I am not an economist, but I believe your objections to legislated minimum wages are only valid in a developed high functioning economy such as ours. In a place like Malawi, with a very small elite controlling an economy and huge numbers of workers competing for the few jobs, I believe unrestrained exploitation of labor is the usual result. Workers simply have no alternatives. They must play by the rules the elites set up. 

    Here in the US there is competition for labor, and exploitive business owners lose their best workers to others who treat workers better. Workers can rise on their skills and efforts because they have many alternatives for employment. 

  •  Ernest C Beisner's picture
    Ernest C Beisner
    Posted: Fri, 07/31/2020 06:41 pm

    I agree that when a very small elite controls an economy and huge numbers of workers compete for few jobs, unrestrained exploitation of labor is the usual result. But that doesn't invalidate the very basic fact that employers--however exploitative or generous they might be--are less likely to hire workers who cannot produce enough to justify their wage plus some profit (to ensure continued provision of the capital that makes the employment possible) than to hire workers who can. The result is that the minimum wage law, even in this circumstance, works to disemploy the lower-skilled, to the advantage of the higher-skilled, leaving the lower-skilled without the opportunity to step onto the first rung of the ladder to higher wages. As studies by economists Walter Williams and, especially, Thomas Sowell (among others) have shown, it is precisely when workers who are most targeted by racial and other prejudice are able to outbid workers of the favored race or other division that they are able to climb out of poverty and escape oppression.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Sun, 08/02/2020 03:54 am

    I vote for the economist! The minimum wage hurts the little guy since fewer are hired especially of the unskilled.  

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Sun, 08/02/2020 10:32 pm

    It is exciting to see a Christian leader arise in Malawi. Let us pray  that he sets an example and leads this little country to prosperity.  If Christians can benefit this country let us do so by buying their products, investing in the country, or traveling there when the Coronavirus dies down. 

    It is sad to see the regular attacks on the Christians of Nigeria. One of the responsibilities of the government is to protect the people and if the government doesn't do it, then the people will have to protect themselves but I am not sure if this is possible given the expense. When Jesus sent his disciples out the second time, he told them to bring a sword for protection. The point was that they needed to protect themselves from bandits and others who may attempt to harm them.  If I remember correctly, there are Muslims in the government who don't have the interests of the Christians at heart. Outside governments should put pressure on Nigeria to step up the level of protection for all citizens. 

    Benjamin Netanyahu has always been one of my heroes. His leadership during the gulf war was a significant achievement of his career.  I sure hope that he regains power and puts to rest the corruption charges. He has always been one of those leaders fighting for the good of Israel and the world. He has always been a strong ally of the US!

    Vadimir Putin cannot be trusted for he has the same unholy traits of the KGB of killing those who oppose his agenda including journalists. His goal is to try and bring back the Soviet Union where he is putting pressure on Eastern European states such as Ukraine to realign. The US needs to be vigilant to protect these states and to not allow Putin's goal to be realized. We also need to be vigilant about the Arctic region and not let the Russians take over this region as they are attempting to do.

    Great article on what is happening in the world! 

  • Bix
    Posted: Wed, 08/05/2020 03:13 pm

    OO, can you please explain "armed herdsmen"? Aren't they Muslims of the Fulani tribe? The Fulani (or is it Fulbe?) are predominantly cattle herders rather than agriculturalists. But I don't think that the problem is like the American west when cowboys on cattle drives cut the fences of settlers. The Fulani are not killing other peoples because the cattle herders are competing for the cropland, right? Isn't it just Muslims killing Christians? Explain please.

  • Web Editor
    Posted: Fri, 08/07/2020 07:06 am

    For more details, please see Onize Ohikere’s “Hope amid Nigeria’s violence” from the Aug. 1 issue of WORLD Magazine.