Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Friday, 30 August 2013

Whose money is tax-payers’ money

 Either I am a difficult and dull chap or I poke my nose in the wrong place. I still cannot get it.

Not getting it has nothing to do with what you are thinking; that I am either high on something or just somewhere on a dizzying height wondering what is wrong with me and heights.

But the reason I am posing the question above, in pursuit of some answers because honestly, I am none the wiser. I have tried to glean through all possible and visible holes to ensure that I get something but really I can’t understand. What is government? Who is government? Who uses the money I pay in tax? Is it free money?

Perhaps let’s start from the beginning.

February 2011
In this month, in this year that’s when I first talked about the ‘Blantyre Cultural Centre’. You are wondering what I am talking about and I cannot blame you.
In wonder you are exclaiming: “Blantyre Cultural Centre” what is that a policy, a film, a book, or a certain local location in Mangochi; or what?
What if I say, “French Cultural Centre”; in fact you will even smile because of how provocative this name is considering that it is the memory that is being hassled.
Well, all those questions above are coming because of this place whose closure as ‘the French Cultural Centre’ after a dignified service duty of 38 years elicited a mourning that made me shudder with shame.

I said in February 2011 that unlike crying over divorce or death, the closure of the French Cultural Centre, if anything, should have made all of us celebrate.

Celebrate because, the centre’s existence was never in vain. The French’s stay in Chichiri in Blantyre should have been endearing, knowing what vast lessons had been left. With such knowledge, instead of writing mourning pieces or airing out woeful programmes for the closure we would have said:

Exit French Cultural Centre, Enter Malawi Cultural Centre (Blantyre Cultural Centre).

But my celebrations, unfortunately ended in dripping tears that no size of any hankie in the world would dry out.

December 2012

And it led me to the Tourism and Culture Ministry which I blamed in December 2012, wondering as I did then what type of authority is put to manage our government, following events surrounding the former French Cultural Centre, now Blantyre Cultural Centre.

I asked: “How can government pay K300 million for the centre and then left it without putting any security leading to vandalism that completely defaced its usefulness?”

Government bought the centre and threw it into some preying hands that ‘befittingly’ ransacked and looted and last time I checked government was very busy trying to arrest the perpetrators.

It was clearly comprehensible that someone I am paying with my tax did not do his or her job well and I do not know what came over me as I demanded that heads out to roll in the Ministry of Tourism and Culture for their failure to provide security to the centre.

Looting started from right at the main gate where the guard room’s steel door and all window panes were stolen. Right in the yard a non-running Mitsubishi 4by4 blue vehicle that was parked inside was robbed of all its valuables and made to sit on stones.

The library windows were broken and thousands of valuable books stolen or destroyed. They did not spare the state-of-the-art equipment such as public address system, Plasma TVs, computers and some furniture.

Police formerly charged long time music promoter and private practising lawyer, Jai Banda for buying the stolen equipment that included a sound craft mixer and power supply cables whose true value is K5 million but was bought at a total cost of K200, 000.
Some of stolen equipment Police say they have also recovered include Yamaha drum set, a microphone and bongos from Pastor Kenneth Dickson of Hope for all Nations church in Ndirande who bought them at K100, 000 when they are valued at millions of kwacha.

The property stolen from the venue is worth K20 million or more.
The centre has shaped the music and drama of the country because it made itself accessible at an affordable rate. 

Maximum charge then was about K50 000 which was far below what today’s popular venues like Robins Park, Comesa and College of Medicine Complex charge, which is between K150 000 to K300 000 per performance, I hope it still is the case.

It is a mockery that so far Blantyre Arts Festival has used the place because it had invited Salif Keita and had nowhere else to host him and after pleading with government they were given a nod.

The second time the place was used was when Information Minister Moses Kunkuyu with his gospel music competition was allowed to use the place because of his political might.

The place remains closed to the people – artists – who need it most.
I happen to pass by the place every weekend and the place is dead and very attractive to another ransacking.

Whoever is responsible for my tax that was used to buy the facility, please tell government or whoever is in-charge that if they have no time to make use of it, let it out; outsource for our services and let us run it on their behalf, so that when we say Blantyre Cultural Centre no one should look at me with any blank face.

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