Chikaonda blasts MACRA over ‘spy machine’


Highly revered economist Mathews Chikaonda on Tuesday lashed at Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) of being political in its operations instead of providing quality services to Malawians.

A visibly furious Chikaonda was speaking at the official opening of National Bank of Malawi’s state of the art building in Blantyre where President Joyce Banda was in attendance.

Chikaonda took time off his prepared speech to take Macra to task for giving Malawians a raw deal.

He cited instances where Macra contributed to late Bingu wa Mutharika’s infamous zero deficit budget over K800 million as part of its annual dividend.

“Where on earth do you pay dividend when you don’t do business? It just shows that Macra instead of providing quality communication services to Malawians was busy with politics,” said Chikaonda.

“At one point Macra even used millions of tax-payers money to print party cloth as part of civic education,” said Chikaonda in view of Macra chairperson Ted Nandolo who was also in attendance.

Spy machine ‘dangerous’

Chikaonda who is group chief executive of Press Corporation, a conglomerate that has National Bank as one of its subsidiaries, also took a swipe at Macra for its quest to install the consolidated ICT regulatory management systems (Cirms) machine, also known as ‘spy machine,’ saying its very dangerous instrument.

“I’m speaking as board chair for both MTL and TNM, I tell you the spy machine is very dangerous because it has capacity to spy on peoples conversations; ok let’s make a demonstration take your phone press ‘*#06? see the number that comes there…..” added Chikaonda.

The spy machine roll out was stopped by a Commercial court in Lilongwe which granted a ‘permanent’ injunction against the telephone operators in the country from passing Call Detail Records (CDRs) to Macra Cirms.

A mobile phone subscriber from Blantyre, Alick Kimu sued all the four telephone operators in the country namely Airtel, TNM, Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL) and Access Communications Limited (ACL) against them from passing CDRS to Macra.

In his determination, Justice Lovemore Chikopa, agreed with the weight of submissions by Kimu for telecom operators not to submit data to Macra, rendering ‘Spy Machine’, which was bought from a US based company Agilis international at a whopping US$6.8 million (about K1.7 billion), inactive.

The CDRs provide detailed information including who called which number; details of calls received; time and duration of calls; location where call was made or received; SMS sent and received; type of handset used and other detailed subscriber information in real time.

Macra officials were not readily available to comment on the outbursts.

Among those that joined president Banda at the ceremony included former president Bakili Muluzi, leader of opposition in National Assembly John Tembo and speaker of parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda among several other dignitaries.

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