Malawi Vice President Arrested Over $280,000 Bribery Claims

File photo of Lazarus Chakwera getting ready to cast his ballot at a polling station in Kasiya, Malawi, on May 21, 2019. GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP

 

Malawi has arrested its Vice President Saulos Chilima and charged him with graft over a bribery scandal involving a British-Malawian businessman, the country’s anti-corruption watchdog said.

The president’s deputy — who has been stripped of his powers — has been charged with several counts of corruption and taking bribes to influence government contracts, the Anti-Corruption Bureau said.

“He received advantage in the form of money amounting to $280,000 and other items from (British-Malawian businessman) Zuneth Sattar,” for the latter’s companies to be awarded Malawi government contracts, ACB spokeswoman Egrita Mdala said in a statement.

READ ALSOSierra Leone Lawmakers Exchange Blows In Parliament

Chilima was due to appear in court on Friday afternoon. Officials and supporters from his United Transformation Movement party had already gathered outside in support.

President Lazarus Chakwera stripped Chilima of his powers in June when details of the alleged graft first emerged.

According to Malawi’s constitution, the president could not suspend or remove Chilima because he was an elected official.

Several ministers and former ministers have already been arrested in connection with the case, in which 53 public officials have been accused of receiving money from Sattar between March and October 2021.

Chilima partnered with Chakwera to win the 2020 presidential election re-run, sweeping to victory on an anti-corruption platform.

He had also joined Chakwera in challenging fraudulent elections in 2019, which led to a court-sanctioned poll the following year in which Chakwera defeated former leader Peter Mutharika.

AFP

Malawi’s Struggle With Deadly Witchcraft Violence

 

 

The calm air cloaking Lupembe, a sleepy village on the sandy shores of Lake Malawi, conceals a dark secret.

On December 26, 2019, a mob driven by rumours of sorcery hunted down and lynched a grieving family.

The killings are among dozens of witchcraft slayings that have shaken the southern African country, prompting talk of dramatic change to colonial-era laws on rumour-mongering.

“Hundreds of villagers descended on our home from all directions and started assaulting me, my brother and my parents,” Walinaye Mwanguphiri, 36, told AFP.

Mwanguphiri said he made a lucky escape, but his parents and brother, as well as an aunt, were killed.

Belief in witchcraft in the southern African country is almost as widespread as its poverty — nearly three people in four live on less than $2 a day, according to World Bank data.

Since 2019, mobs have killed at least 75 people suspected of dark magic, the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), a non-governmental organisation based in the capital Lilongwe, says.

Only last week, local media reported that residents in Dedza, central Malawi, killed the village chief on suspicion he had used sorcery to murder his nephew.

In 2017, the United Nations was forced to pull out its staff from southern Malawi after at least seven people were killed as rumours about vampires swept the region.

– ‘Recognising’ magic –
Last December, a special commission tasked with drafting legal proposals to address the issue concluded that the best way around the problem was to acknowledge that magic is real.

Malawi’s current laws assume that witchcraft does not exist. Under a law drafted during British colonial rule, it is a crime to accuse someone of witchcraft.

But since most Malawians believe in magic, the commission suggested it was better to recognise the existence of sorcery — and make its practice a crime.

“People’s beliefs cannot be suppressed by legislation,” retired Supreme Court judge Robert Chinangwa, who headed the commission, wrote in his findings.

“The commission therefore recommends recognising the existence of witchcraft and states that the law must penalise all witchcraft practices.”

CHRR director Michael Kaiyatsa says criminalising witchcraft could help prevent people from taking the law into their own hands to punish suspected sorcerers.

But securing convictions might prove tricky, he said.

“Witchcraft… is not something that you can see or prove,” he said.

His group says killings caused by rumour-mongering have only rarely resulted in arrests and prosecutions.

It brands this a failure of law enforcement that has stoked a climate of impunity and fed the violence. It urges more action to bring killers to justice.

– Survivor’s tale –
AFP this month visited Lupembe, which lies on a sandy shoreline of Lake Malawi near the border with Tanzania, some 550 kilometres (350 miles) north of Lilongwe.

Outwardly, the village of 700 souls showed little sign of the bloody episode of the recent past.

Men idled on a beach under the morning sun, waiting for a catch of sardines caught overnight to dry, while women washed dishes and clothes.

Inside his grass-thatched home, Mwanguphiri, the survivor, stuttered with emotion as he recounted his ordeal and how he felt to be living today among his family’s killers.

The family, he said, had gathered at the village graveyard to bury his cousin’s son, who had died after a short illness.

It was then that the mob descended on them.

They accused “us of killing (him) through witchcraft,” he said.

Mwanguphiri said he managed to scrape his way through the crowd and ran for his life away from the village, leaving behind his elderly parents and brother, who were beaten to death.

“I survived by a whisker,” he said.

The crowd destroyed his house, his brother’s and that of his aunt before dispersing, he said.

Law enforcement officers rounded up a couple of villagers but later released them, he said.

The police did not respond to a request for comment.

To this day, Mwanguphiri does not know what triggered the deadly rumours.

After a year away, he returned Lupembe, where he now cares for his brother’s five orphans.

“Although it is hard for us to live here after what happened, we have no other option because this is the only home that we know,” he said.

“We have nowhere else to go.”

 

Mozambique Detects Polio Case After Malawi Outbreak

 

Mozambique has detected its first case of wild poliovirus in three decades, following an outbreak in neighbouring Malawi in February, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced Wednesday.

The case was diagnosed in a child in the northeastern province of Tete, it said.

“The detection of another case of wild poliovirus in Africa is greatly concerning, even if it’s unsurprising given the recent outbreak in Malawi,” WHO Africa chief Matshidiso Moeti said.

Poliomyelitis — the medical term for polio — is an acutely infectious and contagious viral disease which attacks the spinal cord and causes irreversible paralysis in children.

Wild polioviruses are viruses that occur naturally in the community, and typically spread when the faeces of an infected person contaminate water or food.

Africa was declared free of indigenous wild poliovirus in August 2020 after no polio cases had occurred on the continent for the previous four years.

However, unvaccinated people are still at risk if the virus enters their country from one of the few places in the world where the disease is still circulating.

The WHO said lab tests showed that the Mozambique case was linked to a strain that had circulated in Pakistan and led to the case reported in Malawi.

The outbreak in Malawi has prompted southern African countries to launch a vaccination blitz.

Malawi and its four immediate neighbours — Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe — plan to immunise 23 million children aged five years or below. Mozambique alone hopes to vaccinate 4.2 million youngsters, the WHO said.

“As long as a single child remains infected with poliovirus, children in all countries are at risk of contracting the disease,” the UN agency says on its website.

“The poliovirus can easily be imported into a polio-free country and can spread rapidly amongst unimmunized populations.”

Catholic Priest Among 12 Convicted Over Malawi Albino Murder

 

A Malawi Catholic priest, a policeman and a hospital worker are among a dozen convicted over the 2018 gruesome murder of a man with albinism, a court official said Friday.

Five out of the 12 were found guilty of killing MacDonald Masambuka, 22, at the height of a crime spree that saw over 40 murders and 145 assaults on people with the condition in the country.

The priest, Masambuka’s brother, a policeman and hospital employee were convicted of transacting in human body parts.

Read Also: Pope Vows New Start In Fight Against Clerical Sex Abuse

“MacDonald was betrayed by those he had trust in, namely the brother, the priest, the policeman and the clinical officer. These are positions of trust,” the country’s public prosecutions director Steve Kayuni told AFP.

From 2014 Malawi suffered a wave of assaults over several years against albinos whose body parts are used in witchcraft rituals in the mistaken belief that they bring wealth and luck.

In a judgement handed down Thursday, a high court concluded that the 12 plotted to kill Masambuka to extract his bones, hoping to benefit financially.

“This is a violation of the right to human life and the greatest violation of the rights to life and integrity for persons with albinism,” said judge Dorothy NyaKaunda Kamanga.

Masambuka was murdered after being enticed by his brother to meet his friends who he claimed had found him a woman to marry.

Sentencing has been set for May 31.

There are around 20 cases under prosecution in Malawi courts involving the murder, attempted murder, exhumation and selling of body tissue of people with albinism, said Kayuni.

Activist and former UN rapporteur on albinism, Ikponwosa Ero, said the latest case “points to a serious safety issue for people with albinism in Malawi”.

Malawi Declares Polio Outbreak

Map of Malawi

 

The first wild poliovirus case in Africa in more than five years has been detected in a young child in Malawi, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

The Malawian health authorities have declared an outbreak of wild poliovirus type 1 after a case was detected in the capital Lilongwe, the WHO said.

Laboratory analysis showed that the detected strain is linked to one that has been circulating in Sindh Province in Pakistan. Polio remains endemic in Pakistan and its neighbour Afghanistan.

“As an imported case from Pakistan, this detection does not affect the African region’s wild poliovirus-free certification status,” the WHO said.

Africa was declared free of indigenous wild polio in August 2020 after eliminating all forms of wild polio. No polio cases had occurred on the continent for the past four years — the threshold for eradication.

“Following the detection of wild polio in Malawi, we’re taking urgent measures to forestall its potential spread,” the WHO’s Africa regional director Matshidiso Moeti said in a statement.

“Thanks to a high level of polio surveillance in the continent and the capacity to quickly detect the virus, we can swiftly launch a rapid response and protect children from the debilitating impact of this disease.”

The WHO said it was supporting Malawi in conducting a risk assessment and outbreak response, including extra vaccination.

Surveillance of the disease is being stepped up in neighbouring countries.

“The last case of wild poliovirus in Africa was identified in northern Nigeria in 2016 and globally there were only five cases in 2021. Any case of wild poliovirus is a significant event and we will mobilise all resources to support the country’s response,” said Dr Modjirom Ndoutabe, the WHO Africa region’s polio coordinator.

Poliomyelitis — the medical term for polio — is an acutely infectious and contagious virus that attacks the spinal cord and causes irreversible paralysis in children.

Poliovirus is typically spread in the faeces of an infected person and is picked up through contaminated water or food. It multiplies in the intestine.

While there is no cure for polio, vaccinating people to prevent them from becoming infected thus breaks the cycle of transmission.

The August 2020 declaration that Africa was free of the virus that causes polio was a landmark in a decades-long campaign to eradicate the notorious disease around the world.

The disease was endemic around the world until a vaccine was found in the 1950s, though this remained out of reach for many poorer countries in Asia and Africa until a major push in recent decades.

In 1996, there were more than 70,000 cases in Africa alone.

-AFP

Thousands Without Power As Cyclone Winds Hit Mauritius

Strong winds and pouring rain batter the mauritius coastline in Mahebourg a small fishing village on February 2, 2022. (Photo by Laura MOROSOLI / AFP)

 

Thousands of homes were left without power in Mauritius on Wednesday as powerful cyclone winds battered the Indian Ocean island nation.

Tropical cyclone Batsirai passed within about 130 kilometres (80 miles) of the holiday paradise, bringing heavy downpours and winds of around 120 kilometres per hour, with a peak of 151 kilometres per hour recorded in the capital Port Louis.

Life was brought to a standstill, with public transport cancelled, shops and banks shut, and air and sea travel halted.

At least 7,500 homes were without power after the winds knocked down trees onto electricity lines, according to the local electricity board. The telephone network was also disrupted.

The reopening of schools, closed since November because of the spread of the Covid variant Omicron, could not take place as planned.

“Cyclonic conditions will persist on the island until late evening,” said a statement from the weather service.

The French island of Reunion, which lies about 230 kilometres southwest of Mauritius, was on red alert for the likely passage of cyclone Batsirai overnight.

In 2007, two people were killed in Mauritius and nine hurt in Reunion when a cyclone hit the islands.

Tropical storms and torrential rains have also wreaked havoc in southern Africa in recent days, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.

Tropical Storm Ana claimed the lives of 86 people in Mozambique, Madagascar and Malawi last week.

Malawi President Warns Cabinet Against Corruption

File photo of Malawi Presidential Lazarus Chakwera. GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP.

 

Malawi’s new government was sworn in on Sunday after President Lazarus Chakwera’s surprise sacking of seven ministers last week over graft concerns, warning them to shun corruption

“Do not accept a gift in exchange for using your office to give someone preferential treatment in the administration of a public service,” Chakwera said at the swearing-in ceremony. “That is corruption.”

Civic and religious groups had pressured the president to rein in his cabinet after a number of his ministers were embroiled in corruption scandals.

In December, then minister of lands Kezzie Msukwa was arrested on allegations that he had received a bribe from a wealthy businessman to give him land.

Chakwera, elected in 2020 on a campaign to fight corruption in the poor southern African country, sacked his entire 33-member cabinet last Monday.

READ ALSO: African Union Suspends Burkina Faso After Coup

But most were reappointed two days later, and the new lineup includes only two new faces.

Chakwera named prominent businessman and politician Mark Katsonga Phiri to the trade ministry, while ruling party loyalist Sam Kawale takes over as lands minister, replacing Msukwa.

“If you do not follow the law, the law will follow you,” Chakwera said Sunday. “And if you think that I will use my office to save you from facing a law you have broken, then you are gravely mistaken.”

In early December, Malawi police arrested a former finance minister and an ex-central bank chief for fabricating figures in a bid to impress the International Monetary Fund.

Joseph Mwanamveka and Reserve Bank of Malawi former governor Dalitso Kabambe were accused of cooking the books to secure a loan from the Washington-based development and crisis lender.

Tropical Storm Ana Kills 70 Persons In Southern Africa

Scene shot from video showing aftermath of the storm on a community in Malawi.

 

The death toll from a storm that struck three southern African countries rose to 70 on Thursday as emergency teams battled to repair damaged infrastructure and help tens of thousands of victims.

Packing torrential rains, Tropical Storm Ana made landfall Monday in Madagascar before ploughing into Mozambique and Malawi.

Rescue workers and authorities across the three countries were still assessing the full extent of the damage.

Madagascar has reported 41 dead, with 18 others killed in Mozambique and 11 in Malawi.

Remnants of the storm have passed over Zimbabwe, but no deaths have been reported there.

In the three hardest-hit countries, tens of thousands of homes were damaged. Some collapsed under the heavy rain, trapping victims in the rubble.

READ ALSO: US Ships Nearly 1.7 Million COVID-19 Vaccine Doses To Uganda

Bridges were washed away by swollen rivers, while livestock drowned and submerged fields, destroying the livelihoods of rural families.

In Madagascar, 110,000 had to flee their homes. In the capital Antananarivo, schools and gyms were turned into emergency shelters.

“We only brought our most important possessions,” Berthine Razafiarisoa, who sheltered in a gym with his family of 10, told AFP.

In northern and central Mozambique, Ana destroyed 10,000 homes, dozens of schools and hospitals, and downed power lines.

Mozambique’s weather service expects another storm to form over the Indian Ocean in the coming days. Up to six tropical cyclones are expected before the rainy season ends in March.

In neighbouring Malawi, the government declared a state of natural disaster.

Most of the country lost electricity early in the week, after flood waters hit generating stations. Power was restored by Thursday in parts of the country, but parts of the electric grid were destroyed.

“Our priority now is restoring power to health establishments, water treatment distribution systems, and schools,” the national power utility said in a statement.

Southern Africa, and especially Mozambique, has suffered repeated destructive storms in recent years.

AFP

70 Dead From Tropical Storm Ana In Southern Africa

Madagascar, officially the Republic of Madagascar, and previously known as the Malagasy Republic, is an island country in the Indian Ocean, approximately 400 kilometres off the coast of East Africa across the Mozambique Channel.
Madagascar, officially the Republic of Madagascar, and previously known as the Malagasy Republic, is an island country in the Indian Ocean, approximately 400 kilometres off the coast of East Africa across the Mozambique Channel.

 

The death toll from a storm that struck three southern African countries rose to 70 on Thursday as emergency teams battled to repair damaged infrastructure and help tens of thousands of victims.

Packing torrential rains, Tropical Storm Ana made landfall Monday in Madagascar before ploughing into Mozambique and Malawi.

Rescue workers and authorities across the three countries were still assessing the full extent of the damage.

Madagascar has reported 41 dead, with 18 others killed in Mozambique and 11 in Malawi.

Remnants of the storm have passed over Zimbabwe, but no deaths have been reported there.

In the three hardest-hit countries, tens of thousands of homes were damaged. Some collapsed under the heavy rain, trapping victims in the rubble.

Bridges were washed away by swollen rivers, while livestock drowned and submerged fields, destroying the livelihoods of rural families.

In Madagascar, 110,000 had to flee their homes. In the capital Antananarivo, schools and gyms were turned into emergency shelters.

READ ALSO: US Ships Nearly 1.7 Million COVID-19 Vaccine Doses To Uganda

“We only brought our most important possessions,” Berthine Razafiarisoa, who sheltered in a gym with his family of 10, told AFP.

In northern and central Mozambique, Ana destroyed 10,000 homes, dozens of schools and hospitals, and downed power lines.

Mozambique’s weather service expects another storm to form over the Indian Ocean in the coming days. Up to six tropical cyclones are expected before the rainy season ends in March.

In neighbouring Malawi, the government declared a state of natural disaster.

Most of the country lost electricity early in the week, after flood waters hit generating stations. Power was restored by Thursday in parts of the country, but parts of the electric grid were destroyed.

“Our priority now is restoring power to health establishments, water treatment distribution systems, and schools,” the national power utility said in a statement.

Southern Africa, and especially Mozambique, has suffered repeated destructive storms in recent years.

Malawi Leader Names New Cabinet

Map of Malawi

 

 

After suddenly firing all his ministers over graft concerns, Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera reappointed most of them to a new cabinet on Wednesday.

Chakwera sacked his entire 33-member cabinet on Monday, vowing to “confront all forms of lawless conduct by public officials”.

However, a list of 12 ministerial appointments released by his office just after midnight on Wednesday includes only two new faces. Well-known businessman and politician Mark Katsonga Phiri becomes trade minister while ruling party loyalist Sam Kawale takes over as lands minister.

Kawale replaces Kezzie Msukwa, who was arrested last month for bribery.

Key portfolios such as finance, defence and foreign affairs are yet to be announced.

Barely two years since he took office, Chakwera has come under pressure from civic and religious groups to rein in his cabinet, after a number of his ministers were embroiled in corruption scandals.

His decision to sack the entire government followed meetings last week with the influential Episcopal Conference of Malawi and the Public Affairs Committee, which comprise church groups serving as a government watchdog.

The organisations expressed concern over the president’s indecisiveness in fighting corruption.

Chakwera won the 2020 presidential election on a campaign to fight corruption in his poor southern African country.

In December 2021, a corruption probe saw Malawi’s former finance minister and an ex-central bank governor arrested on allegations they manipulated accounts to obtain loans from the International Monetary Fund.

Tropical Storm Kills 46 In Madagascar, Mozambique, Malawi

People walk through flood water after several houses were affected by rising water following heavy rains in 67 Hectares neighbourhood in Antananarivo on January 24, 2022. RIJASOLO / AFP
People walk through flood water after several houses were affected by rising water following heavy rains in 67 Hectares neighbourhood in Antananarivo on January 24, 2022. RIJASOLO / AFP

 

Tropical storm Ana has killed at least 46 people in Madagascar, and Mozambique along with Malawi, which lost most of its power because of flooding, authorities in the three countries said Tuesday.

The storm, which formed over the east coast of Africa’s largest island Madagascar, has brought heavy rains causing flooding and mudslides in the capital Antananarivo.

The latest report from Madagascar’s disaster management agency on Tuesday showed that 39 people have died and nearly 65,000 have been left homeless since last week.

READ ALSO: Malawi President Fires Cabinet Over Graft Concerns

Several low-lying districts of the capital remain under high alert and emergency evacuations were launched overnight.

“We are in the process of evacuating people from flooded areas,” John Razafimandimby, rescue unit director in the disaster management agency, told AFP.

After crossing the Indian Ocean, the storm made landfall on mainland Africa on Monday bringing heavy rains and strong winds in Mozambique’s central and northern districts.

Mozambican officials on Tuesday said three people were killed, with at least 49 injured in the province of Zambezia.

More than half a million people have been affected in Zambezia as well as Nampula and Sofala provinces, according to the Mozambican government and UN agencies.

The National Institute for Disaster Risk Management said a clinic and 16 school classrooms were destroyed overnight.

The UN forecasts the storm will cause widespread flooding, displace people and damage infrastructure.

The storm will potentially affect “highly vulnerable populations who have already suffered from previous natural disasters and conflict in northern Mozambique,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in an update.

Four people died in neighbouring Malawi, where the storm plunged most parts of the country into darkness overnight after flash floods raised the water levels, forcing the electric company to shut down its generators.

“Our generation depends on water levels, and currently the levels are too high for us to run the machines. It is too risky,” Moses Gwaza, spokesman for the Electricity Generation Company, told AFP.

In an update on Tuesday morning, the company said it was starting to restore power generation.

The Mozambican Meteorological Institute forecasts between four and six cyclones in the region during the current rainy season, which ends in late March.

AFP

Malawi President Fires Cabinet Over Graft Concerns

Lazarus Chakwera
In this file photo taken on June 20, 2020, Malawi’s Lazarus Chakwera arrives at Mtandire locations in the suburb of the capital Lilongwe to hold his final rally.  AMOS GUMULIRA / AFP

 

 

Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera on Monday sacked his entire cabinet over graft concerns, vowing to “confront all forms of lawless conduct by public officials”.

“I have dissolved my entire cabinet effective immediately, and all the functions of cabinet revert to my office until I announce a reconfigured cabinet in two days,” Chakwera said in a national address.

He added that the reconfigured cabinet will exclude Minister of Lands Kezzie Msukwa, who was arrested last month in a bribery case.

“This is to allow him to answer the corruption charges he is facing in court and clear his name there,” Chakwera said.

READ ALSOBurkina Faso President Kabore Arrested By Mutinous Soldiers

The stunning decision follows meetings last week with two influential groups, the Episcopal Conference of Malawi and the Public Affairs Committee, which comprises church groups that act as a government watchdog.

Both groups expressed concern over the president’s indecisiveness in fighting corruption.

ECM, an assembly of Malawi’s Catholic bishops, said authorities must ensure that no one is “pressurised, intimidated, or influenced” in the pursuit for justice.

“Let no suspect, however powerful, wealthy or who their connections are, be shielded or protected,” the bishops said in a statement.

Chakwera won the 2020 elections by campaigning on promises to fight corruption in the poor southern African country.

The land minister’s arrest was the second corruption scandal to erupt in less than a month.

Earlier in December, a corruption probe saw Malawi’s former finance minister and an ex-central bank governor arrested on allegations they manipulated accounts to obtain loans from the International Monetary Fund.

AFP