Malawi Ex-Leader Mutharika In No-Show At Graft Inquiry

File photo of Peter Mutharika (C), as he leaves the Malawi court in Lilongwe March 14, 2013.

 

 

Malawi’s former president Peter Mutharika failed to appear before the country’s anti-corruption agency on Wednesday, a day after he wrote a scathing statement vowing not to answer any questions.

He was originally scheduled to attend the Anti-Corruption Bureau on Tuesday to answer questions on alleged fraud and tax abuses, but Mutharika excused himself.

Instead, the 81-year-old politician issued an angry statement saying he would exercise his right to “remain silent”.

After the bureau rescheduled the interview to Wednesday morning, Mutharika excused himself on health grounds.

“He was taken ill and he went to see (his) doctor,” the agency’s spokeswoman Egrita Mdala told AFP.

The bureau last week said they wanted Mutharika to answer questions over the alleged abuse of his taxpayer identification number.

He has been accused of having used it while he was still in office to import millions of dollars worth of cement free of duty, which was then sold at commercial rates.

In his statement Tuesday, Mutharika said the inquiry was “continued persecution and harassment” and was “intended to humiliate and taunt me psychologically”.

A year ago Mutharika, then the incumbent, lost a presidential re-election ordered after a top court annulled his victory over electoral irregularities.

His successor, President Lazarus Chakwera, campaigned on a platform of fighting corruption.

Malawi Runs Out Of Coronavirus Vaccines As Second Jabs Due

Malawi’s Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda (C) lifts out a pack of expired Covid-19 Astra Zeneca from a transit box at an official ceremony at a pharmaceutical incinerator where the vaccines are to be destroyed at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe on May 19, 2021.

 

Delays in coronavirus vaccine shipments to Malawi have caused health facilities to run out of doses as hundreds are due to receive a second shot, the health minister said Saturday.

The southern African country has so far received 300,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the United Nations, 102,000 from the African Union and 50,000 donated by India.

Inoculations started in April and the country was expecting a second UN shipment of 900,000 by the end of May, four weeks before the first vaccinated Malawians would be due a second dose.

READ ALSO: Pilgrims Flock To Mount Arafat In High Point Of Pandemic-Era Hajj

But Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo said that batch had been delayed by a recent surge in coronavirus cases in India, the world’s main AstraZeneca supplier, which forced the country to temporarily halt major vaccine exports to meet local demand.

“The situation in India has delayed the supply,” Kandodo told AFP on Saturday, adding that the vaccines would only arrive in July or August.

Hundreds of people seeking to get vaccinated were turned away from Malawi’s main Kamuzu Central Hospital in the capital Lilongwe this week.

“The hospital has told us that there is nothing they can do because they simply do not have vaccines,” taxi driver Geoffrey Ngwale told AFP on Friday, distraught by the inability to receive a second dose on time.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention warned in April that India’s vaccine supply delay would undermine inoculation plans on the continent.

Africa has been slower than other regions in immunising its population against coronavirus.

Only two percent of Africans had received at least one vaccine jab at the start of June, compared to 24 percent of the world’s population, according to the World Health Organization.

Malawi hopes to inoculate around 11 million people — 60 percent of the population — by the end of 2021.

But just over 380,600 people in Malawi have received the first shot so far, of which more than 33,200 are now fully vaccinated.

Widespread vaccine hesitancy has also hindered the rollout.

The government was forced to destroy 17,000 expired vaccines last month due to low turnout.

AFP

South Africa Expels Malawi Diplomats Over Alcohol Scandal

In this file photo taken on March 22, 2020 South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) conducts a media briefing at the end of a meeting with various business leaders and political party leaders on matters relating to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Phill Magakoe / AFP
In this file photo taken on March 22, 2020 South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) conducts a media briefing at the end of a meeting with various business leaders and political party leaders on matters relating to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Phill Magakoe / AFP

 

Malawi said Friday that several of its diplomats had been expelled from South Africa, which said they had been found guilty of peddling duty-free alcohol.

Malawi’s foreign affairs ministry in Lilongwe said South Africa had given the diplomats and their families 72 hours to leave the country.

Pretoria took the decision because the diplomats “were found guilty of engaging in illicit trade in duty-free alcohol” following an intensive investigation into their flouting of diplomatic privileges, South Africa’s ministry of international relations said in a statement.

Pretoria said investigations into similar transgressions by other missions accredited to South Africa were “at an advanced stage and similar action will be taken should they be found guilty”.

Several diplomats of Lesotho were expelled from South Africa on Thursday on similar grounds.

South African media have reported that cash-strapped Lesotho diplomats have been bringing alcohol into the country without paying duty and then re-selling it in bars and restaurants.

Malawi’s foreign ministry expressed “regret” that “Malawian diplomats…have been declared persona non grata” by South Africa.

It vowed disciplinary action when the officers return home.

 

AFP

Malawi Destroys 17,000 Expired AstraZeneca Vaccines

Malawi’s Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda (C) lifts out a pack of expired Covid-19 Astra Zeneca from a transit box at an official ceremony at a pharmaceutical incinerator where the vaccines are to be destroyed at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe on May 19, 2021. PHOTO: AMOS GUMULIRA / AFP

 

Malawi on Wednesday destroyed nearly 17,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that had expired in mid-April, with the health minister blaming “propaganda” for many Malawians’ reluctance to receive the jab.

“The batch which had expired (has) been withdrawn from our system and has been destroyed,” Health Minister Kumbize Kandodo said at the Kamuzu Central Hospital in the capital Lilongwe.

The southern African country has so far received three batches of the AstraZeneca vaccine — 300,000 doses under the Covax vaccine sharing facility, 50,000 from India, and 102,000 from the African Union.

Kandodo said the African Union batch had “two weeks of shelf life, and unfortunately, in those two weeks, we were not able to absorb everything, mostly due to the propaganda against the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

A pharmaceutical expert (L) opens a pack of expired Covid-19 Astra Zeneca vaccines to show to Malawi’s Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda (R) before they are destroyed in a furnace at a pharmaceutical incinerator at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe on May 19, 2021. PHOTO: AMOS GUMULIRA / AFP

 

Austria this week became the third European country to drop AstraZeneca, after Norway and Denmark ditched the vaccine over rare cases of severe blood clots in people receiving the jab.

Kandodo said Wednesday: “We tried to assure Malawians and give them the faith” but wound up with 16,910 unusable doses of AstraZeneca, incinerated in a brief ceremony at the hospital.

Since Malawi launched its vaccination drive in March, it has inoculated 300,000 people of its target to reach 11 million, or 60 percent of the population, by the end of the year.

“We don’t want to lose any vaccine because we have a lot of people to vaccinate but… we have to remove all expired drugs from the system,” Kandodo said.

AFP

Malawi Destroys 17,000 Expired AstraZeneca Vaccines


THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP

 

Malawi on Wednesday destroyed nearly 17,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that had expired in mid-April, with the health minister blaming “propaganda” for many Malawians’ reluctance to receive the jab.

“The batch which had expired (has) been withdrawn from our system and has been destroyed,” Health Minister Kumbize Kandodo said at the Kamuzu Central Hospital in the capital Lilongwe.

The southern African country has so far received three batches of the AstraZeneca vaccine — 300,000 doses under the Covax vaccine sharing facility, 50,000 from India and 102,000 from the African Union.

Kandodo said the African Union batch had “two weeks of shelf life, and unfortunately, in those two weeks, we were not able to absorb everything, mostly due to the propaganda against the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

Austria this week became the third European country to drop

, after Norway and Denmark ditched the vaccine over rare cases of severe blood clots in people receiving the jab.

Kandodo said Wednesday: “We tried to assure Malawians and give them the faith” but wound up with 16,910 unusable doses of AstraZeneca, incinerated in a brief ceremony at the hospital.

Since Malawi launched its vaccination drive in March, it has inoculated 300,000 people of its target to reach 11 million, or 60 percent of the population, by the end of the year.

“We don’t want to lose any vaccine because we have a lot of people to vaccinate but… we have to remove all expired drugs from the system,” Kandodo said.

Malawi Govt Orders Thousands Of Refugees Back To Camp

 

The Malawian government has ordered thousands of long-integrated refugees to return to its sole but badly overcrowded refugee camp, in a controversial move that many have vowed to resist.

The UN estimates there are around 2,000 refugees residing outside the camp at Dzaleka, about 40 kilometres (30 miles) north of the capital Lilongwe.

Many have lived there for years, setting up businesses in the town or marrying Malawians and having children with them.

But the government argues they pose a potential danger to national security by living among locals.

“We are not chasing them, and we just want them to be where they should be,” Homeland Security Minister Richard Chimwendo told AFP.

“Those who have businesses… will have to operate from Dzaleka.”

“If they are married they must apply for permanent residence” instead of “just spreading themselves across the country.”

“We are not sending them back to their countries,” he argued.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR in Malawi said the directive was in line with the country’s encampment laws, but advised the government to reconsider.

It said, according to an official communication it received from the Homeland Security ministry, the decision was also taken in the light of “security concerns in order to protect both refugees and host communities following the volatile situation in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado area”.

But Chimwendo said the decision to relocate the refugees was not linked to the insurgency in neighbouring northern Mozambique, where jihadists have wreaked havoc for over three years.

With an initial capacity of between 10,000 and 14,000 refugees around 1994, the camp now houses 49,386 people and several hundred continue to arrive each month, according to the UNHCR.

The deadline for refugees to return to the camp was April 28, but a last-minute court injunction gave them a brief respite.

– ‘Bear with us’ –

Jean Minani, a longtime Burundian refugee who resides out of the camp, is among many who object to the order.

Speaking in one of Malawi’s main languages, Chichewa, he told AFP he sought asylum in the southern African country 13 years ago, eventually setting up a small retail business, a food store.

Like many asylum seekers, Minani sees a return to Dzaleka as unimaginable for him and his family after their successful integration into a local community.

“We are not comfortable” with the idea, Minani said, voicing fears of catching Covid-19 in the over-crowded camp.

He also feared the move would disrupt their children’s education while they are facing exams, and he scoffed at the monthly food ration, worth $5 (four euros).

Kanamula John, who represents Rwandan refugees in the camp, is also concerned about congestion at the facility.

“Some of us have married Malawian women and some Malawian men have married refugees. We don’t know what will happen to our children,” John said.

The minister admitted there was not enough accomodation at the camp, but vowed “we are looking at how best we can settle that.”

Burundian national Ntizo Muheba, who arrived in Malawi in 2005, has returned to the camp but is sleeping rough for lack of accommodation there.

“I have four children, and it is hard to live like this,” he said.

About 62 percent of the refugees are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, 23 percent from Burundi, 14 percent from Rwanda while the rest are from Somalia and Ethiopia.

Congolese refugee John Muhirwa pleaded with the government “to bear with us and allow us to live outside the camp for our children to return to their schools. We were living peacefully with the local people.”

Rights groups have urged the government to treat the refugees with dignity and safeguard their financial property.

“We don’t want to see scenarios where people will take advantage to grab or ransack the refugees’ assets,” said Human Rights Defenders Coalition’s chairman, Gift Trapence.

While the UNHCR acknowledged that the government has legal grounds for ordering the relocation, it warned of “serious human rights implications”.

In an email response to AFP, it said schools would be congested and water supplies would be stretched as well as health facilities.

Meantime, Malawi insists it will challenge the court injunction, the latest in a series of legal tussles between the government and the refugees since 2016.

AFP

Malawi Scraps ‘Unconstitutional’ Death Penalty

A file photo of a court gavel.

 

 

 

Malawi’s highest court on Wednesday outlawed the death penalty and ordered the re-sentencing of all convicts facing execution.  

Capital punishment has long been mandatory in Malawi for prisoners convicted of murder or treason, and optional for rape.

Violent robberies, house break-ins and burglaries could also be punishable by death or life imprisonment.

Executions have however not been carried out since Malawi’s first democratically elected president, Bakili Muluzi, opposed the punishment when he took office in 1994.

In a landmark ruling on Wednesday, Supreme Court judges hearing an appeal by a murder convict declared the death penalty “unconstitutional”, de facto abolishing the punishment.

“The death penalty… is tainted by the unconstitutionality discussed,” the judgement said.

Malawi last executed around two dozen prisoners in 1992, according to Amnesty International.

More than 30 countries in Africa still have the death penalty on their books, but just under half have carried out executions in recent years.

Malawi Qualify For Third AFCON 

Malawi is making it to their third AFCON. Photo: [email protected]

 

Richard Mbulu scored after 16 minutes to give Malawi a 1-0 Group B victory over Uganda on Monday, and qualification for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

The 27-year-old forward headed powerfully past Uganda goalkeeper Denis Onyango off a cross from former Atletico Madrid youth squad member Robin Ngalande.

It was the second time in six days that a goal from the South Africa-based attacker proved decisive as he also scored in last Wednesday’s 1-0 win over South Sudan.

The son of a former footballer, Mbulu was based in Mozambique twice and Portugal before signing a three-year contract with South African Premiership club Baroka in 2019.

READ ALSO: Matriarch Of Obama Family Dies Aged 99 In Kenyan Hospital

Hosts Malawi needed maximum points at Kamuzu Stadium in commercial capital Blantyre to secure a first appearance since 2010 while a draw would have sufficed for Uganda.

Victory temporarily took Malawi to the top of the table with 10 points — they were overtaken three hours later when fellow qualifiers Burkina Faso defeated South Sudan 1-0 in Ouagadougou.

Aston Villa forward Bertrand Traore scored the Burkinabe goal on 50 minutes as the team finished unbeaten a six-match qualifying campaign spanning 17 months.

Popularly known as the Flames, Malawi are ranked 123rd in the world, 40 places below Uganda, and will be making a third appearance at the finals after first-round exits from the 1984 and 2010 editions.

They are the 19th qualifiers after Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Comoros, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.

– Salah scores twice –
The match in Blantyre was the only one of eight staged Monday that involved qualification, with just pride at stake in the others.

Joint leading Premier League scorer Mohamed Salah of Liverpool scored twice as Egypt netted four times in 10 minutes during the first half to hammer the Comoros 4-0 in Cairo and top Group G.

Kenya claimed a first win in the same section with goals from Hassan Abdallah and Masoud Juma, off a penalty, delivering a 2-1 win in Togo.

Captain Riyad Mahrez scored as Group H table-toppers Algeria finished with a 5-0 rout of Botswana in Blida, which stretched an unbeaten record in competitive and friendly matches to 24.

Zimbabwe, the other qualifiers from the section, fell 2-0 to neighbours Zambia in Harare with Patson Daka netting twice to become the leading scorer in qualifying with five goals.

Both Group D qualifiers lost with Gabon beaten 2-0 by Angola in Luanda and the Gambia going down 1-0 to the Democratic Republic of Congo in Kinshasa.

Manuel ‘Show’ Cafumana and Loide Augusto scored to end a five-match winless run by Angola in the group while Kazadi Kasengu was the Congolese match-winner, converting a penalty on the stroke of half-time.

The remaining five places will be filled Tuesday with the Central African Republic, who have never qualified for the premier African national team competition, among 12 hopefuls.

They host Mauritania in Bangui and a victory will take them to Cameroon unless Burundi achieve an unlikely away win over Group E winners Morocco.

AFP

Newly Elected Malawi President Under Fire For Family Appointments To Cabinet

Malawi Congress Party leader and Presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera gets ready to cast his ballot at a polling station in Kasiya, Malawi, on May 21, 2019. GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP

 

Malawians on Thursday voiced anger after newly-appointed President Lazarus Chakwera unveiled a cabinet that they said was tainted by family ties.

Chakwera, 65, comfortably beat Peter Mutharika with 58.5 percent of the vote last month, marking the first time in African history that an election re-run led to the defeat of an incumbent.

On Wednesday night the new president announced a 31-member cabinet that included six figures who are related to each other, although not to the president.

The new labour and health ministers are brother and sister, while the incoming information minister is the sister-in-law of the new deputy agriculture minister.

Chakwera’s former running mate in the 2019 elections, Sidik Mia, will serve as the transport minister while his wife will be the deputy minister for lands.

The Human Rights Defenders Coalition, which led sustained countrywide protests against the disputed 2019 elections, said there were “widespread concerns.”

“First is the issue of family members in the cabinet, such as husband and wife and brother and sister,” the coalition’s national coordinator, Luke Tembo, told AFP.

The second was regionalism, he said.

“We have noted that 70 percent of the ministers are from the central region and that Lilongwe alone has nine ministers, and we know that the president comes from Lilongwe,” he said.

Social activist Mkotama Katenga-Kaunda said the move was disappointing as the incumbent had vowed “that this new Malawi will get rid of nepotism and cronyism”.

“Malawians feel that these cabinet posts were not awarded to some individuals based on merit, but based on what monetary support they gave to the alliance during the campaign,” he said.

Chakwera, a former evangelical preacher, vowed to tackle corruption on his election ticket.

His victory had brought hope for change in landlocked Malawi, where around half of its 18 million people live below the poverty line.

Danwood Chirwa, a professor of law at the University of Cape Town described the nominations as “political patronage”, saying the president has “quickly transformed himself into a good salesman of words and rhetoric while serving the same stale dishes Malawians have fed on in the last 26 years.”

Chirwa said Malawians should raise their voices and reject the cabinet.

“On Monday, he promised heaven, yesterday he unleashed hell,” he said.

“He has reduced the electoral victory to the actions of a few individuals whose main interest is to profit from the state, not through the ordinary remuneration and other trappings ministerial positions offer, but through corruption and looting,” Chirwa added.

Chakwera’s spokesman Sean Kampondeni said that “President Chakwera will himself address those concerns soon”.

 

AFP

Could Malawi’s Historic Re-Run Election Inspire Africa?

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 18, 2019 opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader and presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera (L) waves to the crowd as he arrives at the last campaign rally, in Lilongwe, ahead of general elections. – Chakwera on June 27, 2020 was declared winner of this week’s presidential election re-run with 58.75 percent of the vote according to the electoral commission said, AFP reports. GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP.

 

The opposition triumph in Malawi’s recent landmark election re-run after last year’s fraudulent polls were overturned could spur similar democratic change across the continent, analysts and historians say.

Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party comfortably won the June 23 election with 58.5% of the vote — beating Peter Mutharika, whose re-election last year was nullified by the courts over “widespread and systematic” irregularities.

Chakwera’s official inauguration is set for Monday, to coincide with the country’s 56th anniversary of independence from Britain.

The election set the impoverished African country apart from many on the continent, making it only the second sub-Saharan African country to have presidential election results overturned in court, after Kenya in 2017.

It was also the first time in Africa that an election re-run has led to the defeat of an incumbent.

The unprecedented political feat was credited to a cohesion of several powerful forces — including the resilience of the judiciary that handed down the historic judgement.

In extraordinary scenes, Constitutional Court judges came sporting bullet-proof jackets and under military escort to deliver the ruling on February 3 overturning Mutharika’s re-election.

That was after six months of hearing evidence during a groundswell of civic society-led street protests.

“For a year they persevered with mass demonstrations against the wanton theft of their votes despite threats and repression by the beleaguered and discredited government,” said historian Paul Tiyambe Zeleza.

The election result showed that despite the power of incumbency, an organised and smart opposition can win, Zeleza said.

“This election will certainly influence subsequent elections across the African continent,” said Grant Masterson, programme manager at the Johannesburg-based Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA).

He expects that elsewhere on the continent “opposition leaders will become emboldened by this success… and ramp up post-election protests against results that did not go in their favour, combined with court challenges.”

Opposition leaders from neighbouring countries are drawing inspiration, hailing the “professionalism” displayed by Malawian institutions and “citizens’ vigilance”.

– ‘Example for Africa’ –

Nelson Chamisa, Zimbabwe’s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change-Alliance (MDC-A) leader, failed in his legal bid to have the courts overturn the 2018 election which he said was stolen from him by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

He saluted Malawi’s judiciary and security services “for acting as a bulwark against authoritarianism and defending the constitution”.

The election is “a source of inspiration to democrats across Africa and a reminder to those with determined leadership, people power, unity of purpose and an undying commitment to democratic values, that no barrier is insurmountable,” said Chamisa in a congratulatory message to Chakwera.

Zambia’s main opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, who has lost two consecutive elections, hailed Malawians for having “set a great example for Africa!”

Masterson said Malawi “reminds us that even in the most peaceful of countries, the citizenry will only tolerate so much before they raise their voice in protest”.

“When enough citizens stand up, in Malawi, or Sudan and elsewhere, they will eventually bring about change,” he said.

Nic Cheeseman, a professor of African democracy at the University of Birmingham agreed.

“The impressive performance of key institutions, and the country’s democratic progress itself, is rooted in the hard work of civil society groups and the efforts of hundreds of thousands of Malawian citizens,” Cheeseman said.

Chakwera, the 65-year-old former evangelical preacher, sailed to victory thanks to a nine-party electoral alliance.

Opposition elsewhere in Africa should learn that “dialogue, not division, can offer a genuine path to change, especially in those countries with less favourable institutional conditions,” wrote Chatham House’s Africa programme projects assistant, Fergus Kell.

“Neighbouring Zambia would certainly do well to heed this example ahead of a pivotal election of its own in 2021.”

AFP

Malawi’s New President Calls For Unity After Disputed Vote Re-Run

Malawi’s main opposition Malawi Congress Party, MCP, Leader Lazarus Chakwera who is leading the Tonse Alliance in the fresh Presidential elections due on June 23, next week, addresses supporters at Mtandire locations in the suburb of the capital Lilongwe where he held his final rally, June 20, 2020. AMOS GUMULIRA / AFP.

 

Malawi’s newly elected President Lazarus Chakwera vowed Sunday to maintain unity in the southern African country after quashing the incumbent’s bid for a second term in the re-run of a hotly contested election.

It was a dramatic twist of fortune for outgoing president Peter Mutharika, whose victory in a May 2019 ballot was overturned by the Constitutional Court over fraud allegations.

Chakwera, a former evangelist preacher, was declared the winner of the election replay with almost 59 percent of the vote, according to results announced late Saturday.

Malawi is only the second sub-Saharan African country to have presidential poll results overturned in court, after Kenya in 2017.

It is also the first time in the region that a vote re-run has led to the defeat of an incumbent leader, and the election was hailed by a number of African politicians.

Chakwera said it was “an honour” to be president after taking his oath of office in the capital Lilongwe.

READ ALSO: Civilians Among Over 100 Victims Of Libya Mines – UN

“It is an honour forged in the furnace of your desire and your demand for change.”

Addressing thousands of supporters in Lilongwe’s Freedom Square, 65-year-old Chakwera vowed to restore “faith in the possibility of having a government that serves” and “fights for you”.

He appealed to those who did not vote for him, saying: “Malawi is home to you too… so long as I am its president, you too will prosper.”

– ‘We have waited too long’ –

Chakwera leads Malawi’s oldest party, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), which previously ruled from 1964 to 1994 under Hastings Banda’s one-party rule.

Some 6.8 million Malawians returned to the polls on Tuesday after the country’s top court found the first election had been marred by “grave” and “widespread irregularities” — including the use of correction fluid to tamper with result sheets.

Chakwera was pronounced the winner with 2.6 million votes, while Mutharika took 1.75 million and underdog Peter Dominico Kuwani over 32,400.

Voter turnout was just under 65 percent.

In power since 2014, Mutharika won 38 percent of the discredited vote last year, ahead of Chakwera’s 35 percent.

Saulos Chilima of the opposition United Transformation Movement (UTM) was sworn in as vice-president on Sunday.

“Today is unbelievable because this feat seemed impossible just a month ago,” said UTM supporter Christina Nkosi.

“We have waited too long for this dawn,” echoed 70-year-old Mary Kaponda, a retired nurse sporting MCP garb.

IT expert Daud Suleman, a key witness in the election court case, told AFP: “We have made history and demonstrated how much we can achieve as a people.

“Now the challenge will be to challenge this energy into moving the country forward.”

Around half of landlocked Malawi’s 18 million people live below the poverty line. Many rely on subsistence farming.

The country is also grappling with a coronavirus outbreak that has infected over 1,000 people and killed at least 13 — although numbers are widely thought to be underestimated due to lack of testing.
– All complaints ‘resolved’ –

Mutharika, 79, has not yet commented on his defeat.

On Saturday, he had argued the re-run was flawed — citing violence and intimidation against monitors allegedly “beaten, hacked and abducted”, and describingg the vote as the “worst in Malawi’s history”.

The Malawi Electoral Commission dismissed the accusations and said all complaints had been “resolved”.

But Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party has reiterated calls for the commission to annul the results of the second vote and declare a third poll, something political analysts doubted would happen.

Mutharika supporter Tay Grin was accepting of the outcome.

“Our political choices might be different but we remain united knowing that friendship means much more.”

– ‘Very clear’ lesson –

Several African politicians congratulated Chakwera.

“The mandate our Malawi brothers and sisters have given you… is a confirmation of their desire for progressive leadership,” Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said.

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa hailed Malawians for “turning up in large numbers” to exercise their democratic right in the midst of a coronavirus outbreak.

Kenya’s former prime minister Raila Odinga — who lost to the incumbent in the 2017 re-run — commended Mutharika for facilitating a “peaceful and orderly transfer of power”.

“The election was followed keenly beyond Malawi and is a symbol of hope for those who support democracy in Africa and around the world,” he tweeted.

Tanzania’s opposition Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT Wazalendo) said Malawi had given a “very clear” lesson ahead of the east African country’s own elections in October.

“Authoritarian and repressive governments can be beaten when the opposition unites,” its leader Zitto Kabwe said.

“President-elect Chakwera’s election victory is an important moment for democracy in the African continent.”

AFP

Malawi Opposition Leader Sworn In As President After Vote Re-Run

Lazarus Chakwera
(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 20, 2020, Malawi’s main opposition Malawi Congress Party, MCP, Leader Lazarus Chakwera who is leading the Tonse Alliance in the Presidential elections due on June 23, arrives at Mtandire locations in the suburb of the capital Lilongwe to hold his final rally.
AMOS GUMULIRA / AFP

 

Malawi’s opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera was sworn in Sunday as the southern African country’s new president after winning the re-run of a hotly disputed election.

It was a dramatic reversal of fortune for the incumbent Peter Mutharika, whose victory in a May 2019 ballot was overturned by the Constitutional Court over fraud allegations.

Chakwera, a former evangelist preacher, was declared the winner of the election replay held on Tuesday with almost 59 percent of the vote, according to results announced late Saturday.

Malawi is only the second African country south of the Sahara to have presidential poll results overturned in court, after Kenya in 2017.

And it is the first time in the region that a vote re-run has led to the defeat of an incumbent leader.

“I… do solemnly swear that I will well and truly perform the functions of the high office of the president of the Republic of Malawi and that I will preserve and defend the constitution,” the 65-year-old Chakwera said as took his oath before thousands of supporters.

Opposition candidate Saulos Chilima was sworn in as vice-president.

Some 6.8 million Malawians returned to the polls on Tuesday after the country’s top court found the first election had been marred by widespread irregularities — including the use of correction fluid to tamper with result sheets.

Chakwera was pronounced the winner with 2.6 million votes, while Mutharika took 1.75 million and underdog candidate Peter Dominico Kuwani over 32,400.

Voter turnout was just under 65 percent.

In power since 2014, Mutharika had won 38 percent of the discredited vote last year, just ahead of Chakwera with about 35 percent.

 ‘A government that serves’ 

“Fellow Malawians, to stand before you is an honour. It’s an honour that fills me with unspeakable joy,” Chakwera said.

“It is an honour forged in the furnace of your desire and your demand for change.”

Addressing supporters in Lilongwe’s Freedom Square, Chakwera vowed to restore “faith in the possibility of having a government that serves” and “fights for you”.

“There are many of you who did not vote for me in this election and perhaps the prospect of my presidency fills you with fear,” he added.

“But… Malawi is home to you too… so long as I am its president, you too will prosper.”

Chakwera leads Malawi’s oldest party, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), which is the main opposition party and ruled Malawi for three decades from 1964 to 1994 under Hastings Banda’s one-party rule.

Mutharika, 79, has not yet commented on his defeat.

On Saturday, he had argued that the election re-run had been flawed, citing violence and intimidation against monitors.

The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) dismissed the allegations and said all complaints had been “resolved”.

But Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) called on the MEC to annul the results of the second vote and declare a third poll.

Political analysts told AFP they highly doubted the possibility of a second re-run.

Kenya’s former prime minister Raila Odinga — who lost to the incumbent in the country’s 2017 vote re-run — was among several politicians to congratulate Chakwera.

“I commend the outgoing president Peter Mutharika for creating the environment for a peaceful and orderly transfer of power,” Odinga tweeted.

“The election was followed keenly beyond Malawi and is a symbol of hope for those who support democracy in Africa and around the world.”

AFP