Malawi News Online (29) - 05/7/97

Malawi News Online (29) - 05/7/97


A fortnightly update of news from Malawi

Edition # 29 7 May 1997

MALAWI NEWS ONLINE is written by Malawian journalists in Malawi and brings you the news from their point of view. It is assembled and edited in Denmark by South Africa Contact, the former anti-apartheid movement, publishers of i'Afrika, a quarterly magazine on Southern Africa.

The fortnightly news updates from Malawi are provided by our established network of journalists in Southern Africa. ZAMBIA NEWS ONLINE and TANZANIA NEWS ONLINE are our latest newsletters and they will be followed, in the not too distant future, by individual news updates covering other Southern African countries,.

MALAWI NEWS ONLINE is brought to you by a co-operation between South Africa Contact and Inform, the leading alternative information network in Denmark.


In this edition:



Stories :

1. Ex-president Banda discharged in fraud case

2. UDF Secretary General to appear in court on defamation charges

3. Improved tobacco prices on Auction Floors

4. Muluzi blames strike on opposition

5. Police increase action against strikers

6. Seven die in mini-bus accident

7. British couple murdered

8. MHC loses case on rents

9. National soccer coach dismissed


If former president Kamuzu Banda did not fulfil all legal requirements pertaining to the acquisition of his business undertakings while he ruled the country, he might eventually find himself cash-strapped and 'stripped to the flesh' as the ruling UDF-led government goes on dismantling the remaining bastions of his economic empire.

First to be targeted for dispossession or nationalisation by the present government was the huge and largely successful trading conglomerate, the Press Trust, which until 1995 was widely believed to be Dr Banda's private business enterprise. It was Aleke Banda, Finance Minister, who once headed Press Corporation Limited, who convinced parliament that Dr Banda fraudulently turned to personal ownership an organisation founded with public funds. To this effect, he moved a motion in parliament to reconstruct the Press Trust Act. Naturally, the motion received heavy protests from the opposition Malawi Congress Party.

Even before the dust had completely settled over the wrangling on the Press Trust issue, the beleaguered former dictator was slapped with what Director of Public Prosecutions, Kamudoni Nyasulu termed a master fraud case involving K137 million (U$9.1 million) from the Press Trust. Nyasulu argues that the money was drawn on the pretext that it was going to be used in the construction and running of the Kamuzu Academy, the grammar school that Dr Banda built in his home district of Kasungu. The Kamuzu Academy is also believed to have been constructed and run with funds from Dr Banda's personal finances.

The latest development concerning Dr Banda's assets is the reallocation of 2,000 acres of land in south Malawi to the ordinary people. This, according to the UDF, is because while Banda ruled he dispossessed or grabbed from the ordinary folk this huge chunk of land knowing they could 'not say no to a life president.' Dr Banda never obtained a lease on the land.

Fachi told the nation on May 4 that acting on powers vested in him as Lands and Valuation minister, he had directed that the disputed land on which Banda established a cattle ranch be distributed to the ordinary people. Following the directive, Dr Banda will lose annual profits to the tune of K15 million (U$ 1 million) from the cattle raising business.

"The country is systematically witnessing the stripping naked of a once powerful personality whose influence in Malawi could be felt from thousands of kilometres away," said an observer who did not want to be named nor say which side he favours in the on-going strike.

While the MCP wishes to undertake a campaign to prove that Dr Banda never grabbed any piece of land from people in the lower Shire by force, leaders in the ruling camp are also determined to see to it that their viewpoint emerges victorious.

A race has thus been started by both camps to win the support of the local populace in the area. On May 5, Fachi was in his land of birth in the lower Shire where he told the people there that Dr Banda had been given two weeks, starting May 5, to dismantle his ranch and either move the 2,000 strong herd of cattle to another area, or to auction or slaughter them. The land, said Fachi, would be given to those who owned it before Dr Banda grabbed it from them in 1978 when the ranch was established.

"We cannot have one man owning 2,000 acres of land in an area where many people have nothing at all," said Fachi.

1. Ex-president Banda discharged in fraud case

Kamuzu Banda has been discharged from a K137 million (U$ 9.13 million) fraud court case when the judge said that the ailing 99-year old would be unfit to attend court.

Judge Duncan Tambala said 6 April: "Our constitution provides that the right to a fair trial includes the right to adduce and challenge evidence and the right to be tried during his presence."

The others accused in the case, John Tembo, Cecilia Kadzamira, and former Louis Chimango, all put in not guilty pleas to theft and conversion of funds charges relating to the Press Trust.

2. UDF Secretary general to appear in court on defamation charges

United Democratic Front (UDF) Secretary General, Sam Mpasu, who is awaiting a court verdict on the 1994 Fieldyork notebook scam, has earned himself another lawsuit for accusing Women's World Bank Malawi Affiliate Executive Director that she was using the organisation's resources to unseat the incumbent head of state in the next elections.

The lawsuit follows the publication of a letter Mpasu wrote to President Bakili Muluzi, alleging that Mary Nyandovi-Kerr was using WWB's money for personal use and ambition, included in which were her aspirations to the presidency. The letter also accuses Kerr of allegedly making disparaging remarks about Muluzi's educational qualifications. She had said that they were "not good enough".

Muluzi responded to the letter saying as a result of the allegations he had instructed the Reserve Bank of Malawi, which has been one of WWB's credit lines, to scrap the organisation from the central bank's list of participating institutions in the Small and Medium Enterprise Fund.

Nyandovi-Kerr has denied the allegations saying they were baseless and aimed at crippling her reputation.

Nyandovi-Kerr fell out of favour in UDF mainstream politics when she stood as an independent candidate in the 1994 general elections which pitted her against a fellow UDF bigwig for a parliamentary seat in a Zomba (South Malawi) constituency. She lost the seat.

3. Improved tobacco prices on Auction Floors

Tobacco prices improved on the third day of recent sales in the capital, Lilongwe, to the relief of both farmers and officials. Tobacco is Malawi's biggest foreign exchange earner.

Tobacco sold at an average price of U$2.15 per kilogramme up from US1.60 per kilogramme on the first two days of sales. Farmers, unhappy with the low prices offered by buyers on April 15 and 16 caused a stir at the floors as they went on the rampage scattering tobacco in protest against the prices.

Government expected 115 million kilogrammes of burley tobacco and about 15 million kilogrammes of dark fired tobacco.

General Manager for the Tobacco Control Commission Dr Godfrey Chapola said although the country experienced heavy rains this year, the tobacco that had been brought to the Auction Floors had been dry and of good quality.

Sales in Blantyre and Mzuzu started April 21 and May 5, respectively.

4. Muluzi blames strike on opposition

President Bakili Muluzi has accused the opposition Alliance for Democracy (Aford) for fuelling the on-going strike by civil servants in order to gain political mileage.

The allegation is contained in a letter which Muluzi wrote to the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO-Norway) in response to concerns raised by that organisation over the harassment of civil servants trade union members by the Malawi police.

Muluzi, who only on April 26 made an impassioned plea for unity in the country, claims that the vast majority of the civil servants in south and central Malawi had abandoned the strike because, he alleged, they did not agree with what the trade union leaders were doing.

"It is only in the Northern Region where the Alliance for Democracy (Aford), is desperately trying to hijack the strike that acts of violence by civil servants on fellow civil servants are continuing," Muluzi alleged.

LO-Norway wrote Muluzi expressing its concern about reports of police brutality against striking civil servants who have been on strike for four weeks now. Muluzi, however, claimed that Lo-Norway was largely misinformed about the strike saying the civil servants were refusing to accept the most historic pay rise given to them ranging from 10 to 47 percent.

Aford has dismissed the allegations saying Muluzi was well aware of what had caused the strike. Aford's publicity secretary Dan Msowoya said Aford was the party that championed democracy in the fight for political pluralism in Malawi and could not now contradict itself by destroying the very tenets of democracy it fought for.

5. Police increase action against strikers

Police in all the country's three regions have stepped up their action against the striking civil servants, resorting to teargas, allegedly beating some of the strikers and arresting others. Acting on orders from the Inspector General of Police, Patrick Chikapa, to deal with the strikers participating in demonstrations, police in the commercial city of Blantyre, the administrative capital Lilongwe and the northern city of Mzuzu, allegedly beat up and arrested union leaders for organising the demonstrations.

The civil servants want government to implement the Chatsika Report which recommends civil servants salary increments and an improvement in their working conditions. The civil servants have rejected salary rises ranging from 47% for the lowest paid to 10% for the highest paid civil servants.

Teachers, who have been on holiday since the strike started four weeks ago, joined their fellow civil servants April 29 and called for the speedy implementation of the Teaching Service Commission. In Lilongwe, several teachers who were demonstrating peacefully were bitten by police dogs which were let loose by police. So far government has shown no willingness to come to the negotiating table with the union leaders.

6. 7 die in mini-bus accident

Seven people died April 28 when a Blantyre-Lilongwe mini-bus overturned in Ntcheu, central Malawi. Police in Ntcheu said five of the victims died on the spot while two were pronounced dead on arrival at Ntcheu hospital. They said several more people were injured in the accident which happened after the driver of the mini-bus failed to negotiate a corner at Njolomole.

In another incident, a 16 year old girl committed suicide on the same day over a love affair. The Chichiri Secondary schoolgirl, Emma Mutuku, who was said to have been pregnant committed suicide allegedly after she discovered that her boy friend had a relationship with another girl at the same school. Her grief-stricken grandmother said Emma killed herself by swallowing five packets of rat poison.

7. British couple murdered

A British couple, resident in Malawi, was murdered in neighbouring Mozambique on or about April 13 while on their way to Malawi from Zimbabwe.

Andrew and Carloyn McDown, who were teaching at Bishop Macknenzie School in the capital Lilongwe met their fate on the border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Marilyn Bennet, Information Officer at the British High Commission in Lilongwe, said on April 20 that investigations were underway jointly between the Maputo government and her country's embassy in Mozambique.

8. MHC loses case on rents

The Malawi Housing Corporation, the country's housing utility company, has lost a major lawsuit against its tenants on the corporation's decision to hike rentals on its housing units aimed at making it operate on a commercial basis.

The High Court ruled on April 27 that the MHC, which raised rents by more than 100%, violated Section 7 of the Malawi Housing Act which states that the organisation is a non-profit making entity.

The MHC increased rents in April 1996 by more than 100% in a bid to make the institution operate on a commercial basis and to enable the organisation to put up more housing units as well as improve the maintenance of existing houses. Some MHC tenants with the help of the Consumers Association of Malawi challenged the increase of the rentals in court.

In his ruling, Justice Duncan Tambala ordered that the tenants be credited the rents paid since April 1 last year. MHC chairperson Mrs Joyce Banda said following the ruling the parastatal would have to lay off staff and suspend most of its contruction projects.

9. National soccer coach dismissed

National soccer coach, Reuben Malola has been dismissed. The verdict to fire him was made at a meeting held on April 30 and attended by officials from the Malawi National Council of Sports (MNCS) and the Football Association of Malawi (FAM).

At the meeting it was unanimously agreed that Malola's performance with the national soccer team had not been impressive. The national team has been losing game after game due to what is believed to be a result of poor coaching. "Malola had run out of ideas," said a FAM official who asked for anonymity. The straw that broke the camel's back was Malawi's 4-0 defeat at the hands of Zambia on 12 April in the Africa Castle Cup competition.

A source at the MNCS said it was only by sheer luck that Malola remained coach of the national soccer team as a decision to fire him had already been made sometime in February but he was spared the axe by Malawi's 2-0 win against Mozambique in the Africa Cup of Nations in February. This is the second time that Malola has been fired as coach of the Malawi National soccer team. He was last given the boot as national team coach in 1989 when Malawi lost 4-0 to Zimbabwe. Malola later had a stint with a leading Kenyan soccer team which he coached for four years.

***************************************************** In reference to an article that appeared in Malawi News Online #28, entitled COMESA SECRETARY GENERAL DISMISSED, Africa News Network prints a letter from Peter Mutharika and a press release from Dr. Bingu Mutharika:

1. In Malawi News Online # 28 you carried in item # 8 that COMESA Secretary General had been dismissed. As the forwarded press release shows, Dr. Mutharika was not dismissed. He resigned. The story that he had been dismissed was obviously promulgated by those elements in Malawi who are believed to be behind Dr Mutharika's difficulties at COMESA I would appreciate if you would correct the story in your next issue. Peter Mutharika..

2. Press release: I announce that I have resigned as Secretary General of COMESA effective 17 April 1997. My decision to step down has been taken following the recent developments at the secretariat of COMESA in Lusaka. I am very happy, however that allegations made against me for financial mismanagement or impropriety could not be substantiated.This is because there had been no financial mismanagement in the first place. Therefore I am leaving this organisation with my head high and with honour and dignity. I have served my term of office as COMESA Secretary General with distinction ,dedication, competence and integrity. COMESA has now established a well-proven track of success. COMESA is now being emulated by other regional economic groupings. I am deeply satisfied with the regional framework which COMESA has been able to achieve under my leadership. I have developed PTA and later COMESA to the highest standards of regional cooperation and integration. COMESA now has a clear vision, a clear mission and a clear sense of direction.I was also able to develop a political consensus among the Heads os State that the common market offers a viable alternative for sustained growth and development of our countries. COMESA is truly an organisation of African people,executed by Africans for the benefit of African people. Another matter of great satisfaction for me has been the consensus and compact which I have promoted between COMESA and the donor communities, international organisations and the private sector. These organisations now play a positive role in regional economic integration in Eastern and Southern Africa. For instance. when I came to PTA in 1991, the total aid package of PTA was only about US$12 million. By 1996, this had risen to over US$100 million.I therefore believe a sound framework has been created for COMESA to work positively with the donor communities in the future. I pay tribute to all donors who are supporting COMESA. My greatest reward is that COMESA is a reality and is viable. Since taking over its leadership, the volume of intra-COMESA trade rose to nearly US$2 billion and has been growing at an annual rate of over 10 per cent.Tariffs have largely been reduced by the majority of the member states and many non-tariff barriers have been abolished.Trade information systems have been implemented and inter-country transit facilitation measures are in place. I now take this opportunity to publicly express deep appreciation to the COMESA Heads of State and Government and, to the COMESA Council of Ministers , for having given me the opportunity to serve as their Secretary General for the past six years. More specifically, for the various Heads of State who served as Chairmen of COMESA during my tenure I owe them a deep sense of gratitude for their guidance and support for me. I also wish to thank the Government and people of Zambia for cooperating with me during the past six years and for making me feel at home here in Zambia. The support of the Government of Zambia made my task much easier and indeed very pleasant. I pledge that I will continue to promote and support COMESA in future. Dr. Bingu Mutharika Lusaka Zambia 17 April 1997 ************************

From: (Africa_news Network) Date: Mon, 09 Jun 1997 15:45:32 +0200 Subject: MALAWI NEWS ONLINE #29 Message-ID: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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