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  • Christine Chumbler
    Feb 1, 2001
      Malawi minister causes
      court stir

      By Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre

      Malawi's commercial capital Blantyre witnessed
      high drama on Thursday as a government
      minister appeared in court.

      A visibly unconcerned Dumbo Lemani, the
      minister of state for presidential affairs arrived
      at the High Court in style.

      Chauffeur driven in a
      Mercedez Benz saloon
      with personalised
      number plates - Dumbo
      1 - Mr Lemani told the
      assembled journalists
      that he had brought
      with him a suitcase ready to go to prison.

      Mr Lemani is charged with contempt of court
      for ignoring a gagging order.

      Not scared

      "I tasted Kamuzu's prison," he said referring to
      former president Hastings Kamuzu Banda's
      notorious prisons. "I want to taste [President]
      Dr Bakili Muluzi's now."

      Inside, the court heard how Mr Lemani had
      ignored a court ruling stopping politicians
      commenting on the corruption case of sacked
      minister Brown Mpinganjira.

      The case was adjourned to allow the defence
      more time to prepare its case.

      Outside the courtMr
      Lemani displayed his
      well-known cowboy
      antics.

      He led a group of at
      least 200 supporters,
      comprising mostly
      women, in song and
      dance vilifying
      Mpinganjira's
      newly-formed National
      Democratic Alliance
      pressure group.

      Despite protestations from court officials that
      the noise his supporters were making was
      disturbing other cases in progress, the minister
      went ahead to address his supporters on the
      court steps.

      "I am not afraid of prospects of going to jail
      because with the coming to power of President
      Bakili Muluzi, human rights in prisons have
      greatly improved," he said.

      Opposition quiet

      About 20 NDA supporters and officials, who
      came for the case, were grossly outnumbered
      and overwhelmed by Mr Lemani's vocal
      supporters.

      They just looked on as the minister and a
      horde of UDF MPs and officials criticised their
      pressure group.

      Mr Lemani, who is never far from controversy,
      is the first minister in all President Muluzi's
      seven years in power to appear in court while
      still a minister.

      Known as cowboy for his sometimes rowdy
      antics, Lemani is a trained church minister
      whom President Muluzi recently jokingly
      referred to as the "reverend without a church."

      *****

      Fugitive MP Alleges Political Harassment

      Panafrican News Agency
      January 31, 2001
      Posted to the web January 31, 2001

      Raphael Tenthani
      Blantyre, Malawi

      A Member of Parliament from the ruling United Democratic Front
      (UDF), from the central district of Kasungu is on the run after
      allegedly being roughed up by fellow party members on suspicion
      that he supports dismissed minister Brown Mpinganjira's National
      Democratic Alliance (NDA) pressure group.

      Bamani Zgambo said Wednesday from his hideout that on Friday
      members of the UDF's Young Democrats (militia thugs) confronted
      him at the UDF office in the district. They asked him why he had
      attended Mpinganjira's rally in the northern city of Mzuzu a
      fortnight ago, he said.

      "I was being forced to declare my allegiance to Hon. Mpinganjira,"
      he added.

      Zgambo claimed that his interrogators were not satisfied with his
      answers and decided to go physical with him. He said he was
      beaten so hard that he had to report to police in order to seek
      treatment at the hospital.

      A little publicised Malawi law requires those injured in violent
      incidents to report to the police first before getting treatment.

      A nurse at Kasungu District Hospital confirmed treating Zgambo of
      bruises and nose bleeding.

      The MP, who claimed he has not recovered fully from the assault,
      said he attended the rally because the NDA was not a political
      party, but a mere pressure group.

      He said he had to flee Kasungu with his family for fear of his life.

      He said he has since lodged an official complaint with the UDF
      deputy secretary general, Paul Maulidi, of his treatment and
      warned that the assault would make him reconsider his affiliation
      to the ruling party.

      Maulidi confirmed receiving a complaint from Zgambo but told
      PANA that if Zgambo was indeed roughed up it was not sanctioned
      by the UDF politburo.

      "That notwithstanding, I summoned Zgambo to a meeting with his
      alleged assailants. The MP did not turn up," he said.

      Zgambo said he could not attend the meeting because he did not
      want to blow his cover.

      The fugitive MP is not new to controversy. He went into politics as
      an MP for the main opposition Malawi Congress Party, or MCP, but
      defected to the ruling party.

      He later claimed that he had to borrow money to fund the
      by-election his defection had caused with promises that the UDF
      would refund him the campaign expenses.

      After the elections the party did not refund him, making his
      creditors to confiscate his two vehicles, he added.

      UDF secretary-general Willie Katenga Kaunda described that
      claim as nonsense.

      The political fall-out following Mpinganjira's own fall from grace
      does not seem to show any sign of dissipating any time soon.

      On Monday, it was reported that 300 people have been
      earmarked for dismissal at the Malawi Telecommunications Limited
      allegedly for being Mpinganjira supporters.

      Parastatals with board members believed to be sympathetic to him
      have been replaced. Many others lost their jobs since Mpinganjira
      publicly said he was against Malawi President Bakili Muluzi's
      intention to run for a third term, a provision not provided for in the
      constitution.

      *****

      ZIM VETS STORM
      GOVERNMENT OFFICES
      ZIMBABWEAN Vice-President
      Joseph Msika has criticised
      self-styled Zimbabwe
      independence war veterans who
      have stormed six local
      government offices in the last two
      weeks, driving out workers
      suspected of supporting the
      opposition. "Listen, you are losing
      direction. You are now closing
      government and council offices,
      beating up workers and chasing
      them away. You are getting lost,
      bafana (boys)," state media
      quoted Msika as saying. The
      veterans have invaded hundreds
      of white-owned farms and last
      year led violent campaigning for
      parliamentary elections. - Reuters
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