Malawi news update
- I've been out of the office the last few days (jury duty, yeehaw). Here's the backlog...
Opposition Supporters Clash With Ruling Party
April 28, 1999
By Raphael Tenthani
Blantyre, Malawi (PANA) Scores of supporters of Malawi's second main opposition party, the Alliance for Democracy, have been injured after a fight with
supporters of President Bakili Muluzi's ruling party in the northern city of Mzuzu.
Police in Lilongwe said hell broke loose Tuesday after the Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) leader Chakufwa Chihana had just addressed a rally in
Mzuzu, known to be the party's stronghold.
A police spokesman said after Chihana departed, his supporters went into the city's main market and began destroying flags and campaign
paraphernalia of the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF).
But the AFORD supporters were outnumbered by the UDF cadres who chased them out of the market. A free-for-all fight ensued which saw several
AFORD supporters injured.
Tension between the UDF and AFORD has reached its zenith in northern Malawi, considered by AFORD as a no-go area by other parties.
Last week, when Muluzi attempted to sell his party in the region, he was met by a violent resistance.
A group of AFORD die-hard reportedly dressed a dog and a pig with UDF colours to revile the Muslim president whose religion see pigs as unclean.
Police tried to dissuade the people from the act but their resistance was met by a police shoot-out which left one person injured and 12 AFORD
supporters, including a parliamentary candidate, arrested.
Meanwhile, reports say any southerner in the north has become a target by northerners.
Muluzi hails from the south where his party exudes most of its support.
Malawi Budget Deficit Down To 7 Percent
April 29, 1999
by Raphael Tenthani, PANA Correspondent
BLANTYRE, Malawi (PANA) - Reserve Bank of Malawi governor Mathews Chikaonda has disclosed that Malawi budget deficit now stands at 7 percent of
the country's Gross Domestic Product, down from 100 percent in 1994. He attributed this feat to what he termed "prudent economic management."
"Good economic management of the economy led to this," he said.
Chikaonda, who has had a long stint teaching finances at universities in Canada, said the liberalisation of the economy in 1994 led to free movement in
exchange rates thereby cutting down on "unnecessary imports since buying American dollars suddenly became expensive."
Before that, he added, the Malawi currency, the kwacha, was operating at a fixed rate to the dollar which made it unrealistically expensive.
The central bank chief, nonetheless, admitted that the free movement of the exchange rates is viewed negatively by most importers, but he maintained it
was necessary evil to turn around the economy.
Meanwhile, Chikaonda has also disclosed that Malawi's import cover (the amount of foreign exchange available at the central bank to be released to
importers) stands at five months, up from two months in 1994.
Describing this as unique, he attributed it to "prudence in budgetary management," citing the liberalisation of the economy and the introduction of payment
in US dollars at tobacco auction floors.
"There has been many changes that have taken place in the last five years including the way we manage our foreign exchange," he said.
Chikaonda noted that the introduction of new crops, like cauliflower and paprika as additional foreign exchange earners, has also boosted foreign
For instance, the country currently has 15 to 20 hectares of cauliflower that can bring between 750,000 and 800,000 US dollars in foreign exchange.
"If we increase the present hectares to 225," Chikaonda said, "we will have what tobacco is currently bringing into the country in terms of forex."
He said it was important for Malawi to diversify from tobacco, a principle foreign exchange spinner, because the worldwide anti-smoking lobby is making
tobacco an "unrealistic source of revenue."
58 Women Running For Malawi Parliament
April 29, 1999
BLANTYRE, Malawi (PANA) - At least 58 women have lined up to contest for parliament and one woman is to run for the vice presidency in the scheduled
25 May general elections in Malawi.
Malawi's parliamentary seats have been extended from 177 to 193. Figures released by the country's Electoral Commission indicate that nine of the
candidates will stand in the northern region, 21 in the centre and 28 in the south.
Interestingly of the 58 runners, 10 are standing as independents after being denied nominations by the three main contenders, the ruling United
Democratic Front which is fielding 18 women, the main opposition Malawi Congress Party and its electoral partners, the Alliance for Democracy.
The United Party, one of the smallest and newest led by former secretary general of the Common Market for the Eastern and Southern Africa Bingu wa
Mutharika, has a woman as a presidential running mate, a first for Malawi.
World Bank Upbeat About Malawi's Economic Performance
April 29, 1999
by Raphael Tenthani, PANA Correspondent
BLANTYRE, Malawi (PANA) - The World Bank has said despite Malawi's current economic hardships, the economic reform measures the government
has put in place may bring the inflation down to 23 percent from the current 55 percent.
World Bank Malawi country director Barbara Kafka told reporters at the end of her five-day tour that Malawi's economy was on the right footing, so much
that if policies stay on track the economy would be turned around.
"We know you are undergoing difficult times economically starting with the devaluation last August but the good news is that every effort is being made to
bring the inflation down," she said.
The mid August 67 percent devaluation caused a run on commodity prices and interests rates. Kafka said the Malawi government agreed with donors,
especially the Bretton Woods institutions, on reform measures.
She said the measures have already started bearing fruits with the relative stability of the country's currency, the kwacha, against major currencies.
Economists in Malawi are also optimistic about the performance of the economy.
Fred Kanjo, a senior economist with the Commercial Bank of Malawi, said the inflation will go down because of the tobacco season and the bumper yield
Malawi expects in 1999.
"All this will bolster the general performance of the economy," he added.
The World Bank is one of the country's principle donors. It is currently sponsoring 17 development projects to the tune of 780 million US dollars.
Election date likely to change again
April 30, 1999
Johannesburg - Malawi's general elections slated for 25 May could be postponed due to snags in the registration process, a spokesman for the country's
electoral commission told IRIN on Thursday.
"No official decision has been taken as yet. A final decision will most likely be made by Monday," the spokesman said. If a deferment is ordered, it would
mark the second postponement of the polls originally scheduled for 17 May.
The electoral official said the commission is considering extending the registration period, which would have a bearing on the polling date. The exercise is
supposed to end on 3 May, but has been hampered by a shortage of film and cameras, which has delayed the issuing of registration cards.
"In terms of the Malawi constitution the registration process has to be completed within in 21 days of the polling date. Logically then if the registration
exercise is extended then the polling date has to then be postponed as well," a political analyst told IRIN. Parliament would also have to reconvene to
approve the new election date.
The country's main opposition party, the Malawi Congress Party, is reported to have written to the commission asking for a deferment. The PANA news
agency quoted the party's second vice president, Peter Chiona as saying: "Extension of the registration period has serious repercussions on the period
of verification and reconciliation of (voter) registers and, in turn, the polling date."
According to the electoral commission, so far an estimated 3.7 million people have been registered. Malawi has a population of about 9 million people,
with 5 million eligible to vote. "The figure of 3.7 million is not too disappointing. We are getting there slowly but surely," the spokesman said.
Congratulations on making it all the way thru!
- I'll be on vacation all next week, so y'all are on your own for news, but I thought I'd send out this last bit.
Malawi judge rejects
A High Court in Malawi has dismissed a bid by
the opposition leader, Gwanda Chakuamba, to
overturn President Bakili Muluzi's election
victory last June.
The ruling led to street celebrations by the
president's supporters in the capital, Lilongwe.
The judge, Isaac Mtambo, ruled that the
Electoral Commission did not contravene any
law when it declared Mr Muluzi the winner.
Opposition lawyers had argued that he had
failed to gain the support of more than
fifty-per-cent of the registered voters, as
required by the constitution. But the judge
said the constitution should be interpreted in
line with the democratic culture in Malawi,
where voting was not compulsory.
- 'Dead' Malawian woman
By Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre
A woman in the southern Malawian district of
Mulanje, who was presumed dead by her
relations, pleasantly surprised them when she
suddenly sat up as people mourned and
started talking, some 16 hours after her
Josephine Mose, a
sister of the
Margaret, said her
sister who had been
sick for over a year,
died around 0700 on
Tuesday in Mulanje,
some 68 km from the
"We prepared the body for burial and all was
set for funeral service when we noticed her
shaking," she said.
Josephine said everybody in the funeral house
was singing funeral hymns and praying for the
dead woman's safe transition to the hereafter
when Margaret sat up.
The mounrers jumped up very frightened.
For a few minutes she looked surprised, and
then she started talking.
Margaret later told the
state-run Malawi News
Agency (Mana) that
she did not know what
was happening during
the 16 hours she had
She, however, said that
saw visions of her parent who are long dead.
People in the district, which is renowned
countrywide for its potent magic, believe
Margaret was bewitched by some people who
confused certain magic instructions leading to
But Amon Nkhata, a clinical officer at Mulanje
District Hospital, said Margaret may have just
"There are cases when a person becomes
unconscious for over 20 hours and later
regains consciousness," he said.
- Malawi declares famine
By Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre
Malawi's President, Bakili Muluzi, has declared a
state of national disaster because of
widespread famine and reports of increasing
With 70% of the southern African country's
population reported to be on the verge of
starvation, the president said traditional
leaders had told him that food shortages were
becoming critical, particularly in rural areas.
Parents are reported to
be selling their children
to avoid the
responsibility of having
to feed them.
In a national address
broadcast on television
and radio, the president
also warned that the
food crisis was likely to
continue into next year.
He said the crop harvest would be significantly
reduced because people had begun eating
"green maize" - or unripe corn - instead of
keeping it for planting.
'One death a day'
In one desperate case, a mother in central
Malawi is reported to have offered to sell her
five children to raise money for food. Her sixth
child died of malnutrition.
"The children shall starve to death if I keep
them," Margaret Phiri, 30, told the state-run
Malawi news agency. "They stand a better
chance of surviving with other people."
In the southern town
of Balaka, police say
at least one person is
starving to death each
Reports from rural
areas say people are
dying almost daily
after eating tubers or
Old people are simply
starving to death.
Vice-President Justin Malewezi told visiting
officials from the International Monetary Fund
on Wednesday that the government needed an
estimated $21.6m to avoid disaster, but has
secured only $1.6m.
The United Nations World Food Programme
says it is targeting 2.4 m hungry people in
southern Africa - in Zambia and Zimbabwe as
well as in Malawi.
Malawi's Government appealed to donor
countries, private companies and
non-governmental organisations for urgent
assistance earlier this month, warning that
thousands could die if food did not reach them
Food distribution has
been hindered by
heavy floods in two
damaging Beit Bridge
on the South
border and a section
of railway-line on the
Nacala Corridor in
The government has
also been accused of
country's food stocks, having sold a large
quantity of corn to Kenya last year when there
was a surplus.
Several Western governments have cut aid to
Malawi, accusing the government of corruption