Monday, February 8, 2016

Is Malawi Becoming blood-Thirsty Nation? If Not, Why Were The Following People with Albinism Attacked in 2014 and 2015?

Some things are giving Malawi a bad name. One of them is, definitely, the targeted attacks on people with albinism.

Some of the attacked people have escaped with scars in both their hands and hearts. But others have not been so lucky.

Below are some of the people who have either been killed, injured, of abused in one way or another:


Apart from the murder of Esnert Phiri in Kasungu, and Prescot Pepuza from Mchinji, cases of albino killings, attempted killings, abductions, and attempted abductions have been so commonplace that they are disturbing.


In January this year, a nine-year-old girl was rescued from the jaws of death in Machinga when a 24-year-old man, identified by police spokesperson Davie Sulumba as Mandela Paipi, attempted to abduct her. Paipi is said to have offered the girl's brother K500, 000 in order for him to facilitate the move.



In September 2015, an 11-year-old boy was fighting for his life at Karonga District Hospital after two men kidnapped him and tried to cut his throat and right arm in Karonga. Karonga police spokesperson, Enock Livason, said at the time that the two suspects persuaded the boy to accompany them to the market, only to turn from sheep to wolf, and turn against the unsuspecting boy.



Just last year, suspected members of a criminal gang tampered with the grave of an albino in Balaka District.



In Zomba, eight-year-old girl Maria Kosta might have thought she would return home when she decided to visit Mayaka Trading Centre on July 2, 2013. She has never been heard of again.

She suffered the same fate as Violet Kanyama, 25, but Kanyama's remains were recovered, albeit with amputated feet and no arms.

But the worst case scenario was when people attacked a Machinga District house before mid-night in February last year and abducted the family's two-year-old girl named Ibra Pilo.


Malita Makolija, 68, from Zomba disappeared on January 17, 2015, only for her headless body to be found without arms and legs.

In January this year, four people were convicted for being found in possession of bones believed to belong to an albino.


These developments last year prompted Inspector General, Lexen Kachama, to instruct police officers to shoot-to-kill those caught in the act of abducting or killing albinos. “These people are ruthless, have no mercy and, therefore, need to be treated like that [shot at].”


Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Children, Women and Social Welfare, Isaac Katopola, was quoted in June, 2015 as telling AFP that citizens needed to “change their mindset and realise that albinos do not have magic powers”.
He is on record to have said that, since the spate of attacks escalated in December 2014, six albinos were officially registered as dead. This contrasted sharply with UN agencies' reports. They agencies put the figure at nine.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Pangs of Hunger in Mwanza Central Constituency




A tropical storm hit Mwanza Centre Constituency, the border district between Malawi and Mozambique in the Southern Region, on January 8, blowing away iron sheets, sweeping away over 10 hectares of the maize crop, and leaving community members desolate.

Some of the community members are still living in tents, almost a month after the disaster.

With no food to eat, they are happy for every Good Samaritan who comes to their aid. Well, we were there six days ago, and were humbled by the thankfulness of the affected people to something as small as those five and, to others, 10 kilogramme bags of maize flour or rice.

You never know what a kilogramme can do!

Malawi is reeling under a food crisis. In September last year, President Peter Mutharika’s called for food assistance, and the United States donating $15.7 million [about 9 billion] worth of food commodities.

Mutharika sounded the SOS before his departure for the U.S. to attend the 70th United Nations General Assembly.

U.S. Ambassador to Malawi, Virginia Palmer, said in a statement that the food commodities were meant for some of 2.8 million people in need of humanitarian food assistance.

“This assistance is in response to the September 21 appeal for donor support of up to US$146.4 million (K 84 billion) by the Government of Malawi following the Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) findings in July 2015,” read part of the statement.

The statement added that The UN World Food Program would receive and distribute the United States food donation of 6,250 metric tonnes of beans and 2,810 metric tonnes of vitamin A & D fortified vegetable oil as part of a larger food basket designed to meet the nutritional requirements of those in need.

The food donation is expected to arrive in the country next month.

According to the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee, 2.8 million people face hunger in 24 districts, necessitating the need for food assistance between the months of October 2015 and March 2016. The development has been blamed on the late onset of rains, severe flooding, mid-season dry spells, and early ending of rains, reducing the country’s maize crop production by 30 percent.

Mutharika said on Monday that his administration was ready to support the 2.8 million people facing hunger and using its own resources has bought 30,000 metric tonnes of maize from Zambia at the cost of K2.82 billion, and it
is in the process of buying additional 26,000 metric tons, at the value of about K3.5 billion.


Said Mutharika: “This maize will be used to stabilize the price of the commodity on the market through ADMARC across the country. The Strategic Grain Reserve currently has maize in stock and it continues to be replenished. The government is therefore; ready to roll out food relief to food insecure households during the lean period from October, 2015, to March 2016, as recommended by MVAC.”


Mutharika also said, following the MVAC food insecurity report, the government has developed the 2015/2016 Food Insecurity Response Plan which requires a total of US$146.378 million.



Food-Flooded, or Water-Flooded Year?

Panic runs through some farming communities in Malawi like a meandering river in a limitless 'forest' of sand.

The rains started somewhat 'unfaithfully', giving room to the sun to scorch crops at will, and leave farmers struggling to raise more funds for for fertiliser and seeds. Replanting was no longer a question of 'to do' or 'not'; it was a must.

Where I stay-- in Chiwembe, that is-- even those who can afford a bag of maize wore sadness on their faces. Who doesn't appreciate a green cob of maize from the backyard?

But, finally, the rains are on us. And have started wrecking havoc, too.

Where I went today-- Mwanza in Southern Malawi-- the sun was left with more room to scorch the maize crop than a downpour would cure. Now, the maize crop-- at one metre tall-- has stopped growing up and is flowering.

And, then, flush floods are on us in some parts of the country again. Like at Mtayamoyo in the Lower Shire. It rained curses and blessings on Tuesday that a five-year-old child was swept away and some crops were submerged in water.

Surely, it is going to be a mixed year. But not as worse as the 2014/15 growing season.

In case we have forgotten, here is a recap of how life was like and how people struggled to tame the rains and the destruction that followed.

2014/15 Relived

The rains had been anticipated, though nobody expected that they would also destroy what the crops they were supposed to help blossom.

In the end, the January floods in the 2014/15 agricultural season will forever be remembered as an act of nature that forced President Peter Mutharika’s hand to make the first— the State of the Nation Address aside— major decision eight months into his presidency.

What was surprising about the January floods was the fact that they occurred at a time farmers had been expecting unreliable rains after the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services statement announced in a statement on September 8 that the season would be marked by an El Nino spell.

The department added that the country would receive “generally favourable amounts of rainfall”.
“The key factors expected to influence the rainfall over Malawi during the 2014/15 rainfall season include the Sea Surface Temperatures over the tropical oceans of Pacific, Indian and Atlantic. Currently, a weak El-Nino is expected to develop over the Eastern Central Equatorial Pacific Ocean.

“This phenomenon affects rainfall patterns over southern Africa, including Malawi, and is generally associated with erratic rains over the region. The phenomenon is expected to persist up to early part of 2015, hence affecting the 2014/15 rainfall season over the region,” the statement read in part.

El Nino, for us to be on the same page, is a phenomenon which is caused by unusual warming of waters over the Eastern Central Equatorial Pacific Ocean, a development that culminates in depressed rainfall. When temperatures are lower than average, the condition is called La Nina.

The development came after international climate experts and the Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum meeting held in Windhoek, Namibia, in August last year, indicated that, “During October to December 2014, the Southern half of Malawi is expected to have normal to above normal rainfall amounts while the Northern half will have normal to below normal rainfall amounts.”

They further indicated that the southern half of Malawi would have normal to below normal rainfall amounts while the Northern half would receive normal to above normal rainfall amounts between January and March 2015.
The rains did come, of course, but they simply could not stop falling— culminating in the destruction of property worth millions.

Ironically, against the fears of El Nino came rains that could simply not stop falling. Indeed, as the year 2015 draws to a close, some of the victims of the heavy rains are yet to travel back to anything like normal life.

Take, for instance, the case of Talley Losha, the head teacher at Chikonje Primary School in Nsanje.

When rains started falling around 8 o’clock in the morning of January 12, 2015, he had a wife and a child.

Remembers Losha: “As time elapsed, around 6 o’clock in the evening, water flooded the whole sitting room. However, we thought that the situation would be okay, and we stayed put. This was despite the fact that, by this time, the sitting room wall had collapsed.

“But things came to a stand-still around 1 o’clock in the morning. The whole house collapsed. That’s when I realised that raging waters had flooded into the house, and the waters swept me, my wife, our child, and another child we were staying with.

“Fortunately, we managed to cling to trees and, later, we found safety in trees. I sought refuge in a tree some 250 metres from my house, while my wife and our child climbed a tree located some 400 metres from our house.”

In the end, his wife and child were swept away by the raging waters and their bodies have never been recovered.

How, then, can he travel back to anything like normal life— with the void in his heart.

The year 2015 could also be described as a year when one disaster followed another. If the news was not about floods, it was about hunger, victims sleeping in classrooms, cholera taking its toll on those who had survived the floods and hunger.

Meanwhile, the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) has warned that the country faces food insecurity threats due to unpredictable rains and floods. To make matters worse, the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) announced that maize, the country’s stable food, was becoming a “tricky” crop to produce due to changes in climate.

In its Basic Needs Basket report for March, CfSC observed that, “To make matters worse, most farmers are still cultivating unimproved varieties that are less productive and resilient to climate change. The recent floods that have hit half of the countries’ districts, have been a wakeup call to farming households and indeed all the stakeholders in the country to rethink the heavy reliance on maize for staple food needs,” reads part of CfSC’s indictment in the report.
“To safeguard the livelihoods of Malawians from economic wide effects of the floods and erratic rains, CfSC believes that there is need for collaborative efforts by all stakeholders to institute and implement pragmatic short, medium and long term strategies that will ameliorate peoples’ suffering and ensure food security at all the times,” added the CfSC the report.
Coming after FEWSNET had indicated in its February Food Security Outlook that an estimated one million households had been affected by the floods and approximately 105, 000 metric tonnes of cropped maize has been washed away across the country due to the floods, the news could not get worse for Malawi.
This was before the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee had indicated that an estimated 615,837 people would need assistance in flood affected areas for two to five months from March 2015onwards, requiring an equivalent of 23,750 tonnes of maize.
This was bad news on top of bad news because Civil Society Agriculture Network had just announced that maize production in the 2014/ 2015 would drop by at least 30 percent.

Unrelenting monkey

But the monkey of the 2015 did not get off the back of Mutharika who, nine months after the January floods, was forced to make a frantic call for food assistance on Monday, September 21. He made the call before his departure for the U.S. to attend the 70th United Nations General Assembly.

Countries such as the United States (US) immediately responded to Mutharika’s call, donating $15.7 million [about 9 billion] worth of food commodities.

U.S. Ambassador to Malawi, Virginia Palmer, said in a statement that, “This assistance is in response to the September 21 appeal for donor support of up to US$146.4 million (K 84 billion) by the Government of Malawi following the Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) findings in July 2015.”

The statement adds that The UN World Food Program would receive and distribute the United States food donation of 6,250 metric tonnes of beans and 2,810 metric tonnes of vitamin A & D fortified vegetable oil as part of a larger food basket designed to meet the nutritional requirements of those in need.

According to the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee, 2.8 million people face hunger in 24 districts, necessitating the need for food assistance between the months of October 2015 and March 2016. The development has been blamed on the late onset of rains, severe flooding, mid-season dry spells, and early ending of rains, reducing the country’s maize crop production by 30 percent.

On its part, the government has been setting the ball roling.

Mutharika said on September 21 that his administration was ready to support the 2.8 million people facing hunger and using its own resources has bought 30,000
metric tons of maize from Zambia at the cost of K2.82 billion, and it
is in the process of buying additional 26,000 metric tons, at the
value of about K3.5 billion.

Said Mutharika: “This maize will be used to stabilise the price of the
commodity on the market through Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation across the country.The
Strategic Grain Reserve currently has maize in stock and it continues
to be replenished. The government is therefore; ready to roll out
food relief to food insecure households during the lean period from
October, 2015, to March 2016, as recommended by MVAC.”

Mutharika also said, following the MVAC food insecurity report,
the government has developed the 2015/2016 Food Insecurity Response Plan
which requires a total of US$146.378 million.

Progress

This year’s challenges notwithstanding, there is some positive news emanating from the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA).

DoDMA spokesperson, Jeremiah Mphande, said on November 29 that reports submitted by District Disaster Risk Management officers indicated that food distribution exercises started as early as October in some districts.
“[For example] World Vision (WV) started the distribution for 2015/16 MVAC [Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee] response in Chikwawa on October 1. These distributions marked the commencement of the response to the July 2015 MVAC report. The distributions started with focusing on the flood affected as the team was concurrently conducting registration processes for dry spell affected households in the district,” said Mphande.
Other organisations, including Gift of the Givers, have also been helping victims. Immediately after the floods, the charity embarked on a household food recovery programme aimed at supporting families that were affected by the floods with farming inputs.
Through the project, which is being supported by Malawi Relief Fund in the United Kingdom, the organisation is distributing farmers’ packs containing 10kg of CAN fertilizer, 10kg of Urea, 2kg maize seed, 2kg legume seed and a hoe.

The organisation has since January been assisting the flood victims with relief items such as maize flour, tinned fish, likuni phala, plastic sheets, kitchen utensils, blankets, washing powder and Oral rehydration salt (ORS) in 8 of the 15 districts namely; Nsanje, Chikwawa, Phalombe, Thyolo, Mulanje, Mangochi, Machinga and Balaka.

Other humanitarian organisations such as the World Food Programme also went around with a begging bowl, after announcing that it needed a whopping USD 10.8 million (approximately K5 billion) to scale-up the floods response and satisfy the needs of 616, 00 people it described as “food insecure flood victims”.

After the devastation 2015 imposed on Malawi, one only wonders what 2016 will be like.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Peter Mutharika hints at tough cyber laws

It was a statement enveloped in spirituality, but President Peter Mutharika hinted that the government was 'cooking' something that would see cyber space facing strict rules.
For a time, the Ministry of Justice has been working in the background to concoct laws that would see social media tamed, and cyber space policed.
And, on Saturday, during the consecration of the Very Reverend Father George Desmond Tambala as Bishop of Zomba Diocese at Zomba Catholic Secondary School ground, Mutharika specifically mentioned a case in which a banker based in Blantyre's Bangwe Township was rumoured on social media to have murdered his wife.
However, it turned out that the issue was a figment of the imagination.
“Where is our national integrity? Where is our love for one another? This is a country where people create a story that so and so has killed his wife, and spread the rumour on social media," said Mutharika.
This, on the surface, is an innocent statement made by a concerned president. The truth, however, is that the president was preparing the ground, the national psyche, for bigger things to come.
It could turn out that Malawi may find herself facing tough cyber laws, and those in the driving seat will cite cases that those of the Bangwe banker.
That is the bigger picture.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Malawi's Economy Swings from Boom to Doom


Over six years after Malawi registered the second fastest world economic growth rate, the economy seems to be gaining ground on its free-fall from boom to doom.
According to the World Bank’s January 2016 issue of Global Economic Prospects (GEP), the country does not even appear among the top six countries set to become Africa’s fastest growing economies this year.
The report is titled ‘Global Economic Prospects January 2016: Spillovers amid Weak Growth’.Leading the park of the fastest growing economies on the continent is Ethiopia. The World Bank projects that Ethiopia could register a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 10.50 percent in 2016, up from 9.50 percent last year. Second on the list is the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is expected to register a GDP of 8.50 percent this year. 
The Ivory Coast, with a projected economic growth of 7.70 percent, Mozambique [7.30 percent], Tanzania [7.10 percent], and Rwanda [7.00 percent] are the other countries billed to register significant GDP growth in 2016.

The development comes barely six years after the Economist Intelligence Unit indicated the country’s economy was the second-fastest growing economy in the world, second only to oil-rich Qatar. This did not come as a surprise as the country registered consecutive bumper harvests in the 2005/06, and 2006/07 growing seasons.

"Malawi has had two good years of bumper maize harvest and is in

surplus of about 1,1 million tonnes," Nasinuku Saukila, general

manager of the National Food Reserve Agency told international media in April 2007. 

 

Saukila made the remarks when Malawi was preparing to export 400 000 tonnes of the staple to the then cash-strapped Zimbabwe.
However, diplomatic spats, including with Malawi’s former colonial master, Britain, meant the country was walking a dangerous export path as fuel and sugar became scarce commodities in one of the worst economic disasters to befall the nation. The situation continued until April 2012, when former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika died and his vice, Joyce Banda, took oath of office on April 7, 2012.
Among other recovery measures, Banda introduced a National Economic Recovery Plan.

“Within months of assuming office, I instituted an economic recovery programme to restore macroeconomic stability and lay the foundations for long-term growth. The economic recovery plan includes a combination of measures designed to stabilise our economy [such as the devaluation of the kwacha, the loosening of foreign-exchange controls and strong fiscal discipline], as well as social-protection programmes designed to cushion the poorest in our society from some of the unintended negative consequences of the austerity programme,” Banda told The European Times in 2012.
 The plan supported projects in the agriculture, mining, energy, tourism and infrastructure sectors.
 Banda’s ascension was followed by the January 2013 visit by International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, who hailed the economic recovery plans.

Half-way to safety
“During my discussions with Malawi’s leaders, I congratulated President Joyce Banda on the bold economic policies of her administration, including the liberalisation of the foreign-exchange market. I welcome the President’s efforts to address unforeseen challenges through her continued commitment to economic reforms.

“Malawi has already made significant progress in addressing the serious imbalances that were hampering economic growth just a few months ago. Malawi must stay on course, while putting in place social-protection programs to alleviate the impact of the adjustment measures on the poorest households,” said Lagarde, adding: “Malawi is half across the river, and the other bank is within reach.”

 


The Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM), in its first Monetary Policy statement for 2016 released on Thursday, indicated that it “…intends to maintain a tight monetary policy stance in the coming months while ensuring sufficient foreign exchange reserves to support private sector activities”.

 The central bank is, mainly, counting on prospects for improved crop production in the 2015/16 growing season, hinting that it is targeting a 19.3 percent decline in inflation.
 Finance Minister, Goodall Gondwe, said on January 5 that the government is confident it is on track to meet conditions that would attract budgetary support from the World Bank and the European Union totalling up to K50 billion.
 Gondwe has also projected economic stability by May.
 “We are about to complete [sic] some of the conditions,” Gondwe told the media. “For the past three months, we have almost stopped domestic borrowing,” said Gondwe.
 He added that, while the country’s economy is projected to grow by 3 percent this year, a good harvest could spur it towards a five percent economic growth.

Lost path

However, apart from the institutional bodies such as the World Bank and IMF, Gondwe is not so sure about the comeback of bilateral donors, observing that bilateral donors have deserted not only Malawi but other countries as well.
This position was first announced by President Peter Mutharika’s address during the opening of the 46th Session of Parliament on November 6, 2015.
“For years, we have relied on budgetary aid while dependency mentality deepened and our poverty rose. Now, there is no more budgetary support. The age of donor aid seems to be gone. Our developing partners remain with us only with support outside the budget,” said Mutharika.
According to economic expert, Henry Kachaje, the kwacha’s value continues to fall, “considering that inflation averaged 24 percent in 2015 and that the kwacha devalued by almost 42 percent”.
The Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM’s) has indicated in its first Monetary Policy statement for 2016 that inflation is forecast to decline to 19.3 percent with a better crop in the 2015/16 growing season. However, the central bank’s rate is higher than the government’s target of 14.2 percent.
Despite RBM’s optimism for a good crop, preliminary results indicate that the country’s green gold, tobacco, may not do well this year.
Tobacco Association of Malawi president, Reuben Maigwa, has cited poor rains as the main challenge.
“Most farmers have planted the crop but, due to low rainfall, there is compromised production. We may not produce sufficient crop and the crop may be marred by poor quality,” said Maigwa in an interview.
The development comes at a time when prospects for tobacco are becoming less promising. Earnings from tobacco dropped by 8 percent last year from $366.3 million (about K205 billion) earned in 2014 to $337.3 million (about K189 billion).
Challenges
According to the 2015 World Bank Assessment on the ease of doing business, the business environment is one of the factors negatively impacting on economic performance.
The assessors put Malawi on position 141 out of 189 countries on ease of doing business. However, the 2015 ranking was a marked improvement from position 164 the previous year. It was the first time in three years for Malawi to register a positive movement on the index.
However, Industry and Trade Minister, Joseph Mwanamvekha, has revealed that Mutharika has directed the ministry to get the country into the top 100 by 2017.
“As a Ministry, we believe it is doable and we are going to achieve that,” said Mwanamvekha.
Some of the steps he identified as signs of government’s commitment include the review and enactment of the Insolvency Act, the Companies Act and the Credit Reference Bureau Act in line with on-going government reforms.
Despite the reforms, however, business captains have bemoaned the country’s “punitive” tax regime, with Indigenous Business Association of Malawi president, Mike Mulombwa, bemoaning the operating environment in 2015.
“The revenue collectors have a narrow tax base and are squeezing money out of the already burdened taxpayers. Secondly, we have the problem of high interest rates, mainly because there are no cut off points for interest in Malawi. In other countries, lenders stop collecting interest on loans once a borrower has paid back half of what they borrowed,” said Mlombwa.
MRA Commissioner General, Tom Malata, told The Business Times of January 6, 2016 that “the Malawi Revenue Authority is expected to collect K597 billion in the 2015/16 fiscal year based on the 2015/16 national budget estimates”.
Malata further indicated that MRA collected K233.6 billion against the target of K247 billion between July and November 2015. This represents 95 percent of the targeted collections.
MRA missed its target for the first quarter of 2015 as it collected K193.58 between July and October 2015. The tax collector also missed its October target by 5 percent as it only collected K53. 03 billion against the target of K55.97 billion.
Mutharika hinted in November that revenue under-collecting was one of the factors fuelling government’s appetite for borrowing.
“Mr. Speaker Sir, it is important to reiterate that the over-expenditure was largely due to revenue under-collection, low grant inflows during the 2014/15 financial year…. It must be remembered that government has committed obligations we cannot escape even in hard times,” said Mutharika.
According to the January GEP issue, the global economy has been misfiring.

Among other things, it observes that global growth slowed to 2.4 percent last year, and is expected to recover at a slower pace than previously envisioned, as growth is projected to reach 2.9 percent in 2016, thanks to a modest recovery in advanced economies.

As Mutharika warned during the opening of the 46th Session of Parliament, “More than ever, we need economic prudence and innovation. Malawians must understand the changing times we live in. We must work and endure our painful path to economic sovereignty. And we must do what it takes to end the suffering of our people.”

However, People’s Party spokesperson on finance and economic issues, Ralph Jooma, observed that the greatest challenge facing Malawi is over-projection of figures, citing the 2014/15 K930 billion budget as a case in point.


 

Jooma said a realistic budget would have hovered around K800 billion. He said this means exaggeration exacerbates the trend where the country misses out on most of its financial targets.

 Business and economic experts have also raised doubts over the country’s ability to shake off 2015 economic challenges.
Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry president, Newton Kambala, told The Daily Times of January 5 that this year’s economic prospects could be less promising.
 “Obviously, the bad side of this [uncontrolled public finance expenditure] is that businesses will remain uncompetitive and eventually slow down the economic activities. All economic variables have signalled a failing economy with rising inflation, high interest rates, fluctuating foreign exchange rates,” Kambala was quoted as saying.

 On his part, Economics Association of Malawi executive director, Edward Chilima, was quoted as saying, “If nothing happens, the growth would be very low this year, way below projected figures. We don’t see any changes in the agriculture sector; we are still inefficient and we cannot see a very good crop this year”.

Did The Neno Elders Deserve To Die?


Like a stranger, 86-year-old Eliza Kanjete was the first to be cornered— according to one of the Neno police officers who rushed to the scene of four murdered elderly citizens on Monday.
Branded a ‘witch’ on account of her striking old age, she was not the only one earmarked to die, though.
One by one, 76-year-old Elenafa Kanjete, 73-year-old Byson Kanjete and 69-year-old Idesi Kanjete— not necessarily in that order, but all from one family— were chased around their houses by a bloodthirsty mob in a remote corner of Neno.
Too old to run, they were always going to get exhausted earlier than usual, their energy running out, and their legs failing them. Terrified, they must have slumped in the dust, whimpered and pleaded for mercy, before being overrun by the anger, and physical force of Group Village Head Chimbalanga’s subjects in Traditional Authority Dambe, Neno.
“The four died due to severe beatings, according to post-mortem results. We, as police, are sure that we will have a clear picture of what happened, and decide on the next course of action,” said Neno Police spokesperson, Raphael Kaliati, on Thursday.
Granted, death happens. It is an act of nature.
However, when death is forced— like in the Neno case— nobody understands it; not even Cabinet ministers under whose armpit such issues fall.
“Of course, each and every person will die. The Neno elderly people were also going to die some day. But not in this manner. Not on Monday, as it were. The manner of their death is shocking. It shows that the villagers who have done this do not have respect for human life,” said Gender, Children, Women and Social Welfare Minister, Patricia Kaliati, on Thursday.
Everyone is shocked, GVH Chimbalanga inclusive.
“As a leader, I am really shocked with the death of these people because it has never happened in the history of this village. Not even once have we ever had a man killed in this village,” The Daily Times of January 27 quotes Chimbalanga as saying during the funeral ceremony.
Maybe Neno Shelter for the Aged executive director, Reen Kachere, may understand the issue better than others— having served as Neno legislator and Minister responsible for the Elderly and People with Disabilities as recently as three years ago.
“I, too, cannot understand this. In fact, I am ashamed. This is yet another sad chapter in the history of Neno and we need to understand why what has happened has happened, and what we must do to arrest the problem. In fact, we visited the village where the deceased came from on Friday and we have agreed with the community members to establish village committees in order to address such issues before they turn into brutal anger,” Kachere said in an interview. 
Even the Malawi Law Society (MLS), whose members are known to save a life from the gallows through the technical movement of the tongue in court, is shocked. 

Neno Four
So shocked is MLS with the Neno events that, within days, the Kanjetes— hitherto unknown— have become known as the Neno 4.
MLS describes the heinous murder of the Kanjetes as a ‘barbaric’ act.
“The senseless and heinous murders of the Neno 4 is a despicable outrage that the Society condemns without any reservation whatsoever. Such kind of barbaric acts stain our collective conscience and have got absolutely no place in a civilised society.
“They should accordingly be fervently opposed and denounced by all right-thinking Malawians. It is even more saddening to note that it would appear that the Neno 4 were principally targeted because of their old age. It reflects extremely poorly on those who were involved in these murders that instead of protecting these vulnerable people, they turned on them and murdered them,” MLS, in a scathing January 27 statement issued by president John Suzi Banda and Honorary Secretary Khumbo Bonzoe Soko, said.
However, as the nation grapples with shock, MLS also found some time to pick threads of sanity in the confusion. It does so by appealing to reason.
“The Society would like to remind all Malawians that our country is a nation of laws. It is the duty of each and every citizen to observe and uphold these laws. We implore our fellow citizens to report all instances of suspected law breaking to the Malawi Police Service and other government law enforcement agencies for appropriate action to be taken. No severity of our indignation at the sight of illegal behaviour will ever justify the taking of the law into our own hands,” it added. 

Remote voice
Embarrassingly, though, leaders of some Civil Society Organisations who never took time off their “busy schedules” to see the four Kanjetes on their last journey have joined the train of condemners.
The Kanjetes went in simple coffins draped in zitenje [pieces of cloth] in what could remotely be described as a ‘decent’ burial.
Still, failure to attend their funerals and show solidarity did not stop media-hungry CSOs from issuing condemnatory statements, apparently to get credit out of all the darkness that has befallen Neno and the country.
Leaders of nine CSOs, one human rights lawyer and human rights activist, condemned the Neno incident in a statement released on Wednesday, calling on the government to invest in mass sensitisation exercises in a bid to enlighten the country’s citizens.
The statement, titled ‘Civil Society Statement on the Brutal Killings of Four Elderly People and Escaping Prisoner', was signed by Timothy Mtambo of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, Masauko Thawe of Young Advocates, George Thindwa of Association for Secular Humanism, Gift Trapence of Centre for the Development of People, Robert Mkwezalamba of the Human Rights Consultative Committee.
Others were Victor Mhango of Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance, Mtende Msindama of Lawyers for Human Rights, Charles Kajoloweka of Youth and Society, Darlingtion Harawa of Passion for Women and Children, human rights activist Billy Mayaya and human rights lawyer Chrispine Sibande.
Said the signatories in the statement: “We categorically and unequivocally condemn these barbaric killings and call upon the law enforcers to accord the utmost urgency [sic] the issue deserves so that those responsible whoever they are and wherever they are  should be hunted down, arrested and  be held accountable for this crime that gravely violate [sic] human dignity and human rights,” reads part of the statement.
The CSOs argue that the Malawi Witchcraft Act forbids any trial by ordeal.
Added the CSOs: “In fact, both the Constitution of Malawi and the Penal Code criminalises it. In reference to witchcraft accusations and mob justice against the accused, the Malawi Witchcraft Act – which is part of codified criminal law with prosecutions brought under the Witchcraft Act falling under the jurisdiction of the Magistrate Court— forbids any trial by ordeal that involves “poison, fire, boiling water, or any ordeal which is likely to directly or indirectly result in death or bodily injury to any person”. The Act further forbids accusing anyone of being a witch or practicing witchcraft.”
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women recognises witchcraft accusations and brutal killings of the accused as a form of violence against women and has urged many states including Malawi to take action against witchcraft accusations by challenging the “traditional view” about elderly women being witches through investigating torture and killing of suspected witches and prosecute the perpetrators.
In addition, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial or arbitrary executions, in a 2009 report, called upon states to ensure that all killings of alleged witches are treated as murder, and should be investigated, prosecuted and punished accordingly.
“It is, therefore, clear from this that immunity from prosecution of mob violence against anyone including those accused of witchcraft has no place under both  domestic and international legal jurisdiction hence our candid reminder to law enforcers to move with urgency on the matter,” reads the statement in part.
While both MLS and the nine CSOs are quick to point at instruments, both local and international, anthropologists observe that the law does not always hold its course.
For example, the 2010 issue of ‘Anthropologist’ Journal [Volume 12 issue Number 4] observes that: “Public opinion dictates public ideas of causation. The logic of quasi-traditional reactions to distress and anxiety are little affected by the narrow limits of Western scientific pragmatism.”
In anything, a recent spike in the killing of elderly people— as the Neno case testifies— is a good point in point.
Leap forward
When anger spills over, it finally recedes and it is time the nation looked forward to stemming witchcraft-based violence cases.
MLS suggests that those culpable of the Neno murders should face the long arm of the law. It is payback time and nothing less.
“The Society hopes that the Malawi Police Service will relentlessly pursue those who were responsible for the murder of the Neno 4 so that they can account for their actions in a competent court of law. Should these cases be successfully investigated and the wrongdoers apprehended, the Society offers to the government of Malawi the services of its members for their prosecution, on a pro bono basis,” says MLS in its statement.
The nine CSO leaders and two human rights activists agree, but add another dimension to nipping such acts in the bud.
Reads a part of their statement: “We also implore government through the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Ministry of Information, and Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare in partnership with Malawi Human Rights Commission to come out and strongly condemn this barbaric act. Besides, its high time government through these Ministries seriously considered embarking on a robust sensitization campaign of the ills of mob violence as it is apparent that there is also limited or lack of understanding of the rights of the accused persons and also the criminality of the act.
“We further call on Malawi Police Service and Ministry of Local Government and internal security to intensify and invest resources on Community policing and awareness raising on the role of the Police and the need for people to coexist but more importantly treat the Police as their first call on any issue of this nature. As CSOs we believe if our police is taken to the people directly or through Community policing structures, such incidents can be avoided as there will always be tips and grapevines of serious actions to take place in a community which If dealt with in time can prevent such incidents. We strongly believe that this will go a long way in eliminating the incidences of mob justice in the country.”
For Kachere, however, the establishment of committees in each district is the way to go.
“These committees should accommodate the elderly and those who accuse the elderly of being witches. That way, we will tackle these cases and stop people from committing these heinous crimes,” says Kachere.
For Kaliati, however, social cash transfers to the elderly and other vulnerable people may help empower the elderly economically, and stop them from relying too much on relatives who may wish to get rid of the social burden by accusing the elderly of practicing witchcraft. Fortunately, the government, under the dynamic leadership of Prof Peter Mutharika, is already doing that,” says Kaliati.
As the bodies of Eliza Kanjete, Elenafa Kanjete, Byson Kanjete and Idesi Kanjete lie peacefully, but dead anyway, it is clear that the dust will take long to settle down. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

The cost of People’s Party’s selective politics


It is becoming clear that losing the May 2014 tripartite elections is the hardest thing the former ruling People’s Party (PP) has had to grapple with in its less than five years of existence.
Just in 2012, the New Vision of Uganda described PP leader Joyce Banda, who had just become Malawi’s first female president, courtesy of death, as “The woman with nine lives”. It told the story of how Banda had set out as a woman activist in the late 1980s, setting a gender equality crusade in a male-dominated society, and her way to State House, among other things.
But that was before Banda and her PP were to face a political litmus test two years later— the May 2014 tripartite elections.
One year seven months after being floored in the tripartite elections, Banda and her beloved PP do not only seem to have the nine lives stuffed out of them; they seem to be looking for a life outside the country, and outside the politics of elections, respectively.
On one hand, Banda is busy looking for a life away from the country she loves so much that she cannot do without while, on the other hand, the PP is looking for a life – within Malawi, of course— outside the politics of Local Government elections.
Otherwise, how do we explain the party’s conspicuous absence in, say, the December 23 Local Government bye-elections in Mtope Ward in Mchinji West Constituency and Ngala Ward in Lilongwe Msozi North Constituency? The PP only contested in the Parliamentary elections in Banda’s home-district of Zomba, where Asma Mponda represented the party’s aspirations.
The party’s spokesperson, Ken Msonda, made an appearance on Times Television’s Breakfast Live programme nine days before the bye-elections in Mchinji, Zomba and Lilongwe, and hinted that the PP would have nothing to do with the bye-elections and, therefore, Malawians. According to Msonda, elections in Malawi are not worth it anymore because “The Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) selects people” instead of administering the elections and letting the winner be.
The PP participation in the Parliamentary election in Zomba was, therefore, somehow soothing, but not comforting because the party still shunned the Local Government bye-elections in Mchinji and Lilongwe.
Whatever the case, the Mec went ahead with the Local Government bye-elections without the PP and, from the results— voter apathy and gender imbalances aside— democracy is at work. Among other not-so-surprising results, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) did the expected by winning the Mtope Ward bye-election. Its candidate, Auleriano Kalemba, floored the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate on the way to the District Council.
It was a similar story in Ngala Ward, where MCP’s Master Rodgers Chazama bought his way to the Lilongwe District Council at the expense of DPP’s Regina Sululu.
Again, as expected, the DPP showed that the MCP is still has a long way to catching up with it in the Eastern Region as its Parliamentary candidate, Mark Michael Botomani, beat five other candidates –Stephen Alexious Chikwapula, independent; Dyson R. Chimwala, independent; Asma W. Mponda, PP; Brazio Namakhuwa, MCP; and Felistas Mpando Sumani, independent— on his way to Parliament.
In all fairness, we do not expect the PP to win each and every election, but its decision to select which battles to fight in, and which ones to shun may not give it a fair view of its political clout.
But its absence in the Local Government bye-elections may be a replica of what is happening at the top level of the party: Physical absence is creating a yawning gap that may make it difficult for party members to catch up with their top leadership while, at the same time, the party is making it difficult for itself in terms of catching up with the electorate in elections like this week’s bye-elections.

FALSE ALLEGATION - NO ONE DIED OF HUNGER!

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release

FALSE ALLEGATION - NO ONE DIED OF HUNGER!
The article in the Daily times of January 13, 2016, titled “Man Dies of Hunger” is false and cannot stand medical scrutiny. The article states that a post-mortem was conducted on the body of an unknown hunger victim in the bush in Mzimba, after which the body was buried on the spot. The article further claims that the post-mortem established that the man died of starvation. It is alleged in the same article that “post-mortem results indicated that the man died of hunger related causes.”
No medical professional can conduct a post-mortem exam in the bush and establish the cause of death, especially if the finding is meant to be used in Police investigations. In medical forensic enquiry, “starvation” can never be signed on a medical document as cause of death. In cases of starvation, it is specific complications of severe food deprivation or aggravated pre-existing illnesses that cause death. It is these specific causes and their relation to hunger that are stated on a medical document as cause of death. In this article, although hunger-related causes were mentioned as a cause of death earlier in the article, no specific cause was stated as would normally be the case.
In any case, Police authorities in Mzimba have stated that there was no post-mortem done in the bush where the dead body was found. They know that this deceased person is a non-Malawian because of the head features which they could recognize on the dead body. They suspect that he is a refugee who fell sick and was abandoned by fellow refugees as they passed through bushes at night to avoid detection by Malawi authorities.
Most shocking to us was that when we finally asked the medical person who visited the site, she told us that she found the body to be essentially bones. She could barely recognize some head features, and had the impression that the person had been dead for a long time. She told everybody on site that the cause of death was unknown. She was therefore surprised to hear a newspaper report that a post-mortem established the cause of death to be starvation.
The Police and general public in the area know that Ethiopians, Somalis, Sudanese and others use these routes in their frequent attempts to cross Malawi borders illegally. All this information must have been given to the Daily Times news reporter, but for reasons which everyone can now guess, he never reflected these facts in his report.
In this same article, the newspaper alleges that “the Police have advised the public in the district to avoid walking long distances when they have not eaten anything in the wake of looming hunger in most parts of the country.” The Police have again denied that they gave this warning.
It is obvious that this news reporter had ill intentions in this article. He started by discrediting the State President's policy that nobody shall die of hunger in Malawi. He then went on to lie that a post-mortem established starvation to be the cause of death and further lied about the Police issuing a warning.
This is irresponsible journalism at its highest. It is unpatriotic and most dishonest. We would like all journalists in this country to safeguard the professional integrity of journalism. Such crude fabrications are harmful not just to Government but much more to the country and worse still to the profession itself. We urge the journalists through their professional body to investigate this event and take appropriate disciplinary action.


HON. JAPPIE MHANGO, MP
GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON AND MINISTER OF INFORMATION, TOURISM AND CIVIC EDUCATION
15TH JANUARY, 2016.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

MALAWI ELECTORAL COMMISSION DECLARATION OF RESULTS FOR BYE-ELECTIONS

MALAWI ELECTORAL COMMISSION DECLARATION OF RESULTS FOR:
 Zomba Chisi Constituency
 Mtope Ward in Mchinji West Constituency and
 Ngala Ward in Lilongwe Msozi North Constituency
23rd December, 2015, Blantyre

 My fellow Commissioners,
 The Chief Elections Officer, Mr Willie Kalonga and your deputy
 All candidates, representatives of various political parties and candidates
 Representatives of various Civil Society Organisations
 Management and staff from MEC secretariat
 Members of the press
Ladies and gentlemen;
I welcome you all to this function today where the Commission will announce the official results following the by-elections that were held yesterday, Tuesday, December 22, 2015.

The Commission met earlier today to determine the results. However, before I announce the results of the Commission, allow me to give an overview of the journey we have travelled to reach this far.
Vacancies
The vacancy in Zomba Chisi Constituency arose because of the death of Hon. Peter Chizalo Mangulenje on September 23, 2015. In the same way in Mtope Ward, the vacancy arose following the death of Mr John Msumatiza on July 26, 2015, who was councillor for the ward.

However, Ngala Ward in Lilongwe Msozi North Constituency fell vacant because the holder, Mr Misheck Khomba, resigned on personal grounds on September 8, 2015. This is the first time a
vacancy has risen because of resignation.

Pursuant to section 32(2) of the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act and Section 23(2) of the Local Government Elections Act, the Commission had to conduct by-elections to fill the
vacancies.
Preparation for by-elections
This is the third by-elections held after the 20 May, 2014 Tripartite Elections. We launched the by-elections on 21st November in all the three areas. Then followed with registration and voter verification from 26th to 30th November 2015.

During this period from the three by electoral areas, the Commission registered 2,368 (1,115 men and 1,253 women) first-time voters bringing the total number of registered voters to 67,557 from 65,189
registered in 2014.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the Commission received 10 nomination papers on 1st December 2015 through the Returning Officers. There were six candidates in Zomba Chisi Constituency and two candidates in each of the two wards of Mtope and Ngala.

At its meeting held on 3 December 2015 the Commission approved  all the candidates to contest.
Out of the 10 candidates who presented nomination papers, only 2 were women representing 20 per cent. One woman contested in Zomba Chisi and the other in Ngala Ward. Mtope Ward had no
female contestant. If compared to the last by-elections on August 25 this year, the current situation is retrogressive.

Out of the 29 candidates who contested on August 25, a total of 8 were women representing 28 per cent.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, this is of concern not only to the Commission but to the nation as well. In the Commission we promote the 50 – 50 campaign in one way or the other. Activists are
pushing for the same.

The Government is advocating for increased number of women.

The irony, however, is that the women themselves are not coming forward to present themselves for candidature. We call on political parties to come up with deliberate policies and measures to enable
as many women as possible to contest.

Women should also make themselves available to be elected.
Appreciation of stakeholders
 MEC wishes to extend its appreciation to the Ministry of Finance for releasing money to conduct the by-elections.
 We continue to commend the National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) for its continued support in public mobilisation whenever there is a by-election.
 We appreciate the faith-based organizations and religious leaders who helped in voter education by reading to their
congregations the letters we were sending through them with various voter information.
 Some more appreciation should go to the Traditional leaders because they mobilized their subjects when we went to hold voter education meetings in their areas.

 We continue to appreciate the Malawi Police Service for providing security from the start up to the end today.
 The media for sensitizing the public on these by-elections and publishing correct information on the by elections.
 District Commissioners, Chief Executives of councils and members of District Election Supervisory Committees who managed the elections on the ground.
 A fitting word of high and hearty commendation to my fellow Commissioners and the MEC secretariat staff for their dedication, professionalism, commitment and selflessness in
managing the electoral process so well – To you I say well done!! Keep it up!
 Finally I should also express sincere gratitude and appreciation to all registered voters and Malawians at large for the manifestation of tolerance, peace, trust and spirit of cooperation in their conduct, during the electoral period.
I should also in a special way thank all those that turned up for voting.
Declaration of Results
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the moment that we have been waiting for. I will now proceed to declare the results.

Voting in the by-elections took place on Tuesday, December 22, 2015 from 6 AM to 6 PM in 37 centres. We monitored the process and we have come to the conclusion that the conduct of the elections satisfied the tenets of a credible poll and the Commission declares it such.
The Commission has, therefore, determined the results as follows:-
Mtope Ward, Mchinji West Constituency
Mtope Ward had two candidates. With a total of 26,433 registered voters, 4,569 registered voters turned up for polling.
This represents 17.29% voter turnout. There were 54 null and void votes.
This represents 1.18%.
The results of the voting are as follows:
1. Auleriano Kalemba (male)- Malawi Congress Party (MCP)
2,444 votes
2. Benedicto Tsele (male) - Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)
2,071 votes

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of the Commission I, Justice Maxon Raphael Mbendera, SC now declare Auleriano Kalemba who contested as Malawi Congress Party candidate the winner in the Mtope Ward by-election.
Ngala Ward, Lilongwe Msozi North Constituency
Ngala Ward had two candidates. With a total of 15,330 registered voters, 2,128 voters turned out for polling.
This represents 13.88% voter turnout. There were 30 null and void votes.
This represents 1.41% %.
 The results of the voting are as follows:
1. Master Rodgers Chazama (male) - MCP 1,381votes
2. Regina Sululu (female) - DPP 717 votes
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of the Commission I, Justice Maxon Raphael Mbendera, SC now declare Master Rodgers Chazama who contested as Malawi Congress Party candidate the winner in the Ngala Ward by-election.
 Zomba Chisi Constituency
Zomba Chisi had six candidates. With a total of 25,794 registered voters, 9,429 registered voters turned out for polling.
This represents 36.56% voter turnout. There were 135 null and void votes.
This represents 1.43%. The results of the voting are as follows:
1. Mark Michael Botomani (male)- DPP 3,019 votes
2. Stephen Alexious Chikwapula (male) - Independent 107 votes
3. Dyson R. Chimwala, (male) - Independent 2,792 votes
4. Asma W. Mponda (male) - People's Party 950 votes
5. Brazio Namakhuwa (male) - MCP 208 votes
6. Felistas Mpando Sumani, (female) - Independent 2,218 votes
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of the Commission I, Justice Maxon Raphael Mbendera, SC now declare Mark Michael Botomani who contested as Democratic Progressive Party
candidate the winner in the Zomba Chisi by-election.
In all the three areas we had 67,557 registered voters. A total of 16,126 voters turned up for polling representing voter turnout of 23.87 percent.
The highest percentage voter turnout was 36.56 registered in Zomba Chisi Constituency while the lowest was 13.88 in Ngala Ward.
The voter turnout this time around is less satisfactory if compared to the turn out in the by-elections held on August 25 this year. During the August 25 by-elections, held in five wards, the
average voter turnout was 25.87 percent.
Our Observations and concerns
 The low voter turnout trend is of concern to the Commission. I stated last time that there was need for a thorough research to look into the structural causes and we still push for this.
We need to go to the electorate and hear what makes them not to show up in good numbers for polling as they do during campaign rallies.
 The number of political parties contesting in by-elections is dwindling. We have over 50 registered parties but only three contested in these by-elections. During the Tripartite Elections only 19 elections participated.
During the October 8, 2014 by-elections 5 political parties participated. During the August 25, 2015 by-elections seven political parties contested.
Now the number of parties contesting is at 3. This is raising questions that;
if a party cannot contest in the national elections, cannot take
part in by-elections, what elections will they participate in? Do
we still need their existence in the political parties register or we
should find a formula of deregistering such parties so that we
remain with the active ones? There is a debate around this and
I hope the scenario here will also contribute to the conclusion
of the said discussion.
 We have also noted reduced competition in Local Government By-elections. In the August by-elections that took place in five wards, four of the wards had six candidates while one had five candidates.
But this time around both wards have two candidates each. This raises questions as to whether we
are still valuing the position of councillors or not.
We nearly had uncontested election.
 We have also noted silence from the women empowerment advocates. During the Tripartite Elections there were so many  stakeholders rising up to give moral, technical and material support and encouraging women to contest in elections.
We have noted no firm action from the activists to support women  participation.
MEC adopted the cycle approach to elections management and we expect all the stakeholders to follow suit.
They should not be active during national elections and then go under like submarines.
 The by-elections offer an opportunity for the activists to concentrate their efforts and encourage women to participate in elections.
 There are many civil society groups that were accredited to help with voter education. However, many are not seen to be active during by-elections.
We urge them to continue using their accreditation during by-elections. They should also adopt the electoral cycle approach. The same message should be extended to the Development Partners who provide support to the CSOs. Some CSOs want to implement activities during the in-between the ballot period but it is difficult for them to get the funding.
Conclusion
On behalf of the Commission, I congratulate the winners and wish them well. I urge all political parties and candidates to accept the outcome of the election as the expression, reflection and
representation of the will of the people.

I encourage any party or candidate wishing to challenge the election results to do so in accordance with the Laws of the Republic of Malawi.

I also thank everyone present here for coming to witness this ceremony. Your presence is not taken for granted. It is highly regarded.
May God Bless you All.
May God bless Mother Malawi.
I thank you for your attention.

Made this 23rd day of December 2015 at Blantyre
_________________________________________
Justice Maxon Raphael Mbendera, SC
CHAIRMAN

Saturday, December 19, 2015

STATEMENT BY MINISTER OF JUSTICE AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS ON ARRESTS CONCERNING HOMOSEXUAL ACTS




This statement is issued in response to the recent news in the print and electronic media alleging that the Police had arrested 19 year old Curthbert Kulemera and 33 year old Kelvin Gonani on 7th December on suspicion that they engaged in homosexual acts.

The Ministry of Justice wishes to reiterate Government’s commitment to the observance of human rights,   as   enshrined   in   our   Constitution.     The   Constitution   of   Malawi represents the collective wisdom and values of the people of Malawi.   The Constitution, being the basic law, provides the framework that guides the proper implementation of the aspirations of the people of Malawi through the various statutory laws that Parliament enacts.

Malawi as a member of the   international   community   is   also committed   to   adhere   to   universally accepted human rights standards. The   Government, therefore, acknowledges   the view   expressed by International Human Rights bodies that the inclusion of offences prohibiting homosexuality on our statute books within our legislation may be at variance with the views held by such bodies. Consequently, the Government has committed itself to review the penal laws on homosexuality under the Penal Code, but this has to be done in consultation with the people of Malawi as prescribed by the Constitution. This position was clearly stated by Government before the United Nations and African Union treaty bodies.

Further in line with this commitment, Government has imposed a moratorium on arrests and prosecution of consensual homosexual acts.   Government has also consistently invited civil society to carry out intensive sensitization campaigns on gay rights, as the concept is alien to Malawian culture, since the previous two attempts by to change the law met with stiff resistance from the general public.


Government has noted the concerns raised by interested parties and international bodies regarding the arrest of the two men. Government wishes to assure those concerned that the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs has carried out investigations into the arrest of the two men. The findings of these investigations do not disclose a case of two consenting male adults indulging in consensual sex, hence the Police’s diligence to require medical examination in order to establish the truth. The Ministry has not detected any prejudice or malice on the part of the conduct of the Police.

Further, Government wishes to emphasize that the circumstances of this case required the state to provide protective custody to both the alleged victim and suspect. It is important, therefore, that due process had to be allowed to take its course and the expectation was that all interested parties would desist from making pronouncements   that   are   either   unduly   conclusive   or   would,   effectively,   jeopardize the proper conclusion of the matter.

In its efforts to review the law for compliance with the Constitution and Malawi’s international obligations, Government will immediately engage its agencies, namely the Law Commission and the Malawi Human Rights Commission so that all the cultural sensitivities regarding this issue are properly addressed. As this process is being undertaken, Government is appealing to all those concerned especially the international community to fully appreciate that this is a highly sensitive matter that requires understanding and accommodation of diverse views before it is fully resolved.

Meanwhile, as Government is addressing the specific incident that occurred in Lilongwe, it has noted with concern that comments coming from some commentators from both within and without show lack of appreciation and respect of Malawi’s culture and traditions as well as the challenges which Government is facing in resolving this issue. While Government welcomes an open discussion of the issue by all concerned, the use of inflammatory and derogatory language being made by some of those contributing to the discussion is counter-productive and serves only to divert proper focus on the issue at hand.

Finally, Government is re-affirming its commitment to observe the moratorium. In light of this commitment the two gentlemen have been released from custody and the charges dropped.

Samuel Tembenu

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs

Friday, November 27, 2015

RESPONSES ON FINANCIAL MISMANAGEMENT AT THE MALAWI ELECTORAL COMMISSION


The Central Internal Audit Unit of the Ministry of Finance conducted an investigative audit at the Malawi Electoral Commission between 27th April and 15th May, 2015. The auditors had an exit meeting with MEC Management on 15th July, 2015. MEC submitted its responses on August 4, 2015.
On August 7, 2015 the Director of Internal Audit issued a report which did not incorporate responses from the Commission. On 14 August 2015 the MEC brought it to the attention of the Secretary to the Treasury on the omission and requested for the report to be revised. It was an amazement to MEC to get a letter from the Secretary to the Treasury six weeks later on 28 September, 2015 with the same report as a final version with an urge to the Commission to take action.
The MEC Chairman was compelled to seek an audience with the Chief Secretary to the Government and it was agreed that the audit report should be revised to include responses from MEC. This has also been communicated to the Secretary to the Treasury and it is the direction being pursued now.
However, the leakage of the report has generated wide media coverage and public interest. The Commission took a stand not to defend itself on material detail of the audit report with the impression that the final audit report will serve the purpose. However, stakeholders have been calling on the Commission to come out on the issue and give to the public its responses on the audit queries.
During a meeting with the board of the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) on November 12, 2015 and the National Elections Consultative Forum (NECOF) on November 13, 2015 members opined that the Commission should address the information gap created by leakage of the draft and delay in finalising the report. In view of that the Commission has been compelled to avail to the public its documents and records that constitute its responses to the issues raised in the draft audit report.
The compendium is available for download at www.mec.org.mw and on SCRIBD at https://www.scribd.com/doc/291109661/MEC-Response-to- Investigative-Audit-by-Ministry-of-Finance The call that an action should be taken basing on the audit findings has put the Commission in an awkward situation.
The Commission cannot request the people mentioned to refund the allowances they got when there is full evidence that they did travel. The same applies to all other cases. All caution should be exercised to avoid victimising innocent persons who can be exonerated by the final audit report. It should be stated that the Commission is ready to take any appropriate action and shield no one if a credible and thorough audit exercise substantiates financial mismanagement.
The Commission is committed to financial prudence in line with all public regulations and international standards. That is why, apart from being audited by the Auditor General, it is also audited by private auditors.
The Commission has also undertaken several initiatives to improve corporate governance and risk management by among others establishing a fully staffed Internal Audit Department and an Audit Committee of the Commission.
Signed this 24th day of November, 2015. 

JUSTICE MAXON MBENDERA SC, MEC CHAIRMAN