Malawi News Roundup: Media assault, albino killings and sex for food  

KASAKULA- Malawi government agents have sealed our offices


Another eventful week has just ended. Malawi was once again this week in the spotlight for wrong reasons. Assault on the media, corruption, sexual abuses and albino killings were some of the incidents of the week. CSJNEWS summarises key stories from Malawi media.

Media assault

Political ruthlessness! Tit for tat! Dirty politics! Call it anything but the news of the week was the fight between government and Malawi’s media giant Times Group.

The news: Malawi government, through its Revenue Authority (MRA), sealed the headquarters of the country’s largest media company Times Group in the commercial city of Blantyre on Friday.

Heavily armed paramilitary police officers sealed the premises disrupting normal programming of Times Television, Times Radio and production of a weekly paper, Malawi News.

According to a story posted on it’s the company’s news website, the clampdown of the media house was “politically-motivated and an act of impunity on the part of the government.”

“MRA has seized our offices over taxes and yet we have been paying taxes every month. It is impunity and lawlessness on the part of the government,” Times website quoted Editor-In-Chief George Kasakula as saying.

He said the move was linked to the media house’s investigation of a corruption scandal involving maize import scandal.

As if the humiliating shutdown was not enough another state agent, Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has asked the media conglomerate to explain why it changed its programme formats and schedule on Friday without authorization from the Authority.

In a latter dated January 13, 2017 addressed to Times Television and Times Radio’s Station Manager, signed by Macra Director General Godfrey Itaye, MACRA says that the media group erred when the TV relayed BBC feed while radio played music whole day without the authority’s consent.

Macra observed that the licence for TV and radio prohibits Times from changing over 20 percent of its programme schedule without authorization from the Authority.

Good heavens! Doesn’t Macra know that Times Group was sealed by MRA on Friday?

Albino killings

Will albino killings end? This is the question some people are asking after state-owned Malawi Broadcasting Corporation reported during the week that another albino has been murdered in Thyolo. By the way, so far 19 albinos have been murdered over the past two year.

The killing of a 19-year-old Sunganani Madalitso Pensulo on January 10  has angered authorities which have condemned the  murder.

Police in the tea-growing district have arrested the murderer Willard Mayikolo who enticed the unsuspecting Pensulo with biscuits and juice before killing him.

According to the police, when Pensulo was eating the biscuit and drinking the juice, Mayikolo strangled him with a rope before hacking him with a machete.

“People around the area heard the cries and went to the chief who ordered that the door be broken and the body of Pensulo was found in a pool of blood. Mayikolo had run away,” explains a statement from Thyolo Police. Amnesty International (AI) has described the killing of Pensulo as a reflection of past policing and criminal justice failures.

 No visas for corrupt barons

Some close allies of Malawi President Peter Mutharika face travel bans to the United States and other sanctions as the US is investigating illicit wealth accumulation and feared corruption at high echelons of power.

According to the Weekend Nation newspaper, the move comes amid frustration locally and within the donor community on lack of movement on some high profile corruption cases.

US Ambassador to Malawi Virginia Palmer told the paper that investigations on the matter are underway and travel bans will be used where applicable.

“The US government has the authority to impose visa sanctions on corrupt foreign officials, their families and others who benefit from corruption. Where we would not comment on potential or ongoing investigations, we will use denial of entry sanctions where applicable,” said Palmer. Authorities in Malawi say they are not aware of the investigation or the travel bans.

 Sex for food in Malawi

Sex with housemaids, sex with hookers, sex with imbeciles, sex with widows. The lust of some Malawians is to say the least baffling.

Some traditional leaders in the hunger-stricken district of Nsanje are forcing poor and hungry women and girls to have sex with them in exchange for humanitarian food.

A local charity Link for Citizen Empowerment told the Weekend Nation that the women who are exploited are those already in a precarious situation where they consider survival as a priority.

Link country director Jephter Mwanza told the paper that his organization has uncovered cases of power and sexual abuse that are perpetrated by village heads and members of local communities.

If you think the story is embellished you are mistaken, Nsanje District Commissioner Gift Rapozo has acknowledged the problem.

According to Rapozo, the hungry victims are not aware that the malpractices constitute abuse. Muuuuh, Really?

 Fire the beloved Chaponda

Fire Chaponda! This is a message from civil society who have dragged Malawi leader Peter Mutharika to court for failing to suspend or even fire Chaponda as investigation in the maize scam is underway. reported during the week that Malawi’s import of 100,000 metric tonnes of maize from neighbouring Zambia has caused a storm which is refusing to calm down in both nations.

Senior politicians and bureaucrats in Malawi and Zambia are under fire over their controversial handling of $34.5 million maize deal.

According to privately-owned The Daily Times of Malawi the deal is dogged by irregularities.

The paper claimed that Malawi’s state-owned grain marketer purchased a consignment of maize for $34.5 million from a private company through an intermediary instead of buying the maize directly from the Zambian government at $21.5 million.

Malawi has been importing maize from neighbouring countries to feed 6.5 million of its citizens who are in need of food aid.

Following the scandal, the civil society organisations have asked the Agriculture Minister Dr George Chaponda to resign to pave way for investigation. But Chaponda has refused to resign and Mutharika is not ready to boot out him from his cabinet.

PP cut: $19 million

Startling revelations! Stinking corruption! A former senior government official has revealed that out of $32 million stolen from the Treasury in 2013, sixty percent or $19.2 million funded former ruling People’s Party of  ex-president Joyce Banda.

The bureaucrat Leonard Kalonga who was convicted of corruption told the High Court of Malawi that while corrupt civil servants and private contractors were sharing 40 percent of the loot, 60 percent of the stolen funds were being handed over to People Party (PP).

Kalonga is testifying as a State witness in the $32 million Cashgate case involving former Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo and 17 others.

Mphwiyo has been named as the mastermind of Cashgate which resulted in Malawi government losing $32 million to corruption.

Major donors froze aid to Malawi in 2013 after learning about the scandal. The Cashgate script has now started making sense. The big fish – Chejumo- may still be enjoying part of the 60 percent loot.

War in the garden

The enemies are in the maize field. Army worms –call them false worms. Who is winning the war? Certainly, armyworms. 2,000 hectares of crops in Malawi have been destroyed.

“The latest is that the invasion is spreading very quickly than we thought and this week nine districts have been affected destroying 2,000 hectares of crop fields,” Agriculture minister George Chaponda told journalists.

Malawi’s outbreak follows one in neighbouring Zambia, where the military has been deployed to battle the bugs, and Zimbabwe.

Serious war indeed. A national army deployed to fight armyworms in the maize fields.