By Mabvuto Banda

On April 6, 2009, US pop star Madonna braved the scorching sun and laid a foundation stone for the $15 million girls’ school in the rust-coloured dirt of a sprawling piece of land in Chinkhota Village – about 15 kilometers outside Lilongwe – the capital of Malawi.

Forced out of their ancestry farm land to pave way for Madonna’s school, the angry villagers calmed down and joined international journalists , government officials, to witness the pop star lay the ceremonial first brick, good news in the southern African nation where only 27 percent of girls attend secondary school.

“I grew up as a poor girl with my mother… I had no chance for good education,” the emotional Madonna said as she put down the brick with an inscription: “Dare to Dream.”

Her remarks resonated so well with many Malawian girls who believed in her and saw the school academy as a chance to live their dreams.

By Mabvuto Banda

On Tuesday, October 7, 2014, Mrs Treza Namathanga Senzani, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism was given a nine months custodial sentence on theft charges and three years for money laundering.

Mrs Senzani became the first cash-gate suspect to be jailed.  She was among the many accused of exploiting a loophole in the government’s payment system – the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMIS) in which billions were stolen.

In addition to the cash-gate transactions, Baker Tilly, the British bean counters found that payments without supporting documents accounted for an additional K4 billion and supply contracts that had been inflated by K3.6 billion.

According to Baker Tilly, the government was defrauded of about $32m, almost 1 percent of Malawi’s annual GDP, in the six months between April and September 2013.

The postponement of the trial against two Zambian men charged with same-sex sexual conduct whilst they continue to languish in prison is compounding their suffering, Amnesty International said.

“These men should not be facing the courts in the first place. Postponing the trial condemns these men to even more time in prison simply because of outrageous charges against them based on their perceived sexual orientation,” said Simeon Mawanza, Amnesty International’s Zambia researcher.

The trial, which was due to start yesterday, was deferred as the presiding magistrate, Mr John Mbudzi, had to attend an urgent family matter. No new date has been confirmed yet.