By Mabvuto Banda

Chimwemwe Lusungu was one of the first beneficiaries of Malawi’s much-touted economic miracle, a large-scale national programme which subsidises agriculture inputs, mainly fertilisers and seed for maize production.

Within five years, her maize yields doubled and her life changed: she had enough to feed her six children and surplus to sell. But now the 45-year-old widow from Lilongwe has neither maize to feed her family nor cash to buy food or pay other vital expenses such as school fees.

“I was struck out from the list of beneficiaries because I was told that government didn’t buy enough fertiliser to distribute to everyone as per usual,” she said when asked why she could not get fertiliser last year.

Lusungu blames her situation on “Cashgate”—a corruption scandal in which senior public officers, bankers and businessmen allegedly siphoned an estimated 6.1 billion kwacha ($15.5m) from government coffers, according to Baker Tilly, the British audit firm hired by former President Joyce Banda to investigate the stealing of public funds.

By Mabvuto Banda

Gogo Munthali dissolves into tears every morning. She worries about what to feed her five grandchildren orphaned by HIV/Aids.

Munthali was among the first beneficiaries of Malawi’s farm input subsidy programme (FISP) in Rumphi, which lies over 400 km north of Lilongwe, when it was introduced some eight years ago by late President Bingu wa Mutharika.

About 1.7 million poor farmers were targeted providing them with two 50kg bags of inorganic fertilisers, improved hybrid and open pollinating maize seed at 50 % less.

A village headman in each village assisted by the Village Development Committees (VDC), identified the families with priority given to households headed by children and women.

The results were phenomenal; maize output almost tripled in the first two years from an average of 1.06 ton/ha in 2000- 2005 to 2.27 ton/ha in 2009/2010 pushing GDP growth to an average of 7.4 %, higher than the World Bank recommended rate of 6% for sub Saharan Africa.

Inflation slid into single digits, benchmark interest rates went down from around 40% to 25% for the first time in two decades. Food security at household level also improved. For the first three years, Munthali’s yields doubled from 10 bags of maize to 20 bags. But today, the 65-year-old widow is desperately poor and feeding her grandchildren has become an everyday struggle.

“Fertilizer for the last four years has been arriving late after the first rains…I have had to plant my crop three weeks late and this has reduced my harvest drastically,” she says.

But what worries Munthali more is Samson, the youngest of her grandchildren, who looks sickly and scrawny because he has fully blown AIDS. “Samson may not be with me for long; he is on treatment and I can’t give him the food he needs,” she says looking forlorn and lost.

Samson, 10, is a statistic in a country where UNAIDS says 200,000 children aged between 0-14 years are HIV positive and over 500,000 are orphaned.

Late President Mutharika
Late President Mutharika
REPORT OF THE COMMISSION OF INQUIRY

INTO CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE DEATH OF THE LATE PRESIDENT BINGU WA MUTHARIKA

Ref. No: CI/BWM/03/2012                                                     31st January 2013

LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT

Her Excellency Mrs Joyce Banda, President of the Republic of Malawi, Mrs. Joyce Banda,

State House.

Your Excellency,

REPORT OF THE COMMISSION OF INQUIRY

On 1st June 2012, Your Excellency appointed a Commission of Inquiry to inquire into all aspects surrounding  the death of His Ecellency Ngwazi Prof. Bingu wa Mutharika, late President of the Republic of Malawi, and into issues of transition of State power following the President’s death; and it pleased Your Excellency to appoint us  as  Commissioners  to  undertake  the  Inquiry  and  to  report  our  findings  and recommendations to Your Excellency.

We, the Commissioners, now have the honour to present our Report to Your

Excellency.

Yours respectfully,

Justice Elton Singini, SC (Retired)

 Chairman                                                                                       
 

Calista pays her last respects in April this year.
Calista pays her last respects in April this year.
Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika was already dead when government flew him to South Africa, an inquiry into his death has revealed,contradicting government and his family who said that he had died in South Africa where he was flown for treatment.

“He died on the way to the hospital and that was within minutes of his collapse before the ambulance reached hospital. The ambulance arrived at the hospital at about 11:25 am and the President was brought in dead,” said Justice Elton Singini, Chairman of the commission of inquiry.

Singini, who presented the findings to President Joyce Banda, also disclosed that the 78-year-old leader had a history of heart problems and had suffered a minor attack in 2009.

Amnesty International has lauded Malawi for suspending laws against same-sex relationships describing the move as a step in the right direction.

“Amnesty International welcomes Minister (Ralph) Kasambara’s statement and hopes it serves as the first step toward ending discrimination and persecution based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity in Malawi,” said Noel Kututwa, the rights group’s director for southern Africa.

Homosexuality is banned in Malawi – as it is in 36 other African states – and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years, but Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara said he wanted debate on the issue before parliament decided whether to keep the laws or not.