Most Malawians 'more scared of hunger than Covid-19'

A woman who trades in fabrics, and her child, wears face masks in Lilongwe, Malawi
Malawians are being encouraged to wear face masks

A recently conducted poll has shown that 81% of Malawians are not afraid of coronavirus and are more concerned about hunger.

Those aged above 55 are least afraid of the virus despite them being at higher risks than the younger population.

About 60% of those polled are more concerned about the collapse of the healthcare system.

Another 76% say they are afraid of stigma if they catch the virus.

The poll was conducted between 7 and 28 May by Malawi's Institute of Public Opinion and Research (Ipor) and the Swedish researchers.

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Malawi's Nation newspaper, which tweeted its front page earlier, also has a story about doctors warning of a "Covid-19 time bomb":

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The southern African nation has recorded 284 cases of Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by coronavirus.

Malawi VP's campaign convoy stoned

Malawi's Vice-President Saulos Chilima
Saulos Chilima has fallen out with President Peter Mutharika

The convoy of Malawi's Vice-President Saulos Chilima has been stoned in Phalombe, which is in the south of the country.

It is the home area of President Peter Mutharika, who has fallen out with his deputy.

Mr Chilima is currently on the campaign trail as the running mate of Lazarus Chakwera, the leader of the main opposition UTM party, in elections expected to be held within the next month.

A video posted by the private Malawian broadcaster Zodiak shows the convoy coming under attack:

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According to Zodiak, several journalists travelling in a press bus with the UTM convoy were injured.

On Thursday, Mr Chilima accused the government of trying to delay the election by deliberately allowing the spread of coronavirus after several hundred people who had returned from South Africa escaped before they could be tested for the virus.

MPs are due to meet next Friday to decide on the exact date of the election - one of the proposed dates is 23 June.

On 3 February, the Constitutional Court ordered a fresh vote be held within 150 days after annulling last year’s re-election of President Mutharika - a ruling upheld by the Supreme Court.

“People will vote in this fresh election, whether [we have] Covid-19 or Covid-21,’’ Mr Chilima had said during a campaign rally in southern Malawi.

The southern African nation currently has 203 recorded cases of coronavirus.

Hundreds escape from virus quarantine in Malawi

About 400 people have escaped from a coronavirus quarantine centre in Malawi's second largest city, Blantyre, after complaining about its poor state.

Local media has reported that the escapees were quarantined on arrival from South Africa and were yet to be tested for coronavirus.

They had complained that the stadium, which was turned into a quarantine centre, lacked water, toilets and food.

A ministry of health spokesman has confirmed the escape of returnees and said that the authorities have mounted a manhunt.

Photos of the deserted and littered stadium were shared on Twitter:

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The incident comes a day after local media reported that eight people who tested positive for the virus on arrival from South Africa had escaped from Kameza isolation centre in Blantyre.

Malawi has so far confirmed 101 coronavirus cases including four deaths.

Football fans in Malawi push for return of the league

Peter Jegwa

Lilongwe, Malawi

Malawi's national football team

Football fans in Malawi have demanded that the local league, halted as one of the measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, should resume.

Led by supporters of the country's two most followed clubs, Nyasa Big Bullets and Be Forward Wanderers, they petitioned the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) saying they saw no reason why football could not return while political rallies, which attract huge numbers of people, were being held by politicians ahead of the expected 23 June presidential election re-run.

The 2020 Malawi football season was scheduled to start in March but was called off after government banned all gatherings of more than 100 people.

The head of FAM, Walter Nyamilandu, said he was consulting relevant authorities before deciding whether to allow the league to resume.

Malawi election: What next after resignation of election chief?

Peter Jegwa

Lilongwe, Malawi

Jane Ansah
Protesters had demanded that Jane Ansah stand down

The resignation of Jane Ansah, the electoral commission boss, has divided Malawians just like their assessment of how she performed her role during last year's contested election.

The opposition and civil society groups blamed her for the irregularities that undermined the fairness of the poll that elected President Peter Mutharika for a second term. The election was however nullified by judges of the constitutional court and the Supreme Court because of irregularities.

Ms Ansah's departure should ordinarily pave the way for a new leadership, acceptable to both sides ahead of the election expected to be held on 23 June. But in the short term it appears to have brought more confusion than clarity.

The actual words Ms Ansah used in announcing her departure were: “I have written to the appointing authority tendering my resignation.”

Sceptics believe the “appointing authority” - meaning President Mutharika - will choose not to accept the resignation and the saga will simply continue.

But should President Mutharika agree there will still be more questions to answered:

Who takes over? When? and Will they have time to deliver a free, fair and credible election in less than two months?

According to the law, the head of the electoral commission must be a judge, nominated by the judiciary and formally appointed by the president.

The rest of the electoral commissioners are political party representatives, nominated by parties represented in parliament and formally appointed to the job by the president.

As things stand, it is President Mutharika who will have a big say about what happens next.

He may choose not to act on Ms Ansah's resignation letter or reject it and allow the political bickering to continue, or he may choose to accept the resignation and, accordingly engage in consultation with the judiciary and opposition parties, to name a commission to take charge of fresh elections.

But that still won’t guarantee the elections will be held.

The country is yet to get all the money it needs for holding the poll at a time when it is dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Ansah may have announced she is departing the stage, but Malawi's political drama is set to continue.

Malawi's elections chief resigns ahead of re-run

BBC World Service

Former Malawi Electoral Commission chairperson Justice Jane Ansah
Getty Images
Protesters had demanded that Jane Ansah stand down

The head of Malawi's electoral commission has resigned a month before a presidential election re- run.

The vote was ordered by the Constitutional Court which overturned last year's poll giving a second term to President Peter Mutharika.

Protesters had demanded that Jane Ansah stand down over irregularities in the original election, including the use of correction fluid on ballot papers.

But in an interview on state television she denied she was giving in to pressure.

The re-run will take place on 23 June.

BreakingConfusion over Malawi re-election date

Peter Jegwa

Lilongwe, Malawi

Voter in Lilongwe, Malawi  in May 2019
Constitutional Court judges found there had been widespread irregularities in the 21 May 2019 vote

Malawi's electoral commission says presidential elections will not be held on 2 July, as earlier announced.

On 3 February, the country's Constitutional Court ordered a fresh vote be held after annulling last year’s re-election of President Peter Mutharika.

The court said the new elections should be held within 150 days of the date of its ruling and that period elapses on 2 July - the date the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) set as election day.

But MEC Chair Jane Ansah has said that last Friday’s Supreme Court judgement, which upheld the Constitutional Court's ruling, clarified that the date for holding fresh elections should be decided by MPs - and that the 150-day period should include the day elections results are announced.

According to electoral laws, the MEC has up to eight days to announce the results, meaning if elections were held on 2 July, the election results would come after 150 days set by the court.

It is not yet clear when parliament will sit to decide on a new election date.

Malawians defy Covid-19 measures in election fever

Peter Jegwa

Lilongwe, Malawi

Lazarus Chakwera (on pickup) after presenting his nomination papers to the Malawi Electoral Commission on 6 May 2020
Nine opposition parties have formed an alliance against President Peter Mutharika

Malawi's main political coalitions continue to defy Covid-19 prevention measures in campaigns for a fresh presidential election in July.

Huge political rallies were held over the weekend that completely defied social-distancing and mask-wearing measures hours after the country reported its highest single-day spike in confirmed coronavirus cases.

Malawi is hold the vote on 2 July because the re-election of President Peter Mutharika in May 2019 was nullified by the country's Constitutional Court.

Opposition candidate Lazarus Chakwera, who has formed an alliance of nine parties, held a huge campaign rally in the northern city of Mzuzu on Sunday.

President Mutharika’s running mate, Atupele Muluzi, also addressed a huge gathering of his own on the same day in the capital, Lilongwe.

The rallies were held a day after Health Minister Jappie Mhango confirmed 13 more coronavirus cases, with five of the cases detected among health workers. The country has to date reported 57 cases and three deaths.

The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has advised political parties to seek new ways of campaigning in the wake of the pandemic, but neither of the two sides has heeded the call.

A health ministry official described the campaigns as regrettable, but said their role was limited to just prescribing measures and it was up to other arms of government, such as the police, to enforce them.

BreakingMalawi's top court rejects Mutharika's poll appeal

Sammy Awami

BBC News

Peter Mutharika
Mr Mutharika has been president since 2014

Malawi’s Supreme Court has upheld the invalidation of last year's presidential election results and ruled that Peter Mutharika was not duly elected.

In February, the Constitutional Court nullified the results after the opposition parties challenged them.

Mr Mutharika had been announced the winner of last May's election with 38.5% of the vote. Opposition party leader Lazarus Chakwera came second with 35.41%.

But the Constitutional Court judges ruled that the vote was marred by irregularities, and ordered a new election.

In Friday's ruling the Supreme Court also agreed with the Constitutional Court that none of the candidates had obtained a majority of votes.

Justice of Appeal Frank Kapanda said the court found the extent of irregularities in the May elections were "not only serious but also troubling".

The court also criticised the attorney general as acting in a way that was not consistent with the constitution.

It further said the 150-day transition period between the lower court ruling and the election re-run in July was unnecessarily long.

Since the disputed results were announced there have been regular anti-government protests.

Some of these have resulted in looting and the destruction of property, including government offices.

On Thursday, a mother and her son died after an opposition office was petrol-bombed while they were asleep in the same building.

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