Malawi

  1. From UK boy band to Malawi charts: Theo Thomson

    DJ Edu

    Presenter of This Is Africa on BBC World Service

    Theo Thomson

    It all started when Theo Thomson’s mum heard him singing in his bedroom. She thought it was Stevie Wonder on the radio and came running in - she had no idea her son could sing like that.

    Even though Theo was an introvert as a teenager, his mum persuaded him to enter singing competitions in the UK where they were living at the time. Eventually, he overcame his nerves and got a taste for the stage.

    He even auditioned for, and joined, a boy band which had a brief moment of fame when it was featured on British TV.

    "I learnt a lot from that actually. I learnt how to share the stage and how to own your section of the performance," Theo says.

    But it was a few years later when Theo returned home to Malawi that things really took off for him:

    "That was when I connected with my sound, my African sound. My first single there was a song called So Amazing. That had a mixture of what was happening in the States, my writing was very UK and the energy was very Afro. This song was in the charts for 25 weeks.

    "I wasn’t sure if I was going to be accepted doing this fusion in a territory that was kind of virgin to this urban-meets-Afro genre. But when it did get received the way it did, it was an amazing experience honestly. It made me feel like ok let’s go, we can push this.”

    Theo now has three albums under his belt.

    His biggest song to date – Maybe Tomorrow – riffs on the idea of a young man stalling his girlfriend who wants him to propose marriage. But it’s not a player thing, Theo assures us - it’s because the young man wants things to be perfect before he gets hitched.

    Thomson says he owes a lot to his parents, and not just to his mother, who spotted his talent and pushed him. His father, Oscar Thomson was a nightclub DJ and went on to set up Malawi’s first independent radio station FM 101 Power.

    "He loves music so much," Theo says. "I’d say he’s very responsible for everything that’s happening in Malawian music right now because he was the first one to give Malawian listeners Malawian music. He has an amazing ear. Whenever I finish a song, he’s the gatekeeper."

    You can hear more from Theo Thomson on This is Africa this Saturday, on BBC World Service radio and partner stations across Africa, as well as online here.

  2. Lazarus Chakwera - President of Malawi

    Video content

    Video caption: Sarah Montague speaks to Lazarus Chakwera, president of Malawi.

    Sarah Montague speaks to Lazarus Chakwera, president of Malawi. The preacher-turned-politician won power promising to create a million jobs, but can he honour the promises he made to his own country?

  3. The plastic bag vendor who changed Malawian law

    Kim Chakanetsa

    The Comb podcast

    Mayeso Gwanda

    A Malawian street vendor who went to court to challenge his arrest over a discriminatory law has called on other countries with similar regulations to abolish them.

    Mayeso Gwanda was arrested in 2015 while walking to work, over the outdated and vague offence of being a rogue and vagabond.

    He was assisted to contest the charges against him, and in doing so, the High Court declared the law that saw poor people regularly locked up invalid and unconstitutional.

    Telling his story to The Comb podcast, he said he fought the case “so that people can be free and not victimised like before”.

    "I was so happy that I won the case, and I'm happy that we have no vagabond laws. People are free to move around," he said.

    He says people can now run their businesses and improve their income.

    Mr Gwanda’s case inspired an African Union-backed campaign against a raft of similar laws that are still present in a number of countries.

    Known as petty offences, these laws disproportionately punish poor and vulnerable people whose day to day activities often put them in positions that risk arrest.

    Listen to the full episode here.

  4. Top Malawi businessman jailed for bribe attempt

    Peter Jegwa

    Lilongwe, Malawi

    The Malawi High Court has sentenced a well-known business tycoon to nine years in prison, after he was found guilty of trying to bribe judges in an election case.

    Thomson Mpinganjira wanted to get the judges on the side of then-president Peter Mutharika, in a case whereby the opposition had challenged a fraudulent election won by Mr Mutharika.

    Mpinganjira - one of the richest people in Malawi - was recorded on tape offering financial inducements to one of the judges to influence the outcome.

    View more on twitter

    In 2020 the court eventually ruled there had been widespread irregularities and ordered a new election, leading to a new presidency under Lazarus Chakwera.

    Mpinganjira was eventually convicted on 10 September.

    In passing the sentence on Tuesday, Judge Dorothy DeGabriele said Mpinganjira had not committed “a mere offence involving dishonesty, but an offence committed brazenly and with impunity” at a critical time in the country’s history.

    The court imposed two nine year sentences on two counts, but the sentences will run concurrently because “the offences were committed in one transaction” according to the judge.

  5. Ex-Malawi MP shoots himself dead in parliament

    Peter Jegwa

    Lilongwe, Malawi

    Clement Chiwaya

    A high-ranking former Malawian MP, Clement Chiwaya, has shot himself dead in an office in parliament.

    Mr Chiwaya, who was a wheelchair user after he contracted polio at the age of two, served as deputy speaker between 2014 and 2019.

    In a note he left shortly before the shooting, he wrote about the dispute he had with parliamentary officials over the ownership of a specially adapted vehicle.

    After stepping down as deputy speaker he began a process to allow him to buy the car provided by parliament that enabled him to drive despite his disability.

    He paid for the vehicle but he accused parliament of failing to transfer ownership. In a statement released after the ex-MP's death, parliament said that the matter was still in court.

    Local media are reporting that Mr Chiwaya entered the office of the clerk of parliament on Thursday and shot himself with the clerk watching.

    In his note, he said he was tired of begging for what belonged to him and said he took his own life for fear of "hurting others".

    Mr Chiwaya, born in 1971, became a disability rights activist and successfully ran as an MP three times.

    Police are now investigating how he was able to enter parliament, which is usually under heavy security, with a loaded pistol. In its statement parliament said that security officials thought that it was his wheelchair that triggered the metal detectors.

  6. Airtel Malawi fined for withholding consumer airtime

    Will Ross

    Africa editor, BBC World Service

    Airtel logo

    Malawi's telecoms regulator has fined the local business of India's Bharti Airtel over $2.5m (£1.9m) for failing to give customers airtime they were owed as part of a loyalty scheme.

    Airtel Malawihas denied the charges.

    The Competition and Fair Trade Commission launched an investigation after receiving complaints from customers.

    It found that Airtel Malawi had stopped automatically crediting customers' accounts with monthly bonuses - a move which enabled it to make a financial gain of about $2.5m.

    The commission fined the company for what it described as "unconscionable conduct".

    At $14bn, the global annual revenue of India's Bharti Airtel is almost double the size of Malawi's entire economy.

    In a statement sent to the AFP news agency, Airtel Malawi managing director Charles Kamoto "denied the charges leveled".

    "The company is pursuing the matter further in court," he said. "Airtel complies and continues to fully comply with the relevant and applicable laws."

  7. Malawi tycoon tried to rig election ruling

    Peter Jegwa

    Lilongwe, Malawi

    Composite of three Malawian politicians
    Image caption: The election challenge was brought by Lazarus Chakwera (left), who is now president, and Saulos Chilima (centre) against then-President Peter Mutharika (right)

    Malawi's High Court has found prominent businessman Thomson Mpinganjira guilty of attempting to bribe judges in an effort to get them to rule in favour of then-President Peter Mutharika.

    Mpinganjira is one of Malawi's richest people and is known to have links to Mr Mutharika's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

    Mr Mutharika was re-elected for a second term in May 2019, but the opposition went to court to challenge the results, arguing that they were tainted with irregularities.

    Mpinganjira was recorded on tape offering one of the judges financial inducements to influence the court outcome.

    In 2020, the court ruled that there had been widespread irregularities and ordered a new election. Mr Mutharika lost the re-run to Lazarus Chakwera.

    In Friday's judgement, the High Court in Blantyre found Mpinganjira guilty of corruption and ordered that his bail be revoked as he waits for sentencing.

  8. SA suspends officials over fugitive pastor Bushiri

    Pastor Shepherd Bushiri and his wife
    Image caption: Pastor Bushiri and his wife skipped bail and fled South Africa

    Five officials of South Africa's home affairs department have been suspended for their role in issuing residence papers to a Malawian fugitive pastor.

    Pastor Shepherd Bushiri had acquired permanent residence documents that were questioned by the authorities.

    He fled the country after skipping bail in an ongoing fraud and money laundering case.

    Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said the five officers were facing the disciplinary measures after investigations were concluded.

    The minister denied reports that the fugitive preacher had captured the department of home affairs and had officers working to make his life easy.

    Mr Bushiri is in Malawi and his extradition case is yet to be concluded.

  9. Malawi ex-minister arrested over honeymoon hotel bill

    Peter Jegwa

    BBC News, Lilongwe

    A former minister in Malawi has been arrested for allegedly paying for his honeymoon with public funds.

    Charles Mchacha, who was the irrigation minister in ex-President Peter Mutharika's administration, is alleged to have used ministry money for a top hotel suite for him and his bride in Blantyre after their wedding.

    Malawi's Nation newspaper tweeted that two other senior government officials were also arrested by the anti-corruption agency:

    View more on twitter

    The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) says all three will be charged with abuse of office, neglect of duty and theft.

    They have all denied any wrongdoing.

  10. Activist chained up alone in cell after protest

    Peter Jegwa

    Lilongwe, Malawi

    The Malawi Human Rights Commission, an independent constitutional body, has criticised the police for putting a human rights activist in solitary confinement and in leg irons for "merely exercising his rights".

    Sylvester Namiwa was arrested on a charge of organising an illegal demonstration.

    He is the head of the Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiative and had lead demonstrations demanding an explanation on how a sensitive bill was brought to parliament without following procedures.

    The bill in question sought to get parliament to authorise the government to borrow more than $115m (£84m) to build houses for police officers, prison warders and immigration officials.

  11. New Sadc president gives vaccine call to arms

    Peter Jegwa

    Lilongwe, Malawi

    A medic prepares to give a dose of the vaccine in Zimbabwe

    In his first speech since becoming the head of the regional bloc Sadc, Malawi's president has called on fellow leaders to fight for fair access to coronavirus jabs.

    President Lazarus Chakwera said Africans have a moral duty to reject second- class status in the distribution and production of vaccines, invented and manufactured in labs where some of the scientists doing such work are Africans.

    According to the World Health Organization, 31.7% of people worldwide have had at least one dose of a Covid vaccine but in low incomes countries it's only 1.3%.

    The disparity has been blamed on pharmaceutical corporations refusing to allow the Covid-19 vaccines to be produced as widely as possible by sharing their knowledge free from patents.

  12. Malawi leader sacks minister over corruption allegation

    President Lazarus Chakwera
    Image caption: President Lazarus Chakwera takes over energy ministry's functions

    Malawi's President Lazarus Chakwera has sacked the energy minister and his advisor who are facing corruption charges.

    The two and one other official - Enock Chihana, a partner in the governing Tonse Alliance - were arrested on Monday for their alleged involvement in a state oil contract.

    They were reportedly trying to influence the way that contracts for the supply of oil were awarded.

    Minister Newton Kambala was not replaced upon his dismissal.

    The functions of the energy ministry have been transferred to the president's office.

    The chief of staff Chris Chaima Banda's replacement was also not named in the announcement about his dismissal.

    Mr Kambala and Mr Banda have not commented on the matter.

    Mr Chihana commented about the probe saying going to the anti-corruption bureau was a normal process and an opportunity to clear is name.

  13. Protesters arrested outside Malawi's parliament

    Peter Jegwa

    Lilongwe, Malawi

    Police in Malawi have arrested 11 protesters and used tear gas to disperse others outside parliament in the capital, Lilongwe, for holding an unauthorised gathering.

    They were demonstrating about a controversial bill to borrow more than $115m (£83m).

    Under Malawian law, people must tell the authorities if they plan to stage a demonstration, though they are not necessarily required to get permission.

    Sylvester Namiwa, head of Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI), and 10 other members of the civil society group were arrested.

    A local news site shared a video of Mr Namiwa's arrest:

    View more on twitter

    The CDEDI boss says the bill is contentious because it was brought to parliament without following procedures.

    It allows for money to be borrowed from the London branch of the Bank of Baroda for the construction of houses for the police officers, prison warders and members of the immigration department.

    Last week a presidential adviser and an finance ministry official were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the irregular submission of the bill, but they were both released on police bail.

  14. Malawi energy minister arrested over corruption allegation

    Malawi’s Energy Minister Newton Kambala has been arrested for allegedly trying to influence the way that contracts for the supply of oil were awarded, the country’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has said in a brief statement.

    Two others – the president of the of Alliance for Democracy party, Enoch Chihana, and a presidential adviser, Chris Chaima Banda – have also been detained.

    The ACB allege that the two men aided the minister "when he attempted to influence the award of the contract to supply 40,000 metric tons of fuel".

    On his Facebook page, Enoch Chihana wrote that talking to the ACB was "a normal legal process and for me it is an opportunity to clear my name of any wrongdoing".

    The other two men have not commented.

  15. Malawi presidential aide arrested for abuse of office

    Peter Jegwa

    Lilongwe, Malawi

    Police in Malawi have arrested two people, including a special assistant to President Lazarus Chakwera, for submitting a bill to parliament without following the correct procedures.

    A leading daily newspaper, The Nation, reported that the bill originating from State House sought the authorisation to borrow 98m euros ($116m; £84m) for the construction of houses for the police, army and the department of immigration.

    But The Nation said it was taken to parliament without the knowledge of the cabinet and other relevant institutions.

    Front page of the Nation

    It has now emerged that a key aide to the president, Pastor Thom Martin, has been accused of being involved in submitting the request.

    Hours after his arrest, President Chakwera's office issued a statement announcing Mr Martin had been sacked.

    There was no immediate comment from Pastor Martin, but the police said he and his alleged accomplice will be charged with the abuse office and will be taken to court soon.

    Correction 4 August 2021: This post has been updated to make it clear that it was the bill that was submitted without following the correct procedures and not that the bill would allow spending without following procedures.

  16. Mourning declared after mass road deaths in Malawi

    Peter Jegwa

    Lilongwe, Malawi

    A map of Malawi showing Blantyre and Lilongwe.

    Malawi's President, Lazarus Chakwera, has declared two days of national mourning in honour of 21 people killed in a horrific road accident on Sunday.

    The 18 women and three babies were killed when a bus they were travelling in hit a stationary truck and was then hit by another vehicle.

    They were travelling on the main road connecting the capital, Lilongwe, to the southern city of Blantyre.

    Most were killed on the spot, but three of the victims died in hospital. Another eight people are being treated for multiple injuries.

    President Chakwera has ordered that all national flags should fly at half-mast during the mourning period.

  17. Video content

    Video caption: Malawi’s president Lazarus Chakwera defends bringing family to London summit

    Malawi’s president has brought family members on a UK trip but says they were needed for the event.