Malawi presidency responds angrily to 'charlatan' impostor

Peter Mwai

BBC Reality Check

The office of Malawi's president has responded angrily to a Twitter account pretending to be him and went on to take a stand on Zimbabwean politics in a series of tweets.

“It is the illegal work of charlatans and impostors with no connection to his Excellency,” a statement from the president's office says.

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On Monday a Twitter account, describing itself as belonging to the president, posted messages in support of opposition figures and human rights campaigners in Zimbabwe.

“l would like to express my deep concern to the people of Zimbabwe , you deserve to be listened to,” one of the tweets read.

Some online users mistook it for the official account, praising the president for his stand.

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The account in question was created in May 2012 and has been changing names frequently. This week the Twitter handle has changed three times.

One of those times the account was changed to @LAZARUSCHAKWARA - which spells President Lazarus Chakwera's last name incorrectly.

The president's real account is @LAZARUSCHAKWERA and was created two years ago.

The government is in the process of ensuring the president’s account is verified by Twitter, spokesperson Sean Kampondeni told the BBC.

Verified accounts have a blue badge - with a tick - appearing next to the name on an account's profile and next to the account name in search results. This lets people know that an account is authentic.

Malawi jails nine over wildlife crimes

Tourists watching an African elephant bull on the shore of the Shire River in Liwonde National Park, Malawi.
Getty Images
There is a demand for elephant tusks, rhino horns and other animal parts

Seven Chinese nationals and two Malawians have been jailed for seven years for illegal possession of ivory, rhino horns and pangolin scales.

The nine were part of a group of 14 people who were detained last year after arrests during police raids.

They are part of wildlife trafficking gangs according to local media.

One alleged leader of a trafficking gang who was arrested last year is expected to appear in court on Wednesday for charges of possession of rhino horn, conspiracy and money-laundering.

Malawi’s Director of National Parks & Wildlife Brighton Kumchedwa said that the successful prosecution of the nine people was a victory for all Malawians.

He said the country was "no longer a playground" for people who "exploit our natural heritage, damage our economy, incite corruption and pose a risk to national security".

Poaching accounts for 60% of wildlife deaths according to conservation group WWF.

There is a demand for elephant tusks, rhino horns and other animal parts for their purported medicinal value.

Malawi's president promises to sack bad ministers

BBC Focus on Africa radio

Malawi’s new President Lazarus Chakwera has responded to criticisms of nepotism by saying that he had good reasons to select the cabinet that he did.

He has included a husband and wife duo as well as people who are related to each other. There are also cabinet posts for some prominent business people which has raised questions of conflicts of interest.

The president's former running mate in the 2019 elections, Sidik Mia, has been appointed minister for transport and his wife Abida Mia is the deputy minister for lands.

Critics “may have a point [but]… both of them are accomplished politicians” in their own right, Mr Chakwera told BBC Focus on Africa radio.

Kenny Kandodo is the new labour minister and his sister Khumbize Kandodo is the health minister.

The president has also appointed the son of one his allies and predecessors, Joyce Banda.

But Mr Chakwera said the test would not be who the ministers were but whether they were delivering.

This is going to be reviewed, because you have to deliver, you have to work so that you are contributing this process of rebuilding and if you don’t you are out.”

And as to the question of whether it’s appropriate to have a media owner as information minister, as well as other business people in key posts, he said:

If there is any inappropriate action... Then they are gone… We will be on top of such and everything has to be declared right from the start.”

Listen to the full interview:

President Lazarus Chakwera's new cabinet includes members with family ties

Anger over Malawi family cabinet appointees

President Lazarus Chakwera during his swearing in
President Lazarus Chakwera won historic elections last month

Malawi's new President Lazarus Chakwera has been criticised for including a husband and wife duo and siblings in his cabinet.

The president's former running mate in the 2019 elections, Sidik Mia, has been appointed minister for transport and his wife Abida Mia is the deputy minister for lands.

Kenny Kandodo is the new labour minister and his sister Khumbize Kandodo is the health minister.

Businessman Gospel Kazako has been appointed information minister and his sister-in-law Agnes Nkusa Nkhoma is the deputy agriculture minister.

Earlier, President Chakwera's first appointee to the justice ministry, lawyer Modercai Msiska, refused to take up the position saying it would look like a reward for representing him in court during the case that nullified ex-President Peter Mutharika's election win.

Some have also pointed out that Mr Chakwera had attacked Mr Mutharika about nepotism in the past and for filling his cabinet with people from his region.

They add that more than 70% of President Chakwera's new line-up is from the central region, his political stronghold.

Some Malawians online reacted with little enthusiasm to the new cabinet:

"I will not lie, I am greatly underwhelmed by the cabinet list. Perhaps our expectations were too high. Husband and wife and the wife's cousin all in one cabinet, really?" Alfie Saweta wrote.

Hugo Mlewa said: "He should have avoided family relations, simple... son of... husband of... brother of... Work hard work hard while he is lazy appointing families... Chilima said Malawi is not a family affair... two families. And here he is approving families in cabinet."

Malawi revokes order on chief justice's forced leave

Andrew Nyirenda
Andrew Nyirenda was sent on leave pending retirement not long before the election rerun on 23 June 2020

Malawi's new government has revoked an order telling the chief justice to go on leave before retirement.

Former President Peter Mutharika had directed Andrew Nyirenda to stay on leave until his retirement.

The move had sparked criticism.

Mr Nyirenda led the Supreme Court in its decision to nullify Mr Mutharika's election in May 2019, paving the way for last month's re-run, which he lost to the opposition.

In withdrawing that order, the new government said that matter of the chief justice's leave was between him and the Judicial Service Commission.

The new notice was shared on the official government Twitter account:

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Chakwera inaugurated in scaled-down ceremony

Peter Jegwa

Lilongwe, Malawi

Malawi's newly elected President Lazarus Chakwera has been inaugurated as the country's sixth leader at a ceremony attended by only 100 guests in the capital, Lilongwe.

The ceremony coincides with Malawi's 56th independence day.

On Sunday, President Chakwera ordered that the ceremony be moved from the national stadium to the country's military headquarters as concern grows over coronavirus infection rates.

A local newspaper has shared pictures from the inauguration event:

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Malawi has so far recorded a total of 1,742 Covid-19 cases, including 19 deaths.

Not many international delegates attended the ceremony, with Tanzanian Vice-President Samia Suluhu the most high-profile dignitary in attendance.

Former President Peter Mutharika, who lost to Mr Chakwera in last month's re-run election, did not attend to officially hand over to his successor.

Coronavirus: Malawi's VP and wife test negative

Malawi's Vice-President Saulos Chilima and his wife Mary
Vice-President Saulos Chilima's personal secretary died with coronavirus

Malawi's Vice-President Saulos Chilima and his wife Mary have tested negative for coronavirus days after his personal secretary died from the virus.

Mr Chilima made the announcement # as the inauguration ceremony took place on Monday in the capital, Lilongwe.

President Lazarus Chakwera over the weekend said coronavirus was spreading fast in the country.

Mr Chilima said the surge in cases was "alarming and frightening".

He urged people to do tests tweeting that together with his wife they would repeat the tests in two weeks.

Malawi cancels independence day celebrations

BBC World Service

President Lazarus Chakwera
President Lazarus Chakwera also scaled back inauguration plans

Malawi's newly elected President Lazarus Chakwera has called off independence celebrations and further scaled back plans for Monday's formal inauguration.

Both events were due to be marked by a huge jamboree in Lilongwe's football stadium.

On Saturday, the president announced the stadium's capacity would be halved to 20,000 to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Now the stadium festivities have been cancelled altogether, with the inauguration being moved to a military barracks to be witnessed by only 100 specially invited guests.

The cancellation will put a dampener on the euphoria generated by the historic opposition triumph in a recent election re-run, after last year's fraudulent polls were overturned.

Coronavirus: 'Malawi, we have a situation'

Coronavirus is spreading "all over Malawi" and "faster than before", the country's new President Lazarus Chakwera said in what was billed as a special address to the nation.

In a frank message, he said things can be summed up in five words: "Malawi, we have a situation".

He said that even though the country has only around 1,400 people who have tested positive, almost half of the cases came in the last three weeks.

He added that the virus is now spreading within the community rather than coming from outside.

He said that some restrictions will be announced next week, but acknowledged that a balance had to be struck with maintaining livelihoods.

President Chakwera was sworn in last Sunday after defeating the incumbent, Peter Mutharika, in a rerun of last year's disputed poll.

In the election campaign, Mr Chakwera held mass rallies and told the BBC at the time that the majority of the cases were imported.

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