Banda lies low after poll defeat

EIGHT hours after Malawi's National Referendum Commission had announced victory for the supporters of multi-party democracy, the government and the ruling party had still made no response to the result and President Hastings Kamuzu Banda was reported to be closeted with his ministers in an emergency meeting at the Sanjika Palace in Blantyre.

The usually accessible spokesman for the ruling Malawi Congress Party, Hetherwick Ntaba, was not contactable and Tony Mita, the government information officer, said it was not his job to comment on the result of the referendum, which was officially announced yesterday morning.

As news of the result spread, crowds threw caution to the winds and celebrated openly. In Blantyre, convoys of cars and lorries flying yellow tags, the colour of the multi-party groups, paraded through the streets, their occupants hanging out of the windows, giving the two-finger victory salute. Gangs of young people were shouting, waving and chanting 'No more Banda' and other slogans against the man and the party that have made Malawi a totalitarian state for the past 29 years. 'This is our second liberation,' said one man.

At a press conference in Lilongwe, Professor Brown Chimphamba, the chairman of the Referendum Commission, said that 63 per cent of 3.1 million voters had voted for multi- party democracy - with an overwhelming affirmation in the north, south and urban areas - and that the vote had been free and fair.

The United Nations observers are to report today. But a statement yesterday from the European Parliamentarians for Africa said that the referendum 'cannot be considered fully free and fair; however, the conduct of the polling was generally excellent.' It said any result in favour of a multi- party system 'probably reflects the will of the people'.

Representatives of the ruling party and the opposition groups will meet tomorrow, but yesterday opposition leaders were repeating their demands for reform of the constitution and a government of national unity. Before the referendum, Mr Ntaba said the government would accept the result and amend the constitution if people voted for multi-party democracy, but that a government of national unity was totally unacceptable.

Chakakala Chiziya, the deputy leader of the United Democratic Front, one of the two main parties advocating multi-party democracy, said that sections of the constitution entrenching the one-party state must be repealed within seven days.

Asked if President Banda should resign, he said that would be discussed by the opposition groups, adding: 'The President has put himself in a very difficult position because he told the people that they were choosing between him and multi-party democracy. The vote means that the people have no confidence in him. The rightful thing is for him to resign immediately'.

There are many signs that Malawi will be able to adjust to the new politics. The Malawi Congress Party Youth League, the storm-troopers of repression, stayed at home yesterday, and the police are not intervening. Malawi has Africa's least politicised army, and no one expects it to step in if there is a power vacuum.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
News
Williams says: 'The reason I got jobs was because they would blow the budget on the big guys - but they only had to pay me the price of a cup of tea'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

Austen Lloyd: In-House Solicitor / Company Secretary - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: IN-HOUSE - NATIONAL CHARITY - An exciting and...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee