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advocating multi-party democracy, said that sections of the constitution entrenching the one-party state must be repealed within seven days.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
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
TVSPOILER ALERT: It's all coming together as series returns to form
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine