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advocating multi-party democracy, said that sections of the constitution entrenching the one-party state must be repealed within seven days.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 year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there