Opposition in Malawi to meet Banda

BLANTYRE - Malawi's victorious opposition movements are to meet Life President Hastings Kamuzu Banda, after six hours of talks with the government on bringing the opposition into office ended in deadlock yesterday.

On Thursday night Dr Banda accepted the outcome of this week's referendum, which showed 63 per cent support for an end to one-party rule, but said his government would not resign in favour of an interim administration.

'Dr Banda is trying to cling to power, despite his rejection by the people,' Chakufwa Chihana, leader of the opposition Alliance for Democracy (Aford), said yesterday.

The opposition parties had called for an interim government of national unity within seven days of the referendum result, amendments to the one- party constitution and general elections by the end of the year.

Yesterday's talks involved the Presidential Committee on Dialogue, for the government, and the Public Affairs Committee (PAC), an umbrella group representing Aford, the Church and the other main opposition group, the United Democratic Front (UDF).

Mr Chihana, a trade union leader who was released from prison last Saturday after serving a nine-month sentence for sedition, attended the talks for the first time.

In his radio broadcast, Mr Banda said a general election could be held within a year and Section Four of the constitution, which declares Malawi a one- party state, would be repealed by parliament within a month to allow for other political parties.

But he added: 'The suggestion that this government or I should resign or be replaced by an interim government is . . . out of the question.

'What the people of Malawi have said . . . is that they want other political parties to be formed in this country to compete with the (ruling) Malawi Congress Party.'

But the opposition say that although the referendum was a choice between one-party and multi-party systems of government, the way Dr Banda's party campaigned meant the result was a vote of no confidence in the party and its leadership.

A PAC member said the opposition had written to Dr Banda, asking him to accept a government of national unity with him as head of state.