Malawi pardons prisoners to celebrate independence

Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika on Wednesday pardoned 413 prisoners convicted of minor offences to mark the Southern African country’s 41 years of independence from British rule, his office said.

The inmates who were released had been convicted of “minor offences, had served at least half of their sentence and had a distinguished record of good conduct”, said a statement from Mutharika’s office.

Mutharika also said that this year’s Independence Day celebrations will be low-key with prayers to be held instead of festivities, as the government wants to use the money to buy maize for Malawians in need of food aid.

About 65% of the people live below the poverty line and earn less than $1 a day in Malawi, which is also struggling with the Aids pandemic affecting 900 000 people in the country of about 12-million.

“We want to use the money for celebrations to buy maize to ensure people have food,” said Mutharika in his State of the Nation address delivered late on Tuesday.

“We should reflect on why Malawians are still in a cycle of poverty,” he said.

Malawi is planning to buy R341-million-worth of staple grain from South Africa to try to fill the gap from food shortages caused by drought.

Wedged between Mozambique and Zambia and one of the world’s poorest countries, Nyasaland gained independence from Britain in 1964 and was renamed Malawi.—Sapa-AFP

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