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Malawi president, at inauguration, pledges to root out corruption

Malawi president, at inauguration, pledges to root out corruption
FILE PHOTO: Malawi's President Peter Mutharika speaks at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit during the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri -
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Carlo Allegri(Reuters)
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BLANTYRE (Reuters) – Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika began his second five-year term with a tough stance against corruption and pledged to revive the economy, following accusations of corruption and mismanagement.

Speaking at his inauguration on Friday in Blantyre, Malawi’s second largest city, Mutharika warned that he would not spare anyone found abusing their positions, in an apparent response to allegations of corruption that marked his first term.

“The honeymoon is over. If you belong to the DPP (Democratic Progressive Party), you have no right to think that you are above the law or to be defiant to your superiors in the name of the party”, he said before thousands of cheering supporters and military parades at Kamuzu stadium.

“We will count it as indiscipline and we will fire you.”

The opposition parties have said Mutharika has nurtured graft, but he denies that. He has said local media reports he benefited from a $4 million contract to supply food to the police force were a ploy to smear him before the elections.

“We want a corrupt-free Malawi where our public resources continue to build roads, community technical colleges and buy drugs for the people,” he added.

Mutharika won the election with a 38.57% share of the vote, with opposition party leader Lazarus Chakwera scoring 35.41% and Deputy President Saulos Chilima claiming 20.24% in the final tally.

Mutharika said his government would push a law that will ensure that 60 percent of government procurement goes to local companies and also offer tax breaks to the private sector.

He also pledged to offer soft loans to smallholder farmers as well as continue to make the price of fertiliser and seed cheap, signalling a continuation of subsidies that boosted food production during most of his first term.

The president’s inauguration speech has, however, been overshadowed by a declaration by his main rival, Chakwera, that he has rejected results of the May 21 election announced by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).

Making his own parallel address in Lilongwe, the administrative capital, Chakwera said he is in the process of filing fresh petitions to the High Court asking it to nullify the results.

“I reject MEC’s fraudulent presidential results. This election has laid bare the corruption that has contaminated all our governance institutions,” he said.

Results had been due at the weekend but had to be delayed after a court on Saturday granted the opposition an injunction after the electoral commission received 147 complaints of irregularities, including results sheets with sections blotted out or altered with correction fluid.

(Reporting by Frank Phiri; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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