When President Mutharika moved out of his absurd, 300-room palace in Lilongwe because he – reportedly – was troubled by ghostly rodents crawling over his body, most people blogged it as a “news of the weird” story. With today’s news – that the two reporters who broke the story have been arrested for “reporting false news likely to cause public alarm and fear”, it’s become a story about journalistic freedom. The individuals being held are the BBC’s Raphael Tenthani, Reuters reporter Mabvuto Banda and their informant, personal assistant to the vice president, Horace Nyaka.
If any building in southern Africa were haunted, it might be the 300 room palace built by Hastings Banda, Malawi’s long-term strongman, who took 20 years and $100 million to build it. Even Banda found the palace opulent – he moved out of it after 90 days – and his successor refused to use it, declaring himself offended by the building’s opulence and offering the building for Parliament to use instead,
President Mutharika evidently doesn’t have any problems with the building’s opulence – when he took power, he ordered Parliament to move out and find other quarters. They’ve not met for six months as they explore possible offices spaces in Lilongwe.