Why has President Peter Mutharika of Malawi sacked General Vincent Nundwe?

General Nundwe (video via facebook)

Many people in Malawi are wondering why General Vincent Nundwe has been removed as Commander of the Malawi Defence Force (MDF), and replaced with Major General Peter Andrew Lapken Namathanga.

In an interview, General Nundwe said he was not aware of any wrongdoing that may have led to his removal, but he said it was the president’s prerogative to choose who led the army.

However, in a week where the president has refused to assent to bills that Malawi’s parliament passed a few weeks ago (those relating to the new elections to be held in May this year), and refused to sack the Malawi Electoral Commission commissioners, as recommended by the Public Affairs Committee, and when Mutharika had ordered the MDF to use force against protesters who plan to march to State House on March 25th, Media analysts, Governance experts and Political Scientists are saying the decision to fire Nundwe and his deputy are politically motivated.

My word to my successor is that they should always act according to the law

– General Vincent Nundwe

For those who have not been following politics in Malawi in recent months, General Vincent Nundwe has led the army through a time where it has dutifully and lawfully protected citizens from the lawless aggression of the Malawi police, during the protests which Malawi’s citizens have mounted against the government in recent months, calling for electoral justice against the fraud-marred May 2019 elections (which the Constitutional Court annulled in February due to widespread irregularities).

So Nundwe and the MDF are seen as heroes in Malawi, for their professionalism in protecting citizens and not allowing the MDF to be used as a tyrant’s tool that quashes peaceful protests against the regime – as has been commonly the case in many African countries that are ruled by despots.

Thus, if Nundwe was the preferred soldier’s choice to replace General Griffin Spoon Phri when he got appointed, what changed for Nundwe to be booted out? Did the same soldiers who wanted him in to lead them request the President that there be a change at the top? Did Nundwe do something wrong that was a grave breach of his duties to the constitution and to Malawi, or is Peter Mutharika merely looking for a partisan, compliant and spineless officer to push around, one who will try to force the MDF to do his bidding?

In these uncertain political times in the country, I think Malawians need to know.

And if there are no credible or convincing reasons why Nundwe has been removed, then the next government will have a duty to restore him to his role.

Looking at Peter Mutharika’s recent actions, and considering public anger against his unpopular government, especially in light of the constitutional court decision, the world’s eyes will be watching what the new leadership at the army does, especailly since Malawi is scheduled to hold fresh elections as directed by the Constitutional Court.

Minimally, Malawians will be expecting the army to uphold the constitution, and for the MDF to maintain the same level of professionalism and high standards which Nundwe and others before him presided over. And if not, Malawi will be yet again thrown into political chaos and public unrest. Especially since over the years, Malawi’s army has had a legacy of upholding the constitution, even when people outside Malawi expected otherwise. So a sudden change is likely to irk those who have been protesting against the may 2019 rigged election and will most likely work only to increase the intensity and magnitude of the protests. In 2012 for example, when the then president Bingu Wa Mutharika died, General Odillo, a Bingu appointee moved to uphold the constitution and prevent a coup by Bingu’s cabinet (which included Peter Mutharika), who had at the time conspired to prevent Joyce Banda (Bingu’s estranged Vice president at the time, but rightful second in command) from assuming the presidency, protesters only left the streets after there had been a peaceful and constitutional transition of power.

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South Africa’s ageing white mercenaries who helped turn tide on Boko Haram

(c) from sites.la.utexas.edu
Image from sites.la.utexas.edu

South Africa’s ageing white mercenaries who helped turn tide on Boko Haram

“But the South African government doesn’t want them to exist. They wish them off the planet. When they come back from Nigeria, it will try to prosecute them and put them in jail. Because the colour of these men is white, it makes laws that stop them earning money off shore. How wrong can you be? There is now reverse racism and it’s difficult for white people to get a job.”

A recurring theme is a sense of grievance and resentment among ex-soldiers who perceive today’s South Africa as loaded against them, even though statistics consistently show that the white minority still enjoys disproportionate access to education, jobs and wealth

And the image of drunk, depressive adventurers was old hat, Heitman argued. “That may have been true of mercenaries in the sixties. The ones I know are pretty serious soldiers and family men. They’re not ones for boozy parties. There are some among them who were having booze and parties in the past but now they’re in their 50s and 60s and serious guys.”


I must say I don’t understand why current South African Laws are framed in such a way that these people can’t go and freely practice their ‘trade’ in private companies elsewhere. It can’t possibly be justifiable, if some of them were not directly responsible for anything of great concern during their time in the SANDF. It’s a different thing if they are known to have committed atrocities(or there is credible evidence to this effect) during the apartheid era (Is that the case for each one of them? Or are the lines blurred..?). In such a case, then there would be good reason to have them prosecuted. But even then, actions would have to be evidence based, and not wholesale and speculative.

Otherwise, I’m inclined to dismiss the South African laws as short-sighted, more so on the part of the ANC government since it is roundly accepted that each of these men possesses a substantial amount of experience – which could benefit efforts against terrorism elsewhere across the world. As remote as such a prospect may sound, imagine an army consisting of South African mercenaries hand in hand with other military groups being dispatched to Libya, Syria and Iraq to add to the pressure against Islamic State. Shouldn’t we be throwing everything against the extremists operating in these countries? Especially when Europeans and Americans are reluctant to commit troops to these missions. Hardly anyone believes Islamic State can be defeated without ground forces. I think additional troops(of the order 50,000), other than those currently fighting IS, will be required to make any serious progress. Thus, if experience can be gained from South African mercenaries, why can’t they be enlisted?

Never mind Boko Haram, what about further reinforcements in the fight against the likes of Al Shabbab and Islamic State? I think it is a waste of talent and self-limiting to neglect experienced men, and put impediments in their paths, blocking them from practicing their vocation – when the world stands to benefit in the event that they succeed.