Exclusive: JB ‘I am a free Malawian citizen now’

Former Malawi president Joyce Banda discusses her eight-month absence from the country in an exclusive interview with Mail&Guardian of South Africa.

When did you leave Malawi and what have you been doing since then?

joyce Banda As a free Malawian citizen I can spend any amount of time anywhere.

Joyce Banda As a free Malawian citizen I can spend any amount of time anywhere.-Photo by M&G

The elections were in May. After President [Peter]Mutharika was declared the winner I conceded defeat and I made a statement to the nation. The best thing you can do is to allow peace to prevail because, in most countries where blood has been shed after elections, post-election conflicts start with an incumbent or competitor who refuses to accept defeat. For me there was life after State House. So I stepped on to the global stage, to show that I accepted [Mutharika] as my president, to run Malawi without my interference. I am an international public speaker, so I went back to my speaking engagements.

I also had to look at the Joyce Banda Foundation, which is not only in Malawi. I had to sit down again with my team and look at ways of growing it.  So on the margins of the United Nations assembly last year in New York, we launched the Joyce Banda Foundation International Africa Initiative.

Why stay outside the country for so long?

As a free Malawian citizen I can spend any amount of time anywhere. In the past, presidents have left office and spent many months outside the country. [Former] president Bakili Muluzi stayed for a long period in the United Kingdom with his family.

Do you feel comfortable with continuing to draw a government salary as a former president when you are living abroad?

When I left, I hadn’t started receiving the salary. But I accept that it takes a long time for logistics to be put in place for us to enter the systems again. I’ve gathered that it’s not only me, but it really doesn’t matter. When government is ready it will start.

The main suspect in Cashgate, Oswald Lutepo, said on radio that you are connected to the scandal. Your reaction?

Mr Lutepo was only six months in our party when the Cashgate scandal was uncovered; he was a member of other parties before. When it was clear that he was the main suspect, my government instituted an international search and extradited him from China. The statement you’re talking about has been changed four times. In fact, I have evidence that he was forced to implicate me, or his wife [would] be arrested.

Following his statement, there was an announcement by government spokesperson [Kondwani] Nakhumwa that they had CCTV footage showing me and Lutepo conniving to swindle government. I am informed that the Anti-Corruption Bureau has made public requests four times to Nakhumwa to bring forth that footage. He has not and will not because it doesn’t exist.

I established a commission of inquiry to find out how Bingu wa Mutharika died in State House but there was no way we could see this because the CCTV camera in the State House wasn’t working and I refused to repair it because it would cost K100-million (R3-million). For the two years I was in State House we didn’t have working CCTV. So, I don’t know where this footage came from.

Why, then, are there attempts to implicate you in Cashgate?

It’s something I expected when I started the fight against the looting of public money. My advisers warned me: “You will be fighting powerful people and they won’t just stand there, they’ll smear you” and bring me down.

I don’t need to tell you the things I’ve been called and what they’ve written about me in panic. It’s part of the deal of being a leader who truly stands for the people.

I asked the British government to help me conduct a forensic audit and submitted the auditors’ report to parliament [which revealed that K13-billion (R390-million) was stolen in three months during her administration]. I also conducted an audit into the last three years of Bingu Mutharika’s term, which revealed K92-billion (R2.76-billion) was stolen then. I’m not worried about being smeared. Malawians are very intelligent people; they can see through whatever is going on and they know the truth. They know that I served them well.

Why did you lose the elections? 

I can only direct you to an official report by the Malawi Human Rights Commission that tells what happened around the elections. I made my own decision to move on, and now Malawi has another president, who must be the president for five years. I will never challenge that.

Finance Bank boss Rajan Mahtani was given a licence to reopen his bank in Malawi (which was closed because of alleged money-laundering). He promised your government money to facilitate the issuing of the licence. Did Mahtani donate money to your party?

The Mail & Guardian headline was loud and clear: I was “laughing all the way to the bank”, insinuating that I received money. A serving president receives many investors; it’s up to you to direct them to the right organisation. If somebody wants to make salt, you direct them to the trade and industry ministry, even introduce them to the minister, because your successes will be based on the money coming into the country through investment.

When Mahtani came back to Malawi, I told him the regulator is the Reserve Bank – they do a due diligence and decide whether to have him back. During the whole process there is no way anybody can be foolish enough to invest money before they know they are going to get a licence.

Your party was very well resourced during the elections. Where did the funds come from?

I was one of … two women presidents on the continent and the first in the SADC region. A lot of people were interested [in me] … staying in office – particularly women. It was not a lot of money; anybody could give me $3 000 or $5 000. During the elections, most of those supporting me were in the country.

What were your successes as Malawi’s president?

When I came in, there was no fuel even for a day. To go to Mutharika’s funeral I depended on fuel donated by Zambia’s late president Michael Sata. When I left, there was fuel for 15 days and fuel tanks were under construction to store fuel for two months.

My government also drew up a clear economic recovery plan focusing on infrastructure, energy, mining, tourism and agricultural development. When I came in, two million people had no food; when I left, we had a harvest of three million tonnes. When I came in, economic growth was 1.8%; when I left it was 6.5% …

Also, when I came in, our press index was at position 145, meaning there was no freedom of speech. People like you could not speak, reporters were being beaten up and a minister could ban a newspaper if he didn’t like it. When I left, we had repealed those laws and our index position was 79.

More importantly, during the Cashgate investigations, I set up a committee of Cabinet ministers that worked day and night briefing the nation and drawing up a plan to continue the fight against corruption.

What is your message to Malawians who are eagerly expecting your return?

All presidents and vice-presidents can come in and out of the country, so I don’t know how Malawians are eagerly waiting for a former president. When I return to Malawi I may interact with my party officials, nothing else.

My message is I know Malawians are passing through difficult times, but I know why. When you come into office in a country as poor as Malawi, you must close all loopholes, protect all that belongs to Malawians and ensure you make friends with those that can assist you. Listen to the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and donors for the benefit of those you serve. The donors have said they want a forensic audit of the stolen K92-billion, to find out who did what.

The German government has $25-million to do that and I think they’ve identified a firm to do a forensic audit. They have clearly stated that if this is not done, they aren’t going to bring back money. My short experience as head of state is that donors don’t joke.

When are you returning to Malawi?

I can’t reveal that. When I’ve finished my programme I’ll go home. Just like all other former heads of state, I’m free to come in and out of my country or live anywhere else I choose.—Mail &Guardian (amaBhungane)

 

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48 thoughts on “Exclusive: JB ‘I am a free Malawian citizen now’”

  1. Levi Sitima says:

    We missed you mama

  2. boston mlotha says:

    a president can be attacked to death even though cctv camera is intact . Security lays in the hands of GOD

  3. Jona says:

    Sabwera ameneyo

  4. Jb, fuck off says:

    This jerk of woman will never change. When she was the head of state, she was buzy travelling abroad promoting herself az a valuable brand while things werent well at home.

    Now she’s afraid to get back home coz she knowns she’ll be taken to task to account for the mess she left us in. We were living in hard timez bcoz she the stupid, no good, lunatic dickhead left uswith nothing. Bitch

  5. king says:

    proud of you mama

  6. maframes says:

    If it is true that State House’s CCTV system is not working then we are not serious. That simply means our President doesn’t have security, in fact reviewing it on a world podium like that then am afraid we can be easily attacked.

  7. Davis says:

    Musova

  8. yusuf says:

    where on earth can a state house be without cctv cameras,only God knows better.we dont have leaders who are proud of malawi

  9. Galu ameneyu tatopa nawo amalawi asabwere kusokoneza

  10. Gas Machine Head says:

    She will only come back when the Kasambara and Lutepo cases are over. Trust me. Remember, these two have stated that they would want her to be a witness in their respective cases. Knowing Kasambara at cross-examination, the Mama would collapse in court. If these cases drag on, then she will be in her self-imposed exile forever. Probably until MCP takes over in 2019. Because I do not see these cases ending in the short-term. They will be like the Muluzi graft case, or the Chilumpha treason case. So Amail JB is in exile for the long-haul indeed.

  11. joe says:

    Only God knows.la 40 lidzakwana! No secret under this naked earth.

  12. Nyani wa ku Mwananyani says:

    Q: “When are you returning to Malawi?”
    A: “Not any time soon, if the government keep threatening me with prosecution. I am
    scared “heavy” of Chichiri olo Zomba Maximum prison. I know DPP will be in power for
    a very long time; so I am happy to be outside if even I don’t belong here. I’ll just have
    to make the best of it.” – should to be the most appropriate and honest reply by Joisi
    Mtila-Banda.
    I really pithy interview.
    It’s easy to tell from the answers that the former president is not sophisticated, in matters political. She seems to repeat the same songs, even when the interviewer shows grave doubts about authenticity of the answers!

  13. TNM Boss says:

    We know the truth, the Former President Bakili Muluzi was sick, that’s why he stayed long outside, are you sick as well? Why did you meet your Party officials outside if you knew that you will come to Malawi soon? kkkkkkkkkkkkk mayi we are not kids, you said you know who shot phwiyo, then you changed, nobody will arrest you, olakwa amathawa yekha

  14. big chimbly says:

    The truth shall always come out, I don’t think this mama who made us proud will be arrested becoz of this cashgate, if lutepo and kasambala are still free, how can she be arrested? She served us well as u would expect from a woman, let her come and rest.

  15. kawonga says:

    a free citizen in a foreign country?welcum on board mai.dpp your motive will turn sour once jb wil openly sue 4 her terminal benefits. And it wil be multiple millions. My tax at work.

  16. Howard Kachipanda says:

    Amai sindinu a chipani chathu koma ngati mumayankhadi nokha mafunsowa, muli ndi nzeru. Ndipo mutafuna kulowa chipani chathu ndi anthu anu (osati a Mpinganjira) tikhoza kukulandirani. Ganizani mofulumira ndithu, a deputy SG anu aja anabwera kale tunjoya nawo limodzi mmisonkhano ya mmidzimu. Inunso mukaganiza muli kunjako mudzadabwa pa airport makaka ofiira,green,black angakhale pamenepo.

  17. Koma says:

    No.9 Ukunama there is no way u can say anaotcha escom ndani. Bwanji osafunsa za mec warehouse? Nsika wa LL? MZ, MZA,MANEB. Why!? Leave amayi alone. Muwapatse ulemu antichotsa m’mavuto after that fate.Zimandiwawatu!

  18. clifford chilinde says:

    we all know the truth about this cashgate thing,did sitole also give jb part of his money?

  19. Chikopa says:

    Yaa ine ndilinalo funso lutepo anakutchulani kuti ndalama amapasa inu apa mwakana kuti anakakamizidwa ndi boma kuti atero nanga za magalimoto 22 boma linakakamiza lutepo kuti mulandire magalimoto 22 kwayiye? Mwatiuzanso kuti munapanga kale oditi ya 92 tatiuzani ndindani amatenga ndalama? Mmene ndimakuziwilani inu ndibwenzi mutatiuza kale pa 2years yomwe munalamula , chimene mumatiuza mumangoti Bingu 92 mumangothela pompo simutiuza in detail monga za cashgate .

  20. Hastings Chikwenya says:

    Am a free citizen too I can stay anywhere except South Africa

  21. VICKY says:

    MUSIYENI JB` BWANJI OSAYANG’ANA ZA NJALA IKUBWERAI KUT MUTANI NAYO

  22. Kadakwiza says:

    The person who can transform our beautiful country Malawi, is Amayi Joyce Banda. Not this one we have now who went to paint a prison cell corner. Tinachitaya A Malawi.

  23. rhodney says:

    Love u mama always

  24. rhodney says:

    Love you mama always

  25. Charombanthu says:

    Quite interesting and intelligent responses here JB. I never expected you to respond to these questions the way you have. You have shown maturity and statesmanship, without antagonising anyone. Were these written responses or a live interview? I have never been your fan, but I am impressed.

  26. Malawianmom says:

    shame on you. you did not run this nation by the book. Malawians trusted you, and you let them down. you know dome well why Muluzi was in the U.K. He let Malawians down, by hand picking Bingu,and Bingu turned around and hand picked you.

    As a Nation, we admared how you stood your ground and set up your limits with Bingu. As a Nation we all stood behind you.

    We thought you had what it takes, to turn thing around. Yes you are free Malawian citizen you can live anywhere you want with tax payable money. what about the nation that stood behind you during those difficult times?
    Now see who is in the over raw office, and who is on the run.

    You call that being free?

  27. nasimelo says:

    kodi ma phokhosowa bwanji? she wants to draw attention to her stupid self dotn worry JB maula prison ikukudikira ku malawi kazibwera uzalowe.

    if you have to tell the world that you are FREE it means you know and you don’t feel free at all.

  28. jean jella says:

    Up with jb
    U can’t smear her with cashgate
    If she had been involved she wouldn’t have conducted these investigations

  29. chiphwanya says:

    come and lets see what GATE you are going to bring from abroad

  30. fight says:

    Amai osadandaula ndizoyankhulayankhula za anthu.Inu chezani mmene mungachezere kunjako,palibe vuto.Ine ndimakukondani chifukwa ndinu mai wolimba mtima.You are most welcome at any time you feel like coming home.

  31. osman usu justin says:

    Missing you amai kuno kumudzi,mubwere mudzaone Malawi uja lero wabwereranso pajapa!posowa chakudya paja!

  32. Malenga says:

    That’s JB for you….Bravo Mama for standing firm for your pipo,musadandaule ndizomwe akukamba anthuwa,when the time comes muzabwera!

  33. amnzeru a kummawa says:

    Munena mutopa, amayi ali busy kutakata ma speech kwa azungu, after speech, ndalama phwii. Musova ndi Nakhumwa wanuyo.

  34. Issa Kabudula says:

    Manthanso alipo mwa amiyi Joyce – the ex-president had the whole lot opportunity, had it that she was playing her cards right. She as an ex-official, which deserves better for her work as a leader of Malawi, her acts were and still marred by allegations of not accepting defeat.
    A person who has fully accept defeat behalves well, with the ex-president first woman as such made the following blunders;
    a. Shunning away the inauguration ceremony.
    b. Failed to cerebrate the winning of DPP as the government
    c. Failed to go and hand over leadership to the new government
    d. Went away from Malawi – as if she run away from problems when she is not guilty of
    any.
    e. Having opposite meeting wherever she went, and speak less of Malawi problems as an ex-president – and the list can go for more pages if we are to look into many blunders

  35. ujeni says:

    JB, we love you. You showed leadership throughout the short time you where President. What we see now is total mumble jumble, clueless with no vision or care for the suffering Malawians. Had you been here you would have been there at Kamuzu Stadium to welcome and hear the suffering the returnees from South Africa had faced. Not Peter Mutharika, all he cares about is his belly and pocket that’s all.

  36. sakamundende says:

    malowe gelego

  37. Kaligondo says:

    Musova

  38. JDC says:

    Im very eager to smile to you Mama JB we shall welcome you warmly. Malawi is waiting to see you once again .Fear not for thy God is with you.You are a great & brave woman on earth ,…….. stay longer MAMA JB!!!

  39. freedom says:

    Public speaker Joyce banda
    how I wish you were talking to the current administration face to face
    by the way who told you that once you are in opposition then the best way to advise the state is through media?,this is a national state.opposition and administration is all part of the state.so if you are a truthfully citizen of Malawi,please accept the olive branch you were offered by the current administration.lets try to change the mindset of one party state,lets allow our democratic country grow by being the best readers both former and current.we all learn through mistakes.lets all love our nation Malawi,and stop hating each other.remember our country national anthem.practice and you will see great change.we all are looking forward to your return back home.fear no one as we have seen the current administration does not interfere with the judiciary and acb offices,this is a great achievement that we have recently registered.yes all you partners to the government we believe you have your representives who advice you from time to time on what is on the ground.no need to be told through the podiums for you to work with the administration of the state Malawi Republic.the most suffering people are the ones that benefits most to your support.yes from grassroots level.so when you holds the donations please take it that you are punishing the end result and not the administration.always have better ways to go about it.improve the systems year in and out.

  40. maganizo wa maganizo says:

    This is total rubbish coming from a so called former president.Just come back to answer millions of questions Malawians have.Please tell us who shot Mphwiyo,tell us why did Lutepo give you 22 vehicles.How much did you get from all the money that was looted at the capital hill.Who gutted Escom house,how did Peter want to overthrow your government which was not ruling.You are the worst president we have ever had in malawi

  41. Sounda good to be real. Whu not admit wrongs!!?

  42. Black lion says:

    Muzabwera xenophobic ikakupezani,

  43. Sounda good to be real. Who knows!?

  44. apundi says says:

    tiyeni mama we r proud of you, be bleesed

  45. Ama Ndi DEAL says:

    Ayankhulatu apa amayi. Pali mafunso ena ngati. God bless you my mother! Takunyadilari

  46. makito says:

    Ever since you left office JB I have been sympathetic to your cause, but you are now just like any other politician who knows has skeletons in the cupboard and wants to use others for her own gain.

    If you are not brave enough to come home and face whatever consequences, you aint a leader. Tulani pansi udindo wa PP mayi, we do not have Kamuzu any longer to justify self exile. And for once I agree with the government decision to withdraw your security detail until you come back.

  47. Makwale says:

    When was she not free?

  48. Chrispine Salanje says:

    Dr Joyce Banda dont be intimadated by DPP thugs you are free to spend your time anywhere.

Comments are closed.