Malawi’s former president Joyce Banda has welcomed the 11 years jail term handed to her People’s Party (PP) former senior official Oswald Lutepo to for his role in the “Cashgate” corruption scandal that led to a cut in foreign aid to the impoverished country.
Speaking at the Businesswoman of the Year Award Gala Dinner in South Africa, insists that she has no regrets over her handling of the Cashgate affair in which civil servants, businessmen and politicians were put on trial accused of exploiting a loophole in the government’s payment system to divert millions into their own pockets.
Lutepo was the chief suspect in the fraud, which was the biggest financial scandal in Malawi’s history. Through the media, he has been accusing Banda of using him in the plunder.
But Banda has vehemently denied such accusations, saying its smear campaign as he has never implicated her inside court.
“Lutepo knows in his heart of hearts that I had nothing to do with the plunder of public resources. To make matters worse, Lutepo is on record as having said he was under political pressure to implicate me. He has since changed his statement a number of times, I’m not sure if anyone is still able to follow him,” said Banda through her personal spokesperson, Andekuche Chanthunya, on Friday in reaction to Lutepo claims.
She said it was her personal commitment and her government’s efforts to fighting corruption that led to the arrest of almost all Cashgate suspects currently in court.
And in her keynote address to Business Woman of the Year Gala, Banda who said she is returning home soon, commended Lutepo’s lengthy sentence and added that more work needs to be done to rid Malawi of corruption.
“As has been seen it is hard to fight corruption. In the end it is hard to know if you are a victor or a victim,” said Banda.
Banda said that even in the midst of the abuse and smear campaign against her , it is a known fact that Cashgate started in 2005.
She said she asked the British government to fund a forensic audit, made publicly available online, that revealed 13bn kwacha was stolen in three months during her administration.
Banda also launched an investigation into Bingu’s last three years as president that uncovered the theft of a staggering K92 billion.
“The tragedy is the former president was alerted, just like I was, and didn’t take action,” she said. “That is the difference. Therefore, I shall always be proud of what I’ve done.”
Banda shall go down in history as the only leader that conducted a forensic audit in government during her time in office.
She said this kind of courage is always evident in women leaders who are prepared to lose all for the sake of justice to the people they serve contrasting with the challenges the current investigation into the K577billion into the Mutharika administration is facing.
A senior official in the Anti Corurption Bureau (AC) Isaa Njaunju was recently murdered in the midst of the investigation.
One wonders if this investigation shall ever be concluded and yet when a woman was in office this whole process went smoothly and the culprits were arrested, tried and convicted, she noted.
The cashgate scandal, which originated in 2005, prompted foreign donors — who provide around 40 percent of Malawi’s budget — to pull the plug on aid worth around $150 million, which made up 40% of the national budget.
Banda said the donors have been very clear: “We will come back but conduct a forensic audit into the K92bn, we want to know who stole this money.’ At the end of the day it is not the donors that have to be blamed. It is us as Malawians: we are not listening to what the donors want us to do. It is my opinion that that should happen, that the forensic audit should be conducted into the K92bn so we know where that money went.”
The former president said she was warned that a crusade against corruption would ruffle feathers and make enemies, but she was determined to stay the course.
“You’re fighting strong people and they’ll fight you back, but I was fortunate in the sense that I decided that State House is not the last place I can be. There’s life beyond State House and therefore I will do it regardless because Malawians are the ones that must come first, and that’s what I did.”
Meanwhile, her People’s Party (PP) has claimed the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government is coercing people to implicate the former president in Cashgate.
“The DPP-led government is spending sleepless nights hunting for people; threatening hem to implicate our president, but the scheme has failed and will fail because truth shall always overcome evil,” said Ken Msonda, PP publicity secretary.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :