Malawi anti-govt demo planned for Feb. 27 – CSOs

Malawian activists are planning a mass protests against the Joyce Banda government in what they call “casual approach” in dealing with the cashgate corruption scandal and also demanding answers on the proceeds of the sale of presidential jet

Civil rights groups want President Joyce Banda to explain the whole transaction of the presidential jet sale.

Human rights activist Lucky Mbewe said they are planning “a peaceful demonstration” scheduled for February 27 across the country.

Lucky Mbewe (c.) of the Malawi-based Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC): Peaceful demo

Lucky Mbewe (c.) of the Malawi-based Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC): Peaceful demo

Mbewe said the demonstrations will end in the presentation of a petition to the authorities to address various issues of their concern.

“We are planning a lawful and very peaceful demonstration grounded on a constitutionally guaranteed right to assemble and demonstrate,” said Mbewe.

He said matter of “transparency and accountability have been defeated.”

The issues of the jet (jet gate) has also been raised by the Catholic Commission of Justice and Peace (CCJP) of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi which has called for a thorough probe.

CCJP national secretary Chris Chisoni said the nation has been “tossed left and right with false information” ever since the issue about the presidential jet was discovered by the media.

He said: “It appears as if government has always wanted to remain secretive on this.”

However, Minister of Information and Civic Education, Brown Mpinganjira, has said the proceeds from the presidential jet sale, K2.4 billion (about $6m) was allocated to Malawi Defence Force for peacekeeping operations, K1.8 billion (about $4.5m) for Farm Input Loan Programme, K1.7 billion (about $4.2m) for medical supplies and K420 million for buying of maize and legumes.

Mpinganjira:  Jet money used on peace keeping mission

Mpinganjira: Jet money used on peace keeping mission

On the looting of public funds at Capital Hill, a forensic audit report produced by British forensic auditors, has indicated that Malawi Government lost about K13 billion (about $32.5m) in public funds, including K3.7 billion (about $9.2m) siphoned from the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture alone between April and September 2013.

Of the K6 billion cash siphoned through ‘cashgate’ means, K3.7 billion was stolen through the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture that was linked with the purchase of the disowned ‘cashgate’ buses; K2.1 billion (about $5.2m) from the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC); K151 million (about $377 500) from the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development; and K81 million (about $202 500) from a government department that is not known.

An examination of the companies involved found that some were established as early as May 2013, apparently with the sole purpose of siphoning money from government coffers.

But speaking on Zodiak Broadcasting Station on Monday, Leader of Opposition John Tembo said the amount plundered could be on the higher side.

Tembo:  Figure is higher than presented

Tembo: Figure is higher than presented

“The figure could be more than K50 billion,” suspected Tembo, who has served as Finance Minister and Reserve Bank of Malawi Governor before.

Tembo is the view that the K13 billion figure presented by the forensic auditors is small and that the figure has been deliberately lowered.

 

Tembo said in parliament, he will press “those in authority including civil servants to come out with the truth. Bring the truth out.”

Some quarters have also faulted the report for not unveiling companies, individuals and the names of  commercial banks which were involved in the malpractice.

They have argued that the report has not brought what Malawians were waiting as it is just like document confirming that there was indeed looting of public resources, which is common knowledge to every citizen.

The cashgate scandal forced international donors to cut aid to Malawi.

The freeze has left a yawning hole in the budget of a country reliant on handouts for 40 percent of its revenues, and has seen a free fall of Kwacha to major trading currency, the US Dollar.

The ruling People’s Party has since  accused the activists of seeking to sow chaos in their planned mass action.

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