Malawi President in jet-gate talk: Flying same sold plane says DPP

Malawi’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party  (DPP) has claimed  the plane being used by President Joyce Banda is the same  presidential jet which was used by the late president Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika and which Banda sold and whose proceeds are kept a secret.

Banda sold the presidential jet three months ago and promised to fly commercial to cut costs.

The plane was bought by a South African resident, painted it differently and changed its registration number.

The Malawi leader has been on the wing of a presidential jet which DPP said is the same one which Malawi sold.

President  Banda boards the jet from 'well-wishers'.

President Banda boards the jet from ‘well-wishers’.

Banda used the jet registration number ZS-FCI to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral and Kenya’s 50th independence celebrations.

Presidential Press Secretary Steve Nhlane told the media that the jet is from “well-wishers” who asked not to be named.

But the DPP claims it has done its investigations which it said has revealed that “it is the very plane that President Joyce Banda swore to the Malawi nation and the world at large that she would never fly in.”

“There must have been some underground deals with the buyer of the plane, such as being assured
of some favors, material or otherwise, or being allowed to fly in the plane afterwards in return for favorable transactions in the sale,” reads a statement from the DPP signed by its secretary general Dr. Jean Kalirani which Nyasa Times has a copy of.

Reads the statement further: “We now know that the plane was sold to a company called Bohnox Enterprise Limited. Although this company is registered in the Virgin Islands, the owner, a Mr Ivor Ischikowitz, is a resident of South Africa. He also owns Paramount Group, a company which deals in military hardware and it is registered in South Africa. This is the company which paid for the UK PR firm  (Bell Pottinger) which came to Malawi to clean up the President’s image in the face of Cashgate scandal. In addition, this is the same company that sold us seven gun boats to patrol over Lake Malawi soon after our lake dispute with Tanzania started.”

DPP says it is not surprised that State House chose to remain tongue-tied on the jet as  the case with the UK PR firm source of funding but the deal was exposed from an overseas publication.

The former ruling party says it suspects dubious deal transactions done by President Banda by keeping the jet issue secret.

“We worried then about how the Paramount Group funded the PR firm and why the State House wanted to hide it all. This is obviously because we know that there is a high propensity for bribes, corruption, and fraud in sales and transactions of military hardware worldwide. We were somewhat relieved when we read that President Joyce Banda has terminated her contract with the UK PR firm even if this may have been done in order to avoid the discovery of more irregularities in the deal.

“We now would like to leave it up to the Malawi public to figure out why a South African resident should use a Virgin Island registered company to buy a plane from the Malawi Government, paint it differently and change its registration number, keep it in South Africa, and clandestinely fly the President of Malawi around the globe
in that plane.

This situation is made more troublesome by the fact that the State House still wants to keep all these facts secret from the Malawi public. They cannot somehow learn from the PR firm fiasco.

“We also hear that this is the same company which leased Mbalachanda Estate from ADMARC and also owns Engen Oil Company in Malawi. We now must ask ourselves that with such level of presence in Malawi, how many other secret deals is the PP Government making with this company? To what extent is the company willing to go to fund the cleaning up the Government image in the face of scandals like Cashgate?”

State House press secretary Steven Nhlane told a local paper that the President has access to a private jet whose benefactor he refused to disclose.

But he said there is no cost to the taxpayer arising from use of the jet as it is being provided to government for free “From the President’s well-wishers.”

University of Malawi political scientist Blessings Chinsinga argued that there are no “free lunches”, as these “well-wishers” have their own interests they want to achieve.

National secretary of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) Chris Chisoni said the lack of information and transparency on the issue smacks of hypocrisy.

 

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