Former ruling People’s Party (PP) Provincial Chairman for the North, Reverend Mzomera Ngwira, has said the party leadership is “shocked” former president Joyce Banda’s postponement of her much-anticipated homecoming.
Banda , who was expected to jet in on November 2, said she will delay further due to “serious security concerns” and lack of an official retirement residence which government has indicated is “ no longer available”.
The former president is in the United States of America (USA) where she has been since she lost the May 2014 elections.
But Mzomera Ngwira argues that Banda’s absence will make PP members lose hope in her leadership.
“We have been telling our party members that JB is coming to revamp the party. Now people we judge us as liars [because of the postponement on her return] when we are not,” said the outspoken Mzimba Hora legislature.
“Obviously people will lose trust in all of us because the president is not coming,” he added in comments attributed to him by Daily Times.
According to the paper, PP spokesman and acting administrative director Ken Msonda agreed with the observation made by Mzomera.
Banda’s spokesperson Andekuche Chanthunya said the former head of State has deferred her return after government last week indicated that her retirement home “was no longer available.”
Chanthunya said there are “serious security concerns” for Banda, after government trimmed her security detail in June this year, hence the decision to postpone her trip.
But Mzomera Ngwira said Banda should have been back in Malawi “staying in that provided indecent house with the poor security and then complain.”
Ngwira said chances of PP to strengthen the grassroots and win 2019 elections are slim with the party president staying abroad.
“Now the party has no leadership. She is out,” said Ngwira.
University of Malawi’s (Unima) Chancellor College political scientist Blessings Chinsinga on Thursdays described Banda’s reasons for delaying her trip back home as “pure politics”.
He said Banda must decide now to either return home and lead the party or relinquish her position.
But Chinsinga said nobody can force Banda to come home” unless on legal basis, otherwise she is a free citizen she can decided when to be in Malawi and not when to be in Malawi.”
Government spokesperson Jappie Mhango said the house for Banda was not available because the landlord had withdrawn it and offered the same house to an international organisation.
Mhango, who is also Minister of Information, Tourism and Civic Education, said government in conjunction with officials from the office of the former president was jointly looking for another house.
According to Chanthunya, Banda’s retirement home was identified in Lilongwe’s Area 43 suburb in August this year after the Ministry of Lands and Housing invited officials from the office of the former president to find a suitable house for her.
Initially, government assigned Banda another house at the same low density suburb of Area 43 and the State was charged $1 800 (about K465 000 then) a month, but she declined it saying it needed massive rehabilitation.
Government is mandated to provide retirement homes for the country’s former presidents.
According to the Presidents Salaries and Benefits Act, a former president is entitled to a tax-free monthly pension, a house or a housing allowance where a house is not provided, two motor vehicles, medical services and six security guards, among other staff and benefits
Banda is also demanding her salary from government, which she claims has not been paid for 17 months.
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