Former President Joyce Banda recently challenged the Peter Mutharika administration to take her to court to prove her involvement in cashgate. Instead of doing exactly that, the DPP government, through spokesperson and Minister of Information, Jappie Mhango, has responded through a press statement, accusing Banda of running away from the law.
The DPP government went on to caution the former Head of State against commenting on the issues surrounding cashgate suspects because “these are issues that are in court”. Is the DPP government not being hypocritical? Is it not the same DPP government that has accused JB on public podiums since it came to power in 2014 of being the cashgate ‘kingpin’ without taking her to court?
Malawians have not forgotten about the CCTV footage saga as alleged by the former Minister of Information, Kondwani Nankhumwa. The CCTV matter has never been resolved and one may conclude that it was an outright lie and a desperate attempt to link the former Head of State to cashgate.
Based on the CCTV footage lie, it is obvious Malawians will not believe anything else that is intended to portray Joyce Banda as a criminal. The DPP government has been pursuing a ‘media trial’ against Joyce Banda regarding cashgate. It is wrong therefore for the same government to fault the former Head of State when she responds, through the same media, to unsubstantiated accusations against her.
Professor at Law, Edge Kanyongolo has faulted the DPP government for continuously accusing Joyce Banda of cashgate involvement. He says, if the DPP government has a solid case against the former President, it was only prudent to turn to the courts and formally charge her.
Analysis of scenario
The DPP government is facing a host of economic and governance problems. Traditional donors are still refusing to resume budgetary support and are demanding performance on key areas, among them investigation progress on the murder of Anti-Corruption Deputy Director Issa Njaunju; investigation into the MK577 billion cashgate and the passing of the Access to Information (ATI) bill, as preconditions for the resumption of aid.
The government of Germany has actually offered to fund a forensic audit into the MK577 billion theft of public money that happened between 2009 and 2012 so that government does not find any excuses.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is a key partner in terms of unlocking aid from other donors, announced recently that its Extended Credit Facility (ECF) with the Malawi government is off-track and that it would not be releasing the next trance of 20 billion Kwacha until government balances up its books. The only positive stories in as far as support from donors are concerned, have only come in form of pledges.
The DPP government is also increasingly coming under attack from within the country. The opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has seriously criticized President Mutharika for showing weak leadership amidst rapidly deteriorating social services and government operating systems.
Civil society organizations blame Mutharika for being an absent leader and lacking any clue in the face of rising poverty and a chaotic government. It is clear Mutharika and his DPP cronies never pictured this scenario when they came to power one and a half years ago. They have realized that running government is not champagne in a glass scenario.
Many Malawians have lost trust in the DPP government. Mutharika has gained a reputation as not a listening President who does not appear to be in control of government affairs. He is a President who is far and away disconnected from the tribulations that Malawians go through every day. He has turned out to be a State House recluse who is happy to cede government control into the hands of inexperienced young aides. Many Malawians are beginning to look back at the era of the People’s Party (PP) with increasing nostalgia.
In a scenario like this one, the urge to find someone to blame or to find a pretext to your failures is usually very strong. It is only those with real political experience and those who have developed a thick skin who can resist this urge. In all its political facets, the DPP has often exhibited a lack of political maturity and thick skin. It has shown it is just as prone to typical political pressures and can succumb to old politics without much ado. This is exactly what is happening now and the person who has been singled out for blame for all the country’s political and economic woes is Joyce Banda.
Perceived JB threat
While President Mutharika faces international ostracism and local pressure to perform and be a visible President, Joyce Banda is enjoying a rising international profile. Her image as a defender of women’s rights and a social and political rights campaigner is gaining recognition all over the world.
Reputable international organizations continue to invite Joyce Banda to deliver motivational speeches, and her rising personal brand equity and image have made her the envy of many, including President Mutharika and his DPP.It is in the interest of the DPP government to have Joyce Banda neutralized and resident in Malawi. It would be in the interest of the DPP to have JB as a sitting duck and pandering to its (DPP) whims.
It is in the interest of the DPP government to destroy their biggest political threat so far – Joyce Banda – especially to put to a halt her rising international profile. The best way to do this (just like it has been practiced since multiparty politics) is to chalk her resource pipeline whilst vilifying her through a negative propaganda campaign. This objective would be difficult to accomplish whilst Joyce Banda is outside the country.
The first step would be to ensure that she comes back to Malawi, where she can be easy prey. Her security detail was withdrawn; her vehicles taken away and she has not been paid her retirement salary since DPP came into power. Minister of Information Jappie Mhango says the former President must “return to Malawi to face the law”. When she comes back to Malawi, the DPP government wants to arraign her with politically-motivated cashgate charges.
The DPP, however, realizes that Joyce Banda is no ordinary political figure and that it cannot just effect an ordinary arrest without risking local and international backlash. A careful propaganda campaign to pepper and sway local and international perception was thought through and is currently in motion.
The campaign is centred on cashgate, whose major turning point – the shooting of former Budget Director, Paul Mphwiyo – took place when Joyce Banda was Head of State. DPP believes cashgate is Joyce Banda’s major weakness. This is why most of the vilification campaign against her by the DPP government is centred on cashgate.
The plot is to project Joyce Banda as the main beneficiary of cashgate through ‘revelations’ by main suspects in the plunder such as Oswald Lutepo (he actually confessed that he was pressurized by DPP to incriminate Joyce Banda as the main beneficiary of the loot) and Treza Senzani.
Since taking over power, Mutharika has consistently accused Joyce Banda of undermining his government. Mutharika and the DPP politburo have not missed any opportunity to remind Malawians and the international community that government is failing to perform because of cashgate.
During a memorial ceremony for late Bingu wa Mutharika at Ndata Farm, Nankhumwa alleged that it was Joyce Banda who killed the late President without showing any evidence to back his claims. Recently, Mutharika told Malawians and the International community that he failed to attend the SADC Heads of State meeting in Gaborone, Botswana, because his government was broke as all funds were depleted by Joyce Banda’s cashgate.
Ironically, a few months after that meeting, he travelled to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) with an entourage of 115 individuals; hired a private jet; and blew over MK300 million in the process.
During a ‘HARDTALK’ interview with Zainab Badawi of BBC, Mutharika again singled out Joyce Banda and cashgate as the main reason his government has been perpetually in the red since he assumed the reins of power two years ago.
This is all part of the propaganda strategy to always keep in the public domain the fact that the DPP government is ‘investigating’ the former President for cashgate. This is done despite the fact that there is also another cashgate involving MK577 million which happened under the DPP of Peter Mutharika’s brother, Bingu wa Mutharika, and that Malawians plus donors are also demanding investigation into this cashgate.
The fact that the Joyce Banda cashgate is always and deliberately highlighted is not just an afterthought; it is part of a carefully crafted scheme to poison the perception of Malawians so that they are not taken by surprise when she is arrested. The DPP government is planting the perception of ‘guilty’ for Joyce Banda in the minds of Malawians
It is apparent that the DPP governmenthas ill-conceived motives against Joyce Banda. It is clear that Peter Mutharika has an axe to grind against the former President. It is also clear that Malawi is currently not a safe place for the former President and that she would better continue staying outside the country until such as a time when it is safe for her to stay in Malawi. It is highly unlikely, however, that this would happen under the President Mutharika and the DPP.
The life of Joyce Banda and that of members of her immediate family is in danger (this was exemplified when the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) released a report, which implicated the leadership of the People’s Party, including her son, Geoffrey Kachale, as plotting to undermine the DPP government). Security should therefore be of paramount importance as government has all the machinery and might to do anything including taking of life.
JappieMhango’srecent statement against Joyce Banda is therefore part of the larger ‘JB and cashgate scheme’ currently in motion!Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :