One of the prominent human rights activist Billy Mayaya has condemned the Joyce Banda administration for hiring a London based public relations firm Bell Pottinger after the Capital Hill looting scandal christened Cash-gate, saying it is reputation laundering.
Malawi has been rocked by widespread corruption, losing millions of funds to theft by mostly ruling People’s Party officials and some civil servants which the government blames on financial loopholes. The donors have since withheld their budgetary support.
In a bid to bolster its reputation, Malawi government hired the London based PR firm in a contract believed to in the region of £300, 000. There is a cloak of secrecy on the deal.
Adding his voice on the matter, Mayaya, a known critic of President Banda said it was unnecessary for government to resort into reputation management other than reforms and getting to recover the wealth plundered as well as prosecuting the culprits not in any selective manner as suspected to be the case now.
“The decision to hire a PR firm is indicative of the following: the sheer desperation within the PP to salvage what little is left in its damaged image. Secondly to use taxpayer’s money to throw at a PR firm is not only insulting but a clear sign that the President has lost touch reality. She is showing all the traits of detachment,” Mayaya told Nyasa Times in an interview.
“All calls for sobriety and reason to deal with Malawi’s crisis are falling on deaf ears. Typical of a leader who no longer has anything to offer citizens. She is openly defiant to demands for austerity. All signs that if this continues it will not end well,” added Mayaya.
State House has confirmed about the deal with Bell Pottinger but claimed “that there is no charge to the Malawian taxpayer,” without disclosing who is footing the bill.
“Bell Pottinger, a leading communications company, has been asked to assist the President and Government of Malawi to ensure that their work in fighting corruption is accurately reflected in international media,” Presidential Press Secretary Steve Nhlane was quoted in The Daily Times.
“Bell Pottinger are providing advice to the Government on how best to communicate ongoing government policy to the international community,” said Nhlane.
The opposition have also cirticised President Banda on the move to hire the London firm saying it is an “insensitive” decisison “ when Malawians are dying in hospitals due to lack of essential drugs”.