Jetgate: MCP demands contract with Paramount, UN invoice to Malawi

The Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has demanded a contract signed between the Malawi government and South African arms firm Paramount Group, Africa’s largest private defence firm, on the purchase of the military equipment for the Malawi Defense Force (MDF) peace keeping mission in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Addressing a news conference on Friday in Lilongwe, the party’s Vice President Richard Msowoya also demanded an invoice government sent to the United Nations (UN) for the reimbursement of the money used is purchasing the equipment.

“People should know what the agreement between Malawi and Paramount Group was and who brokered the deal,” Msowoya told reporters.

“Government resources everywhere on earth are not sold on a table while sharing a meal, its serious business because the proceeds from the sale of the jet were supposed to deposited into the Account Number One first and for government to use them, parliament was supposed to meet and authorise that,” he said.

Msowoya: Jet deal illegal
Msowoya: Jet deal illegal

Msowoya also quashed government argument that the military equipment was meant for a peace keeping mission in DRC.

“I have worked with UN in many countries on operations position, Least Development Countries (LDC) are not required to buy military equipment for peace keeping and if indeed Malawi bought that on the basis that the funds will be reimbursed then UN should bring fourth the invoice government sent to them.

“Not only that but also that they should come out and address Malawians on the peace keeping issue because everyone is eager to know what really happened,” he said.

When reminded that government is reluctant to bring the military equipment because it’s a security issue, Msowoya said any equipment Malawi bought for DRC mission does not belong to Malawi.

“The said equipment was not meant for the country’s security but solely for DRC and that’s why when the soldiers are coming back, they only come with personal possessions only. So giving out the detailed report will not affect the country’s security,” said Msowoya who was flanked by MCP Spokesperson Jesse Kabwira and her deputy Ezekiel Ching’oma.

During a press conference on Wednesday in Lilongwe, Minister of Finance Maxwell Mkwezalamba said that the money realised from the jet sale was used to offset a loan the Malawi Government owed to Paramount Group for the purchase of military equipment.

Mkwezalamba said the Ministry of Finance sought legal opinion from the Attorney General who assured them that the transaction could be normalised in the mid-term budget whose plan is uncertain or budget of 2014/15 in June.

This explanation came a day after President Joyce Banda had previously claimed that proceeds from the sale were used to buy maize, fertiliser for the Farm Input Loan Programme (Filp) and military equipment.

On the other hand, MCP secretary general Gustave Kaliwo, disclosed that party is looking at options to take and has not ruled out taking the matter to court.

He accused the President of pushing pertinent questions to other people when she is supposed to be knowledgeable of what is happening in the country.

“We chose the President who should know what is happening in the country. But to pretend to be ignorant and push questions to [Chief Secretary to the Government Hawa] Ndilowe, (Health Minister Catherine) Gotani Hara or Mkwezalamba is giving a bad picture.

“I was in police where we were told that you are responsible for everything that happens at your squad and, if you do not know, you are double responsible,” Kaliwo is quoted in press as saying.

The jet – Dassault Falcon 900 EX, formerly 7Q-ONE, but now registered as ZS-FCI after the ownership change to Bhonox Enterprise, -had been bought by Banda’s predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika who died from a heart attack in 2012.

When she took over office, Banda introduced a gamut of cost-cutting measures and uses commercial airlines to travel outside the country.

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