Malawi government has said arguments by People’s Party (PP) that its and former presidnet, Joyce Banda is failing to return home because government has not allocated her a home befitting a former head of State are flimsy and insincere.
Banda, who was president from 2012 to 2014, left the country in September 2014 after coming third in elections a few months earlier, and she has given a myriad of reasons as to why she has not returned ever since.
She has travelled extensively, delivering speeches and working on her charity, the Joyce Banda Foundation.
A spokesperson for the still absent former president says she will not return to Malawi until “serious security concerns” are resolved.
Banda criticised the “Malawi Government’s delay in providing a secure and decent house in a secure locality” as well as the move to disarm her security detail.
“She will return home as soon as the government allocates her a house and also beefs up her security,” Banda’s spokesperson Andekuche Chanthunya is on record saying and this has been maintained on Monday by PP spokesman Noah Chimpeni MP.
The government has called these claims “insincere”.
President Peter Mutharika has said he was saddened that Banda is busy telling world leaders that he us denying her to return home.
And government spokesperson Nicholous Dausi said arguments by Banda on the house does not hold water as a house had been allocated, but was rejected by Banda’s relatives.
“She must come back, the issue of a house is not an issues,” said Dausi.
He claimed the government asked Banda to identify a suitable house, but that “the ministry is still waiting to hear from the former president’s office if a house suiting her taste has been found”.
Dausi said Banda had been provided with seven guards, the number to which former presidents are entitled.
“The government is taking care of former president Dr Bakili Muluzi and all former vice presidents. We will do the same with Joyce Banda and the President has said let her come back and help to develop this country,” said Dausi.
Banda has also complained that the government has failed to pay her retirement benefits for 18 months.
But again, the government has hit back, with government spokesman saying certain forms need to be filled in by Banda in person before she can receive this income.
Banda’s office insists that ongoing security concerns are keeping the former president from returning home, but some observers believe her real fears lie elsewhere. Many claim that Banda is afraid of allegations surrounding the huge corruption scandal known as Cashgate.
The Cashgate scandal was uncovered in 2013, while Banda was president, and led to the arrest of about 70 people, including government officials and business people, accused of stealing $32 million of government money through dubious construction deals.
Although not officially implicated, a number of lead suspects have made allegations involving Banda. Oswald Lutepo, a former official of Banda’s People’s Party who is serving an 11-year jail term after pleading guilty to theft and money laundering, announced ahead of his sentencing: “Joyce Banda already knows that she used me. I can’t start explaining things that she already knows. She knows how she used me.”
Leonard Kalonga, a former Chief Tourism Officer who was also convicted, claimed Banda was involved too.
Former Justice Minister, Ralph Kasambara, told the High Court he wanted the former president to be among his witnesses in his trial. And recently, it emerged that the jailed former Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Culture said in her witness statements that Banda was the mastermind behind Cashgate and that the former president instructed cabinet ministers to solicit money for the 2014 election campaign.
Banda’s spokesperson Chanthunya insists that the former president’s delay in returning to Malawi has nothing to do with fear of prosecution, pointing out that Banda’s name is not on the list of culprits and that there is no warrant for her arrest. Banda vehemently denies all the allegations and some of her supporters have suggested the allegations are politically motivated. But speculation is still rife.
An editorial comment in The Nation newspaper on Monday pointed out that most Malawians would want Banda to return home to “she light on the financial maladministration that she presided over which resulted in Cashgate.”
The paper said: “On the other hand , we trust that government us being sincere in its insistence that finding a house for JB should not be a problem.”
Apart from explaining what happened during her reign, Malawians would love to their their former leader contributing to the country;s social-economic development, the paper’s editorial comment concludes.
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