There is total confusion in the opposition People’s Party (PP) after a group of some legislators from the party on Sunday night secretly met President Peter Mutharika at Kamuzu Palace, with the party’s vice president Kamlepo Kalua disclosing that they went to plead with the President to ensure former president Joyce Banda should be allowed to return home and not be arrested.
Banda, fondly addressed as JB by her followers, is founder and president of PP and has been living abroad since losing the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections.
Malawi police issued an arrest warrant JB in connection with the country’s “Cashgate” corruption scandal, which involved large-scale looting of government coffers.
The national police spokesman James Kadadzera said Banda is “suspected of abusing her office” in the Cashgate scandal.
Speaking onTimesTalk program monitored by Nyasa Times through live online streaming on Times Radio on Tuesday evening, Kalua said the PP legislators went to Kamuzu Palace at persuade President Mutharika to ensure his predecessor comes back home without facing political persecution.
“We went there to ask the President to allow our leader return home and not face arrest. Our party is disintegrating because our leader is away; parties are poaching MPs from PP. We want our leader to come so we can keep the party intact,” Kalua said.
Asked by host Brian Banda- who is former press officer of Banda when he was State President between 2012 and 2014 – on why PP legislators had to ask President Mutharika for Banda’s immunity, Kalua sounding furious, said they had an earlier meeting with Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kondwani Nankhumwa, who is also Leader of the House and governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) campaign director on the matter.
“We met Nankhumwa at parliament to express our concerns and he said he would facilitate the meeting with the President so that we could discuss the matter with him,” said Kalua.
Put to him why he sounded highly-charged, Kalua said he was annoyed with “propaganda” and “reports” that the MPs have started pocketing K20 000 a day as additional allowance from government.
Pressed to explain why they were bargaining with President Mutharika on Banda’s immunity, Kalua snapped: “You don’t negotiate with a friend, you negotiate with an enemy.”
He further charged: “We have been meeting Chakwera (leader of opposition), do you report about it? So why Mutharika.”
Asked to say what was President Mutharika’s response to their plea for Banda’s amnesty, Kalua said they were assured that the former president will not be arrested.
“In his own words President Mutharika said he has told regional Heads of State and international community that Joyce Banda will not be arrested is she returns back home,” said Kalua emphatically.
Kalua said he will not be party to plans to have working relationship with DPP but stuck to his story that the meeting was meant to plead for the safe return of JB.
“I will not join DPP, I am PP and I will never join DPP and I will not even join MCP. I will remain PP. But we want our leader Joyce Banda to come back home,” said Kalua.
Quizzed what will be his next political move if PP agrees an alliance with DPP, Kalua said: “I would rather contest as an independent MP.”
During the same TimeTalk programme, Brian Banda also interviewed PP secretary general Ibrahim Matola on what Kalua said.
Matola said the party never sanctioned negotiations on Banda’s safe return.
He said the party was not informed about the Kamuzu Palace meeting and that the revelations of the talks with Mutharika have backfired.
However, when TimesTalk again contacted Kalua to comment, he said Matola was not being truthful as he was in a PP delegation to attend the meeting at Kamuzu Palace, “only that he was turned back at the gate”.
Matola was reportedly turned back under the pretext that the discussions had not reached party level.
On whether the engagement of the MPs is meant for DPP to get PP legislators to see their agenda be driven in Parliament on the electoral reforms bill, Kalua said the proposed legislations “will pass” and that there is “no ifs, no buts.”
According to Kalua, former president Banda was aware of the meeting and that his son, Roy Kachale who is MP for Zomba Malosa as part of the delegation which met Mutharika.
Kalua also said there has been an involvement of Banda’s sister, Cecilia Kumpukwe in the negotiation.
But Banda’s aides claim she is not seeking amnesty from arrest, rejecting any wrong doing in Cashgate.
Cashgate is the biggest financial scandal in Malawi’s history and helped push Banda out of power in 2014.
That came after she ordered an audit the previous year which discovered that $30 million had been looted by officials in less than six months in 2013.
Dozens of civil servants, business people and politicians have since been implicated in the scam, and some have been jailed.
International donors pulled the plug on aid of around $150 million over the scandal.
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