Linking JB assets to cashgate is unacceptable – Malawi govt reacts

Malawi government has reacted to media reports that quoted state-funded Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) chairperson Sophie Kalinde linking the need for Malawians to know what President Joyce Banda declared as her assets to efforts towards getting to the roots of cashgate.

In a statement issued on Saturday by Director of Information, Chikumbutso Mtumodzi, government said any attempt to link the assets of President Banda to the Cashgate Scandal is “unfortunate and unacceptable.”

Mtumodzi addressed the journalists flanked by Tusekele Mwanyongo, a communications officer in the Office
of the Special Advisor to the President on Politics and Communication, Elias Wakuda Kamanga.

President Banda greeting Minister of Foreign Affairs Ephraim Chiume on arrival from Nigeria on Saturday
President Banda greeting Minister of Foreign Affairs Ephraim Chiume on arrival from Nigeria on Saturday.-Photo courtesy of Khama Matumbi

.-Photo courtesy of Khama Matumbi

“We believe this can only be the work of those that realize that they cannot triumph over President Banda in a straight, fair and fact-based contest. As such they have resorted to using slander and fiction with which to fault her,” said the statement.

In the statement, government said Banda has been in business from the raw age of 25 and “from her own hard work, including numerous accolades she has achieved in recognition of her efforts, she has managed, over the years, to accumulate assets and afford a decent living.”

Adds the statement: “It is therefore incorrect and a display of careless ignorance to suggest that she has managed to have assets and decent life upon entering Government.”

Government said Banda has never refused to declare her assets.

“She has declared them twice – upon becoming the Vice President and immediately after ascending to the highest office of the land. According to the law, which every good citizen must respect and uphold, these declarations were made to the Speaker of the National Assembly. Declaration of assets and liabilities is regulated by the law, not common sense. That law expects the assets to be declared to the office of the Speaker of the August House. This was duly followed by the Head of State,” reads the statement.

MHRC chairperson wrote the Speaker demanding the release of the assets declared by the President and Vice President Khumbo Kachali within seven days from Feb 12.

In her letter to the Speaker, Kalinde wrote: “The Commission makes the request for the speaker to disclose the contents of the declaration of assets by the president and the vice president, in light of the developments surrounding the massive misappropriations of public funds, commonly referred to as cashgate scandal.”

She argues that the president herself has previously called on Malawians to scrutinize her and her assets, hence MHRC demand.

But government said the question that her assets should be expressed to the public “is not supported by the law, under which her declaration was made.”

Government argues that by realizing, on her own accord, that the law under which she declared the assets was weak, as it did not have strong accountability mechanisms, President Banda caused its amendment to ensure that the piece of legislation does not just exist on paper, but should serve the purpose for which it was enacted.

“ It must be noted that none of her predecessors took seriously the need to eliminate the gaps that existed in the law under discussion probably because its weaknesses were at their convenience.

“It is President Joyce Banda who has submitted to accountability and transparency imperatives demanded by all and sundry. She has not only allowed local accountability institutions to delve into the workings of her administration, but she has also solicited the augmentation of that work through the involvement of foreign expertise,” reads the statement.

The statement reminded that Banda has made it clear that she will not impede any effort that seeks to expose the truth in respect of the cashgate, including opening the doors of the Government and those of her family.

“The accountability institutions have made it very clear that their work is still going on, and therefore we are pleading for patience to allow the investigations to unravel and reach the ends of the truth.”

Government also assured that President Banda is renewing its commitment to deal with pilferage of public resources and ensure that tax-payers money is used “ only for purposes of removing the lives of the people of Malawi from the dungeons of poverty, while at the same time making sure that accountability systems are in place to bring wrong doers to book regardless of any consideration.”

Barely three months before she asks voters to elect her for a second term, Banda faced calls from non-governmental groups to take responsibility for almost industrial-scale corruption on her watch.

The 63-year-old, who came to power with strong support from the international community after the death of president Bingu wa Mutharika, conceded that she took a “political risk” in launching a “fight against corruption” ahead of elections.

A much-awaited report by British auditors showed that K13 billion ($30m) was stolen in six months from April to September in 2013, her second year in office.

That equates to more than one percent of GDP, in a one of the world’s poorest countries, where state services are poor and life expectancy is just 54 years.

Jet back on Nigerian plane: President Banda
Jet back on Nigerian plane: President Banda.-Photo courtesy of Khama Matumbi

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