MACRA closing National Bank accounts over Chikaonda slurs

Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) Director General Charles Nsaliwa has reacted angrily to criticism by National Bank of Malawi chairman Professor Matthews Chikaonda by instructing that Macra closes all its accounts it holds with the bank.

Chikaonda went to town on Macra on Tuesday when President Joyce Banda was opening the K7.5 billion state-of-the-art National Bank Office Complex and Business Centre in Blantyre accusing it of being a political organisation as evidenced by its payment of K800 million to government as dividend instead of putting towers in rural areas so that people have easy access to communication.

Chikaonda also accused Macra of being busy with the ‘spy machine’ saying it is a dangerous machine and alleged that Macra bought party cloth disguising it as civic education.

Nsaliwa: MACRA boss in tit-for-tat

Before making his remarks during the function, Chikaonda said he had sought ‘clearance from President Banda’.

But this did not go down well with Nsaliwa and his board chairman Ted Nandolo, who was present at the function.

Angry reaction

Nsaliwa was seen doing justice to whiskeys at a cocktail party the bank organised to celebrate the opening of the centre.

Nyasa Times sources said Nsaliwa, whose three years contract expires in December this year, has directed that Macra close all its accounts it holds with National Bank as a result of Chikaonda’s remarks on Tuesday.

“The boss is very angry with what was said about Macra at the function and has since directed that all accounts we were operating with National Bank should be closed,” said the source.

Reacting to the story, NBM Chief Marketing Officer Wilkins Mijiga said in an email response to Nyasa Times that it they have just been hearing the speculation for the past two days but is not aware of any development by Macra to close its accounts with the bank.

“There have been such speculation in the past two days or so, but I am not aware of such developments. The nation in general and the bank in particular can only hope that it is just speculation because if things were to take that turn, it would be very unfortunate to the social conversation of the Malawi nation,” said Mijiga.

“The reason is that the bank, through its CEO’s speech, concentrated on the history of the bank, its rich heritage, great milestones, successes and the way into the future and its vision and nothing else. As for the speech of its Chairman, who started his speech by saying that the CEO spoke about the bank and I will speak of policy. `So Professor Chikaonda spoke as a prominent citizen of our society and a tax payer who is entitled to comment on matters affecting a public institution that is run on tax payers money like MACRA.

“So if what is being speculated was to indeed happen it would be equated to the tendency by some public institutions, funded by tax payer money that pulled out business from media houses just because the media houses spoke out on issues as the mouth piece of the voiceless. One remembers that such developments have always been fiercely condemned as retrogressive and archaic,” said Mijiga.

‘Hit the bull’s-eye’

NBM Chief Marketing officer further said the allusion to Macra was pertinent as Chikaonda was making the point that there is a strong connection between provision of banking services and the state of the telecommunications industry.

“Of particular concern was the lack of action by Macra to use the huge amounts of monies they collect from the telephone companies through various levies and fees. The argument was made that instead of donating money to a political party, Macra should spend that money in putting up towers in non-viable sites in the remote areas. This was in the spirit of the Government initiative on financial inclusion,” he said.

Mijiga said banks need an expanded, efficient and well-functioning telecommunications industry on whose backbone they would overlay the much needed banking services in the rural areas.

“Even the question of mindset was connected to banking. No matter how good and advanced our systems are, if people continue to think small and believe the best place for their money is ‘under the pillow’, then all the efforts by government and the
banking industry to reduce the large proportion of the unbanked members of our population will be in vain,” he states

“I can remember that these were some of the policy matters and linkages the Chairman [professor Chikaonda] was talking about and the whole presentation by the chairman must be taken in that bigger picture context.”

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