Malawi activist demands breakdown of JB’s travel bill: ‘Stop gallivanting’

Human rights activist and member of rights group Civic and Political Space Platform, Billy Mayaya,  has called on the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC) to give out a breakdown of K308 million (about $1.03 million) travel bill of President Joyce Banda to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Banda has been criticised for taking over 40 people, including chiefs and party cadres on her entourage’s trip whereby taxpayers in Malawi’s ailing economy have coughed at least K308 million for air tickets and allowances.

“The Extravagance shown by the State President is inexcusable and as civil society we demand an explanation for this vulgar display of arrogance when the common man is facing economic hardships,” Mayaya told Nyasa Timesin an exclusive interview.

Mayaya: Honeymoon with Malawian people is over

“Additionally, we demand that the Office of the President to provide a breakdown of the K308 million line item by line item. Otherwise we will perceive this as a ploy to plunder taxpayers’ money which will not condone. We want to curb government waste,” he added.

He also said the civil society is demanding government to expedite the process of drawing up an all inclusive National Economic Recovery Plan which among other things will include clear cut austerity measures.

‘Honeymoon is over’

Mayaya, who was one of the critics of late president Bingu wa Mutharika on human rights, democracy and governance issues, says the civil society will not give Banda government a blind eye when things are going wrong.

“Malawi will continue on a downward slope if transparent and accountable government is not prioritised. Malawians are becoming more politically conscious of their rights as exemplified by the events of July 20 2011,” he said in apparent reference to the mass demonstrations against the Mutharika regime.

Mayaya said President Banda needs to be reminded that “the honeymoon with the Malawian people is over.”

He said “citizens want to see movement towards incremental results on the ailing economy, security concerns and a myriad of other social concerns. “

The rights activist said President Banda must know that “the time for gallivanting around the globe must stop and she must focus on delivering results. “

He added: “Bingu is dead and gone and it’s time for her to prove she can lead by drawing up plans to revitalise the economy not by making excuses.”

JB to galvanize support

But presidential press secretary Steven Nhlane said President Banda will have over 25 bilateral meetings and events with investors, world leaders, and philanthropic organizations while in United States.

“The goal of these meetings is to galvanize support of the international community and bring in investors into Malawi – both are essential to rebuilding Malawi’s economy.”

The presidential press secretary explained that President Banda’s work with the international community has already brought back over $500million from the IMF, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and others for Malawi’s economic growth.

He said while the trip has costs, the President has to take “these important opportunities to continue to bring in private sector investment and international community support.”

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