Malawi cash-gate scandal dominates UK headlines: ‘Unfolds like a thriller’

The corruption and looting of public resources at Capital Hill in Lilongwe is now dominating headlines in the British and international media since the donors withheld budgetary support.

On Monday, British daily broadsheet newspaper The Telegraph set the talking point as it reported that Malawi government has hired British Public Relations firm Bell Pottinger for reputation management following the cashgate scandal.

It reported that the London PR firm has been hired as “an attempt to boost donor confidence”.

The paper also quoted Richard Dowden, Executive Director of the Royal African Society – Britain’s prime Africa organisation, saying President Banda was unlikely to have been involved in the in the malfeasance.

President Banda :  It's national tragedy and heartbreaking
President Banda : It’s national tragedy and heartbreaking

On Tuesday, the cashgate scandal continued to dominate the headlines.

The influential Financial Times takes a slightly different line with a headline: “Malawi ‘cash-gate’ corruption scandal unfolds like a thriller.”

The paper says “it might sound like the plot of a thriller, but for Joyce Banda, president of Malawi, one of Africa’s poorest countries, discovering the fate of millions of donor dollars is of crucial importance to an economy worth just over $3.7bn a year.”

Financial Times quotes President Banda describing the “cash-gate” corruption scandal as “a national tragedy.”

“[The looting of government money] has been going on for the last 15 years and this is a president that has decided that it has to stop,” the Financial Times quotes the Malawi leader and noted that, critics contend that some money has disappeared on her watch and she has been slow to act.

The FT also quotes President Banda saying the cash-gate scandal is “heart-breaking”.

“All of us should have detected that something was happening,” she said, trying to deflect some of the blame to others – including the donors, according to the paper.

FT report further quotes Banda saying she was the first Malawian president to try to stop corruption.

“I dissolved the cabinet and sacked ministers, some of them had been arrested, we have arrested 68 people, and we have frozen 33 accounts.”

The paper noted that her critics say that this is not enough.

Z Allan Ntata, a former legal adviser to the late President Mutharika, said it was “suspicious” for President Banda to “come into the presidential office and sit there for almost two years before noticing that the system is corrupt”.

FT in its report said with presidential elections in May next year, the scandal has become a hot political issue and quoted Banda saying the fight against graft comes before her political career.

“If I do not win the elections because I was fighting corruption, I am very comfortable with that,” she said.

The International Business Times covered it with a headline: “Cashgate: Malawi faces a ticking time bomb as international aid dries up over pervasive corruption”.

It reports that: “Time is running out for the tiny [Southern] African country of Malawi after a slew of major foreign aid donors suspended funding due to a far-reaching corruption scandal affecting the highest levels of government.”

It reported that though President Banda has not yet been directly implicated in the Cashgate scandal, critics accuse her of responding too slowly.

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