Malawi to dump the West, head East over aid freeze – Africa Confidential report

Malawi government is staring a possible divorce with the West – its key patron since independence – and heads to East after the Western donors decision in withholding aid because of massive corruption in government.

The foreign donors that fund nearly half of Malawi’s government budget have frozen assistance for the second time in two years.

Donors have called on Malawi to act swiftly on the plunder of public resources, known as Capital Hill Cashgate scandal.

In a report published by the authoritative Africa Confidential, an aide to President Joyce Banda is quoted saying  donors decision to withhold aid does not make sense, accusing the West of acting like social media activists.

Mpinganjira:  Blasts  Western donors

“The President met and spoke to all donors to help her stop the looting. Now they turn around and freeze aid which is a sensitive political landmine. I will not be surprised if she faces the East,” Africa Confidential quotes the aide whose particulars were shielded.

The aide said that the foreign representatives briefed by Banda before ‘Cashgate’ burst onto the front pages included European Union Ambassador to Malawi Alexander Baum, British High Commissioner Michael Nevin and the Norwegian Ambassador, Asbjorn Eidhammer.

That position has been confirmed by Information Minister Brown Mpinganjira.

“The government does not understand the decision taken by donors to withhold support because the (Malawi President) Joyce Banda administration has exposed fraud and corruption in the civil service,” said Mpinganjiras at a ceremony to launch a community radio station for the main Protestant church in Malawi – CCAP Blantyre Synod.

His comments were the first official reaction to Western donors shutting down aid.  He however changed tuned that his comments were not lashing at the donors.

With six months until elections at which she will seek a full five-year term, President Banda’s opponents in the presidential race have pounced on the corruption scandal as evidence that she isn’t up to the task of rejuvenating Malawi’s economy.

Africa Confidential reported that : “The reputations of almost all members of the political establishment – with the possible exception of the opposition United Democratic Front – have been severely battered by the investigations into the shooting of Paul Mphwiyo in September . Ralph Kasambara, who was Justice Minister in October, is now in custody charged in conjunction with his associate Pika Manondo with the attempted murder of Mphwiyo. Kasambara claims the charges are ‘baseless’.”

The publication further reported that “Banda has been winning the public relations war so far: those arrested are viewed by an impoverished public as guilty and she is seen as the agent of change for the better. Yet some believe that Banda will lose the next election because the men who stole the money still have it and will use it to defeat her in that contest.”

The Malawi leader has hired Bell Pottinger, a London-based public relations firm to help in reputation management over the cashgate crisis.

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with an estimated 75% of the population living on less than $1 (60p) a day.

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