SADC contradicts JB, retract story

The Southern African Development Community (Sadc), a bloc President Joyce Banda currently heads, for a second time, has contradicts her, latest being on alleged Malawi government purchase of peace-keeping weapons using part of presidential jet proceeds.

On Tuesday Banda told the media that government used part of funds about K2.8 billion realised from the sell of the controversial jet to support Malawi Defence Force in UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC through purchase of military equipment.

Her remarks came at a time pressure is growing from civil society groupings and opposition political parties for government to be transparent and disclose how the money $ 15 million was spent.

Banda and Tax
Banda and Tax

However, Sadc Executive Secretary Stergonena Lawrence Tax told the media in Lilongwe on Wednesday operations of the bloc’s peacekeeping missions in the region under the United Nations (UN) are fully funded by the UN and not individual member states.

This surely did not go down very well with President Banda who is a Chairperson for the bloc considering it is second time it contradicted her.

First was on a hired plane Banda used to attend late Nelson Mandela’s funeral, which she claimed was paid for by Sadc, but the bloc dismissed the claim.

Stergonena Lawrence Tax, who is in the country for pre-council media briefing on the meeting of Sadc council of ministers slated for next week, said it would be  “purely speculation” to claim that part of the jet money was used in the DRC mission.

“I want to be clear by saying that if we get out of this room and say that Malawi’s jet proceeds were used for peace keeping operations, then that would be purely speculation. As far as I know, all member states of Sadc only provide troops and the bill is footed by the United Nations,” she said.

According to Stergonena Lawrence Tax, there is however a general agreement between member countries to help one another in times of need.

But reacting to the sentiment by the Sadc official, Minister of Finance Maxwel Mkwezalamba and Minister of Defence Ken Kandodo who were addressing journalists on the proceeds of jet sale said Sadc was not competent to comment on such matters.

“There are two formulas that are used. Either the country purchases its own equipment and the UN reimburses part of the money after the mission or the UN will in other instances pay for the whole exercise. The UN also pays for allowances and other things,” said Kandodo.

Meanwhile, following Zodiak Broadcasting broadcasting the story and also picked by other media houses, the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC) has been pressuring the Stergonena Lawrence Tax and the radio station to retract the story.

Zodiak, however, remained adamant about the story before Stergonena Lawrence Tax called herself to retract it. She was even beamed on public broadcaster MBCtv disassociating herself from the story.

However, Stergonena Lawrence Tax disclosed that UN reimburses money countries like Malawi use on purchasing equipment for peace-keeping mission, meaning government will surely be refunded the money claimed to have been spent on said equipment.

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