State House press officer Brian Banda falls out of grace

State House press officer Brian Banda has fallen out of grace with President Joyce Banda following unconfirmed reports that he abused money meant to silence critical journalists and some ‘social-woes’.

Banda, who has been performing the role of director of ceremonies at the President’s functions, has been replaced by veteran broadcaster Joshua Kambwiri, TV presenter Wellington Kuntaja and Press Secretary Steve Nhlane.

Timothy Sandramu, who was also  director of ceremonies at presidential functions and  married to the President’s former press officer  Ruth Govati, left for the United Nations as secretary attaché.

Govati was Banda’s press officer during her vice presidency and stood with her during hard times when the late president Bingu wa Mutharika squeezed Banda.

Brian Banda:  Out of favour
Brian Banda: Out of favour

For the past month state functions were directed by either Kambwiri or Kuntaja and Nhlane has joined the team as monitored from last week.

Reports from State House say that when Brian Banda joined State House as press officer responsible for print and electronic media, he came up with a proposal to the President to meet some critical journalists and silence them.

“What we know is that soon after assuming office, Mr. Banda met some editors and senior journalists at Chez Maky lodge in Blantyre where he sought views from the media gurus on how best State House and the media could work together. He bought food and drinks,” added the source.

One of the senior journalists who attended the meeting said in an interview: “I can confirm the Chez Maky meeting. It was a fruitful meeting because we in the media told Brian where we felt the President needed to change. He also expressed the concerns of the President that the media were bashing her every day and we told him point blank to tell the President that honeymoon period was over and we would simply do our job. Nobody was given money at this meeting.”

Another practitioner corroborated the information, adding that the food and drinks were bought on an open cheque.

Another report from the media implicating Brian Banda is that he used to call some journalists and threatened them.

“I know he has been calling Rhodes Msonkho to be soft when interviewing people on the famous programme ‘Straight Talk ‘on Capital Radio which Brian himself used to host,,” another source from Capital Radio said.

Another report is that Brian Banda called and met a reporter Simeon Maganga and advised him to stop writing bad things about the president and further urged him to be open whenever he needed money but Magannga rebuffed him.

A reporter from Blantyre Newspapers Limited where Maganga works confirmed the development.

“In short the President seems to have lost trust in him,” said a government source.

Banda refused to answer questions when he was emailed to respond on Sunday. He also refused to take phone interview.

Reports however indicate he was summoned by President Banda on Friday to be carpeted.

Senior government official said he was not aware on the fate of Banda, saying his contract has not been terminated but he was evicted from State House offices.

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