VP pens Bingu to cancel AU summit in Malawi

The State Vice President Joyce Banda has written President Bingu wa Mutharika to formally express  her reservations over Malawi’s commitment to host an African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government in July this year.

Speaking to journalists at her official Mudi Residence in the commercial capital, Blantyre on Friday, Banda said it was her moral obligation to write “my boss” that hosting a summit of such a huge magnitude would be a waste of resources, which are already strained.

“I am not against Malawi holding the summit; the idea actually came about when I was Foreign Minister before 2009; I was actually excited about it. But that idea came when Malawi was rated as the second fastest growing economy after Qatar,” said the country’s second-in-command.

Banda and Mutharika: The Malawi Presidecy

“ Since then, things have gone worse economically; Malawi is going through worst economic difficulties in history and holding such a big event is not prudent at all,” the first woman State Vice President said.

She said claims that the AU would provide 100 percent resources for holding the summit in Malawi were doubtful but said even if it were true, Malawi, as a host country, would still incur enormous expenses through what she termed “hidden costs”.

“When a country hosts an AU Summit, all the Heads of State enjoy what we call ‘hospitality status’; they come and stay for two or three days for free together with their close entourage like the security detail,” the VP who served as Foreign Minister said.

“The host country pays for lodging, food and transport for the visiting them and one can imagine how much we’re to incur if 54 Heads of State and Government were to attend the summit in Lilongwe; quite huge,” said Banda, who is also the founding leader of the People’s Party (PP).

The VP also explained that as the Heads of State and other dignitaries arrive, there are traditionally supposed to be crowds of people welcoming them and these people will have to be ferried in Lorries and trucks from various corners and that’s a “hidden cost”.

Challenges

“What I am saying is that we should still host the AU Summit but that should not be in July; we can still host it when things normalize.

“ I know thorough my experience as a former Foreign Affairs Minister that after lobbying and being chosen as hosts, a country can still ask the region to choose another country for various reasons, economic or natural disasters. The Southern Africa region has other countries, which have steady economies and necessary infrastructure to host the summit; we do not have,” she said.

She said the Government of Malawi is failing to transport medicines and other medical supplies that “our Western friends donated to us recently” because of scarcity of fuel.

Banda wondered why the money, however little, that could be saved for not hosting the AU could not be used for such noble causes in order to save the lives of ordinary Malawians who are dying because of lack of essential drugs at public medical facilities.

She also said the on-going Judiciary strike could be averted by providing the K1.3 billion Kwacha being demanded by the support staff to ensure that the justice system is not interrupted rather than hosting the AU Summit, which the only major benefit, she said, would be to raise Malawi’s profile on the world map.

“This is the stance I’ve taken and that is why, as a moral and constitutional obligation, I’ve humbly deployed a memo to my boss, the President to request him to reconsider Malawi’s position on the matter. It is up to him to take it or leave it. For the press conferences condemning my stance, let them continue; I am not being emotional about; that’s just my point of view,” said Banda.

Government spokesperson Patricia Kaliati insists the summit will bring huge economic benefits to the country.

Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn), executive director Dalitso Kubalasa also said Malawi can potentially raise $6 million for hosting the summit.

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