A Public Affairs Committee (PAC) where government ministers are booed

The government in Malawi may have sunk to a new low. There was a Public Affairs Committee (PAC) last week where two ministers representing the government of Malawi, Fahad Assani and Maxwell Mkwezalamba were booed by attendees, which included members of CSO organisations.

The conference was organised following the government’s failure to provide Malawians with convincing answers regarding the Cashgate scandal, and the forensic report.

Among the highlights / questions posed in the conference were:

  • Demands as to why the police have not arrested former budget director Paul Mphwiyo, when he is heavily implicated, and whether he was being protected?
  • Why government had not impounded the property of businessman, Oswald Lutepo – who is implicated in the cashgate scandal?
  • Why law enforcers have not impounded 22 vehicles which Lutepo donated to the ruling People’s Party, when there is evidence that the money he used to acquire those vehicles was looted at Capital Hill ?
  • When cashgate cases will be concluded, and those guilty prosecuted?
  • Why the government could not account for, or was failing to clearly explain where the proceeds from the presidential jet sale had gone. President Joyce Banda had promised to sell the jet which Bingu wa Mutharika had bought, and the government of Malawi had disclosed that the jet had been sold to Bohnox enterprises, an arms dealer. Yet there was no evidence of transfer of funds, and on more than one occasion the president was seen using the same jet, to the surprise of many Malawians.

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UnlockedMoneySafe: Investigating Cashgate – the twists and turns of corruption in Malawi

I feel sorry for the forensic investigators probing into Cashgate. Each day brings with it a new revelation, scheme or scandal, each day new drama. If it wasn’t the fact that government funds belonging to a country which is regarded as a poor country have been misused, I’d say stop wasting resources on an investigation which you will never fully get to the bottom of. If it wasn’t the fact that it is innocent citizens of a beautiful country who stand to lose out, I’d say give up.

Today another report emerges that the secretary of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Lilongwe, Peter Chinoko (Peter Chinoko is the brave soul who has been attacked and even sustained a fracture in the past for helping organise the July 20 protests against Bingu Wa Mutharika. The same regime that was oppressive against Joyce Banda. When he speaks we must listen) has said that the current president of Malawi, Joyce Banda is implicated in the cashgate scandal.

According to the news report, this is because she organised an inner circle designed to channel funds, following her complaints that she was spending too much of her own money on the PP party. Interestingly, the name of a company I have heard before associated with Joyce Banda (which has been mentioned by several people following the scandal much closely) has popped up yet again:  Veventis Risk Solutions, headquartered in Mayfair, London.

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It’s been suggested before by various people and organisations that there have been attempts to obstruct the investigation into the cashgate crisis in Malawi, including employment of delay tactics, let alone a PR sanitizing machine.

But what concerns me is that with so much speculation on social media, it’s becoming harder to distinguish between credible news and misinformation, more so since the PR machine which is attempting to distort the news, keeps on providing what I consider to be false information. For example, Nyasa times, one of the most popular online Malawian news sources is yet to carry the above allegation??

So, if one reads something online, on social media, as we saw with the revelations of Mphwiyo shooting, there is every chance that the tenets of truth are contained within a pile of speculation, or vice versa, with some embellishments for full effect. Personally, such information, although probably not strictly journalistic, could provide leads to the forensic investigators, on who to interview next.

Anyhow, if you are not familiar with the latest news headlines, see below:

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The troubles facing Joyce Banda are many. Recently, a journalist questioned the statements made by the Malawian President regarding what she reported the IMF to have said about her government’s leadership.

Yet all along, the president has maintained that she is innocent and not a part of the officials who have been embezzling money from the government. In a recent statement to Al jazeera when asked if she has failed with regard to fighting corruption, she said:

“No, we have not failed. I don’t know if you know that this cancer has been going on for 15 years and the biggest tragedy in the fight against corruption is covering up. I think the best one can do as a leader is that once you discover then you need to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Which is interesting because not too long ago an article emerged on Afrol News website (titled Malawi loses US$ 40 million in corruption ) in which Joyce Banda’s own company was alleged to have been paid for work it did not undertake. In particular the article says:

The document alleges that the government has not yet recovered kwacha 13 million in a case where DPP Secretary-General Joyce Banda is said to have been awarded a kwacha 26 million contract to construct a transit depot by ADMARC, the national food security agency, in 2002 when she was a Board Member. The document further reveals that Ms Banda allegedly pocketed kwacha 13 million in advances before commencement of the work.

Unless the document is a fraud, doesn’t this compromise her position even further?

Only time will tell where this goes next, but I appeal to donors and the forensic investigators not to leave any stone unturned. All these organisations whose names have been popping up all over the place should be questioned. There is a shameless and cancerous culture of impunity in Malawian politics that should be ended. Malawi’s money is definitely not safe with the current breed of leadership.

From the politics of chameleons, neatly chronicled by another activist here, to jealousies and a pull-down culture, there is a lot that needs fixing in Malawi. The question is, are Malawians up for the challenge?

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