6 April 2019

Malawi: PP Says Joyce Banda Rebuffed DPP Alliance Offer - 'Arrest Threat Politically Inspired'

People's Party (PP) has said threats by government that former President Joyce Banda's warrant of arrest is still alive and valid are politically inspired because Banda has rebuffed governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for an electoral alliance.

PP officials respond to government on assertions that JB should account for 2013 cashgate and Jet

PP brass hold a news conference at Mzuzu Hotel.

Addressing a news conference in Mzuzu on Saturday, PP spokesman Ackson Kalaile Banda, PP Vice President for Northern Region Ralph Mhone, Secretary General Ibrahim Matola and and Vice president central Region Beatruce Mwale took turns to react to statements made by Minister of Information Henry Mussa, Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe and Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Samuel Tembenu that Banda faces arrest.

The PP top brass said the arrest threat is political, stating the DPP is afraid that Banda who withdrew her presidential candidacy from elections scheduled for May 21 2019 and is backing Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader Lazarus Chakwera is a "game changer" and gives the opposition alliance a strong chance of winning the vote in May.

Kalaile told reporters that Banda, who ruled Malawi from 2012 to 2014, has been approached by DPP leadership for an electoral alliance and because she rebuffed the ruling party, they are now going after her for political vandetta.

He said the PP will not be not moved by such "malicious schemes."

Kalaile asked the opposition camp to remain alert and focused, saying victory for Chakwera as Malawi Presidentbin May 21 polls is assured.

On his part, Mhone who is a practising lawyer dismissed the arrest warrant talk by government, insisting that JB is innocent on the plunder of the public funds known as Cashgate.

"No warrant of arrest was sent to Interpol to arrest Dr Joyce Banda, in fact, announcing the arrest was unprocedural. Why have they taken six years to arrest her. Why are they afraid of the law?," urged Mhone.

Taking his turn, Matola accused the executive of influencing Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) to work on political orders.

"Why can't government let the ACB do its job? There have been too many media bruefijgd on the arrest of JB. When the right time comes, the ACB knows what to do; JB is clean on Cashgate and fears nothing," said Matola.

Matola challenged government to effect the arrest warrant if they have any case.

He said Banda had no hand in Cashgate, actually "she initiated the Baker Tilly Audit" to establish the truth of looting at Capital Hill which started way back in DPP regime.

Matola said Cashgate came into limelight more during JB rule because of her effort to deal with the vice.

Said Matola: "None of the suspects has ever mentioned JB in court, no one mentions that she benefited from the looting, because she didn't."

Banda, the country's then estranged Vice-President who ascended to the presidency in line with constitutional order after the death of president Bingu wa Mutharika in April 2012, is being accused by the DPP led government of being linked with Cashgate--the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill through inflated invoices or payments for goods and services not rendered exposed under her watch in September 2013.

She is on record as having said she took decisive steps by commissioning a forensic audit that exposed abuse and loopholes in the public finance management.

Further, Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe and Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Samuel Tembenu accuse Banda for the controversial disposal of a presidential jet.

In 2009, the Bingu administration bought a 14-seater Dassault Falcon 900EX presidential jet at about K16.5 billion ($22 million), but the Banda administration sold it at a reported K11.2 billion ($15 million) apparently to use the money for "pressing needs".

Banda said it was unfortunate that an impression was created that she sold the jet on her own when the decision was collectively made by her Cabinet.

She said she could not divulge more as she signed a non-disclosure commitment not to disclose what she saw in government.

But at a government news conference on Friday, Finance Minister Gondwe said that records of the Jet sale are scanty and some of the proceeds cannot be traced to date.

Gondwe stressed that Banda as head of the cabinet is solely to blame for the transaction and the loss of the national asset that the country has suffered.

The development comes hot on the heals of political analysts saying MCP-PP relationship, gives MCP, which governed the country in a one-party dictatorship from 1964 to 1994, more chances of winning in the election.

The MCP's main support base is in central Malawi, while the PP is strongest in the east of the country. In the last election in 2014, Chakwera garnered 1.46 million votes, compared with 1.06 million for Banda. Incumbent President Peter Mutharika won with 1.9 million votes. This year 6.59 million Malawians have registered to vote.

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