Govt Says Joyce Banda Risks Arrest Over Cashgate, Malawi Presidential Jet ‘Batter’

Malawi’s ex – President Joyce Banda

A powerful Malawi government delegation of senior ministers on Friday addressed a news conference in Lilongwe, declaring there is an existing valid arrest warrant for former president Joyce Banda which Police talked about two years ago to investigate Banda for “alleged abuse of office and money laundering”.

Government spokesman Henry Mussa telling reporters that warrant of arrest for Joyce Band is still alive and valid as Justice Minister Tembenu looks on

The three Cabinet ministers Tembenu, Mussa Gondwe took turns explaining that in the fullness of time Joyce Banda will face the law.

Joyce Banda says her conscious is clean on the sale of the presidential jet and Cashgate

The national police spokesman James Kadadzera said they secured a warrant of arrest from the court in February 2017 for Banda in relation to her alleged involvement in cashgate.

But neither Banda nor her lawyers have been served a copy of the warrant and all attempts to see it have been thwarted by the authorities.

Speaking at the news conference which was among others attended by Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe and Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu, government spokesman and Minister of Information Henry Mussa said the arrest warrant if “alive and valid.”

The three senior Cabinet ministers took turns explaining that in the fullness of time Joyce Banda will face the law.

Mussa said government has been forced to comment on the issue following continued political statements by both Banda and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera insinuating that JB is innocent on the plunder of public funds known as Cashgate.

JB, as Banda is widely known by her initials, last month withdrew from the presidential race in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections and instead endorsed Chakwera of MCP.

On his part, Justice Minister Tembenu pointed out that government is using a prosecution strategy to handle Cashgate cases adding that contractors were first to be prosecuted followed by civil servants and politicians are next in line.

He hinted Banda will be in line to face prosecution.

Taking his turn, Gondwe described as untrue JB’s assertions that she is not to blame for the disposal of the French-made jet to Bohnox Enterprises Limited, a subsidiary of Paramount Group, a South Africa-based defence and military equipment supplier.

The Banda administration had given conflicting explanations on the sale of the jet, including how the State had used the proceeds of the jet–prompting some donors such as the United Kingdom and civil society organisations (CSOs) to demand an investigation into the sale.

It was disclosed that the jet was “battered off” to offset a $19 million debt owed to Paramount Group.

Gondwe said that records of the Presidential Jet sale are scanty and some of the proceeds cannot be traced to date.

Speaking last month at a news conference she jointly held with Chakwera in Lilongwe, JB denied any involvement in the Cashgate, the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill, saying she has evidence the corruption scandal exposed under her watch in 2013 had started during the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regime before she became Head of State in 2012.

Banda said the issue of Cashgate has been repeatedly spoken about and that she has made it clear that she played no role.

She argued that prior to Cashgate, the K236 billion theft happened between 2009 and 2012 when former president the late Bingu Wa Mutharika was in charge, saying she has a letter written by former Reserve Bank of Malawi governor Perks Ligoya to late president Bingu about the financial malfeasance.

According to Banda, there must be a stubborn link between the K236 billion scam and the Cashgate which upon being alerted when JB was in power, she publicly announced she would crack down on all thieves.

Later, with the help of the British government, she instituted a forensic audit, which was carried by the British-based RSM (formerly known as Baker Tilly) audit firm.

“Following the audit, many people, including top public officers, were arrested, prosecuted and convicted in connection with cashgate,” she said.

But Banda told reporters that she was “gagged” by Chief Secretary to the Government Lloyd Muhara through a letter, from disclosing any information she was privileged to access while serving as President of Malawi between April 2012 and May 2014.

In a letter dated June 21 2007 seen by Nyasa Times, Muhara reminded the former Head of State on the need to adhere to the oath of secrecy that required both current and former presidents, members of Cabinet, current and retired to observe secrecy and confidentiality.

Banda said her conscious is clear on the sale of the presidential jet.

She said the jet was sold after Cabinet approved and then Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), which was headed by Bright Msaka (now Minister of Education), facilitated the sale of the jet.

“There is no [State asset] bigger than the plane that can be sold without Attorney General signing [the deal],” said Banda.

She said the Attorney General who signed the sale approval and the then Chief Secretary to OPC were still around.

“I am very, very comfortable about that issue. I am one person who believes that I served my country well,” she said.

Meanwhile, governance expert and commentator Makhumbo Munthali told Nyasa Times on Friday that he feared the development could be politically motivated.

“It’s a typical case of why joining them not us. If JB had decided to partner with them would they have taken such a path. It’s sad to note that they had to wait for JB to partner with MCP -one of the hot contenders in the May 21 elections order to start this.,” said Munthali.

“I think they are now terrified with political capital Joyce Banda is bringing to the campaign period and elections. A typical case of politicisation of cases and double standards. It’s a desperate act of panic, “he added.

“I was one of the people who in 2017 called for government that if JB has a case to answer let it be done. And no one should shield her. But this development is subjected to political witch-hunt.,” said Munthali.

He it is clear this coming at the background that Banda is influencing voters in favour of Chakwera and this give rooms that this could be political vendetta.