BLANTYRE (Felix Mponda, AFP) – Malawian President Peter Mutharika has cancelled his trip to a regional summit in Botswana to save money after foreign donors cut their contributions to his aid-dependent government over a corruption scandal, a minister said Sunday.
Donors — who provide about 40 percent of Malawi’s budget — suspended payments of around $150 million (110 million euros) after British auditors revealed that $30 million was plundered from state coffers over a six-month period in 2013, in a scandal that has been dubbed “Cashgate”.
Several former civil servants are currently standing trial over the scandal, with two convictions so far.
Foreign Minister George Chaponda said Malawi was “passing through a difficult period” after the scandal, and that he would now lead a four-man delegation to the two-day Southern African Development Community (SADC) talks that start on Monday.
“The president has decided that we needed to save by having a lean delegation. Malawi is trying to recover from Cashgate, floods and lack of budgetary support. Basically we are on our own,” Chaponda said in a statement.
The president had originally planned to lead a group of more than 30 to Botswana.
The scandal helped push former president Joyce Banda out of power in May 2014 elections which were won by Mutharika.
Mutharika has repeatedly said the decision to cut aid to his impoverished southern African nation has contributed to “economic hardships”.
The country suffered another blow earlier this year when severe floods left more than 170 people dead and 200,000 homeless, as well as severely damaging infrastructure. Malawi is seeking $80 million from donors for reconstruction.
In February Mutharika pleaded with the World Bank for more aid, saying his country was in “desperate need of donor support”.
Donors have said the aid will only be restored when the government implements sound financial management systems to seal loopholes that enabled civil servants to collude with business figures and politicians to steal state funds.