LILONGWE (Papious Liwonde, Malawi NewsNow) –Malawi government has reacted to numerous claims made by the former President Dr Joyce Banda that she is failing to return to Malawi because she is being denied retirement benefits, including accommodation and security, saying they are insincere as she is just giving excuses to run away from the country.
Minister of Information and Civic Education, Mr Jappie Mhango, who is government spokesman said in a statement that government has duly provided Banda the requirements of a retired President as stipulated by the President’s (Salaries and Benefits) Act, 1994.
“Upon retirement, Dr Joyce Banda received a tax free lump sum gratuity amounting to K30 million comprising K12 million and K18 million being gratuity in her capacity as former Vice President and former President, respectively. The payment was made on 29th November, 2014 and collected on 12th January, 2015,” Mhango says.
However, Banda has yet to start receiving her monthly pension as is currently being processed by the Director of Pensions at the Accountant General’s Office.
On her retirement home, the Minister of Information says Banda was allocated an official residence in Area 43, Lilongwe, as soon as she left Office.
“The house belongs to Full Gospel Church of God, P.O. Box 3053, Lilongwe 3 and is being managed by Knight Frank. The Ministry of Lands and Urban Development identified, assessed and rented it on 28th May, 2014. After maintenance, the house was given to her in July 2014.
“However, Dr Banda did not occupy it despite Government paying rentals for the house for a period exceeding one and half years. Through her sister, Mrs Cecilia Kumpukwe, she advised Government that she would not occupy the house as it was allegedly of poor quality and did not meet the required standards.
“As a result, on 12th May, 2015 the Ministry of Lands and Urban Development received a fresh instructions from the Office of the President and Cabinet to terminate the Tenancy Agreement, identify and allocate a new house to the former President. The lease agreement was terminated on 30th August, 2015 and identification exercise of new houses happened in August 2015.”
Mhango says the retired Chief Justice Mr. Richard Banda Sc. was shown the houses on behalf of his wife, the former President as follows:
- Broll Malawi offered a newly built house for rent on plot no. 43/743 but it was rejected
- Fred and Ted Estate Agents offered for rent a house in Area 43 and two others in Area 12 but they were all rejected.
- Ching’onga Estate Agents offered one house in Area 43 and two others in Area 12; they were also rejected.
- Castles and Weathers offered two houses, one of them newly furnished but these too were rejected;
- Auction Holdings Group had a vacant house on plot no. 10/120 and there was expression of interest to stay in this house but the owners advised that it was committed to other tenants.
“Following these developments, it was decided that the best approach would be for the former President to identify the house and notify the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development to assess and rent. The Ministry is still waiting to hear from the former President’s office if a house suiting her taste has been found,” Mhango says.
Government has also dismissed claims on security concerns by Banda.
According to the President’s (Salaries and Benefits) Act, a former president is entitled one Head Guard (Personal Bodyguard) and 6 Security Guards.
“Government has duly compiled with requirement by providing seven Police Security Officers to the former President as follows:
- 1 Senior Superintendent (Head Guard)
- 1 Inspector (Deputy Head)
- 5 Sergeants
“Government would like to assure the public that the continued stay of the former President in foreign countries has nothing to do with victimization or anything to do with her retirement benefits.”
The statement says government encourages Banda to come back so that she can assist in the identification of a house of her choice so that the Ministry of Lands and Urban Development can then process the lease requirements and close this matter once and for all.
However, her decision not to come home vindicates long-held fears that Banda may be avoiding litigation following her alleged role in the Cashgate scandal where under her watch, public servants and unscrupulous and/or ghost companies siphoned millions from the public purse for goods and services not delivered.
Malawi is investigating the disappearance of $48 million during Banda’s presidency, and $214m during the reign of Bingu wa Mutharika. The directorate of public prosecutions says there are about 70 suspects awaiting trial for fraud, and many more face arrest.
Several key suspects and convicts in the ongoing trials on Cashgate, have fingered Banda, in warning and caution statements and testimonies, as the mastermind of Cashgate.
Although a number of Banda’s senior party members and government officials have been fingered in local media reports, the government has arrested only one former cabinet minister and several senior and junior civil servants.