Warrant of arrest for Malawi’s ex-president Joyce Banda
By Penelope Paliani-Kamanga
LILONGWE – The Malawi Police Service (MPS) has obtained a warrant of arrest for former President Joyce Banda and want to question her on alleged involvement in corruption.
Banda is believed to be in self-imposed exile in the United States of America.
In a statement signed by the National Police public relations officer James Kadadzera, the police stated that it had gathered evidence which raised reasonable suspicion that the former president committed offences relating to abuse of office and money laundering.
“This warrant of arrest is in force and necessary legal formalities are being pursued,” read the statement.
Kadadzera said later told the Nation newspaper that the arrest warrant was issued in February 2017, adding that it had taken long for the police to act on the warrant because its fiscal and fraud section was still conducting investigations to ascertain Banda’s involvement in cashgate-related cases.
The police said in the statement that the public interest that “cashgate cases” have generated prompted them to announce the existence of the warrant.
“It is not the standard practice for the Malawi Police Service to make known to the public the fact that a warrant of arrest is in force against an individual,” said the police.
He further disclosed that because Banda is in self-imposed exile, the Malawi police have notified International Police (Interpol) member states about the existence of this warrant of arrest.
He expressed optimism that the member states would co-operate and help in tracking her down and get her extradited to Malawi to face the charges in court
However, People’s Party (PP) acting president Uladi Mussa has said the party is not aware of the existence of the arrest warrant against their leader,
Mussa feared the development could be motivated by something else other than Banda’s involvement in the cashgate.
“I cannot comment much. But I think they (Police) are basing this on hearsay from those already arrested and are now serving jail terms.
Everything needs evidence before arresting someone,” he said.
Meanwhile, scores of Malawians have reacted with mixed feelings over the arrest of former agriculture minister George Chaponda who is alleged to have profited in a $35 million maize import deal from neighbouring Zambia.
Chaponda was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Bureau last Wednesday.
Some Malawians praised the government for taking a positive step while others described the arrest as window dressing on the part of authorities.
Chaponda came into limelight that led to his dismissal from cabinet following the controversial purchase of 100 000 tonnes of maize in July 2016 which led to a public outcry after police uncovered $223 000 in cash stashed in suitcases in his bedroom during a raid.
Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) spokeswoman Egrita Ndala told the press that Chaponda had been charged with “misuse of public office and possession of foreign currency”.
Reacting to Chaponda’s long awaited arrest, local commentator Makhumbo Munthali told Nyasa Times it was too early for Malawians to celebrate the arrest.
He argued the arrest must also be viewed “within the political economy context which seem to suggest that it may be one of the signs of desperation and panic on the part of the authorities to counteract the existing international and domestic pressure on them to act on the issue”.
Munthali argued that the arrest may be a sign of desperation and panic on the part of those in authority in reaction to the growing international and domestic pressure to act.
But for Tione Mzima, a Blantyre based vendor, the arrest was a milestone.
“To me, seeing that the government has taken a step further to arrest this man is a positive thing.
I am positive that justice will be done and the whereabouts of our money will be explained, I hope,” she said.
Rumphi East Member of Parliament Kamlepo Kalua hailed Malawians for openly showing their anger at Chaponda who was arrested on Wednesday by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
Kamlepo thanked the media for their cooperation in the matters concerning corruption.
“Bravo Mr President you have started well, finish the race. Bravo the media, apart from the MBC (Malawi Broadcasting Corporation).
Bravo Malawians voicing out too, the fight on corruption is not personal and not for Kamlepo alone.
Politicians should be afraid as servants,” said Kalua in a social media post.
Writing on his Facebook, Kalua said he had been vindicated because earlier on people had called him mad for insisting that the former minister must be arrested.
Chaponda and his co-accused Rashid Tayub are free after the Blantyre Magistrate’s Court granted them bail after they pleaded not guilty to all three charges leveled against them, which are related to the alleged dubious procurement of maize from Zambia.