Malawi’s government is denying reports quoting President Joyce Banda that she was advised by Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf not to fight corruption during an election year.
Malawi is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on May 20 this year, and President Sirleaf paid a three-day visit to Malawi from February 1-4.
Presidential Press Secretary Steven Nhlane says Banda did not say that she was advised to stop fighting corruption. Instead he says “President Banda acknowledged that she had been told by many of her friends, including President Sirleaf that “it is a risk to fight corruption in an election year”.
Nhlane says president Sirleaf also encouraged the Malawian president to continue fighting corruption.
“What the president said is that many of her friends, including President Sirleaf of Liberia had advised her that it is dangerous to fight corruption in an election year. But President Sirleaf, including many other friends continue to encouraged President Banda,” he said.
The Malawian government further clarified in a press release that “President Banda acknowledged that she had been told by many of her friends including President Sirleaf who was visiting that it is a risk to fight corruption in an election year, because those that you are fighting have money, and they will use that money to tarnish your image and smear it on to you”.
The story was first reported February 7 by the Malawian News Agency. But Nhlane says the reporter who wrote the story did not get all the facts right.
“This reporter from government is a fairly new reporter. He was given that assignment but he missed the facts. We would like to advise Malawi News Agency reporters and all journalists to ensure that news reports that they file for local or foreign publications are accurate,” Nhlane said.
President Banda is involved in a major anti-corruption campaign known as the so-called “Cash-Gate Scandal” in which several officials, including the justice minister have been arrested and are facing trial for stealing public funds.
Nhlane says the scandal would not affect Banda’s re-election. In fact he says Banda is confident she will win the May election by a wide margin.
“What the president has said is that yes, fighting corruption in an election may cause her to lose votes because those that you are fighting are powerful people; they have money, they will use that money to tarnish your image and smear your campaign. But she is very confident that she will win the election with a landslide” Nhlane said.
Eenvoys from eight Western nations, whose aid has accounted for about 40 present of Malawi’s budget, asked Banda recently to find ways to reduce corruption.
In contrast to Malawi, Sirleaf has been accused of not being serious about fighting corruption and protecting officials accused of corrupt praces.
Corruption whistle blower Judge Melvin Johnson told VOA recently that if President Sirleaf is serious about fighting corruption she must order the arrest and prosecution of all government officials accused of corruption.
“You have this one finance minister (Amara Konneh), not named by us, but named by his colleagues. And so if this president is halfway serious about corruption, this finance minister who I am told is her son, he should be arrested and charged and given due process and let the case go forward. But the fact that there is no action; the fact that we are being pursued presumably internationally, somehow to show face to the international community that she is about anti-corruption. But she isn’t,” Johnson said.
President Sirleaf recently told a local intellectual discourse center last week that she wasn’t protecting officials who have stolen public funds.
Liberian Justice Minister Tah also told VOA that the government has been prosecuting corruption cases both in the private and public sectors.