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January 10, 2013

Malawi Official Rejects Opposition Demands

by Peter Clottey

Malawi’s information minister has rejected demands by opposition and civil society groups that President Joyce Banda declare her personal financial assets.

Moses Kunkuyu says the demands are a publicity stunt to score cheap political points.

“There is no need at the moment for her to re-declare her assets because she has just been moved from one office to the other,” Kunkuyu said.

Banda became president eight months ago following the death of president Bingu Wa Mutharika.

During a recent interview at a local radio station, Banda said she has already declared her assets before becoming the vice president as required by the country’s constitution.

“The constitution demands that I declare my assets when coming in and when going out of government,” the president said. “I did this when I was vice president and there is no need for me to do that again… If anything I will do this when getting out of government in 2014 or 2019, otherwise there is no need.”

But some civil society groups say Banda’s refusal to declare her assets after becoming president is a wasted opportunity, which they said could bolster her efforts to root out corruption.

“If the law does not demand a re-declaration of her assets, then it will be against the law to go and declare again and the law does not demand that,” said Kunkuyu.                                

Some civil society groups have expressed concern that Banda is not doing enough to stimulate the nation’s economy. They have planned a nationwide demonstration to protest what the groups say are the sharp rise in the cost of living, the high inflation rate and uncontrolled fuel prices.

John Kapito, a leading member of the Consumers Association of Malawi (CAMA), says Banda is not doing enough to create jobs and stimulate the nation’s economy. Kunkuyu disagreed.

“We are already making progress in our economic recovery process. So, this year we expect to see very many developments taking place because of the stance that we have taken,” said Kunkuyu.

Some analysts say the economic recovery could be derailed if the planned demonstrations become prolonged.

Kunkuyu says the government wants to engage organizers of the protests to resolve their concerns.

“Malawians know where we are coming from, where we were eight months ago, Malawians know pretty well is not where we are now. [They] know that it’s not time for demonstrations yet,” said Kunkuyu.

Clottey interview with Moses Kunkuyu, Malawi information minister