News / Africa

    Malawi's 'Cashgate' Puts Banda's Political Future in Question

    Malawi President Joyce Banda speaks during funeral service for former South African President Nelson Mandela, Qunu, South Africa, Dec. 15, 2013.
    Malawi President Joyce Banda speaks during funeral service for former South African President Nelson Mandela, Qunu, South Africa, Dec. 15, 2013.
    An official with Malawi's environmental ministry was found in his car with $300,000 in cash last September, touching off a series of events that resulted in a massive corruption probe implicating dozens of civil servants, former government ministers and business people.
     
    Suspected of looting more than $100 million from government coffers since 2006, defendants recently began entering pleas ahead of trials slated to get underway January 29.
     
    Dubbed 'cashgate,' the scandal cuts deeply both economically and politically, causing many foreign donors to halt aid. In a country where 40 percent of the budget comes from abroad, politicians and economists are still struggling to gauge the fallout.
     
    "I suppose in the history of the Malawi justice system, we have never seen anything like it," says Bruno Kalemba, Director of Public Prosecutions. "As one who is involved in these cases — ourselves, the investigators, the courts — it's unprecedented."
     
    For President Joyce Banda, who assumed office intent on restoring international donor relations, which had been frayed by her predecessor, the scandal has put her political future in jeopardy.
     
    "It is an issue of national concern," says Joseph Chunga, head of the Political Science Association of Malawi. "I think the way it's going to be dealt with will have serious implications on the political landscape in terms of power configuration, but also in terms of the trust people have in our institutions."
     
    Despite setbacks in public trust, both Banda and the economy have made progress: the IMF recently agreed to disburse $20 million in previously withheld aid, citing progress in anti-corruption safeguards, and 2014 economic growth projections are pegged at five percent.
     
    While some suspect Banda's involvement in cashgate, her swift reaction and commitment to reforms — creation of a special police unit dedicated to monitoring public finance, investigations, new anti-corruption safeguards — has been viewed a positive step.
     
    "She has moved in to take some bold measures to deal with the problem, even though we are only four months or so before elections," says political scientist Blessings Chinsinga, a University of Malawi associate professor who downplays the cashgate factor in upcoming presidential elections. "There are others who think she could have done more, [that when] she became president she would have stamped her authority to prevent the stealing. But overall I think people are satisfied with how she has responded to the crisis."
     
    According to Chunga, because the corruption began in 2006, long before Banda took office, her opponents that are tied to parties in power at the time could be subject to the same line of criticism. But, he adds, Banda was a clear favorite to be re-elected before this scandal destroyed that advantage.
     
    While the scandal has shaken faith in politics and institutions, Chingsinga says it may be a blessing in disguise for the country.
     
    "Chances are very high that [if] all we have read and seen so far has been put into action, then the public sector will come out of this crisis much stronger than it has been in the past." 
     
    Trials verdicts are expected to start arriving in late February and early March, when donors are expected to re-evaluate safeguards and reforms.

    You May Like

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: mwera
    January 23, 2014 8:20 PM
    Joyce Banda never understood politics! she has demonstarted that very clearly! we want kinder, more efficient, humane, efficient people doing this job for Malawi needs to develop and Joyce Banda is none of those! She really has no clue! she never did have a political career hers was kuba from beginning to end!

    Joyce Banda needs to be loved so much that she actually would make a fantastic charity worker but then you would have to keep your cahrity money far away from her!

    by: sambaunyade from: zalewa
    January 23, 2014 11:04 AM
    Zopusa mwenee hu can tolerate nonsense

    by: nambewe
    January 22, 2014 7:44 PM
    To vote for Joyce Banda again is a huge mistake. She is not forfeiting her poloitical csreer because of cashgate NO! her political career is already in tatters but it sounds nicer to say she lost the election because she was beating corruption1 Let me correct that she lost the elections because SHE WAS CORRUPT!

    by: robert frank from: rsa
    January 22, 2014 4:38 PM
    95% of people in malawi will never vote for joice Banda!
    Joice banda is a thief she rob our money yet people every day are dieng of hunger.
    There is no medicine in hospital and people are. Dieng also.
    Joice Banda is a devil.
    Most people in malawi dey want DPP and peter muthalika.

    by: Simba Bonomali from: Mangochi
    January 22, 2014 12:22 AM
    Malawi govt not serious,coz 3/4 of the ministers are part of those involved so they are not pushing the cashgate scandal.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora