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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

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.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs