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

    Vietnam Mulls Tough Measures for ‘Misbehaving’ Chinese Tourists

    Move comes after footage surfaced online of Chinese travelers harassing a banana hawker in Da Nang

    Pakistan Social Media Star's Honor Killing Fuels Debate

    Qandeel Baloch's murder puts spotlight on deadly tradition and other mistreatment of women

    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.
    Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Borderi
    X
    July 22, 2016 12:30 AM
    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.
    Video

    Video Number of Syrian Refugees Arriving in US Jumps

    The United States is committed to resettling 85,000 refugees from around the world by October. Of that number, 10,000 will come from Syria and already some 4,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States, many of them settling in the state of Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, their arrival is not the end of a difficult journey to find peace and stability.
    Video

    Video Rio’s Trams Await Olympic Tourists

    Over the past century, many cities around the world replaced electric trams, prone to breakdowns and backups, with faster and more spacious buses. But for some reason restored antique trams are a huge tourist attraction. So it’s no wonder the authorities in Rio de Janeiro are busy restoring their city’s old tram line ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. VOA’ George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora