Malawi’s new information minister has rejected allegations that donor concern about the country’s endemic corruption pressured President Joyce Banda to dismiss and later reconstitute her cabinet.
“She has made it her top priority to fight graft and to fight fraud in Malawi. Even where people thought she would be creating problems for her own election, she said ‘I would rather fight corruption, and if that causes me to lose the election, so be it,’” said information minister Brown Mpinganjira. “She said she wouldn’t enjoy running affairs of state knowing that billions of Kwacha [local currency] is going down the drain.”
Mpinganjira says Mrs. Banda has demonstrated resolve in combatting graft. Banda, Mpinganjira said, instructed her new cabinet to reject graft and to work hard to better the lives of the people of Malawi.
“She [ordered] us to be vigilant, to avoid corruption and all forms of corruption and to fight corruption wherever it may lead,” said Mpinganjira.
His comments came after President Banda’s decision to dissolve her cabinet following the arrest of nearly a dozen senior government officials on suspicion of graft and after the shooting of a budget director.
Some political observers linked the cabinet sacking to the investigation into financial malfeasance.
Mpinganjira rejected allegations that a decision by some donors to withhold aid to the country over corruption put pressure on Banda to sack her cabinet.
He said that contrary to criticism, President Banda was the first to inform donors of her demand for an inquiry into allegations of graft in the administration.
“She gave the former minister of finance four weeks to trace loopholes that aid corruption and to find ways of sealing them. Immediately after that mandate to the former finance minister, she called the donors and told them what she had told the finance minister,” said Mpinganjira. “She told donors that she wanted help from them to fight corruption.
“That is why the British, for example, have ended up identifying forensic auditors to come and help in the fight against corruption,” said Mpinganjira.
But critics of the president say the sacking of the cabinet and the attack on graft is a calculated political stunt to win donor support as well as garner votes for President Banda in next year’s general election. Mpinganjira disagreed.
“She did not shy away from picking up the fight against corruption because of the election. All her friends - - presidents all over Africa and the world -- were saying to her ‘Why are you taking on this battle now, which may cost you your election?’ But, she said, ‘Look, winning the election and running a country full of corruption does not help matters,’ ” said Mpinganjira. “But, if I am going to lose because of fighting corruption, so be it.”
Clottey interview with Brown Mpinganjira, Malawi information minister