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Malawi Government Security Vehicles Fuel Controversy

Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika (file photo – 02 Feb 2010)
Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika (file photo – 02 Feb 2010)

The spokesman for Malawi’s president Bingu Wa Mutharika denies that tensions between the president and Vice President Joyce Banda led to the removal of two vehicles from her security fleet.

The spokesman, Heatherwick Ntaba, said the vehicles were needed to replace two from the president’s convoy that were damaged in a recent accident.

“This vehicle was already on the president’s fleet. It was just put on the vice president’s fleet on loan. That was the understanding at the time it was sent there,” said Ntaba.

He said the vice president was allowed to use President Mutharika’s vehicles on a temporary basis. Ntaba, however, acknowledged that the removal of the vehicles could be misconstrued.

“People who know the truth know this has nothing to do with the differences of opinion between the two of them,” said Ntaba.

But attorneys for Vice President Banda challenged the removal of the vehicles in court. They said the removal violates the constitution by creating a security threat to the vice president.

“The manner in which it happened could clearly show that there was some kind of a clash between [the president and vice president],” said Wapona Kita, lead attorney for Vice President Banda.

In its ruling, the court ordered the government to replace the vehicles withdrawn from the vice president’s convoy.

Some in the media say the fallout between President Mutharika and Vice President Banda led to her dismissal from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party [DPP]. Banda has since formed her own political group, the People's Party [PP], which has yet to be officially registered.

Some analysts blame President Mutharika for the frosty relationship with Vice President Banda, a charge Ntaba dismissed as incorrect.

“She actually formed her other party long before she was moved away from the ruling party,” said Ntaba. “She was doing things that clearly showed she was not part of the party that she claims she belongs to. She was running parallel structures [in government].”

This is the second time President Mutharika has broken with his vice president. In 2006, Mr. Muthairka sacked Vice President Cassim Chilumpha after accusing him of attacking the administration and trying to run a parallel government.

Chilumpha was later arrested on charges of treason after he was accused of conspiring to assassinate President Mutharika and overthrow his administration.