Malawi’s vice president, Joyce Banda, has rejected demands that she resign from some of her colleagues in the administration as well as senior officials of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
“It is only Malawians who shall remove me from this position,” said Banda. “Even as state vice president of the party [DPP], I didn’t resign; I put up with a lot of torture and abuse because I felt I was obligated to stay, but the party removed me. [Now] I ask the same party to remove me from this job. I will not leave.”
Ms. Banda has been expelled from the ruling party, but presidential spokesman Heatherwick Ntaba said she should also step down from her post.
“We indeed are indicating,” said Ntaba, “that the most honorable thing for her to do is to move from her office as vice president, because she is busy vigorously attacking the government when she is part of that government…. She is responsible for the rights and wrongs, successes and failures of that government. Many people in that position [would] quit rather than stay on.”
Ntaba said Ms. Banda has refused to do her job.
“She doesn’t come to Parliament; she doesn’t attend Cabinet meetings. She does absolutely nothing,” said Ntaba. “Yet she demands more funding for her office from the state coffers, when at the same time she is complaining vigorously that the state is overtaxing poor Malawians. She doesn’t hesitate to use those poor taxpayers’ money to maintain her very expensive upkeep.”
Ms. Banda maintains she has a constitutional mandate to serve Malawians, and will not step down until her term expires in 2014.
She said her frosty relations with President Mutharika are a result of a “succession battle” within the ruling party.
“The moment I was inaugurated, the president wanted his brother [Education Minister Peter Mutharika] to run [for president] and take over from him,” said Banda. “When they went to [various sections] of the party and asked [them] to endorse [the president’s brother], a candidate [who] had not been elected, [we] questioned the validity and legality of that. The group that refused was called the parallel structure.”
But presidential spokesman Ntaba denies Mr. Mutharika is imposing his younger brother on the DPP.
“These are stories from supporters of the vice president herself. But, the president has never, never imposed his brother on anyone,” said Ntaba. There are people coming forward who say they prefer the president’s brother. But, as far as the party is officially concern, the party has not made their choice yet.”
Ms. Banda said her convoy was “mysteriously” involved in an accident, shortly after she was expelled from the DPP. She also said security agencies including the police have so far refused to investigate the accident, despite repeated requests.
“We don’t know who owns the car,” said Ms. Banda. “It came from the bush and hit the car that I was supposed to be in, (but) fortunately, I had switched cars. Malawians are still waiting for a (police) report.”
This is the second time President Mutharika has broken with his vice president. In 2006, Mr. Mutharika sacked Vice President Cassim Chilumpha after accusing him of attacking the administration and, like Ms. Banda, 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.
Some in the media say the fallout between President Mutharika and Vice President Banda led to her dismissal from the ruling party. Banda has since formed her own political group, the People's Party (PP), which has yet to be officially registered.
Critics of the government say they will embark on a mass protest march Wednesday to express what they said is their anger and disgust at President Mutharika’s “marauding tyranny, bad economic policies and [poor] democratic governance.”
But, the government has warned the scheduled protest is illegal. Vice President Banda broke ranks with the administration by supporting the planned demonstration. She says it’s permitted by the constitution as a means of expressing public displeasure.
“I have appealed to the police to protect people on the road and to maintain peace,” said Ms. Banda. “And I have appealed to the demonstrators to make sure that they don’t destroy property,” said Ms. Banda.
“They must be able to exercise their rights,” she added, “(but) rights go with responsibility.”