By Deogratias Mmana:
At a news conference on Sunday August 8, 2021, government announced a K4bn budget for hosting the 41st Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit from August 9 to 19, 2021.
Ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Eisenhower Mkaka and Information Gospel Kazako addressed the conference.
They announced that government would buy 20 new vehicles comprising 10 Very Very Important Person (VVIP) vehicles and another 10 vehicles for Very Important Person (VIP).
The ministers said out of the K4 billion, K1.2 billion would be used for operations. They did not disclose the amount for the 20 new vehicles.
Malawi News has established that government was in touch with Imperial Motors Limited to supply 10 VVIP vehicles at K1.049 billion and Toyota Malawi for the VIP vehicles at about K980 million.
Ten VVIP vehicles to be used by the coming Presidents arrived Friday through Kamuzu International Airport.
Imperial Motors Limited took some reporters to witness the arrival of the vehicles.
But the reporters were not allowed to take pictures. They were also not granted immediate interviews but were asked to submit questionnaires whose responses were promised on Monday next week.
While some quarters have been arguing that government would have spent far less if it had hired the vehicles locally, an economics commentator, suggests Malawi Government was not even supposed to be the one footing the bill.
Collen Kaluwa of the University of Livingstonia wondered why government was buying 20 new vehicles for Sadc when the summit is funded by the regional body.
He suspected this was a scheme for some government officials to loot public resources.
“This could be another hoax to defraud Malawian resources because Sadc has a secretariat which does fund such meetings,” Kaluwa said in an interview.
He further said: “This should be an avenue of siphoning out funds. The question should be what happens to the vehicles when the summit is over? Because the secretariat is not in Malawi.”
However, Mkaka justified the purchase of the vehicles in an interview with Malawi News yesterday.
He said his ministry needed to buy the vehicles for all other coming international functions and not just the current Sadc summit.
“It is important for us to have context for starters. The protocol department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which handles all international meetings is supposed to have a pool of vehicles that they can use anytime an international event is being held,” said Mkaka.
He added: “For example, [when there is] an international tourism fair, you have VVIPs coming. So the Ministry of Tourism should contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Protocol department to release vehicles for use by the VVIPs.”
Mkaka further said: “So, the vehicles that are being bought are not just focusing on the Sadc summit but they will be used at any time we have an international event.”
A quick search on the internet shows that Nissan Patrol 2021 prices range from $77,760 (about K63 million) for the basic trim level SUV Patrol Ti (4×4) to $94,115 (about K77 million) for the top of the range SUV Patrol Ti-L (4×4).
Malawi is hosting the 41st Sadc Summit under the theme: “Bolstering Productive Capacities in the Face of Covid-19 Pandemic for Inclusive, Sustainable, Economic and Industrial Transformation”.
Heads of State and Government are expected to arrive in the country on Monday next week.