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Malawi government brands ex-pres Joyce Banda fugitive

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Government has branded former President Joyce Banda as a fugitive who is allegedly staying away to avoid arrest in the Cashgate affair.

In a strongly-worded statement issued on December 31, 2015 government alleges that the former president is running away from the long arm of the law.

“JB [Joyce Banda] is clearly a fugitive who had fled from justice in Malawi. If not, we challenge her to return home immediately to face [Treza] Senzani in court, and other Cashgate suspects who have corroborated her story.

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Her People’s Party is in serious leadership crisis but she is afraid to come back home and deal with it,” reads part of government’s statement signed by Information Minister Jappie Mhango.

Senzani, former Secretary for Tourism and jailed Cashgate convict, is reported to have been quoted in a court statement as saying that Banda and her People’s Party agreed to siphon money from the ministries to fund party campaign activities.

But Banda’s office, in a statement titled ‘Response to Mrs [Treza] Senzani claims against Joyce Banda,” distanced the former president from Senzani’s accusations.

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“I wish to inform Malawians without fear of contradiction that all these attempts to tarnish my name and legacy are the works of President Peter Mutharika personally and the DPP government. It is unfortunate that as a lawyer he [Mutharika] does not realise that it is immoral to abuse his immunity from prosecution by scandalising my name. I would have wished I met him in court so he can prove my guilt to the entire world,” reads part of her statement.

Mhango also trashes the former president’s claims that the government is yet to identify a house for her.

“She has been out of the country now for more than 15 months because, [sic] she claims that there is no house suitable for an ex-President in Malawi. She has turned down ten houses, one after another from government.

She refuses government’s offer to have her family or even herself to come and identify the house of her taste. In any case, she could have been waiting in her own
houses here while the government’s search for a suitable mansion continues,” reads part of the statement.

The statement adds: “Fifteen months of living abroad is expensive. If she is not living on Cashgate money she must reveal the sources of her money. Ironically, she
instead wants His Excellency the State President to reveal the source of his declared wealth. That is laughable. She now wants to divert the public attention on her
criminal refuge abroad by blowing up baseless attacks against the State President and his government.”

The government is reacting to a JB statement issued on December 28, in which she accused President Peter Mutharika and his governing Democratic Progressive Party of
attempting to tarnish her legacy by using some people to implicate her in Cashgate— the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill, the seat of government in Lilongwe.

Banda has been abroad for almost a year now. She cites several reasons for her failure to return to Malawi.

Initially, she said she was busy delivering speeches and working on her charity, Joyce Banda Foundation.

Banda later changed her tune saying she could not return home until her security concerns were addressed.

Months later she blamed the government for failing to provide her with a secure and decent house.

“She will come back home once the government identifies her a decent house,” her publicist Andekuche Chanthunya once said.

Besides the issues of accommodation and security, Banda has also been complaining about government’s failure to pay her retirement benefits But the government faulted
her for the delay saying she had not yet filled the necessary forms for her benefits to be processed.

“Why is she always abroad and expect somebody else to complete the required formalities that need her physical presence?” Mhango was once quoted by The Daily Times as
saying.

While some claim that Banda is dodging prosecution over involvement in Cashgate, she has not yet been officially implicated and charged over the same.

Anti-Corruption Bureau last month simply indicated that it has been probing Banda for some time.

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