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Who is Vincent Banda in this government?

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On August 3 2011, the Ma­lawi Government issued a passport to a Rwandan, Vincent Murekezi, in the name of Vincent Banda. Murekezi is alleged to be a fugitive who took part in the infamous 1994 massacre of close to two million Rwandans.

Then last December, the same government issued another passport to a Nigerian in the name of Vincent Banda. The puzzle is that when doling out the passports to foreigners, the government uses the name of Vincent Banda. More puzzling is the fact that both these incidents took place during the watch of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration.

Malawians lived in bliss until Thursday when Mzimba West lawmaker, Harry Mkandawire, revealed in Parliament that 250 blank Malawian passports grew legs and walked away into the woods on December 29 2016.

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Now, when Mkandawire speaks, one must be slow to dismiss him. Mkandawire might be a Member of Parliament but his brain is wired in the direction of the KGB which should make Elvis Thodi and his team of intelligence officers shift in their seats.

Mkandawire, Kamlepo, Chimwendo Banda, Maxwell Thyolera, Juliana Lunguzi are among very few MPs that deserve everyone’s ear when they take to the floor. The others are Alekeni Menyani, Ralph Jooma, Frank Mwenifumbo, Uladi Mussa and of course the government’s thorn in the flesh: Lazarus Chakwera. These are the MPs who even speak for the muted voices in the Cabinet.

The bulk of the membership of our Parliament is just mere journeymen who can give a daily paper editor tough time to identify them. They only become active during tea breaks and make catcalls in discussions to raise their perks.

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That said, the controversial Harry Mkandawire brought evidence that a Nigerian by the name of Vincent Banda of Malawi was caught in a security maze in South Africa. Mkandawire wanted Home Affairs Minister Grace Chiumia to explain the issue. But the jolly-young Chiumia retorted that she had dossiers of underhand dealings by some MPs and that she could reveal them.

Such kind of responses would separate paid up party cadets from statesmen. One would expect the Minister to acknowledge the problem and assure the House that her ministry was on top of the heap and that culprits in the Immigration Department would be brought to book.

However, Chiumia after being pressed promised to make a ministerial statement on the issue. That was a good tactic to avoid further embarrassment. It would also give her enough time to see how to blame the opposition for stealing the passports for distribution to Nigerians and members of the Isis movement in order to sabotage President Peter Mutharika’s administration.

Chiumia can also have room to seek the services of DPP Secretary General, Greselder Jeffrey, a political loose cannon who can ably remind Mkandawire that “Northerners” missed an opportunity to rule Malawi during the time of Aford founding leader, Chakufwa Chihana, and they should wait to rule in the next life.

But to ordinary citizens, this is a serious issue that demands a serious and sober response from the government.

All along, our passport was well respected world over. But now, even our former colonial masters— the British— do not respect the document that they handed over to us upon independence. Malawians struggle to get a UK Visa. Our citizens have missed golden opportunities to go to Europe to do trade, study or get medical attention just because we have all become suspects.

Just a few weeks ago, a junior immigration officer was arrested in Lilongwe for issuing a passport to some Pakistanis. But this is just a clerk who might have acted as an intermediary. Why are his bosses not being rounded-up?

The hope is that Chiumia’s statement will give Malawians something tangible beyond political rhetoric. Malawians want to know who is creating Vincent Banda and how many files Banda has. They are also interested to find out if Vincent Banda’s name does not appear on the list of Fisp suppliers or as a contractor in some government project.

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