Tag Archives: Malawi cashgate

Malawi – first senior government official jailed over Cashgate

BBC

Malawi’s Treza Senzani jailed over ‘Cashgate’

US dollars (file photo)

Malawi has jailed its first senior official for the so-called “Cashgate” affair – the worst financial scandal in the country’s history.

A court in Lilongwe sentenced former tourism official Treza Senzani to three years’ imprisonment with hard labour.

She pleaded guilty to stealing $150,000 (£93,000) of government money.

At least 70 people have been arrested over “Cashgate” after an audit revealed that about $30m had been skimmed from the government payment system.

Businessmen and politicians are alleged to have connived with civil servants to make payments for goods and services that were never delivered.

Western donor nations and agencies, which provide 40% of Malawi’s budget, pulled the plug on vital aid worth around $150m in reaction to the scandal.

Allegations of the massive looting of government money became public following the shooting of the finance ministry’s then budget director Paul Mphwiyo in September 2013.

Malawi – President Mutharika to seek aid outside West, from Russia and China

Mail and Guardian

Malawi to seek new aid relationships outside the West

02 Jun 2014 15:46 AFP

Newly inaugurated Malawian President Peter Mutharika has said he will seek to build relationships with countries such as Russia and China.

Peter Mutharika won the recent elections in Malawi amid controversy. (AFP)

Malawi, traditionally dependent on Western aid donors, will look for “new friends” in countries such as China and Russia, newly elected President Peter Mutharika said at his inauguration Monday.

The ceremony at a stadium in the commercial capital Blantyre was boycotted by outgoing president Joyce Banda, who was soundly beaten by Mutharika in disputed elections held on May 20.

Mutharika, who takes power in one of the world’s poorest countries, where 40% of the budget comes from aid, said the donor nations were “welcome to stay here”.

Foreign policy would be based on what is best for Malawi, he said.

“We will continue with traditional relationships, but we are now looking for new friends in emerging economies such as Brazil, China, India, South Africa and Russia.”

Britain and the United States have pledged to work with his government.

“The UK government looks forward to working with President Mutharika and his government on our shared goals of strengthening Malawi’s democracy, food security, prosperity and its positive role within the region,” Foreign Office Minister for Africa Mark Simmonds said in a weekend statement.

The US State department also “looks forward to continuing our close partnership with the government of Malawi in the advance of our mutual interests of supporting Malawi’s development.”

No official invitation
Mutharika said he regretted Banda’s absence, saying she had “declined to come here and hand over power to me.”

“I was looking forward to shaking her hand and burying the past. I have an olive branch in my hands.”

A spokesman for Banda said, “She was not officially invited and her official presidential convoy was withdrawn early hours of Saturday as soon as it was announced that Peter Mutharika had won the presidency.

“It would have been difficult for the outgoing president to travel to Blantyre.”

Mutharika takes over despite facing treason charges for attempting to conceal the death in office two years ago of his brother, Bingu wa Mutharika, in an alleged bid to prevent Banda – then vice-president – from assuming power.

“It’s been a long journey,” Mutharika said of his ascent to power. “We didn’t know we would reach this far and be here today.”

“I have been imprisoned and tried on flimsy charges of treason,” he said.“I have been teargassed three times. But that’s all in the past.”

He said he had no intention of “vengeance”.

The treason charges against Mutharika are likely to be dropped as Malawian presidents have immunity from prosecution while in office.

‘Cashgate’
But there has been speculation that Mutharika might now try turn the tables on Banda and have her charged with corruption over a $30-million graft scandal dubbed “Cashgate”.

Banda has claimed the credit for uncovering the fraud, which saw aid money syphoned into top government officials’ pockets. But critics, including Mutharika, suggest the funds went into her party’s election war-chest.

“Those who have broken laws of this country will meet the full course of justice,” he warned in his speech.

Banda had alleged anomalies in the election and sought to have the vote nullified.

Legal attempts to force a recount failed and the electoral commission declared Mutharika winner with 36.4% of the votes cast against Banda’s 20.2%.

Banda on Saturday congratulated Mutharika on his victory.

Mutharika, wearing a black suit with a white shirt and blue tie, entered the stadium in a Landrover, waving a blue hat to a cheering crowd. – AFP M&G

Malawi – as election results awaited government minister shoots himself

BBC

Malawi’s Godfrey Kamanya kills himself as results awaited

Hundreds of residents from the Ndirande township queue to vote on 21 May 2014, in Blantyre, Malawi Preliminary results will only be announced after 30% of votes have been counted

A Malawian minister has killed himself, police say, as results are still awaited from Tuesday’s general elections.

Outgoing deputy Local Government Minister Godfrey Kamanya shot himself in his home, according to police.

His spokesman denied reports that his suicide was linked to him apparently losing his parliamentary seat.

Official results have not yet been declared in what was expected to be a tight presidential race.

The BBC’s Raphael Tenthani in Malawi says the electronic counting system has broken down in some areas and votes are being collated manually in these places.

Buckets used

Mr Kamanya left a suicide note at his home in the capital, Lilongwe, asking President Joyce Banda to take care of his daughter and provide for her education, our reporter says.

A Malawian woman casts her ballot as voting procedures resume on 21 May 2014 in Blantyre, Malawi This was the fifth poll since one-party rule ended in 1994
Malawian Electoral Commission workers count voted ballots on 20 May 2014 in Blantyre, Malawi Counting is being done manually because the electronic system has broken down
A Malawian Electoral Commission officer checks the stub of the used ballot papers on 20 May  2014 in Blantyre, Malawi In some places, there was no electricity and lamps, causing delays

Eleven candidates ran against Mrs Banda, but her main challenger is seen as Peter Mutharika, the brother of former President Bingu wa Mutharika.

The Malawi Election Commission (MEC) will announce results when 30% of votes have been counted, its chairman Maxon Mbendera said on Wednesday.

The MEC was “not anywhere in the neighbourhood” of that figure, he added.

Counting was being done manually because the electronic system was “refusing to take the information from the ground where our data clerks are stationed to send the results,” chief elections officer Willie Kalonga told the AFP news agency.

Voting spilled into a second day at 13 voting stations, and thousands queued to cast their ballot.

In some places, voting boxes or lids did not arrive, so officials used buckets and plastic wrap, correspondents say.

In their preliminary assessment of the election, Commonwealth observers said it had been “peaceful, orderly and transparent”, although there had been “serious shortcomings” in the distribution of election material and “isolated incidents of violence” because of the delays.

Around 7.5 million people were eligible to vote in the fifth elections since the end of one-party rule 20 years ago. BBC

Mail and Guardian

Malawi elections: Soldiers quell voter unrest after delays

Malawi’s military has backed up police following reports of voting materials set alight and roads being blocked by angry voters.

People flee after angry voters torched down a voting station in the Chiwembe district on May 20 in Blantyre. (AFP)

Soldiers deployed in Malawi’s commercial capital Blantyre on Tuesday after voters, angered by delays and mishaps at polling stations in a hotly contested presidential election, torched voting materials and blocked roads.

Incumbent President Joyce Banda, southern Africa’s first female head of state, faces 11 challengers, some of whom had already cried foul in the election run-up, saying they had unearthed plots to skew the ballot.

Foreign diplomats say they have seen no credible evidence of vote-rigging, but delays and other difficulties are likely to fuel urban distrust of Banda and her government after a recent $15-million corruption scandal.

“There’s no ink. We’re still waiting for the consignment,” one election official told a frustrated crowd waiting for hours to vote at a Blantyre school.

At another polling station in Blantyre, an angry crowd torched election materials when they arrived hours late and in other constituencies they blocked roads with rocks before the military arrived to back up police.

Banda: Keep calm
In the absence of reliable opinion polls, most analysts rank People’s Party leader Banda as favourite because of her popularity in rural areas where she has been rolling out development projects and farm subsidies.

After casting her ballot in the southern village of Malemia, Banda urged all sides to keep calm.

“I’m thankful that the campaign period was peaceful and am urging all Malawians to vote peacefully today without any incident or loss of life,” she told reporters.

Banda came to power in the landlocked, impoverished nation two years ago after her predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika, died in office.

She initially enjoyed huge goodwill from the many who hated Mutharika’s autocratic style, and won the backing of foreign donors and the International Monetary Fund when she pushed through austerity measures, including a sharp devaluation of the kwacha, to stabilise the farming-dependent economy.

Cashgate
But more recently her administration’s reputation has been hit by a $15-million graft scandal, dubbed Cashgate after the discovery of large amounts of money in the car of a senior government official.

More than 80 people have been arrested and a former Cabinet minister has been dismissed and put on trial for money laundering and attempted murder.

But urban voters have criticised Banda’s response as ponderous and relations with donors have soured.

Banda’s main challenger is Lazarus Chakwera, an evangelical pastor who retired from the church last year to lead the Malawi Congress Party, the rejuvenated party of the late Hastings Banda, who ran the former British colony with an iron fist in its first three decades of independence.

Mutharika’s younger brother Peter is also running as the head of the Democratic Progressive Party. Another prominent contender is Atupele Muluzi, son of former president Bakili Muluzi, who took over from Hastings Banda in 1994. – Reuters  M&G

Malawi – former Justice Minister arrested over cash scandal

allAfrica

Cape Town — Former Malawian Justice Minister Raphael Kasambara and a senior civil servant were arrested on money-laundering charges on Monday, report the country’s newspapers.

The Maravi Post said a senior official in the Cabinet and president’s office, Joster Njanji, was also held following a probe into “how millions of dollars were allegedly looted in government in dubious deals.”

The Nyasa Times said five police vehicles arrived at Kasambara’s home at 5.30 am and towed away a car allegedly used in the shooting last September of a former government budget director, Paul Mphwiyo. Kasambara was previously arrested on charges arising from the shooting.

The Times said Kasambara at first refused to admit police to his home but was eventually arrested and taken first to police headquarters, then to a police station.

The Times also reported that Justice Minister Fahad Assani on Sunday told a radio station that there was “overwhelming” evidence implicating Kasamabara in the budget director’s shooting.

The Nation newspaper reported the former minister dismissed his arrest, saying, “It’s a joke of a charge.”

Related story: Banda Battles With Graft  http://allafrica.com/stories/201401272061.html

Donors block $150m in aid over Malawi cashgate scandal

Mail and Guardian

Malawi in middle of $100m ‘cashgate’ scandal

Foreign donors have suspended £150-million of aid until a scandal allegedly involving civil servants, MPs and businesspeople is cleared up.

Malawi's president Joyce Banda, who is allegedly part of the scandal. (AFP)                    
Malawi’s president Joyce Banda, who is allegedly part of the scandal. (AFP)

                                   

Malawi is bracing for the mass trial of 100 civil servants, politicians and businesspeople involved in the alleged looting of more than $100-million from government coffers, a case that has become a litmus test for foreign donors backing the government of Joyce Banda.

The “cashgate” trial is scheduled to start on Wednesday under pressure from donors who bankroll 40% of the government’s budget and who have said they will withhold some aid until it is clear that it is not being misused.

“We are under extreme pressure” to prosecute the cases, says Bruno Kalemba, the director of public prosecutions.

“There are lots of files on my desk that need to be dealt with. There are warrants of arrest and a lot of follow-ups. This has become an emotional issue.”

The pressure for swift action has come from donors, who have suspended pledged aid worth $150-million until Banda, who came to power in 2012 following the sudden death of president Bingu wa Mutharika, “cleans up the mess” of corruption and speedily prosecutes all suspects.

“We will not be able to resume support through government systems until we have a clear assurance, independently verified, that our resources are all being used for their intended purpose,” said Sarah Sanyahumbi, a British diplomat who heads the donor grouping, which includes European countries, the European Union and the World Bank.

Budget Britain has withheld £17-million of budget funds.

The British high commissioner to Malawi, Michael Nevin, says withholding of the aid “is not about punishing Malawi … we want government to put its house in order by implementing systems that will not allow pilferage of public funds.”

The case comes just four months ahead of elections in Malawi.

Some political pundits are hoping that among the suspects some will be bold enough to link the president to the public looting.

Speculation about her involvement has been rife here since the scandal was revealed following the shooting of budget director Paul Mphwiyo in September.

Mphwiyo is reported to have been on the verge of exposing a corruption ring when unknown gunmen shot him outside his home on September 3.

He survived the shooting and went for specialised treatment in South Africa.

Mphwiyo will be the number one state witness during the trials.

Billy Banda, director of rights group Malawi Watch, said: “What Malawians can conclude is that the president’s hands are not clean in this issue … somewhere and somehow the president’s hands are there in this scandal.”

Banda said Malawians would be interested to know how much the president knew about the looting, which her government has blamed on loopholes in the payment system. “There are so many questions that need to be answered.”

Evidence A Catholic rights group has accused Banda of being “part and parcel” of the fraud scandal.

Peter Chinoko, an outspoken head of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in the Lilongwe archdiocese, said: “We have concrete evidence about the president’s involvement and being part and parcel of the scandal.”

Chinoko said the looting was aimed sponsoring the campaign of Banda’s ruling People’s Party, which was only formed a year ago with no national grassroots support, ahead of May 20 local, national and presidential elections.

Information Minister Brown Mpinganjira, a key backer of Banda’s policies, has dismissed the claims by Chinoko, saying this was a “plan to blackmail the president so that she stops the investigations currently under way”.

“The president is being threatened to embarrass and frustrate her efforts to fight corruption,” Mpinganjira, a veteran politician said.

“This is a well planned and calculated strategy by those that are trying to run away from the full force of the law to try and smear as many individuals as possible.”

Joyce Banda has said she took a “political risk to launch a fight against corruption five months before the elections”.

She says the fight against corruption “must come first, winning elections comes second to me”.

Lutepo One prominent figure on trial is businessperson Oswald Lutepo, a senior official in Banda’s party, who is accused of theft and money laundering and is alleged to have pocketed more than $6-million from government coffers through ghost companies which did not provide any services to the state.

Lutepo is said to have donated 22 vehicles to Banda’s party and paid a record bail bond of $100 000.

Malawians will also follow with keen interest the evidence in court of former justice minister Ralph Kasambara, who has been charged with attempted murder of Mphwiyo although police have yet to establish the link between the shooting incident and the scandal.

The president has publicly claimed that Mphwiyo’s shooting was “a planned and targeted attack aimed at silencing him and the government in the fight against high levels of corruption and fraud”.

She has often insisted Mphwiyo will give the correct version of events leading to his shooting.

She has conceded that corruption is deeply entrenched in Malawi, but insists that it predates her tenure by years.

Nonetheless, the case represents a threat to her hopes of winning the presidency in May.

Billy Mayaya, director of the National League for Democracy and Development, told the Guardian the scandal means her chances of winning are “very slim”.

She said: “Malawians are angry at the massive looting of government resources and want answers as who is really behind this rot.” –​ guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2014  M&G

Malawi – donors holding back aid over cashgate scandal

VoA/allAfrica

Malawi: Donors Withhold Aid Over Cashgate Scandal

By Lameck Masina,

Photo:   IRIN               

Children at a school feeding project (file photo).    

Blantyre — Several donor nations are withholding aid to Malawi in reaction to a growing scandal over government graft known as Cashgate. The latest to announce the delay of funding are donors under the Common Approach to Budget Support (CABS) who are meeting in the capital, Lilongwe. Government authorities say this is likely to pose economic problems in a country where 40 percent of its national budget comes from donor aid.

Announcing the move during its first review meeting of the 2013-2014 budget on Thursday, the funding group said it has decided to delay its aid to Malawi after its loss of confidence in the government’s financial system. The so-called Cashgate scandal has thus far resulted in the looting of more than $250 million from government coffers.

Sarah Sanyahumbi is co-chair of the CABS group and head of Department for International Development (DFID) in Malawi.

“It is clear from what we already know, even though investigations are ongoing, that there are serious weaknesses in the government’s financial systems which allowed [what] we call Cashgate to actually happen. So we have seen serious weaknesses which have enabled people to take money out of the government system. While that is the case, you know the donors cannot responsibly continue to put money into government systems. So at the moment, while the investigations are going on, we have delayed any funding which was planned to go into the government system,” said Sanyahumbi.

The decision comes a few days after the European Union and DFID withheld their funding to Malawi until authorities come to the root of the financial looting. Norway has completely suspended its funding to Malawi because of the problem.

Sanyahumbi, however, believes not all is lost.

“[But] that doesn’t mean that all development support to Malawi has stopped. It’s budget support and sector budget support [that has been affected]. So all other programs or projects like in health, education, food security, etc. etc. are still ongoing,” she said.

But Finance Minister Maxwell Mkwezalamba pleaded for mercy from donors, saying the suspension of budget support for Malawi spells doom for the country.

“We are concerned with the decision to delay this disbursement. The impact on the economy on Malawi people will not be good. When you look at what we were expecting for this quarter alone, we were looking at $150 million, and if it doesn’t come, which is likely to [because of] the case, this means we have to have another look at our budget framework,” said Mkwezalamba.

He assured donors that the government has an action plan that will help get to the root of the issue and bring to justice the culprits in the looting.

But Sanyahumbi said there is no turning back because the “line” already has been crossed.

“Really, we expect significant commitment to action to be taken. We are talking about an extraordinary path. This is not business as usual. As far as we are concerned, the line has been crossed, so once the line has been crossed you cannot go back to what you had before,” she said.

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) team is in the country on a make-or-break mission to gather information on the Cashgate scandal.

Its weeklong fact-finding efforts will determine Malawi’s fate on whether the IMF will further disburse its $20 million under the Extended Credit Facility.  all Africa