Banda admits graft fight an election 'risk'

2014-01-04 10:39
Malawi President Joyce Banda. (File, AFP)

Malawi President Joyce Banda. (File, AFP)

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Blantyre - Malawi's President Joyce Banda admitted on Friday she took a "political risk" in launching a major fight against corruption ahead of elections in May.

In late 2012 Banda dissolved her entire cabinet, sacking four ministers, amid allegations top government officials embezzled millions of taxpayer dollars.

"The fight against corruption must come first, winning elections comes second to me," she said at a national prayer meeting.

"I took a political risk to launch a fight against corruption five months before the elections."

Since then Banda has received death threats and her ex-justice minister has been arrested over a failed assassination attempt on a corruption-busting official.

But perhaps most damaging for Banda's hope of staying in office, foreign donors have suspended $150m in vital aid.

Banda, previously vice president, came to power in 2012 following the sudden death of president Bingu wa Mutharika.

In the 20 May vote she faces three prominent male contenders including Peter Mutharika, a brother of the late president.

Peter Mutharika was accused of trying to usurp the constitution and Banda's succession in a plot that involved keeping his brother's death secret for days by flying his body around Africa.

Banda's ruling People's Party is accused of siphoning off state funds from the national purse to bankroll the party's election campaign, a charge it denies.

Banda on Friday vowed to continue the fight against graft, floating the idea of special corruption tribunals and saying a forensic audit under way by British experts would help reveal the extent of graft.

Prosecutors say one third of the country's income is lost to fraud alone.

Later this month 18 suspects will appear in court to answer charges ranging from money laundering to theft by a public servant.

Read more on:    joyce banda  |  malawi  |  southern africa
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