New Malawi president vows crackdown

2014-06-18 06:40
Malawi's new president, Democratic Progressive Party leader Peter Mutharika. (Amos Gumulira, AFP)

Malawi's new president, Democratic Progressive Party leader Peter Mutharika. (Amos Gumulira, AFP)

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Lilongwe - Malawi's new President Peter Mutharika on Tuesday vowed to crack down on corruption after a multi-million-dollar graft scandal rocked his predecessor's administration and led donors to suspend $150m in aid.

An audit ordered by former president Joyce Banda found that $30m in state funds had been looted by officials in less than six months last year.

The so-called Cashgate theft is the biggest financial scandal in the history of the small southern African country, which depends heavily on foreign aid.

Mutharika promised to unveil the "truth" around Cashgate.

"There will be no sacred cows ... indeed, there will be no untouchables," he said in his maiden state-of-the-nation address in parliament.

Although Banda claimed credit for uncovering the fraud, there has been speculation that Mutharika might pursue corruption charges against her over Cashgate.

Mutharika, who was elected in disputed elections last month, pledged that his government would maintain "zero tolerance to corruption, fraud, theft and any other economic crime."

"Corruption is an evil as it deprives the people of Malawi, particularly the poor, of their legitimate right to economic prosperity," he said.

Half of Malawi's 15 million people live below the poverty threshold.

Mutharika said his government had drawn up "stringent measures aimed at preventing a recurrence" of Cashgate by strengthening public finance management systems.

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He said graft and fraud "also scares away potential investors."

The 74-year-old president, who is a brother of former president Bingu wa Mutharika, said he would pursue policies that had been adopted by his sibling before his death two years ago.

"We will continue from where we left in 2012 to fight poverty, under-development and economic and social injustices that are still prevalent in our society," he said.

Under Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi severed diplomatic ties with the former colonial power Britain while the International Monetary Fund suspended loans to the poverty-stricken nation amid concerns over governance issues.

On international relations, the new president said his administration would actively engage donors towards mutual goals that included embracing home-grown policies and doing away with one-size-fits-all approaches.

"We will pursue people-centred international relations that will translate into Malawi's ability to meaningfully participate in international trade," he said.

Read more on:    peter mutharika  |  malawi  |  southern africa
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