Malawi’s Banda calls in Zimbabwe’s $24m debt

2012-10-13 11:04

Malawian President Joyce Banda this week pushed President Robert Mugabe to pay a debt that Zimbabwe undertook during the term of previous president Bingu wa Mutharika, who is now deceased.

Mugabe had unlimited access to Blantyre when Mutharika was alive and received maize worth $24 million (R207 million at the current exchange rate) on loan at a time when Zimbabwe was facing acute food shortages, which are still being experienced to date.

The maize from Malawi was used by Zanu-PF in its election campaign.

Mugabe borrowed from Malawi in 2007 and Mutharika did not press his friend for payment.

However, when Mutharika passed away in April this year, Banda was sworn into power and she sent a delegation to Harare to enquire about the debt and how Zimbabwe intended to pay up.

But since Zimbabwe has its own financial woes with a massive debt overhang, failure to fund its Constitution-making process and by-elections, the country opted to pay Malawi in a barter trade system through fuel.

This week Malawi’s National Oil Company chief executive, Robert Mdeza, confirmed to the Malawian press they had started receiving fuel from Zimbabwe to settle the $24 million debt.

“All the 17 tankers are already in the country and the rest will come in next week,” he said.

The stance taken by Banda in the region is the opposite of Mutharika’s and analysts say the Zimbabwean president lost an ally he will never regain in Malawi.

“Banda is doing the opposite of Mutharika’s foreign policy. Malawi had been hard-pressed by economic sanctions and there was no aid coming its way because Mutharika behaved like Mugabe.

“Now things are moving for Malawi and Mugabe is a bad customer,” said Professor John Makumbe from the University of Zimbabwe political science department.

President Banda said she would overturn Malawi’s ban on homosexuality, making it the first country to do so since 1994.

With Malawi closer to Zimbabwe and sharing language and culture, this would upset Mugabe, who calls gays “worse than pigs and dogs”.

“Anyone who supports gay rights is Mugabe’s sworn enemy,” said Dumisani Nkomo, a social commentator.

This week the Malawian Voice revealed that Zimbabwean businessman Strive Masiyiwa, who is believed to be close to Mugabe’s nemesis, Morgan Tsvangirai, is bankrolling Banda’s People’s Party.

This indirectly links Banda to the MDC in Zimbabwe.

Without Malawi on his side, Mugabe has only Zambian leader Michael Sata to look up to as ally.


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