'I'm back and for political rallies,' says Malawi's Joyce Banda as she returns after 4-year exile

2018-04-29 07:15
Joyce Banda (File: AFP)

Joyce Banda (File: AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Malawi's former president, Joyce Banda, returned home on Saturday after four years of self-imposed exile, despite facing the threat of arrest over corruption allegations.

Banda, 68, fled the country in 2014 when she lost power after being embroiled in the so-called Cashgate scandal, in which government officials siphoned off millions of dollars of public money.

Banda - only the second woman to lead a country in Africa - arrived at Blantyre's airport on a flight from Johannesburg around midday on Saturday, where she was greeted by hundreds of supporters of her People's Party, said an AFP journalist at the scene.

"Mother is here, the lights should come back", the crowd chanted.

No police were present as she left the plane.

"I thank God and will continue thanking God for your love and support," Banda said.

"I did not know that our party still commands such power as I have seen today: I'm back and for political rallies, we will be meeting out there in the locations," she added, without clearly spelling out her political ambitions.

Possible deal

Her spokesperson Andekunye Chanthunya had earlier said she would head straight to her home at Domasi in Zomba, about 80km away. She is due to address a political rally on Sunday.

"I am happy that she is back to her home... now we are confident that she will help us solve some of our problems," said Mercy Kambudzi, 61.

"Look at all these people, they are happy that our saviour is here," she said, referring to the crowd at the airport.

Local media have reported a possible deal between President Peter Mutharika and Banda ahead of next year's elections.

Banda founded the People's Party (PP) in 2011 after splitting from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which is led by Mutharika.

"She remains the head of the PP. The question of whether she wants to contest for the presidency or not will be answered in due course, but we may get an idea of how she is thinking," Banda's spokesperson told AFP.

Wallace Chawawa, a PP lawmaker said: "This will definitely rejuvenate the party... The vacuum has been filled."

Government coffers emptied

Police spokesperson James Kaledzera has declined to say if Banda would be arrested, though he confirmed that a warrant issued last July remained valid.

Earlier this year, the Malawi Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) said it had no solid evidence against the former president, partially clearing her name.

The "Cashgate" scandal prompted foreign donors - who provide around 40% of Malawi's budget - to pull the plug on aid worth around $150 million.

Ministers, civil servants and businessmen are accused of pocketing money from government coffers through ghost companies which did not provide any services to the state.

The biggest financial scandal in Malawi's history helped push Banda out of power in the 2014 election, and Mutharika vowed to clean up the system to bring donors back.

The graft started in 2005, and more than $30 million was looted within only six months in 2013 shortly before it was uncovered, according to an independent audit.

Malawi, one of the world's poorest and aid-dependent countries, will hold presidential, parliamentary and council elections in May 2019.

* Sign up to News24's top Africa news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO THE HELLO AFRICA NEWSLETTER

FOLLOW News24 Africa on Twitter and Facebook

Banda came to power in 2012 when Bingu wa Mutharika, the current president's brother, died in office.

She has spent much of her time abroad in the United States and her return has been postponed several times, most recently last year when the arrest warrant was issued.

Political analyst Henry Chingaipe said her influence was uncertain and she could struggle to play a major role in the elections.

"If she is coming home just to live, OK. But if she is coming to contest for the presidency, her party is in tatters," he told AFP.

"The decision to leave the country for so long eroded trust in her leadership."

The World Bank resumed aid to Malawi in May last year, providing an $80 million package and saying the country had "taken some very important reform steps".

Read more on:    joyce banda  |  malawi  |  southern africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.