UK Guardian reported on Friday, 1 June, that Malawi’s new President, Joyce Banda, had discarded a presidential jet and luxary car fleet. This, according to the report, was seen as a break from her autocratic predecessors.
Banda came into power following the death of Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika in April this year. It is believed her decision to sell or lease the presidential jet and fleet of 60 Mercedes government cars would most likely cement domestic goodwill and confirm her as a the “darling of the west”. And it is this “darlingness” with the Western countries that irks me big time.
According to the Guardian, it is apparent that Banda took this decision – which is good by the way – after her private meeting with Andrew Mitchelle, Britain’s international development secretary on Friday.
Mitchelle reportedly said Banda’s decision “sends an enormously encouraging signal to British taxpayers and the international community about the seriousness President Banda is applying to overturn bad decisions taken under the previous government”. She suggested that the “proceeds can be used to provide basic services to Malawi’s poorest people who urgently need help following the vital devaluation of the currency”. Which is true and a noble thing to do.
Mutharika became controversial when he, in 2009, bought a presidential jet, claiming it was less expensive than leasing a plane every time he travelled. He was later condemned for buying a 58-room mansion in his home district and granting his wife a salary, according to the Guardian. His decision to expel Britain’s high commissioner for reportedly branding him “autocratic and intolerant of criticism” irked the Britons, I can imagine.
During a four-day visit to Malawi, Mitchell confirmed that the Bank of England will work directly with the Reserve Bank of Malawi to help it cope with the impact of slashing the value of the local currency, the kwacha, by one third earlier this month on the advice of the IMF. Last month, according to the Guardian, Britain had pledged £23m to help stabilise Malawi’s economy and with £10m for its health system.
Of course I have nothing against the Britons. Or Banda even. However, I would definately have a problem if Banda was pressurised into selling the jet and cars by Britain because is it reportedly its biggest donors.
That decision should not be made under any pressure nor should such an undertaking be made under duress or taken only to appease the fears (whatever they are) of the West just because they are Malawi’s biggest donars. No, it should not be like that.
Banda – if she knows what’s good for her and her country – should make such an undertaking in the best interests of Malawians and not some ‘biggest’ Western donars’ interests. It does not help us Africans claiming democracy and independence yet succumbing to western pressure.
If she knows what is good for her people and her country, Banda should have made that decision because she – and she alone and her government and not some donors – realised that she does not and would not need the jet and the cars more than Mutharika ever did.
Despite being praised for this decision – which I am a bit skeptical of especially if it was not made in the interests of Malawians but of some donors – I cannot help feeling that something is at play here. Or maybe I am over reacting? Well, I hope not.
That Banda reportedly said earlier that her cabinet would discuss the jet’s future, that she had no problem “offloading it as I can well use private airliners” and that [she was] already used to hitchhiking” should probably easy my suspicions over her “darlingness” with the western countries, especially that Britain is her country’s major donor. If that is the case, then there’s no need for me to worry.
It is probably our South African government’s tendency of luxurious lifestyle and their outgrowing the “hitchhiking” which they endured before their deployments – especially since President Jacob Zuma took over – that should probably give me sleepless nights and not Malawi’s.
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