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HER EXCELLENCY DR. JOYCE BANDA’S NEW YEAR MESSAGE  

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My Fellow Malawians,

Today is ‘New Year’s Day’, 2017. I wish to take this opportunity to thank God the Almighty for the gift of life and the year that has just gone by. The Holy Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus”. As a nation, we continue to enjoy peace and tranquility despite facing extremely difficult socio-economic situations.

As it has been my tradition, I, once again, wish all Malawians a Happy and Prosperous New Year, 2017. My humble prayer to our Loving God is to grant us His guiding presence as we strive to deal with the current deepening social and economic problems, especially the desperate food situation. Today, many Malawians don’t know where their next meal shall come from, or indeed if it will come at all. It is my humble prayer to God that He grants us enough rainfall this season so that the nation can harvest enough for food.

My Fellow Malawians,

As we enter the New Year, we do so with hope for a better future. But we can only do that if we take stock of the past year, and the years before that, and based on that, make new resolutions for that better future.

As former President, I have kept a close eye on the plight of my fellow Malawians. I regret to note that the past year has been the worst in the history of our independence. Malawi has deteriorated from a star performing economy in 2013, to the poorest country in the world in 2016, according to latest ratings by international institutions. Unfortunately for us, there seems to be no end in sight to the status quo as the country continues to plunge, uncontrollably, into economic turmoil.

The economy has hit all time low. Inflation is currently at around 20 percent and getting higher, which has resulted in the prices of essential commodities to rise every day. Foreign exchange reserves are depleted, which has resulted in very high foreign exchange rates. When I left office in 2014, the exchange rate was around K400 to the US Dollar. It is currently hovering around K730 to the US Dollar.

Government has miserably failed to deliver critical services to the population, especially in the following areas:

  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Food and nutrition
  • Health
  • Basic and secondary education
  • Tertiary education
  • Improved shelter and housing
  • Roads and transport
  • Public infrastructure
  • Safety and security
  • Employment

 

My Fellow Malawians,

I am personally optimistic that we can do better as a nation in the future. It is practically possible to turn around the current situation. I therefore wish to encourage all Malawians, regardless of their political, religious beliefs and tribe to collectively recommit ourselves to unite and work hard for a better future. We have done it together before and we can do it again.

Indeed, we hold our collective destiny in our own hands and we have the capability to change the current unfortunate situation in our history. Our late President Professor Bingu wa Mutharika always reminded us that Malawi is not a poor country but it is us, the people, who are poor. We need a change of mindset and embrace positive attitudes towards our situation.

 

My Fellow Malawians,

I am optimistic about the future I have personally experienced it when I was President between 2012 and 2014. When I was sworn-in as president in April 2012, Malawi was in an almost similar state as it is today. But within two years, we were able to turn around Malawi’s economic fortunes for the better.

 

This was possible because I was blessed with a dedicated team at political, cabinet and the civil service levels, which implemented our corrective plans with utmost professionalism. I must also acknowledge in a very special way the valuable support that I received from all political parties, the civil society and the international community.

 

My government introduced corrective reforms that were aimed at taking the nation into the right socio-economic development direction.  In two years, my government implemented a well-thought through Economic Recovery Plan (ERP).  The economy grew from 1.8 percent to 6.3 percent and we improved the status quo from no fuel for a day to 15 days’ fuel supply.

 

As a nation, we experienced tremendous strides in the following specific areas, among others:

 

  • Micro and macro economy
  • Governance, rule of law and human rights
  • Press freedom
  • Food security
  • Women’s empowerment
  • Rural development and international relations
  • Manufacturing industry
  • Tobacco production and favorable prices
  • Safety and security
  • Abundant water and electricity supply

 

My Fellow Malawians,

 

As a country, we moved from one week’s import cover to 3.9 months; water projects were implemented across the country and we launched a massive rural electrification project. During the two years, we electrified 27 Rural Centres.

 

We implemented a ‘targeted’ agriculture subsidy program where only proven vulnerable farmers were offered free farm inputs and seeds. We also introduced a special loan scheme for agricultural inputs called the Farm Input Loan Program (FILM). This was a public private partnership programme where the private sector offered loan facilities for inputs to deserving and qualifying farmers.

 

To address low agricultural production, my government also promoted two crops a year through expanded irrigation. All these programmes significantly contributed to scaling up production of maize and other crops, and enhanced the country’s food security, household incomes and export earnings.

 

My government distributed free maize to the poorest families and built hundreds of houses for the poor under the rural housing project. Maize was available in every ADMARC market throughout the year, which brought down the price of maize to K5, 000 unlike today when a 50kg bag is being sold at K12, 500, which is beyond the reach of an ordinary Malawian household.  There was no lean period throughout my period

 

My government also initiated social projects such as public works, a-cow-a-family, cash transfer and maternal and safe motherhood programme. We were able to reduce maternal mortality statistics from 675 women dying giving birth to 460 women per 100,000. In 24 months, my government had built 20 holding shelters for pregnant women at various hospitals across the country.

 

It was during my tenure in office that as a nation we took a crucial step away from the authoritarianism of the past towards the path of constitutionalism and democracy with the repeal by Parliament of the repressive Section 46 of the Penal Code, which empowered the Minister of Information to ban any publication that was deemed “not in public interest”.

 

My government ensured that the media in Malawi operates in a freer environment than before. As a result, Malawi moved from 145 to 79 position on the Global Press Index.  We also ensured that people enjoyed the right to freedom of speech, realizing it is only when people freely express themselves without being gagged that rapid social and economic development takes place.

 

My Fellow Malawians,

 

Our fight against corruption, fraud and abuse of public resources was also a huge success and it is my hope that we set a precedence for future governments. I was personally committed to fighting corruption because I am aware that economies that are afflicted by a high level of corruption do not prosper.

 

My Fellow Malawians,

 

In September 2013, the European Head of Delegation, Ambassador Alexander Baum, alerted me about his suspicions that the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) had serious loopholes, which some public officers were taking advantage of to steal government money.

I therefore announced at ECAMA Annual Conference in Mangochi on September 7, 2013 that my government would review IFMIS in order to ensure its integrity and to prevent any loss of Malawian taxpayers’ money through fraud. I also publicly made it clear that anyone involved in stealing public funds would be arrested and that I would not shield anyone.

 

The following are some of the measures that I took in the light of cash-gate:

 

  1. On 16th September, 2013, following the shooting of Mr. Paul Mphwiyo, I invited to State House Army Commander, Inspector General of Police and National Intelligence Bureau Director to alert them that I intend to go flat out in the fight against theft of public funds. On that day, I appointed Mr. Bophani, then Deputy Inspector General of Police, to lead a criminal investigation team to speed up investigations and present weekly progress reports to the nation.

 

  1. I dissolved and re-appointed cabinet, dropping two cabinet ministers to make way for investigations.

 

  1. I established a new Ministry for Good Governance and appointed Minister Chris Daza as Minister.

 

  1. I instituted a seven-member ministerial committee, which was chaired by Minister for Good Governance and whose primary mandate was draw up a comprehensive work plan for dealing with corruption and plunder of public resources and the work plan was shared with the donor community in Malawi.

 

  1. With the help of the British Government, I also initiated a forensic audit into cash-gate and engaged an internationally-renowned audit firm, Baker Tilly, to conduct that forensic audit. The Baker Tilly audit report was released on October 30, 2014 complete with names of the people involved in cash-gate. The Audit Report is a public document, which is accessible to all.
  2. I asked Finance Minister Dr. Maxwell Mkwezalamba who has relevant qualifications and experience in public finance management to give up a good job at the IMF and take up the position of minister of finance and help us strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of Finance in cleaning up the cashgate mess.

 

  1. I invited opposition party leaders, faith and civil society leaders to State House to seek their input in the fight against theft of public money and steps brief them on the steps being taken to arrest the culprits and take them to book.

 

As a result of these measures, the first 72 people were arrested and many bank accounts were frozen. Most of them have been convicted and sentenced while others are still answering charges related to cash-gate to-date.

 

Fellow Malawians,

 

On leaving office in 2014, I had expected that the current President would continue from where I left off in regard to the fight against corruption. But judging by the way matters of corruption are being handled now, I may have been too optimistic. To this day, no action has been taken on numerous fraud allegations, including the MK577 billion fraud audit report, and perhaps most disturbingly, the recent ADMARC maize and UN peacekeeping soldiers’ missing allowances scandals.

 

In all these matters, there is enough information and evidence of wrongdoing by certain individuals to provide any serious government with the impetus to investigate.

 

It is my sincere hope that President Mutharika’s government will follow in our footsteps in the fight against corruption, by instituting open and transparent investigations into the looting of government resources, especially the MK577 billion Price Waterhouse Coopers report, which has been in progress since 2014 but has swept under the carpet.

 

CONCLUSION

 

Finally, I wish to call for unity of purpose among all Malawians without regard to our political, religious and tribal differences. We are all sailing in this ship together and if it sinks, we shall all perish, as Malawians.

 

As we move forward with hope, let us learn to appreciate and acknowledge the work and achievements of previous governments and presidents during their time.

 

For instance, despite his autocratic leadership style, Dr. Kamuzu Banda was instrumental in breaking the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, which ushered in our independence in 1964. Dr. Kamuzu Banda presided over Malawi’s rapid social and economic development, including a sound road network, public infrastructure, sound education, referral hospitals and improved commercial agriculture.

 

He used to tell us that he wanted his people to have enough food, clothes and better housing.

 

During President Bakili Muluzi’s time, Malawi experienced the establishment of governance and rule of law institutions, such as the Ant-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and an independent judiciary. He must be credited for bringing about democracy and ensuring it is consolidated.

 

The late President Professor Bingu wa Mutharika went to the World Bank to fight for the introduction of the Input Subsidy Program. As a result, Malawi achieved high food security levels like never witnessed before in our country.

 

As for President Mutharika, Malawians will be the best judges regarding his performance. All I know is that international watchdogs have rated Malawi as the poorest country in the world under his watch for the first time in the history of our independence.

If we acknowledge such historical facts, we will be able to learn and adopt some of the workable solutions to our current challenges. Achievements of past leaders are case studies, which must give us hope that a better future is possible when our present leaders initiate certain policies and programmes. We will also be able to avoid certain policies and programs that may not have worked before.

 

Thank You and May God Bless Our Nation

 

Dr. Joyce Banda

FORMER PRESIDENT OF REPUBLIC OF MALAWI 

 

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3 Comments

  1. Nick Yiannakis January 1, 2017 at 7:36 pm -  Reply

    What ever Joyce Banda has to say, her history/actions needs to be in Malawi court. She is not to run in the 2019 Presidential elections. Clear your name. Cash gate, plane, Escom are just a few cases she must/will answer to. We Malawians are not fools.

  2. Vuto Chris Munthali January 2, 2017 at 4:36 am -  Reply

    Foolish! Why are u failing to arrest Chaponda and clue, the master cashgaters? Yet, they are still in ur vicinity n ur mouths r loud on somebody who u even don’t know where she is???

  3. Frank Banda January 2, 2017 at 5:47 am -  Reply

    Did I hear you calling Joyce her Excellency? …for which country?

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