Recent social media reports have portrayed FDH Financial Holdings Limited chief executive officer (CEO) THOM MPINGANJIRA and his business empire as financier of the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and anointed heir to President Peter Mutharika to be the party’s torch bearer in 2014. The accomplished mogul spoke to our News Analyst FRANK NAMANGALE in this interview to explain his side of the story. EXCERPTS:
Reports on social media are linking you to politics. Some even say you are the possible person to take over from President Peter Mutharika, what exactly is happening?
These reports are baseless and unfounded and putting my life and that of my family members at risk. There are people that indeed want to succeed the President, they can consider me as a threat and plot to eliminate me. They may think I’ll come to disturb them. But I’m saying, they should not worry, I’m not coming there, and I’m not joining politics.
I’m not interested in politics, all my life I’ve run business and I intend to run business even after my retirement. Let me make it very clear…I, Dr Thomson Mpinganjira, have never been involved in politics and I’ve no intention to do so. I’ve no ambition to join politics now or in the future.
The allegations that Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika plans to anoint me as DPP leader with a plan to make me stand as a presidential candidate in 2014 are not true and had never been discussed anywhere. But never mind, time will tell. I take comfort in the fact that truth always prevails.
QDid you ever have requests from politicians to join any particular political party?
Actually the requests keep coming, and not necessarily from politicians, but from Malawians like you and people in the governing DPP and the opposition. Just because I’ve run FDH businesses well, they believe I can clean up Malawi. I always thank them for their compliments, but I tell them sorry, I’m not available.
I tell them there are people that are gifted to do politics, and they’re plenty, I was gifted to run businesses and that is what I’m prepared to do if I’m to save 800 jobs people have in FDH Financial Holdings Limited, the mother company of First Discount House, FDH Money Bureau, FDH Advisory Services, MSP Properties Limited and FDH Bank. This company, with 800 employees, could be the source of income to over 8 000 Malawians because these employees have family members they take care of.
How damaging are these reports which you term as malicious and unfounded to the businesses you run?
The false allegations are damaging within Malawi and externally. We may have problems to deal internationally. Companies that include banks outside Malawi may not want to deal with FDH should they come across the false allegations on the social or mainstream media against me and the bank. External banks are very sensitive.
Other than exposing my life at risk, these false allegations have potential to damage the FDH business. But don’t think you’d only be damaging my reputation and that of the FDH Group, you would also be killing those 800 jobs of your brothers and sisters; you’d also be slowing down Malawi’s economy, because as a group of companies, we pay billions of kwachas to the Malawi Revenue Authority [MRA]. It is these taxes that are used to run hospitals, schools and many other social services.
You accused Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and its leaders Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence of issuing what you called reckless and malicious statements against you and the bank, but you later on withdrew an injunction which was obtained to restrain them making such remarks, why the change of heart?
First, let me make one point clear, the injunction that was obtained was not meant to stop HRDC from organising demonstrations or demonstrating. As things were at that time, our lawyers advised us that the best was to get the injunction. This injunction was later withdrawn after meetings between the bank’s representatives and the activists.
Actually, following the discussions, it was not proper to sustain the injunction as most issues were amicably resolved and it helped to slow down some of the negative planned moves. Of course, regrettably, our offices in Umoyo House here in Blantyre had window panes stoned and damaged during the demonstrations organised by the HRDC.
Moving forward, any future plans for FDH Financial Holding Group?
Oh! Yes, let me take this advantage to make this very important announcement that the FDH Group plans to list its FDH Bank on Malawi Stock Exchange by June 30 2020 and we urge Malawians to start saving in readiness for this great investment opportunity.
There was an agreement in our contract between FDH and the Malawi Government in the sale of State-owned Malawi Savings Bank [MSB] that within three years after we bought MSB, the bank must be listed on the MSE. This plan was supposed to be executed by 2018, but it delayed because we had to clean up non-performing loans amounting to K40 billion. Initially we thought it could be K16 billion to K20 billion, but we discovered it was around K40 billion.
Do you have any last word?
Yes, my appeal is to fellow Malawians. This FDH Financial Holdings Group is a local firm owned by a fellow Malawian. It offers jobs to our brothers and sisters and you have every reason to support it. All the allegations against me personally and FDH are false and unfounded, we don’t finance the governing DPP.