Government says it has combed all State residences in the country and has found no personal wares which immediate past president Joyce Banda is said to have left behind.
Instead, according to Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture Kondwani Nankhumwa, some property, including chairs with the presidential emblem, plates and medical equipment, have been discovered missing at the Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe.
Speaking in an interview yesterday, Nankhumwa said while the investigation to find the former president’s property has been closed, a probe to find out who took the State House property has been opened.
He said: “I wish to confirm that government has, since the time the issue of the property of the former president being forgotten at State House came up, been looking for it. But we have not found anything.”
Banda, through her director of household, Cecilia Kumpukwe, wrote the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) a couple of months ago, asking for permission to retrieve wares she had forgotten when leaving State House after her loss in the May 20 Tripartite Elections.
According to Kumpukwe, the property included a container-load of medical equipment and supplies.
Banda, in the letter, said she could not have collected all her personal effects because she was forced to leave the presidential palace in a hurry.
Recently, it was reported that the OPC was yet to respond to Banda’s request regarding her alleged property.
However, Nankhumwa said government did not see any need to allow the former president or her officials permission to access the State residences because property as described in the request had not been found.
Said Nankhumwa: “For refusing to grant them permission to access State House, we do not want to be seen as if we are trying to cling to personal property of anybody. But surely, just what would be the meaning of getting people into State residences to be searching for things as if it were a wild goose chase? And where on earth has such a thing ever happened?”
He dismissed the notion that the former head of State may have forgotten to remove all her property because she left the premises in a hurry.
“To say she was forced to leave State House in a hurry is not just a careless use of words, but a very unfortunate innuendo against the current administration,” said Nankhumwa. “Every honest person knows that President Peter Mutharika, after being sworn in, operated from his house in Nyambadwe [Blantyre] before he moved to Mtunthama State Residence where he stayed for days. What kind of time did the former president want?”
The minister claimed that so far an audit of the State House inventory has discovered that some of the official property is missing and an investigation has been opened on all possible clues.
“We are not concerned about the said forgotten property of the former head of State because there is none. We are instead bothered by the State property which we have discovered is missing,” claimed Nankhumwa.
He declined to name the possible suspects, saying doing so would undermine the investigations.
“I am not making a claim against anybody. I am only saying that as we looked for the property the former president is said to have forgotten, we have discovered that State House property, among them chairs, medical equipment and plates are missing. The investigation is meant to find out how these items went missing,” he said.
Banda rose to the presidency on April 7 2012 in line with constitutional order after the death of former president Bingu wa Mutharika. Hitherto, Banda was Bingu’s estranged vice-president and her rise created tension between her and the then ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leaders who were ousted from power as she had formed her own People’s Party (PP) after being expelled from DPP in December 2010.