Government has said it has duly provided to former president Joyce Banda requirements of a retired president as stipulated by the Presidents (Salaries and Benefits) Act of 1994.
The explanation comes against the background of the former president’s claims that she is being denied her retirement benefits, including accommodation and security.
Minister of Information, Tourism and Civic Education Jappie Mhango, who is also official government spokesperson, said in a statement on Wednesday upon her retirement, Banda received a tax-free lump sum gratuity of K30 million ($49,931.4) comprising K12 million ($19,972.6) and K18 million ($29,958.9) being gratuity in her capacity as former vice-president and former president respectively.
He said: “The payment was made on 29th November, 2014 and collected on 12th January, 2015. However, she has yet to start receiving her monthly pension. As it is stands, the pension for the former President is currently being processed by the Director of Pensions at the Accountant General’s Office.”
According to Mhango, on accommodation, government through the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development asked Banda through her representatives to identify a house after nine houses which were shown to the retired chief justice Richard Banda on behalf of the former president were rejected in an identification process.
He said in the identification process, there were expression of interest to live in one of the houses, but unfortunately the owners advised that it was committed to other tenants.
The minister also said the former president’s security detail is intact as per provisions of the Presidents (Salaries and Benefits) Act of 1994; a former president is entitled to one head guard (personal bodyguard) and six security guards and government has duly complied with the requirement by providing seven police security officers to Banda.
However, Banda’s spokesperson Andekuche Chanthunya, in a telephone interview, laughed off government’s call for the former president to return home to identify a house, saying it is not up to government as to whether Banda comes or not. He said government just needs to respect the Constitution of Malawi by according her a retirement home.
He said some of the houses which government showed the office of the former president were rejected for security reasons.
“Among the houses which we were shown, others had neighbours who had upstairs houses which means they would stand on their verandas and see whatever activities were happening in the former president’s home. On the pension, we wonder why it has to take over 17 months for the former president’s pension to be processed,” said Chanthunya.
On the security detail, Chanthunya said though it is still intact as government is claiming, the police officers were disarmed and they only have one gun which they use, something which still provides gaps and she has not been provided with vehicles which are also a part of security as they necessitate her travelling.
According to the Presidents (Salaries and Benefits) Act, a former president is entitled to a tax-free monthly pension, a house or a housing allowance where a house is not provided, two motor vehicles, medical services and six security guards, among other staff and benefits.
The former president has been out of Malawi since July 2014. n