Coming from an office that does not know the difference between public relations and lies that would even turn Hitler’s propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels, green with envy in his grave, it is difficult to believe the State House Press Office when it says President Joyce Banda never asked for a lift from her Botswana counterpart Ian Khama on his jet to the US.
Botswana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Phandu Skelemani, while politely declining that our President was given the cold shoulder, insisted the arrangement was not even possible because Khama has decided to stay home and do something better than travel to the US for a picture with Barack Obama.
But the State House has put ice on all this, declaring that no such request was made and that the President is being funded by the US Government to undertake the trip. This is no brainer and should not astound anybody because it is embarrassing to be snubbed when you are told in the face that something you thought is important as travelling to the US to meet Obama for a White House photo is not deemed as such by some people who think there are better things to do.
But I wish Steven Nhlane was also asked why Malawians should believe him this time and not the reports in Botswana when his office has churned out one lie after the other to the public in an attempt to explain away the President’s huge appetite for foreign travel at a time the country’s economy cannot generate enough forex and her government is preaching frugality and asking the populace to tighten their belts before things get better.
The President and her press team are aware of the fact that her travels are a constant prick in the sides of an increasingly hostile public and so they have invented some clever ploy to defray this and it is to come with a new tagline: It has been sponsored.
But Weekend Nation told the nation that this was a pure lie when it exposed the huge amount of forex that the President and her entourage carted away to Equatorial Guinea last month despite the State House telling the nation without shame that the trip was sponsored by that country’s president.
Today, the same line is repeated that the US government has sponsored the President’s trip, but I wish we were told how far this sponsorship has gone? It is not a secret that the President travels with a huge entourage for reasons best known to those who plan her trips.
Chiefs and others whose role on presidential trips is difficult to fathom but collect huge sums of taxpayers money in allowances have ever travelled with the President. The question, once again, that Nhlane should have been asked is who in the entourage are the Americans funding? Can he tell us with a straight face that no single tambala will leave Malawi Treasury on this trip?
And is it mandatory that the President should honour each and every invitation that she receives from any part of the world? Does she think it is correct to travel outside the country every month? When does she stay in the office as Malawi’s CEO to make sure that plans are being executed for the betterment of the nation?
I wish one day somebody does an audit of presidential travels in our country and tells us, how much of taxpayers money is spent on such jolly rides, say, per year and what value they add to our lives in return.
To justify the K34 million that the President spent on the trip to Equatorial Guinea, for example, she told the nation that we would be exporting tomatoes to that country. It would be interesting to know the progress, if any, on that.
Otherwise, Malawians have absolutely no reason to trust a State House office that considers lies about presidential travels and their cost to them as taxpayers as part of its brief and terms of reference (ToR).