Malawi President Joyce Banda yesterday contradicted her Minister of Finance Maxwell Mkwezalamba on use of proceeds from the sale of the presidential jet, maintaining the funds were used to buy maize.
Responding to questions in Tiuzeni Zoona Programme aired on Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) yesterday, the President maintained her earlier stand that the money was used to purchase maize.
“The money [from the sale of the jet] was used to purchase maize. This is the reason people were not fighting at Admarc depots,” said the President, who called herself a leader and not a ruler.
Banda explained that when the idea to sell the jet came, she tabled it before Cabinet to discuss how the money should be used and the consensus was that they purchase maize with the remainder used to buy drugs and military equipment.
The President’s statement is in sharp contrast to what Mkwezalamba told the nation during a news conference on Wednesday that the $15 million (about K6.3 billion) from the sale of the jet never went into government’s consolidated account and instead the Attorney General facilitated the transfer of the funds from Bohnox Enterprises, which bought the jet, to Paramount Group, its parent company.
During the press conference, the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), which facilitated the sale of the jet, admitted that it was not aware that Bohnox Enterprises was part of Paramount Group until later in the deal and only after Bohnox Enterprises disclosed this fact.
Said Mkwezalamba: “Government owed Paramount Group $19.2 million [about K8.2 billion] in respect of military equipment procured sometime back. Government cash flow could not meet the demand for payment of the equipment. So, it was agreed that Bohnox Enterprises clear the amount with Paramount Group.”
And during a news conference she addressed at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe on Tuesday last week, the President said proceeds from the jet sale were used to buy maize, fertiliser for the Farm Input Loan Programme (Filp) and military equipment.
On how she travels after disposing of the jet, the President said it was not up to her to decide the mode of transport but her staff.
“That is why there is chief of staff and others. They decide how I should travel based on the nature of the journey. For example, during the funeral of Nelson Mandela, they chartered a plane because the place was far from the airport,” said Banda.
On the Capital Hill Cashgate probe, the President wondered how she is afraid when she was the one who ordered it. She expressed ignorance of the names in the forensic audit report, saying it was not the Malawi Government that carried out the audit.
However, she praised her government for putting things in order when she took over government and making sure that the country has two months import cover.
During the interview, the President also defended her maize distribution, saying she is doing that because she feels bad to see people suffer from hunger.
—Minister of Finance Maxwell Mkwezalamba told journalists last Wednesday jet sale proceeds did not go into the Malawi Government account.
—The nation was told that money from the sale of the jet was used to offset a debt for supply of military equipment owed to the parent company of the buyer.