In August 2015, a survey found that over 40 percent of Malawians believe former president Joyce Banda was responsible for the plunder of public resources popularly known as Cashgate.
The study by the Institute for Public Opinion and Policy Research (IPOPR) on the public perception on Cashgate, whose lead researcher is University of Malawi political scientist Boniface Dulani, said 41 percent of respondents believe Banda and her People’s Party (PP) were responsible for Cashgate.
Dulani indicated that the findings could also explain the failure by former president Banda, popularly known as JB, to win the 2014 elections. He pointed to separate studies by research institute, Afrobarometer, which indicated a trend on why Banda’s popularity plunged while in office.
Cashgate was uncovered in September 2013 when a junior civil servant was caught with millions of kwacha stashed in his car.
A forensic study that covered six months revealed that over K24 billion was stolen between April and September 2013, but the figure of the money that was lost from 2009 to 2014 is suspected to have reached over K577 billion (this figure has since been reduced to K236 billion).
In the Cashgate perception study, respondents were asked to mention a person they thought was most responsible for the looting and in their responses Malawians fingered JB.
The embattled former president, who returned home last Saturday, is currently facing arrest, has on several occasions made her stand clear that ‘she did not steal any money and does not know anything to do with Cashgate.’
After losing 2014 elections in May, JB left the country, as she puts it, ‘to enable APM to run State affairs without her interference’.
While she was away, investigations into Cashgate were on going and those who were arrested in connection with the scandal were taken to court. A few individuals including PP member Oswald Lutepo implicated JB. Chief Tourism officer Leonard Kalonga also implicated her.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau said it is still investigating the Cashgate case and Banda’s role in the scandal. The police said it has made some progress and gathered some evidence in its investigations and have a court warrant of arrest for JB.
However, what is bothering us on the streets is JB’s peevishness that she has been cleared of wrong doing in Cashgate. Who cleared her, no one knows.
In as much as JB is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, 41 percent of Malawians still believe that she played a role in Cashgate. That is more reason we on the streets believe that it is better for JB to leave the matter to State institutions such as the courts to clear her name.
At least one such State institution, the ACB has come in the open to say that they have never cleared Banda of Cashgate investigations, because they have evidence linking her based on statements made by Kalonga, the late Triza Senzani and Lutepo.
The best JB can do now is to shut up and have faith in State institutions.
The ACB and police will investigate and take her to court if there is evidence of wrong doing. If not, these institutions will clear her and leave her alone. So why talk too much now?
JB should not forget that the wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine.