Claims by former FDH Bank chairperson Thom Mpinganjira that he provided donations to various political leaders have sparked questions over how the country is policing political financing.
The Political Parties Act, which was recently enacted, compels political parties to disclose such donations to the Registrar of Political Parties, but the office is yet to be operationalised, a development analysts argue favours the political parties.
Mpinganjira, who is on trial at the High Court for allegedly attempting to bribe members of the five-judge panel that presided over the May 21 2019 presidential election dispute, claimed in court on Wednesday during a seven-hour defence that he has been making donations to political parties and politicians in the country, including current and past presidents as well as vice-presidents.
According to Mpinganjira, since 2019, he has donated money to President Lazarus Chakwera in tranches as follows: K5 million on August 20 2019, K6 million on 11th July 2019, K5 million on 18th July 2019, K10 million on 27th September 2019, K10 million on 28th January 2020 and K25 million on 17th February 2020, and K20 million on 4th May 2020.
To Vice-President Saulos Chilima, he alleged he donated and loaned over K440 million. On August 31 2019, he donated K50 million, on May 13 2019 he donated K9 million, on January 3 2019 he donated K30 million, on June 18 2020 he donated K10 million, on October 25 2020 he loaned K350 million.
Mpinganjira also claimed to have donated cash amounting to K900 million to DPP and K40 million to former president Joyce Banda.
In an interview yesterday, University of Malawi political analyst Boniface Dulani described the revelations as a wake-up call on political financing policing.
He said: “Government is deliberately stalling that office (Registrar of Political Parties) because they know it will come to bite them. This country is good at enacting good laws and not utilising them. The Political Financing Act can stop this which is really buying of political power.”
On his part, Henry Chingaipe, a Lilongwe-based governance expert, described the current legal framework on political financing as too weak and non-existent.
He said: “The things he said where it touches on politicians, especially those in power today, shows that we seriously need to think about rules of political financing, especially campaign financing because we have a system where people finance parties in clandestine manner, it’s not for free.
“It means people go into government owing financiers like Mpinganjira with debts and that is the start of State capture and it also has effect on procurement in government as taxpayer money is used to repay these debts. A similar thing came out of the statements by Simbi Phiri. He was granted the waterway project but admitted financing all the major parties.”
Besides the Political Financing Act, Section 15 (e) of the assets law obliges public office-holders, their immediate family members and associates to declare their full financial status by disclosing details such as bank accounts, the location of the accounts and names of the banking institutions, loans acquired, donations or gifts received.
State House press secretary Brian Banda yesterday asked for more time to comment on the matter while Vice- President spokesperson Pilirani Phiri refused to comment on the matter citing the ongoing court case.
He said: “Since these statements were made in court and the case is ongoing, it is the view of the Vice-President that it would be contempt of court and trial process to comment at this stage.”
Both DPP spokesperson Brown Mpinganjira and former president Joyce Banda did not respond to calls as we sought their comments on the matter