The storm over President Joyce Banda’s use of sold presidential jet refuses to abate as the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) has denied paying for her travel cost, saying the organisation never pays for the travel of African heads of State.
The revelation comes at a time the President is accused of using the same plane government off-loaded last year to cut costs.
State House presidential press secretary Steven Nhlane recently explained that the President’s “well-wishers” were funding her trips abroad, including her attendance of Nelson Mandela funeral.
But in an interview with United Kingdom’s Telegraph published on Wednesday, Sadc spokesperson Leefa Martin, told the newspaper that she had never heard of the organisation paying for the travel of African heads of State.
“How can [Nhlane] not know how the travel of his boss is paid for?” Martin is quoted as saying.
The President was captured next to the sold plane in Nairobi, Kenya in December where she attended the peace signing deal between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Government and M23 rebel group after attending the Nelson Mandela memorial service in South Africa.
In November, she flew to Pretoria to attend the Sadc/International Conference on the Great Lakes Region Summit on a plane, which Nhlane said was chartered by well-wishers.
But when asked who the well-wishers were, Nhlane replied: “You do not have to know them. Besides, they have told us not to disclose their identities. That is what friends are meant for, helping each other.”
When pressed to clarify, he said the travel costs were borne by those who invited the President to attend their event, citing Sadc as an organisation that also paid for her travel as the current chairperson of the regional bloc, an assertion Sadc has denied, according to the Telegraph.
Banda has been under pressure to explain her use of the jet, which was sold to Bohnox Enterprises.
Nhlane had not responded to a questionnaire The Nation sent to him on the latest revelations while the President’s special adviser on communications and politics, Elias Wakuda Kamanga, asked for time to read the article and consult before responding.
But he told the Telegraph that: “The President has been accepting any appropriate means of transport available. We are now going towards an election campaign and people will say anything to dent the image of the President.”