United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday night privately met Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda at Kamuzu International Airport where they discussed the hunger situation and former president Joyce Banda’s continued self-exile.
In an interview yesterday, Chaponda said Ban was concerned about Malawi’s political situation with Banda staying away since losing the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections.
Banda has been attending international meetings across of America (USA) where she is mostly based.Africa and the United States
Said the minister: “We [with the UN chief] basically talked about two things. We discussed the former president Dr Joyce Banda who is currently in the USA.
“We [Malawi] assured Mr Ban Ki-moon that we are not persecuting anybody and that the former president can return home anytime. We are a country which is not hunting anybody and the former president has nothing to fear.”
Banda announced that she would not return home because the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which unseated her through the ballot after a two-year stint in the presidency, threatened to arrest her.
She is also on record as having complained that the government was yet to give her a house and security detail as provided by law.
The UN chief’s concerns over Banda’s exile come hot on the heels of similar sentiments expressed by the leader of opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera who on Friday asked government to open dialogue instead of prosecuting former president Bakili Muluzi in the K1.7 billion corruption case.
Chakwera also urged government to assure Banda of her safety so that she can return home from abroad.
In his address in Parliament, he said: “We continue to waste precious time and money on non-profitable exercises of this nature which serve nothing, but political egos. In a similar vein, I call for national conversation on how profitable it is for the nation to continue wasting resources for over 10 years trying a former president and failing to conclude the case.
“Former president Bakili Muluzi deserves better.
Also, let former president Joyce Banda come home and be taken care of. Let us bring an end to speculation and insensitivity. Let us not be afraid to make necessary changes that enable us to walk in the light and expose dark machinations. We owe it to ourselves and the generations ahead.”
During yesterday’s interview, Chaponda said the Government of Malawi thanked Ban for prompt support provided in response to President Peter Mutharika’s appeal for humanitarian assistance in the wake of a food deficit worsened by prolonged dry spells in the Southern Region and parts of the Central Region and floods.
He said the UN delegated assistant secretary general Kang Kyung-wha who was in the country until yesterday.
Said Chaponda: “You see, when the President declared a State of National Disaster, that 6.5 million people would face hunger this year, the UN responded quickly and provided us with the much needed assistance. So, when he [Ban] called me over to meet him [at the airport], that is what we discussed.”
But when asked why the UN chief met him and not Vice-President Saulos Chilima, Chaponda said the issues discussed were in line with his ministry.
“I am the Minister of Agriculture [Irrigation and Water Development], am I not? So, what is the issue?” he said.
Ironically, Chilima also oversees disaster management affairs through the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) which is at the core of disaster response.
The first time Ban visited Malawi was when he addressed the National Assembly in 2010 and persuaded the administration of former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika to release a gay couple which had been imprisoned.
During his stop-over on Sunday, Ban was reportedly on his was to an International Aids Conference in Durban, South Africa.