President Joyce Banda indicated yesterday she will not declare her assets now.
This is a direct response to the long standing call from some quarters for her to declare her wealth following her ascendancy to the presidency in April last year.
Featuring live in a programme on Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) President Banda said she is aware that it is a constitutional requirement for public officers to declare their assets.
But she said she had sought advice from her legal team which advised her it was not necessary for her to do so having done that when she was vice president.
“I know it is a constitutional requirement that you declare what you have when getting in government and when getting out so that people can make comparison of one’s wealth. I asked my legal advisors on this.
“I declared my assets when getting in as vice president and I will do so when getting out whether in 2014 or 2019. So I don’t see why I should be a victim now on this,” said Banda in vernacular, responding to a question from the anchor of the programme, Pilirani Phiri.
But human rights activists have expressed dismay at President Banda for refusing to declare her assets, describing the development as ill-advised and a setback for the country’s war against corruption.
Lawyer and civil rights activist Justin Dzonzi described the president’s remarks as unfortunate and a setback in the country’s war against corruption.
“My view has always been that the president was ill-advised and her remarks demonstrate that again.
“It’s unconstitutional because the constitution says that you declare assets when you became president; it does not state that when you were a vice president you should not declare again,” said Dzonzi.
He further said that the president’s insistence not to declare her assets could be misunderstood as hiding ill-gotten wealth.
“Perception is important at times in politics than realities. People will start asking what she is afraid of,” added Dzonzi.
Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC ) chairperson , Undule Mwakasungula, said Banda’s stance was a lost opportunity to build trust on commitment to fight corruption.
He said the refusal by the president should now necessitate debate on the law itself arguing the development proves the law is weak.
“However, for the sake of building trust, she could have declared her assets. I agree that she did declare her assets as vice president, but she could have said, ‘I am now a president, this is what I have. Even if I am not mandated by law, I want to ensure there is transparency,” said Mwakasungula.
In the programme , President Banda also defended the devaluation and floatation of the kwacha which have been named as cause for economic hardships among Malawians.
She said it was necessary for the government to take the tough steps to heal the economy.
She said such measures have been taken before in this country and neighbouring countries, all to ensure better lives for people.
“All I can say is, we just have to persevere. We are about to get over this difficult phase. We can’t fix the kwacha again because that would create problems for us. We are about to get out of these hardships,” she said.
Banda also defended her local and international trips. She said since April she has made eight international trips aimed at restoring Malawi’s relations with other countries and secure needed aid.
According to the president, five of those trips were sponsored by the host governments or organisations and therefore were not a drain on local taxpayer’s resources