Malawi’s Banda trying to panel-beat country’s international image as she sacks top cabinet ministers


Lilongwe – Malawi President Joyce Banda has said that since she took over the reign of government last Saturday she has been in touch with the international donor community to try to panel beat the battered image of the southern African country and salvage their support. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday Banda said she has been in touch with Britain’s Minister for Africa who has assured her that Britain will take the necessary steps to re-establish diplomatic relations with its former colony. The relations soured after Malawi’s former president Bingu wa Mutharika’s administration expelled and declared British high commissioner Fergus Cochrane-Dyte persona no grata following a leaked cable in which Cochrane-Dyte said Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika was becoming “ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism.”

The move sparked a tit-for-tat reprisal from London and threats of further action which saw Britain sending back home Malawi acting high commissioner of Malawi Flossie Gomile Chidyaonga and closing aid taps. British foreign secretary William Hague ordered the Malawi acting ambassador and her dependents to leave the United Kingdom. He also ordered his colleagues elsewhere to rapidly review the full range of their wider relationship with Malawi. Malawi gained its independence from Britain in 1964 and London remains the biggest single donor to the impoverished nation, where half the 13 million citizens live below the poverty line and on less than a dollar a day. Banda said that on Monday she talked to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and asked her to put back on the table the US$350, 000 energy aid package which the America withdrew because of bad political governance by the Mutharika administration.

The first woman in southern Africa said she was in touch with her Zambian counterpart president Micheal Sata to try to repair the relations of the two counties which got bitter after the ascension to power by Sata who was once arrested by the Mutharika administration on his visit to Malawi before he became president. ed The award winning Banda who was last year voted the third most powerful woman on the African continent by the Forbes Magazine, said that she has left the issue for Malawi to host an African Union summit in July in the hands of the cabinet. She explained that her view was that unlike when she last took up the decision to host an AU summit while in good books with Mutharika, the country was doing economically well. “But considering our current position I think cabinet will have to decide if we can go ahead or not,” she said. Banda, a member of the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health also ordered the country’s Ministry of Health to offer letters of appointments to two of Malawi’s reproductive health specialists working at the Ethel Mutharika Maternity at Kamuzu Central Hospital. “We can not afford to keep these people waiting for a year when the country looses 298 women in every 100, 000 live births,” she said, pointing out that Malawi ranks at the second bottom in maternal health delivery services in Africa after Serra Leone.

Meanwhile the Banda administration in trying to clean up the economic and political mess, has claimed its three other victims who are the Secretary to the Treasury Joseph Mwanamveka, Patricia Kaliati, Minister of Information and Civic Education and Bright Malopa Chief Executive of the state run Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). These follow the sacking of the Inspector General of Police on Saturday.

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