Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has denied closing its account at National Bank of Malawi (NBM) in reaction to remarks the bank’s chairperson Professor Mathews Chikaonda made about the regulator.

Chikaonda made the remarks on Tuesday during the official opening of NBM’s business centre and office complex in Blantyre.

Among other dignitaries, the function was attended by President Joyce Banda, Macra’s director general Charles Nsaliwa and board chairperson Ted Nandolo.

Macra, through its spokesperson Zadziko Mankhambo, refused to authenticate reports that the telecommunications regulator had an emergency board meeting on Wednesday where it was agreed to stop dealing with NBM. He also denied commenting on Chikaonda’s remarks.

But a highly placed source at NBM said a Macra board meeting during the week resolved to close the institution’s accounts at the bank.

“We don’t know anything about that,” said Mankhambo

Chikaonda accused Macra of being political and said he did not understand why instead of erecting telecommunication towers in the rural areas, Macra gave K800 million in dividends to government.

NBM chief marketing officer Wilkins Mijiga said in an e-mail interview that he has heard the reports, but could not confirm them. He also said the bank has not heard from Macra officially on the issue.

Said Mijiga: “There have been such speculation in the past two days or so, but I am not aware of such developments. The nation in general and the bank in particular can only hope that it is just speculation because if things were to take that turn, it would be very unfortunate because the bank, through its CEO’s speech, concentrated on the history of the bank, its rich heritage, great milestones, successes and the way into the future and its vision and nothing else.

“Professor Chikaonda spoke as a prominent citizen of our society and a taxpayer who is entitled to comment on matters affecting a public institution that is run on taxpayers’ money like Macra.

“So, if what is being speculated was to indeed happen, it would be equated to the tendency by some public institutions, funded by taxpayer money, which pulled out business from media houses just because they spoke out for the voiceless,” said Mijiga.

Mijiga said NBM cannot fight Macra because the institution is the bank’s valued customer. He, however, said the bank cannot be victimised because it did not attack anyone.

Minister of Information and Civic Education Moses Kunkuyu could not be drawn to comment on Macra’s alleged intent to close its account at NBM, saying as an independent institution, Macra was best-placed to decide where to keep its money.

Kunkuyu said Chikaonda’s remarks were made at a wrong platform.

“I just find it difficult to marry the two: about Macra and a function of a bank opening its premises. I know he is on the board of TNM and MTL which can have issues with Macra. It would then have been better to say what he said at a function such as launching a TNM tower where Macra and I can be invited,” said Kunkuyu.

Kunkuyu, however, said Chikaonda has the right to speak his mind just like Ken Msonda who criticised Chikaonda on Capital Radio. Msonda said Chikaonda’s remarks were disrespectful to the President.

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