Banja La Mtsogolo and its boss under probe over racism allegations


Marie Stopes International (MSI), a non-profit organisation working globally in sexual and reproductive health-care, has instituted an investigation into racial prejudice allegations at Banja La Mtsogolo (BLM) head office in Blantyre.

The allegations threaten the future support from the United Kingdom (UK), one of its biggest donors.

The UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) disclosed in an e-mailed response on Thursday that BLM is under investigations and “we will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

“MSI has instituted the investigation. The UK and other donors are in touch with BLM and MSI about recent allegations in the media with regard to BLM…,” DfID programme manager Andrew Massa said in the e-mailed response.

BLM, which is Malawi’s leading reproductive health provider, is a member of the Marie Stopes partnership and benefits from its technical support.

The investigation comes after our sister newspaper—Weekend Nation—revealed last week how BLM’s country director Linda Edwards illicitly obtained evidence against local staff who she either fired or suspended and later replaced with her fellow nationals.

Diplomatic sources in Lilongwe disclosed that the UK is now contemplating withdrawing £19 million (around K10 billion) approved last month to finance BLM for the next three years from 2015 to 2017 because of the allegations.

“They have lost confidence in BLM management and if the investigation proves there was racial prejudice, BLM under the same management may lose the funding,” said a diplomat.

Massa, however, said DfID have not withdrawn the funding.

“We are in negotiations with BLM with respect to future funding,” he said when asked whether the £19 million has been withdrawn a month after it was approved.

Edwards could not be reached to comment on Thursday as she was reportedly locked up in a meeting.

But in an earlier interview, she denied any wrong-doing, saying staff changes were only made after an independent audit.

BLM board chairperson Dr. Wesley Sangala also backed Edwards, saying BLM meets all legal and regulatory requirements of staff.

He dismissed assertions that Edwards is a racist, saying he has worked with her for three years and she has been exceptional.

Edwards has in recent weeks come under scrutiny for sacking four officers after snooping into their private e-mails and Skype conversations.

The four—Dennis Chimenya, the national sales and marketing officer; Ruth Jana, the finance manager; Lucia Julius, an accounts assistant and Gift Jere, have since taken management to court demanding damages

Noel Chalamanda, their lawyer, confirmed last week he has a case against BLM management in the High Court where he is asking for damages for the invasion of his client’s privacy.

He has another case in the Industrial Relations Court for unfair and unlawful termination of his clients’ employment.

BLM employs about 500 people and provides healthcare services to a million people across the country, most of them women.

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