Joyce Banda convoy trimmed, activists want evidence

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President Joyce Banda has trimmed the size of her convoy in keeping with austerity measures her government announced early this month, Information Minister Moses Kunkuyu confirmed on Wednesday.

He also disclosed that government will sell off fuel guzzling ministerial vehicles.

The move follows the government’s announcement this week that it has finally put on sale the presidential jet, French-made Dassault Falcon EX.

According to Kunkuyu, the president’s convoy has been reduced to 12 from over 30. Only two motorbikes are remaining from initial 12, while two hummers are now on the convoy from an initial six.

He said the President’s travel has been affected by the spending cuts with some of her foreign trips cancelled.

He said ministers’ foreign travel has also been limited to “extremely important engagements only” to be vetted by the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC).

“The cabinet agreed that the ministerial vehicles should also be sold.

The decision includes disposed of all high fuel consuming vehicles hence the removal of some of the hummers from the presidential convoy. The vehicles will be replaced with low fuel consuming ones,” Kunkuyu said.

He said despite the decision to sell the Mercedes Benz, the government was struggling to replace them with a new fleet due to the economic situation.

However, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) Executive Director John Kapito has said there is need for government to show proof of its spending cuts.

A strong critic of the current administration, who has called for demonstrations against it on January 17 next year, said the government’s pronouncements lacked evidence.

He said the action showed the government is under panic, but said this was not enough to thwart the planned protests.

“Apparently, they behave differently from what they say. They should tell us how much money will be saved through this. The sale of the jet and fleet of the ministers’ vehicles is what we want to happen but we can’t rush to accept it without proof,” Kapito said.

Last month, the OPC announced several stringent measures for the whole civil service as government attempts to spend within its budget.

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