…OPC keeps her in a “temporary” house for years
…govt to spend millions on hospital bills
President Joyce Banda, the fourth Republican Head of State and philanthropist had a death scare in May this year when she slipped in her bathroom and badly injured her shoulder, a misfortune that has led her to stop her mobilisation of Cyclone Freddy relief efforts across the country.
The cost of renting a decent house, according to our analysis, would be cheaper than having the country’s first female President being treated outside Malawi if she was given a decent and safer accommodation.
The Office of the President and Cabinet is yet to respond to our questions, we will update the story if they decided to respond.
The Investigator Magazine has found out that despite her continued smile and reaching out to many needy people, the Former President has never been given a proper home since her retirement from office in 2014, even now when she is a member of the governing coalition- The Tonse Alliance.
“She has never complained, but as a family, we are worried about the safety of the two elderly people using the house that is not safe. JB will accept any house as long as it is safe. The houses allocated to her, which are part of their retirement package are not safe, the accident she has was something we all saw it coming,” explained a close family member, who pleaded for anonymity as she would be annoyed discussing her plight in public.
The Former President who has been mobilising support for Cyclone Freddy victims alongside the second Republican President Dr. Bakili Muluzi, has been forced out of her charity work for two months now since the incident.
The temporary house for three years
The retirement house of President Banda is what the Office of the President and Cabinet called “temporary” which has now turned to three years of waiting and no one since paid attention to the conditions of the house.
In 2020, the former president was living in a government-allocated house, she had noted and complained that it was unsafe, but nobody paid attention to the property or her official correspondence until one day the house ceiling collapsed.
“There were children and grandchildren of hers in the house when the ceiling collapsed. The incident would have been serious if the ceiling had hit any of the children. JB never complained she just reported the matter to authorities,” explained our source.
After the house ceiling accident government in mid-2020 found the former president a new accommodation in Area 43, which the then Secretary to the President and Cabinet Zangazanga Chikhosi promised to find a proper house within three months.
“The house has no security fence or gate, it’s on bare land. It does not have facilities for its staff who operate either in the dining room or in their cars if there are people. Since it was temporary accommodation, everyone was okay with it until we woke up three years later,” said the sources.
President Banda’s Executive Assistant Timothy Sandram said the office had nothing to say about the matter.
The falling incident
The OPC temporary accommodation has a shower, which is raised making it difficult for the 73-year-old President Banda to climb into the shower. Her household staff had to make a temporary stair to enable her to be able to use the shower independently.
“Going up the stairs is okay. It is when she is coming down from the shower that is the challenge. She slipped and broke her shoulder tendons. Luckily enough someone was nearby and heard the fall. Otherwise, it could have been worse,” explained our source.
The former president was treated in Lilongwe for five weeks until her doctors recommended an MRI scan for the shoulder. Malawi has no MRI scan machine for shoulders so they recommended that she flies to India or South Africa.
“When she flew into South Africa around mid-June, the Doctors found that she had serious injuries on her shoulder, and she required an emergency operation. She underwent surgery on June 20 and is expected to return soon for a further check-up,” narrated the source.
President Banda was forced to cancel all her public engagements and she is now undergoing physiotherapy in Lilongwe but continues to stay and use the same house that caused the incident.
“The former President and the retired Chief Justice are elderly people. One is scared of what would happen if they fall again without anyone nearby. They prefer to stay in their house at Domasi or Blantyre, but her physiotherapy is in Lilongwe, now we are all saying this is not safe, it is not right,” said the source.
President Banda, Malawi’s most charitable president
Joyce Banda, who became the fourth President, has been associated with giving more than any other Malawian leader since 1964, with hundreds of Malawians across the country benefitting from her charities.
No wonder at the end of her short term, she had not built a “mansion” as most of the occupants in the office. Her biggest property is a retirement home built in 2002 in Nkhatabay.
She is well known for her charity and post-Cyclone Freddy recovery; she has been championing recovery efforts raising millions of kwachas for house reconstructions and support to small-scale businesswomen to help them recover after losing everything to the cyclone.
“She is currently supporting over 500 students. She has helped farmers in Kasungu to get out of hunger. If JB has money, everyone knows where her money goes to. If she was selfish, she would have built herself mansions as others did,” charged a Banda loyalist.
Her projects from education to women’s economic empowerment are spread across the country and houses for Cyclone Freddy victims are now mushrooming in Mulanje, Zomba, and the Lowershire.
“If you give a dollar to Joyce Banda, she will multiply it and feed dozens of the needy,” one international charity reported of her works in 2021 after her Covid-19 recovery efforts which saw families being supported with inputs and business packages.
Our comment :
Banda’s plight, a reflection of poor
We rarely carry out stories that reflect on individuals’ personal well-being and we know that Her Excellency Joyce Banda would not wish we discussed her plight in the media. But to us at The Investigator Magazine, the story of Joyce Banda, Malawi’s first female president reflects the negligence, and the poor state Malawi is today.
If President Banda, who served as Malawi’s leader can be abandoned in unsafe accommodation, what about the poor grandmothers and grandfathers in the village who seek treatment in different clinics that are poorly equipped?
The Office of the President and Cabinet should be ashamed of how it treats former leaders yet day in and day out spending money on luxury things that do not reflect the economic status of Malawi.
We argue President Lazarus Chakwera, who has shown the spirit of accommodating and engaging his predecessors to move beyond the photos shoots and make sure these elderly leaders live in a safe environment, including a security-fenced property, which with the poor security we now experience, would make them live at peace.
The story of President Banda’s plight shows how negligence by public officers can cost the taxpayer a lot. A K1 million to K2 million house would be very decent costing government K24 million a year.
To send President Banda, her carer, and security to a hospital in South Africa plus medical treatment which is supposed to be continuous for close to a year, the government will have to cough, some of it in foreign exchange, more than K200 million.
Negligence is costly, the OPC could have saved Malawians millions of kwachas if they did their job without waiting for someone to get injured first.
We are aware of the former vice president Dr. Cassim Chilumpha’s accommodation and transport issues as well as Khumbo Kachali, former vice president’s vehicle status. There are vehicles at OPC, vehicles bought for SADC which can be used without spending anything. We are sure OPC is not waiting for Chilumpha and Kachali to have accidents first, then after spending hundreds of millions, we do the needful.
Otherwise, if the government has no funds, we strongly suggest that flowers and grass at the State House won’t die if we borrow K200 million from the allocated K1 billion and look after our retired leaders.