Malawi president says will not back down on graft
Sun Feb 5, 2006 4:52 PM GMT
By Frank Phiri
BLANTYRE (Reuters) - Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika, whose war on graft has won the hearts of Western donors, vowed on Sunday not to relent in his drive against corrupt officials despite political pressure.
Wa Mutharika's corruption campaign won its first major victory on Friday following the conviction of former education minister Yusuf Mwawa for stealing $1,360 last March.
Speaking on Malawi's "Anti-Corruption Day", wa Mutharika attacked the opposition Malawi Congress Party and United Democratic Front for conspiring to impeach him because of his zero-tolerance on corruption.
"Attempts have been made to impeach me because of my fight against corruption. My determination is even stronger. At least one former cabinet minister has been indicted and found guilty. Others will follow shortly," he said in a speech in Blantyre.
Wa Mutharika accused the government of his predecessor Bakili Muluzi of condoning corruption, which he said led to economic stagnation and the withdrawal of aid by various donors.
"Fighting against corruption remains the locus of my government's development policy. I will not relent on my zero-tolerance stance against corruption, and I will not rest until this scourge is eliminated," he said.
Opposition legislators last month dropped an effort to impeach wa Mutharika on allegations of corruption and abuse of office, saying they did not have public backing.
The impeachment motion had been criticised by Britain and other key donors to Malawi, which depends on foreign aid for almost half its national budget and where 5 million people are in need of food aid.
Wa Mutharika said his administration had recovered several million dollars that the former regime had planned to steal and used it for building two major roads in the central region.
"We have been able to protect funds which some officials wanted to steal. If funds like these were available during the last 10 years, where did they go?" he said.
Donors including the International Monetary Fund have praised Malawi's anti-corruption efforts and released aid which had been frozen during Muluzi's administration.
Mwawa, who was education minister in Muluzi's government, was found guilty of stealing $1,360 in public funds to pay for his wedding party at an upmarket hotel. He is due for sentencing on February 9 and could face up to life in prison.
Anti-corruption bureau officials have accused Muluzi of diverting more than $4 million in donor funds into his personal accounts. The former president describes the accusations as politically-motivated and has not yet been formally charged in court.
Three other former members of his cabinet are also being probed for various alleged corrupt practices.