Former president of Malawi plans to return after years of self-imposed exile

The former president of Malawi Joyce Banda is set to return to Malawi on Saturday after 4 years of self-imposed exile. This announcement was made by the spokesperson of her political party.

“I can confirm that as a party we have received communication from the office of the former president that she arrives back in Malawi on Saturday to stay,” said People’s Party (PP) deputy spokesman, Ackson Kaliyile.

Nowa Chimpeni, a spokesman for PP, also added that Banda intended to “reorganize her party” after many members abandoned it for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) during her four-year absence.

Banda, who became Malawi’s first female president following the death of Bingu wa Mutharika in April 2012, left the country in June 2014, after losing the polls to the incumbent president Peter Mutharika. She left on the pretext of a vacation only to announce later that she would not be returning home. She said her personal security and that of her family were compromised. During this period, she lived in the United States, South Africa, and Britain. She has also been serving as a distinguished fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center and the Center for Global Development in Washington DC.

During her period of self-imposed exile, Banda was accused of being the mastermind behind the looting of billions of public funds during her two-year rule. This scandal was later termed Cashgate, coined after the Watergate scandal that brought down US president Richard Nixon in the 1970s. Cashgate is considered the biggest financial scandal in Malawi’s history. The scandal led to international donors halting aid to Malawi.

In August last year, the Malawian police issued an arrest warrant on Banda over her involvement in the Cashgate saga. In response, Banda said she would be coming back because she didn’t do anything and was innocent of all charges leveled against her.

The police have not said whether the charges against her would be dropped, but James Kadadzera, a police spokesperson, said that the warrant remained valid. He, however, declined to say if she would be detained upon arrival.