Malawi’s ex-president Banda returns after four-year exile

Blantyre: Malawi’s former president, Joyce Banda, returned home on Saturday after four years of self-imposed exile, despite facing the threat of arrest over corruption allegations. Banda, 68, fled the country in 2014 when she lost power after being embroiled in the so-called Cashgate scandal, in which government officials siphoned off millions of dollars of public money. Banda — only the second woman to lead a country in Africa — arrived at Blantyre’s airport on a flight from Johannesburg around midday on Saturday, where she was greeted by hundreds of supporters of her People’s Party, said an AFP journalist at the scene.
“Mother is here, the lights should come back”, the crowd chanted. No police were present as she left the plane.
“I thank God and will continue thanking God for your love and support,” Banda said.
“I did not know that our party still commands such power as I have seen today: I’m back and for political rallies, we will be meeting out there in the locations,” she added, without clearly spelling out her political ambitions.
Her spokesman Andekunye Chanthunya had earlier said she would head straight to her home at Domasi in Zomba, about 80 kilometres away. She is due to address a political rally on Sunday.
“I am happy that she is back to her home… now we are confident that she will help us solve some of our problems,” said Mercy Kambudzi, 61.
“Look at all these people, they are happy that our saviour is here,” she said, referring to the crowd at the airport.
Local media have reported a possible deal between President Peter Mutharika and Banda ahead of next year’s elections.
Banda founded the People’s Party (PP) in 2011 after splitting from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which is led by Mutharika.
“She remains the head of the PP. The question of whether she wants to contest for the presidency or not will be answered in due course, but we may get an idea of how she is thinking,” Banda’s spokesman said.
Wallace Chawawa, a PP lawmaker said: “This will definitely rejuvenate the party… The vacuum has been filled.” — AFP