Joyce Banda. File photo: REUTERS
Joyce Banda. File photo: REUTERS

Malawi — Malawi’s former president Joyce Banda, who recently returned home after four years of self-imposed exile, said on Monday that she was ready to run in 2019’s presidential elections if nominated by her party.

Banda fled in 2014 when she lost power after being embroiled in a massive graft scandal in which government officials siphoned off millions of dollars of public money.

She said she would contest at her People’s Party (PP) elective convention due in coming months.

"The power to choose a torch bearer rests with the people," she said. "If they chose me, yes, I will stand." Malawi will hold presidential, parliamentary and council elections in May 2019.

Banda founded the PP in 2011 after splitting from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which is led by President Peter Mutharika. She was Malawi’s first female president, serving from April 2012 to May 2014, but analysts say she stands little chance of victory in the next polls.

"Her chances of winning are very slim. Her party is in tatters. The decision to leave the country for so long eroded trust of Malawians in her leadership," said Henry Chingaipe, a political scientist at the University of Malawi.

Her downfall came in part from the so-called "cashgate" scandal, the biggest financial misconduct in the country’s history.

Ministers, public servants and business people were accused of pocketing money from government coffers through ghost companies that did not provide any services to the state.

The scandal prompted foreign donors — who provide about 40% of Malawi’s budget — to pull the plug on aid worth about $150m.

Banda says she did nothing wrong and that the allegations against her were politically motivated. After she returned to the country in April, police said an arrest warrant against her was valid, but two months later she has been neither charged nor arrested.

AFP

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