Joyce Banda continues globetrotting: travels to SA then Belgium
President Joyce Banda is on Monday expected to attend an African Investment Forum organised by Nedbank in South Africa. She will return home Tuesday and thereafter depart for Brussels in Belgium, Press Secretary for the President Steve Nhlane confirmed yesterday.
The trips come against a backdrop of public anger against rampant travel by the presidency, which analysts say is draining taxpayers' money.
While confirming both trips, Nhlane said the president's trip to South Africa, where she will be a keynote speaker at the forum, will just be a stopover on her way home.
However, he defended both trips, saying they were necessary to turn around the economic fortunes of the country.
Nhlane said the delegations to either trips would be small and budgeted for.
"Her Excellency Mrs Joyce Banda will make a one day stopover in South Africa to attend a leading institutional investor conference focusing on African investment and exchange-listed opportunities in the Sub-Saharan region.
"She arrives in SA on September 30, attends the conference on October 1 and leaves the following day for Malawi."
He said at the conference, the President would be a keynote speaker.
"The conference will avail delegates an opportunity to network and discuss investment and wealth creation opportunities in Africa. There is no extra cost to be incurred on this trip as it was already catered for in United Nations General Assembly budget," Nhlane said.
He, however, said he was not sure if the Belgian trip is still on the cards, but said if the trip would take place, it would be so because it was difficult to ignore the invitation from Belgium due to its "extreme importance."
"If the President is going to Belgium she is going there at the invitation of and with the full blessings of the organisers— the European Union. It is extremely important for the government to attend the function as it will enable it to resuscitate links with its EU development partners most of whom the former regime severed ties and either stopped working with the Malawi Government.
"The issue is not that the President should not make foreign trips. If they are important to Malawi, the government will continue to make them because they are beneficial.
Nhlane said he was not sure of the size of the delegation for both trips, saying the decision was the president's prerogative.
He assured the public that the EU delegation would be small.
The development comes as donors and Malawian commentators are increasingly getting vocal on the need for the presidency to reduce travelling as a cost cutting measure.
She has been roundly condemned for taking along with her a delegation of 32 people to the UN General Assembly where she stayed for three weeks.
Analysts have asked for sacrifice from the executive arm of the government in the face of economic difficulties.