Malawi - Members of Parliament warn against Malawi Savings Bank sale

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Opposition parliamentarians Thursday ganged up and passed a motion to stop the sale of Malawi Savings Bank (MSB).

Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe, however, challenged the legislators, saying Parliament has no powers to stop the sale of the bank. He warned that the country stands to lose a lot if it ignores international conditions for bank operations.

The sentiments by Gondwe followed the tabling of a private members motion by Dowa West Member of Parliament, Kusamba Dzonzi, that the sale of MSB be pended and that it be referred to the Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament for consultations.

However, members trashed Gondwe’s claims, saying the House is mandated by the Constitution to do the needful on behalf of millions of Malawians.

“The message being conveyed by the minister that this House is useless is misplaced. This House is too powerful. We can even impeach a President, so what about the sale of MSB,” charged People’s Party (PP) parliamentarian Uladi Mussa.

But Gondwe, who described the matter as legal in nature, also told the House that the decision to sell MSB was made by the previous administration of President Joyce Banda.

Said Gondwe: “We stand to lose a lot as a country if we don’t conform to the Basel 2 requirement as instituted by the Reseve Bank of Malawi on the minimum capital of banks. It will be toxic to the country. There are other confidential things that I can’t say on plenary. We have to be very careful with how we deal with this matter. Lawyers need to advise us.”

But when he tabled the motion, Dzonzi wondered why government was rushing to sell and not bail out the bank.

“It is a fact that the bulk of the bank’s non- performing loans belong to Mulli Brothers. Why is government not intervening to have Mulli Brothers Ltd repay the debt?

“Why is the bank not taking over the assets against which Mulli’s loan was taken? The loan was taken when DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] was in power and now that DPP is in power again, government wants the bank sold, really?” queried Dzonzi.

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) legislator Joseph Njobvuyalema and PP’s Ralph Jooma suggested to government to put the interest of Malawians first and not act out of desperation.

“We have just approved an extra budget of K32 billion which will not even trickle down to poor Malawians out there, but as government, you are failing to mobilise K4 billion to keep this national asset alive? Why should we sell the bank which only needs K4 billion?” queried Jooma.

Commenting on the issue, another MCP MP Felix Jumbe advised government to tame its appetite for giving away national assets.

“Let’s learn from the past. We sold Malawi Development Cooperation, Commercial Bank, Malawi Rural Finance Company, New Building Society, the list is endless and look whether this benefited Malawians?” said Jumbe.

Members also observed that MSB has a good base as it has branches in the remotest rural areas, thereby encouraging a saving culture among people in villages.

The MPs also demanded that an independent valuer be identified to determine how much the bank is worth and that identities of potential buyers must be made public.

Meanwhile, members have warned the RBM governor and Gondwe to stop exerting any undue pressure on the Secretary to the Treasury, forcing him to issue instructions to sell the bank to anyone inside or outside the country without input from Parliament.

SOURCE: Malawi Today, February 28th, 2015,