• The former head of state has pulled out of the May 21 presidential race just days after throwing her hat in the ring.
  • Speaking to AFP, Banda, who heads the People’s Party, confirmed her decision, saying, “Yes, it is true.”
  • Ms Banda, went on a self-imposed exile following the “Cashgate” scandal which saw millions of shillings lost but returned to Malawi last year after almost four years in exile.

Malawi’s first female president, Joyce Banda, has made a U-turn in her bid to lead the Southeastern Africa landlocked country with about 18.62 million people.

The former head of state has pulled out of the May 21 presidential race just days after throwing her hat in the ring ready to face off with incumbent Peter Mutharika and opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera.

Speaking to AFP, Banda, who heads the People’s Party, confirmed her decision, saying, “Yes, it is true.”

Malawi's former president Joyce Banda (front) arrives at the Abuja International Conference Centre, venue of Nigeria's centenary celebration, February 27, 2014.
Reuters
Malawi's former president Joyce Banda (front) arrives at the Abuja International Conference Centre, venue of Nigeria's centenary celebration, February 27, 2014.

She, however, declined to comment further ahead of a joint news conference with Chakwera on Saturday.

Ms. Banda has instead endorsed opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera, who heads the Malawi Congress Party.

In a joint statement, the two parties said they had begun talks in 2015, a year after Banda lost the presidency, partly as a result of a huge multimillion-dollar corruption case known as the “Cashgate” scandal.

Lilongwe, Malawi Lilongwe, Malawi

Ms Banda, went on a self-imposed exile following the “Cashgate” scandal which saw millions of shillings lost but returned to Malawi last year after almost four years in exile.

The scandal erupted in 2013 when an international audit revealed that $30 million had been siphoned off the country’s coffers to dozens of senior officials, businessmen and political leaders.

She has consistently denied any involvement in the corruption scandal and has never faced any charges.

Malawi President Peter Mutharika Malawi President Peter Mutharika

Six weeks ago, Banda and Vice President Saulos Chilima said they had formed a four-party alliance in a bid to take on President Peter Mutharika in the May vote.

However, their honeymoon didn’t last long, with Banda announcing just days later that she had submitted papers to run as a presidential candidate.

Now 68, Banda first came to power in April 2012 following the sudden death of the then president Bingu wa Mutharika. At the time, she was serving as vice president with his death propelling her into the top office where she served until May 2014.