By Mabvuto Banda

Chimwemwe Lusungu was one of the first beneficiaries of Malawi’s much-touted economic miracle, a large-scale national programme which subsidises agriculture inputs, mainly fertilisers and seed for maize production.

Within five years, her maize yields doubled and her life changed: she had enough to feed her six children and surplus to sell. But now the 45-year-old widow from Lilongwe has neither maize to feed her family nor cash to buy food or pay other vital expenses such as school fees.

“I was struck out from the list of beneficiaries because I was told that government didn’t buy enough fertiliser to distribute to everyone as per usual,” she said when asked why she could not get fertiliser last year.

Lusungu blames her situation on “Cashgate”—a corruption scandal in which senior public officers, bankers and businessmen allegedly siphoned an estimated 6.1 billion kwacha ($15.5m) from government coffers, according to Baker Tilly, the British audit firm hired by former President Joyce Banda to investigate the stealing of public funds.

The 117 acre plot stands abandoned after the school project failed
The abandoned 117 acre plot were the Academy for Girls school was supposed to be built. Credit: M.Banda

Revealed: The cost of the school was not $15 m, but $6m

By Mabvuto Banda

New information has emerged about how Madonna’s handlers covered-up how the Kabbalah International Centre used poor Malawian children as a fundraising tool, mismanaged their funds and shifted blame on the managers of the failed school project

Phillippe Van Den Bossche was Executive Director of Raising Malawi, Madonna’s charity and Dr Anjimile Oponyo was the head of the planned Academy for Girls. They both were  accused of malfeasance in a report done by Trevor Neilson’s Global Philanthropy Group

Trevor Neilson
Trevor Neilson

But as I found out, it was a cover up by Neilson designed to shift blame on helpless Malawians and distance Madonna and the Kabbalah Centre from the Malawi embarrassment.

Neilson is an accomplished PR consultant who has worked with political heavy weights  like former US President President Bill Clinton and many other rich and famous people like Bill Gates and Sir Richard Branson.

Madonna reportedly raised $18million for the Malawi school project and, in 2010, she laid the first brick at a ceremony attended by senior government leaders and traditional leaders from the area.

But, in 2011, Raising Malawi announced that it was stopping construction of the school. According to a Newsweek report from April 2011, $3.8million had been spent on the project, but only $850,000 had gone towards the work in Malawi. The rest was spent by the Kabbalah Centre’s office in LA.