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Cecilia Kadzamira
Explains to BBC's Focus on Africa her side of the story
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Wednesday, 17 May, 2000, 18:27 GMT 19:27 UK
Mystery of the Banda millions
Dr Banda of Malawi
Dr Banda: Once reputed to be worth over $435 million
By Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre

The missing death certificate of Malawi's former president-for-life, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, is causing sleepless nights to administrators of his controversial estate, beneficiaries and the courts.

I wish I knew who has it since no one can gain access to the records without the death certificate

Dr Banda's hostess Cecilia Kadzamira
Graham Carr, a firm of public accountants appointed by the High Court to ascertain how much Malawi's former autocrat was really worth, has said its efforts to unravel the mystery of Dr Banda's wealth - which has taken them to overseas banks - has almost drawn a blank.

After investigations conducted over a period of two years, Graham Carr has released a report saying the missing death certificate has further complicated their efforts to break the mystery.

This was because most financial institutions demanded the certificate before they could release records of Dr Banda's bank details.

The report says the administrators only registered success with two British financial institutions, NatWest Bank and Invesco Unit Trust.

"To date, we have corresponded with two banks in the UK, Barclays and NatWest. Barclays have yet to respond and NatWest will not provide information without the death certificate," Graham Carr said.

Missing death certificate

At NatWest Graham Carr dug up 17,374.83 ($26,000), while at Invesco Dr Banda had held 320,015.39 ($480,000).

Cecilia Kadzamira
Cecilia Kadzamira: No idea where the certificate is
Who is keeping the death certificate is itself a mystery and a hot subject for conspiracy theories.

Cecilia Tamanda Kadzamira, Dr Banda's life-long official hostess, who was at Mr Banda's death bed when the centenarian died on 25 November 1997 at a clinic in Johannesburg, South Africa, told BBC News Online she had no idea who was keeping the death certificate.

"I wish I knew who has it since no one can gain access to the records without the death certificate," she said.

Ms Kadzamira, fondly referred to as "Mama", or "Mother of the Nation", has a direct interest in the battle for the former president's estate since Dr Banda's relatives are accusing her in court of twisting the old man's arm to bequeath the best part of his estate to her.

She denies the charge.

Fraud fears

The administrators say it was surprising that people like Ms Kadzamira, Dr Banda's financial aide Farook Sacraine, and his lawyers, had no information about the whereabouts of the all-important death certificate and other information regarding the estate.

"All advisors to the late Dr Banda denied any knowledge of any overseas assets," they said.

The missing death certificate is stirring fears that somebody might be spiriting money from Banda's estate behind the back of the interim administrators, Dr Banda's relations and the courts.

The interim administrators fear that the missing death certificate and the lack of co-operation from those who are supposed to be in the know will not only delay the conclusion of the court cases surrounding the distribution of the estate, but may also adversely affect viability of some of his business concerns.

Mining interests?

Dr Banda was at one point estimated to be worth over $445m in cash and several millions more in fixed and disposable assets.

But Graham Carr, the interim administrators of the disputed estate, say as at 31 August 1999, the Banda estate was estimated at $319.5m.

Graham Carr also says in the report that Dr Banda - fondly known by his middle name, Kamuzu - might also have had interests in a South African mining concern.

Dr Banda's estate ranges from real estate and agriculture concerns to investments in both local and foreign companies and off-shore accounts.

Hastings Kamuzu Banda ruled Malawi from independence from Britain in 1964, until his defeat at the polls in the country's first multi-party election 30 years later.

His rule was characterised by gross violations of human rights, with several of his opponents killed.

He died in 1997, aged about 101.

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See also:

11 Jun 99 | Africa
Voting in the shadow of Banda
16 Nov 99 | Africa
Malawi's hostess speaks out
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