Minister of Trade Sosten Gwengwe has been appointed as a trustee of Press Trust which is the majority owner of Press Corporation, raising concerns that it is part of a process to hand the company back to the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
According to a letter from Trustees of the trust addressed to Gwengwe, the minister has been appointed as an ordinary trustee in his individual capacity and he has filled a vacancy.
The letter dated August 24, says Gwengwe’s term will run from August 21 this year to 7 August, 20203 and he will not get any benefits except travel and accommodation allowances when attending meetings.
Pres Trust owns Press Corporation which was established in 1961 as Malawi Press Limited by the late Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda, the former head of state of Malawi.
The initial capital for the company was raised through sale of party member cards and contributions of ordinary Malawians.
The company expanded during the 1970s, and by 1979 the company had interests in 17 subsidiary companies and 23 associated companies. At this time, all Press interests were incorporated under Press (Holdings) Limited.
It is believed that Banda was forced by donors to create Press Trust in 1982 as a public trust governed by the trustees, to which he transferred all the shares he held in Press Holding Limited.
In 1995 after Banda and the Malawi Congress Party lost power, the National Assembly passed the Press Trust Reconstruction Act to ensure that Press Trust benefited all Malawians.
The then ruling United Democratic Front feared that the Trust’s activities would only benefit MCP leading to continuation of the one party regime..
Meanwhile, Gwengwe’s appointment has led to concerns that the trust could be handed back to the MCP which is the current ruling party.
“Is this not the first step to repeal the Press Trust Reconstruction Act and take it back,” wrote on social media user regarding Gwengwe’s appointment.