BLANTYRE--The Malawi Tourism Association (MTA) has appealed for clemency from banks to allow its members to renegotiate loan re-payment modes following the cancellation of next month's African Union (AU) summit Malawi was expected to host.
"The Association would like to appeal to finance lending institutions to assist tourism operators who may be affected by allowing them to re-negotiate re-payment arrangements because the situation has arisen from circumstances beyond their control," read a statement the association issued in the capital, Lilongwe, Friday, signed by the association president Sam Botomani.
Malawi withdrew its offer to host the scheduled July 9 to 16 summit following the AU Commission's insistence that Lilongwe has no right to sanitise the guest list.
The southern African country asked the Commission not to invite Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir because he has an International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment hovering over his head. Malawi, which - like over 30 other African countries is a signatory the Rome Statute that set up the ICC – is obliged to arrest al-Bashir should he visit the southern African country.
Malawi's main Western donors, notably Great Britain and the United States, have warned they would review aid packages to any country that hosts al-Bashir without arresting him and handing him over to the Hague-based Court. The US Congress recently passed a resolution mandating Washington to cut off aid to any such countries.
Pres Banda earlier described al-Bashir as "an economic risk" for Malawi and in a recent meeting with visiting British International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell she said Malawi would arrest the Sudanese leader should he force himself on Malawi.
But Africa is divided on how to handle the Hague court. Many African countries believe ICC unfairly targets African leaders but Botswana, Zambia - and now Malawi - have openly said they would perform their obligation to the ICC and arrest al Bashir if he visits their countries while South Africa has said it wouldn’t guarantee his security if he visits.
Malawi's cancellation of the summit might keep Pres Banda in good books with the West but for businesses it’s a disaster. When the Malawi Government and the AU secretariat called for good houses and vehicles, individuals with good houses, lodges and hotels and car rental firms borrowed huge sums of money to spruce up their units and improve the quality of their fleet. Mike Mlombwa, president of the Indigenous Business Association of Malawi (IBAM), already sounded the alarm that many businesses may collapse as people borrowed "huge" in readiness for the the summit.
And Friday MTA president Botomani said: "The association is aware that many operators will face problems because of the decision (to cancel the summit) and sympathises with members whose businesses will be affected by this situation."
He said while MTA appreciates "appreciated and noted the reason why the decision was taken" nonetheless its members stand to suffer.
"The problem for the tourism private sector is that many of them, particularly those in the catering, accommodation and car hire industries, had already spent a lot of money in preparation for the Summit," he said. "Some of them obtained commercial loans from banks and other finance lending institutions to carry out renovations and extensions to their properties or to acquire additional equipment in readiness for the big event."
Botomani urges banks and other lending institutions to appreciate the predicament many operators find themselves in and allow them to renegotiate payment of the loans.
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