We are yet to get a straight story on how the proceeds from jet “sale” were used. The president maintains maize was realised from the sale while the finance minister tells a different story. Some cabinet members acknowledge the fact that nothing was discussed other than the sale.
Hanna Ndilowe, the top civil servant in the land, who by virtue of her position doubles as the secretary to the cabinet, injected herself into the mix by admitting that they misled the nation about the money going through the Reserve Bank of Malawi. I undestand the secretary was just careful with words other than to say that they lied about the whole transaction. In my world, she should resign forthwith. We need and should aspire to have disciplined professional civil servants. I am sure she has a very good track record in her public service. Unfortunately this time around she is the chief public servant and did not act to that expectation. She was acting in the interest of her political masters, and that is against the common core values and interest of the public civil service code.
This story, like Cashgate and many others, Joyce Banda and her cohorts sincerely believe they will just go away because the majority of Malawians do not pay attention to what is happening and that if they win the elections in May, it will be water under the bridge. Yes, that may be true today but might not be so tomorrow.
If you look around, the Egypt of today is not the same as the one they had three years or so ago. The same can be said of Libya, Tunisia and Ukraine. The common denominator in all these is the constant frustration by the masses with their governments. Bottled up frustrations just exploded and governments were overthrown. We have not reached that level yet and we may not in the near future but people are increasingly becoming angry at the way the present government is running its affairs.
Malawians are frustrated not just at Joyce Banda’s way of doing of things but also at government agencies including the police and the Anti-Corruption Bureau in their poor handling of corruption cases involving high profile individuals. The “Jetgate” and “Cashgate” are the two straight forward cases that even a student of law enforcement or accounting can do without difficulties and yet the bureau is silent, probably waiting to get orders from above.
Having said that, let us assume that President Banda purchased maize (for once, forget about whether there were public bids, receipts, where it was bought, who stores and transports it, and forget what the finance minister said), then it becomes a property of Malawi government hence the proceeds from that said jet sale were for the ultimate benefit of all Malawians regardless of political affiliation. The president has abused the “maize distribution” to her political advantage which is against the Malawi Electoral Commission rules and must be stopped forthwith.
For purposes of this argument, Joyce Banda cannot claim to be feeding the poor when is using government money on the PP campaign trail. If the government is now in the business of feeding the nation, then what criteria are they using in deciding who should get it and who should not? Why should it take the whole president to distribute maize to every person? What happen to relief workers? Is the president not taking away their jobs? By the way if the whole maize distribution was another a company, like ADMARC, can you believe how many people could have been employed? Unfortunately the only known jobs created out those millions of dollar from the sale are just a few Banda’s family and friends.
And the government has been distributing maize for the whole year and one assumes that we are in state of emergency the whole time. Is it not a sign that the government has failed? My understanding is that government comes in to distribute relief in a crisis and the president does that once as a symbolic gesture and the rest is done by the relief workers. What we have now is neither an emergency nor a crisis. We have poverty. The government should be working on curbing poverty and not handing out bags of maize to selected sympathizers. What happens when that bag is finished? Is the president going back to that family with another bag of maize?
My criticism of the politicised distribution of maize also goes with the practice by the president of giving out cows to people. While the exercise could be noble, the way it has been carried is all political.
With elections just two months away, I am yet to understand how the Electoral Commission looks at all this if they are really interested in a level playing field for all players.
We must get to a level where government and political affairs are kept separate if development for the whole nation is what we truly want to achieve.
- Anthony Simwaka who used to contribute to Maravi Post now writes exclusively this column for Nyasa Times