Malawi Parliament’s neglect of duty in cashgate – Z Allan Ntata

Recently, at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe, the Malawi Police prevented  gun-shot survivor Paul Mphwiyo, formerly a budget director in the Ministry of Finance from leaving Malawi for South Africa.

His shooting and near murder by unknown assailants in September opened a can of worms that has exposed how Malawi’s president Joyce Banda and her ruling People’s party set up a syndicate to loot and pillage state coffers to enrich themselves and stock up funds for the forthcoming elections in May 2014.

A month or so ago, Mphwiyo was summoned to that Parliament formed by members of parliament largely elected through the not so desirable conditions and circumstances already discussed.

And the wrongness of the people that get elected to important positions in the Malawi society got vindicated with the performance of the Public Accounts Committee of the Malawi National Assembly to summon Mr Mphwiyo for questioning.

The 'cashgate' protests

The ‘cashgate’ protests

Although the so-called people’s representatives may have considered the idea of hearing from Mr Mphwiyo a good one, they had not fully considered why they were summoning him and what information really was crucial and needed to be obtained from him for the benefit of the nation.

Indeed on the basis of subsequent developments, what the Malawi Parliament achieved was to provide a forum for Mphwiyo to recite his well-rehearsed statements in his efforts to exonerate himself from the Cashgate and appear intelligent.

How a dubious civil servant, shot in mysterious circumstances to do with corruption and which he cannot clearly explain, somehow deserves a promotion instead of a sacking has to go down as yet another mystery we will never unravel about the Joyce Banda administration.

Further, it is interesting that all this moving about of Paul Mphwiyo is happening before the full story about his role in Cashgate is known, and long before the completion of the investigations into the matter by the various institutions mandated with this task.

In fact, according to the recently released Forensic Audit Report, it is certain that MPhwiyo has answers to provide in the cashleak.

But Parliament’s greatest betrayal of the Malawians whom it claims to represent is not in its botched up questioning of  Mphwiyo, or its incompetent handling of the Cashgate investigations.

Even as Parliament was giving Mphwiyo a chance to demonstrate how much smarter than them he was, President Joyce Banda was making arrangements to travel to Kenya for that country’s independence celebrations.

What is important for Malawians to know is that President Banda’s trip to Kenya was approved and organised by the Paramount group officials who have now taken over all the decision making responsibilities at the State House.

President  Banda can dare not make a move without first having it approved by the Paramount group. The President has now admitted that the private Jet she has been using to take her around the world in her endless travelling is the same presidential jet she claimed to have sold, which in fact was simply exchanged with military equipment without parliamentary approval, and is now being operated by the Paramount Group.

The first time that Malawians heard of the Paramount group is when president Banda declared in a television interview that as far as she was concerned, Malawi had been invaded by Tanzanians and illegal Somali immigrants and that for this reason she needed to buy armed boats to patrol the lake.

The President did not disclose to Malawians that the patrol boats she was talking about had been secured in exchange for the Presidential jet. In fact, all along, President Banda has been telling Malawians that the jet was bought for cash, and that the money was used to buy maize!

At a time when the president is implicated in corruption and looting of state funds and laundering the same through deals with foreign companies, there is unquestionably so much that needs to be explained regarding the relationship between President Joyce Banda and the Paramount group, and this company’s operations in Malawi.

Is she really in charge of the country? If so, why is an arms dealer calling the shots on what she can and cannot do, which interview she can and cannot give and who she can and cannot talk to? Who exactly is running Malawi? Is it she, President Joyce Banda, or the Paramount Group?

Thus the question that must be pursued is why the National Assembly, and specifically the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament has not summoned president Banda so that she may provide answers to the questions that Malawians are asking.

What exactly is happening regarding the issue of Lake Malawi? Has Malawi really been invaded by Tanzania? If so, why are we made to believe that there negotiations still going on? What exactly is the justification for buying patrol boats? Will Patrol boats prevent successfully the Tanzanian invasion? Why should a forensic audit report not mention names of suspects when reports from commissions of enquiry always give names of individuals, knowing full well the findings are likely to be used in criminal prosecutions?

And what of her dealings with the Paramount group and the Image management company firm, Bell Pottinger? What is the nature of these deals that poor Malawians have been committed to pay for without being told exactly what is happening?

Perhaps more importantly, what is the president’s involvement in Cashgate? Why is it that all Malawians are hearing are stories of how hard she is trying to fight corruption when she cannot explain the sources of her own wealth, the protection being afforded to her close associates such as Ephraim Chivunde and Oswald Lutepo, and the role of her own children in the Cashgate scandal? Why is it that at first president Banda and her supporters were trying to fool Malawians by claiming that Cashgate was a breakthrough before she was finally forced to admit that Cashgate is a crisis?

Elsewhere, the president has claimed that she is receiving death threats connected to her resolve to fight corruption in the wake of Cashgate revelations. Why is Parliament not feeling duty bound to question the president on these very serious claims that have the potential to destroy the remains of our reputation as a business and tourism destination? What is the nature of those threats? How are these threats reaching the president? Why, months after that narrative was first made by Information Minister Brown Mpinganjira, are these people who are threatening the president not being pursued? Why is Parliament not rising to the occasion of its accountability responsibilities?

Even more recent reports are that a preliminary forensic audit report into Cashgate has been completed and presented to the IMF. One would have thought that the Malawi Parliament would be an important stakeholder in this matter and indeed a competent enough and interested enough party to be presented with the report first even before the report was given to the IMF. Of whose primary interest is this forensic audit report? Is it not Malawians first and then the IMF or any other development partner second?

Is this Parliamentary disinterest and helplessness not giving credence to allegations that perhaps the Speaker colluded with the President to scupper the independence and objectivity of the legislative arm of government in this regard?

It must be emphasised that the shambolic and incompetent manner in which the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee has approached their responsibility to represent the interests of Malawians in these matters demonstrates a parliament mindful only of its own interests and not the interests of Malawians, a parliament unfit to represent Malawians, and a parliament that Malawians do not want and must get rid of in the coming elections.

Parliamentarians need always to remember that they hold their positions in trust on behalf of the people, and that it is the interests of the people of Malawi that should be their prime and supreme concern.

At a time when the people of Malawi are interested and concerned with the activities of their president, and the allegations and indications that she is corruptly bankrupting the country, they look to their parliamentary representatives to have the balls and the mettle to do the necessary and the needful.

This means they must bring to account the people that matter, and ask questions that unravel the issue and explain the mystery, not sheepishly presenting themselves to be lectured to by a corruption suspect in the name of Paul Mphwiyo.

Sadly, Malawi is country that is yet to guarantee that still desperately needs all the help it can get to ensure that voters who elect these leaders are not susceptible to manipulation due to poverty of the mind, of the tummy and of the pocket!

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