“The greatest advantage of speaking the truth is that you don’t have to remember what you said.” – Anonymous
The donor jury’s verdict is unequivocal: No meaningful support for Malawi until CashGate, JetGate, MaizeGate and related issues pertaining to the shameless plunder of public coffers have been effectively dealt with and proper transparency, accountability and financial management systems are implemented. The British government has made this abundantly clear and the German government has expressed its intentions by funding investigations into Malawi’s financial management systems from 2005 to 2012; their sentiments are surely representative of all donor and development partner views.
The current administration has gone into overdrive by speeding up prosecution of Cash-Gate cases and securing convictions for a number of suspects. More arrests have been made and Minister of Justice, Samuel Tembenu, has pointed to more high-profile arrests, most likely based on the Baker Tilly Forensic Audit Report. Unfortunately, there is a feeling that the arrests are selective and are targeting current and former members of the People’s Party and their associates. Such speculation does not help the government’s cause of restoring donor and development partner confidence and regaining the trust of the people.
And in the absence of the published list of suspects, Malawian’s will continue to view the government’s moves with suspicion whilst donors, who must already have the list, will not be hoodwinked by any efforts to cover-up certain individuals and institutions. Consequently, Malawians will continue to bear the brunt of aid withdrawal until our benefactors are convinced that the government is acting in good faith.
During the 2014 election campaign, the DPP promised the people of Malawi that, once in power, they would release the names of all those people implicated in the financial scandal. However, almost six months down the line, it would appear that the new administration has grown cold feet and is wary of releasing the names. This is only adding fire to the rumour mill that the list contains names of influential individuals that are linked to the DPP administration.
Therefore, the government is reluctant to publish the names for fear of the embarrassment and backlash that this could bring. Once more, Malawians are being denied their right to know and to hold their leaders accountable.
Running government is not an easy task. Especially when a country is rocked with an unprecedented financial scandal that threatens its very foundations and points to the involvement of core senior leaders in society. However, decisions have to be made and sometimes these choices can be painful but must be made, nevertheless, in the interest of the nation. There should be no room to play double-standards when the nation’s interests are at stake.
The DPP administration would, therefore, be well-advised to publish the names of CashGate suspects as a means of showing to the people that it has nothing to hide. Recent calls by Minister of Information, KondwaniNankhumwa, for people to hand themselves to the police are, at best, ludicrous; just release the names and then maybe people can choose to hand themselves to the police!
In view of the potential numerous cases in this saga, I would propose that we establish a “Cash-Gate Truth, Reparations and Recoveries Court” to speedily deal with court cases under special terms of reference regarding the processes for referring cases to this court, forfeiture of all plundered property and funds under appropriate legislation, rewards and protection for whistle-blowers, plea bargains, pardons or lighter sentences for those who willingly confess their crimes and make good partially or in full. The focus should not only be on indictment only but on unraveling the truth behind CashGate and ensuring that reparations and recoveries are made from and by those who confess to their guilt.
The Cash-Gate Scandal opened a stinking can of worms. Now, the Malawian people want to know the source of the stench. They want the truth and publishing names of suspected players and masterminds of CashGate is a positive step in this direction. It’s simple: no truth, no public trust, no IMF program, no donor trust, no much-needed direct budgetary support, no meaningful economic activity and growth, limited and ineffective delivery of state social services, education, sanitation and health services and, a resultant negative impact on development.
The longer this truth is hidden, the more disastrous the consequences. Already, the country is experiencing the signs of a stressed economy and we do not have the luxury of time to waste on unhelpful political machinations. The DPP administration would do itself a big favour and score points by publishing the names of Cash Gate suspects and fast-tracking prosecution of cases in order to quickly restore confidence and unlock budgetary support in these difficult times.
Contrary to some beliefs and opinions, naming the suspects will not prejudice their right to fair triaI and will effectively put a stop tto potentially damaging rumour-mongering.
Lets name and shame all CashGate suspects NOW!
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(Chikavu Nyirenda is a Senior Lecturer in Banking and Finance at The Catholic University of Malawi and contributes, in his personal capacity, a weekly column, ‘Views from the Sunset’which is published every Monday in ‘The Daily Times.’Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :