This election will bankrupt you: Malawi 2014

For a country reportedly one of the poorest in Africa, the amount of money and resources the party in power has unleashed on this campaign is nothing short of a scandal. It is more scandalous that the People Party (PP) is brazenly using 22 vehicles without known sources. And they see nothing wrong with that.

This election is very much about the future of the country for millions of people as it is about self-preservation by some. That the truth of cashgate might be known if PP loses power frightens the party and its leaders into an apoplectic fit. This is one potent reason for the PP’s determined fixation to stay in power beyond  May 20. The irony of this is that PP will spend billions of public money on this campaign, so that the real truth of who stole and benefited from billions of public money in Cashgate might never be known.

And they will rationalise this election extravagance by saying it is ”taxpayer’s” money anyway which, to them, is perceived to be an amorphous bottomless pit of cash.pposter

So the party is set on ensuring that, at whatever cost, this election is not going to cause it to come to a political cardiac arrest. They will do anything to achieve that, from trying to smear the good name of Justice Maxon Mbendera to running pretentious election surveys.

But the mood of the people is not what it was two years ago and scales are shifting slowly against those in power. There can be no doubt that the people of Malawi are fed up with the thievery and the corruption, the lack of national policy direction, the sense of entitlement that these politicians hog for themselves, the impunity and the lies and being taken for granted.

In any case, Malawi deserves more and better. With all the money at its disposal, PP should surely have come up with captivating campaign strategies and messaging. Their open lock is now a symbol of ridicule and their slogan of  “yanyamuka” is as devoid of imagination as it is meaningless to the aspirations of the people. Frankly, you can’t claim to end poverty by giving a goat here and a cow, there. Masaf and other NGOs have been doing that for years. This Mudzi Transformation Trust is the President’s pet project, anchored on some vague personal pride, but will ultimately do nothing to transform Malawi.

Times have truly changed: PP came into power with the goodwill of the people but soon squandered it mainly on the back of official corruption and the peculiarly Malawian brand of corrosive greed; for many of these leaders, political power without material benefits is hardly worth their time.

The President herself has admitted on so many times that she is sitting on a pile of corruption. If she had the courage of her convictions she would have sacked half her cabinet, allowed the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to act without hindrance, confessed and apologised to the nation for the presidential jet debacle and, for good measure, immediately declared her assets and those of her family.

But for long she has hesitated to bite the bullet and people will be forgiven for believing that she lacks the spine to confront the monster head-on because it reaches too far for her own comfort. The twin enemies of corruption and impunity are still running free and wild across the country, especially among those connected to the system—in spite of the people’s call to curb them.

Joyce Banda had an opportunity in 2012 to pick some of Malawi’s best brains and make them part of her team to boost the fortunes of the country. Only later did she bring in technocrats like Finance Minister Maxwell Mkwezalamba. But I now feel sorry for Mkwezalamba.

Instead of listening to his plea to reduce public expenditure, nothing changed. When Mkwezalamba spoke against the excesses of internal and external travel, he was ignored and scolded. So the President continued with her much-maligned merry-go-round the country at the cost of K20 million per trip to distribute goats and cows and maize worth K1.5 million.

In the currency of self-congratulatory politics as practised by Uladi Mussa, Wakuda Kamanga and company, Maxwell Mkwezalamba must feel like a fish out of water. I don’t know if Mkwezalamba has calculated the cost of PP’s campaign and to which account he is charging that.

It had better not be mine.

  • The author is Malawian journalist, writes from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The article was first published under My Turn column in The Nation newspaper.
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