Why force Malawi presidents to declare assets when we have no power to probe?

Never before have cries been louder. A notable constituency of our society is so concerned with President Joyce Banda declaring her assets. To their dismay, she recently made it clear that after thorough consultation with her lawyers within government structure she has decided not to do so because she already did in 2009 when she became Vice President of the country.

Though it is a constitutional requirement for Heads of State to declare assets here in Malawi I think it is high time we reviewed this requirement so that it holds the necessary balance that will allow accountability after the leaders leave office.

I wonder why we should make a fuss to the current Head of State to declare assets when as a country we have done nothing whatsoever to probe into the wealth accumulated by her predecessors, Bakili Muluzi and Bingu wa Mutharika?

As a country we need to put proper mechanism in place for institutions that are mandated to initiate this necessary probe failing which the whole act will be branded as political witchhunt.

President Banda: Says cant declare her assets after she disclosed when she was Veep

Imagine a situation where Bingu’s assets are being probed during Joyce Banda’s regime. There would be an outcry to say the incumbent is playing games with the bereaved family. This would be the case even when the powers for such declaration lie in the hands of Parliament.

Let us recall that when Bingu’s government started the Muluzi K1.7 billion case; the political spectrum was awash with “Bingu is mistreating Muluzi because they are political opponents” rhetoric.

We never had time to soberly look at the constitution and realize that even before the case resumed there was need for Muluzi to be probed on what he had accumulated through his tenure.

Why should it always be the Anti Corruption Bureau that has to deal with these matters? Can’t we have a Parliamentary committee whose sole purpose will be to access all declarations and verify them periodically for the nation to see?

Furthermore, besides his dying while in office, Bingu’s wealth is still part of the puzzle the nation has to solve and no one seems to care yet during his rule many stakeholders were always pushing to know where he got the money to construct his Ndata home, buy and maintain his vast farms in Mitundu and Ndata among other developments.

This failure to finish the probing is enough proof that the noise about Joyce Banda declaring her assets is all but a temporary wish. We won’t speak when she leaves office because again we have weak systems for such a task.

I think the main problem with our society is that those with powers to instill change within our democracy are not aware of their duties such that they fail to execute their duties to the maximum.

It seems it is only in times of crisis when we seek redress from our constitution. We did this when Bingu passed away and fortunately managed to scare off the DPP camp from raping the supreme law of the land.

It seems our leaders relax when they notice that a piece of legislation does not look contentious at that particular time. How many MPs are serious to force Joyce Banda to declare her assets? Does any lawmaker care whether the nation is told the truth on how much wealth did Bingu have at his death?

Another matter of interest is whether the framers of our constitution put the requirement for any Head of State to declare assets to prevent them from getting rich or abusing public funds? To me it looks like we have failed to notice the other avenues through which Presidents get extra money, even more than what they would misuse from the public purse.

Do we even have proper mechanisms to keep our leaders in check during their tenure on things that they receive in form of gifts? Deny it at your own peril but we surely know that many influential foreign investors always give millions of dollars as kickbacks to be awarded lucrative contracts by government.

Or kickbacks are not categorized as public funds? Then if we give lee way to huge gifts (many of which come in monetary form) why do we get surprised when a President becomes rich overnight?

Doesn’t a serving President has the freedom to use the millions (gifts) to boost up their life as they wish? If that President finishes a term having received gifts amounting to K100 million, do we have the legal mandate and backing to question him or her?

What about the other side of the pendulum involving cabinet ministers? Our Constitution has put it so well that “the President and cabinet ministers shall not use their respective offices for personal gain or place themselves in a situation where their material interests conflict with the responsibilities and duties of their offices”

Fine and good, but have we been empowered to look at how cabinet ministers remain accountable to our systems if they leave office through a cabinet reshuffle? I don’t think so.

My honest view is that we should first work on our institutions, systems and mindsets before we jump on sacrificing every President about declaration of assets when we cannot probe into their affairs after they leave office.

As we continue pondering on the necessity of the incumbent declaring her assets let us think of ways how we can give power to the citizenry to verify whether the declared assets match with wealth accumulated (gifts inclusive).

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