Woes of a corrupt Malawi: Time to throw the dice

As species, humans are greedy, it’s in our DNA. As a society, it is an actuality, Malawians are corrupt. I’ll be the first to admit it. On numerous occasions I have paid off or palm-oiled an official to get my way. I’m not proud of it, but at least, I’m man enough to admit it.

Rolling the Dice

Rolling the Dice

Corruption is institutionalised in our society. From the top brass in the government to common bloke on the street including the women folk, everyone is crooked. We have become so numb to this evil that it’s longer noticeable. Kusosola or katangale has become an acceptable norm. This, has eroded the nation’s confidence and pride in its future and threatens to destroy the social and political fabric of our country.

The five administrations that we have had since gaining independence from British colonialism have been more comprehensively corrupt than their predecessors or vice versa. Political leaders and government officials are enriching self-aggrandising themselves and beyond imagination. Somehow this has become acceptable.

All cries by the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) the media and opposition parties have fallen on deaf ears. The infamous ‘Cashgate’ scandals have been going on since Kamuzu days.

We’ve all witnessed officials becoming billionaires overnight. We have clapped hands for those who live beyond their means. We have praised thieves and glorified the corrupt but vilified the just and hardworking labelling them as poverty stricken. Shame on us!

Not only do we find this to be acceptable or tolerable but we applaud and adore such unbecoming behaviour. If someone stands up to it, they are labelled as a ‘hater’.

What a hopeless bunch of hypocrites, we are.

‘White-Collar graft’

We are all quick to criticise high profile corrupt scandals in public but we adore the perpetrators in private. No doubt such scandals have crippled the nation’s economy and undermined donors’ confidence. But we are missing the biggest corruption scandal which has been happening in our offices and homes for a generation.

As a nation we seem to think it’s alright to avoid a MK5000 fine by bribing MK1000 to an underpaid traffic officer. Or it’s alright to pay off a customs official. You only need to ask few people and someone will ‘know a guy’ in the passport office, road traffic or even the courts system who will expedite your process for a ‘fee’.

I remember in secondary school when headboys would pile buckets of meat whilst Form 1 students where served beans because the meat had ‘run out’. The same headboys went on to become leaders in University and are now a huge part of the political and administrative leadership spectrum.

And we expect them to behave differently? How stupid.

The uncomfortable and disturbing truth is that most of us would probably behave in same way if we had the opportunity.

An official on MK300, 000 a month salary erecting a MK150 million mansion in just a few years (with no mortgage) and we have all seen it over and over and we turn a blind eye because we have accepted it to be the standard practice.

White collar corruption costs the country billions of Kwachas every day and is the biggest hindrance to the development of our country. But we’ve all come to accept it.


This is a generational problem. Education on the detrimental effects of corruption needs to begin in our schools, churches and homes. Our children need to be given civil education about the impact of this evil practice.

It is a national crisis that strikes at the very heart, soul and spirit of the nation’s wealth. No amount of donor aid or no government will rid our country of poverty unless we collectively confront this, as a nation.

Our political leaders are the worst perpetrators. No one will buy the rhetoric that lack of donor support is the major contributor of the current economic woes when mapwevupwevu spending is defiantly high.

Our leaders need to start leading by example and must not be allowed to tramp on right to know how they spend our hard earned taxpayers’ money – it is our money.  We are the bosses and they are our employees and we don’t care how educated or how rich they were before they sought our mandate to put them into power.

The ACB has been a toothless entity but we are all to blame. We accept mediocrity. We normalise the abnormal –Timalekelera muvi mpaka ulowe m’maso. Titati talira ndiye kuti msampha waning’a. timadikilira mpaka madzi afike mkhosi – This nonsense must stop!

Ironically, it was established by one of the most corrupt administrations the country has ever had. The ACB is just a showcase to the international donor community. But everyone knows that it’s mostly used as a tool to prosecute a handful of corrupt political enemies.

It will never be deal with the majority of corrupt practices in our public and private sectors. Fighting corruption will require effective visionary political leadership and from the evidence so far the country has failed to elect any.

‘The challenge’

I’m not suggesting that there is a single solution to this problem but status quo is unsustainable. The public purse cannot carry on bleeding resources at this rate. It may take a few generations rid corruption in our society but there has to be a beginning.

I think the biggest culprit of corruption is the Malawian society itself. We have passed on the responsibility to everyone else but ourselves.

The same way the country has now embraced the practice of wearing seatbelts or avoiding stigmatisation of AIDS sufferers, we can all do our bit to fight corruption and not ignore or promote it.

It begins with each one of us. The power to end corruption is not with the donors, it is with us.

Now, not tomorrow is the time to throw the dice and put to bed the woes of the maladies of corruption.

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A country which can hardly produce anything to “earn big” on a world market, a labour force with one of the lowest productivity index in the world, a government apparatus and puplic sector ranking amongst the least states in the world when it comes to perfomance and effectiveness, a country which plays the card of attracting doners as good as we did in the last 51 years….
What do we expect?
The criminal act of corruption seems for many, across our society , no matter how wealthy , the only way out.

Ian Chiputiputi

A thought provoking article. You can tell from the overwhelming reaction against Bisnowaty’s call for ban against unnecessary trips by civil servants how deeply entrenched corruption is in the country. In fact the whole system is so rotten that
even if some donor were to give us $5 billion as grant the country’s economic woes would not reduce. Greed! More than half the money would be shared in allowances, fuel, lakeshore seminars, acquisition of additional property by the same people. Its sickening!


I don’t get it, the author is saying that he pays bribes and you are busy clapping hands for him?

Boyd Kilembey

Get to the root causes. If Traffic Police were well paid and housed, I dont think they would find it profitable to be corrupt.
Lets get to the basics. What we see is as a result of underpayment of salaries – where the political elite accumulate wealth for themselves while the hard working MRA guys get crumbs.
It is only in Malawi where graduates with long service can not afford to buy a brand new car from a showroom. Something is pathetically wrong with our pay structures.


Totally agree. Corruption and rooting of public funds for self enrichment are the main reasons the country’s development has retrogressed badly and shamefully.

Add to that poor governance and judgement by the ruling politicians.

Add to that we Malawians as people are still sleeping and watching all this abuse of resources when we should be organizing ourselves and making constant petitions and demands to parliament and the presidency to stop such pervasive behavior which is holding back the development of the country.


I agree with the author

You say the people need to come together to address this issue. Does this mean you will refuse to pay these “fees” from now on? You will go through the legitimate process of receiving a ticket rather than paying off the cop? Why should I pat you on the back for admitting you’re a part of the graft in this country? Knowing right from wrong is a pretty simple virtue to learn. Rather than being a part of it, you should shame those who are doing it, regardless of the outcome. You’re talking the talk but you must walk the… Read more »
Well articulated and to the point. If wishes were horses, as they say, I would have asked Mr. M’gona, the author to join the few but honourable people we need in the country. This rot was started in earnest by that 6 pounds thief, we clapped our hands for him and he thought he was a hero. Then came the Kusolola pretender who robbed us blind. As if putting paid to the adage of “If you want something said, send a man, but if you want something done, send a woman”…Joyce Banda gave us the true meaning of corruption. What… Read more »

Ues I totally agree. Corruption eradication should start from our homes by teaching our children the badness of it, as we ourselves as parents lead by example.


Mphwiyo mwampatsa bail nde nkumati corruption ingathe. Mu cashgate muli anthu ambirimbiri and akutetezana. Mlandu wakuba ndalama ngovuta kugamula? Only in Malawi!

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