A local socio-political commentator Makhumbo Munthali has hailed the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu SC for organizing a successful national anti-corruption conference in Lilongwe but that it was yet another missed opportunity for President Peter Mutharika to stamp his authority in anti-graft crusade.
The Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, under the stewardship of Tembenu, commenced nationwide consultation process between March and April 2017 with the key stakeholders under the 8 pillars of the National-Anti Corruption Strategy of 2008 in order to hear their views in the fight against corruption and what needs to be done to defeat the vice and win the war.
The climax of the consultation process was a high level 2-days National Anti-Corruption Conference held between 27 and 28 April at Bingu International Conference in Lilongwe – a function which was also graced by the heads of all the 3 arms of government including the President.
Delegates proposed the review of laws on protection of whistleblowers, independence of the graft busting body, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), special courts to tackle corruption, enforcement of declaration of assets laws and review of procurement laws, among others.
However, responding to a Nyasa Times questionnaire on his over reaction to the Conference as both an analyst and participant in the Conference, Munthali said the idea and execution of the conference was a great idea, and applauded the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs who was the face of the consultation and conference process.
“The idea and the actual execution of this national-anti corruption consultations and conference was brilliant. When the decision was announced some of us had reservations considering how politics often interferes with the process and outcome of such processes especially when initiated by government. However, the inclusive, openness and objective manner in which the Minister himself spearheaded these consultation meetings as well as the actual conference especially the first day is something worthy commending him.
“It required a sense of humility, calmness, courage, tolerance, and openness for one to lead consultations on such a highly sensitive and often politicized topic.
“The Minister just demonstrated this throughout the consultation process with the various stakeholders. The very fact that these consultation and conference were even attended by government’s fierce critics speaks volume of the leadership, design and approach to the consultations and conference. It’s something other Ministers can emulate from” said Munthali, a Lilongwe based analyst who is also the National Secretary of the Ethics, Peace, and Justice Commission (EPJC) of Evangelical Association of Malawi.
Munthali however faulted Tembenu for being “too selective” and “judgmental” during the presentation of the findings and agreed points of the consultation and conference before the President and the gathering during the second day of conference
“The expectation of the delegates who participated in the consultation and conference was that the honorable Minister would present the findings and agreed points as they were. While time may not have been adequate to share all the recommendations, but even in the few that he delivered you could hear the Minister showing some reservations and in some cases declaring his position on the recommendations he was not comfortable with.
“It was unacceptable for him to reject the reduction of the powers of the President as regards to the appointment of ACB directors. By taking sides, he did not represent well the views of the delegates to the President considering the fact that the issues he disputed before the President were the key issues agreed by participants,” argued Munthali
When asked as to why the Minister may have behaved in such a manner despite having largely a good show throughout the process, Munthali attributed this to political pressure.
“It is a fact that some within the higher echelons of the ruling party may not have been comfortable with the outcome of the first day of the conference especially the critical views advanced by a renowned Kenyan anti-corruption expert professor Lumumba and the EU ambassador Marchel Germann. Already all the mainline media had lead stories on the same.
“All this coupled by a moving speech by the Speaker of National Assembly Hon. Richard Msowoya which was obviously perceived as an indirect attack of the current regime’s failure to demonstrate political will to fight corruption, the innocent Minister was now under pressure to prove a point to the boss and fellow senior party officials by turning political in his speech hence save his job considering he was the centre of the organization of the conference. His political career was at stake as he would be deemed by his party fellows to be an accomplice to the Lumumba, Germmann and Msowoya’s perceived attack on the current regime,” argued Munthali
The social-political commentator said despite enduring such political pressure the Minister should have acted differently, saying he may have certainly reacted to that because of political pressure.
“However, that should not be a basis to justify such actions especially considering the fact that he was presenting the outcome of the consultations and agreed points on behalf of the delegates to the President and other arms of government. In this regard, he was wearing a representative hat. Besides, conventional wisdom requires one to be bold enough by saying the truth as it is even if it means burning your own fingers. The Minister demonstrated the traits of a transactional leader rather than that of a transformational leader – a leader ready to take reforms that will benefit the majority even if it means costing his or her career,” argued Munthali.
Munthali further faulted President Mutharika’s speech saying it lacked direction and as such a missed opportunity.
“It was a usual political speech he makes in every political rally. It lacked direction, and only focused on sprucing up his government’s image against accusations of corruption. Worse still, it never attempted to convincingly address the issues raised by the delegates.
“Throughout his speech you couldn’t see a crusader with divine mission, as indicated by professor Lumumba, to fight corruption in President Mutharika. The President failed to set the tone, and surely it was a missed opportunity for him,” said Munthali.
In his speech, Mutharika said: “It takes more than political will to fight corruption. It is for this reason we dedicated these special days that we as a nation must come together and do a collective soul-searching.”
However, the President defended his government from criticism that it was weak on corruption.
The two-day conference was, among others, attended by ministers, judges, donors, heads of constitutional bodies, academia, civil society and experts.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :