Dr. George Thupatula Chaponda continues to be one of the highest-ranking Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials. Actually, he is the Vice President of the governing DPP and, until recently, a powerful Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development. It is not a secret that the ‘Bulldozer’ is a personal friend to President Peter Mutharika and that both are distinguished graduates of Yale University of the United States of America. He was, until recently, Leader of Government Business in parliament.
But President Mutharika has just demonstrated ‘progressive’ leadership by pushing out Chaponda as Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development over allegations of his corrupt conduct in the multi-million Kwacha maize procurement deal between Malawi and Zambia grain agencies. There had been widespread consensus about Chaponda’s alleged wrongdoing. The President’s first step to deal with the matter was to institute a Commission of Inquiry, which was led by retired Chief Justice Anastanzia Msosa.
In its report, the commission confirmed the widespread fears that Dr. Chaponda may have been corrupt in his involvement in the maize deal. Later, a search by officials of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) at his house in Area 10 large amounts of hard cash in local and foreign currencies. The President had no choice but to crack his whip on Dr. Chaponda.
Predictably, opposition and some civil society organization (CSO) leaders have deliberately failed to see any merit in the President’s decision, calling it “too little, too late”.
It is ironical that the same quarters that lobbied hard for the dismissal and possible arrest of Chaponda cannot see anything good in the President’s decision to fire him, pending further investigations, notwithstanding the fact that the beleaguered minister is the President’s closest ally.
The Chinese have a famous adage “every journey starts with one step”. Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika has done what was unthinkable in the minds of many Malawians just one week ago. He has taken a bold step and gotten rid of a powerful minister; a personal friend; and a ‘homeboy’.
If what the President has done is not a demonstration of personal zeal and political will at the highest level to deal with corruption and theft of public resources, then we must be living in Mars. As a people, we ought to raise our voice in support of the President’s commitment to fight corruption and encourage him to ‘cast his net wider’, instead of making wild comments that have no value at all but politics written all over them.
The President has set the tone and it is the expectation of the entire nation that he and his entire administration will not retrogress on this positive path. The decision to send away Chaponda must also act as a wake-up call for all government officials, big or small, that there are indeed no sacred cows in President Mutharika’s drive to eliminate abuse of government resources.
Undoubtedly, Chaponda’s dismissal marks the dawn of a new era where the Mutharika administration will not use the fight against corruption as a tool for settling political scores but a cleansing process that will see the return of donor and people’s confidence and trust in this government.
President Mutharika’s decision to kick out his closest ally must be viewed by us all as an incentive to continue the battle that must be won for the nation to achieve sustainable growth and development.
The determination by President Mutharika to fight corruption involving cronies in his own political yard must be genuinely acknowledged and applauded by not only the Leader of opposition Reverend Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, but also the leadership of the CSOs, media (Nyasa Times, Daily Times, Malawi News, Zodiak, NPL) all and sundry.
President Mutharika has demonstrated that he is aware that corruption destroys faith in legitimate authority. Indeed, he must walk the talk and adopt a zero-tolerance approach against graft. I am aware that the President, being a lawyer himself, knows that strong leadership and effective laws are essential in the fight against corruption. It is a battle that can be won.
The President is mindful, for sure, that when he fights corruption, corruption will fight back but as a ‘strong’ leader, he shall remain undaunted and will not relent until corruption is totally decimated.
One cannot agree more with what one Nigerian politician said about corruption. When the money meant to construct roads is looted, the end result is that the roads are not built and the people suffer and die in avoidable road accidents. When money meant to provide electricity is looted, we all are perpetually sentenced to darkness. When the money meant for healthcare is pocketed by a few, we are unable to reduce maternal and infant mortality. These are some the costs of corruption.
So, hail, Mr. President. You have my support!
“Corruption is worse than prostitution. The latter might endanger the morals of an individual, the former invariably endangers the morals of the entire country.”- Karl Kraus
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