Bring back the Forfeiture Act in Malawi

We are in Liwonde, a town that is blessed with warehouses nobody currently needs. In the long term vision of the founders of this country, Liwonde would have been by now the hub of commerce. They dreamed that goods would be transported from across the world through the Nacala-Liwonde or Beira Nsanje rail network to Liwonde and stored in the warehouses at Liwonde. So would goods brought by train from Zambia through Mchinji and Lilongwe. Goods ferried from Mpoto across Lake Malawi would also come to Liwonde in vessels through the River Shire. Goods from Nsanje and Chikwawa would also come to Liwonde by train through Limbe.

The dream was thwarted not only by the Mozambican wars of freedom and tribal supremacy, but also by the lack of direction by our multiparty leaders. Instead of implementing the Liwonde dream, the UDF chose to implement something called Mtwara and Northern Corridors, which Bingu rejected and opted for the Nsanje Corridor, which Joyce Banda rejected in preference for a corridor we, Lootlandians as Malawians are known in Liwonde, were never told. And Peter Mutharika seems to prefer that we go back to the Nsanje corridor.

“Does it mean then that Malawi has no long term development plan, sort of blueprint?” Sheikh Jean-Philippe LePossoin asked as we sat down at Paris Club to take fantakoko and reminisce over our Machingian travels so far.

“We have more than five development statements which no leader follows,” I replied as I called for Liwonde light gin to fortify my fantakoko on the rocks.

“And why do your leaders deviate from them?”

“Two reasons,” I started.

“One?” Jean-Philippe cut in.

“The development statements are short run, exogenously motivated and funded. National input is minimal. For instance, the Vision 2020 statement, like the Social Action Fund, was a World Bank or IMF or EU or World Bank-IMF-EU project which poor countries were made to adapt and adopt. We wrote our Vision 2020 to satisfy the funders,” I said.

“Two?” Jean-Philippe asked with an air of mockery.

“We, Lootlandians, are an inert, inactive, laissez-faire, hinc et nunc people. Rarely do we espouse active citizenship and demand accountability from duty bearers. We think our elected leaders own the country and all the resources. That’s why we plunder, solola, loot and pilfer at will. Each time we steal we think we are stealing from the elected leaders. We sometimes even shield and praise the plunderers,” I explained and sipped my rock shandy.

“What should stop people from plundering if plunder is never punished?” Native Authority Mandela asked.

“Come again?” Sheikh Jean-Philippe asked.

“During the Malawi Congress Party era, people learned that the closer one is to the centre of power the easier one gets money and property. At one point three politician families owned half of Blantyre city and all the prime land in Lilongwe city,” Native Authority Mandela said authoritatively.

“Which are these families?” Abiti Joyce Befu, also known as MG 66, asked.

“Names do not matter. When the MCP administration collapsed, those who had not benefited went on the rampage selling to themselves government houses and other properties. Check around for who owns what and where,” the Native Authority said.

“Could that be why it is difficult to find government accommodation in Monkey Bay?” MG 66 wondered.

“When the UDF administration collapsed, you saw how the DPP shared whatever little had been spared by the UDF. People sold and bought houses at the smallest fraction of the normal price. We know it, but we, as active citizens of this country, have not protested, thereby endorsing plunder and looting,” Native Authority Mandela said.

“I now understand the trend,” Sheikh Jean-Philippe said.

“Due to lack of punishment and public protestation, we now have this. The accused know this will pass and nothing serious will happen to them. People will forget. Were it left to me to decide, I would propose that the culprits be heavily punished in good time, preferably by firing squad,” the NA said.

Levi Zeleza Manda
Levi Zeleza Manda

“Firing squad, kusolola kokhako?” MG 66 exclaimed.

“Fine. Let’s just bring back the Forfeiture Act. Amend it to oblige property owners to justify the source of their resources,” the NA backed down.

“And who will forfeit a sitting president’s property?” Sheikh Jean-Philippe asked.

  • The article appears under  ‘Bottom Up’ column in Weekend Nation newspaper

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