Cashgate: 3 fingers point back at Ndilowe while pointing a finger at civil servants

[highlight style=’pink’] Disclaimer: This article does not in any way, shape or form support the looting of public funds while some civil servants watched. [/highlight]

As Secretary to Government, Hawa Ndilowe must have the ear of President Joyce Banda. Granted, you want to take to the bank what the former Malawi Ambassador to the United States says including eating her own words like she did after saying funds from the sale of the presidential jet had been deposited in an offshore account.

Such miscalculated statements can cause huge damage thus we saw the big effort by herself and the country’s finance and defence ministers to explain to the public how the whole dubious jet deal went down.

But what has been startling after their performance is to hear the president and his finance minister continue to differ on how the proceeds from the jet sale were used. For now, let us shelve that discussion and focus instead on Ndilowe’s bold remarks about the civil service.

Speaking on March 10 when she opened a workshop for high-level consultations on strengthening national integrity and accountability for principal secretaries and heads of constitutional bodies in the capital Lilongwe, she hang the civil servants out to dry as she expressed her indignation over their behavior when millions of dollars were being stolen from government coffers.

“No civil servant wanted to report the plunder. But they are in the same system. This shows lack of ethics.”

In case they did not understand “ethics”, she explained: “Ethics is understood as the process by which we clarify what is right and wrong and by which we act on what we take to be right. Integrity is to adhere to what we believe is right.”

Women in black on Monday attire: Chief secretary to the Government Hawa Ndilowe bids farewel to President  Joyce Banda at Kamuzu International Airport on her way to pay last respects to Nelson Mandela in South Africa
 Chief secretary to the Government Hawa Ndilowe with President Joyce Banda at Kamuzu International Airport on her way to pay last respects to Nelson Mandela in South Africa

But was Ndilowe not expecting too much from the country’s demotivated public workers as their own political leaders really do not care about integrity? Do Malawian civil servants not in live a country where some people are above the law?

Is it not in Malawi where the Anti-Corruption Bureau rushes to the microphones to announce the arrest of someone who stole a secondary certificate to get a job when real criminals are untouchable?

Do civil servants not see their elected representatives pay themselves handsomely yet teachers go without pay and there are no drugs in hospitals?

What about the refusal by the person who holds the highest and most powerful office in the land to let the public know what she was worth before she took office?

What do civil servant see when the president — her party got buses suspected to have been bought by dirty money — says a person who receives goods that may have been stolen should be held to a different standard?

Integrity, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. It is honesty, rectitude, sincerity, truthfulness, decency, goodness, righteousness, rightness and virtue.

Does the conduct of political leaders reflect integrity?

But Ndilowe was not holding anything back to drive the point home. According to The Nation, Ndilowe said during the one party state there was integrity but this changed after multiparty democracy. She called on all those concerned to examine what had gone wrong in the civil service.

I recently wrote [highlight style=’pear-green’] “Malawi needs a benevolent dictator to breakthrough” published by Nyasa Times… [/highlight] where I argued the need for strong leadership. As expected some people disagreed while others agreed. In fact, more supported the view judging from reader comments.

The pre-1994 good civil servant bemoaned by Ndilowe must have taken the cue from the leadership. Dr. Kamuzu Banda brooked no nonsense and for 30 years ruled with an iron fist.

In 1994, Malawians chose to take a different political route but for 20 years now it has been one step forward two steps back: Hunger refuses to go away. Government hospitals lack medicines. Education standards continue to slip. The chasm between the haves and have nots keeps getting wider as the cost of living soars together with high unemployment. Angry Malawians can scream their heads off but the country’s leadership is deaf from the look of things. It is every man for himself.

I do not know if this picture looks right to Madam Ndilowe. I do however agree with her assessment that the civil service was better under the one party state.

So, despite his poor human rights record, what did Kamuzu get right which three presidents after him have failed?

While thinking about that, I would like to stress that fostering goodness among Malawian civil servants will not happen spontaneously. Good moral character must therefore start with positive role modeling from leaders, including the president, failing which Ndilowe must remember that when you point one finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you.

*The author is former founding editor of Maravi Post and now is a columnist at Nyasa Times

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