The circus called Muluzi’s case

It  is important, sometimes, to appreciate an ant when, out of resilience, goes on an anthill and dares to murder an elephant.

Ex Malawi leader Muluzi coming from court with his State security detail
Ex Malawi leader Muluzi coming from court with his State security detail

Our appreciation, of course, should not be driven by what the ant can achieve. Rather, the spirit to dare, to attempt, even when we know, for sure, that it is only barking at the moon.

Well, I had this feeling last Thursday, after studying a statement Malawi Law Society (MLS) made regarding the slow pace of the Bakili Muluzi K1.7 billion case.

Let us face it: We are all dog-tired of this case. Its prosecution processes are not just doubtfully slow, but they are dogged with suspicious adjournments and suspensions bordering on the health of the accused, sinister judicial review applications and disturbingly recusal of those representing the State.

I could not agree more with law professor Edge Kanyongolo who argues that the case, as it stands now, undermines public confidence in the country’s judicial system.

In fact, MLS is indeed right that the case has dragged for so long because of reasons beyond judicial processes. The society suspects something external to the judicial processes as the reason behind its current distasteful delay.

In their judgement, MLS rightly observes that it is the independence of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) behind the delay.

The society feels ACB is failing to independently execute the case to its logical conclusion because it is being influenced by some external forces.

Well, the society, here, was just being diplomatic about the whole issue. I am happy Michael Jana, a political scientist at Chancellor College, came out blunt about it.

He bluntly told The Nation on Monday that the case has turned out to be a political circus used by those in power to either reward Muluzi and the UDF for siding with the government, or punish him for opposing government.

The debate, then, should not necessarily be on the delay of Muluzi’s case. Rather, I opine, should be on questioning how our system makes it opportune for those in power to influence the course of such high profile case—Muluzi’s case just being an instance.

Unfortunately, though making a right diagnosis that the ACB is not independent in the Muluzi case, MLS provides a prescription that, to me, is so palliative in treatment.

In advising that the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) should take up the case, I feel MLS is scratching the problem on the surface. In fact, the society, without addressing the root of the problem, is only transferring a problem from one to the other.

I argue that even if the DPP takes up the case, the circus that is Muluzi’s case won’t go to sleep. The reason is simple: The ACB and the DPP, plus many other government agencies, are not, by virtue of having the President as the appointing boss of their heads, independent of the Executive. They will always dance to the tune of the President.

I am sure we have not forgotten, in 2005, former leader Bingu wa Mutharika fired the then DPP Ishmael Wadi in public and, I quote, arguing: “You cannot be independent from someone who appointed you.”

The issue of the President appointing heads of these institutions is quite key in their quest for independence.

In fact, in their 2014 party manifesto, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) alluded to the problem and promised to rectify it be removing the presidential hand in these critical appointments.

What MLS should have done is to remind the ruling DPP—in the face of having defeated that important motion by Malawi Congress Party (MCP) to have ACB report to Parliament not the Executive—the importance of being truthful to Malawians that voted it into power.

The Muluzi case, let us face it, won’t be prosecuted to its logical conclusion as long as the ACB, or even the DPP, continue to be in the armpits of the President.

It is a case that always reminds us the importance of having a legal mechanism that makes our institutions independent of presidents.

If we cannot learn this today and push tirelessly for redress, I am afraid this tired Muluzi K1.7 billion song will still play for generations and generations to come.

Let us push to get ACB, or the DPP, out from the excessive whims of the President. If we can’t do that, the circus called Muluzi’s K.7 billion case, will leave with us for years to come.

I rest my case.

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