Talking to one of the mainstream on-liners, out-going Malawi Law Society (MLS) president Khumbo Soko has warned that unless we take radical measures to curb corruption, the fight against corruption will remain lip-service.
Soko said we are aeons away from the ideal not only in terms of interventions that can prevent corruption from showing its ugly face, but also in terms of conducting independent, robust and quality investigations that can actually result in the conviction of the corrupt.
He explained, “as a nation, we will never really begin to win the war on corruption unless we are bold enough to follow the evidence of wrongdoing wherever it leads us. This requires us to unleash our law enforcement and prosecution agencies so they work without any kind of interference, overt or subtle.
“When you look at every preceding survey of public perception on incidences of corruption in the country, you will notice that the majority believes that corruption is on the rise. It also obliges us to ensure that we put at their [law enforcement agencies] disposal adequate resources for their work. I doubt we have reached that stage where we can say we are winning in the fight against corruption. In fact, if we are not careful, corruption will soon completely overwhelm us.”
In my studied view, Blues’ Orators, Soko couldn’t have been more wrong. Corruption, Blues’ Orators, will not overwhelm us.; it has already vanquished us;
hence, the total collapse of social services,
hence, our failure to get jolted into action by the daily reports of corruption,
hence, the so called ‘game-changers’ of 2014 growing cold feet to speak for us and demand due process in the controversial Salima – Lilongwe Water Project and so on and so forth.
Soko, who leaves office this month after completing a year long-term as Malawi Law Society (MLS) President, also lamented the palpable lack of political will to curb fraud in Malawi.
“Talk is cheap. I think folks should be judged on the basis of what they actually do. And if you begin to subject politicians to judgement and scrutiny on the basis of what they are actually doing rather than on their compelling lyrics, you will easily come to the conclusion that the will is half-hearted at best or totally non-
existent at worst,” Soko said, hitting the nail squarely on the head.
Echoing Soko was Mzuzu-based governance expert Makhumbo Munthali who zeroed in on the selective justice that happens whenever the powers-that-be see a corrupt fat cat.
“It certainly defeats the whole efforts lined up to show we are fighting corruption.
“Someone said that managing to convict one ‘big fish’ sends an equally bigger message to the nation at large than trying to make a statement through arresting the small ‘fish. An example can be cited of the [Bakili] Muluzi corruption case that has dragged close to 12 years with no end in sight.
“Also on how government has been growing cold feet in the Chaponda case at a time it was trying to portray itself that it’s fighting corruption. Simply put, there hasn’t been enough and steady steps taken to prosecute them and that ended up derailing the good efforts government was trying to make in the fight. It paints a negative picture on its very own efforts.” He added.
While pro-government apologists would blow a lot of hot air in pathetic attempts to dispute these obvious truths, the fact is: in our beloved Malawi, there is no hope for a better future.
Look for instance, at the year 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released this week by the global anti-corruption think-tank, Transparency International (TI).
Among the highlights is the fact that the majority of countries – those like ours – are making little or no progress in ending corruption and that journalists and activists in these corrupt countries continue risking their lives day in, day out, in valiant efforts to expose corruption.
Malawi is ranked number 122 out of 180 countries (and territories) where the number one ranked, New Zealand is the least corrupt, and war-torn Somalia, ranked number 180 is the most corrupt.
Transparency International weighs countries on a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
As per Soko’s fears, we are closer to the highly corrupt zone with a score of 31. At the pace we are going Blues’ Orators, we will not take long to join Somalia at the bottom!
As rightly observed by Transparency International, activists and the media – and not political leaders – are vital in the fight against corruption. By activists TI doesn’t mean Billy Mayaya, or Z Allan Ntata or Mr So and So, nope.
TI means you and me. Yes. You and I should begin pressurising our well-remunerated employees starting with President Peter Mutharika, his Cabinet down to the Parliamentarians, to do more to encourage free speech, independent media, political dissent and an open and engaged civil society in Malawi.
We should demand that the government should minimise regulations and stop intimidating the media, including traditional and new media, and ensure that journalists can work without fear of repression or violence.
You and I should see to it that the employees I have named above are making the recently access to information law a reality.
We have had enough of paper tigers.
That law, if well implemented, can enhance transparency and accountability and reduce opportunities for corruption.
One low-hanging fruit is the declaration of assets: how about everybody, from Members of Parliament upwards, started declaring their assets; and those declarations being published in the media so that when suspicious “Water Projects” are mushrooming, the public can assess and see where the money is going?
Now, wouldn’t that work wonders? I however doubt if such an idea can gain traction either with those in government or in the opposition, hopelessly overwhelmed as they are with corruption!
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