One event that made headlines recently in Nigeria and beyond was the collapse of a Nigerian official during a televised parliamentary hearing as part of a probe into allegations of mismanagement at his organization. I bring that up for two reasons. Firstly, we know that Malawi, which has a brand-new government, is grappling with what appears to be massive corruption under the ousted regime of president Peter Mutharika and the Democratic Progressive Party. Secondly, Malawians want a bare-knuckled approach when doing business and fighting corruption.
The government of Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) with his coalition partner Saulosi Chilima of UTM Party and Tonse Alliance has a long way to go but first impressions matter.
Counterjab is joined by some Malawians who reside in the United States. Over the past 26 years — Malawi switched from one to multi-party democracy in 1994 — these folk saw opportunities squandered and they’ve something to say as Malawi changes tack.
Nkhondo Lungu is an entrepreneur living in Columbus, Ohio: Malawians were tired of being run over and railroaded in every aspect of life. The alliance promised to clean the gutter that corrupt politicians created over decades. Corrupt politicians and their policies — from UDF to PP to DPP — created a fertile environment [for] bribery, racketeering, money laundering, theft, extortion, murder, intimidation, tribalism, hoodwinking tactics–you name it, it was all there at levels nobody had witnessed before in Malawi. Now that the team of bandits and scavengers is flushed out of its corrupt hole and kicked out of town, there are realizable expectations.
Bertrand Banda is an IT Consultant in Miami, Florida: Ulova (joblessness) is big. Chilima campaigned on creating one million jobs. I don’t care about the one million number but what I know for sure is that in five years we should be talking a different story in terms of good wages for people and hundreds of thousands doing something more productive with their lives.
Charles Simango, a Development Communications Specialist in Seattle, Washington agrees: [Talk of] One Million Jobs Secretariat – for me this is a multi-sectoral endeavor as such it needs to have separate secretaries to be coordinating with different ministries including private sectors on their job initiatives. If located in the Office of President and Cabinet, the stand-alone secretariat will have the benefit of fast turnarounds on bottlenecks faced by actors in this domain. It’s through this secretariat that the Tonse government will be able to track and tweak its progress on its One Million Jobs march.
There’s another key component to this: Cooperatives Authority – If not mistaken, there [was] a desk within the Ministry of Trade and Industry (I don’t know where this now sits after the two were decoupled). But wherever it may be, the bureaucracy of government departments isn’t best suited to fast-tracking and implementing competitive initiatives like this one.
Considering the crucial role that cooperatives will play in mobilizing farmers to respond to government stimuli for ramping up production of strategic crops, there’s urgent need to establish a stand-alone Cooperatives Authority to coordinate agricultural productivity which will be the main provider of jobs in the TONSE One Million Jobs Initiatives.
Antony Simwaka works in logistics in Beaumont, California. So far, he likes actions by the Information Minister: I think Gospel Kazako is doing a fantastic job in making sure cell phone companies don’t make super profits by overcharging Malawians.
Banda: I want to see more investment in telecommunications. Good Internet is non-existent. Look at Rwanda, although its Internet is mainly in Kigali the capital, it’s ranked first in Africa for broadband download speeds. Say our schools produced more people with the right technical knowledge, if there aren’t deliberate policies to promote important areas, forget about development! And have you thought just how expensive things are back home?
Simwaka: I hope the Minister of Energy will take a leaf from Kazako’s book to make fuel affordable in Malawi. I wonder why a “full tank” in Malawi isn’t the same as a “full tank” in other countries? For example, here in the USA, the mileage covered for the same comparable “full tank” is far much more than a “full tank” in Malawi.
Banda: We don’t produce oil which directly impacts transport, but a solution is needed.
Simango: Despite the privatization rationale behind liberalizing the agricultural market, I believe what Malawi needs is a strong and not subdued ADMARC. For starters, we need to strengthen ADMARC’s governance system at community level so that the community has more say on inventory management to curb corruption and bulk-buying that drives commodity scarcity resulting in high prices. We need to ensure that the ADMARC network is fully utilized in the distribution of farm inputs, selling of maize and other produce especially during lean seasons. Most importantly, we need to ensure that ADMARC is efficient when it comes to produce purchase as well as value-adding through its factories.
Banda: Hungry Malawi lost the ability to feed itself. But we also need to address the issue of overpopulation. Our neighbour Zambia is six times larger than us but our population is 18 million; Zambia’s 17 million! Why can’t leaders be honest about overpopulation?
Lungu: Malawians have yearned for good living standards [but] parties in this new democratic experiment haven’t delivered. Selfishness prevailed.
Simwaka: The Chakwera government [should fight] corruption in every sector of government. Understandably, they’re looking at politically connected individuals, but let’s not lose sight of every profession that was complicit in these forms of corrupt practices.
Remember, in the eyes of the law, they also participated in the crime if they knew about it and did nothing. These groups of professionals include the following: Accountants, auditors, company lawyers or secretaries. It’s the job of an accountant to make sure they don’t sign off on shady financial deals; it’s [also] the duty of an auditor to make sure the systems of internal controls are working properly.
Elsewhere, the professions I mentioned are held accountable for not only bad financial deals, but also for allowing those transactions to continue when the goals are neither fruitful nor achievable. Recently, Goldman Sachs [a multinational investment bank and financial services company] was fined heavily for the kind of corrupt professional conduct we’ve become accustomed to in Malawi.
Lungu: Historically, the Government handed out contracts in unethical ways to Malawian Asian businesses, especially those of amwenye (Indians) who bribed weak- minded politicians. I beg this new administration not to fall into that trap of being bought by wealthy people whether Malawian or foreign. This behavior has prevented progress and dwarfed the country’s potential [and] most of these corrupt businesses rarely invest in the country. They hide their ill-gotten gains in foreign banks and live luxuriously in Malawi. They’re rude and are [easily] caught making patronizing and belittling remarks toward indigenous Malawians for being poor. This must stop!
Banda: From what we’ve seen regarding corruption, I hope the courts won’t let us down.
Simango: Considering the huge backlog of legal reforms requiring urgent attention, a piecemeal just won’t cut it. We’re looking at several reforms that all need to be dealt with like yesterday. We’re talking about MBC, mining, fiscal statues that, among other things, allowed trillions to be pilfered from public coffers and, of course, provisions that will hold the judiciary accountable as to how it disposes of cases — hundreds of cases on file and yet only a couple dozen judgements are passed in a year. We need a system that’ll hold the judiciary accountable to not only the quality of judgements they pass but also the quantity.
Lungu: I would add that the new team needs to refrain from appearing weak and submissive to azungu (Western foreigners). Malawians tend to be too respectful [and] trusting of foreigners. We give up too much for too little [and] those other countries or investors control us.
Banda: Non-Malawians are acquiring prime land dubiously and we are becoming their tenants. Can I just go to Mozambique and buy some ocean side real estate? One more thing, [John Pombe] Magafuli of Tanzania leads by example. He’s cut unnecessary spending and only travelled to seven countries, all in Africa, since becoming president in 2016. Tanzania’s national airline is being revamped to boost tourism. Magafuli cleans the streets, so who are you not to do it? In Rwanda everyone cleans up the environment once a month. MCP promised servant leadership. Show us, please.
Counterjab: There seems to be good vibes about the new administration which was smacked upside the head soon after unveiling its cabinet whose composition annoyed some supporters. Rookie mistakes? Possible. To give birth to a new Malawi, one can’t be half pregnant! Granted, it ought to be all hands-on deck to clean up the 26-year-old mess. Gentlemen, thanks. Let’s do this again later.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :