Declaration of war on corruption in Malawi – Too little, too late

President Joyce Banda will go down the memory lane as a leader who faced the Malawi’s Fourth estate, the media at a time when cows pulling an ox-cart decided that enough is enough and face to the joke and refused to bulge.

And she will be remembered as one President who refused into bullied by a salvo of questions. She took the media head on. Who won the battle on the day is subjective. The fact is the President did what she needed to do under the circumstances and on the other hand, the Press, blazing knives did their part.

On Wednesday, 9th September, President Banda clad in her usual Berber regalia of the once mighty and deposed brother leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi garb fame, held a Press Conference to inform the nation about her extended trip to the UN Summit and a tour of duty to the United States and her response to Malawi’s historic mind-shattering corruption scandal ‘capital hill cash-gate’.

Appearing to be in control and on top of matters Banda eloquently outlined the matters at hand and presented her conclusions in a collected manner. Nevertheless, it beggars belief if she had a clue on what had been going on in her absence or if it was a stroke of genius to pretend not to know the impact the whole saga had on her person, office and indeed on the population.

President Banda says she is committed to fight graft
President Banda says she is committed to fight graft

When one, however, examines the conclusions they tend to raise more questions than answers.

Mere Gimmick

In her conclusion Banda highlighted that she has directed the Attorney General to present to Cabinet an urgent review of the Asset Declaration Bill and it should be tabled before Parliament in the November sitting.

One wonders if this is not just a mere gimmick or just cheap convenient move to avoid declaration.

The honest call by Malawians for her to declare her assets was rightly made over a year ago. She has all along been playing hide and seek on the matter, and attached to it some executive arrogance. Is she playing political games or is she insulting Malawians’ intelligence? Only her and her cronies know better.

President Banda also announced that together with the Inspector General of the Malawi Police Service, God-fearing Loti Dzonzi, she has directed that a special task force be instituted. This would be a Crime Committe to be chaired by the deputy Inspector General Nelson Bophani. What is not clear, though, is how this committee’s mandate differs from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) or whether this is an admission that the CID branch has failed or has also become corrupt and ineffective.

By the way, what happened to Robert Chasowa’s investigations? Any findings?

After our dear president spoke with passion and emotional emphasis on how sad she was on the brutal murder of a promising young man. She said she felt and shared the pain with Chasowa’s family on their loss.

Using her ‘As a woman sympathy-triumph card’ she vehemently emphasized that as a woman and a mother she knows how it feels to lose a son. We clapped hands awaiting justice to be done. To date, there is nothing to show for that the wheels of justice are moving forward. If they are moving, then I am afraid it must be moving backwards.

Please stop using the ‘Kukhala Mzimayi sichifukwa’ mantra on serious issues. Malawians do not care any more what gender you are – all they know and care about is that you are their leader. Act as one. Behave as one. Stop seeking sympathy on the basis of your gender.

We pretty know you are a woman and we don’t give a monkey. We know you may be capable not because you are a woman, but because we mandated you to lead us. We believed in you and hopefully still do. We love you as our leader and we expect you to do what you are paid to do. Period!

The woman card will not work again. Not any more. Never.

Smokescreens and Smear Campaigns

President Banda convened a meeting which was attended by some of those implicated in the corruption saga as at the ad-hoc and impromptu Cabinet meeting at her Chikoko Bay State residence where she has just dissolved her cabinet. Good move but the next course of action on who to pick for the job is a make or break situation.

Choose wisely. Pick the right people for the job not those who will bring along with them garbage of ‘political excess baggage’

In a typical classroom tone, she informed the media of the obvious, which is that she has asked the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) Police, National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) and other state organs for regular reports on their work and findings on ‘these issues’ – corruption by civil servant and others.

That, is a no brainer Madam President. Everybody knows that. Nobody did not expect that you would say you would involve witchdoctors to hunt the plunderers by magic.

After declaring that only after the report will she decide what to do, President Joyce Banda went on to insist that ‘corruption has been there before us for a long time’ and that this fight must therefore be for every Malawian, particularly those in leadership regardless of political affiliation and creed – A clear suggestion that the opposition must keep her administration in check, a responsibility she has evidently failed to shoulder.

Stop blaming the past for the present predicaments. Your predecessor the late Professor Bingu wa Mutharika on his inauguration day at Kamuzu Stadium in May 2004 quoting Thomas Monson said: “The past is behind, let us learn from it. The future is ahead, let us prepare for it and the present is here and now, let us live it.

“Malawi cannot live in the past. Malawi must look to the future. This is a very important paradigm in determining the future of Malawi,” said the late Bingu wa Mutharika in 2009.

Let us live in the present and fight the battle before us and never cling to the past as an excuse for our failures. Offload them all. Get new faces.

Towards the end of her statement President Banda made her trademark  threats that “those who are resisting change; those who are undermining my efforts and my economic recovery programme; those who are fighting the poor; those who are fighting the principles of a clean government will be exposed wherever they are.”

Do I sense some protection of some big fish here? Mungogwira bonya m’malo mogwira Bombe! Ponyani khoka tigwire Che Jumo, osati afwilili opezeka m’matope.

You know who the ‘bad eggs’ are in your cabinet tray, please chuck them into the trash bin before they contaminate the few good ones. We all know that a government system is too complex for a mere accounts clerk to be able to fish out a staggering MK1 Billion from the state purse.

How is that possible?

Surely, the answers in this whole cash-gate saga lies in the questions. Find them.

Please your Excellency, get down to the bottom of it, start with the ones who keep the cheque books, to the ones who signs them up to the ones who authorizes the payments. Make the banks including the central bank explain how such huge of money was allowed to be cashed. Let heads roll. Protect no soul if you want to save yourself. Sacrifice all your blue eyed boys and girls for the betterment of our country

I always quote the old adage that “to know what to do and how to do it is a good thing”.

Therefore, for any development to take place, policy-makers and those who carry out such policies must know what they are doing. This is so, because economic and industrial developments do not come about by chance but through deliberate policies and programmes towards specific objectives and priorities.

Always strive in knowing what you’re doing. ‘Clue-lessness’ doesn’t work in governance, at any level.

Hanging ‘errand boys’ won’t solve any problems neither will it fight corruption to the very root that holds it a tough nut to crack. Keep not and protect no sacred cows under your armpits. They will make you fall. Sacrifice them. Let them be milked dry by the public, by the truth and
by the long arm of the law.

Use no smokescreens and protect no big fish in the name of fighting smear campaign. Let those accused stand up and defend themselves. Not you, not your powers, For political mileage and support from the civil service, President Banda made claims based on ‘guess-tatistics’ that “It is a well known fact that those involved are very few compared to the large number of dedicated civil servants that work hard and are honest.”

She then declared that she is ready “to work with the good citizens of this country to root out this evil in order that we may grow and develop into a more prosperous nation, with a better future for all.”

One wonders whether she shares the same definition of ‘good’ with the many Malawians calling for action.

Pressed to the corner

But it was not until the journalists begun to fire questions that the token nature of her statement became apparent.

I must commend the President for allowing a press conference but at the same time let me say let press conferences be Press conferences and not political party gatherings. We don’t need the ‘Boma ilo, ‘Chiwongolero Amayi’ or Pipi Yanyamuka cheerleaders and hand-clappers at pressers, you can always organise their gathering if you need them any time, any day.

Kudos to the scribes who were at the press conference. You did well. I am aware some of you were ignored or did not have a chance to ask your questions, but all in all, you did a good job. A big up all of you, especially, my friend, Pilirani Phiri for those probing questions.

Whether the questions were answered or not is not your problem folks, your job was to ask and her’s to give reasonable answers.

Asked how her party has managed to procure numerous vehicles in a short period, she responded using her woman card: ‘Why ask me? The UDF and DPP also bought cars, what is wrong with me and my party purchasing cars.’ Really? Is that a better way to answer such a sensitive question? I think not.

This, to me is like asking someone who has just killed someone in the streets why he or she killed a human being knowingly that, that is both a crime and a sin and that person tells in reply without remorse that why are you asking me that I have killed someone when prisons are full of people who have killed people. Do two wrongs makes a right or does mixing two black colours makes a white? .

And the big one of it all. When asked to confirm if she knew the assailants who attacked Budget Director Paul Mphwiyo as she had claimed at a public rally a day after the incident, she vehemently denied having
said that.

Wasn’t any other way to answer that question and do a little bit of explanation to what she meant by saying she knew who dun it and why?

Is it healthy for a country to have a leader who says one thing and denies the same the next day? I hope not against hope.

Please, learn to own your mistakes and learn from them.

For curiosity’s sake, I don’t want to die like a cat, what happened to the much touted Malawi-Korea youth employment pact – I guess my dear president doesn’t know about it so let us not talk about it. Not today.

Going back on her word, now that she has reflected on the implications for her own government.

Asked about declaration of her assets as is required by the constitution, she went on to inform the nation that the mysterious business which she has run from the age of 21 has kept her in fort ‘banana vendor’ in a district magistrate court.

At the end of the day, President Joyce Banda reverted to the wishy-washy politician we know her to be. One who shamelessly thrives on sympathy appeals including an unfortunate recital of how her dead husband, father of her children abused her.

Next time when asked about national issues, my dear beloved president desist from saying personal things like ‘Kwa ine Ndalama sivuto’ for we love you as a soldier for the poor, a humanitarian, a philanthropist and not an arrogant leader who brags that she started ‘kutakata‘ at the age of 21. If you want to use that, use it to inspire Malawians and not to insult them.

Look now, this ‘Kutakata‘ mantra has hit wrongs ears and your Civil Servants who most of them are neither civil nor servants are taking advantage of the situation and are using ‘Kutakata‘ to the best of their abilities.

Furthermore, I would like to add that the rot that is corruption starts with the protection of those making donations to political parties. Thus, the assets declaration should go further as regards those in political leadership.

We seriously need disclosure of those who make these gratuitous donations to be laid bare. Time is now for transparent leadership that bare it all for everyone to see who is donating what to political parties”. That, is what good governance is all about.

Malawi, your country and your development partners the donors are waiting with a baited breath to see how all this drama is going to end.

The ball is in your court, Your Excellency. Act now.

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