Dirt Detective on Nyasa Times: Letting the big fish continue swimming

“We have the means and the capacity to deal with our problems, if only we can find the political will,”- Koffi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations.

The last 35 days or so have been superb in as much as they have been weepy. It is a period the country has experienced certain events it had never before, perhaps since independence.

Superb: Some greedy Malawians who had fraudulently been elevating their statuses to the detriment of poverty-stricken citizens, who always grapple with the exorbitant taxes, have been apprehended. This is about the now famous Capital Hill plundering, aka cash-gate scandal.

Weepy: The attempted murder of a youthful but senior government official, Paul Mphwiyo, currently recuperating at an undisclosed locality in South Africa after being discharged from hospital.

Malawians have been made to believe that the Treasury budget director was at the helm of sealing the loopholes at Capital Hill for the heartless plunders. Forget the rumours that he was among the prime plunders, for now let us treat him as the redeemer.

Malawi Kwacha
Malawi Kwacha

Then there is this welcome response from President Joyce Banda to have the man she had trusted to keep the government purse, despite his sharp-witted tongue, be shown the exit the door.

The Capital Hill looting is an issue of concern to everybody. Actually, it is very deplorable, never heard of in the history of Malawi.

I commend JB and her administration for the steps taken since the issue came to light. She dissolved the cabinet and dismissed some ministers. Though, until today, Malawians are yet to be told that the four ministers were fired because of their connection to the saga, unless cleared, what went viral on social media is that Ralph Kasambara has a hand in the shooting of Mphwiyo. Mayi Reen Kachere’s son is among those who benefited from government money without providing any service. As for Lipenga, the man abused for being given a portfolio he knew next to zero, it was obvious.

It is over a month now since the issue came to light. Several little known civil servants have been arrested and charged. Others are right now enjoying bail in the comfort of their mansions built from stolen or blood-spattered money.

But this (arrest of small fish) does not imply there are no big-name figures. Actually, almost every day there are big fishes being implicated in the scam but they are just let to swim.

From the mouths of JB and all her relevant subordinates we have heard and we continue to hear every hour that “no body, regardless of the status, will be spared.”

But Madame JB, the rhetoric is becoming boring, what Malawians need now is action because the names are already in the public domain. What is more worrying is the fact that JB actually informed the nation that she personally knew the people behind.

Letting the big fish continue swimming freely while busy trawling the small fishes may have a potential disastrous consequence on JB who is trying to win the confidence of Malawians to vote her back in power come may next year. Perhaps, then she will wake up and realise that Malawians are no longer dim-witted.

They know that, no matter when the looting took place, the theft of resources at Capital Hill has ruined the realisation of fundamental rights to justice, health, water, food and education, among others, and failure to prosecute high-level corrupt mortals because they belong to the ruling party virtually means even JB subscribes to the actions.

It is important, that in the rush for justice that targets only small fish, not to lose sight of principles the country holds. Let justice be applied uniformly.

If justice is to take its course, the authority, independence and legitimacy of the legal process must all the time be respected.

But above all else, we need a reaffirmation of political commitment at the highest levels to reducing the further proliferation.

The electorate has been made to listen. The electorate has been made to feel sorry, and has been informed that government will do everything possible to bring perpetrators to book without sparing anyone. They are now watching and watching ad infinitum. The saying that “a fish rots from head downwards” must not be taken lightly.

The tragedy of young Paul Mphwiyo and the succeeding revelation of capital Hill looting will forever haunt the history of Malawi and must not just be treated with carefully selected words but actions, which so far has not been the case.

Let Malawi shine over Uganda which is failing to clamp down on senior officials implicated in stealing public funds yet authorities are busy arresting and imprisoning anti-corruption activists.

Malawians will give JB credit if they, not long from now, of course in accordance with the country’s laws, witness high-ranking government officials, ministers (serving or fired), or political appointees serving a prison sentence despite investigations into numerous corruption scandals over many years.

Repeated but empty talks that this government has stood to eradicate corruption without any noticeable action are nothing without cases of big fish coming before the courts.

Malawians will only have trust in the Peoples Party government if these deeply rooted patterns of graft among certain elites are dealt with once and for all without and not only tackling cases involving smalls.

Vice President, Khumbo Kachali, told Parliament in his statement on Monday government had started taking a hard fist on all public servants involved in the scandal but sadly all controlling officers are still intact.

I do not think the ongoing prosecution of low-level people will likely to fundamentally change the way corruption works in the civil service.

And as Members of Parliament start debating on the Capital Hill saga today, Tuesday, those on the government side must take positions that are good for Malawi. Otherwise May 2014 will answer Malawians.

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