Introducing new ‘Muckraking on Sunday’ with Ganizani Desmond: Of lies and statistics

“There are lies, damned lies and statistics.” – Mark Twain.
 Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe presented the budget in Parliament the other day. He says our budget will be K901 billion. He promises many things in his budget speech. The economy will grow by seven per cent, for instance. That’s a heck of a promise to make. Not many countries in the world enjoy that much economic growth these days. There is Angola. There is Rwanda. There is China. Maybe a few others. All those have a common denominator: they are probably at the best of their times.

Finance Minister Gondwe

Finance Minister Gondwe

The same cannot be said of us. We are at the worst of our times in recent memory, and here is why. Since 2010, our finances have been hemorrhaging. K92 billion vanished. Auditors told us so. That was the First Cashgate no one wants to talk about. It, after all, happened when Bingu wa Mutharika was President. When Peter Mutharika came in, the Auditor General made a suspicious remark. He, to the puzzle of everyone who wishes this country well, downplayed the K92 billion scandal as ‘a mere audit query.’ Donors were not amused, so they instituted their own investigation, the results of which are pending.
Then, when Mrs Joyce Banda took over after Bingu’s untimely death, the Second Cashgate took place on her watch. Some say K20 billion vanished, but it could be higher.
While the gushing wounds created by these two cashgate scandals are still fresh and hurting, news of the toxic assets of the Malawi Savings Bank emerged. Six billion kwacha, and counting. During the week we saw some glimmer of hope, when the Malawi Savings Bank advertised the assets of Mulli Brothers, who defaulted on a K5 billion loan.
Before the country began its victory lap, Mulli stepped forward and claimed that an injunction prevents the bank from auctioning his assets. So we’re back to where we started. Those toxic loans will be settled by our sweat and tears. The poor shall pay the little they have so that the rich should continue to live in luxury. That, after all, is what the government means when it says it will issue a ‘promissory note’ to pump money into the bank.
Then last week, we heard of the K50 billion tax evasion scandal at the Malawi Revenue Authority. A computer disappeared in mysterious circumstances. There is so far no indication that this matter is being treated as a crime against humanity. Because that is what it is, when such tax is evaded while the poor are dying in hospitals due to lack of medicine.
In the past twelve months, nature has also not been very kind. Floods have been devastating. Gondwe says K222 billion, or one-third of this year’s budget, is required for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the affected areas. This is money Malawi does not have.
In addition to all this, there is looming famine. Our Finance Minister says K13 billion will be spent on procuring maize this year.
So, we’re not at the best of times. It is puzzling, therefore, that our minister says, without telling us how, that our economy will grow by seven per cent. Short of cooking the statistics, how, exactly, does Mr Gondwe expect the economy to grow that much?
Earlier, Gondwe’s boss, President Mutharika, said he expected the economy to grow by 5.4 per cent. Even that sounded far too unrealistic. No wonder it was publicly questioned by experts. The Malawi Chamber of Commerce and Industry raised the small matter of K157 billion. This is the money our government owes the private sector. Gondwe has outlined a plan in his budget. This loan will be repaid, he says. But that complicates matters further for those telling us that the economy will grow by seven per cent.
So, let’s be realistic. Do not give the nation the feeling that somewhere somehow statistics will be cooked. We want real growth, not empty percentages.
Earth, receive an honoured guest
This columnist initially wanted to write an obituary, an ode to Raphael Tenthani. Many better placed individuals, however, have written about him. Dr Steve Sharra’s piece, In the Valley a Genius Rests, is probably among the most comprehensive of pieces. It can be read on his blog.
However, to honour Ralph’s memory, this columnist decided to continue Muckraking on Sunday. Nobody can replace Ralph. His style was inimitable. His courage was legendary. But it is possible to keep the candle burning.
We first met a few years ago, in Sportsman’s Bar at Mt Soche Hotel. It was as though we had known each other for decades. We spent many evenings together, parting only in the deep and dark hours of the night.
It was impressive to be in the company of such a well-read friend. Every opportunity he got he spent his money onThe Spectator, the New Yorker, the New York Times and The Guardian, among publications. The last time we met, he was happy to receive from this columnist a copy of The Atlantic which, he declared, instantly joined his list of favourites.
But now he is gone. As W.H. Auden says: Earth, receive an honoured guest. Raphael Tenthani will forever be missed.
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The Truthful One from the West
Guest
The Truthful One from the West

You have started very well Keep it up

Chikadya
Guest

Are the people at Times Group so bereft of ideas as to recycle an idea that had run its course with his death? Ralph was unique, let his soul rest in peace; don’t insult his soul by trivalising an institution he had established painstakingly over the years. If the so-called Desmond Ganizani were man enough and keen to muckrake with honesty as Ralph used to do, he would have used his actual name. A pseudonym just goes to show the author is a coward and ashamed of his work. Ralph was not.

Kenkkk
Guest

Please carry on, forget about what some morons are saying here. The fact that they are reading it and commenting means you are on the right track rubbing them the other way. This Sunday we expect these morons to be quiet because they will not read it. We don’t want to see them here.

Big man has even complimented that your article deserves to be buried with the irreplaceable Ralph to comfort him in heaven.

Keep on the good work, malawi needs alternatives view pints not only those of bootlickers.

Greencardless Malawian
Guest
Greencardless Malawian

Youd have to be better than Tenthani for some of us to take you seriously Otherwise youll just b another copy cat

Silicon Valley
Guest

Ganizani Desmond: we who feel that Malawi deserves better, welcome you with both hands. I enjoyed reading your article and I have no doubt the New Muckraking will continue from where ‘malemu Ralph’ stopped.

I hope you have already noted a plethora of homicidal comments disparaging your wonderful writing skill on this page. That my friend is Team Cadet, led by the Prime Minister – Ben Phiri right from Malawi’s state house.

White Rabbit
Guest

The media will NOT be hushed by small boy peter.

I am smiling…carry on Muckracking! 😉

dreamteam
Guest

“We used to drink together until morning” – so that makes u a better replacement for Tenthani. And who allowed you to use the brand – are you going to pay something to Ralph estate – for he created the brand.

Our biggest problem in this country is “copy and paste” even if we have no brains to sustain the brand. Why don’t you start ur own brand.

che guevara
Guest

And oh, you haven’t muckraked the president enough. APM this, APM that nde inali aim ya column-yi.

Aaron Nsena
Guest

Ganizani, i dont think u have the enough brains to imitate ralph. Kumwera limodzi sinkhani. Ur name doesnt befit u. Cashgate was only under JB, full stop, even mmalawi wakumudzi akudziwa. Which school of journalism were u bcoz your article lols like a letter to your friend at home, just a narration of events. By the wau, r u Desmond Ganizani or ganizani desmond? The former sounds Malawian just like ur mentor was: Ralph Tenthani and not Temthani Ralph(mhsrip)

Nyamakumutu
Guest

Nyasi izi I have not even finished the first paragraph it was so boring. Don’t remind us about our darling Tenthani. The problem is that you want to be a copy cut of somebody’s. If you had found your own name there would he been no comparison but wasziwotcha wekha. Usabwelenso apa ndi dzina limenelo.

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