Money, gifts to electorate is corruption: ban the tendency now

In Europe and America, from where we imported democracy, it is illegal for a candidate to give money or gifts to the electorate. This is tantamount to buying votes, which is corruption. In America, voters give money to their favourite candidates, not the other way round. Here at home, oftentimes our politicians buy the election, not win it.

If our democracy is to be saved, we need to ban this practice now. If there is any MP reading this, if he or she is an MP who believes that ideas or visions are what matter to win an election and run a country, let them taken a pen and a paper and begin to draft a bill right away, one that should pass in Parliament ahead of the year 2014.

Over the years our democracy has been turned into a circus. In my village, we see rich people come from the city a few months before an election. They distribute fifty kwacha notes to the majority poor. They share T-shirts bearing their political party colours. They buy a lot of coffins. All this is with a view to winning an election.

Former president Bakili Muluzi: Money handsout

When the election is won they disappear. They go to Parliament where they sit very quietly. They say they are afraid to speak. They are afraid of their president and their party. Last week we heard some of them say now, with the rather untimely death of President Bingu wa Mutharika, they are free. To demonstrate their freedom, they announced their profound support for Her Excellency President Joyce Banda.

When all positions in the Banda government have been distributed, they will be very quiet again, only to reappear with lots of coffins and tee-shirts of another party, convincing us that the party on whose pedestal they stood five years ago is, in fact, a very bad party. And so the circus goes on. The poor will queue up for the booth to pay back in kind for the fifty kwacha, the price of their suffrage.

What is corruption? The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines corruption as ‘dishonest or illegal behaviour, especially of people in authority.’ Most of our leaders are dishonest and weak. A number of our MPs are incapable of articulating coherent ideas that can be cobbled into law.

Hear them contribute to the President’s state-of-the-nation address or the national budget. Each and every MP from the side of the government will say little of substance. They spend disproportionate time on praising the President hoping that their hero-worshipping might be noticed and rewarded by a ministerial post.

 

The poor man in the village is the ladder they use to their own ambitions for the high-paying job of MP. They invest in the process by sacrificing a few kwachas to buy the poor man’s vote. After the elections, the poor have sold their souls to the MP and the latter has bought a seat. This cannot be democracy. Money, not, the people, is ruling here. The poor are not choosing leaders of the caliber that can assist them. Parliamentary seats are going to the highest bidder.

 

Let us rescue this democracy. Let us ban, once and for all, the bribery of our electorate. Let candidates debate each other. Those with the best ideas should win. As the case is now, one has the impression ideas do not matter in this country.

In 1999, my younger brother attended a political rally in our village, where all the three candidates vying for the parliamentary seat were in attendance to ‘debate’ each other. The first stood up and said: ‘If you vote for me, I’ll bring you a PTC shop.’ The second stood up and said: ‘If you vote for me, I’ll bring you a Chipiku shop.’ To outdo everyone, the third stood up and said: ‘If you vote for me, I’ll bring you the National Bank.’ Such is the ‘quality’ of the folks we vote for as Members of Parliament. I can assure you the winner came from among the three.

If we disregard this advice, rest assured we could stay a million years without our democracy taking us anywhere. The quality of our debate in Parliament would become poorer and poorer, until none of us would want to listen to them on MBC anymore.

And to imagine that in 1964 we had the finest MPs in our august house! Read Henry Masauko Chipembere’s or Kanyama Chiume’s speeches, and you will ask yourselves where did it all go wrong? They were real MPs who could stand face to face with a British MP and debate each other as equals. Not the crappy contributions we hear in Parliament today. A case of two steps forward for three steps backwards, isn’t it?

 

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