Mutharika misleading Malawians on cashgate

As expected, Heatherwick Ntaba, the party’s supreme propagandist, led the team.uring the campaign period, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) capitalised every moment to spin the Cashgate scandal as capital punishment meant to confuse Joyce Banda, presidential bid.

At every rally he spoke, Ntaba’s job stopped at creating an apparent ‘thief’ of JB. He could show-not tell -how her government ‘stole’ even the little that the poor contribute to the treasury through  value added tax (VAT) on matches.

Interestingly, it was not just Ntaba. Even the now Finance and Economic Planning Minister Goodall Gondwe, fresh from political retirement, joined the spinning fray.

President Peter Mutharika
President Peter Mutharika

Gondwe, shamelessly, told The Nation : “During our time, there was just corruption. But this time it is Cashgate. Cashgate is just too big”. Reading between the lines, what he meant was that Banda beat them at stealing from the treasury.

However, there are two critical details about Cashgate that the DPP- for purposes of manufacturing public consent- chose to repress.

One,  Cashgate, no matter its classification, is nothing but the same-old story of large scale corruption in government. Two, the detail that is Cashgate; no matter how much the DPP would try to hide, started when they were in office.

These are critical because they form the needed context of understanding width and breadth of Cashgate. No matter how much we are caught in verbiage of ‘Cashgate’, the fact remains that we are only talking about large scale corruption in government—and this is nothing new. In fact, when details emerged  about K90 billion lost during the DPP’s seven years in office, it tells you large scale corruption in government is a serious post-colonial challenge facing Malawi.

That is why by repressing the two critical details, DPP only played the propaganda card, something specifically tailored to vilify Banda’s presidential bid.

Of course, I would understand DPP’s campaign version of cashgate. You and I know campaign period is about capitalising on your opponent’s weakness and pounce hard. In Cashgate, JB had no option; she had to face the music.

I am failing to understand why three weeks after their electoral victory, the DPP government still appears to be churning out the campaign version of the Cashgate.

During the inaugural address, Peter Mutharika took time off his rumbling speech and dedicated almost seven minutes discussing Cashgate. Not that it was bad. Rather, his interest was not in seeing Cashgate as one of Malawi’s post-colonial corruption challenge but Banda’s problem.

We got the same feeling a week later, when Gondwe gave an exclusive to The Nation detailing the harm cashgate had on Malawi’s ‘international image’. His interest, just like his boss’s, was not in digging the root of the problem. It rather painted a disturbing picture of how the previous administration messed Malawi.

As if that is not enough, Mutharika dedicated an entire chapter of his State of the Nation Address discussing Cashgate as a separate problem fr

om corruption.

If you read between the lines of, especially his continuous reference to the ‘recent past’, you would see, just like Gondwe, his interest stopped at painting a disturbing picture of how the previous administration messed Malawi’s financial image.

Trust me; if Mutharika and his financial lieutenant Gondwe, continue to use this campaign approach to the Cashgate, I shudder to think if large-scale looting of public resources will be history as they promise.

And here is why: you can only end a problem if you understand its root cause. Cashgate is only a new name to describe the same-old organised crime of looting public funds by politicians, with the aid of civil servants.

No matter how much we would want to bury our heads thinking Cashgate is not corruption, the fact on the ground remains undiluted: Cashgate is corruption and it is politicians, using civil servants at centre of it.

What Mutharika and Goodall are trying to do is to make sure that we, Malawians, concentrate on seeing cashgate not from a post-colonial corruption prism. They want us to believe that Cashgate is a Banda thing; as such, prosecuting those that were involved would be a critical starting point of making cashgate history. I disagree completely.

Cashgate, I argue, should be seen as a culmination of large scale looting of public funds by politicians since independence. The best I expect from Mutharika is to address the root causes of corruption not cashgate.  Treating the two differently is deliberately misleading Malawians—a mark of propaganda. This is not campaign period. It is time for running government affairs.

  • The article appeared in the Nation column : On the Frontline

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