There is no longer any doubt in the mind of the thinking Malawian that for over fifty years, a very select few have been drinking and getting intoxicated from the appetizing calabash that is Malawi’s public funds, at the expense of Malawi’s most vulnerable and helpless citizens.
In the wake of the MK577 billion Cashgate scandal, that is the subject of the latest audit of government, and all the other “Cashgates”, it is as clear as daylight that there are two urgent issues that Malawians need vigilantly to address if the country is to come out of its 50 year long economic predicament.
Before discussing the issues that need to be addressed, however, it is important to first zero in on the nature and extent of the problem. What we have here is an age-old problem of stealing public funds.
The appetizing nature of this particular calabash comes from the mentality of Malawians working in government that this is a calabash of funds that are without an owner; orphaned funds there for the taking, accessible to anyone with the know-how. From the dawn of independence, all the way through the coming of our so-called multiparty democracy to the present, what we have witnessed are the invariable overnight rags to riches stories of those that go into government, in spite of the fact that government salaries in Malawi are the some of the lowest in the world.
It is not necessary anymore to guess why people clamor for low-paying government jobs and why almost immediately after getting into government, new houses are built, new cars bought and new fat bank accounts opened. All this comes from helping oneself from the relatively unattended and readily available public funds calabash. What we have witnessed are politicians who are crusaders for accountability when out of government, only to shackle and hamstring all accountability institutions such as the ACB and the police once they get into government, getting themselves drunk on this appetizing calabash.
The additional upshot of this political and governance framework, besides upsetting the social fabric in favour of the very few, is that there are never in the public coffers any funds to do any of the things that political parties promise in their highly idealistic and unrealistic manifestos. Drunk on appropriating for themselves taxpayer funds, one administration after another decide that the solution for the future of Malawi is to charge for everything.
And so we see hikes in taxes, we see hikes in school fees and we see suggestions to start charging for medical care and almost everything else that the government is supposed to provide for the people from the taxes it collects. I have heard many learned colleagues speak about the virtues and the merits of the argument that fees need to be high, and that people should pay for medical care. The arguments seem sound, but only because these sycophants forget that Malawians are already paying some of the highest taxes in the world. The bootlicker scholars never pause to wonder and question where all the funds collected through taxes are going so that the citizen, after being taxed so heavily, should also have to pay tolls on the roads, buy his medical care and have to pay through the nose for the education of his children.
Perhaps these arguments would make better sense if there were any projects the government could point to as having come from taxpayer funds, not the Chinese grants and donor aid money. No leader should justify charging people for anything at all when all he is doing with the money is appropriating for himself and his cronies.
And so to the two urgent points that as Malawians we need to think very carefully about. First, as Malawians, we need to face the issue squarely and soberly and realize that party politics as it presents itself now has failed the country. We must accept that our situation will remain hopeless until we get out of the comfort zone of thinking only of self and begin thinking about future generations. We are guilty of passivity, complacency and excessive tolerance that borders on stupidity. We allow people suspected of stealing billions of our money to be in cabinet, to ride limousines and stay in houses paid for by our money and we stand and clap and praise when they do this, instead of throwing eggs at them and demanding that they should go to prison.
Secondly, having taken stock of the travesty that is being carried on with impunity in this country, we need to accept that the responsibility is upon us to join hands, go to capital hill and read to the culprits the riot act. This country will not turn from the path of destruction without drastic measures by its citizens.
Our selfish tendency of thinking that as long as we have a job and are comfortable for the time being then these issues do not concern us, or that someone else should do it but not us, needs to be checked and overcome. The country is facing a serious threat.
There are enemies within bent on destroying all that we call comfort. It is up to every Malawian to stand up and tell Mutharika and all these politicians to stop messing with our children’s future. Malawi’s public funds are not orphaned funds, they are owned by us, citizens. These funds are being stolen. We need to get our funds, and our country back. And it is now clear that this will not be a fight in the papers or social media. The arena for this war will have to be at parliament, at capital hill and in administrative locations across the country. Did you think you could stop a man drunk on your appetizing calabash, and determined to continue stealing, by appealing to his logic and reasonableness?