Section 12 (1c) of Malawi’s Constitution lays down the fundamental principle on which the constitution was founded. It states that ‘the authority to exercise power of State is conditional upon the sustained trust of the people of Malawi and that trust can only be maintained through open, accountable and transparent Government and informed democratic choice’.
As the country celebrates the first anniversary of the landmark Constitutional Court ruling pronounced on 3 February 2019 that nullified the presidential elections held on 20 May 2019; it is becoming more and more disconcerting that President Chakwera – the ultimate beneficiary of the ruling – seems to have already lost the trust placed in him by Malawians.
I know that this assertion, given Section 12 (1c), is not to be made lightly, hence I need to back it up and back it up I will.
In the fresh election that followed the historic Constitutional Court ruling, 58 per cent of the voters trusted President Chakwera and his so-called Tonse Alliance to run government affairs and transform Malawi.
The problem now is that walking the talk is proving to be Dr Chakwera’s Achilles Heel. His administration’s commitment to good governance and accountability which Malawians expected to include a bare-knuckle fight against corruption, nepotism and other such undesirable isms, seems half-hearted if not non-existent.
Months and months after taking over, there are no signs that lack of accountability, waste of resources and corrupt practices will be a thing of the past.
The ongoing fight against the Covid-19 pandemic offers a good case study in this regard.
A few weeks ago, despite a reported injection of 6.2 billion Kwacha to fight Covid-19, Malawians woke up to SOS calls from desperate Malawians in hospitals.
The cries of ‘Save our Souls’ were all about hospitalised Malawian from all walks of life, begging for life-saving medicines and equipment.
Many have since succumbed to Covid19 and related ailments. May their souls rest in eternal peace.
Appeals from both patients and the general public to the government for urgent action went unheeded. Zero urgency was demonstrated by the government.
The most heartrending SOS was from the late Dr Paul Msoma on 13 January, four months after the 6.2 billion Kwacha was reportedly released.
“SOS! In Hospital, diagnosed Covid positive. The hospital staff are so wonderful, and l can see the pain in their eyes. Yes, they have oxygen cylinders, but in my case, they can’t connect me to the much-needed oxygen because the whole KCH has no Oxygen flowmeter. My situation is getting worse, and l desperately need oxygen. Anyone who can urgently help out there please, please help by donating this very gadget”.
Noting the inaction despite the urgency, private citizens and ordinary Malawians led by Onjezani Kenani (who is not even based in Malawi) initiated a private contributions fund to buy the supplies and equipment that patients were frantically requesting from their sickbeds in Intensive Care Units.
In an unprecedented demonstration of goodwill, one by one, individuals and organisations, local and in Diaspora, have been contributing to the effort.
The most impressive thing about this initiative is that every tambala donated is accounted for. On a day-to-day basis. With no excuses.
When the government finally woke up from its slumber, President Chakwera reported that 6.2 billion Kwacha was already being spent and that some funds had been used as follows:
K60 million had been spent on planning meetings;
K535 facilitating the return of Malawians from South Africa;
K185 million on public awareness on media platforms;
K580 million on border patrols;
K72 million to support victims of gender-based violence during the pandemic with materials and cash transfers;
K100 million to disinfect schools;
K50 million to monitor and enforce COVID-19 protocols in the workplace; and
K50 million on mapping where to put isolation centres.
The expenditure reported by President Chakwera begs a lot of questions.
What kind of “planning” needs expenditure of 60 million Kwacha?
Are we planning to send a crew to the moon?
185 million Kwacha for public awareness when we already have information dissemination structures all over the country, on the ground, in print, air and social media.
Is Chakwera’s government trying to establish an organisation to rival Facebook or what?
As for the 585 million Kwacha reportedly used to repatriate Malawians, the alleged beneficiaries are vehemently denying receiving government assistance that would justify the expenditure of such a colossal sum of money.
If anything, they claim to have paid for their transportation!
The question therefore is: where did the MK585 million go?
Without a detailed expenditure report, no one in their right minds believes the president’s statement.
Moreover, when contacted by Idriss Ali Nassa for a detailed report on the expenditure of the 6.2 billion Kwacha, the Department for Disaster Management (DODMA), which is in the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC) reportedly said they couldn’t release a detailed report before an audit is done!
Yet, the same department dared to use Chakwera’s rhetoric skills to launder its dubious expenditure report!
The bottom line is obvious. Onjezani Kenani and the citizens’ initiative is transparent and accountable and hence more trustworthy than the government.
Any investigation can prove this as a fact.
Although the government has tried to ask donors for financial support dealing with the pandemic; Malawians are almost unanimously refusing to trust the government with any money and are happily channelling the little they have to The Onjezani Kenani initiative.
There is no way to sugarcoat this: this is an alarming indictment of the Chakwera administration. It is an unambiguous charge that Chakwera and his administration have lost the confidence of those that voted it into power.
Of utmost concern is that this is not surprising because the government’s appeal for financial donations comes after people have requested for a detailed accountability report of the MK6.2 billion, which the government – through DODMA – is failing to honour.
Let me make my viewpoint clear. I know Covid19 is a global pandemic. I am also aware that no government in the world has found managing this pandemic a walk in the park. The UK, the US and even Germany are all struggling.
Having said that, President Chakwera ought to meditate on Collin Powell’s advice that “Leadership is solving problems and the day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.”
In our case, Malawians are taking their problems to Onjezani Kenani.
Now tell me, who is governing Malawi?
Is it Chakwera or Kenani?