Ridding Malawi of corruption is vital – presidential candidates

Eight opposition presidential candidates who took part in the first-ever presidential debate held in the capital, Lilongwe on Tuesday evening stressed that ridding Malawi of corruption is key for any new leadership.

The candidates unanimously agreed in getting rid of systemic corruption which blights all spheres of life including the economy and deters foreign investment.

United Democratic Front (UDF) presidential hopeful Atupele Muluzi, who is one of four front runners in the May 20 elections, spoke tough on integrity, transparency and accountability,

Atupele pointed out that cloak of secrecy is fuelling corruption in Malawi.

The eight of the 12 candidates who tussled in first presidential debate
The eight of the 12 candidates who tussled in first presidential debate

“One person can sell a jet without a question. Our institutions and governance systems have collapsed,” he said, adding: “ A President can promise to end corruption, but they are not police. We need to change the systems.”

Atupele further said “UDF will carry out another external audit to make sure systems are restored in government to end corruption.”

The UDF leader also noted that problems with health sector is to do with governance issues such as graft.

“We’ll ensure transparency and audited procurement system,” Atupele said.

He also spoke of the need to declare assets by leaders and make their declaration public and called another main contender Lazarous Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party (MCP)  to join him in declaring assets.

Hellen Singh of United Independent Party (UIP), the only woman on the podium, was not amused  and asked Atupele why only ask Chakwera not other candidates to declare assets.

Chakwera in his take emphasised on assets declaration by president and all those who are under them.

The MCP torch bearer said under his government there will be zero-tolerance for corruption.

New Labour Party president Friday Jumbe, former finance ministers aid for corruption to be won, the President has to have a will power.

Jumbe said corruption is widespread even hitting in the churches.

NASAF president James Nyondo called for the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) to be “proactive not reactive.”

“Ministers, their wives and children should not be allowed to do business with government,” he suggested.

In his contribution, Petra’s president Kamuzu Chibambo said his party if elected to govern will change reporting structures of the enforcing agents.

He said ACB and Director of Public Prosecution would be required  to report directly to parliament  and not to  the President.

“President must lead by example. We have presidents who say all the right things, but act contrary,” said Chibambo, a practing lawyer.

PPM’s Mark Katsonga said as one way of ending corruption he will close Account Number One of government at the central bank.

Katsonga Phiri, a wealthy businessman and former lawmaker, between 1994 and 2004  said the Account Number One is prone to the cashleak.

He said the PPM government will abolish the consolidated account and create a central Government Account with new mandate for its control.

According to Katsonga a new account will be more transparent to remove its vulnerability to abuse by the executive arms of government.

Making his commentary, analyst Chikavu Nyirenda said declaration of assets prior to taking office at all levels, prohibition of business by public servants and civil servants and removal of unscrupulous politicians are great ideas.

He also noted that Singh’s Chichewa expression ” Mbatata zonse zichotsedwe!” as an interesting and apt call for a total clean-up of Malawi’s political system and movement towards eradicating corruption and fostering accountability.

“The call for systems to work instead of personalities, especially the powerful office of the Presidency, which seems to override all institutions.

“Balance and Check Institutions must be appointed by and accountable to Parliament. Parliament must also have powers to call the President to address Parliament and answer questions pertaining to national issues,” Nyirenda said.

“I am in total agreement with these; the catch remains, where do we start and how can we ensure that these things are put in place when these leaders are elected? What is our fall-back position if they do not implement?”

Missing on the podium were President Joyce Banda of People’s Party (PP), Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Davis Katsonga of Chipani Cha Pfuko and George Nnensa of Tisintha Alliance.

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