Smoke and Mirrors trilogy in Malawi cashgate: The Three musketeers

In the first edition on Nyasa Times column of ‘Smoke and Mirrors’, I outlined the character of Paul Mphwiyo, the Budget Director who was shot some months ago, to the effect that he was not exactly Mr. Clean Guy. I also talked about his close acquaintance Pika Manondo as being the one who would be best placed to know exactly what had been up to which may have led to his shooting. In my second article, ‘Smoke and Mirrors Reloaded’, I mentioned that a cyber gang had taken over the proceedings and had unleashed a smear campaign with the aim of derailing the investigations for purposes of framing innocent people, in order to protect the real culprits.

All these have come to pass. Manondo has handed himself to police after being put on the wanted list and he is now ready to spill beans on what he knows about the so called cashgate. On the other hand, the social media terror gang has grown wings and is now operating with impunity, directing the public on what to believe.

In this article, I will outline what has become of the key players to this game. As of now, police records clearly show, by way a sworn affidavit, that Lutepo of the K1 billion cheque is the one who ordered the hit on Mphwiyo. Remember that the affidavit in question was sworn by a suspected hit man on remand. The Police did put an alert on Lutepo and Manondo in connection with the attempted murder. Both men were outside the country at the time of issuing of their warrants of arrest and have since come back and handed themselves over to the police. But instead of charging the two men with what they were being wanted for – attempted murder – the police has decided to get the two men to implicate someone who is not even mentioned in any police statement – Ralph Kasambara – with the very charge the two were supposed to be facing!

Manondo: I will tell my side of the story
Kasambara (Left) facing attempted murder charge while Manondo  also on same charges  threatens to spill the bean in Malawi cashgate

So what is really happening? What are the forces desperately trying to change the plot by framing a false agenda? Who are they trying to frame it for? Who are they trying to protect? This, article puts everything into perspective giving an insight to the game being played on the stage called Malawi.

Three Musketeers – The Chivunde, Lutepo, Mphwiyo Connection

Just hours before Manondo handed himself over to the police at Songwe border, he gave an exclusive interview to Nyasa Times, announcing his intention to expose what he said he knew about Cashgate, how PP gurus were siphoning money from government and how the money, with the full knowledge and blessing of the President, was being distributed. Remember, Manondo is Paul Mpwhiyo’s best friend and if indeed Mphwiyo was the distribution centre, Manondo, surely, knew every bit of it. Be that as it may, Manondo may as well just be Mphwiyo’s sidekick and not part of the main crew.

Anyway, immediately after Manondo handed himself over to the police, the social media gang immediately went into overdrive telling the whole world that Manondo had actually disowned the statements he had earlier issues and had gone further to tell the police that all he had said was all because had been influenced and threatened by Ralph Kasambara. The gang even went further to claim that Manondo had actually asked the police to protect him from Kasambara.

As it turned out, just two days later, Manondo came out to announce that he stood by his earlier statements and that he would tell what he knows about cashgate; that he was never, at any moment, threatened by Ralph Kasambara and that he will not be state witness against Kasambara to accuse him of master minding the Mphwiyo’s shooting because he does not even know who shot Mphwiyo, in the first place. Further, it transpired that the Deputy Head of Police, Bophani had actually tried to pressure Manondo to switch lawyers and get one who would strike him a good deal with government, an offer he flatly refused.

A few months, earlier, the ACB had earlier started an investigation one Ephraim Chivunde, a close associate of Mphwiyo’s. Among others Chivunde was found to have had huge amounts of cash in his accounts in excess of K400 million; had bought himself an executive mansion, complete with a built-in cold room in the suburbs of Lilongwe, which the ACB believed was way beyond his means.

In the course of their investigation, the ACB moved in and started seizing his properties, the first being some two containers of merchandise that he had imported from the Far East, as a cover up to create the impression he was making his money from some trading business – laundering. But somehow, the highest authority on the land stepped in and ordered the ACB to back off Chivunde. And with that single order, the mansion, along with one Mercedez Benz and twin cab, suddenly became beyond the reach of the ACB.

Now if you thought of Noel Masangwi as being the bad boy of the DPP, Chivunde fits the bill for PP in very word. Today, Chivunde is in cahoots with the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) boss Joseph Aironi. Chivunde even moves around with NIB officers, taking them on trips to Mzuzu and directing them in locating assets of fellow PP executive members whom he says he wants to finish off for having refused to reign in the ACB when it was investigating him.

Lutepo, on the other hand, is to PP what Leston  Mulli was to DPP. Lutepo spins major deals and uses the proceeds to bankroll the party with vehicles and picks the tub for the party’s high profile gigs and other events. If there is anyone who has the president on speed dial, Lutepo is that man. You don’t believe this? Well, try this one for size: a day before he left the country – the trip that led to his Interpol warrant – Lutepo had an audience with the President. And by the way, remember that the President gets security and intelligence briefings every morning. Granted, he has a senior party position, but at the same time it is not every day that a deputy director in a party gets to meet the president on a one-to-one meeting. Lutepo meets the president at will. And on a very frequent basis.

So what is the connection between Lutepo, Chivunde and Mphwiyo?

Follow the Money

To the outside world, investigative journalism seem to be a very complex exercise. But it is, actually based on a very simple notion: Follow the money. Period. You follow the money and it will lead you to who did what for who. Cash has a paper trail – even dirty cash. But before the money found its way into the boot of a Toyota IFMIS (also known as Fortuner), a cheque was cashed, before that a cheque was issued, before that a requisition was made against a budget allocation and before that a budget allocation was made – by a Budget Director.

To cut a long story short just answer this simple question for yourself: Why was Chivunde drinking with Mphwiyo on the night of the shooting? Why was Lutepo in cahoots with Mphwiyo during the months leading to shooting? What did they fall out just before the shooting?

Well, in case you still cannot see, here is a little help from investigative journalism 101. Court records show that Lutepo siphoned MK1.2 billion from The Ministry of Tourism. During the 2013/14 budget, the total allocation for the Ministry of Tourism was MK3.7 billion out of which MK2.5 was for capital expenditure. Between Lutepo’s MK1.2 billion and the Ministry’s capex of MK2.5 billion, the ministry’s budget of MK3.7 billion is maxed out, with no more funds to do anything. But within the same period, the ministry receives some mysterious surplus allocation from the national budget office of MK1.5 billion, pushing the Ministry’s income to MK5.2 billion and allowing Lutepo to loot and get away with it. Who allocates the money, again? Budget Director.

There you are. It is simple if you just hang on to your common sense and refuse to be confused by the noise. Forget the smokescreens being created by the police, ignore the mirror tricks from the Facebook gang. Only then, will you be able to see them – the Three Musketeers!

  • Mizaya Singileti is a Nyasa Times columnist. 

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