Talking Blues: All the President’s men, Malawi in focus

“Fellow Malawians, if these cases of fraud and corruption shall not make you and me angry, then what shall?” President Lazarus Chakwera, as Leader of Opposition, rebuking his predecessor’s handling of Maize-gate, 24 January 2017
All the President’s Men is a 1974 non-fiction work authored by journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, who investigated the June 1972 break-in at the Democratic Party Headquarters at the Watergate Office Building.
This book captured Hollywood’s imagination, and a biographical political drama-thriller film called All the President’s Men followed, projecting onto the big screen what became known as the Watergate scandal.
The sum and substance of the film is that the two, at that time fresh reporters and rivals working for the Washington Post, research a botched 1972 burglary of the Democratic Party Headquarters at the Watergate apartment complex.
Aided by a mysterious source, they connect the burglars and a White House staffer. Undaunted by threats, they follow the money all the way to the top, and their reporting culminates in the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
From history and the USA, let’s fast-forward and backtrack to Malawi. Drip-dripping, as we speak, is corruption after corruption scandal sharing a common denominator, i.e., the State House.
Let’s start with Tuesday, 3 August 2021. Pastor Martin Thom, President Chakwera’s Advisor, was arrested after smuggling a loan authorization bill into Parliament.
Director of Public Prosecutions Dr. Steve Kayuni is yet to school us why this simple case, with a trail as clear as day, is taking forever as if he too is being denied the consent he denies others.
Anyway, let’s move on.
On Monday, 9 August 2021, Minister of Energy Newton Kambala, President Lazarus Chakwera’s Adviser on Strategy, Mr. Chris Chaima-Banda, and Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Enoch Chihana were arrested for alleged attempts to offer bribes to the National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) officials purportedly to influence the awarding fuel supply contracts.
On Friday, 31 December 2021, after hide-and-seek, the ACB finally arrested Minister of Lands Kezzie Msukwa for his role in a land deal with Zuneth Sattar’s agent.
This week, Malawians woke up to a memo dated 15 February 2022 that appears to have been deliberately leaked. In this memo, Chief of Staff for State Residences, Mr. Prince Kapondamganga, is warning State House Staff after learning that they have been:
– peddling influence in public procurement,
– extorting money from businesses and parastatals, and
– illegally acquiring land and other property
all in the name of President Chakwera.
Without copying the memo to law enforcement agencies for appropriate action, he has merely slapped suspects on the wrists with vague warnings, and in all probability, like the Pastor Martin Thom saga, that will be all.
Hot on the heels of this memo, more unflattering news reports and developments are surfacing.
Beleaguered Abdul Karim Batatawala, embroidered in all sorts of unsavory corruption allegations dating as far back as 2010, is alleging that President Chakwera’s Chief Advisor on Rural Transformation and Development, one Adamson Mkandawire, solicited a K378 million loan from him using Chakwera’s name.
Worse, documents tendered in court show that Mr. Kapondamgaga’s deputy, one Mr. Maxwell Kalamula, and yet another Presidential aide, Mr. Shyley Kondowe, witnessed the transaction.
As per Batatawala, Mkandawire said President Chakwera was very aware of this transaction. Now, with presidential aides as witnesses, why would Mr. Batatawala doubt Mr. Mkandawire?
Mr. Mkandawire is not alone.
In a baptism of fire for the new Minister of Lands and his deputy, Area 49 residents in Lilongwe have protested an alleged illegal acquisition of land owned by the Lilongwe City Council and earmarked for a school project, a police unit, and a health center.
According to the residents, the land was illegally acquired by an official at State House. While the Lands Minster Sam Kawale says the issue has been resolved, the only consequence for the alleged land grabber(s) are:
– a reprimand and
– a recommendation that their respective employers (Lilongwe City Council, Office of President and Cabinet (OPC), and State residences) take disciplinary action against them.
The last time I checked, land grabbing was a criminal act. Hence, what ought to have followed were arrests, prosecution, locking them up, and their prison cell keys quickly relayed to me for ditching in the Shire River.
The Shire River will not get prison keys anytime soon, from the look of things.
Lest we forget, the ACB is having a tough time concluding investigations and arrests of Zuneth Sattar’s partners in crime. You will recall that following a three-year-long investigation by Britain’s National Crimes Agency (NCA) into Sattar’s suspected corrupt dealings with Malawi government officials from the former Peter Mutharika and incumbent Chakwera administration, Britain’s anti-corruption authorities arrested Malawian-born businessman Zuneth Sattar in October 2021.
If President Chakwera was half, or even just ten percent serious about “ending corruption” as per the fourth Pillar of his fantasy ‘Chakwera Hi5’, Sattar’s arrest and the subsequent mass arrests would have marked a watershed to crown his legacy.
However, with each passing day, one cannot help but agree with what former President Peter Mutharika and his hangers-on used to allege that President Chakwera’s statements as Leader of Opposition were motivated by envy.
Jealousy that Mutharika had assembled an impressive array of villains with some situated at the State House and others deployed as ministers and heads of parastatal positions to mercilessly milk the thin cow called Malawi and share the spoils with the likes of Sattar.
What else can we conclude? Who sees anything different between Mutharika and Chakwera’s era impunity?
Look here, just like in Mutharika’s time, corruption is everywhere. In government ministries and departments, the Police and the very Office of President and Cabinet (OPC) and the common denominator? State House.
Any difference?
In fact, within the current administration, it is becoming increasingly challenging to distinguish thieves from non-thieves and the corrupt from the non-corrupt when looking at all the president’s men, and if birds of a feather indeed flock together, what should we infer?
Do you know what this reminds me of? First, former President Mutharika’s high tolerance for thieves and what he reaped, and second, President Nixon’s end.
Since the president insists on surrounding himself with characters that, despite their professed Christian and supposed religious backgrounds, have little or no regard for the Eighth Commandment, a day will come when he will envy the not-so-illustrious fates of former President Mutharika and disgraced US President Nixon.
All it will take is someone following the money all the way up the hierarchy of all the president’s men.
That, esteemed Blues’ Orators, will be the day.

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