Malawi’s Rampant Corruption Signifies Failure Of Political Leadership
It was here where donors descended upon Malawi’s Vice President Khumbo Kachali en masse, demanding an explanation for the rampant corruption that has been making news in Malawi for all of three weeks now. Each day has been bringing new headlines of yet another government official, either related to or a close associate of President Joyce Banda, found with millions of Kwacha in cash.
Even as Vice President Kachali stammered and stumbled trying to find the much needed explanation, across the lawn at the Office of the President and Cabinet, one Frank Mwanza, an accountant there and a close associate of President Banda, was being arrested for having paid MK1 billion to a company called International Procurement Service, apparently for no services whatsoever and for doing nothing other than having a bank account in its name.
The impacts of both the Vice Presidential grilling by the donors, and the arrest of Frank Mwanza and others ripple well beyond Capital Hill and past Malawian borders.
Aware that her beloved promoters from the international community are watching this circus keenly, an embarrassed Joyce Banda, caught as it were “in flagrante delicto”, has from her hiding place in Texas USA, ordered her highly paid spinners to go into high gear. In true allegiance to the god of mammon, Joyce Banda’s hired pens have set about arguing to anyone who will listen that the rampant corruption has always been in the system, and that President Banda should take credit for exposing it. They argue that the arrests are a breakthrough, demonstrating Banda’s determination to fight corruption and spare no “sacred cows”.
The shameful ethics of Joyce Banda’s paid journalists is not the subject of this treatise. Their argument, however, that the exposure of rampant corruption should be a source of credit to their boss deserves a response.
The place to begin in responding is the angry argument presented to me via Social Media by a friend I will prefer not to mention. According to him, to say Joyce Banda is fighting corruption is an insult the intelligence of Malawians. After all, Malawians now know that the whole corruption debacle and the capital cash-gate scandal as it has come to be known started with the shooting of Budget Director, Paul Mphwiyo a known corrupt relative of President Joyce Banda. Mphwiyo had been fired in previous administrations on suspicion of corruption, and was only brought back into the system by the president so he could take charge of raising funds for Joyce Banda’s People’s Party.
It also is an open secret that her cabinet Ministers and PP members were involved in this scheme and that Mphwiyo was shot because the arrangement went sour when Mphwiyo started keeping too much of the stolen loot for himself. Indeed if President Joyce Banda were at all serious about rooting out corruption as sung steadfastly by her paid PP PR choir, shouldn’t she have declared her assets long ago upon entering the presidency? To date, President Joyce Banda has refused to declare her assets even amid numerous calls to do so by donors, parliament, critics and civil society. It is evident that she and her party members have amassed so much wealth in just a few months in power that dare not let the people know, or a revolution will be inevitable. But charity begins at home. If she cannot even declare her assets as required by law, how can she even have the audacity to claim that she is fighting corruption?
Indeed one can only hope that Malawians will see this pathetic claim of “fighting corruption” by both Joyce Banda’s publicists as exactly what it is: a disgraceful and desperate attempt to save face after being caught red-handed.
It has been said that the arrests following the exposure of rampant looting is a breakthrough in the fight against corruption. It is claimed that the system had been rotten for a long time and had simply reached its breaking point. Those that make this argument need to admit that it must be a very daft president indeed who comes into the presidential office and sits there for almost 2 years before noticing that the system was corrupt and in need of overhauling. This is a president, mind you, who has previously served as a senior cabinet minister as well as vice president. The argument is that in all that time she had no eyes with which to see that the system was corrupt, and to plan what she could do to fix it if she ascended to the high office.
It is even more ridiculous that the president then conveniently comes to this wonderful revelation only when her relative is shot in a corrupt deal involving monies that were supposed to be delivered to her. If this president takes all of 2 years (18 years if you put together all her time in a senior government position) to notice that things are wrong, how can she be trusted to run a country at all when a presidential term lasts only 5 years?
Thus according to President Joyce Banda’s publicists, the president is determined to fight corruption. And how does she accomplish this? She refuses to declare her assets, appoints her corrupt relative to run the national budget, and when all breaks loose and rampant corruption is exposed, she fights corruption by searching car boots of junior government officers. This, according to Joyce Bandarites, is great and commendable political leadership. In other words, if a house was already unclean, being caught defecating in it is excusable on the basis that after you have defecated, you will try and clean it all up. Thus being caught defecating in an already dirty house that needed cleaning anyway, is a breakthrough!
At the risk of being called a bitter and frustrated critic, I will differ with the Bandarites. What we are confronted with here is a failure of political leadership that threatens an economy at the very time when we desperately need to turn the corner to higher growth and employment.
We all know what Joyce Banda should be doing – getting on the first plane home from her hiding grotto in Texas, firing all the senior cabinet ministers and party executives implicated in the rampant corruption scandal, declaring her assets and giving the nation the assurance of a deliberate policy that will ensure transparency and accountability. But she is not doing that. From a distance, it doesn’t look like he is even really trying to lead at all.
If ever there is a need for true leadership, it is now. What concerns me is that if the praise songs coming out of the Joyce Banda camp are anything to go by, there seems to be no desire or inclination to change course.
In the final analysis then, Joyce Banda’s main concern is still not the Malawian taxpayer but the international community. It seems to me that as long as she can present a plausible explanation to the foreigners that support her Joyce Banda Foundation, then what Malawians think doesn’t matter, and their tax can be used in any way she pleases.
This explains why after soon after Vice President Khumbo Kachali failed desperately to explain the rampant corruption to the donors, he PR team has gone into over drive to do the explaining via Facebook and other web based media aimed at presenting a velvet story to the international community.
It makes me echo the sentiments expressed by many that perhaps it is time for Malawians to take back their country by refusing to pay their taxes until their president can demonstrate evidence that she is answerable to them and not to the United Stated, United Kingdom, the IMF or the World Bank.
Taking our government back and ensuring that those sitting in political leadership roles are truly doing the work of the people should be the prime responsibility of every Malawian. That responsibility must start by understanding this fact: the exposure of rampant corruption in Joyce Banda’s government is neither a breakthrough nor a sign that Joyce Banda is fighting corruption. The exposure of rampant corruption of this magnitude in Joyce Banda’s government signifies her failure of political leadership.