Peter Mutharika elusive on corruption in Bingu era
President Peter Mutharika was a bit elusive when BBC HardTalk host, Zeinab Badawi, asked him on why he frequently mentions former president Joyce Banda on corruption in the country when his own brother late Bingu wa Mutharika was Malawi’s leader during a “corrupt decade”.
The interview, which mostly focused on bad governance as a source of economic struggles despite peace and stability that the country has enjoyed since independence, saw Mutharika avoiding mentioning Bingu as one of the presidents who watched as corruption happened.
In her question, Badawi who quoted Malawian scholar, Jimmy Kainja, said corruption has taken over 35 percent of the government funds in the last decade which includes Bingu’s era.
She also mentioned almost all the positions, including the advisory roles that President Mutharika held during that reign.
But Mutharika just said corruption happens in any society and thereafter focused on what his government is doing to fight it.
“Corruption has been there. Even before that… even before that [Bingu’s era]. Even before the previous government. You are right, it is true. Corruption has been there for decades. There will always be corruption in every society.
“When there is corruption, there is nothing left. It’s true. But, according to experts, a big percentage of the budget, maybe 20 percent sort of disappears because of corruption in our poor country. But that’s what happens. We are taking measures to stop corruption. That’s what we are trying to do,” Mutharika said.
When it was put to him that bad governance in the form of corruption is one of the problems affecting Malawi’s economy, Mutharika could not hesitate to mention the 2013 Cashgate which happened under Banda’s watch as a good example of corruption.
“Yes, Cashgate is a good example of corruption. But we are doing something. Recently I announced three pillars. That is patriotism, integrity and hard work. Those must form our national ethic. If there have been integrity and patriotism, Cashgate would not have taken place. Now on the issue of corruption, we are fighting corruption now,” he said.
Mutharika then conceded that tobacco, which forms 60 percent of the country’s income, is a dying industry but was quick to lobby for better prices from tobacco buyers in the meantime.
“At the moment that’s the main income earner and we must get fair prices while we are diversifying. We are going to mining, irrigation agriculture. I know that tobacco is a dying industry,” Mutharika said.
Badawi also pressed Mutharika on the reports of violation of land rights among poor locals by some wealth investors.
But Mutharika, who questioned the authenticity of online Nyasatimes, where Badawi had quoted one of the land violation stories, said those aggrieved locals, if at all they exist, should lodge a complaint with the government and the government will investigate.
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