I am always fascinated by people’s immediate reaction to things. Two weeks ago the perennially hapless national football team got well beaten by fatigued Zimbabwe Warriors who had to travel by road all the way from Zimbabwe. The next morning an impromptu meeting was held and what we heard after that was that the two coaches had been told never to be seen around the training ground again.
A week ago, the netball Queens, who are fast and steadily becoming a laughing stock like their embarrassing football brothers, proved they are not as good as they are believed to be by doing the expected: Beating weaker and far lower-ranked teams and getting mercilessly beaten by South Africa’s Proteas, I think for the fifth time in a row. But as expected, being a nation that celebrates mediocrity and has resigned to rejoice over the tag of perpetual failures, our Queens were given a welcome with pomp and funfair. But that is just a matter of reaction, and we all react differently.
As expected this week, the media has been abuzz with the jazz of the much-talked about Financial Analysis Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers on government’s accounts. The new bleed of social media activists is, as usual, seething with rage and brandishing their verbal machetes. But I do not take social media activists seriously. After having a few data bundles, they want to seem valiant by boring us with verbose threats as if they will do anything.
In my line of duty, I have come to the hurting but sobering realisation that those who make noise elsewhere do not have the spine to stand by what they say. Once you make the mistake of taking these people seriously and start quoting them in the newspaper you will be in hot soup. They will confess to you in private that they were quoted correctly but they will press and beg you to carry a bogus correction in the next publication once they start receiving pressure from the top. Such is the kind of plastic activists we have.
So if you are looking for a sober but at the same time brave analysis of the shocking plunder of public resources, I am sorry because you will definitely be left shell-shocked, gutted, and supped of all hope. By the way, as usual, the talk has already dovetailed into a prosaic political war of blame. It is apparent that it is now about a contest of who stole less other than who did not at all. Those who have more orange in their blood are celebrating that at least, for now, people have realised that Cashgate was not the creation of the People’s Party government while those who bleed blue would be defending themselves to the last blood by arguing that between 2012 and 2014 they did not have access to the leaking government purse thus feeling absolved half way.
What, however, I am reading from the report is the stunning and stinging truth that we have been breeding a pack of devilish thieves no matter what political hue or face they wear. K577billion is no small change, and for a country that is known to be a constant winner of the shameful trophy of poverty to lose such a staggering amount in only five years is astonishing and mind chilling.
The first reaction is normally to think of stock-outs drugs that are a common occurrence in our hospitals, the tobacco barns that are being used as classrooms, pathetic roads that have even earned us ridicule in the region, our rugged airports, overflowing sewer lines and all the bad features that have become symbols of our nation.
While some people are busy lining their pockets, every time Parliament meets you are assured that government will tell us that it wants to borrow money elsewhere to build toilets and upgrade our potholed airports. Knowingly, it is you and I and posterity that will forever be yoked in chains of repaying these loans while those on the throne or close to it go home bellyful and trousers sagging the weight of stolen money.
It is not surprising that ministers who not long ago could not afford a five-litre gallon of petrol for rickety jalopy would, immediately after getting into power, go about splashing cash in donations or bribes like generous Santa.
The ugly truth you might not know is that eventually those who presided over this frightening looting of funds will never be known unless they are out of government and the powers that be would want to politically crucify them.
There are so many tactics governments use to protect their own. Last year or the one before, we waited for the Baker Tilley Report on Cashgate with high expectations. But what came to us was almost a simple table of contents page that was as good as nothing. Even the good foreign audit companies we entrust to audit our accounts have a way to play games with us.
Remember there will always be superfluous terms like diplomacy and private and confidential and legal implications that will always make us stop asking for more. I bet my head on the guillotine if there will ever be any forensic report with names left for the public to see.
Loathe this if you want but we are not a righteous nation as we pride ourselves in. In fact those people we address as honourable, sir, madam, your excellence, your highness, your majesty and all those titles of reverence are in fact be damned thieves who don’t give a hoot that people are dying in hospitals because there are no drugs as long as they go home richer. I would not get angry at people who call us damned.
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