In the course of the week, there have obviously been a couple of arguments from some people regarding the 60-day amnesty offer dangled by the country’s Attorney General (AG) Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda to those that defrauded or helped in defrauding the government.
Indeed, just as they have pointed out, I am also of the view that the amnesty should not be used as a smokescreen to give a leeway to some top government officials, current or otherwise, that are way too deep in corruption scandals of magnanimous proportions. There should be no sacred cows in as far as meting out justice or restitution is concerned.
But, then, you never know; there might just be an invisible hand behind the declaration by the AG since we are still dealing with humans with political inclinations despite wearing the government collar. That, however, we can only speculate; so, do not read much into it.
Sometimes people are left bewildered when those that are suspected of committing heinous crimes quickly turn into state witnesses and you find that what would have been an otherwise solid and winnable case is blown into thin air, much to the chagrin of the public, especially the poor who rely on the courts to have justice served. Some are even left scot-free while a sacrificial lamb is mercilessly slaughtered on the altar of ‘justice’. Of course, I am being hypothetical but, believe me, these are some of the occurrences in this part of the world that are, sadly, not talked about.
Do forgive me, I do tend to wander off now and again once the emotions get to kick in, but let us refocus, shall we? We are talking about the issue of the 60-day amnesty here.
I am glad that the AG came out on Monday during a press briefing in Lilongwe to allay some of the fears of the public on the matter. He emphasised that those suspected of massive corruption such as businesspersons Zuneth Sattar (who is subject of an investigation in the United Kingdom), Karim Batatawala and Zameer Karim will not be beneficiaries of the amnesty. Much as it is re-assuring, but some are still skeptical as to what would befall those deemed enablers of such suspects.
Yes, the good book says ‘though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow’ (Isaiah 1:18) but in this scenario of the AG’s amnesty, I do not think that him or the government will be overly generous, going by the sentiments of Chakaka Nyirenda.
This amnesty issue reminds me of the ‘clean hands’ doctrine that states that one who comes into equity must come with clean hands. This doctrine requires the court to deny equitable relief to a party who has violated good faith with respect to the subject of the claim.
The time is, therefore, ticking for those wishing to take advantage of the amnesty offer (never mind the debate it has triggered) because, once the period elapses, then it will most likely be a ‘cat and mouse’ chase between the authorities and those suspected of carrying out corrupt acts.
I do not wish to get drawn into the debate that has ensued, especially among those with the clout and expertise in the law domain, as to whether the decision has the backing of the laws of the land or not. But observing clearly from a layman’s point, Malawians were expecting the Tonse-led administration to fulfill the promise made by some of its partners during campaign time that they would grant such an amnesty within a specific number of days and it’s not the first time that such an arrangement is being made on the African continent.
Since news emerged that the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), who had a warrant of arrest for Minister of Lands Kezzie Msukwa and subsequently went on to execute the warrant while he was admitted to a hospital (or was it waylaid?), the public’s curiousity has been heightened, more especially after it transpired that the minister had been freed from the chains by the courts in Zomba. I will not comment much on this since these are matters that are in court.
However, the big question weighing heavily on everyone’s mind is; how much land in this country has been dubiously acquired over the years and what steps are being taken by those in authority to try and remedy the situation? How much of it is in the hands of foreign nationals? This is an issue that has been neglected for too long and needs to be seriously looked into.
Stephen Dakalira is a seasoned Journalist who works as Times Group’s Online and Digital Executive Editor. He is also the Assistant Editor of The Sunday Times Newspaper, and author of Full Circle column which appears in Malawi News; all of these under the Times Group stable.
He has previously worked in key positions for some of Malawi’s key media institutions such as Malawi News Agency, Capital FM Radio and Star Radio (Now Timveni Radio).