Last week, President Lazarus Chakwera hosted a two-day national anti-corruption conference where he once again talked about his resolve to see corruption rooted out of the country’s public system.
He has been talking about ending corruption since he took over power at the June 23, 2020 presidential election which he also won on that promise.
But fighting the vice goes beyond just talking and wishing but strongly cracking the whip on the corrupt and supporting all laws and agencies instituted to tame public officers with sticky fingers.
In the meantime, the truth is that the fight against corruption in this country is much in words than actual actions.
So, we should not expect anything unique from the conference, which was attended by several people including those engaging in corrupt practices.
In fact, there were individuals who travelled to the conference with the aim of finding a loophole through which they could dip their fingers in the cookie jar. They claimed allowances that they do not deserve, like is often the case with some officers.
Commitments were made, at the end of the summit, to the effect that various entities will not allow corruption among their officers. All these are mere wishes if real action is not undertaken.
There are several lessons to learn from former Tanzanian president the late John Pombe Magufuli who came into government guns blazing and never hesitated to fire anyone suspected of engaging in corrupt practices.
His country made significant economic progress because he sealed several loopholes and ensured every public penny was accounted for. That is what a leader who is passionate about the development of their country does.
But in Malawi, even when there is overwhelming indictment that someone has engaged in corrupt practices, our leaders tend to turn their attention away and let the issues die, if they can.
We will not win the fight against the vice if we still believe inviting some Kenyan motivational speaker to rumble about the things he has uttered over and over again will rain into the public system some magic wand that will clean the mess.
It is as if we do not know, as country, what we need to do to end the vice.
All what could be said about ending corruption has been said. In fact, the hope that was there among Malawians, when the Tonse Alliance had assumed the leadership of this country, has withered away.
As they campaigned ahead of the court-sanctioned presidential election, these people gave Malawians high hopes that the country was finally on its path to prosperity.
It transpired they could be worse than their predecessors. Everywhere in the public system, there are reeks of corruption— and those perpetrating the vice will not just stop simply because the President hosted a two-day conference and chanted ‘corruption is not welcome here’.
What is required is agencies sanctioned to deal with corruption getting to work in earnest. They should be freed from the domineering grip of the government and anyone with some power.
All the chaos we have seen among entities that are supposed to be working in unison in dealing with graft cases clearly shows something is wrong. There have been deliberate attempts to protect some individuals hooked up in corruption.
That is where the biggest trouble lies. Once some people implicated in crime are given special treatment and cannot be brought to face the long arm of the law, no talk about ending corruption will achieve what is supposed to be the larger goal.
Resetting the nation’s moral tone could be important but the problem is so entrenched in the public system that only proper convictions of those implicated will send strong messages to others.
It is pathetic that after so much talk from the President about how repulsive corruption is and that it should not be part of his administration, reports continue to come out regarding public officers mercilessly stealing public money.
Once again, talking and gathering people together where they make some voluntary commitments are not the proper ingredients for winning the fight.
Otherwise, we would not be hearing about and seeing dozens of individuals at Treasury being arrested for allegedly stealing taxpayers’ money.
The cleansing that the President used to talk about should have been in earnest. Anyone implicated in corruption was not supposed to be stepping their feet in their offices.
But right now, there are individuals who were even arraigned before courts of law who are still working; they are not interdicted and continue to enjoy their full benefits.
That does not show this administration is serious about ending this vice.
Alick Ponje is a features writer at The Times Group. He graduated from the University of Malawi with a bachelor’s degree in education, majoring in literature in English. Follow him on Twitter @aponje