The fight against corruption is never easy. It can get nasty and it appears that is what we are seeing in Malawi now.
It needs someone very spirited and willing to put their lives on the line for their country to be freed from the tenterhooks of gangs mercilessly slurping the national purse.
And when Martha Chizuma happened, there was a general feeling that Malawi’s fight against corruption was finally going onto a successful trajectory. It has not and we all know why.
There are gangs that will stop at nothing to ensure their grip on the public purse is not tampered with. And it appears one way was to trap Chizuma into divulging privileged information which has now landed her in some kind of trouble.
While Chizuma made some very damning allegations which will forever be stuck on her psyche, our blatant disregard of the sins of the person who recorded the conversation is quite telling.
Conversations of that nature do happen; we all have some close confidantes whom we trust and have all the confidence that they will not betray us.
But in the extreme cases of hard luck, where privileged information that was supposed to be between two people ends up in public, there could be attendant ramifications.
So, there is nothing wrong with Chizuma being quizzed on her utterances. It is just off beam to let the person who recorded the conversation go about their daily activities without being sanctioned in any way.
We have collectively turned them into some hero despite that they threw rusty spanners in the fight against corruption. It is sad that even though experts, including law professors, posited that the ‘recorder’ can be successfully prosecuted, relevant State agencies have concentrated all their energy on Chizuma.
Some gullible individuals are even being used by the corrupt cartels to further frustrate the fight against the vice.
It is becoming very clear that the gangs want a weaker officer to lead the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) so that the fight against graft should not be intense. They want a lukewarm approach that will allow them to continue stealing from taxpayers with careless abandon.
That is why they are using every willing individual and all the machinery at their disposal to toss Chizuma around until they break her. Well, they will not.
At least Malawians are watching all the shenanigans in the fight and will not allow that the wicked prevail.
But in essence, Chizuma’s questioning by the police should also act as an opportunity for her to spill the beans regarding who recorded the conversation.
Her silence on the person who betrayed her and obviously committed a crime in the process is not helping matters. In fact, the easiest way to handle the matter was to disclose the details of that betrayer and allow the law to take its course.
It could be that friendships are at stake, but at this point, that could be a lesser evil. What the ‘recorder’ did was a terrible dent in the fight against corruption and they should not have their ego further fiddled.
Now, all the attention is on the ACB chief and it is clear that the corrupt are smiling because they feel they are successfully thwarting important progress in fighting corruption in the country.
But while some individuals may view the court order that the Director of Public Prosecutions and the police review an application that Chizuma should be prosecuted for allegedly disclosing information about an ongoing investigation to a third party as a step in destroying her, it should instead become an opportunity to lay bare everything about the recording.
Of course, it is also frustrating to see that Chizuma herself seems to be comfortable not disclosing the identity of the person who recorded the conversation.
Had she done that immediately after that recording went public, perhaps the narrative could have changed. More pressure could, have perhaps been piled on relevant State agencies to go after that individual so that they also explain their intentions.
It was all clear that Chizuma would not have it easy in leading the fight against corruption in Malawi. Her initial rejection by Parliament itself said a lot about how her work would be.
But it is important for all those tired of corruption to continue supporting her and doing everything possible to take down corrupt rings that are ransacking this country.
We have cried for too long. We need to be freed from the grip of the corrupt who are too comfortable in our country.
They do not care whether their evil acts are killing people through lack of drugs in hospitals or accidents caused by poor road conditions.
Time has come for the fertile ground on which they have subsisted for long to crumble. We have all seen how they are killing our country.
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. He believes that quality reporting is critical in bringing positive change in communities. Alick is the Southern Africa Development Community journalist of the year (2020) in the television category. Follow him on Twitter @aponje