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Crooks and toothless guardians

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We have heard rumours before that there may be cartels that run the affairs of this country behind our backs. These criminal enterprises, they say, give each other favours and are so powerful that they can even frustrate the justice service delivery system. This ‘myth’ of cartels is not a problem in this country alone – even the new presidents of Kenya and Zambia, for example, directly mentioned their intentions to get rid of cartels that frustrate government business. However, knowing that the kingpins of these cartels are often politically connected, one wonders if African countries will achieve functioning democracies.

The biggest challenge is that you may be in a cartel without knowing that you are in one. Political parties themselves function as cartels in that they are establishments that flourish based on the intimacy of those who are in their inner circles. In Malawi, for instance, members of a political party stick together because they have common interests and not necessarily because they share certain ideologies. Political ideology is at a higher spectrum of the intellect where most Malawian politicians will never reach. On the other hand, common interests are at the bottom, where we find lucrative contracts, appointments to embassies and jobs in State agencies. That is where we are for the next few years.

As such, it should not be surprising to see that every successive regime comes with scandals where questionable people are put in places they are not supposed to be in. These are often people who are deficient in their thinking and qualifications and who, in normal countries, ought not to be anywhere near power. But these people share common interests with other politicians in their parties and they are given favours. Knowing the nature of human beings, the law foresaw this and made provisions for dealing with these people, but in Malawi, such provisions have proven to fail.

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To put matters into perspective, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and the Office of the Ombudsman were established so that they deal with corruption and other unlawful practices that have the potential to stagnate the State. But these two guardians have almost become irrelevant because those with common political interests have ganged up to frustrate their functionality. On paper, the Office of the Ombudsman is very powerful, and when it makes decisions, one may be cheated into believing that someone is doing something. But behind the scenes, this office turns out to be a barking dog with no teeth. The Ombudsman, for example, can sometimes make recommendations which other authorities will never implement. One can also get an injunction against such decisions and continue with business as usual because they are protected by politicians.

On the other hand, the ACB has also become another Comedy Central, and it was about time we started asking if we really need this office. The head of the bureau has also admitted that she and her troops are failing to deliver justice because there are certain big dogs manning the gates. There are cartels with political interests that will make sure that the rich and the corrupt are protected by any means necessary. They can even hold protests faulting the fight against corruption because the crime puts food on their table. As such, even if we fired and replaced heads of the ACB every six months, nothing will change for the problem exists at a higher level where men and women become gods.

Any Malawian who has lived long enough to understand how business is conducted in this country will tell you that we must forget about living in a proper country – at least for the foreseeable future. The rot in this country is nauseating and there is nothing to smile about. You should not have any hope when you hear that the ACB has arrested this or that person on corruption charges – that big fish will never face the law. They will be released and the case will die a natural death. You must never celebrate when you sit next to your radio and listen to the findings and recommendations of the Ombudsman – it is just mere talk and wishful thinking. Those who hold the real power will never implement that. Our crooks are powerful while the guardians are toothless.

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