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Crucible in the bag, Joan of Arc marches on!

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With Moshood Pinkus Mbewe:

“But it also means admitting that corruption is so deep in our country that many of us may have benefitted from its proceeds without even knowing it,”President Lazarus Chakwera, 24 January 2022.

Warren Bennis and Robert J. Thomas, in their September 2002 Harvard Business Review article titled ‘Crucibles of Leadership’, define a crucible as a transformative experience through which an individual comes to a new or an altered sense of identity.

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Among the most common types of crucibles, the authors highlight the experience of prejudice or bigotry.

“Being a victim of prejudice,” the authors note, “is particularly traumatic because it forces an individual to confront a distorted picture of him or herself, and it often unleashes profound feelings of anger, bewilderment, and even withdrawal.”

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel because, despite the trauma, a lived experience of bigotry can be illuminating. By experiencing bias, we understand who we are, our role, and where we fit in the grand scheme of things.

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For Ms Martha Chizuma, our Joan of Arc in the fight against impunity and grand corruption, this dark hour happened in the recent past.

Talking to a confidante-turned-Judas Iscariot, she ill-advisedly emptied her heart on the frustrations she is experiencing in her stated goal of making the corrupt uncomfortable.

We discussed this at length last week. Suffice to say, developments continue to prove just how successful she has been this far.

People are quaking in their boots. Thieves are spending sleepless nights. They are and will not stop throwing spanners to frustrate her.

If Chizuma had any illusions that this fight would be simple, she no longer needs reminding that victory must perforce come after bloody and often dirty wars fought with little if any rules.

This is very unfair, of course. Hence the saying: all is fair in love and war.

However, the unfairness in this war is worse; because even when the enemy is not playing by the rules, Chizuma must always play the book.

Firstly, she must beg permission ‘to shoot’ before she opens fire when the other side is already firing at will; at her.

While obtaining consent in the spirit of checks and balances sounds reasonable, those tasked with granting her the go-ahead seem to be making the rules as they go.

Consider this: in DPP denies Anti-Corruption Bureau consent, The Daily Times, 27 January 2022, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Steven Kayuni has refused to grant the ACB consent to prosecute businessman Zuneth Sattar’s agent Kumar Sreedharan, also known as Ashok Nair, and four others on some technicality revolving around “supporting documents.”

From where I am standing, it looks like the DPP wants ACB to first prosecute the whole case to him, and at his whim, it may or may not proceed to Court.

As I have said above, checks like these could be value-adding.

But the problem is that the DPP’s office has not been convincing in prosecutorial matters. The case of Bushiri’s extradition, for example, looked easy.

Where are we with that one?

Chisale’s certificates case looked like a walk in the park. How far have we gone with that walk?

A reasonable man looking at the DPP’s in-tray would expect that office to focus on its plate rather than bite off more than it can chew from other peoples’ plates.

This is the least of Chizuma’s headaches.

While playing to the whims of the likes of the DPP, she must pretend she is getting adequate funding. Even when President Lazarus Chakwera’s Tonse Government, borrowing a leaf from former President Peter Mutharika’s modus operandi (Funding, political will crippled our operations – ACB Chief, The Daily Times, 8 August 2020);

  • Trimmed ACB’s funding in the current fiscal year by 14% (ACB funding down 14%. The Nation Online, 4 June 2021) and has been disbursing that funding so erratically that ACB officers have had to use personal resources for official operations (Funding woes cripple ACB. The Nation Online, 18 January 2022).

Not lost on curious minds is that despite the trimmed budget and erratic funding, President Chakwera claims to “have fought many forces to ensure that the bureau is fully funded and its chief well protected.”

This begs two questions:

  • What would have become of the ACB if the President – who we must believe “has been fighting many forces” – was not on its side?
  • Other than the laptop and phone stolen at Chizuma’s residence while under the watchful eyes of the Malawi Police Service, what asset of value would Chizuma still have if the President – who we must believe “has been fighting many forces” – was not on her side?

All these, however, are beside the point.

Monday’s public lynching of Chizuma is perhaps the most transformative experience for the ACB chief to date.

If she thought she knew the President, on Monday January 24, 2022, starting from the inquisition to that 8pm speech, she discovered that she knew nothing yet.

If she thought she knew herself, by the time she went to bed on Monday night, she knew she would wake up a different person, a transformed Chizuma who had just survived her crucible.

Forget the trimmed budget, the erratic funding, the dubious security and the uncooperative peers. These, at best, discomfit the body, and after a while, they pass.

Bigotry, however, is another cup of coffee.

Try this for size: “I would like to state why I appointed her to head the ACB in the first place… I appointed her because I considered her to be a person of great courage, the kind of courage needed to take on dangerous cartels of corruption that have milked our country dry for decades …because I considered her to be a person of great integrity, the kind of integrity needed to resist every inducement that would be thrown her way to compromise her”… etc.

Look here, these are the very reasons why millions of Malawians voted for President Chakwera. Today, twenty or so months on, these qualities and the action they entail are nowhere to be seen.

Listening to the lynching, I marvelled that it seemed lost on the President that what he saw in Chizuma and what voters thought they were seeing in him are the same and that the only difference is that save for that unfortunate phone call, while Chizuma is delivering, he isn’t.

As for the opening quote, i.e., “benefitting from corruption proceeds without even knowing,”; as a confession, it is okay.

It states: “Guilty as charged!”

But as defence, it is what Italians say, “hiding oneself behind one’s finger,” or in Chichewa, kalulu kubisala pachitsamba and anyone offering that pathetic excuse to justify accepting proceeds of corruption lacks the moral high ground from which to try and humiliate people like Chizuma.

Ignore the hypocrisy and go on with the fight, Madam. Malawians are 100 percent behind you.

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