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Fast-moving Malawi risks derailing

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Things have moved very fast this week in Malawi.

Issues have been unfolding so fast that even the media failed to capture minute by minute of the events.

But first, let me congratulate President Peter Mutharika on turning 77 on Tuesday.

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Actually, Mr President looks younger than his age; he looks very energetic than most of us young people.

It would be good to learn from him why he enjoys a relatively good health like that; what type of food Madam Gitty, our good First Lady prepares for the First Citizen.

Turning 77 is not a joke in a country where life expectancy is at 40, in a country where road accidents are claiming more people than diseases, in a country where malaria and malnutrition remain high, in a country where HIV and Aids is still the main cause of deaths.

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I am not therefore surprised that he wants to vie for another presidential term when he will be 79 in 2019.

Next, is the issue of the embattled former Agriculture minister George Chaponda.

As we are publishing this column today, I should think he is out on bail.

But Wednesday was a very busy day for journalists in Blantyre, trying to capture everything of this high-profile Anti-Corruption Bureau case.

The whole saga started with a publication in The Daily Times of a suspicious element of corruption in the way Admarc, the state grain trader, wanted to purchase maize from Zambia amid reports that millions of Malawians were to starve to death due to hunger.

President Mutharika tasked Chaponda and Admarc officials with the duty to source maize, wherever they could, even when it meant going to heaven, just to get the life-saving grain.

Chaponda, as a senior Cabinet minister, went near and afar with Foster Mulumbe, the Chief Executive Officer of Admarc, to get the maize.

However, after the publication of the article, Mutharika instituted a commission of inquiry to get to the bottom of the matter, to find out if indeed there was corruption in the way the public officers wanted to buy the Zambian maize.

Parliament too instituted its commission of inquiry on the matter.

Both the inquiries accused Chaponda, Mulumbe, Transglobe Director Rashid Tayub, Grain Traders Association Chair Grace Mijiga Mhango of suspicious dealings in the maize purchase deal.

Chaponda conceded that sometimes corners were cut but said this was done in good faith, to save lives of Malawians who were on the verge of starving to death.

However, the opposition and civil society organisations were up in arms, accusing the government, more especially Mutharika, of shielding his cronies, his close allies in corruption issues.

Now the President has spoken through the Anti-Corruption Bureau. Chaponda and the other suspects spent a night in a police cell, an unprecedented for the powerful vice president of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

We are now following with keen interest how the case will progress and how long it will take; otherwise, Malawians are already describing the whole arrest as smokescreen.

Now, President Mutharika, whom we Malawians fondly call APM, has declared that he has good relationship with Vice- President Saulos Chilima.

I take this declaration with a pinch of salt. This declaration is empty and just window dressing.

Everyone knows that Chilima is not a free person in his party; if at all DPP is his party.

A very senior person in government, the second in command in government, should have a senior position in DPP, not the so-called advisory position to the party.

This is not only mockery to the powerful intelligence of Chilima but laughable as well.

The way things are in DPP hierarchy; Hetherwick Ntaba, George Chaponda and Goodall Gondwe are all bosses to Chilima.

This is not the father-and-son relationship APM wants us to believe exists between him and Chilima.

All senior party officials are now busy going out to address political rallies. Why is it that Chilima is not allowed to do the same?

It looks like DPP if not APM is suspicious of Chilima or both DPP and APM know Chilima will not be running mate in 2019.

APM should come out and tell us the truth, nothing but the truth. As of now, we are enjoying Chilima’s wonderful basketball antics and I just wonder why DPP cannot allow him to display his real political antics!

Dust has finally settled since Mutharika reshuffled his Cabinet. I can see now clearly. There is nothing new in the so-called new Cabinet: same old faces; same old Cabinet ministers for life just being reshuffled. The same faces and names of Henry Mussa, Goodall Gondwe, the very same faces of Anna Kachikho back into Cabinet etc.

Nothing new, nothing will change and nothing is changing.

I am not even surprised that some Malawians are up in arms in social media, challenging Mutharika why he decided to drop Health minister Peter Kumpalume.

Young, talented, intelligent and hard-working Kumpalume was and it is a surprise that he decided to bring in old, deadwood who will be there just to milk the already thin cow.

Well, I am reminded that it is the prerogative of the President to hire and fire a Cabinet minister.

But as I said earlier, Malawians should not expect change in socio-economic sphere.

The rich will continue getting richer while we, the poor, will continue getting poorer and poorer!

Finally, yesterday went just like any other day but it was not for families and friends of 20 people gunned down mercilessly by the police six years ago when they were protesting against increasing cost of life and former president Bingu wa Mutharika’s increasingly intolerance and dictatorial tendencies.

The day should remind us all that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Bingu came into power in 2004 as a humble but well-read and intelligent president who rose above petty partisan politics.

He ordered that all public structures that bore the head of Kamuzu but the names were erased by the order of Bakili Muluzi be reinstated, he ordered all ministers to stay in the Capital City to cut costs and he negotiated successfully for the Chinese grant to construct the elegant Parliament building and Karonga Chitipa Road among others.

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