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It is now or never

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Puludzu

There is no question that the Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc, turning upside down our way of life.

Our lives are now about restrictions on how we work, how we travel and even who we meet.

Businesses have had to change how to operate and some have even gone under—the list of changes we have had to undertake are endless and beyond any limit.

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But all this pales significantly to how we have had to change, even when burying loved ones who have succumbed to the disease due to the protocols that government through the Ministry of Health has put in place.

The other day I saw on TV an officer from Kamuzu Central Hospital going through the protocol of handling the body of a person who died from Covid-19 to avoid infecting those left behind and it was jaw- dropping.

There is almost no respect of the dead but it is necessary all the same to let those left behind to live.

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Simply put, Covid-19 is bad news looked at from all angles and it is something that had to go yesterday if any of us had a choice.

The above notwithstanding, the disease has of course brought out the usual demons in the civil service: Love of allowances and bad procurement.

To his credit, President Lazarus Chakwera continues to deal with this rot of allowances, bad procurement and expensive employment contracts in government, with the appointment of a taskforce headed by the Vice President to look into the issue and give recommendations on the way forward.

All this is coming about because of how the public service has handled the K6.2 billion that was meant to go towards efforts to defeat Covid-19.

While Covid-19 is bad news in all its manifestations, as I have already alluded to, looked at from the flipside it is a golden opportunity that this government probably will never have to deal with the culture of allowances and the other malfeasance in state enterprise, once and for all.

We can argue endlessly whether we think this government has shown enough willingness to prove to Malawians that it means business in dealing with this problem, once and for all.

But what is at stake here and how much it means is more than about political survival of President Chakwera.

It is rather about the political survival of the whole nation which requires the repositioning of how we think and use public resources.

Certainly, it requires special courage by Chakwera and questions will be asked whether he possesses such courage to risk a political miscalculation and even disappoint his supporters who benefit from the allowances and even inflated procurement of goods and services in government.

But he can rest be assured that the majority of the Malawian public will back him if it discovers that he means well and will give him the necessary votes, come 2025, to continue the good work.

The taskforce is here and looking at it from a neutral point of view, it consists of eminent members, led by the Vice President Saulos Chilima and it must deliver on the assignment.

But of course we have been there before and the majority of Malawians feel taskforces coming in whatever form are a waste of time and what they want is a tangible workable solution on the culture of allowances in government.

At the moment, Malawians who feel that way think they are speaking to themselves and their message is not getting across to those serving in the civil service.

Just this week, teachers went on a sit-in, demanding the same allowances that citizens are against, signalling a deep sense of déjà vu that probably those who are speaking against the culture of allowances are wasting their precious time.

Bluntly put, it does not even make sense for the teachers to make this demand.

This is in view of the fact that since the disease landed on Malawi soil, the teachers have been mostly home due to closure of schools but they were still getting their salaries for doing nothing.

Any capitulation by government to this demand will result into opening of floodgates in that everyone will demand allowances ranging from Police, Immigrations and Malawi Revenue Authority officers, among other sectors, from a government that is almost broke.

At the end of the day, those that have made claiming of allowances in government a way of life should know the citizens are relentless in marching towards the efficient use of public resources and they will not stop any time soon.

This is because Malawians are tired of their tax being abused and stolen hence the insistence that the money government is using towards Covid-19 is accounted for to the last penny.

Even before the Tonse Alliance came to power in June last year, suspicions were rife that some people have taken the deadly disease as a passport for self-enrichment.

The President has shown enough willingness to deliver to the expectations of Malawians on this matter.

He will have the backing of Malawians if he continues on this path to take advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to rid the Civil Service of the culture of allowances, bad expensive procurement and expensive complicated contracts in government.

It is now or it will never be done.

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