Mind Power: Are we serious?
THIS is a genuine question: Are we really serious as a nation about anything? I am privileged to be in some high level meetings where key discussions of national interest are taking place.
We usually have the luxury of meeting in very nice hotels, sleeping in hotels whose rooms for a single night cost three times the average monthly salary of most junior civil servants. I do feel guilty, to be honest, when after some time you review the progress on resolutions made from such expensive meetings only to discover that no action was taken.
In 1997, I used to sit on a Joint Disaster Preparedness Committee in the City of Blantyre. The committee members included Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre City Fire Brigade, representatives of the oil companies and representatives of the gas company.
During one of the meetings, we discussed the risk and danger of not having a direct connecting road from the Fire Brigade to the oil companies, a very short distance whose only barrier was a raised rail line. A solution was proposed to construct a connecting road which at that time, would cost about K1 million.
The reason why this road was of extreme importance was that the available route from the Fire Brigade to the oil companies in Makata would take too long for the fire engines to reach the oil companies in good time in the event of a big fire. Projections were made that if that fire was not contained within a short time, it would likely affect the gas company close by.
An official from the gas company explained that if their premises caught serious fire, their gasses would explode and the fire would likely engulf a large area including Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, the main referral hospital in the Southern Region. In short, if such a disaster was to take place, we would not have a referral hospital to treat the affected.
Today, 18 years later, that connecting road hasn’t yet been constructed. Thank God no disaster has happened for nearly two decades. I would like to take solace in the belief that more safety measures might have been taken by the individual companies concerned and that probably the risk we had in 1997, doesn’t exist anymore.
But I wish I was more certain of this.
Let me jump to a different subject: our fight against corruption and looting of public resources.
It is not a secret that Malawi is a country where if you steal public resources, be it money, medicines, or whatever you desire, chances of being caught, tried and convicted are less than 5 percent. You have at least a 95 percent chance of getting away with your crime, unless, of course, you are on the opposing side to the government of the day.
This unfortunately, does not help much to discourage would-be offenders from committing crimes against society and our nation.
For over six years, the state is still pursuing a corruption case involving K1.7million against one of the former heads of state.
Why not just acquit the accused if we have no intention to conclude the case? Then there is a case of a presidential jet that was allegedly sold and no proceeds were received in any of the government accounts.
While responding to a question on BBC Hardtalk, our president, told Zainab Badawi; “We don’t know where she sold it to and we don’t know where the proceeds went, and that is something we are investigating”. Mind you, this is the State President of the Republic of Malawi, who has been in office for more than 17 months, and he still doesn’t know where a whole jet was sold and where the proceeds went.
Is there any hope for Malawi? If someone can sell a whole presidential jet, no money received into a government bank account, and a Head of State, has no clue where the jet went; who then might know where the drugs being stolen from our hospitals are going?
Who might know where more than 30 percent of our government resources disappear to?
We must be deeply concerned as citizens that there is probably no serious fight against corruption and theft of public resources in this nation. But until we make it tough for thieves, looters and corrupt people to get away with crime in this nation, we will not make any economic progress and that makes me a very sad and frustrated citizen.
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