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Sattar effect

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TOBIAS—It is shaping public perception on corruption

Almost 10 years after Cashgate, what does the sensational alleged corrupt dealings between Zuneth Sattar and government officials do to Malawi’s image? What does it say about the promises of the administration to fight corruption in the country?

By Deogratias Mmana:

As skeletons keep falling off the cupboard of the Zuneth Sattar epic, Malawi’s image is taking a real battering; it is up to the authorities and the public to wrest the country from a further damage.

This is the call from analysts as revelations unfold suggesting the height and depth of the grip of alleged corrupt dealings involving Sattar’s companies and Malawi government agencies.

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Top on the worries of the analysts is that the Tonse administration could lose donor confidence – an aftermath Malawi suffered when the sensational Cashgate came to limelight in 2013.

This Sattar case, coming almost 10 years after Cashgate, also exposes the failure by Malawi’s political leaders to decisively deal with corruption, the analysts say.

It is therefore high time that civil society organisations and other well-meaning Malawians took on the government over what they say is “hypocrisy and laissez faire approach to the fight against corruption”.

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This week, a court in the UK denied Sattar bail. He was arrested there last year on allegations of corrupt dealings in Malawi.

Economic expert and Director of Centre for Research and Consultancy Milwad Tobias said the case has negative impact on the country’s economy and image.

“What is clear is that the case is shaping public perception on corruption. Development partners may continue withdrawing direct budget support. The efforts to engage the International Monetary Fund face significant counter force arising from this case,” Tobias said.

Executive Director for Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency Willy Kambwandira said politicians are full of hypocrisy when it comes to corruption.

“It is time for all Malawians and CSOs to wake up and push government and relevant institutions including Parliament and Judiciary to engage extra gears to curb this sickening corruption.

“We must all be angry and demand accountability from the people elected on the promise that they will deal with the fight,” Kambwandira said.

Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) Executive Director Michael Kaiyatsa said the case shows that corruption remains a serious problem in government despite the promise by the current regime to address the matter.

“The recent revelations suggest that it has itself become a corrupt machine,” Kaiyatsa said.

He said it is clear that politicians and public officers have been paying lip service to the fight against corruption in the country — pretty much like during the previous administrations.

“The current administration has a huge task to demonstrate concretely that our battle against corruption is not just mere lip service,” he said.

With the Sattar case coming 10 years after the Cashgate, many of whose cases are yet to be resolved, Kaiyatsa said: “It is clear that we are not learning anything from the experiences of the past decade.

“Instead of doing better, our leaders have chosen to walk in the footsteps of other corrupt regimes.”

Chairperson of National Anti-Corruption Alliance Moses Mkandawire said the revelations are quite damaging.

“Our country’s image has been dented; the positions that we have been respecting all along have been dented basing on the reports that are coming through.

“We also need a proper explanation from the leadership of this country because different offices are alleged to have been involved,” he said.

Recently, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Titus Mvalo told a news conference in Lilongwe that the Sattar case does not involve officials in the Tonse administration.

But where Mvalo got his facts from is also another matter as government spokesperson Gospel Kazako told Malawi News yesterday that government has not yet received an official list of those implicated.

“Once government receives the official list of the names of individuals who were involved in the plunder of public resources through corruption, it will confirm who in government is part of this toxic euphoria and that will confirm the sentiments by the Honourable Minister of Justice.

“At the moment there is nothing official on the table of government to agree or disagree with the sentiments,” Kazako said.

Kazako added: “That notwithstanding, the Sattar case, after a thorough competent court process, offers an opportunity for us as a nation to know the depth of rot and rubble we are sitting on.

“It is so momentous that it provides fertile system ability to create interface with the objectives and principles of the State President who is the Chief Commander in the fight against corruption”

Asked if the Tonse government is not worried that its image is dented because of this case, Kazako said:

“Anybody who is against this trajectory is not only against being on the side of the State President but also automatically an enemy of the people of this country.

“We are aware of all efforts being made to heap all the blame on this government as a chief culprit. Unfortunately for those agitating that narrative, it is not passing, it is failing.”

He said unofficial information tends to indicate that the Satter corruption issue has affected several administrations, “more prominently previous governments spanning many years”.

According to the UK court, through recordings that the NCA presented as part of the evidence, Sattar had interacted with at least nine government officials, including one sitting Cabinet minister.

Sattar is alleged to have been in touch with one official from the Office of the Vice President, one official from State House, two officials from the Malawi Police Service, two officials from the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority, one official from Ministry of Justice and one from Malawi Revenue Authority.

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