It has certainly been a damning week; documents have been flying around since revelations about the K6.2 billion Covid-19 ‘free for all’ spending that occurred both at Capital Hill and District Council level made news. Others who tried to take the ‘holier than thou’ approach on the same matter have been humbled, as their names have been plastered all over the place among those that allegedly pocketed the funds.
Not only that. Others who formed part of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 were also given the chop; actually, this has set tongues wagging as the public felt the entire committee should have been sacked since it was their collective responsibility to steer the Covid-19 battle using that K6.2 billion…Yes? No? But that is a story for another day.
What we need to see now is individuals that have created the mess being held personally responsible. It should not just end at being sacked or suspended. If the message that we are indeed serious about ridding the systems of corruption is to sink home, then they must pay back (through their noses) every Kwacha they took; and most importantly, be committed to prison if found guilty in a court of law. In fact, we could be wasting time right now just talking when those that have ‘eaten’ the Covid-19 money are busy on the ground, trying to wipe off any ounce of evidence nailing them for their despicable acts. Why are the systems too slow when you need them to act fast? We should have by now seen or heard about a number of arrests but, sadly, it is only that petty thief who steals chickens in the village that is punished.
Gone are the days when we could witness a whole Cabinet minister or even a principal secretary in a certain ministry being condemned to prison for embezzlement of public funds. I vividly recall to have witnessed this during the first tenure of Bingu wa Mutharika. I am sure most of you readers have recalled such cases but let us leave those in the past. Now all that enthusiasm is but a distant memory and all we are left with are only shells. By the way, when are we likely to have a new Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General in place? I know that the recruitment process was initiated but, damn, with all these corruption allegations springing up we need the director as soon as yesterday. We should have, by now, been almost half way done with ‘clearing the rubble’ or indeed ‘draining the swamp’.
Mixed bag in the field
While we have been suffering due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have on the other hand been blessed as we seem to be having a bumper yield in most crop fields across the country. It is plain for any man to see that the rains that we have been receiving over the past months have been put to good use, judging by the way the maize crop looks in most fields. This is a good enough reason to be thankful and let us hope that we will be singing the same song during harvest time, which is not too far from now.
No wonder, the price of maize, which could go as high as K15,000 per 50 kilogramme (kg) bag sometime last year, has gone down such that one can even afford to get a bag at about K9,000 for a 50kg bag on the parallel market.
Of course, we must give credit to the authorities for the Affordable Input Programme (AIP) because, like it or not, but a majority of people had access to the inputs (save for some glitches here and there) and used them for the right intentions. We must therefore plan well in advance about how we are going to stock up our silos. There should be no excuse because the outlook, from a layman’s point of view, is great; maize, cassava, pumpkins, groundnuts are all plenty.
There are, however, some reports indicating that crops have wilted in some districts, which should be cause for worry. But rather than spending sleepless nights over this sad development, we should be pro-active by making sure that those affected replant early maturing crops. Like it or not, ladies and gentlemen, we cannot toy around with the issue of food. We have seen before how hunger can devastate our peaceful nation and, as such, we need not place lives at risk by folding our arms and watching while things take a different turn in the fields.
Over and above that, people in most districts anticipate a bumper harvest and we must tender the fields with all the attention they deserve to make sure that the projections being given out are matched with reality.
Stephen Dakalira is a seasoned Journalist who works as Times Group’s Online and Digital Executive Editor. He is also the Assistant Editor of The Sunday Times Newspaper, and author of Full Circle column which appears in Malawi News; all of these under the Times Group stable.
He has previously worked in key positions for some of Malawi’s key media institutions such as Malawi News Agency, Capital FM Radio and Star Radio (Now Timveni Radio).