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…To thieves, liars too

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During Easter, Times Television broadcast a programme in which prisoners were given a chance to tell their stories. One story that pricked the softer tissues of my heart was about a woman who was committed to spend five years in the cooler for stealing K350,000.

That woman looked craggy, weak and wasted. My first reaction to her appearance and story was of pity and dejection. If I had key and lock of prison, I would quickly let her go because, relatively, stealing K350,000 — and that is without harming a soul physically — is not enough to warrant one five years in the rusty manacles of jail. I know of serious thieves that deserve more time in shackles than one who stole less than half a million of our pathetic currency. But the law seems to have been designed for the affluent and those connected to power.

In this country, the most damned thieves are not those who steal a plasma television set here and a chicken there or rustle cattle. The most heartless and dangerous thieves are those we glorify with sweet-sounding honorific such as honourable, CEO, MD, excellency and what have you. And we are very good at giving diabolic acts flashy names. I remember there was Fieldyork, Cashgate, Tractorgate and soon there will be Maizegate. And it is the Maizegate I am interested in.

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When President Peter Mutharika returned from his unnecessarily costly junket in the name of United Nations General Assembly, one decree he made and that resonates in most of us, is the hiking of maize price to K12,500 per 50 kilogremme (kg) bag of maize. For those new in town, the justification for the hike was that Admarc borrowed money and, by all means, it had to service that loan. And the burden was pushed to you and me.

Right now, Admarc depots are full of the grain not because they played it well but because most Malawians, the majority of whom live below a dollar a day, cannot afford to part with K12, 500 for a 50kg bag of maize. The story about this loan and the maize price hike is one that is stomach churning to be rehashed. It is a story that stinks of rotten greed, moral decadence and absolute selfishness.

The summary of it all is that the government borrowed money on behalf of starving Malawians to purportedly purchase maize from Zambia. A better chunk of that money is reported to have ended up in the pockets of a few executives and yet Malawians who sleep on cow dung are forced to repay a loan that was obtained to buy maize which the very poor Malawians is not able to buy.

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Now, all said, this is one of the most revolting schemes in record time. All along, government and Admarc have been lying to Malawians about the maize deal. What we were told is that the maize deal was between Lilongwe and Lusaka, yet Admarc advertently bought the maize from a private company at a bloated price. And the intentions are now very lucid: some people wanted to pocket some dollars from the deal and they have.

Elsewhere, having a CEO of a parastatal that knowingly continues to lie to the people is a serious issue worth costing a job yet, in this country, where the order of the day is stealing and lying, someone will, come Wednesday, be in his air-conditioned office belching on the comfortable swivel chair. After all, this looks like a grand scheme that even the President and the Minister of Agriculture are very much aware and part of.

But we are a docile nation that is too timid and reclined to get mad at this blatant act of corruption. We have come to accept and live with it that our CEOs are a club of liars and thieves who have the backing of grand thieves in the name of the Executive arm of government.

What irritates me most is that this is just one scheme that has been revealed and there are more that are still veiled. Sadly, many people believe Cashgate only took place between 2012 and 2013. But Cashgate, for all its sweet sound, has been happening since the advent of democracy or before that. President Peter Mutharika knows about all this rot and he cannot do anything about it because, by the end of the day, it is him and his attendants that go home with a fat cheque.

I get really angry that George Chaponda had to look at Malawians in the face and mockingly tell us that they are happy that maize price had been hiked. Come on, so good ol’ George is happy that Malawians are servicing a loan that was obtained to buy maize which Malawians cannot buy and part of the money ended up in some people’s pockets? Snobbery has no better definition that what this George guy said.

Just like me, most Malawians have little to be mellow about in this festive season because of the thieves that lead this nation. But being a Christian that I am, I still have to wish all of you a merry Christmas and this extends to thieves, liars too.

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