By Wesley Macheso:
On Valentine’s Day, President Lazarus Chakwera made one of his boldest statements on his relationship with some of the people he has been working with. The President has been heavily criticised for his love of waxing lyrical without any action to prove his points.
But last Sunday, he instructed that those who are at the helm of different clusters in charge of Covid funds at the Department of Disaster Management be investigated in terms of how they used money amounting to K6.2 billion. The big man also fired the co-chair of the steering committee and the commissioner of the department.
For the neutrals, this is a promising move for we understand how corruption and the corrupt have been left unchecked in this country. It is also good to know that the President knows exactly what the roots of corruption are in public service.
He specifically mentioned how the system has been engineered to shield wrongdoers, the culture of corrosive allowances, to a rotten procurement system that is geared more towards theft than anything else. Indeed, those who stole from us in Cashgate and during the reign of the Democratic Progressive Party made use of the said systems and ,as we speak, the system is still protecting most of them from prosecution.
The enabling environment for corruption that the President mentioned is something that will not be uprooted in a day or two. The problem is that successive regimes bring into the system their own enablers, who are made to feel comfortable enough to steal our taxes.
Such people often begin as political party diehards, and they pretend to give their lives to the fight for change and justice. When their political party happens to get into power, the Head of State often feels the need to compensate them and they are given strategic positions in which they launch their siphons to milk the country thin. This happened first when we attained independence from Britain and has been the trend throughout.
The point here is that the culture of rewards that the President is lamenting does not begin and end in the mainstream civil service – it begins with politicians like himself when they make their public appointments.
Chakwera was criticised for nepotism and political appeasement when he selected his first Cabinet, but he turned on us and started schooling us on his own crooked version of merit. Perhaps what he meant was that, when people are at the top, their vision is not as deformed as ours here at the bottom. Our concerns at the bottom are as basic as food, clothes, shelter, medicine and roads, whereas those in power are interested in government contracts, allowances and connections.
Understanding this, it is not surprising that trouble is now brewing within the ranks of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). Just last week, a group of ‘rebels’ led by former lawmaker for Kasungu West, Alex Major, wrote the President a strong letter complaining of how he is choosing people who must work close to him.
The letter, among other things, mentioned that the big man is showing tendencies of nepotism by recruiting his relatives and members of his church. One then wonders where people like Major were when we complained that the President was being nepotistic in his very first appointments of his friends, members of same familiy, and his son in-law.
It may be the case that those who are standing up now in the MCP are not necessarily patriotic, but have become hungry enough to shout out loud. Maybe when the first questionable appointments were made these people believed that they would benefit from the continuation of the system of rewards, only to be disappointed later.
The nature of the trouble brewing in MCP should tell us more about our sickness as a country. The problem with us is that we will sustain a rotten system for as long as it benefits us. We can mention names of people like Kamlepo Kalua who had been vocal against injustice during the DPP regime until the plate passed their way and they showed us their true colours.
Most members of the Tonse Alliance have demonstrated similar tendencies and we surely have a long way to go in our fight against corruption and self-aggrandisement. Yes, we applaud the firing of the few officials by the president, but if corruption is to truly end in this country, even the President and his cabal must reform.
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