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Where is the integrity, Mr. President?

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President Peter Mutharika took over the presidency with a rallying call to Malawians to embrace ethos of Integrity, Hardworking spirit and Patriotism. Mutharika has been passionate about this call, to the extent that the government controlled MBC Television has mainstreamed the message in its programmes.

If one volunteers to talk about benefits of voluntary male medical circumcision on MBC TV, they should be prepared to dovetail their message with the tenets of Integrity, Hard work and Patriotism. So any lie such as that circumcision gives dexterity akin to that of North Korea’s surface-to-air missile, it aids hard work and if you encounter a foreign national, then it boosts the image of the country can placate your host on MBC TV. That’s how infectious the President’s passion has been.

I recalled the President’s message yesterday when I read in The Daily Times that the President has appointed former Lilongwe City South East member of Parliament, Bentley Namasasu, as Malawi’s deputy ambassador to Japan. Despite an official government memo circulating concerning the appointment, both the purported author of the memo, Chief Secretary to the Government Lloyd Muhara and Information Minister, Nicholas Dausi were non-committal. Namasasu also said he was driving and was not sure as to when he would put his foot on the brake pedal.

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Perhaps we need to put the issues in context. Namasasu contested the 2014 Parliamentary Elections as a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate against Ulemu Msungama of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). Msungama contested Namasasu’s victory and the High Court agreed with him that there were numerous irregularities to Namasasu’s victory. Namasasu took the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal, apparently in kicks-of-a-dying horse tactics, but the court snubbed him again. The highest court in the land went further to order Namasasu to refund Msungama all expenses he incurred right from the High Court to the Supreme Court.

And before the court battles began, a mysterious fire gutted a warehouse in which the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) stored the disputed results. Government spies, the National Intelligence Bureau officers, were the first to arrive at the scene of the accident, beating the Lilongwe Fire Brigade at their own game. How that happened remains as mysterious as the fire itself.

Then Mec started behaving in a funny manner. It wanted the High Court to interpret whether its ruling meant a re-run or a by-election. It then announced dates for the by-election, only to cancel the exercise at a function billed to be the launch of the poll. Its excuse was that Treasury had no money for the exercise as the money had been diverted to fight an outbreak of Fall Army Worms.

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When Treasury got ready, the DPP said it would no longer feature Namasasu again, instead it brought up a former senior military officer, Reuben Ngwenya as its candidate. Namasasu felt shortchanged and declared his interest to participate as an independent candidate. This move spelt doom to the DPP chances as Namasasu’s participation would mean a split vote between him and Ngwenya.

This might explain why the ruling party has decided to take Namasasu out of the picture so that Ngwenya should harness all pro-DPP votes against the slippery and unstoppable Msungama.

But what may worry most patriotic Malawians is that the DPP seems to use tax-payers money for its political expediency. It wants to have peace in its house but without spending a dime. It is bringing every Malawian to participate in its internal affairs.

As it is, the government has chosen to keep Malawians guessing on what it intends to do with Namasasu, using tax-payers money. But this rumour is coming hot on the heels of another rumour that the government wants to offer an MCP parliamentary candidate in Nsanje Lalanje Constituency, Lawrence Sitolo, a diplomatic position in order to weaken the opposition.

These rumours sound familiar to Malawian voters. During the United Democratic Front rule, an MCP candidate and a front runner in a parliamentary by-election , Kapolo Msungeni Manda, was “abducted” and only reappeared too late to participate in the Ndirande poll.

That said, Namasasu remains a Malawian and has every right to participate in public affairs. He also deserves a second chance. But government needs to come out and brief Malawians about their representatives. That’s what integrity entails.

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