That Malawi lost the fight against corruption is an understatement. The truth is that the country abets corruption. The political leadership nourishes corruption by selectively applying the law against graft. In saying this, I am first and foremost pointing an accusing finger at the political leadership—and the Executive to be precise.
Examples abound about how they are doing this. Take for example, the Zambia maize import saga. President Peter Mutharika had to be prodded to appoint a commission of inquiry to probe the issue. But even before the commission had released its findings, the President, of all the people, went public defending the suspects—former Agriculture minister George Chaponda that he was innocent. What then was the purpose of the commission? Just to waste the taxpayers’ money, I guess?
And after the commission released its findings, how long has it taken for the authorities—the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), to act? Over six months! Until now, Chaponda who should by now have either been convicted or acquitted, if the wheels of justice were moving swiftly, is still boasting about his role in the maize saga. His justification has been that he broke all the rules in the book because he wanted to save the life of the child in the house that was burning. Which house? We have all heard that the so-called hunger was actually an exaggeration.
To date, the country has not been told about the cause of the fire that gutted Chaponda’s office at Capital Hill at a time he was being investigated. The gutting of Chaponda’s office is reminiscent of the fire that razed down the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) warehouse in Lilongwe, housing the ballot papers when the High Court ruled that there should be a recount of votes for Lilongwe City Constituency after a Malawi Congress Party (MCP) candidate successfully challenged the outcome of the 2014 parliamentary results.
Well, Chaponda’s day finally came this week when he appeared before the graft-busting body and thereafter spent a night at Blantyre Police Station. Arrested alongside Chaponda are two other people—director of Transglobe Produce Export Rashid Tayub and Grace Mijiga Mhango an entrepreneur, for their respective roles in the dubious procurement and importation of maize from Zambia. That the Chaponda issue has been moving at a snail’s pace is not news. It is only one of many issues that have tainted the country’s fight against corruption. But who cares about image? Certainly not this government!
On its part, ACB has no excuse for not moving with speed on the matter. The Presidential Inquiry on the maize saga conducted and finalised its work in a matter of weeks. The President himself gave the inquiry a deadline. The President should have also given the ACB a deadline to conclude investigations in order to show his seriousness and concern against the suspected graft. It smacks of hypocrisy for the President to have given the Presidential Inquiry a deadline to do its job but allow the ACB all the time to do the same or similar job.
My warning to all politicians—whatever their positions—as I did to chief executive officers the other day is that the law will catch with you personally if you fail to follow the rules in the book to the letter, regardless of whether the alleged offences you are committing are done with the blessings of your superiors. Don’t forget the Presidency is highly protected.
My plea to ACB is that it has a national duty to perform and there should be no turning back. But it should work with more speed. Only then will its reputation as a body with teeth be restored.