Hon Folks, in media parlance, by arresting George Chaponda on corruption grounds, the Anti-CorruptionzBureau (ACB) has caught a ‘big fish’.
His arrest made ‘platinum’ headline news on both conventional and social media. The public had mixed reactions: it was either deafening silence or threats of zikwanje (panga-knives) from the DPP front.
But critics of intransigence and corruption in government were over the moon, Chaponda is the biggest name in DPP to fall in disgrace since the inception of the party in 2005.
The Ivy League law scholar has been associated with DPP from the word go, trusted and highly regarded by both its founding president Bingu wa Mutharika and his brother and successor, APM. His approach to power, devoid of humour and diplomacy, earned him the nickname ‘Bulldozzer’.
Chaponda remains DPP strongman, currently serving as vice-president for the party’s Southern Region stronghold. In government he has served in various ministerial positions, including Foreign Affairs, Education, Local Government and Rural Development, and Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
In Parliament, until his fall, Chaponda was Leader of the House.
But it’s his goof on flatulence in February 2011, that sent the world into stitches. While serving as Minister of Justice, he commented in a radio interview on a bill he had not read, saying it criminalised farting in public to “promote decency.”
The media would remember Chaponda as leading the Bingu government team that met media managers at the Macra House in Blantyre and rabidly defended government decision to amend a section of the Penal Code to allow for a Cabinet Minister to ban a publication for publishing content the minister deemed not to serve the public interest.
Some months ago Chaponda was also in the news when his government vehicle was pelted by irate women and the youth of Mulanje Pasani incensed by the undiplomatic way he announced government decision to supply Blantyre with water tapped from Mulanje Mountain.
But how about APM; what does the fall of Chaponda mean to the image of corrupt-free DPP which the president has painstakingly paint-brushed by vehemently denying any graft-related allegation?
Despite surveys done by reputable local and international institutions, including Transparency International, indicating corruption is a worsening with time in Malawi, APM dismisses it all as machinations of the opposition and the media.
Auditors of international repute have conclusively established that Cashgate was rampant from 2009 to 2014 but APM only recognises Cashgate as a vice that rocked Malawi between 2012 and 2014, when Joyce Banda was at the helm.
APM has never acknowledged that there was corruption during the reign of Bingu wa Mutharika, let alone that there could still be corruption of Cashgate magnitude in his own government.
The denial has even led to a cover up of past incidents that smack of corruption. Until now, the case of how Bingu, who declared K150 million assets on assuming power but ended up amassing over K61 billion within the eight years he was in government, remain a mystery up to now.
Instead, government has discredited valuation which disclosed the K61 billion assets. Ironically, the whole government machinery has for the past three years done nothing to institute a more credible valuation and vindicate our former Head of State.
But there is also the issue of government instigated impunity that that has in the past rocked the wheel of justice. Nothing is being done on the case of fraud within the office of the Speaker which remains unsolved for almost two years now, apparently because the culprits are politically aligned to the party in government.
Then there is the case of former President Bakili Muluzi. For more than a decade, it has crawled at a tortoise pace to the extent that up to now it’s not known when the hearing on the substantive case will start.
Can the indifference to get to the core of what happened to the K1.7 billion of public funds Muluzi is alleged to have embezzled be completely separated from government interest to make Muluzi’s UDF a bedfellow to DPP’s in the 2019 polls?
Probably, more importantly is the question: if government could in the past virtually halt the wheels of justice, what guarantee is there that the case of Chaponda will be expeditiously tried so that we no longer can cry: Justice delayed is Justice denied? n