On Monday, the nation woke up to news of another flagrant abuse of resources with the reports that Mzuzu City Council sponsored some of its councillors to attend a political party fundraising dinner at the tax-paid residence of the State President.
In itself, the abuse of funds rightly belonging to the citizens is no longer shocking. The nation has already recovered from reports that K236 billion could not be accounted for in a period of a short five years.
What should really be dumbfounding is that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) could issue an invitation to a public institution knowing very well they would bend over backwards to please the master that is the President of the party, and by extension of the nation.
That the council had the audacity to honour that invitation under the pretext of networking for fundraising purposes—with a beggar—is what Malawians should be worried about but of course they will not be.
The nation should be worried that Mzuzu City Council could even consider making an IOU to a political party knowing fully well that its staff have gone months without salaries.
The council has known for months that its financial situation was precarious but it still “promised that it may contribute something towards the event when its financial situation improves.”
In the first place, Mzuzu City Council should not have for a second considered honouring such an invitation, whether it was a platform for networking or not. The council should have made its own effort at interacting with possible contributors to its fundraising initiatives not riding on the back of a ruling political party.
It is too easy to blame the actions of the council, and other parastatals who have found themselves in this situation on the prevailing rampant theft that came with the multiparty dispensation.
But that would be unfair as this type of behaviour goes as far back as the song ‘Zonse zimene nza Kamuzu Banda’ which has made the country into what it is today.
It is such a political background that allows presidential cronies to use parastatals as their personal groceries, to carry whatever goods be it vehicles and demand allowances in the name of the party.
Everything, be it city rates collected at the expense of the backbreaking contributions that the residents of Mzuzu City make to the council or the fuel that was used to ferry the councillors to fête at the feet of the President, all do belong to the ruling party it seems.
It started with chickens and goats and it has migrated into cheques valued at millions of kwachas displayed for the glory of being given an ear by the party leadership.
It is our political history that is to blame when parastatals feel obliged to attend ruling party events that do not concern them; when a minister can demand payment of allowances from a parastatal as ‘thank you’ for
This level of impunity did not start with DPP or Peoples Party or the UDF but the citizens should blame themselves that it is allowed to continue, 24 years after the people queued for change on that cold June morning.
The culture of politics where parastatals cannot tell that their role does not include cronyism and patronage must come to an end.
But Malawi citizens with their short memory span famously ridiculed by its first democratic president Bakili Muluzi, these feelings of indignation and anger, too, shall pass and we will forget. n