Hon Folks, the warrant of arrest for former president Joyce Banda on Cashgate grounds may be a welcome step forward in the fight against corruption and impunity.
Testimonies by some of the Cashgate convicts point to its enabler being an intricate network of crooks in government and unscrupulous suppliers in the private sector who, for a lucrative 10 percent commission, authorised and received bogus payments from government in millions or billions of kwacha.
So far, the only weak link of Cashgate to the presidency has been the claim that the loot was meant to fund political campaigns for the 2014 Tripartite Elections. If the police have done their homework and established a strong case for making such a high profile arrest, then let justice take its course.
That said, government should also prepare for the political heat emanating from such an arrest. A victory in court for JB—she’s said she would come to clear her name—would reignite her political career while portraying, in the same breath, DPP government as vindictive.
Ever since APM became president in 2014, the only time he offered an olive branch to JB was in his inaugural address at the Kamuzu Stadium. He pledged no retribution, saying he’d strive to unify the nation.
Interestingly, the trappings of power soon made him forget the olive branch way before it started weathering. In subsequent mention of his predecessor, we heard horrendous and unsubstantiated allegations of her futile attempts to eliminate APM.
Even the incarceration of APM and others, which came after a commission of enquiry found them with a case to answer, was trashed as a ploy to persecute and humiliate the President and those loyal to him. It read like a political warning: you made the bed, now you will lie on it.
In turn, JB boarded the plane soon after handing over the keys to the State House to the new tenant. For three years now, she’s been a globe-trotting fugitive fearing political persecution back home. If this is not a case of Malawi democracy going bonkers, what is?
But there are also the outstanding corruption-related issues involving former presidents Bingu wa Mutharika and Bakili Muluzi which the same APM government appears to be pushing under the carpet.
When Bingu died, government engaged a valuer to establish the value of his deceased estate probably for taxation purposes. It turned out that the late former president, who had declared assets worth K150 million on assuming office in 2004, amassed wealth valued at over K61 billion within the 8 years he was in government,
In the spirit of asset declaration, this begs the question: how did Bingu amass so much wealth in so short a time?
The public interest in the matter is greater now after auditors of international repute have established that Cashgate did not just prevail between April 2012 and May 2014 when JB was in power but was rampant throughout the period 2009 and 2014, draining over K230 billion from the public coffers.
Could Bingu also have benefited from Cashgate of his time? By burying its head in the sand as is the case now, government will not make this question disappear on its own. Only a credible effort to address the questions on Bingu’s wealth will put the matter to rest and clear the name and legacy of our former president.
Many people who have followed closely the procurement shenanigans in government, including the current Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) would argue that Cashgate may be as old as the multiparty dispensation itself. The Ministry of Education scam at the beginning of Muluzi’s second term showed traits of Cashgate, especially the element of service providers getting paid for bogus claims.
As is the case today, government then lacked of political will to follow all the leads in the scam to their logical conclusion. We see the same spirit in the manner government is pursuing the case in which Muluzi is answering for swindling K1.7 billion from the public coffers when he was in power. The case dragged on for more than10 years now without much progress to show for it.
Instead, the APM government is busy striking deals with the accused on how his UDF can help DPP win votes from the Eastern Region in 2019. Am I the only one who sees a partisan political price-tag attached to the process of justice in this case?
Which then begs the question: what could be the real reason for the much touted warrant of arrest for JB—the pursuit of justice or a strategy to ensure PP is shackled and “beheaded” as 2019 elections draw nearer?
The one thing I know for sure is that, the JB case will make APM answer for the use of selective justice in the court of public opinion.