The increased public outcry for Parliament to divulge details of Mrs.
Joyce Banda’s declared assets is a critical national priority, yet, just like the Robert Chasowa’s inquest, is slowly fading into emptiness.
After Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda wrote Attorney General Anthony Kamanga “seeking guidance” on how to divulge JB’s wealth, and after Kamanga, in response, warned against divulging the details because there “is no legal mechanism” at present for doing so, everybody, it appears, has been convinced.
We in the media are silent because we feel there is nowhere we can go from here.
Civil Society Organisations have been frightfully and suspiciously silent as if operating under oath of silence on this matter.
Do not even talk about opposition parties. They are silent, partly because they are busy ‘strategising’ for 2013, and partly, I assume, because they want to benefit from the same law to hide their ‘stolen’ riches once they get in power.
Chimunthu Banda and Kamanga are not wrong to argue that, currently, there are no legal procedures for divulging details of the President’s declared wealth.
However, the tragedy with siding with the two means that, as a country, we have finally blown the final whistle in calling Parliament to publicise JB’s declared wealth.
It is as if we are saying: “we don’t care even if we don’t know the details of Joyce Banda’s wealth.”
In fact, our increased detachment to the issue is a potent symbol of a nation signing off to something critical, not so different from a nation in total agreement with a bad law.
Legal and political analysts of repute have consistently argued that the Asset Declaration Law, as it stands today, is weak and toothless.
But the spirit of transparency and accountability which this law wants to address is undisputable.
That is why if we continue listening to Chimunthu and Kamanga—who want our focus to be on the incompleteness of the wording of the law than the spirit behind it—we will lose focus, eventually, awarding our leaders a license to loot more.
We are able, today; to rightly question Mutharika’s amassing of K61billion because he was worth around K150 million just seven years ago.
What if we did not know about Mutharika’s wealth before? Would the K61 billion have made sense today?
This brings me to Bakili Muluzi, a leader who—because of arguments like the one Chimunthu and Kamanga are advancing—got out of 10 years in office without his assets known to the public. We got surprised, of course, when the Bingu government took him to court for allegedly diverting K1.7 billion of public funds to his private account—something he is still answering in courts. But do we know, exactly, how much the man is worth?
What we need to understand is that Africa’s post-colonial governments have been, rightly, synonymous with primitive accumulation of wealth from public treasury.
We have had and we continue to have vampire States—almost an organised crime that have little to do with fighting poverty but enriching themselves. We saw it during the Muluzi’s decade and we saw it during Mutharika’s seven years.
I have not noted anything different with Joyce Banda’s administration.
In fact, if President Banda wants to come out different out of this—look clean than others—she should. And if she knows she has nothing to hide, rise above issues and voluntarily as some have argued, end this asset debate by letting her wealth public.
Otherwise, if she maintains her silence—which is suspicious, the last hope to push for an end to the supremacy of this bad law is in the country’s CSOs.
I am, therefore, calling, among others, the Public Affairs Committee(PAC), the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), the Civil Society Coalition of Quality Education (CSQE) and all other CSOs that speaks on governance in the country to rise from their tenacious silence and dormancy and push for JB’s assets to go public.
Even if it means giving the President 60 days or holding vigils outside Parliament, I would not mind. Thank you.