Even the most naïve among Malawians should be weary of the remarks President Joyce Banda made on Tuesday when she waded in waters currently engulfing us regarding the colossal amount of wealth former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika amassed to the staggering tune of more than K61 billion.
The President challenged Malawians who cared to listen that they are free to go to the ends of the earth to check whether she is accumulating as much wealth as her predecessor shamelessly did.
She told Malawians: “We saw it for ourselves right here that no matter how much wealth one accumulates, when death comes, you leave everything behind….Now you have started hearing from the media that money was taken out of this country while we were in poverty. I will not let you suffer.”
I must say good words indeed, but the President omitted one critical factor in the whole scheme of things: How do we Malawians just do it to check her? Do we just pop up into some bank in Isle of Man, for example, and say: Hi there, I am George Kasakula from Malawi and I want to know how much my President has stashed into your bank?
Can this work? At this stage, the President should not cheat Malawians and take them as a bunch of clueless idiots who do not know how the world works.
As has been said time without number in the past two weeks since we woke up to the discovery of the obscene amount of billions that the late Mutharika stashed in safe havens abroad, there is no law in Malawi at the moment that allows its citizens to access any infor-mation on public officials.
No bank, whether in Malawi or anywhere else for that matter, would release any information about the amount of wealth the current Head of State or any other public official have amassed. We know how notorious banks can be when it comes to keeping client information secure under lock and key. Confide-ntiality is one of the hallmarks of their trade.
And how does the President expect Malawians to take her seriously that she is not accum-ulating wealth at their expense when she has flatly refused to declare her assets, insisting that she already did so after getting advice from a horde of fancy lawyers? What are the lawyers afraid of? How can mere citizens victimise a whole President for complying with the law?
If the President is dead serious that she wants to give Malawians the freedom to check her wealth and that of other public officials that live on the public purse, she knows what she must do immediately and it is to bring before Parliament the Declaration of Assets as well as Access to Information bills to empower Malawians to do just that.
These two bills, if promulgated into law, would tell Malawians what to do in an event that they are overly suspicious about how some public official is accumulating unexplained wealth to nip it in the bud before they get screwed as the late Mutharika has done to them.
In the absence of the above, even the President knows that no one can touch her money wherever it can be. What she said on Tuesday was mere empty rhetoric which has been said by others before in the last 49 years and has made little difference in the lives of ordinary Malawians as their poverty gets worse by the day and Malawi has remained glued in the 20 poorest countries category, virtually on any development index you can think of.
On the other hand, this has not stopped its leaders becoming instant billionaires and demigods the moment poor people lined up to vote them into office.
But, as I said last week, a way must be found somehow to stop this injustice happening in our full view. n
Not Shariah, but Cairo way
With Levi Zeleza Manda
Roselyn Mwenelupembe, that ever-smiling Karongian girl, who is now our resident guide on our tour of Ngondeland courted public controversy with her call for Malawi to adopt Shariah Law as a deterrent to former, present, and future experts in Kusolola, Kuba, Kwiba, or Katangale as corruption is known in this overpopulated small republic, we fondly call Malawi or abiti flames. Many commentators have agreed with Roselyn that for Malawi to develop, it needs to severely punish white-collar State-coffer busters by applying Koran 5: 38 and Exodus 22:1. So, as we sat at table at Club Marina in the land of susa and matoke, we discussed the messages you sent in.
“Roselyn is right that Shariah is the only way to go. And we need to apply it not only on presidents, ministers, and MPs, but also on NGO and CBO leaders, donors, lecturers, chiefs, imams and priests.”
“This guy must have witnessed a lot in his life,” Jean-Philippe remarked after reading the SMS.
“Yeah. There is a lot of rot in this country. In government ministries, for instance, money is spent on workshops that never take place,” I said.
“How is that possible?” Jean-Philippe wondered.
“If government audited or engaged investigative journalists, it would discover that three quarters or 75 percent of the workshops government departments claim to have held are fake.”
“So, where do the workshop participants’ signatures come from?”
“How much does a signature cost? You call anyone from the street, pay him or her to sign. The signatures are scanned and a participants’ list is ready.”
“That’s really smart. How did you know all that?”
“I am a Malawian.”
Jean-Philippe smiled before asking me what the next message on the phone said. I moved down to the next message on my Zamzungu android mobile phone. The message sender agreed with the need for stiff punishment for all who abuse public resources, but wondered why Malawians were reacting to a valuation report conducted only by one company.
‘Journalists should learn to question such investigations,’ the commentator went on, ‘the Government should have engaged at least three valuation companies to have fair value of Bingu’s estate. Otherwise, what we have could a result of a chicken mathematician meant to destroy the image of the Mutharika family.’
“Does that not make sense?”
“ Yeah. Malawian sense.”