Honourable Folks, as I was mulling over how to make good of JB’s invitation to probe her wealth, a brilliant idea came to my mind after reading the classified ad pages of our July 3 papers. We could use the expertise of traditional healers!
These folks do not just brag about bringing back a lost lover in two hours or performing the miracle of enlarging a “male organ to 16cm, 18cm and 20 cm in two days” but their pay-after-the-job-is-done service also includes bringing back “stolen goods” either pompo pompo (instantly) or within 48 hours.
Yeremia Chihana’s YMW Property Investment and Registered Property Evaluator wouldn’t have exposed former president Bingu wa Mutharika’s K61 billion ill-gotten wealth without huge collateral damage had Mutharika been alive and in power. Nor can it dare probe JB even after her open invitation.
A State President is insulated from probe by the power of incumbency. That’s why institutions such as the Reserve Bank of Malawi or the Financial Intelligence Unit, which should’ve blown the whistle when Mutharika was stashing away millions of dollars in off-shore accounts aided the process if only by doing nothing about it.
JB hasn’t relinquished an iota of power that makes a Malawian president play god. For sheer political expediency, she may have repealed Mutharika’s “bad laws” such as the one giving a minister power to prohibit a publication, but she has defied global calls to let go of colonial statutes meant to shield her office from intense scrutiny and bashing.
As for the constitutional provision on declaration of assets, she cleverly exploited its silence on whether after declaring assets on becoming a vice-president one should again declare upon assuming the office of president within the same term. After the sudden death of Mutharika, JB decided not to declare her assets despite that she took a fresh oath and assumed greater sovereign authority on becoming the State President.
Had JB been serious about making her government more transparent and accountable, she would have moved with speed to ensure the enactment of access to information law so the public can make decisions based on facts instead of propaganda rhetoric from political leaders with vested interests.
The President would also have facilitated the enactment of an enabling law for the declaration of assets provision of the Constitution to ensure the ACB can track the wealth of those entrusted with public office, including the presidency, and punish violation or non-compliance.
These crucial laws to good governance have been ignored ever since the Constitution for the multiparty system of government was put to use 19 years ago. Coincidentally, the previous administrations took advantage of the deliberately nurtured legal loopholes to fleece the country.
Coincidentally, both her predecessors—Mutharika and Bakili Muluzi—loathed corruption in their public pronouncements just like JB is doing. Muluzi bragged about being the one who established the ACB to fight corruption.
Ironically, the malaise reached alarming proportion on his watch and he worked extra hard to defend his cronies implicated in corruption. He himself became inexplicably so rich that at campaign rallies, he could issue a cheque of K10 million as a personal gift to a constituency to say nothing of the brown envelopes he dished out to various leaders in society.
Then came Mutharika in 2004; he won the hearts of many when he declared zero-tolerance for corruption at his inauguration and went ahead to prove his seriousness by allowing his predecessor and a minister in his government to answer corruption-related charges.
Yet, he himself was busy stealing from the economy an average of K7.6 billion a year. Not surprising, despite steering the economy to enviable growth of over 7.5 percent for about six years, Mutharika left us so poor we had to be assisted with fuel, transport, casket and food for his state funeral. To this day, we are still suffering the pains of austerity while his estate has money equivalent to a tenth of this year’s budget.
Obviously, condemning Mutharika’s greed is the easier thing for JB and her administration. It also can help her PP garner support of Malawians who are fed up with parties associated with self-serving political agenda.
But her administration should not be asking for tax from such ill-gotten wealth as is the case now. Rather, it should bring back all the money stolen from poor Malawians, them so it can be invested in education, health, agriculture and tourism.
More importantly, the JB administration should put in place concrete measures to reduce the risk of stealing from the public. That way, she herself or any future leader will be stopped from stealing our wealth not by divine grace alone but also by law.