Honourable folks, when the media reported two weeks ago that the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) called on the President, advising her to order Parliament to disclose the value of her assets and liabilities, JB’s response echoed what Attorney General Anthony Kamanga had said earlier: there’s no law to support public disclosure.
Of course, they are right. Almost 20 years after the Constitution was adopted, its provision on assets (and liabilities) doesn’t have an enabling Act. There’s also nothing in the Constitution that suggests the declared assets should be publicly disclosed.
But PAC was aware of this fact, too. That’s why in its appeal to JB it recognised the “legal technicalities” on which government built its case, saying in the same breath that public perception out there is that the President is reluctant to make known how rich she is.
As others have said before, this isn’t good for JB’s image especially now when it has transpired that her predecessor, the late Bingu wa Mutharika may have allegedly fleeced the economy of K61 billion (about $152m) in the eight years he served as State President.
Interestingly, JB herself thinks those pushing her to make public how much wealth she has simply want to divert attention from the Mutharika saga.
We are able to see something doesn’t add up in the manner the former President accumulated wealth because the mastermind of “bad laws” the repeal of which gave JB huge political capital at least allowed that his wealth be made public at the height of the zero tolerance for corruption policy.
We hear JB wants the Asset Declaration Bill tabled in the next sitting of Parliament. That would be a very welcome development. But the law won’t work in retrospect so the move may be commendable but won’t remove the cloud over the President’s own wealth.
The question shall remain: Why does the regime lack the political will to do what has evolved as a standard practice for the lid to be lifted on declared assets? What law will be violated if the President wilfully discloses what she declared as PAC advised?
Unfortunately for the JB administration, time is not on their side. Before the debate on PAC’s request had simmered down, gunmen waylaid and shot budget director Paul Mphwiyo several times in what even the President believed was a move to stop him from exposing high level corruption in government.
Time will tell if the suspected assassins were acting on their own or as hired agents of big people with a lot to hide. What’s obvious though is that we have lost our innocence and busting corruption now has escalated into do-or-die Mexican-style running battles with crooks masquerading as political leaders or technocrats in government.
But we are migrating from tribal/regional-based voting to issue-based voting. Before absolute power corrupted him absolutely, the former President Mutharika, in 2004 publicly declared he wouldn’t shield any corruption suspects but would instead pursue a zero-tolerance for corruption policy.
With that and other high-sounding pledges, Mutharika moved 180 degrees from UDF on whose ticket he contested and won the presidential poll to an independent platform where he comfortably ran the affairs of the country with the support of those who had denied him the vote on the election day.
Many voters know that poor though we maybe, our situation is made worse by the fact that 30 percent of government revenue goes down the drain every year due to corruption and related vices. Our children are getting education of much lower quality in this 21st century of globalisation than we did in the 20th century.
Desperate doctors have cried to the public for help in the wake of needless deaths due to an acute shortage of even basic drugs in major hospitals such as Kamuzu Central Hospital, a situation which obviously is aggravated by corruption in the procurement of drugs and pilferage of drugs from hospital pharmacies.
The list of how heavily-taxed Malawians are short-changed by the corrupt who use ill-gotten money to build or buy magnificent houses, drive expensive cars, spend weekends at the lake and fly abroad for shopping or holiday is endless.
Obviously, any presidential candidate with a clear no-nonsense policy on corruption has my vote. I’m certain that many Malawians disgusted with the audacity of the corrupt to engage assassins to shield them from the long arm of the law will join me in casting our votes for a leader who doesn’t waffle when it comes doing the right thing to rid Malawi of corruption.