Mussa’s ban: what’s the real cost?

Hon Folks, does it matter that Washington DC has branded as corrupt our own Uladi Mussa aka Change Goal and consequently banned him and his wife from entering the US?  

There’s no denying that the ban, announced in a statement released on July 3 2019 is as chilly as it is extremely embarrassing.  Mussa is no ordinary person. He is a political leader.

Currently, he serves as DPP vice-president for the Central Region, probably the highest position in the party at the regional level. He is also a Special Presidential Advisor on Parliamentary Affairs, a position governance expert Henry Chingaipe described in The Nation of 4th July 2019 as “significant.”

Mussa’s high profile in politics dates back to the days of Bakili Muluzi (1994-2004). He has served for a long time as an MP, Minister and a member of party politburo. In fact, the crime he’s accused of —corruptly granting passports and citizenship to foreigners—is said to have been committed while he was serving as Minister of Internal Affairs in the Joyce Banda administration.

Now, for the first time in living memory, Mussa becomes a Malawian leader who has been named, shamed and blacklisted by the USA, the most powerful country in the world. Does that matter?

Well, it’s an egg on APM’s face, isn’t it? Here’s a person in a country of 17.5 million people APM picked on June 19 2019 as his special advisor. Hardly two weeks later, the US, on the basis of what it describes as “credible information” declares the chosen advisor persona non grata for a crime committed not in the US but right here in Malawi.

Was there due diligence when APM was appointing Mussa as special advisor? It’s APM’s government that arrested Mussa in March 2017 and his case is yet to be concluded by the courts. Although a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, it remains a fact that the same government that suspects Mussa of having committed a crime has now trusted him with a high office in government even before the courts have pronounced him innocent.

Why? While the case was still in court, Mussa defected to the governing DPP and was allowed to contest for the post of vice-president for the Central Region which he won. Now he is an asset in DPP.

 Some two years or so ago, APM removed from his Cabinet George Chaponda for having been embroiled in a maize scandal. It appeared then as if APM was protecting the integrity of government which constitutionally requires the sustained trust of the people of Malawi to exercise power of the State.

In retrospect, the different standard applied in the case of Mussa makes it doubtful that integrity was in APM’s mind when he removed Chaponda from his Cabinet. Most likely the President simply succumbed to the growing anger the maize scam invoked among Malawians.

Now it’s pay day for lowering standards in the fight against corruption.  The mere fact that the man the US has banned on the basis of his “involvement in significant corruption” is a trusted advisor to the President may be seen as a blot on APM’s own credibility.

It portrays him as a President who has no qualms with the corrupt as long as they add value to the political bottom-line of his governing party.

APM has treated Mussa much the way as he did former president Bakili Muluzi. The ACB zeroed in on Muluzi more than a decade ago, accusing him of stashing in his back pocket K1.7 billion of public funds. There were also questions on some of the former president’s assets.

Just because in 2014 APM won with a mere  36.4 percent of the votes and DPP secured only 51 of the 193 seats in the National Assembly, a deal was struck with Muluzi’s UDF which had 14 seats for the latter to move to the governing side. Only Atupele, Muluzi was given a job as minister. The only other noticeable reward for UDF was that Bakili Muluzi’s corruption case was conveniently forgotten. 

Will government push the case of Mussa in the courts while he is serving in the same government as National Presidential Advisor on Parliamentary Affairs? Wake me up when the miracle happens.

But when a government toys with corruption it’s the citizens who suffer. The statement the US has made on Mussa is not isolated. Transparency International, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Afrobarometer and, most recently, Ipor have used scientific tools to measure perception of corruption in Malawi and the results have been consistently the same—very high.

How does the investor, with options to invest or divest, use such a message? Often politicians make the mistake of thinking foreign aid or foreign direct investment will come flowing like a river simply because the country is poor.

The truth is that investor and donor alike are attracted more by economies with the capacity for high yield on investment. Such economies have an averse to corruption as a shared characteristic.

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