Hon Folks, remember the song: “Zonse zimene nza Kamuzu Banda.” (All there’s belongs to Kamuzu)? Growing up in Malawi in the 60s, 70s, 80s required embracing with an ear-to-ear smile the relics of this song.
Why? It mattered a lot in those days when Africa was riddled with coups and civil strife to rally the various tribes that make up the Malawi nation behind the one person at the helm of the independent sovereign nation of Malawi.
They all “belonged” to him and so too the country and its wealth. That way, he could say there’s no Tumbuka, no Yao, no Lhomwe, no Sena, no Chewa but we are all Malawians.
But propaganda spin-doctors of the time saw opportunities for themselves in making us believe Kamuzu literally owned everything in Malawi. They went as far as declaring him life president whose diktats could not be questioned.
Unfortunately, Kamuzu himself was stupefied to believe in the lie that all there was in Malawi belonged to him. It’s only after he was stripped of the life presidency following the referendum of 1993 and booted out of Sanjika the following year that he rudely realised that much of what he politically owned was in fact State, not personal, property.
It’s a lesson those who come after Kamuzu find hard to grasp. Bakili Muluzi has had a cat-and-mouse chase with the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) over his properties, vehicles and money stashed in his personal accounts. The ACB suspected the assets were fraudulently or corruptly obtained.
Respite for Muluzi only came when Members of Parliament (MPs) for United Democratic Front (UDF) crossed the floor to shore up the sagging numbers on the governing DPP benches in the aftermath of the 2014 tripartite elections.
All is quiet for now regarding the estate of the late Bingu wa Mutharika,despite the fact that he declared assets worth K150 million on assuming office in 2004 but valuation of his estate eight years later revealed he was K61 billion richer!
Where did the worth come from? APM, as Bingu’s younger brother, may deliberately skirt around this issue but as sure as the sun rises in the east, a day will come when this issue will be thoroughly probed and justice take its course.
Interestingly, it’s while on the watch of APM himself that we’ve had a glimpse on how Kamuzu’s successors squeeze juice from state coffers using techniques that are as controversial as they are ethically, if not legally, questionable.
In June Weekend Nation meticulously followed how proceeds from a dubious procurement deal ended up in a DPP account for which the President of the Republic of Malawi is the sole signatory.
Dubious because the supplier knew he had won the tender six months before the actual tendering happened. He even sourced funding months before winning the tender with the procuring state agent—the police—as the guarantor.
Dubious also because six days after winning the tender, the supplier hiked the price by nearly K400 million for no good cause and government inexplicably honoured the bloated claim at the expense of the tax-payer. Interestingly, a day after the supplier got his pay cheque, K145 million was transferred to a DPP account opened by APM himself in 2015 and for which he is the sole signatory.
APM argued it was a gift to the party and he did not personally benefit from it and ACB Director General Reyneck Matemba declared that the President was cleared from the scam on grounds that he did not personally benefit from the hot gift. Instead, Matemba said, it was the governing DPP that benefited.
It’s not clear whether by implicating DPP, Matemba meant the party would be prosecuted together with the supplier and senior government officials who facilitated the deal.
Now, Weekend Nation has again revealed the same supplier gave APM five pick-up vehicle a year after he had donated the hot K145 million.
The paper, having meticulously checked in whose name the vehicles were registered, established the following:- title holder: Arthur Mutharika; owner: Arthur Mutharka.
Yet, when State House was contacted to shed light on this deal, the answer was that the pick-ups belong to DPP. DPP is a legal entity and its constitution allows for the acquisition of assets through donations.
If the pick-ups were donated to DPP, why were they not registered in the name of the party? If the K145 million “gift” was to DPP, why was it deposited in an account for which APM alone is the sole signatory?
In this day, when the multiparty system has been around for 24 years old, must we still sing: Zonse zimene nza Kamuzu Banda? Should we update the relics?