The golden handshake

A couple of days ago, I witnessed an interesting exchange between two eight year-olds. They were discussing the global coronavirus when one of them suddenly invited me to wade into their debate. “Is it true,” asked the young man, “that coronavirus could reach our country?”

“True” I answered. “It can go anywhere and it’s probably coming here.” And that sank the boy’s soul. He cried.

Everybody gets it when it comes to how scary the global pandemic is, but for the young man, I wished he could know this too; there are other threats more potent and imminent against his future than just the virus.

Indeed, the coronavirus might wipe us out of the face of earth if we don’t find an answer to its lethal ways soon or later. But largely unbeknown to my young friend, is the selfish cabal. That cabal, which Paul Mphwiyo once described as a criminal syndicate.

And indeed robbing our children a decent future while condemning many more to death by under-funding the hospitals they go to when sick and ensuring nurses and doctors are underpaid.

Thanks to this cabal, when coronavirus strike these borders, the country will most definitely be underequipped to deal with the outbreak that even eight-year-old folks know is bad news.

But here is good news for us all, coronavirus is day of comeuppance for both the rich and poor, weak and mighty. Amid global travel bans, our leaders as some folks have observed, will find out belatedly the folly of underfunding our hospitals neither will they find the flights to transfer them to Singapore if they get sick, nor find any developed country welcoming if they test positive.

Over Coronavirus, our destiny and fate are the same—rich or poor!

I’ve just been reminded about this cabal—for we cannot call it any other name—by its most recent antic. Indeed, the cabal appears it is looking for a golden handshake as it reckons its time in power might be coming to an end.

Just before the disputed elections last year, when it reckoned power was about to slip from its grip, devised a similar plan for a golden handshake.

Then, the plan was to pay itself some ungodly sums of money—through a foreign registered company—for simply razing a building which was engulfed by fire. Thanks to public outrage and its fear that it might lose the election, the plan was abandoned.

But now the cabal, or some of its members like King Nebuchadnezzar, has seen the writing on the wall and knows that its days are numbered. Like Nebuchadnezzar, it knows Malawians have measured its rule and found it wanting.

So, the cabal wants a golden handshake. And the cabal is busy devising ways to smile all the way to the bank one more time before power slips. That is why, we folks in the uncensored community are perplexed by the story of how Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), after telling courts it has no funds to organise fresh elections in a period stipulated by the Constitutional Court, has been quick to hire a little known South African law firm and agreed to pay an ungodly K600 million of our hard-earned taxes.

We are further perplexed and forced to see this deal for what it is illegal by the fact that Treasury says that it was not consulted at all when the procurement was done. Wait a minute, it even appears that the lawyers have started working on for MEC before any contract was signed, let alone vetted and have been enjoying our taxes without any contract.

Anti-Corruption Bureau director general Reyneck Matemba will tell us if this is not fraud, but unlike the children who can only see through the wickedness of a virus, we, on the other hand, can see through the wickedness of such spendthrift and its patterns that are consistent with fraud.

We might be wrong on many things, but we cannot be wrong on the fact that whoever approved this deal or birthed the idea, has no moral compass at all because there are better ways to spend resources of a resource-constrained country, to put it mildly, than on this ill-conceived and nonsensical deal, birthed on partisan crusade by MEC to overturn the Constitutional Court ruling.

But this not an exception when it comes to the government’s spending priorities. It’s a norm. This cabal, don’t forget, can spend an ungodly K75 million on new office furniture for the Chief Secretary when we have no drugs in hospitals and dilapidated school walls are collapsing on poor innocent children.

Just how important to MEC is winning the case that they can blow away K600 million on lawyers to work for less than a week on an election case that looks—dare I say—unwinnable at this point.

Wasn’t it not the same MEC chairperson who told us that election cases are not appealable or that the day the Constitutional Court would find her team negligent or incompetent, she will leave MEC?

But she is not gone. She is still playing chicken with our taxes—with all manner of expensive legal pursuits that approving a fool’s errand and undermining any confidence in the electoral system and naturally, by extension our democracy, by projecting MEC in the most partisan manner possible.

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