US is pissed off with corruption in Malawi

President Peter Mutharika’s aide, Uladi Mussa’s thinking that the United States of America (USA) is wrong to ban him and his spouse for his alleged involvement in significant corruption because his corruption case is still in court, is defective. The US Embassy in Lilongwe on Wednesday this week said Mussa was engaged in corrupt activities while serving as Home Affairs and Internal Security minister in 2013.

Mussa is answering charges of aiding about 55 foreign nationals from Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda to illegally obtain Malawian passports and business permits. But the US Embassy public affairs officer Douglas Johnston justifying the decision said Washington had credible information that Mussa was involved in significant corruption while serving as Cabinet minister. Mussa and many people including Mutharika as well as the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for which Mussa is the vice-president in the Central Region, may not like the US’s decision. To say the least, it is an embarrassment to both Mutharika for whom Mussa is an aide and the DPP which entrusted him with the huge responsibility of heading the party in the Centre.

To start with, the fact that the matter is in court and Mussa has not been adjudged guilty is neither here nor there. As Johnston said, the US government respects the sovereign law and justice   system in Malawi. But the US conducts its own investigations and does not wait for sovereign law and justice system to take its course for it to act on issues that are of concern to it. What if the sovereign law and justice system are not made to run their full course? This unfortunately is clearly the direction in which Mussa’s case is heading. Mussa was alleged to have been involved in corruption in 2013. But it was only four years later, on May 2 2017, that the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) started hunting for him for allegedly being implicated in a passport scam. Even this manhunt for Mussa only came after he was appointed Interim leader for the People’s Party (PP). When he was PP vice-president for the Central Region, the political big shots at the Home Affairs ministry were well aware of Mussa’s case but they all looked away. But immediately Mussa is made PP’s interim leader—in May 2017—they submit incriminating evidence against Mussa. The graft-bursting body then obtains a warrant of arrest for the Salima South parliamentarian.

Seeing that he is in a tight corner, Mussa, also well known as Change Golo turns himself in and swiftly looks for an escape route. There is only one—start waxing lyrical about President Mutharika and his DPP-led government. This includes heaping praises on the government for various development activities such as the implementation of the National Identification programme. The idea is to make his continued stay in PP untenable. He gets this when the PP politburo fires him from the party for indiscipline. His plan to gravitate towards friendship with the DPP-led government is now well and truly on course. Mussa is believed to have been one of the members of Parliament who spurned the Electoral Reform Bills. He eventually announces that he has joined the DPP. He contests for the position of vice-president for the party in the Central Region and wins. With Change Golo now comfortably in the party’s NEC, the passport case is as dead as a dodo. From September 17 2018, the case was next in court after nine months –in April 2019.

If this is not selective amnesia on the part of government, then what is? Khoswe akakhala pa nkhate sapheka. Prosecute and silence vibrant and high-profile political opponents who can cause trouble to the party and shield those deemed friendly to it. Unfortunately for Mussa and the DPP, the US government has all the evidence against him. The strong message to Mutharika’s government as some have already pointed out is that the country’s development partners are pissed off with government’s rhetoric in dealing with the endemic corruption in the country. Henceforth the Malawi government which is negotiating for another Compact with the US government must look itself in the mirror and see if it can make the grade without decisively dealing with corruption. Mussa’s ban from entering the US over allegations of corruption is self-inflicted and may just be the beginning of that country’s decision to crack the whip on an errant government.

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