We are a damned lot

I have said this and I will say it again today. If I were President Joyce Banda, I would look for more reasons to declare assets in line with Section 88, sub-section (3) than those that encourage me not to do it.

This would not only ensure transparency and accountability, but it would also be a big PR coup for the President. She would project herself as one willing to go an extra mile in setting an example to her ministers and officials in the fight against corruption and wanton abuse of power for self-aggrandisement.

But the President is adamantly against this. On more than one occasion, she has insisted that her lawyers have told her there is no need to declare her assets again after she did so when she became vice-president in 2009.

This week, she told Voice of America that her lawyers have now concocted a new hilarious piece of advice to the effect that she would be victimised if she declared her assets again.

How a whole President can be victimised by Malawians after complying with a constitutional provision is up to the creative genius of the presidential lawyers to tell us.

But Malawians must get worried and ask themselves why the President is refusing to do a very noble and simple thing of telling them how much she owns now so that they are able to compare with how much she will have when she leaves office.

This will once again go into the annals of history as another disappointment from Banda. She promised more transparency and accountability in April, but once again, she has fallen short of making good of that promise just like the many she did in that first State of the Nation Address in which she invoked the spirit of the US slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King’s speech ‘I have a Dream’.

Sadly, and this is something that she does not want to acknowledge, she is setting a bad example not only to her ministers, but the whole civil service. It is as if she were saying this is a free-for-all and nobody will ask questions at the end.

But Banda should not get worried. The declaration of assets at the moment is as good as non-existent. For starters, there is no enabling Act to punish those that do not fully comply with it and the declarations are a well-kept State secret.

Politicians of all shades and divides in Malawi have made sure that an enabling Act never sees light of day because they are afraid of its ramifications on themselves.

And Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda as well as other past speakers, with the help of the whole Parliament apparatus, made sure that the feeble declarations are kept under lock and key so that Malawians are denied access to them.

The larger issue here is that our politicians, including the President, do not fully ascribe to the ideas of transparency and accountability. These are shoved down their throats by the citizens of Malawi and the international community. If they had their way, Malawian politicians could do away with transparency and accountability clauses for obvious reasons.

Tell me, what is so difficult about declaration of assets that a whole President should present herself as some victim by attempting to justify why she must not do it?

We, Malawians, are a damned lot as we seem to have a special knack of recycling same type of toxic leadership.



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