Hon. Folks, someone once said ‘politics is the art of looking for trouble’. Never mind the perpetrators or victims.
Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill also assumed on one occasion that politics is almost as exciting as war and quite as dangerous only that in war you die once while in politics you can die many times.
True to these presumptions, Malawi witnessed numerous dramatic episodes in recent years, where some politicians courted trouble whose outcomes were either exciting or utterly hazardous not only to their individual careers but to the entire country as well.
These episodes distinctively hit the pinnacle between 2005 and 2009 when the opposition teamed up against former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika, accusing him of abusing the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to ‘persecute’ opponents.
Such accusations mostly came from the former governing UDF following numerous arrests of its executive members by ACB on charges of fraud and corruption.
After winning his first presidency on the UDF ticket in 2004, Bingu immediately launched a spirited crackdown on the UDF-led regime, cleansing it of deep-rooted corruption and bad governance that had prompted the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other major donors to suspend aid to Malawi in 2001.
Compared to his predecessor Bakili Muluzi, Bingu assumed office as an ideal candidate flaunting an impressive educational background and an imposing track record having served in various prestigious organisations such as the United Nations, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and the World Bank.
Hon. Folks, it was thus unsurprising to see the older Mutharika (may his soul rest in peace) thrive in reviving the country’s ailing economy. Remember he also refused publicly to appoint high-ranking UDF members into his Cabinet simply because they belonged together.
“The fight against corruption remains the focus of my government.” For the past 10 years [1994-2004] corruption [was] condoned in Malawi by the UDF. Even some NGOs and donors condoned the practice,” a visibly charged Bingu said the other day.
In fact, it was his declaration of war on corruption during his 2004 inauguration that sent chills down the spines of many big shots in the yellow government forcing them to accuse the celebrated economist of advancing vendetta politics.
Simply put, it was Bingu’s tough stance against corruption that strained his relationship with the UDF’s leadership, forcing him to dump the party barely a year after winning the presidency on its ticket.
Since then, the phrase ‘political witch-hunting’ was popularised by some sections of the opposition who for one reason or the other felt their political interests were under threat.
This is the exact case even now as some of those who served in the previous DPP government are busy accusing President Lazarus Chakwera of implementing political persecution and a witch hunt policy against them.
Yes, several arrests have taken place since the Tonse government assumed power and a lot more are possibly coming which, logically, should send extra chills on some politicians, civil servants and individuals who may have not have been ‘honest’ somehow with public resources.
Hon. Folks, corruption hinders development and suffocates the poor by diverting funds meant for them to benefit a few individuals.
This is probably why Bingu vowed in 2005 that anyone found to be corrupt, including those who served in his government was not immune prosecution.
In the same spirit, we urge Chakwera to dig deep into all suspicious government transactions from all previous administrations and his own government while guarding against public resource abuses.
This is simply because government and politics impact every aspect of the lives of Malawians ranging from the hefty taxes paid and the resultant quality of services and development citizens get from the government.
A reminder to the Tonse government and all custodians of public funds and other resources remains that Malawians are eagerly watching your moves and you will soon account for all the shady skeletons and shadows following you.
Otherwise if Chakwera and his team are not careful this whole uproar against corruption will lose steam and absolutely become a witch hunt.