Zero tolerance on corruption campaign

Every strategy is expected to have objectives, resources , expected results and an evaluation process. Those who are old will remember that in the 70s, housebreakers when being chased used to shout “wakubayo” to escape capture. With only two years to go for the President  to relinquish power, now is opportune time for him to address the nation on the successes of the zero-tolerance campaign against corruption.

This demand looks academic but is necessary for accountability.  Citizens would like to know the results that have been achieved  otherwise they may consider  it as another political rhetoric.

In the absence of explanation, citizens will be entitled to their beliefs that  the zero-tolerance campaign  was a  defamation strategy against political opponents.  The President  knew after dumping the UDF, citizens had lost confidence in politics and donors also  lost  hope  in the country. Therefore, the use of the strategy was necessary to win back confidence of citizens and attract donor support.  Tackling corruption head-on by the President who had become a non-party leader  had the potential to narrow   the political divide prevailing in the country. As expected, the use of the strategy paid short- term dividends as it managed to turn the former president Bakili Muluzi and his closest allies into national criminals overnight.

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) was given overwhelming powers to arrest suspects before being heard; in violation of laws of natural justice in the Constitutional. President Bingu wa Mutharika became the law and judge into himself.  Donors  must have liked the hard line stance.

The result was that some innocent citizens  were issued with arrest warrants before being heard to the delight   donors and the public media house – MBC that broadcast names of the arrested criminals for humiliation. To the President  that was zero tolerance against corruption.  Instead of delegating the Foreign minister with the task of inviting diplomatic agents to lunch, he invited them for lunch at the State House.  Economic aid that had been reduced or frozen was restored. At the same time, the country qualified for the long-standing HIPC  debt relief programme. The money saved from payments of debts accumulated in the Reserve Bank and was diverted to buy a presidential jet instead of investing the funds for job creation as a condition for the debt relief. How can a president have a new plane when the nation does not have an operational plane?

To the President,  this was not business for the donors because they were happy with the fight against corruption.  Little did he know donors do not operate like that in a poor country. They continuously watch, listen and observe behaviour of leaders. This is standard practice all over the world.  Not long ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quoted by the print media to have reiterated her country’s stance against corruption in Liberia where she described corruption as roadblock to greater prosperity after attending the inauguration ceremony of that country’s president.  It is logical to believe the resident American Ambassador to Malawi also served  Mutharika with a similar diplomatic prescription during his inauguration in 2004.

Proof that the corruption campaign was only for humiliating political opponents and galvanising support is that the rhetoric is no longer to be heard except at annual events organised by the ACB. Without that event, the  President should not have been heard talking about corruption anymore. Gary Allen confirms that corruption blinds leaders; it is easier to see and talk against corruption before they join government.  It is like fish to water.

Stephen McCarthy explains that corruption emerges as a problem when societies begin to assign specific roles, with  powers to certain people such as politicians and judges. The prevalence of corruption is just a visible manifestation of the consequences of conflict between traditional and modern value system within an individual. Need we look further  why former presidents in Malawi are infatuated by the thought of establishing dynasties? It confirms the involvement of corrupt practices in the job.

It is time for government to update Malawians on the state of corruption in the country. Government should also expedite the finalisation of trials for those arrested unlawfully? Why does it not authorise the arrest of senior officers suspected to have been involved in corruption,s offices and others? Transparency and accountability is a tenet of democracy.

—The author is a freelance writer.

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