MEMO to H.E. President Bingu wa Mutharika
Your Excellency, President Mutharika,
I submit the attached report, which my office received from the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). The Reserve Bank of Malawi is working very closely on the issue raised in the report and several other cases. We appreciate Your Excellency’s leadership in the fight against corruption and fraud. It is apparent that a lot of public resources are being misappropriated through such practices. I wish to commend FIU for their increased efforts in combating financial sector crimes including money laundering, fraud and corruption. I submit the report for Your Excellency’s information and future guidance, Sir. SIGNED, Dr. Perks M. Ligoya- RBM GOVERNOR – 17th February 2012
On February 19, 2012; the late President inscribed a note on the memo, saying: “I have noted the report and will act on it”.
If he ever “acted” on the memo, I can hazard a guess the exact place where this happened. In the privacy of his bedroom, during his dreams, and nowhere else.
Or else we would have had evidence.
2015 – As boring and as rough as a year can be
As far as I am concerned, the most boring drama that continued to unfold in 2015 is the tug of war between the former President of Malawi, Madame
Joyce Banda and the current government,apparently led by Pres Arthur Peter Mutharika.
The drama, at least on the face of it, revolves around the Madame Joyce Banda’s return to the motherland.
This home-coming has been postponed so many times that even her once hard-core supporters are thinking twice, with some rebels openly defying the remote control leadership by endorsing former Vice President and Peoples Party (PP) prodigal son, Hon Khumbo Kachali as the de facto leader.
Madame Joyce Banda – never ever a silent sufferer – has been using her PR machinery to good effect, offering crumbs of the “dangers” she may face if she dared return and while at it, reminding the general public of a ‘suspicious’ accident she was involved in before her ascendancy to the presidency.
For whatever reason, serious an “attempt” on her life as she would have the world believe, when she was in office, she never got to the bottom of this “accident”.
Anyway, let’s let sleeping dogs lie. High on her list of concerns is her security followed by non-payment of pension.
On the security concerns, I want to give her the benefit of doubt.
The point is: when a senior Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) officer (late Issa Njauju) is brutally butchered and hastily buried behind Presidential Villas and his vehicle burnt to ashes and months on-wards the State Intelligence and Malawi Police Dis-service are still none the wiser, no-one can claim to be “safe” unless they were in the same league as the hoodlums.
On accommodation, appropriate housing or whatever, I find this as a rationale for self-exile, in the least childish.
Look at this: anyone who can afford to pay for accommodation in the Republic of South Africa, can afford to rent a decent house in Malawi.
Again, going by her own publicly declared assets, Madame Joyce Banda has a string of mansions. Worth approximately US$1 million, she declared six houses at Kabula, Area 43 in Lilongwe, one at Kazembe and two at Domasi in Zomba valued at a total of US$123,000.
Under no circumstances can Madame Joyce Banda be called “homeless”. Therefore, I find this excuse, nonsensical.
In my view, if Madame Joyce Banda was serious about returning to Malawi, she would have by now returned. She has had and still has a lot of means to do so.
The first means at her disposal is “contact and dialogue”. Instead of using the media, she could directly engage the government on the issues she has been raising i.e. security concerns and retirement package including housing and pension.
As a former head of state, she carries a lot of clout which if used well, could see highly placed diplomats mediate on her behalf IF the contact and dialogue failed that is.
The second means is dragging the government to court for denying her of constitutionally enshrined entitlements as per the President’s (Salaries and Benefits) Act 1994, Section 4 (1).
This provides that a retired president shall be entitled to such a salary, which shall be tax-free, as parliament may, from time to time, appropriate him or her.
I therefore have reservations if indeed the reasons for her stay away are the ones she continuously flaunts in the media.
When the cat is away…
True to the saying when the cat is away the mice will play, Mrs Joyce Banda living and operating from exile, is probably the best thing that ever happened to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) led government.
This is because anyone who knows history, is aware that among other things the Hitler/Mussolini/Japan axis lost the second war by opening a second front unnecessary by attacking Russia before defeating Britain and its allies.
Therefore Madame Joyce Banda’s self-exile means that the DPP government can concentrate its firepower on the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
As long as Madame Joyce Banda stays out of the equation, DPP will continue hammering on hapless MCP, throwing one Molotov cocktail of “extravagance related accusations” after another, until the MCP leadership begins looking like just another bunch of heartless pedestrian politicians, waiting for a turn to loot.
And this is why the government, in the absence of a Court Order, will do nothing to sort out the issue of “appropriate” accommodation, security and pension.
This status quo will stay for as long as it suits the government.
What if Mrs Joyce Banda now dragged the Government to court? I will answer this with yet another a question: would she?
Would she dare?
Read it in the news…
It is now “Official”. The current administration is close to condemning Mrs Joyce Banda as the mother, founder, promoter and primary beneficiary of cashgate, the memo quoted above notwithstanding.
Jailed former Ministry of Tourism and Culture principal secretary (PS) Treza Senzani – whose nee name “Namathanga” has quietly but surely disappeared in all references to her vis-à-vis cashgate; apparently did the honours, hence her ridiculously lenient 3 year sentence.
In part her statement, kept secret till stumbled upon by an enterprising journo combing court records, Treza Namathanga Senzani is reported to have said:
Rachel Mazombwe Zulu, who was the Minister of Tourism, called me and told me that Her Excellency the President, Joyce Banda, had told her she is not going to assist Cabinet ministers with campaign for the May 2014 elections and that the ministers should talk to their ministries to assist them financially.
With these revelations, Ladies and Gentlemen, in Madame Joyce Banda’s shoes, would you be in a big hurry to come home?
When two elephants fight…
That when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers is more than just a proverb.
Resourceful botanists and zoologists can easily prove this for a fact if they were to “arrange” or simulate an elephant fight to study the status of grass after the phenomenal fight.
True as steel, they would conclude that the fight has taken its toll on the grass. And this is exactly what the politics and economics of cashgate is doing.
Madame Joyce Banda, wherever she is, is enjoying three square meals, dwelling under a house that does not leak, and her health – as we speak – is being attended to by the best of doctors.
Coming home to good old Pres Arthur Peter Mutharika, save for the occasional discomfort of standing in airport queues, something which the Professor should have already been used to anyway, the old chap is practically pampered wherever he goes.
Security, State houses (not just one), limousines, an army of boot-lickers on and off Facebook, unchallenged control of the treasury, tax-free perks, the old man has everything is at his beck and call.
Donor money or no donor money, the guy is living like a Saudi prince.
The same, however, cannot be said of the people whose hospital of necessity is the Lilongwe Bottom Hospital or any district hospital for that matter.
I will leave it at that.
I will not mention maize rationing, daily black outs, school fee increases and inflation rates that read like a speedometer of a car.
I will not add introduction of hospital fees at a time when the poor are most exposed. I will not even make reference to a meal a day diet introduced in government hospitals.
All this is fodder for another day.
Democracy under threat…
I will dare add that we have bigger problems that those listed above. Our democracy is at worst, in danger of extinction, or at best, not delivering as envisaged by its original architects.
Allow me to clarify.
First, Madame Joyce Banda is leader of the second biggest opposition party in parliament.
You may not like her and may have misgivings, but you cannot deny that there are Malawians who voted for her and her Peoples Party (PP) MPs.
Presumably, these people hold her in high esteem despite everything. And under a well-functioning democracy, they deserve a political leader of their choice.
The fact that her Peoples Party (PP) is now heading for the rocks and that pompano timva kuti bandi yagawana zida; is ample evidence of what her absence has done to one element of our democracy.
Secondly, a weakened and leaderless PP is robbing you and me value for money. A strong PP – working alongside Malawi Congress Party (MCP) – would arguably strengthen checks and balances in and outside parliament.
And if anyone recalls the first term of late Bingu wa Mutharika, checks and balances helped a lot. A strong opposition is why he was stopped in his tracks from buying Maybachs Malawi did not need.
Compare this to the second term and you will begin to understand why a strong opposition really matters.
Thirdly, wherever she is, Madame Joyce Banda is spending money. She needs clothes, accommodation and upkeep, her health and what have you. She is footing the bills in a foreign currency and her hosts are winning, at our expense.
This money, if spent – one way or another – in our small economy could create a job or two; jobs which would see someone paying taxes, at least enough to buy penicillin for a child somewhere dying in hospital due to lack of this basic antibiotic.
And finally there is cashgate. Mrs Joyce Banda knows better than anyone – her being the one who “commissioned the forensic audit” – that resolving cashgate is key to restoring Malawi’s credibility in Public Financial Management.
And now that her name keeps popping up, it is not only in her personal interest, but in national interest that she immediately comes home to help solve the maze, clear herself and “collaborate” with the investigations.
The point being: in the likely event that a prima facie case is made that she needs to answer to, it will save the Malawian taxpayer a fortune IF she is already in Malawi.
My free counsel…
As a Christmas gift, I want to offer some free advice to Madame Joyce Banda.
If these developments ever reach the point where the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) officially “requests” for her, her hosts will make her available to Malawi because allegations of stealing public money have never served as a basis for seeking asylum anywhere.
Even former heads of state are not an exception. To this effect, there are several international case authorities and treaties.
If she meant what she said;
Leadership, as far as I’m concerned, is a love affair; you fall in love with the people and the people fall in love with you;
then she should walk her love talk and “love” Malawi enough to save us the fortune in legal costs that will be associated with her extradition.
My plea to Madame Joyce Banda, Madam come home to either face the music and/or clear your name.
And I do hope she kept a copy of Dr. Perks M. Ligoya’s memo which come to think of, had it not merely served as the forbidden fruit of Eden; chances are high that she would have lived happily ever after with her darling Malawians!
Whichever way this drama pans out, Mrs Joyce Banda can take comfort in one thing: in the history of Malawi, only late Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda suffered the indignity of being subjected to a whole trial.
After Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, his successor figured it all out. First, invent “back” problems or an illness that should conveniently surface during court time.
This buys time.
In the event of change of government, offer your offspring plus a bunch of his or her blind followers to “serve” in whichever government comes along to “help fix the economy” – never mind whose economy, Malawians don’t ask.
And as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, the case slowly butsurely fizzles out.
To conclude, all in all 2015 has been a boring year.
President Arthur Peter Mutharika has been as clueless as Ipredicted way back in 2010 in the “Road to 2014” series.
He even had the audacity to advertise his cluelessness on BBC’s Hard Talk by peddling an appallingly shallow diagnosis of why Malawi at 51 is still the team to beat in the beggars’ premier league!
The opposition, on its part, has been as directionless as it’s ever been; civil society – with the exception of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), Mtambo and his CHRR and Billy Mayaya (the lone marcher) – non-existent; and ESCOM holding everyone at ransom.
Word going round is that ESCOM was investing heavily an App with which to block the sun, so that blackouts can go round the clock. Days on end without light, as we know it.
Thank heavens, they came dangerously close to developing one but failed!
Having said that, I thank you all for bearing with my intermittent analyses this year. I hope this long one has made up for all the analyses I should have contributed.
I pray that you stay safe during the festivities and that you enjoy your holidays, till Insha Allah, we meet again in 2016.
As to whether Mrs Joyce Banda will do a ‘come-home-Charlie-and-face-them’ or not; with respect to Malawi’s Cashgate, there is still a long way to go. We are far from check, let alone a checkmate!
Remember the MK 577 billion that has yet be subjected to a forensic audit? It is, without pre-empting the audit, a classiclinda madzi apite ndiye uziti ndadala scenario. With the ATI Bill passed, no name will be hidden from that report.
Take a moment to say a prayer for Raphael Tenthani, the force of one, whose premature death robbed us of the best free advisors at large, our presidents ever had – but never listened to.
Raphael Tenthani was a fearless journalist, a professional par excellence, who will neither be equalled nor replaced for a long time. The Sunday Times has never been the same after his departure, and as for Sunday reading, thank God we have the Bible.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the East.
*Views expressed in this article are of the author and NOT Malawi24