Talking Blues: Mr President, the rubble in Malawi cannot just be wished away


Saying that President Lazarus Chakwera’s Sermon of the Eight Rubbles delivered on this year’s independence cum inauguration day excited many Malawians is an understatement.

That sermon struck the right chords. It thrilled the nation.

Cynics of course, for good reasons, were and are sceptical because Malawi, besides being ‘the Warm Heart of Africa’ easily qualifies for the title: ‘the Habitat of False Starts and Home to Perennial Underperformers’.

Our forerunners’ motive to fight and even die for our independence was their conviction that once independent, milk and honey will flow.

They dreamt of a Malawi where:

  • Malawians would prosper together,
  • corruption would not assume religious proportions, and
  • upholding the rule of law under servant leaders walking their talk on uniting Malawi would triumph.

They dreamt of a nation where what Chakwera calls the “Hi5” would transcend the campaign trail and become a reality.

Thanks to their blood, sweat and tears; Malawi gained independence.

Since then, what have we accomplished?

Thirty years on, fruits of independence were turning out to be bitter-sweet and more often bitter.

As a result, led by the Catholics Bishops, we adopted a different construct: plural politics.

Come multipartyism, the 1994 General Elections which ushered a “fresh start” simultaneously set us on the road to perdition.

In fact, the 1994-2004 tenure was so hopeless that scholars to date call it ‘Bakili’s Lost Decade’.

The decline was so painful that when late Bingu wa Mutharika, nicknamed “Moses wa Lero” dumped Bakili’s UDF, Malawians were overjoyed.

The rise of Bingu, yet another “fresh start”, bred five years of hope. That hope was however crushed by three years of hell under the same “Moses” gone bonkers.

So dire were the straits that some even celebrated his sudden demise.

In came Joyce Banda, bearing “a beautiful dream” to herald yet another “fresh start”. In a few months, that dream became a nightmare.

Back came DPP and the rest is history. Today, here we are with Chakwera in our umpteenth “fresh start”.

Now, Chakwera is a pastor at heart and pastors’ trading currency is talk. Homilies, speeches, words and soothing sermons are therefore not something Chakwera will ever run out of.

It is his way with words that bore the sermon with which I started this discourse: Sermon of the Eight Rubbles with which we will cross perilous rivers in transit to the promised “Hi5” Chakwera-land.

Before we proceed, remember that half a century-plus has wheezed by and amid the changes and upheavals; the only constant is that the independence fighters’ fantasy of prospering together, zero corruption, the rule of law, servant leadership and unity remains a mere fantasy.

Introspection time:

  • Should our founders noble dreams remain a fantasy?
  • Are we so cursed that we cannot rid Malawi and ourselves of the rubble?

In this past week, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) suspended implementation of the intention by the Ministry of Health to award a Zambian firm a contract to supply 35 ambulances because its vetting role was bypassed.

The intention was advertised a few weeks ago after Chakwera had already yapped about rubble and appointed a Minister of Health.

Yet, only after a public outcry did the ACB weigh-in to investigate.

The bending of rules – for nefarious reasons – escaped Chakwera and his Health Minister’s scrutiny, yet Chakwera promised to clear the “rubble”.

Easier said than done, eh?

This week we heard that Mzimba North MP Yeremiah Chihana had withdrawn allegations he made in Parliament that some Tonse Alliance government Cabinet members were soliciting bribes from Malawian businesspersons of Asian descent.

Chihana claimed to have evidence and knowledge of where the loot was. These grave allegations prompted the Speaker Catherine Gotani Hara to give Chihana a deadline within which he should provide proof.

During Presidential Question Time the other week, Chakwera went further and dared Chihana to ride with him on the presidential convoy to show him the evidence.

Reports say Chihana has “opted to withdraw the corruption allegations”.

What does one make of this? Three words: nothing adds up.

“It seems we are back on square one” you lament and then grieve, “Oh Mapwiya Muulupale, what wrong did we do to deserve this?”

My answer? You and I don’t “deserve” this crap.

If Chakwera needs help, he must first help us and all the ‘Chihanas’ out there.

I posit that in addition to Access to Information (ATI) law operationalisation, Chakwera must champion  Whistleblowers protection law.

The thing is: the Malawi public is not as sophisticated as the criminal syndicates and family cartels running and ruining Malawi are.

Hence, the ATI notwithstanding, our war against graft heavily depends on insiders whose safety and security after revealing corruption must be guaranteed.

In Nigeria, studies show that having a whistleblowing policy may be the panacea for the endemic problem of corruption.

In summary, the Nigerian experience works as follows:

  • a whistleblower earns between 2.5% to 5% of the proceeds of financial corruption when the government has successfully recovered funds;
  • to qualify for the reward, the information must not have been known by the government; and
  • the whistleblower remains anonymous and is duly protected.

With the cooperation of various government agencies, Nigeria’s Whistleblower programme has recovered over US$180 million in just four months.

This means that the whistleblowers who provided the tips are now US$9million richer in a win-win situation for both government and the whistleblowers.

Although the Nigerian experience is still in its infancy, recovering US$180 million, in four months, is impressive progress.

“It seems,” says Dr Matthias Nnadi of Cranfield University School of Management, “the attachment of financial rewards to Whistleblower Protection is key to the effective implementation of the policy in Africa.

“As in the case of Nigeria, it is akin to using bait to catch a big fish in rivers infested with crocodiles.”

The question is: is Chakwera serious about fighting graft?

If he is serious, then he must empower Malawians so that they can help him end corruption and its evil grip on Malawi.