If rhetoric was all we needed to beat corruption, once we clear the backlog of cases Reyneck Matemba is reeling under, we would have had no reason to keep the Anti-corruption Bureau and the Corrupt Practices Act.
Unfortunately, rhetoric without action is nothing. In our case, action could speak louder than words. Sadly, that action is missing.
On this sombre note, without much ado, let’s cut to the chase.
After initial denials by both Crossroads Hotel and the State House, they later accepted that the former was accommodating the latter’s “guests”.
State House had initially dismissed the K65-million accommodation payment allegations.
“Crossroads Hotel, as the owner of the invoices in question, has issued a press release stating that the story in question is false. As such, State House has no further comment to make on this matter, because dignifying fake news with a response does not serve the interest of Malawian people,” presidential press secretary Brian Banda had said.
Within 24 hours, Crossroads Hotel director Sameer Sacranie made a U-turn and confirmed that State House paid K12.5 million for accommodation for four guests.
This U-turn was in all probability triggered by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC)’s demand that the ACB investigates the matter further.
According to Brian Banda – yes – the same one who had earlier on refused to “dignify fake news”; President Lazarus Chakwera has since welcomed an ACB investigation.
“The President welcomes and supports this investigation … to separate facts from fiction based on evidence.”
ACB Director General Reyneck Matemba confirmed that the bureau would investigate the matter.
Before I proceed, a line by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi aka Rumi, a Persian poet (1207-1273), is worth bearing in mind.
Included in Rumi’s Third Book of Masnavi, one of his six books of poetry, is a line which says: fish begins to stink at the head, not the tail.
While the State House and Crossroads Hotel were busy see-sawing, Hon Eisenhower Mkaka Minister of Foreign Affairs cum MCP Secretary-General was on the warpath.
According to Mkaka, circulating is a rumour that he has “become corrupt” and that thanks to sleaze, he has bought a brand-new Mercedes Benz at MK72 million. His howling was, therefore, aimed at setting the record straight.
As per Mkaka, he:
• has indeed bought a Mercedes Benz. But it is neither brand new nor did it cost MK72 million but MK45 million;
• ordered the car on 5 July before being appointed minister;
• duly declared the car alongside other assets to the Office of the Director of Public Officers’ Declarations; and
• boasts of multiple income sources, including MP’s salary and perks, compensation by First Merchant Bank (FMB) – his former employer and agricultural commodities business; which financed the purchase of the Merc.
He further added that the house he resides in was built in 2010 while he was working for the FMB.
Can there be smoke without fire?
Although our ancestors suggest there is no smoke without fire, we must be cautious.
It is a bit premature to conclude that akin to fish rotting from the head down, corruption in Chakwera’s administration has started at the State House and is now seeping and sweeping through the ranks via Hon Mkaka.
The problem, however, is that in politics, the truth and facts do not always matter.
Perception, public perception, is everything.
Quo Vadis Chakwera:
Let me tell you a story. A year after the death of Cornelia, Julius Caesar’s first wife, in a marriage of political convenience, Caesar remarried Pompeia.
Neither felt much for the other.
In time, Pompeia attracted the amorous attentions of Publius Clodius, a man slightly younger than Caesar and an up-and-coming political scion of an ancient family.
Pompeia and Clodius, however, had no chance to be alone because Aurelia, Caesar’s mother, was closely watching Pompeia.
An opportunity soon came.
Caesar’s home was to be the venue of an annual religious ritual dedicated to Bona Dea, the goddess of fertility. Befitting things to do with “fertility”, it was a nocturnal ceremony. But no males were allowed.
Undercover of this festival, Pompeia, through a maidservant – Abra, arranged a rendezvous with Clodius. Clodius, dressed as a woman, arrived at Caesar’s house.
He was let in by Abra. While Abra was looking for Pompeia, Clodius wandered around, chanced on the wrong person and was forced to join in the religious celebration.
In the process, he was pulled into a well-lit room where it was discovered he was a man and thus fell asunder Pompeia’s plot for an illicit tryst with Clodius.
Clodius was tried, but Caesar refused to testify against him. Despite this, Caesar divorced Pompeia.
Asked why he divorced Pompeia, Caesar answered that it was not necessarily because she had actually done anything wrong but that “Uxorem Caesaris tam suspicione quam crimine carere oportet”.
That is: Caesar’s wife should not only be free from suspicion, but also from any accusations.
Now, in a country like ours where we’re still struggling to come to terms with Norman Chisale’s fooling around with the president’s TPIN right at the State House and with Chakwera having spent the best part of the last six years accusing his predecessor of corruption; everyone expects Chakwera’s State House and Cabinet ministers to hold themselves to a higher standard.
Just like Caesar’s wife should be above suspicion, Chakwera and his lieutenants must not be associated with rumours or allegations of corruption.
As far as I am concerned, Chakwera’s belated welcoming the ACB investigation does not wash.
It is, at best, a cosmetic way of fighting corruption.
As for Mkaka’s outburst, in the absence of a complete lifestyle audit over his finances, assets and liabilities over the past 12 months or so; the selective and incomplete presentation of his income and liabilities can only convince fools.
Look here, while we all know what Makileni‘s compensation was supposed to be, no one knows the exact amount of Mkaka‘s alleged compensation. For all we know, Mkaka could buy a jet tomorrow and claim he had used the proceeds of this yet to be quantified “compensation”.
This is why you and I Blues Orators, aren’t biting. Not us.
To clear his name, Mkaka must dare the ACB and the Financial Intelligence Unit to subject him to a lifestyle audit.
Furthermore, the National Audit Office should review State House contracts, liabilities and expenditure from July to date to assure Malawians that no more rot exists and assuming it does; it is nipped in the bud.
After all, Chakwera knows that among his lieutenants are some who given a MK40 million party donation will hand over only MK5 million and embezzle the rest.
Chakwera must clean his house now, now, now.