Malawians are riding the tide of misplaced outrage once again, which is itself outrageous. Party functionaries, in a bid to divert attention from the real culprit, who is one and at the top, have invaded social media spaces with wild accusations against civil servants as if they’re the ones who approve budgets and direct where money must be spent.
The reality is that Dr Chakwera has shown time and time again that he lacks the ability to lead Malawi and end corruption. He installed a government that critics called ‘incenstious’, excluded women and included crooks. He later made controversial appointments, including a bloated coterie of advisors and to statutory entities that also excluded women and violated statutory provisions.
About the pandemic, there’s ample evidence proving that the President is singularly responsible for the failure to contain the virus and for using the pandemic to line up the pockets of his party and patronage networks.
We know this from the following facts:
- The President neglected the pandemic before he took office and after he took office, even as many commentators were calling for the declaration of a health emergency.
- The President refused to declare improving healthcare services and ending corruption top priorities of his government. His first speeches paid lip service to these important issues, and were rightly criticised by commentators.
- The Present thought it wise to travel to other countries in the region with huge entourages, entangling himself in scandals in South Africa involving the smuggling of prophet and prophetess, and in Botswana involving the failure by the Malawian delegation to observe Covid protocols. He was the only President traveling around, in reckless disregard of the pandemic. These trips also entailed wasteful expenditure at a time of economic hardship. The message was clear to the public that there was no pandemic to be afraid of.
- The President failed to familiarise himself with the urgent needs of the hospitals in the time of the pandemic. Had he done so, he would have recognised where the money needed to go and directed it there timeously.
- When prominent people including ministers started dying, the President made pubic announcements in panick. It was foreseeable that the situation would get out of hand. I know this because I was there at the end of December to beginning of January and visited one of the central hospitals. It was evident then that a tragedy was impending. It could have been avoided by taking simple targeted measures, not a careless spending spree.
- The public announcements made by the President were attuned to the ears of political supporters rather than to the reality in the ground. The speeches disclosed a clear intention to take advantage of the pandemic to line up people’s pockets. There was nothing in the speeches that specified what the government would to to boost capacity to handle Covid admissions and bolster prevention measures. Overly inflated sums of money were spouted with no clear justification. At first it was 6.2 billion, then again 17.5 billion. The President mentioned in the most general terms the sectors to be given the money. Health was mentioned in passing. There was no explanation why the other sectors were being given money in addition to their normal budgets and in quick succession. Neither did the President indicate the proportion that was reserved for the hospitals (especially those facing the largest admission numbers).
- The government prioritised sending money to district councils among other irrelevant government institutions. Everyone knew that these councils and other givernment departments were peripheral to the specific emergency at hand. There was no explanation for the specific disbursements and so it is not surprising that the councils other departments didn’t know what to do with it. This was money given gratis without terms, with no purpose.
- Many items of expenditure have been reported which rest on clear falsehoods. The President knows or ought to know that these heads of expenditure are cover for fraud and theft, which he must have foreseen or intended.
- The President never expected to exercise oversight over the expenditure despite his public declarations. It is a humble and diligent citizen Idriss Ali Nassah who took it upon himself to call DODMA to account. In typical fashion, the President woke up from his slumber to make an appearance that he was asking for an account. To date he hasn’t taken any action, as he has failed to do before.
Let Malawians not fool themselves. You have a government led by a man who is deeply flawed. He has no leadership skills. He has no vision. He has no ambition. He has no standards. He offers nothing but empty talk. He’s presiding over a criminal enterprise — like his predecessors.