”Similarly, through the office of the Attorney General, working with independent law enforcement agencies, my Administration will not tolerate any of your taxes to be wasted on frivolous claims against the government by businesses whose main trade is inflating prices and extorting the state.” – President Lazarus Chakwera, addressing the nation, on Tuesday 12 December 2021.
I don’t want to waste your valuable time on President Lazarus Chakwera’s address partially quoted above.
That said, I want to share two things. The first is that Pres. Chakwera’s 18-page speech carrying 2,915 words, including cover, missed one key word, and that word is corruption.
Not one single mention is made about corruption.
To me, Pres. Chakwera is implying that corruption – which is the mother of all our miseries – came and went with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration and that the squeaky-clean Malawi Congress Party (MCP) led Tonse administration is dotting all the ‘I’s and crossing all the ‘T’s.
We all know this is not true.
Remember the only audit permitted by Chakwera under his reign, which focussed on a portion of Covid19 funds?
That audit, among other things, revealed that corruption-wise, by ousting the patently corrupt Peter Mutharika administration and voting in a new government, Malawians merely replaced one band of thieves led by a “prince,” with another band, similarly led.
If you need more, a presidential advisor was fired and is now answering a corruption case; a senior minister is sailing in the same rocking boat, and another aide was caught smuggling a bill to parliament for the authorization of a loan which made no economic sense at all.
Those three are NOT left-over rubble; they are fresh rubble brought in by the current administration.
Now, don’t tell me these three are the only corrupt Chakwera administration officials, no.
There are more. Once all the Covid19 funds have been fully audited, and Zuneth Sattar’s accomplices have been named and shamed, we will know who else in Chakwera’s administration, a hyena in hyena’s clothing is.
So, for President Chakwera to waste everyone’s Tuesday evening delivering a so-called “Covid-19 Socio-Economic Recovery Plan (SERP)” without expressly committing to eradicate the corruption on his watch is akin to planning to fill a pail with water knowing very well that the bucket is irredeemably leaky.
The second thing is Chakwera haranguing us with more reform-related rhetoric, knowing very well that when granted a chance to kickstart reforms which he asked for of his Vice President Saulos Chilima, Chakwera – like all his predecessors – opted for non-implementation to appease his captors or minders or whatever you want to call them.
You remember President Chakwera, then smarting from scandalous findings of the only audit conducted on Covid19 funds wasted under his watch, correctly diagnosed our critical challenges as rooted in:
- contracts for senior civil servants, and
He then directed VP Chilima to devise recommendations on fixing these triplets for good.
Recommendations were submitted to Chakwera ages ago, and since then, there has been no change, I repeat, no change in procurement, the culture of allowances, or senior civil servants’ contracts.
Talking of senior civil servants’ contracts, apparently, the number one civil servant’s contract expired, and Chakwera – a stickler for the status quo – is yet to tell the dude, “It was nice meeting you, Sir, go in peace!”
How hard can this be?
So, you want to tell me that this laissez-faire approach, this presidential inertia, this executive phobia to ruffle feathers, and this inability to:
- see what everyone is seeing and
- hear what everyone is hearing,
can go unchecked and, as Bob Marley said, everything will be alright?
Look here, if Chakwera knows unscrupulous businesses are making “frivolous claims against the government by inflating prices,” he must also understand that those villains have enablers at the highest levels in government.
The point is: there is no way someone can just wake up one day, compile a tender, self-evaluate, win and award a contract to themselves, invoice the government, then inflate the prices and submit a hefty claim for billions.
No ways. It takes two to tango.
There are senior officials, the likes now implicated in the ongoing Zuneth Sattar saga even in Chakwera’s own administration.
Anyway, let’s change the subject.
Once upon a time, there was a monk. Every day, this monk drew water from a well and carried it back to the temple. He used to take two buckets of water slung on a stick across his shoulders.
One of the buckets was perfectly impermeable, while the other had several holes on the sides. Therefore, when the monk filled up the two buckets, the leaky bucket would be semi-empty by the time he got back to the temple.
The leaky bucket, aware of this, was despondent. One day, it gathered courage and, in an apologetic tone, spoke thus to the monk:
“Sir, I am sorry that I am imperfect and can’t keep the water from sprinkling through the holes on my sides.”
The monk smiled slightly, nodding his head knowingly and silently in acknowledgment. Upon reaching the well, the monk drew water and filled up the two buckets.
On the way back, he said to the leaky bucket.
“Look to the side of the road where the perfect bucket passes over. It is barren. Not even a blade of grass grows here.”
Pointing to the blooming flowers on the other side of the road, the young monk said to the leaky bucket.
“See these beautiful flowers? They exist because of the water you sprinkle on them every day. They owe their lives to you, and people enjoy their beauty only because of you. Your imperfection is, in fact, a blessing to others.”
“Mapwiya Muulupale, what has the monk and his leaky pail got to do with us?” I hear you asking.
In a beautiful tale like this one, all ends well. However, in real life and real countries like our Malawi where the leaky buckets are corrupt government officials, you wake up one day to learn from an Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB)’s restriction notice that one Zuneth Sattar owns a disproportionate amount of properties in Lilongwe’s prime locations while you are failing to secure a plot in Lilongwe’s slums.
Real-life leaking pails corruptly award contracts and prime plots to the likes of Zuneth Sattar and keep the bribes for themselves. No flowers bloom with gratitude on the sides. In fact, plants on roadsides, i.e., the ordinary citizens, wilt and die.
Therefore, you and I should be very concerned that in a Socio-Economic Recovery Plan (SERP) to cost us over MK500,000,000,000, President Chakwera has decided to pretend that corruption is non-existent in his government. With this missed opportunity, like with the Covid19 disbursements, the MK500,000,000,000 will only benefit corrupt officials and their “Sattars.”