Talking Blues: She came, she saw, she made them uncomfortable


“I want to make this country feel uncomfortable with corruption. As it is, it is like it is now part of our lives. So, I would want to see to it that Malawians start feeling uncomfortable about corruption.” Martha Chizuma speaking to the Daily Times in May 2021

It is difficult to believe that Ms. Martha Chizuma only assumed the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director-General (DG) position eight months ago.

Even more difficult to comprehend is that in eight months, she has already delivered the thrust of her manifesto i.e. making the corrupt in high and low places uncomfortable.

Now, before we enviously write off her feats like the proverbial leopard that would disparage neighbors dragging home an antelope from a hunt but was full of self-praise when he caught a grasshopper, let us go deeper.

Someone, by the way, let’s call a spade by its name, President Lazarus Chakwera is arguably the most infamous man in town right now.

This is as per the Public Affairs Committee (PAC), which on Tuesday 18 January 2022 told him point blank that he has wasted enough of everyone’s time, he should now roll up his sleeves and start working or risk facing the unpredictable consequences of an “All-Inclusive Stakeholders Conference.”

The issues that PAC raised are neither new nor rocket science. They are pertinent and have been exhaustively discussed here on Talking Blues and many other fora, and actionable recommendations have been made and forwarded to the President.

To everyone’s chagrin, no action has followed.

Hence Pac wading in to try and salvage the situation before it becomes too late.

Since the points raised by PAC have been well-publicized, I will not repeat them word for word. Suffice to say that PAC summed up the incumbent’s incompetence in six points.

Namely:

  • failure to implement sound economic policies to diffuse the pain Malawians are suffering,
  • refusal to reshuffle a Cabinet that was unfit-for-purpose from the word go,
  • the President’s strong leadership in the practice and art of nepotism and his inexplicable loss of appetite for fighting corruption,
  • the retention of an incompetent Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC), and
  • inability to find a sustainable alternative to subsidies.

Quoting verbatim:

“OUR CALL

Your Excellency, understand us right. We would like to collaborate with you where you are doing things right. Secondly, in no way do we hate anybody in their personal capacity.

Your Excellency, governments run on taxpayers’ money. Therefore players in democratic governance have every right to hold you accountable.

Let us call a spade a spade today,

Your Excellency reshuffle the Cabinet and appoint competent Secretary to the President and Cabinet. Consider changes in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for there seem to be reputational challenges. In fact, the current Cabinet appears to be a spectator in their leadership style. A number of them lack gravitas and influence…

We kindly call upon Your Excellency to consider reshuffling the Cabinet within 3 months. The public patience is running thin.

Your Excellency, the current term of office is five years. Swift decision-making is required. Indecisiveness on reshuffling the Cabinet, the revelations that your daughter assumed duties at the Embassy in the UK, failure to make public Public Sector Systems Review Report submitted to you by the Vice President, and failure to fire Ministers allegedly involved in corruption as you acted on Hon. Ken Kandodo has led Malawians to brand your leadership as tainted with lies and corruption…

The trust in Your Excellence has been eroded so fast due to your approach to decision-making. In fact, you made mistakes on day one of appointing your Cabinet, coupled with failure to honour the pledge on reshuffling the Cabinet.”

You know, folks, I have been around for a while, and I have seen a few of these.

The issues raised by PAC during Muluzi’s time, the Bingu era, Joyce Banda’s interim presidency, and Peter Mutharika’s time often bordered on corruption and some differences of opinion.

This, however, is the first time PAC is condemning executive incompetence and indecisiveness.

President Chakwera assumed office on 28 June 2020. He has been nineteen months in office. Comparing and contrasting with Ms. Chizuma, who took the office of ACB Director-General eight months ago, the President had an eleven-month headstart.

Further, while he enjoys unlimited executive powers and resources, Martha has limited leeway, as the new Attorney General would want us to believe.

While he has powers to hire and fire at will, Martha inherited rubble she cannot offload.

Now, pause and look: who between the two is delivering?

Who has walked their talk and delivered exactly what they promised, i.e., “making the corrupt uncomfortable” in eight months on the job, be it:

  • without unlimited resources,
  • while fending off uncooperative peers,
  • while having to deal with judges issuing unorthodox ‘stays of arrests’ to suspects,
  • while being ambushed with weekend amnesty declarations,
  • and now – as we are hearing – while being denied funding?

Thank goodness the world is watching and here at home, the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) has smelled a rat that stinks enough to warrant an episcopal ‘SOS’ akin to a voice crying out in the wilderness, saying:

“We appeal to the Head of State, Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, the Vice President, Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima, and all relevant State institutions and their Heads to ensure the security of the ACB staff; especially the Director-General.

No one should be pressurized, intimidated, or influenced by threats or any other means in carrying out their work for the country’s good.

 

We plead, in the interest of building a more just and transparent Malawi that benefits all its citizens, that any of the investigations or cases which the ACB is dealing with are not in any way obstructed or influenced.

Let no suspect, however powerful, wealthy or who their connections are, be shielded or protected provided that they are given proper recourse to the legal processes of the courts.”

As per our Talking Blues tradition, kindly permit me to digress.

Do you recall Moses Kunkuyu’s wise insinuation that when a thief is being protected by the top dog, follow the thief, and soon you will find out on whose behalf the thief is stealing?

I wonder,

  • considering that Ms. Chizuma has already more than made some people “uncomfortable,”
  • then reading between the lines of both PAC’s Remarks and the ECM’s statement, and
  • finally taking all the ongoing antics, amnesties, ACB being starved of funding and all these shenanigans into account,

is it too farfetched to conclude that someone, very high up, is no longer at ease?

Your guess, honorable Ladies and Gentlemen, is as good as mine.