“…..I believe it is important for me to inform you that apart from the Vice-President, whose alleged involvement was already made public three weeks ago, no member of my Cabinet appears on the Bureau’s list of 84, nor does anyone currently working in the Office of the President and Cabinet.” – President Lazarus Chakwera, Lilongwe, 21 June 2022
This “belief” can easily win a trophy for assertions that haven’t aged well. If the issue in question wasn’t serious, I would have dubbed this the joke of the century. However, because this is a grave matter, let us dig deeper.
If you can recall, long before the arrest of Zuneth Sattar in October 2021 in the United Kingdom, the exponential growth of some ministers’ and presidential aides’ wealth was baffling.
Some, if not most of those enjoying astronomical miraculous economic transformations were people President Chakwera has known for a while. Therefore, he ought to have been the first to notice that something was wrong.
Look, the global meltdown due to Covid19 has left no economy untouched. Now, while global economies are reeling under severe stress, and worse, while we were and continue to be repeatedly told that ‘things are not well on the ground’ because of Covid19, the fortunes of some of the president’s associates in the Cabinet or at the State House were defying logic.
People, hitherto of humble means, were buying plots, mansions, Range Rovers, Mercedes Benz, Lexuses etc., right under the president’s nose when Covid19 was supposedly asphyxiating our economy.
Granted, as ministers or presidential aides, they now earn kings’ ransoms. However, what do we make of one Hon Yeremiah Chihana MP, whose position as a parliamentarian means he knows how much they make, alleging at one point that massive corruption was afoot?
Indeed, if the inexplicable prosperity resulted from their earnings, the good honourable, who did not persist with his allegations, would have known. And I am sure he would have civic-educated us that it all adds up after taking their perks into account. Therefore, we can safely assume he had done the math and concluded that some people were living beyond their means.
From that, we would expect that a rational president, acting rationally, would also notice the overnight economic evolution of those around him and wonder.
Human est errare? Of course, President Chakwera doesn’t have superhuman powers. He, too, can err and miss the obvious. This is why his position comes with the excessive powers he does not want to part with just yet, to hire and fire people to aid him.
In this regard, he has several aides, the intelligence folks, police and other such officials. If these people were half-serious with their jobs and 10% patriotic, they should have alerted him before Hon Chihana cried wolf.
Of course, we now know that the Inspector General is also implicated in the Sattar maze and, as such, expecting the police to expose one of their own – their top dog, for that matter – would be the height of utter foolishness.
But how about the other agencies? Excluding the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), which – as we are learning – was also a subsidiary of ‘Sattar Holdings Malawi Branch’, I am thinking about the battalion of presidential aides, Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the National Intelligence Service (NIS) etc.; were they all in Sattar’s pockets.
What were these doing?
I can surmise two things. Either they are all incompetent, or their assets must be audited.
If they were hired to be the president’s eyes and ears, how did they not see what Hon Chihana saw? How did they neither see nor hear what the taxpayers were seeing and wailing about?
Before I proceed, allow me to debunk a fallacy held to be true by Chakwera. He seems to believe that “some people on Sattar list may be innocent”; they are just pathological practitioners of “the accepted and common practice among Malawians of innocently asking for or accepting monetary assistance from affluent people whose source of wealth is obscure”.
This is utter rubbish.
Firstly, Zuneth Sattar and his companies have featured in all Cashgate Audit reports. Secondly, we know President Chakwera and his colleagues were religiously reading these audit reports to get campaign speech points, among other things. Therefore, they knew that Zuneth Sattar does not run a charity and that when he doles out a favour, he expects it returned, in cash or in kind.
It is, therefore, an insult to our intelligence to suggest that people got cash, a Mercedes Benz, a Lexus, a BMW, a Hummer or a Range Rover from Sattar because he is a philanthropist.
I repeat: any insinuation to this effect rubs salt on our open wounds. It’s as good or bad as showing us the middle finger while shouting: “You are all buffoons!”
In all fairness, everyone in Sattar’s Ledgers and all those who begged or accepted Sattar’s dubious largesse should clear their name in a court of law.
This is a classic example of cases where the burden of proof will be on those who “unknowingly” asked for or accepted cash, Mercedes Benz, Lexuses, BMWs, Hummers or Range Rovers from Sattar under the deluded impression – as they would have us believe – that such a thing as a free meal exists.
I have no more space; therefore, I will use the little remaining to address the president.
You know, and I know too, that by now, you realise that you goofed way back in October 2021 when you cut short your tour of the Northern Region to attend to pressing issues in the office.
One need not be a genius to guess that the pressing issue was the fallout from Sattar’s arrest earlier that month.
You are wondering: is it too late to act now? The answers, Sir, are “Yes” and “No”.
It is not too late if your action(s) are righteous before God. It is too late if you intend to continue the cover-up while pretending to be the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB)’s number one supporter. This will not work. Because, unlike the local court cases you can suppress using the AG and the DPP, there is a part that will be prosecuted in the UK.
“Please”, I hear you ask, “be specific on what I should do?”
Here goes, Sir:
First, establish the Special Court for Corruption without further delay. The former Chief Justice left a blueprint which you never followed through.
Secondly, triple the funding (not the budget) but actual funds for the ACB to enable the ACB to farm out some cases to private firms.
Thirdly, and this is the most difficult, let the law apply equally to all, whether friend or foe, family or non-relations.
Finally, Your Excellency, remember that there is no gain in crying over spilt milk, especially when it is sour milk. Just clean the stink and start afresh.
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