George Chaponda
George Chaponda: now in hot soup

Blues’ Orators, a little over three years and three months have passed since maverick James Brown Mpinganjira, then Minister of Information in the People’s Party (PP) government, verbally skirmished with the then leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Parliament, Dr. George Chaponda. Remember the clash? You guessed right: it was about the Joyce Banda era cashgate.

The then Joyce Banda administration was in hot soup after exposés of massive plunder of public resources amounting to K24billion.

With arrests targeting seemingly ‘small’ fish; many were agitating for the apprehension of ‘Che jumo’ or in the Queen’s language, the big fish.

Leading the blitzkrieg in Parliament, on your and my behalf, was none other than Dr. George Chaponda, now turned maize misprocurement-guru-in-chief.

Irked by the wanton looting of our money, he campaigned for a vote-of-no-confidence motion over what he described as the ‘hide and seek’ manner of handling the grave issue.

In a no-holds-barred attack on hapless Joyce Banda, he delivered a powerful sermon titled: ‘A fish rots from the head down’.   Blues’ Orators, Chaponda’s ‘holy’ anger at cashgate was a spectacle to behold.

Good old George was so splendid in the delivery of the sermon – on our behalf – that had I died then and gone where good spirits go, on arrival, I would have pleaded with St. Peter or Elijah (or whosoever mans the heavenly gates) that in Malawi, there is one man deserving a seat on the right hand of the creator.

I would have demanded that a seat be reserved lest the heavens get fully booked whilst this ‘vanquisher of thieves’ was fighting graft in high and low places on the poor’s behalf!   Mpinganjira, then freshly recalled from a short-lived foray as a man of gold, was bothered with George’s sermon.

“With this kind of talk,” thought Mpinganjira, “Malawians will lynch us!”   As a pastor of sorts, he could tell when a ‘gospel’ was hitting the intended mark. He therefore quickly weighed in with what seemed, at that time, a diversionary tactic and fired back.

“Why can’t they (DPP) wait until a full forensic audit is completed dating back from 2005?” he queried.

Fast forward:

· DPP crawled back to power with Dr Chaponda inseparably intertwined with the new ‘fish’ head, Prof Peter Mutharika,

· the forensic audits sanctioned during Joyce Banda’s tenure has now revealed that K236billion was plundered from 2005, coincidentally DPP’s birth year; and

· developments have now proved that if Joyce Banda was handling thieves with kid gloves, Mutharika prefers to wallow with them like a pig does in mud.

“Sooner or later in Life, we will all take our own turn being in the position we once had someone else in,” is a statement alluded to Ashly Lorenzana which resonates well with the second rise and this beginning of the fall of DPP.

While the Joyce Banda era cashgate revelations were followed by arrests – be the fish tiny or large; nothing has happened after the conclusion of the K236billionforensic audit.   Nothing.

“Hypocrites” noted Edmund Burke, “can afford to be generous with promises, because when one has no intention of delivering on the promise, they lose nothing.”

Edmund Burke must have read the DPP manifesto and foreseen just how screwed we would be!   RSM Risk Assurance Services, LLP (RSM) the firm that forensically reviewed the initial findings of PwC report of May 2015 that noted K577billion – now – K236billion as unreconciled, submitted thirteen files to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).

Probably due to lack of office furniture, the files are serving as the ACB Czar’s cushions.

Motivated by Lucas Kondowe’s toothlessness, Chaponda has now fashioned a fool proof way of bypassing the Public Financial Management Act and ignoring volumes of laws and best practice in public procurement.

He has conceived the ‘child-burning-in-the-house/to-hell-with-decorum’ procurement methodology.

As bad luck would have it, after an excellent job by Justice Msosa and her team, a superb job by parliamentary committees supported by a trove of documents unearthed by a saviour called Chishimba; the same ACB – famous or rather infamous – for not prosecuting DPP gurus, is our refuge.

Fellow suffering Blues’ Orators, can you see how screwed we are?   Look, while within a month the Msosa Commission has found ‘the conduct of the Minister, Hon George Chaponda, in his dealings …. most inappropriate, suspicious and raising issues of corrupt practices’; ACB, with fulltime investigators is, according to Madam Egrita Mdala, ‘pleading for more support and patience from the public because the probe is complex’.     What support? Which complexity? Patience? Isn’t 52 years of patience enough Madam Mdala?

To rub salt onto our open wounds, the head of the fish, President Peter Mutharika, is incapable of censuring Chaponda who ‘arbitrarily and wrongly used his influence … violation of the country’s public procurement laws’ as per the Joint Parliamentary Commission.

On the other hand, the same officials that pounced on ‘small fish’ during Joyce Banda’s 2013 episode of cashgate, are busy ‘WhatsApp chatting’ with Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) Governor Charles Chuka and Secretary to Treasury, Ronald Mangani who lied under oath before parliamentary committees.

The ACB and the fiscal police, quick to arrest chiefs for misappropriating FISP coupons and other petty thieves for stealing goats, are yet to arrest Chaponda to stop him interfering with investigations.

Any wonder that mysterious fires are back in town?   I will let ACB and law enforcement agencies enjoy their slumber and speak to the title of our discussion as above.

While Chaponda fingered Joyce Banda as the head of a rotten fish; here he is today, a classic manifestation of a whale defying courts and enforcement agencies. And, if it is true that fish rots from the head down, isn’t Mutharika a rotting head of fish fouling the air today?

Now, other than chronicling lamentations like this, what solutions exist?   Well, parliament is in session. Patriotic Malawians can lobby equally patriotic MPs to move for a vote of no confidence in Mutharika.

After all, this is the dessert that Chaponda served for Joyce Banda three years or so ago.   Whatever happens, whichever way this goes, we should remember the words of an Anglican Cleric, Frederick William Robertson also known as Robertson of Brighton:   “There are three things in the world that deserve no mercy: hypocrisy, fraud, and tyranny.”

Therefore, it is only fitting that good old George and his pal must face the same measure they reserved for others.   Fish, as Chaponda insisted back in the day, rots from the head down.