George Chaponda
George Chaponda: at the centre of the dubious maize deal

Seeing that it had to take three weeks of relentless pressure for Peter Mutharika to finally fire his beloved George Chaponda, we can conclude that although ending corruption not that complicated, it is politically tough.

Nothing worth fighting for is ever easy. And when you are fighting for the livelihood of fifteen million people plus your own legacy, the least you can do is waiver or hesitate.

Once you are seen and believed to lack the requisite resolve in fighting corruption, millions perish and your own legacy goes to the dogs.

You will recall that Peter Mutharika recently expressed utter frustration at the rampant corruption in his administration. He went as far as declaring that he was surrounded by “Judases”.

We now know the Judas Iscariot he was referring to. Our situation, or rather his situation is nothing unique.

In South Korea the Samsung boss was recently apprehended for buying influence in a government that has since been toppled by people power.

Here in Africa, a recent report by the indefatigable South African Public protector, Thuli Mandosela, detailed the extent to which corruption compromised the sovereignty of the most powerful country in Africa.

It is said that on November 27th 2015, the Guptas met with Mcebisi Jonas at the swanky Sandton district and offered him the position of Finance Minister “on the condition that he purges the South African Treasury of senior staff opposed to the multi-million dollar nuclear plant development deal”.

Two weeks later, the then Finance minister, Nlhalha Nene was unceremoniously booted from office, plunging the Rand into unprecedented turmoil and the generally resilient South African economy into a tail-spin.

Coming home, anyone who joins frontline politics soon discovers that winning, not to say retaining a seat at any level is prohibitively expensive.    In order to win, a deep war chest is imperative.

To remain in office that chest, after taking a beating in previous elections, needs replenishing.   And that is not all. If you are president, it is worse. Party cadre and cadets who spent fortunes towards your victory want to reap what they think they sowed.

They demand that you turn a blind eye as they corruptly enrich themselves through public procurement so as to contest in the next election or fund the party.

Upholding ideals such as integrity and accountability are thus tricky especially in our situation where salaries are low, and the only game in town is to loot the state.   How then can one institute accountability which is a basic tenet of democracy?   First, we must debunk the generally accepted myth that corruption is mysterious and complicated. It is not. What is complicated is trying to fight corruption when your country’s political framework is rotten to the core and greed is the name on the game.

Our legal framework, aided by public financial policies, rules and regulations are in fact more than enough to fight corruption.

Put to proper use, institutions such as the financial intelligence unit and the Anti-corruption Bureau are potentially powerful.  The problem is that they are prevented from doing their work by orders from none other than the president.

In the current case of George Chaponda, it was the president that gave Chaponda wings by declaring in public speeches that the Maizegate issue was false, and that there was no malfeasance.

It was the president that took the lead in protecting Chaponda and claiming that he was innocent.   And therefore, while some are congratulating the president for firing Chaponda from Cabinet last week, I am happy to announce that I do not see what he has earned congratulations for.

Had he fired Chaponda at the onset, I would have queued to congratulate him. But as you all know, the president reluctantly fired Chaponda because he had no choice.    If truth be told, if there is one very worried person in the country right now, it is the president, for in firing Chaponda, he risks opening a can of worms.

The question we must pursue is: If Chaponda is a bad apple worthy of being thrown out of cabinet, when did this Chaponda apple go bad? Why was he not fired all these past weeks when the issue was in everyone’s mouth? Why was the president not just silent but even opening his mouth to protect and back him, only to fire him when the going got tough? And why has he still not been arrested? Look, rumours emanating from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) upper echelons allege that most of Chaponda’s corrupt deals involved the first lady.

And this could very well be the reason why the former Minister of Agriculture was so protected by the president and is to date still Vice President of the DPP despite the embarrassment that he has become.

And worrying about what Chaponda might or might not reveal is not only the first lady. In his tribalistic outrage, Chaponda insinuated that Goodal Gondwe is not that clean either.

So, when you take the trademark Chaponda tribalism out, and look at Goodal in that context, given that these people have worked together and know each other inside out, it is possible there are skeletons rattling in Goodal’s cupboards.

If the president wants sober minded people like me to congratulate him and stop saying that he is a useless puppet, he should do something original.

He could, for instance, clarify what took him so long to fire Chaponda, and why he finally decided to do it.

He could even go further and live his promise to free the ACB leadership so that, free from fear, they can do a thorough job on  Chaponda and his likes.   Peter Mutharika should not expect applause after succumbing to pressure from the masses. For all we know, it may still be Chaponda himself calling the shots and all this might be a charade to cool off tempers.

Having said that, it is likely that by firing Chaponda, Mutharika has lost a percentage of support from those who were benefitting from Chaponda. This comes with the territory.

But as you are all aware, it was the arrest of a Cabinet minister that won his brother, Bingu, millions of supporters from all regions and parties in Malawi.   Compare and contrast the low levels Mutharika has been wallowing in with his ratings after Chaponda’s firing from Cabinet.

Obviously, if Mutharika learns and begins to act resolutely against all pending corruption incidences that have occurred on his watch, he could yet prove to be his brother’s brother.

If he wants to be taken seriously as president, he must have the balls to do the right thing for the poor Malawians who, as a result of the greed of the likes of Chaponda, have to buy maize at MK12,500.00   Once Mutharika acknowledges that it is only acting in the interests of the people that voted for him that he can salvage his legacy, he will be remembered, long after he is gone, for the right things.

He has an option.

He could dedicate his presidency to the Chapondas and the Transglobes, and see how long the populace will tolerate him.

Allan Ntata
Z Allan Ntata

A leader worth his salt must be able to acknowledge that his acting in the interests of the people will make the very people loath him, especially his greedy assistants and sidekicks. Yet he must consistently lead and educate those sidekicks, cadres and cadets that democracy takes certain minimum standards in governance, short of which we surrender the country to the Chapondas and the Transglobes.

Unfortunately, fellow Uncommon Sensors, that leader is not Peter Arthur Mutharika.

Just one word: when people say enough is enough, the scene rarely looks beautiful to those the popular wrath is directed.

 

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