Opinion by Professor Danwood M Chirwa
The emerging revelations around NOCMA oil procurement scandal are deeply shocking but not unexpected. NOCMA’s de facto CEO’s meticulous account and documentation of the interference by political agents in the procurement process brings to light the anatomy of corruption in Malawi. It shows that parastatals are not independent and the invidious position that management and boards of these parastatals find themselves in. It is either they comply and submit or get hounded out.
The schematic structure of corruption is the same, from the old one-party dictatorship days to now. The political heads stand at the top, there are intermediaries – normally political advisers and other charlatans, then business players, followed by the persons appointed to boards and management of parastatals and regulatory authorities. In all of this, the separation of the state from the party is nonexistent. The collusion and corruption that takes places funds political parties and political leaders, at the expense of development and the delivery of public services.
All Presidents we have had, from Kamuzu Banda who became one of the richest Africans to Lazarus Chakwera, have kept this structure of criminality in place. By way of a recent comparison, we can say at least that the DPP did not bother pretending that it had dismantled this structure: it positioned itself almost openly as a ruling party of crooks, by crooks for crooks. It was, in short, a party of honest crooks.
By sharp contrast, the alliance presented itself as a political formation of change, that would break the bonds of corruption and looting. But in truth, it is a pact of dishonest crooks. They cannot even trust each other.
Almost one year down the line, the state, parastatals, and regulators have been rid of DPP intermediaries and operatives. Well, enough. But this only represents the triumph of MCP, which has managed to outdo UTM in the war of control over looting routes. It also represents the triumph of one ethnic group over government control and its looting apparatus.
We now have one of the least inclusive governments, region wise, since 1994. This has happened because the preoccupation has been on the appointment of factional representatives rather than on capability and national interests. This has further been aided by UTM refusing to accept that it is in the alliance because of the huge mandate it received from the north, and with this betrayal of the north, it has meant that the share of representatives it is supposed to contribute to government from the north is almost negligible. With the south under-represented and removed from government, under the false narrative of cleansing, we have an almost complete enthronement of one ethnic group in power.
Neither MCP nor UTM should have claimed any high moral ground over DPP. For UTM, it is DPP’s offspring. For MCP, the gimmick that by affixing a white collar to its leadership the party could be sold as a reformed party now looks laughably self-deceptive.
Its leader has quickly established himself as a man of soaring speeches without substance, full of promises without action. He is now realised that his tongue is no longer seductive to the population, and he has now resorted to purely cheap public stunts.
He seems to be dedicating so much attention to enjoying every trapping of power that to keep his body in check from over-distension, he seems to spend considerable time in the gym (and no longer talks of fasting), and then markets himself as a body builder, which looks to me like flaunting his masculinity and libido using state resources – a sort of ‘come and get me’ advert to all those individuals of loose orientation.
He has also taken to donning borrowed robs of the military, poorly mimicking quasi-democratic-military leaders of Rwanda and Uganda, fudging in the process the constitutional separation between civilian and professional corps of the armed forces. This is a leader who is unconstrained by hedonic impulses, scripture, or the country’s laws.
He refuses to act when reason, his position and the law compel him to do so, claiming that this is an invitation for him to become a dictator. So, the man who finds it his official business to be flaunting his masculinity and libido turns out to be a coward. Apparently, his juniors threaten and intimidate him with impunity.
With a puppet at the top and a group aggressive looter in control of all looting routes, Malawi is right where it was in 2019. If anyone was in doubt of this fact, there is no reason to hold on to it now.
Professor Danwood M Chirwa empties his chest.