By Burnett Munthali
Political corruption is the use of powers by government officials or their network contacts for illegitimate private gain.
First, poverty is one known factor that encourages corruption in Malawi. Civil servants get low salaries and poverty sometimes take loans or start aid programs to support the local economy and the people, however, public officials are often able to unlawfully take the money or goods for private gain.
A good example is that of public officials who unlawfully took money and goods meant for Cyclone Freddy survivors for their gain. Some city assemblies were involved in this theft from the disadvantaged poor Malawians.
On the contrary, politicians get high salaries and allowances with free housing, water, electricity, security, transport, fuel, and duty-free on whatever they want to import from outside Malawi but some are the most corrupt above everyone else in the country. It is disappointing to see how they build business empires within a short period while poor farmers fail to get subsidized fertilizer. The list of examples goes on.
Corruption by the very top officials who are supposed to step in during Cyclone Freddy has regrettably been noted when many items were donated to the survivors but they ended up in the wrong hands. Sadly, many survivors haven’t been properly helped in this regard. Such actions have brought significant pain and hopelessness to the people who are already in pain.
Secondly, speaking up and making a complaint helps to expose corrupt activities and risks that may otherwise remain hidden.
Unfortunately, speaking up and making a complaint is not helping to deal with corruption decisively as some politicians are appointed to take higher positions even after corruption cases are concluded.
The appointment of the new army commander by the President is one such example. Army commander Phiri was recently named in a corruption allegation just recently but Chakwera decides to give them the post of army commander. It is difficult to believe that the President is fighting corruption seriously.
It is sad that instead of keeping the public sector honest, transparent, and accountable the opposite is true. Public servants continue to demonstrate dishonest practices even in full view of everyone. We expect that public sector employees act in the public interest but they don’t care. Mostly, their service is towards their interests and the common people lose everything.
Thirdly, in a nutshell, corruption increases inequality, decreases popular accountability and political responsiveness, and thus produces rising frustration and hardship among Malawians, who are then more likely to accept (or even demand) hard-handed and illiberal tactics.
Fourthly, corruption has increased income inequality and poverty through lower economic growth; biased tax systems favoring some politicians and well-connected; poor targeting of social programs such as the Agricultural Inputs Program (AIP); use of wealth by the well-to-do to lobby government for favorable policies that perpetuate inequality in asset ownership. The recent failed punitive and exorbitant duty on cars on Malawians is such a good example of inequality in asset acquisition while politicians import various goods without paying any duty.
Fifthly, political economy is the integration of political and economic factors in our analysis of modern society. In as much as just about everyone would agree that politics and economics are intricately and irretrievably interwoven—politics affects the economy and the economy affects politics—this approach seems natural.
Finally, Malawian politics today has affected the economy of Malawi so badly that every businessperson, employee, and poor farmer is struggling to survive.
It is very difficult to do almost everything you can think of in Malawi today because the environment is not conducive. Corruption is disappointingly deep-rooted from State House, Capital Hill, Police, MDF, Banks, churches, mosques, and courts, to prisons.
Corruption is deeply rooted everywhere and it will take ages to change this country. We have to start fighting corruption now!