Boarding school was tough. We had three meals a day. Terrible meals. Breakfast mostly consisted of porridge without enough sugar. Dinner would sometimes be nsima with vegetables only, mainly tanaposi without tomato or onions. Just over cooked vegetables with some salt.
But it was not all doom and groom. There were days we had our own sugar, ziwamba, tomato sauce, and mango pickles. We also brought special cooking oil mixed with fried onions. The special oil, tomato sauce and mango pickles was used to add flavor to the awful relish.
The source for these things was the money we got from our parents at the beginning of the term. Unfortunately, most of these condiments were depleted within the first three weeks after school opening. After that it was back to the dreadful relish. Some lucky ones would have parental visits and get replenishment in the middle of the term. Girls used to have many such visits, especially uncles, some real, some made up.
In university there was another source of money. It was a student allowance we called sacco. It was supposed to be a book and stationery allowance. Sacco payday was an exciting day. Every one on campus had money. Some bought latest pair of jeans. Some went to the salon for hairstyle changes. Some bought fanta orange beverage as well as big buns called biniladeni and enjoyed eating and drinking while watching TV in the students’ common room. Some got drunk and slept at famous rest-houses in town with our female friends who ply their trade at night. I was definitely not one of them. But I will ask my friends. Just in case.
In both secondary school and university, we had sources of money we could point at. Our parents or the stationary allowance. There was no miracle money. Neither was there suspicious and unexplained money. Suspicious and unexplained wealth is what is common theses days in Malawi, especially among senior civil servants and ruling party politicians.
Soon after elections in 2014, mere presidential advisers with meager salaries suddenly became billionaires complete with new fleets of cars and mansions. Step sons to the president and their mother suddenly found millions of money and are now building flats they could not dream of just four years ago.
How much do they receive as salaries to get rich so quickly? What magical business do they do? The truth is their salaries or the businesses they claim to do can not support their current lifestyle. The few thousands that they receive can not buy the cars they are driving or build the mansions they are building. Some do not even have a salary or a business that can produce such wealth.
When some of us ask how people, who could not be classified as rich just before their party won elections, became instant multimillionaires, we are brushed off as jealousy and lazy people who don’t wish other people well. Yet it is obvious that these people have through devious and corrupt means amassed so much wealth that many non-questioning Malawians believe they are genuinely successful.
With millions of easy tax payers’ money in their pocket, these sudden rich people have created a string of followers who are always ready to defend them at any time. Say anything contrary to how their masters say they found their wealth, you will be attacked by these rabid blind followers.
Most of these instantaneous rich characters hide behind some businesses which they say is the source of their wealth. Surprisingly all those that use this defence had no such ‘good businesses’ before their party won elections. What kind of business waits for you to have access and control of government treasury in order to instantly become a billionaire? The truth is that honest business take a long time for one to amass the kind of wealth these dodgy characters are flashing around.
In the private sector, there is a way to check such unexplained and suspicious wealth. Lifestyle audits. A lifestyle audit is the term commonly used by forensic auditors and management in companies to describe the tests that are performed to determine if the lifestyle of an employee is commensurate with that person’s known income stream. Lifestyle audits are a critical management tool to identify fraud.
What forensic auditors look out for is an excessive lifestyle, for example, properties or motor vehicles where the monthly repayment exceeds what would be reasonably affordable to the employee concerned. Often the properties are bond free, which begs the question as to how the capital was raised for the acquisition.
Some countries have followed this private sector tool to prevent corruption in the public sector. In Kenya, it is reported that lifestyle audits for all civil servants is being carried out. In South Africa, new President Cyril Ramaphosa also announced similar measures early this year. There is always a source for wealth and honest business people should not be afraid of lifestyle audits. In Malawi these instant millionaires are protected by the ruling party and can’t facilitate lifestyle audits for themselves. The immediate ‘audit’ is to vote them out of government and bring in credible people who have promised to fight corruption without fear or favor.
Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of the Publisher or the Editor of Maravi Post