For many years, Malawi has been a country where politicians play blame shifting games and neglecting responsibility when things are messed up. Kamuzu blamed colonial masters for dehumanising Africans. Bakili Muluzi blamed Dr Kamuzu Banda for being a dictator, ruling the country with an iron fist. Prof. Bingu wa Mutharika blamed Bakili Muluzi for corruption. Joyce Banda is blaming the dead for messing up economy by waging war with the donors and MK61 billion believed by many that he stole from public coffers.
Bakili Muluzi arrested the old man, Bingu arrested Bakili, unfortunately Bingu died with cardiac arrest (May his soul rest in peace), but believe me if he was alive and his brother loses election next year, he was going to be arrested also. After stepping out of office, Joyce Banda may also be arrested on grounds her successor will find fit and believe me, with this feminist world, her arrest will draw many objurgations on grounds that the country is abusing her based on gender. In all these arrests tax payers’ money is used but no tactical upshots are coming out of such arrests. Unfortunate, after years of haunting, the citizens are gaining nothing but paying more.
Surely every citizen ought to love and defend his/her country. I am, like others, a patriotic Malawian but at times I get ashamed with what is happening in my beloved country and I happen to stammer on what good to speak about it since in development we are so far behind, only peace is realised. A song is sung, “I love Malawi, you love Malawi, we love Malawi, the warm heart of Africa” and yet Malawi’s cities are like townships even just in other African countries because of lack of good and visionary leadership, which should to some extent is attributed to the laws of the land.
This year’s corruption cases are the most shocking ones Malawi has ever experienced. Bingu’s DPP’s corruption was bad. Bakili Muluzi’s UDF’s corruption was worse. Bakili is believed to have pocketed MK1.7 billion. Bingu is believed to have pocketed billions of public funds also. BUT Joyce’s PP corruption is the worst where if many most top civil servants are caught with millions and billions, one wonders how much has been pipelined out by fat cats? This is no longer corruption but LOOTING. Some social medias are already speculating that JB is MK54 billion wealthy.
The rat from the roof has exposed the one in the dust bin; such is the case of the shooting of the budget director, Mr. Paul Mphwiyo. There are more revelations and arrests but many still believe that, the big fishes are under cover. It should also be noted that arresting a culprit is one thing, convicting him/her is another. Many corruption cases have been followed before but many of them end up being discontinued by the succeeding government and to our dismay, same people are rehired and entrusted with public purse, what are we doing. Sometimes I wonder if they are not rehired to tip the incumbents how to siphon tax payers’ money.
The consequences of corrupt in developing nations are obvious; hunger, pathetic business environment, poor tourism attraction, unemployment, increasing insecurity, low education quality, repelling investors, poor infrastructures and public services leading to more deaths in hospitals as a result of drug scarcity and loss of aid. Rumours are around that some donor partners are contemplating to withdraw their aids due to poor leadership in the country and if positive change is not guaranteed, these rumours will soon come to reality. After all is said though not yet done, the billion dollar question is “what should be done next”? To some extent the constitution has a stake in these issues.
Since 1994, our constitution has been amended for not less than five times already, others say more than ten times. I believe the constitution was done in a hurry and justifiable since the country was rushing for democracy. Now that Malawi has grown in democracy, let us have the second look on it.
Other countries which saw that their constitution brought more problems in political circle than it solved revised it. With such examples as Kenya which revised it in 2010, Zimbabwe just adopted the new one; Zambia is almost adopting the new constitution so that it goes with current issues and rectifying the loopholes. Why can’t we learn from them and revise ours to minimise venomousness in public offices and protect our leaders’ integrity and economy. We will say a lot of things against Kamuzu Banda, Bakili Muluzi, Bingu wa Mutharika and soon Joyce Banda but the abuse of office and public funds by top government officials will not end until the constitution is revised to protect both them and tax payers’ money.
While short term solutions to the recent corruption revelations are being laid, the following are my suggested long term solutions:
- To change Chapter VIII. 83. 4 so that, after the president is dead, incapacitated or resign, the vice president should hold office in that capacity for only a period of three to six months, there after fresh election. Of course this does not solve the problem of corruption and looting but to allow citizens to re-authenticate one’s presidency, thus entrusting presidency to the one they can trust so that we do away with this monarchic way of filling presidential vacancy. Other countries are doing it, we can also do likewise.
- Let a special independent body regulate how the president and first lady introduces foundations and how funds are earned and spent or let the seating president and first lady not run any foundation until s/he retires so that there is no loophole for the president to abuse donations and funds in the name of foundation.
- Let the constitution stipulate how many internal and external trips of government business the president and first lady/gentleman should honour to avoid over-allowances at the expense of tax payers.
- As others have suggested, independent auditor general office should not be appointed one but advertised and filled upon merit following successful public vetting process. In this way s/he will pay allegiance to the public and not the president.
- Ministers not to be politicians or appointed by the president but hired on contract upon merit so that they concentrate on quality service delivery other than wasting time in politics and crowing before the president. They too should be vetted publically.
- Let the constitution stipulate the number of ministries and cabinet ministers with gender and regional sensitivity to avoid cabinet blotting which is done to appease party sympathisers leading to wasting public funds.
- Let corruption cases have maximum deadlines in court, so that tax payers’ money does not get overused by following one case for years.
- Let the term for MPs be 2 five year term just as we do with the president so that we don’t recycle politicians who are not even fruitful but rather disastrous to the nation’s progress.
- Let the bills pass in the national assembly with votes not less than half the number of members from the “opposition side” present in the house to avoid passing bills on the advantage of the government side having more members in the house. This will help reduce the abuse of power and office by the government officials. This will also ensure that all electorates are represented in decision making and at the same time bringing real checks and balances on government. Bingu did very well in his first five years of office because the opposition MPs were the majority in the house and he wanted to prove the opposition wrong but after winning with landslide in 2009, he disregarded the wish of the public with such people like Dr. Hertherwick Ntaba saying, “it is our time now that we are the majority, let the opposition not cry foul”. This was because the government had many MPs aiding to passing bills which were not even in favour of the public.
- Let the heard of the graft body and chief justice’s positions not to be the appointed ones so that they pay allegiance to the citizens other than the president. The positions be advertised and the office holders to be hired upon merit and vetted publically.
- Audit to be done twice or thrice in a year and the results should be made known to the public. In this case, every government ministry should be accountable to what they were expected to achieve with the money entrusted to them. Thus, they should tell the public why they failed to accomplish some projects publically and those who fail to account for any penny to be followed by an axe. For this to be effective, the special commission should be set to inspect the said completed projects/assignments on the ground not just on the papers.
- Declaration of assets by top public servants (the president inclusive) to be annually for accountability purposes to get rid of any suspected looting.
Remember, prevention is better and cheaper than cure which is expensive. Thank you my fellow Malawians for reading this article and I beg you to pass this information to anyone responsible close to you. May God bless Malawi!