The excitement that preceded and followed the historic fresh presidential election on June 23 last year in the Southern African country of Malawi is vanishing at a supersonic speed. To have fresh election, people had to protest across the country and often times, the demonstrations, led by ‘human rights activist’ who is now the cabinet minister in the new administration, turned violent.
The protests, which started as a reaction to the 2019 election results, slowly gained momentum and proved to be nothing but a conspiracy to dethrone the then ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Yes! DPP was evil and people would not want it in government any time soon. They plundered government resources without mercy and on 23 June people did the needful. A good riddance, it was.
Now Malawi has a new president, in the name of Reverend Lazarus Chakwera. Some might question the rationale of replacing an international legal scholar (Peter Mutharika) with a Reverend, but this is the same Reverend who emerged as leader of the Malawi Congress Party in 2013 without having any previous political experience after heading the Malawi Assemblies of God, one of the largest Christian denominations in the country.
Speaking in a style and accent that had hints of US civil rights leader Martin Luther King during the inauguration ceremony, President Chakwera talked about the dream “that binds us together [which] is for us to enjoy shared prosperity, not just freedom”.
But he then said it was no good just having a dream.
“The time has come for us to go beyond dreaming.
“We all must wake up because this is a time to arise from slumber and make our dream come true.”
Have Malawians gotten what they expected of the current Chakwera regime?
Going by the phrase by French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, “the more things change, the more they remain the same (plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose),” the change of government hasn’t addressed grievances of Malawians but rather cementing the status quo: corruption, nepotism, tribalism and executive arrogance still remain pillars of the ruling political party.
Just six months after Chakwera assumed the office of the President, K6.2 billion has already vanished into thin air. The controlling officers are busy now soliciting signatures from ‘idiots’, masquerading as civil servants to back up their financial reports. These are officers who were sent back to collect the errors in their reports. Yes! The President ordered them to go and clean the reports (mukakoze momwe mukuwoneka kuti ndalama sizinayende bwinomo kuti tisayikane mmavuto).
Still, there a good number of people who believe that President must be given time and that what is happening has no blessings from his office. This kind of thinking is weird and against the wind of progress that has been ignited by the likes of Stanly Onjezani Kenani and Idriss Alli Nasah. The President is the Head of State and if things are happening without his knowledge, then he is sleeping on duty, which is very unfortunate because we pay him handsomely.
Following incessant calls for expenditure reports of the K6.2 billion from Idriss Ali Nassah, which President told the nation it served the intended purpose by giving us allocations, the responsible officer are under panic. We are now hearing reports that the President is inending to constitute a commission of enquiry into the “criminal pillage.”
“I have just gotten off the phone with a senior advisor to the president, who told me that His Excellency is as disgusted and angry at what he has seen, as many of you are. And rightly so. He told me that His Excellency is soon to constitute a Commission of Inquiry into this criminal pillage, to get to the bottom of this COVIDGATE.
“I told him that I didn’t think it was a good idea, because it will be seen as an attempt to dodge and a dive. Our history with Commissions of Inquiry traumatic [sic]. They are a waste of time and money; they are a way of bluffing out of situations by pretending to be doing something when actually nothing is eventually done. Anything refereed to a Commission of Inquiry almost always dies a natural death.
“People died, I told him. People that we know, people that he knows. People that the president knows. This is time to bite ferociously, not to bark endlessly. I doubt he heard me at all because he seemed convinced that this matter can only be resolved by a Commission of Inquiry,” argued Nassah in a facebook post.
On the other hand Malawian born but South Africa based law expert, Professor Danwood Chirwa, thinks that Chakwera is inept and is thriving on blind loyalty and ignorance from Malawians
“Malawians are riding the tide of misplaced outrage once again, which is itself outrageous. Party functionaries, in a bid to divert attention from the real culprit, who is one and at the top, have invaded social media spaces with wild accusations against civil servants as if they’re the ones who approve budgets and direct where money must be spent.
“The reality is that Dr Chakwera has shown time and time again that he lacks the ability to lead Malawi and end corruption. He installed a government that critics called ‘incenstious’, excluded women and included crooks. He later made controversial appointments, including a bloated coterie of advisors and to statutory entities that also excluded women and violated statutory provisions.
“About the pandemic, there’s ample evidence proving that the President is singularly responsible for the failure to contain the virus and for using the pandemic to line up the pockets of his party and patronage networks,” wrote Chirwa on his facebook page.
He added: “Let Malawians not fool themselves. You have a government led by a man who is deeply flawed. He has no leadership skills. He has no vision. He has no ambition. He has no standards. He offers nothing but empty talk. He’s presiding over a criminal enterprise — like his predecessors.”
Another facebook user, Sunduzwayo Jere is of the view that civil service needs an overhaul if Malawi is to deal with corruption once and for all.
“From past President Dr Bakili Muluzi to the current President HE Dr Lazarus Chakwera, ruling parties have changed. The cabinet has changed, the members of parliament have changed but the civil service has not changed.
“It is the first constant in the equation across all democratic governments and that is the bedrock of corruption in Malawi. Dismantle it and change it’s structure, you will achieve the change that our people seek. Tribalism too has led to the pain and agony of many deserving Malawians while the chosen few feast on the loot,” said Jere.
The country’s rights body, Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) has also challenged President Lazarus Chakwera to clear himself on allegations that he is entrenching nepotism, corruption and bribery in his leadership.
CDEDI executive director Sylvester Namiwa said it is clear from the lamentations of a group of some members of the Tonse Alliance lead partner, Malawi Congress Party (MCP), that something is amiss in the Chakwera administration.
Apparently, the grouping, which has been christened Second Liberation of the Malawi Nation (SLMN), is accusing the President of demonstrating nepotistic tendencies after it was made known that Chakwera is employing his relatives and cronies from the Assemblies of God Church where he belongs and has been a pastor for years before joining politics.
The grouping further alleges that the Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC), Zangazanga Chikhos, is playing some underhand tactics in frustrating the Tonse Alliance agenda by recalling and rewarding his friends to take up jobs in the civil service.
Namiwa, through a statement issued on Saturday, February 13, 2021 described the development as disturbing, especially coming at a time Malawians are grappling to come to terms with another revelation that some Controlling Officers are failing to account for MK6.2 million Covid-19 funds.
“The social media is currently awash with issues ranging from the disturbing news about the alleged mismanagement of the K6.2 billion that was meant for the Covid-19 response, to the Tonse Alliance’s loss of direction in terms of its commitment to honour their campaign promises that were contained in their consolidated manifesto.
“As if this was not enough, Malawians of good will may recall CDEDI’s recent petition to President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, which contained, among other things his administration’s growing tendencies of nepotism and his appetite of hiring retired civil servants, leaving in the cold the current crop of experienced and energetic civil servants at the Capital Hill who deserve promotions, thereby creating vacancies for more young people to join the civil service,” read the statement in part.
Namiwa emphasized that by coming out in the open with their true identities, the MCP pressure group agrees with what CDEDI has always stood for, that Malawians were sold a dummy on June 23, 2020 when they voted the Tonse Alliance partners into office, on trust that they would execute their campaign manifesto, which contained a lot of sugar-coated promises.
Prior to every presidential election in Malawi, all candidates exude a smoke of hope. But usually, whoever gets the mandate to control the public pulse on behalf of Malawians immediately becomes intoxicated with power and the trend continues.
The aspirants make too much of the people before election, and, if successful, too much of themselves after it. That is the more reason we welcome any new face in politics with joy and much expectations, as we are a desperate for better leadership, and Malawians just did exactly that with Lazarus Chakwera. We all looked upon him as a saviour.