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Sundays with Cedrick: Looking in The Mirror

Column By Cedrick Ngalande, PhD

With Cedrick Ngalande, PhD

In Malawi, accusations of corruption and nepotism are sometimes thrown around needlessly …

Several years ago, an anonymous letter supposedly by some Press Corporation employees was released to the media alleging that the then chief executive of the corporation, Dr Matthews Chikaonda, despised people from one region. The letter accused Dr Chikaonda of personally preventing people from one region from getting company scholarships to study abroad.

A few months ago, when a newly reconstituted primary school examinations results were released, Phalombe District led the pack on the number of selected students. Immediately, there was a big outcry that somehow nepotism or tribalism must have been involved. Names of Malawi National Examination Board (MANEB) officials who came from ‘wrong’ places were plastered all over the social media. The ombudsman’s office even promised to investigate the results. Why would anybody want to investigate the results? Because some districts did not perform well, this time. Keep in mind that every year there are districts that do not perform well, and they generally do not demand an investigation.

Yesterday, as the ombudsman gave a detailed report on MACRA, one could not help but notice the many silly complains that were lodged because the company hired Mr. X who comes from Y District and is a supposedly sympathizer of Party Z. It is almost a form of McCarthyism. Is there a specific place where one is supposed to come from in order to be considered hired ‘correctly’ by a parastatal? Is there a ‘correct’ party one must belong to in order to be fairly hired for jobs in Malawi?  Should an institution be investigated simply because quite a few of its employees come from a particular region or district? Does that principle also apply to the Supreme Court of Malawi, and other notable places?

The ombudsman should be commended for throwing out most of those allegations.  However, the fact that these allegations are made, at all, is a manifestation of something very wrong in our society. I have pointed out elsewhere that tribalism is Malawi’s original sin.  This vice is so entrenched in us that we always look at everything through the prism of tribe. This breeds a lot of mistrust and resentment in the country. Sometimes our overzealousness to fight corruption and nepotism can in itself be a manifestation, in ourselves, of the vices we are trying to fight. 

Remember Dr Chikaonda, the former Press Corporation chief executive, who was accused of tribalistic tendencies for allegedly barring people from one region from getting company scholarships? He responded to the media accusations with his own statement. What he disclosed in his statement was very surprising. Apparently, ever since he held that office, he would see scholarships given almost exclusively to employees from one region with no specific metric in place. That one particular year, he intervened and made sure that of the 12 people who went for overseas postgraduate studies, 3 of them came from the other two regions that were usually left out.  The other usual region still had 9! Ironically, it is this intervention that prompted the famous anonymous letter.

Of course, it is important to point out that these wild allegations are often made by a small but vocal group of people that does not really represent any specific region or tribe. They, however, see personal benefit in fostering tribal divisions.

Malawi is a small country with many tribes. We must always work on unity for the good of the country. In order to effectively root out corruption, we must all work together.  Perhaps, this is the reason the framers of the constitution thought it wise to give to parliament powers of confirming the Director of the Anticorruption Bureau (ACB).  The framers knew that since parliament is a political body, the only way to confirm an ACB director would be through a lot of negotiations and compromise. An ACB boss cannot afford to be seen as a vigilante against one group of people or the other. The fight against corruption will never succeed until all people have complete confidence in those who are leading it.

Only then will we all able to root out corruption and nepotism in all spheres of government – parastatals, civil service and yes, even perhaps at the Supreme Court!

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Cedrick Ngalande
Cedrick Ngalande
I am a strategic engineering executive with the technical breadth necessary to oversee all functions within the engineering team, with proven success in mentoring highly talented and successful engineers who aspire to perform with accountability for achieving their personal best while also meeting or exceeding company goals. I have always represented the company to the highest standards regarding engineering strategy, performance and outlook. My strong background in aerospace engineering, computer programming, stochastic processes and engineering probability is a result of my expertise in space environments with specialties in direct simulations Monte Carlo (DSMC) and computational fluid dynamics (CFD), predictive science, investment and financial engineering. As an effective leader, I also bring a business focus in areas including corporate strategy, project analytics, materials planning, production and procurement. This business acumen is combined with my demonstrated technical tactical leadership. My key strengths include: - Engineering Management - Leadership / Mentor / Team Development - Quantitative / Qualitative Methods - Financial Engineering - DSMC / CFD - Numeric Modeling - Investment Analysis - SAP /ERP

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