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Talking Blues: ACB—from toothless bull dog to a scarecrow that can’t scare a crow

Kondowe: ACB Chief
Kondowe: ACB Chief

Revelations that politically induced internal disagreement at the Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB) is stalling the arrest of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) national organising secretary Richard Makondi and business person Mohammad Kassam of Globe Electronics on Cashgate-related cases, is the last piece of evidence that concludes the case that the will to fight corruption no longer exists in the graft busting body.

Monitoring the goings on at the ACB, it is clear that capacity, in terms of professionals who can conduct credible investigations—thanks to the various investments by donors — exists.

Until the puzzling developments in the K1.7 billion case I talked about last week, capacity to prosecute was also evident. But let’s face it, this is no longer the case.

What is evident is lack of leadership at the top and deficiency of the requisite iron-will to take on the corrupt without fear or favour.

This leadership deficiency, sad to say, is not something donors can help us with.And as stated by the German Ambassador the other day, donors are now tired of baby-sitting us.

At fifty plus years old, the least we can do to move forward is to have leadership and professionalism in the ACB, by Malawians who love Malawi more than they love their political puppet masters.

And until the ACB is led with such, we should forget about developing because, reforms or no reforms, no country developed by celebrating corruption nor by finding excuses to shield the corrupt.

To put it more succinctly, no country can thrive if the corrupt-busting institution becomes the hide-out of the corrupt.

Back to the issue at hand, ACB investigated

Makondi—a former Toyota Malawi national sales manager—and Kassam alongside former Malawi Defence Force (MDF) General Henry Odillo, Lieutenant General Clement Kafuwa and former budget director Paul Mphwiyo on their involvement in a deal in which the Army bought about 35 vehicles from Toyota Malawi worth K895 million.

The investigation revealed that the vehicles were overvalued and were contrary to the specifications agreed in the contract.

Kassam apparently received part of an MDF down payment to Toyota Malawi for equipment that was supposed to be fit into the vehicles; but his firm, Globe Electronics, did not deliver the gadgets.

This is typical of the cashgate syndrome for which some are now serving various sentences; while Kassam is up and about, a free man in town.

After concluding the investigations, the ACB, on March 21 2016, obtained the warrants of arrest for Makondi and Kassam; warrants which have caused havoc in the ACB rank and file.

According to the warrants of arrest, Makondi and Kassam ought to answer 10 counts each bordering on money laundering, improper payment of public money and conspiracy to use public offices—in this case at Malawi Defence Forces (MDF).

At ACB, one camp wants the warrants executed while another camp is giving varying reasons (read = looking for lame excuses) not to execute the arrests arguing, among other things, that the warrants were wrongly obtained, whatever that means. A total load if you ask me.

Procedure-wise, when a docket is opened, it goes to prosecutions where a legal opinion is obtained and the prosecutor writes management who approves that prosecution process should commence. Investigators are then told to proceed. The warrants are then obtained from court by the prosecutor.

According to an ACB insider, all these steps were followed.

The problem, it can be surmised, lies at the apex of the ACB. Because, Section 15 of the Corrupt Practices Act directs the ACB “director, deputy director or any officer of the bureau, of such category and such senior rank as the director may determine, if authorised by warrant issued by a magistrate, may arrest any person if he reasonably suspects that the person has committed or is about to commit an offence under this Act.”

This implies that: unless the said officers who obtained the warrant are, for some unstated reason excluded from carrying the duties spelled out by Section 15; the only reason why the arrests are stalling are in the unwritten rules and interference of dark forces from above.

Reading between the lines, it appears ACB investigators went after people they were not—for one reason or another— supposed to touch. People who, despite all these idiotic claims of adherence to the rule of law, are in fact above the law.

To be specific, with Makondi being a DPP functionary, it is logical to conclude that he is untouchable due to his proximity with the powers that be.

The interesting twist to this case is that also involved are people that the current regime, which is in all likelihood protecting Makondi, has an axe to grind with: namely former MDF Gener a l Henry Odillo, the man acclaimed to have foiled Mid Night six’s botched coup of 2012.

It is therefore interesting how the ACB hopes to cherrypick amongst these suspects, who to prosecute and who to shield, and more importantly how the ACB expects the judiciary to dispense justice to Odillo, while his accomplices continue to wine and dine with their political masters.

And finally, the ACB expects the general public to still hold a modicum of respect for it after this blatant two-faced hypocrisy.

In other words, with this stinking political bias, ACB has now sunk to the depths of the infamous KGB of the old Soviet Union or the Nazi’s Gestapo.

While this analogy may seem to be too hard on the ACB, I find no other way of describing the ACB given the duplicity which it has adopted as its trademark.

And when the ACB derelicts its constitutional duty of fighting corruption, as a society and as a people, we ought to join hands with those shouting for independence of the Bureau, or else scrapping it altogether.

If we are happy to sit and watch, then woe unto our children and their children because believe you me, they will grow up believing that corruption is the short cut to everything.

Corruption, mind you, is worse than prostitution because while prostitution endangers the morals of an individual, the corruption invariably endangers the morals of the entire country. While prostitution puts the prostitute at risk, corruption places the innocent at a huge disadvantage.

This is why the medicine chests are empty in our hospitals, why teachers are paid their peanuts late, why roads and medical equipment are lying in disrepair, why the social services have crumbled and why the tax bill keeps going up, without corresponding increases in service delivery.

It is why the Malawi passport is no longer respected as it once was, it is why criminals arrested today come out tomorrow to torture us again, it is why our servants—who should be serving us—look only after themselves, while the rest of us are told to be patriotic, pay taxes and tighten belts as the ruling class wallows in stinking riches from our resources.

And hence, we have legitimate grounds to ask the Director of ACB and his deputy where their loyalty lies.

Since the scapegoat, rightly or wrongly, will be lack of independence; it is high time ladies and gentlemen, we all joined hands to emancipate the ACB from the clutches of partisan appointments.

Given that investigative capacity does exist at the ACB, political interference is the single most influential factor that has caused the fall of the ACB from a potential corruption buster to a toothless bull dog and further degraded the ACB from a toothless bull dog to a tattered scare crow incapable of scaring a crow.

We can and must reverse this. How and why?

Emperor Haile Sellasie I already dealt with the why, saying: “Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”

Aware of this, patriotic Malawians, if any exists, ought to join hands and demand that the bill rejected on March 17, 2016 be re-tabled and debated again, followed by a secret parliamentary vote.

The beauty of this all is that if the bill is shot down again, we will know who the unrepentant legislators are, and we will exact our revenge in May 2019.

The future, our future, the future of our children and their children, is in our hands. After all has been said and written, what will hurt our children the most is not the inaction of ACB nor the deeds of the corrupt cartel running down our Malawi, but our inability to challenge and alter the status quo for posterity.

The Maravi Post has over one billion views since its inception in December of 2009. Viewed in over 100 countries Follow US: Twitter @maravipost Facebook Page : maravipost Instagram: maravipost    
Mapwiya Muulupale
Mapwiya Muulupale
Talking Blues– Weekly serious Analysis of Malawi Events. Weekly Sunday Column by Mapwiya Muulupale: Malawi’s Famous Political provocateur

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