charlotte wezi Mesikano malonda
Executive Director, Competition and Fair Trading Commission of Malawi

Malawi is a haven for unscrupulous syndicates out to swindle the citizenry. And in broad day light, they mercilessly bleed us like leeches.As if making ends meet is not hard enough, with civil servants getting paid on the 60th – when we eventually do get the peanuts; fraudulent institutions concoct ‘419’ cons that literally skin us to death, in sickness or in good health.

As if his excellency and honorable self-serving politicians aren’t bankrupting us enough; the business community is ruthlessly ripping us off, all the while claiming they are doing us a favour via ‘discounts and bargains’ when they are no different from the pick pockets that loiter around Limbe Bus Depot.

Once upon a time, we had a big brother called the Consumers Association of Malawi (CAMA) and its vocal czar, Monsieur John Kapito. This is no longer the case. CAMA of late, is baffling.

Remember maizegate? While both the Presidential Commission and the Parliamentary Enquiry conclusively found a huge mess in maizegate; CAMA – somehow– issued a preposterous report exonerating a crook sprinting towards his fortieth day! Birds of a feather flocking together? Kaya.

In case you missed it Blues’ Orators, we have a ‘super woman’ in town.   Madame Wezi Charlotte Malonda of the Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) singlehandedly stopped a Medical Aid Society of Malawi (MASM)’s devious scheme in its tracks!

Let me elaborate.   Earlier this year, MASM launched a ‘no shortfall’ campaign, conning us that members will no longer pay the dreaded ‘shortfall’ on services at hospitals.

When this floated my way, I told my better half: “Look hun, there is at least one company on our side.”

Incredulously, she asked: “Which company is that?”   Being someone starved for years of good news to bring home, I savoured the occasion, dropped a teaspoon of sugar in my cup of tea, and stirred that sugar to maximum dissolution before responding:   “MASM.”

After a couple of sips of the tea which could have tasted much better with milk and something in my left hand, I then honestly elaborated what I thought was the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth: that ‘shortfalls’ were history.

I won’t bore you with the misery I suffered when my wife learnt bitterly that MASM’s campaign was just a hoax that I had swallowed hook, line, and sinker. Knowing my wife, I don’t envy whosoever enlightened her that MASM’s was mere puffery, and that she had to pay the shortfall.   I sincerely hope that chap is Ok.

I mean, whose word would a wife believe, that of her dear husband or that of a dubious hospital administrator?   Anyway, she came home fuming, and I have since lost count of the ‘sorry dears’ I have dispensed.

Poor me, I was totally duped, and full of MASM’s praise expounding how such generosity could make Malawi great again.   With the dilapidated state of public hospitals, didn’t you too toast such a gesture, coming as it did in January?

The devil was however in the detail. ‘Terms and Conditions Apply’ – the wording used by corporate fraudsters – is why “few hospitals”, according to MASM’s Chief Executive Officer Sydney Chikoti, are still demanding ‘shortfalls’.

I am not in the mood of debating what constitutes “few hospitals”, but I want to make this clear.   While John Kapito is still licking his wounds from his pointless defense of the indefensible, Madame Malonda has since directed “Masm to immediately cease and desist from further broadcasting or publishing this deceptive advert until otherwise advised in writing by the commission”.

Plus, she has publicly sanctioned Masm’s provision of “false information or suppressing crucial information in the name of terms and conditions apply as grossly deceptive, unfair and unreasonable”.

Caught pants down, MASM’s CEO thinks otherwise.   “CFTC has been on Masm on a number of issues, but we always discuss and you have never seen anything come out in the papers. So, why was this of such grave importance to the extent that immediately they had to react in this way. They are being the judge, jury and everything on their own,”

Blues’ Orators, are your reading what I am reading from Sydney Chikoti’s reaction?   “Madame Malonda, we are guilty as charged!” is what I am reading in Chikoti’s bunkum.

Even after sinking so low, it seems he expected CFTC, like CAMA, to defend MASM or, Madame Malonda to drive down to 22 Lower Scatter Road, drink coffee with him, while he ‘sweet-talked’ her into silence. According to Chikoti, ‘this is how business has been’.

What nonsense!   Anyway, I have no reason to doubt him. And for all I care, he can add that this is how he ‘transacts’ with ministry officials, CAMA and parliamentarians, hence their looking the other way as MASM scams us.

To conclude: “Madame Malonda, keep it up! But please take note, in Malawi the crooks are the majority!”   Check this: on November 1 2015, the Department of Immigration revised passport processing fees and time.   If one urgently needed an ordinary passport, all they need is to pay K58 500. In five days, the document would be in their hands.

This Department did not stop there. If five days is too long, for K68 500, the wait would be cut to two days.   Blues’ Orators, is this your experience at the Immigration Department? Yes, if you are a convicted fugitive fleeing the long arm of the law elsewhere. If you aren’t, once you fall for the ‘419’ and pay, loitering around Immigration Offices becomes your new occupation until palm-oiling gets your application processed.

I could catalogue more rotten apples in our midst, but I will leave that to the capable CFTC.   For far too long, we have been ripped-off via cocktails of disingenuous adverts. If Madame Malonda stays the course, this will end. Congratulations Madame Malonda and your team.  You are a gem!

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