Lazarus Chakwera

By Mapwiya Muulupale

“But it also means admitting that corruption is so deep in our country that many of us may have benefitted from its proceeds without even knowing it,” President Lazarus Chakwera, 24 January 2022.

Warren Bennis and Robert J. Thomas, in their September 2002 Harvard Business Review article titled “Crucibles of Leadership,” define a crucible as a transformative experience through which an individual comes to a new or an altered sense of identity.

Among the most common types of crucibles, the authors highlight the experience of prejudice or bigotry.

“Being a victim of prejudice,” they note, “is particularly traumatic because it forces an individual to confront a distorted picture of him or herself, and it often unleashes profound feelings of anger, bewilderment, and even withdrawal.”

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel because, despite the trauma, a lived experience of bigotry can be illuminating. By experiencing bias, we understand who we are, our role, and where we fit in the grand scheme of things.

For Ms. Martha Chizuma, our Joan of Arc in the fight against impunity and grand corruption, this dark hour happened in the recent past.

Talking to a confidante turned Judas Iscariot, she ill-advisedly emptied her heart on the frustrations she is experiencing in her stated goal of making the corrupt uncomfortable.

We discussed this at length last week and hence I will not belabor her success. Suffice to say, developments continue to prove just how successful she has been this far.

People are quaking in their boots. Thieves are spending sleepless nights. They are and will not stop throwing spanners to frustrate her.

Indeed if Ms. Chizuma had any illusions that this fight would be simple, she no longer needs reminding that victory must perforce come after bloody and often dirty wars fought with little if any rules.

This is very unfair, of course. Hence the saying: all is fair in love and war.

Come to think of it, the unfairness in this war is worse. Because even when the enemy is not playing by the rules, Ms. Chizuma must always play the book.

Firstly, she must beg permission ‘to shoot’ before she opens fire when the other side is already firing at will. At her.

While obtaining consent in the spirit of checks and balances sounds reasonable, those tasked with granting her permission seem to be making the rules as they go.

Consider this: as per the news report  “DPP denies Anti-Corruption Bureau consent” in The Daily Times of 27 January 2022, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Steven Kayuni has refused to grant the ACB consent to prosecute businessperson Zuneth Sattar’s agent Kumar Sreedharan, also known as Ashok Nair, and four others on some technicality revolving around “supporting documents.”

From where I am standing, it looks like the DPP wants ACB to first prosecute the whole case to him, and at his whim, it may or may not proceed to Court.

As I have said above, checks like these could be value-adding. But the problem is that the DPP’s office itself has not been convincing in prosecutorial matters.

The case of Bushiri’s extradition, for example, looked easy. Where are we with that one?

Chisale’s certificates case looked like a walk in the park. How far have we gone with that walk?

Any sensible man looking at the DPP’s in-tray would expect that office to focus on its plate rather than bite off more than it can chew from other peoples’ plates.

This is the least of Ms. Chizuma’s headaches.

While playing to the whims of the likes of the DPP, she must pretend she is getting adequate funding. Even when President Lazarus Chakwera’s Tonse Government, borrowing a leaf from former President Peter Mutharika’s modus operandi (Funding, political will crippled our operations – ACB Chief, The Daily Times, 8 August 2020).

• trimmed ACB’s funding in the current fiscal year by 14% (“ACB funding down 14%”, The Nation Online, 4 June 2021) and

• has been disbursing that funding so erratically that ACB officers have had to use personal resources for official operations (“Funding woes cripple ACB”, The Nation Online, 18 January 2022).

Not lost on curious minds is that despite the trimmed budget and erratic funding, President Chakwera claims to “have fought many forces to ensure that the Bureau is fully funded and its Chief well protected.”

This begs two questions:

• what would have become of the ACB if the President – who wants us to believe “has been fighting many forces” – was not on its side?

• Other than the laptop and phone stolen at Ms. Chizuma’s residence while under the watchful eyes of the Malawi Police Services, what asset of value would Ms. Chizuma still have if the President – who wants us to believe “has been fighting many forces” – was not on her side?

All these, however, are beside the point.

Monday’s presidential lynching of Ms. Chizuma is the most transformative experience for Ms. Chizuma to date.

If she thought she knew the President, on Monday 24 January 2022, starting from the inquisition to that 08:00pm speech, she discovered that she knew nothing yet.

If she thought she knew herself, by the time she went to bed on Monday night, she knew she would wake up a different person, a transformed Martha Chizuma who had just survived her crucible and emerged even stronger. More determined to fear only God and God alone.

Forget the trimmed budget, the erratic funding, the dubious security, and the uncooperative peers. These, at best, discomfit the body, and after a while, the hurt passes.

Bigotry, however, is another cup of coffee.

Try this for size:

“I would like to state why I appointed her to head the ACB in the first place… I appointed her because I considered her to be a person of great courage, the kind of courage needed to take on dangerous cartels of corruption that have milked our country dry for decades …because I considered her to be a person of great integrity, the kind of integrity needed to resist every inducement that would be thrown her way to compromise her”… etc.

Look here, these are the very reasons why millions of Malawians voted for President Chakwera. Today, twenty or so months on, these qualities and the action they entail are nowhere to be seen.

Watching the lynching, I marveled that it seemed lost on the President that what he saw in Ms. Chizuma and what voters thought they were seeing in him are identical attributes and that the only difference is that save for that unfortunate phone call, while Ms. Chizuma is delivering, he is not.

As for the opening quote, i.e., “benefitting from corruption proceeds without even knowing,”; as a confession, it is okay. Like the admission of guilt, it is, we hear the president saying:

“I am as guilty as charged!”

But as defense, it is what Italians say, “hiding oneself behind one’s finger,” or in Chichewa, kalulu kubisala pachitsamba and anyone offering that pathetic excuse to justify accepting proceeds of corruption lacks the moral high ground from which to try and humiliate Ms. Chizuma.

Ignore the hypocrisy and go on with the fight, Madam. All honest to God Malawians are 100% behind you.

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