“Five shots couldn’t drop me,
I took it and smiled,
Now I’m back
To set the record straight”
Tupac Amaru Shakur
So the guy the whole nation has been waiting for is back.
Before September 13 the name Paul Mphwiyo was only associated with a happy-go-lucky socialite willing without much prompting to offer rounds of you-know-what to people he hardly knew.
To those who knew him in the so-called ‘world’, Paul Mphwiyo was ‘big man wamkulu’, a man-about-town living life in the fast-lane, ready to flaunt his ever-fat wallet to whoever needed their parched throats whetted.
To those who knew him earlier in college, Paul Mphwiyo was an ambitious young man, ready to exploit to the fullest his connections in the corridors of power.
And then someone – or some people – way-laid him and pumped into his youthful frame three (some say four) bullets as he drove into his picturesque villa on that fateful September night.
Then suddenly Malawi changed. Joyce Banda, the woman fate brought to the pinnacle of power, told all and sundry that she knew whodunit!
She said: It’s my crusade against corruption, stupid!
Never mind that Abiti later unconvincingly ate her own words. The President was unequivocal when, while attending some Muslim women function somewhere in Lunzu soon after the unprecedented shooting of Mphwiyo, she said she knew the people who hit the 37-year-old technocrat. She said they wanted to frustrate her campaign against corruption in government.
How, only the President knows for Paul Mphwiyo, for the record, was only Budget Director in the Ministry of Finance. He was not the Controlling Officer, the gate-keeper of how finances are used in the ministry. In the unique case of the Ministry of Finance, the role of gate-keeper rests with the Secretary to the Treasury.
But then who can second-guess the President?
Now Mphwiyo’s shooting could have been a routine robbery. Area 43 is an affluent area. Thugs would naturally want to have a go at what is hidden behind those barricaded gates.
But President Banda said this was not a routine shooting. Who can second-guess her? She certainly was not day-dreaming. She knew what she was talking about.
Events that followed the shooting attested to this. Mphwiyo, who mysteriously survived being hit not once, not twice, but three times (some say four times!), was accorded the best care our depleted coffers could afford – a medvac to the best facility in the region and 24-hour state security to boot.
Mphwiyo’s shooting unravelled perhaps Malawi’s worst financial scandal since Independence half a century ago. Suddenly car boots or underneath beds became the choice way to store real cash, hard cash. High street banks, where commissions and interests are levied and questions are asked, were off limits.
So in the wake of the Mphwiyo shooting a lot of things have happened. The President sacked her entire cabinet. Two key ministers were subsequently fired, one of them ending up being arrested in connection with the shooting.
Allow me to be cynical and ask this question: was Mphwiyo better dead than alive?
If Mphwiyo had died he surely would have been given a state funeral owing to what President Banda said in the wake of his shooting. Nobody could have questioned Her Excellency’s eulogy that one of her boys was bumped off for her anti-corruption crusade.
But, for some reason, three – or is it four? – bullets were not enough for Mphwiyo. Now the guy is alive to tell his story.
So is he the hero we desperately seek in the infamous cashgate? Or was he safer dead than alive?
The September 13 shooting has unravelled a cashgate that has threatened to unmake all the gains President Banda has made since taking Malawi from the precipice Bingu wa Mutharika took us to. All the Western donor nations and agencies, who were falling over themselves to prop her government, have now started asking the hard questions.
Indeed all our important development partners have voted with their feet. How can we turn full circle in so short a time?
So Paul Mphwiyo holds the keys to the answers to those questions. Was anyone trying to stop him from something on that warm September day?
Several versions of his shooting point to the fact that Mphwiyo must have seen his attackers and even exchanged words with them. There is high likelihood that he knows them.
So who shot you, young man? You hold the fate of this nation in your hands. God preserved you for a reason, that reason should be for the good of not only you and your friends and family but the entire 15 million of us.
Do the needful for better or for worse.