February 21, 2012The malicious arrest of Ralph Kasambara might be momentarily over, but it has revealed one major preoccupation of the DPP governmentÃ¢â‚¬â€its pathological desire to stifle dissent and to clamp down hard on its harshest critics.
The energy President Bingu wa Mutharika and his regime are expending in turning Malawi into an extension of Animal Farm could have been channelled towards saving our people from excruciating poverty and making our lives a little better. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think Malawians voted him into office so that he could use the instruments of State to fight us.
That is so wrong. Kasambara spent over a week in jail despite court orders of bail. He was guarded by over 30 police officers as if he were some hardcore criminal. If you visited Mwaiwathu Hospital, Zomba or Chichiri prisons during the week he was there, you would think hell had broken loose and a dangerous criminal mind was on the prowl somewhere nearby.
His was an incarceration that had the hallmarks of a planned plot. It had nothing to do with assault or the fancy stuff about occasioning bodily harm, whatever that means. It was meant to be a punishment for his dissenting views and for stating publicly that for violating the Constitution repeatedly, Mutharika needs to be impeached.
The conspiracy was to take advantage of the strike by junior staff in the Judiciary to make him rot in prison. His crime was none other than the fact that he spoke against the deep erosion of rule of law and constitutionality.
And for a government bent on perpetuating it, the choice was to find a way to inflict some form of punishment on Kasambara. Demonising him together with other government critics on MBC was not enough but to find some form of extra judicial punishment.
No wonder his release on the so-called police bail when court bail was already in place was announced in Parliament by Justice Minister Ephraim Chiume.
Sadly, all this machination and plotting by government is drawing its attention away from the ballÃ¢â‚¬â€solving problems that Malawians are sailing through everyday as prices of essential goods and services keep skyrocketing at a supersonic speed.
But Malawians did not give DPP a parliamentary majority for the party to hound them with. Malawians want DPP to simply rule well within the agreed terms of reference contained in a document called the Constitution. Malawians want DPP to solve their problems and not lose track by engaging in unnecessary battles with civil society, donors and international bodies that have been helping Malawi since independence.
Sometimes I am forced to believe that the DPP government enjoys quarrelling with everybody and they like it when the country is in never-ending crises.
After fighting its own people, now it has turned to IMF once again. Why should Mutharika spend sleepless nights quarrelling with IMF when it is the same government that invited its technical mission in December to come over and assess our economic problems with a view of getting back on track with an assistance programme?
An IMF team came and made many recommendations, including one to devalue the kwacha in order to solve the forex crisis. The President told Malawians that he wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t adopt the recommendation but instead he needs three years to try his own home-grown policies to solve the forex crunch.
But instead of getting on with it, he is busy bad-mouthing IMF to chiefs and the youth as if the Bretton Woods institution were going to respond in kind. Chiefs who have no clue about devaluation are being hurled on TV to bad-mouth IMF and thereby displaying ignorance in full view of the nation and the outside world.
To the outside world, this impresses no one. All it says is that we are a nation of jokers who seem not to know what to do. If the President wanted further debate on IMF, are chiefs the right people to engage in this debate?
This does not mean I have no respect for chiefs. In fact, my late father was a chief. My uncle is also currently one and if I wanted it, I would actually become one after him as I am his direct living nephew.
But let us face facts, chiefs play a different role in society and it is not what this government is making them play in exchange for privilege and promise of a raise in their honorarium.
As if this was not enough, Bingu dispatched his ministers last weekend for rallies throughout the country and the main agenda was trashing IMF proposals on devaluation. But IMF will not respond. If government does not want its recommendation, the body will not come here to shove it down its throat. In fact, it has no time for that.
On a different note, I do not envy Finance Minister Ken Lipenga. His is a thankless job. Imagine, as the President, other ministers and chiefs are busy castigating IMF, Lipenga on the other hand, is telling Parliament that, in fact, the institutionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mission will be here in March precisely to discuss assistance programme. Where has BinguÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s three year home-grown economic policy suddenly gone? I repeat, this country has gone to the dogs and we are a bunch of jokers.
And while we are at it, fighting and engineering arrests for each other, others have no time for the nonsense but are marshalling national energies for development. Their police forces are busy arresting real criminals such as robbers, rapists and killers and have no time to waste guarding someone who should not be guarded in the first place.
But Malawians will simply demand that their problems be solved by hook or crook. If not then 2014 is coming when chickens will come home to roost. On the basis of what is happening now, this government will have to face an angry and hungry electorate come 2014. But thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not all. Posterity will judge Bingu harshly for his toxic leadership.
ACB has damaged its credibility
ACB has been a respectable body that has served Malawians well over the years by bringing to book those that want to get rich by dipping their hands into government coffers.
But ACB has now got its nose dirty by getting involved into the arrest of Kasambara when it should have stayed away from the whole sordid affair. If ACB was serious that it wanted to check how KasambaraÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lawyers got bail during a Judiciary strike, then it should have also probed how the State got a search warrant for KasambaraÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s office and house during the same strike.
I am afraid this action by ACB lends some credence to the argument by those who say the bureau is used by government to prosecute and persecute those who do not agree with its policies.
But Malawians who pay taxes that run ACB expect it to be a non-partisan body whose duty is to bring to book those that steal their money and not engage in partisan prosecution of the perceived enemies of the ruling party.