Two weeks ago, two security agencies—the Malawi Prison Service and Malawi Police Service—both answering to the same minister and commander in chief, traded gun shots in Mzuzu, in a move that displayed the full cancer of indiscipline afflicting our government.
To date, nothing has happened, no heads have rolled. No one has been held accountable. Just promotion for every prison warder under employment of government today as the Peter Mutharika administration blinked, for the umpteenth time.
A week later—weeks after lying to the nation that they, ministers, were not pocketing fat allowances for conducting coronavirus activities, the brazenness of that lie was categorically unmasked by the media. Almost the whole Cabinet of Malawi is currently criss-crossing the country, doing so-called monitoring of our state of preparedness.
Then a video emerged of two Cabinet ministers, whispering, conniving to cheat the people of Malawi that they are actually not getting rich out of the pandemic. “Let’s just call it fuel allocation,” suggested one Mark Bottoman. “It’s always classified as such,” countered Jappie Mhango.
Bottoman was not done: “No, they have clearly labelled these as allowances…so the suggestion ought to be…”
Or so went the conversation.
For the optics, it looks bad. The two ministers’ body language depicts them like two thieves conniving to share a bounty.
But then, we know why, the two ministers were shell-shocked with the public’s discovery of their allowances. For one, they had endlessly claimed that they were not pocketing these allowances.
The main reason they had denied pocketing these allowances—and as explained ably by Bottoman in a previous television interview that has now gone viral in the aftermath of the leaked footage of the conspiring ministers—is that the ministers are already privileged to so many allowances to allow them do their job too.
The second reason, the two musketeers were also seeking to spin the allowance racket going on at Capital Hill is because while they are swimming in the sea of opulence and endless finances, the majority Malawians are struggling to make ends meet.
But again that’s just half the story.
The real frontline fighters against the pandemic, meanwhile,—the doctors, nurses, immigration, police, prison warders—are all being paid meagre wages.
They are not even being given adequate protective equipment to the point that most of them had to down tools to force government’s hands.
For the majority poor citizenry, government had no intentions to give back the taxmoney until the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) went to court and obtained an injunction against the planned lockdown, citing absence of any safety nets for the poor.
Forced by that episode, Mutharika announced Tuesday night, selected poor households will receive some K35 000 per month in emergency social cash transfer—a meagre sum compared to what the fat cats in government are getting as their daily allowances.
That’s the reason Cabinet in trying to play to the gallery, a month earlier announced each member was donating 10 percent of their salaries to the fight against the pandemic.
It was meant to demonstrate empathy to the rest of the struggling population, specifically the health workers drawing, then, a meagre risk allowance of—goodness me—K1 800 per month.
Bloody liars, they knew they recoup that money in hefty daily allowances in no time!
In a normal country, though, these two ministers would have by now resigned from office.
Or in the very least, the President would have fired the errant disgraced two—especially a President facing an uphill election in a few months’ time.
But this is not a normal country.
Just like after watching his security forces trade bullets, Mutharika—like the proverbial Ostrich—is burying his head in the sand again.
Mutharika is unusually too loyal a President—to his cronies— even to his and the country’s own detriment.
Mutharika has never been one to ably read the signs of time nor the mood of the people. This is probably why many people fear that the country is on autopilot.
Or our democracy—a government of the people for the people—is now a kleptocracy—from the President to ministers, the optics don’t really look good.n