The biggest concern about Lazarus Chakwera’s first 100 days is the pace at which major changes are purportedly moving forward.
Not the one million job pledge or the mega farms, which always were going to take time, but the fight against corruption and removal from office of the people perceived to have been enablers of the era of plunder that was the DPP regime. Or so say critics of the new administration.
To a large extent, particularly in reference to the corruption issue, the argument is solid. After a series of arrests, including a few high profile ones, the trails seem to have suddenly gone cold and very few big fishes are being caught, anymore. None of the big cases have emerged in court either.
For people who have waited for so long to see the thieving DPP bigwigs in court, not to mention inside jailhouses, they can barely believe their eyes as the net appears to catch no more and no bigger fish.
The broader context is that people needs to be shown that the fight against corruption has received a genuine boast since the DPP was ousted and the new Sherriff from Malembo arrived; egos bruised by DPP’s arrogance and crookedness can only be soothed by such arrests, too.
The bigger picture is that people know that without a robust hunt for those that emptied the nation’s coffers in the past, there is a huge likelihood their successors in office will have every incentive, and no deterrent, to dip their fingers in the national kitty again.
As a consequence, the vicious circle of corruption and poverty will continue, albeit with devastating effect. Hence all the hullaballoo about the corruption issue.
At State House weekly briefing this week, Kamuzu Palace conceded, it’s all legitimate hullabaloo, too.
Where, however, we disagree with the President’s chief spin doctor, Sean Kampondeni, is that the presidency has no role to play on the matter whatsoever.
Granted, the President, indeed, should not interfere with either police, ACB or FIA. That’s not just what he promised during his campaign, that’s what the law stipulates. So, Kampondeni is both right but also that’s beside the point. The point is, the President has skin in the game, as Americans would say. He has stake in the franchise and bigger enough stake to determine the course of the fight.
If you ask me, the President, like the citizens can still summon all heads of these investigating agencies, not interfere with their independent work, but to ask for answers on what’s going on.
Look, the citizenry on social media are already making murmurings about the issue and so the citizenry is already doing their part. Through the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), the citizenry has also directly reached out to these state agencies; namely, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Police, Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and police. Their responses, as HRDC will tell you, have been far from satisfactory.
Indeed, every President must use his executive powers very carefully but being careful doesn’t mean avoiding using it at all. At the end of the day, the buck stops at the presidency and in the matter of the public’s dissatisfaction with the war on corruption whose commander-in-chief, by all means, is the President, the commander in chief must step forward and use all means under his disposal to deal with the matter.
The powers of the presidency are both administrative and executive. But they are also coercive and seductive, as one writer once opined.
Chakwera should coerce a better fight from his lieutenants. If they fail to read the battle plan, or disobey it. Or are just helpless, one way or the other, then the President must employ the executive powers to ‘hire and fire’. He must replace the deadwood in the fight against corruption with men and women with fire in their bellies. And a bit of integrity where its lacking.
Out there, frankly, any search would show their many.
But the same cannot be said about the president’s decision to take his time in firing people perceived to be DPP “cadets” scattered across the country. Key word here is not perceived but DPP.
The President is 100 percent right in avoiding to fire people willy-nilly. For one, being a supporter of DPP doesn’t disqualify anyone from being an employee of government; it’s being an active player in politics, regardless of which party that does. Yes, the President has a huge responsibility to his party to ensure that its stronger and ready to win the next election, but not all DPP appointees in government automatically becomes sabotage agents or agents provocateurs just because MCP has taken over. Some are indeed, highly qualified and efficient civil servants. Those that must certainly go, and we say this without wincing, are those that committed various crimes, stole from the people of Malawi, insulted Malawians on State media, got employed without any qualifications. Those can hang. But there I agree with Kampondeni, the President’s equally eloquent spin doctor, perception, too, must not be the key word: but evidence.