The best definition of corruption was by a Nigerian who said that corruption is a practice for converting public resources into personal fortunes. This definition has stood the test of time and one cannot even think of a better definition than this, especially in the African context.
Experience in Malawi has so far shown that those people who seem to regularly practise corruption are those in the positions of power, be it in government or ruling party. This is done under the pretext that they can easily be protected by the powers that be.
During the recent commemoration of the Anti-Corruption Day, President Lazarus Chakwera, among other important things, said that controlling corruption is not a one-man’s job, but every Malawian must play a part. This is a wise statement, indeed, considering the context that the bad effects of corruption has affected most poor Malawians.
It is not a secret that corruption has put this country on its knees—paralysed. The poor have become poorer. The past governments totally failed to control corruption because of greedy.
The leadership seemed to believe that corruption cannot be controlled since some benefited from it. With such mentality that corruption is here to stay leaders then made no attempt to control it.
It is not a secret that in the past those with power had the opportunity to convert public resources into personal fortunes. Imagine, government would put aside funds for various development projects, but in the end the projects would either be half done or not started at all, but funds allocated would be nowhere to be seen.
When talking about lost opportunity from investors, the Uranium mine at Kayelekera in Karonga comes into the picture. One can remember the euphoria that this Uranium mine brought into the country. People thought that this was to reduce poverty.
But eight years later, this was still a pipedream. The miners had destroyed the environment and ordinary people no longer wanted them.
Surprisingly, the Malawi authorities wanted the miners to be given more time. This created suspicion that probably some of the authorities were given something under the carpet.
It was strange in the past that when corruption was obviously taking place the leadership could not even think that taxpayers were taking note of this. Imagine, how could a middle grade civil servant build so many up-market houses and buy countless cars on his salary? Fortunately, some of these suspects have been taken to court by the Chakwera administration.
At the moment Malawians are looking forward to the Chakwera government to decisively deal with corruption and leave no room to be practised again. It is encouraging that suspects are now being taken to court. However, the most worrisome thing is that the wheels of justice are not turning fast enough.
Therefore, some of the fortunes that the suspects illegally collected might start disappearing into thin air. The problem with the delay in trying cases is that some people might think the suspects have been pardoned. This line of thought can lead people into going ahead with corruption and expecting to be pardoned when caught.
What sometimes encourages people to be corrupt is the political belief that no one really talks about. The belief has been once your political party is in power, it is ‘your time or turn to eat’. Hence, you are a priority in appointments and getting lucrative government contracts. Luckily, Chakwera has promised to do things on merit.
Lastly, one can appeal to government to see to it that people who have been found guilty of corruption must get heavy punishment. Failing which corruption wills tick around.