Former president Bakili Muluzi once said “Amalawi sachedwa kuyiwala (Malawians forget quickly).” He was referring to the atrocities the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) committed during its 31 years in power under the reign of Kamuzu Banda. And they are not few. Ironically Muluzi was once MCP’s secretary general. In that position he was the party’s second most influential man. After Kamuzu. But when Muluzi was making that statement at a rally, he rightly expected that Malawians had forgotten all that. This was when he was campaigning for a third term or an open term. It flopped.
Muluzi eventually settled for Bingu wa Mutharika to succeed him. And not Justin Malewezi his vice-president for two terms. Muluzi’s third term bid flopped not because Malawians forgot anything. But because they remembered that they had the Constitution which put a cap on presidential terms. They also remembered that Muluzi’s 10-year rule had failed to lift them out of abject poverty. At the time Muluzi was campaigning for a third and open term as president, donors who were contributing 40 percent to the national budget had also abandoned the country.
But perhaps Muluzi was right after all. The famous or infamous Cashgate was first noted in 2005 although it was mostly exposed in 2013. This is according to a forensic audit of the government of Malawi by auditors-RSM Risk Assurance Services LLP of the United Kingdom (UK). By 2014, the malfeasance could no longer be swept under the carpet. Hard cash in millions of kwacha was being kept or transported in boots of cars. A help hand spotted one of them. This led to more ‘discoveries’.
The Baker Tilly forensic audit only picked six months of the 2009–2014 plunder-from April to September, 2013-and uncovered that during this period alone civil servants and businesspersons had looted K24 billion from the public purse.
When Rumphi East legislator Kamlepo Kaluwa was vocal about seven ministers in the Peter Mutharika administration were alleged to have been mentioned in the K236 billion Cashgate report, the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) went for him. But no-one in this government wants to talk about that report. The issue now seems to be water under the bridge. All attention is focused on the tripartite elections. With elections only seven months away, there must be a huge sigh of relief among the seven ministers alleged to have been mentioned in the report. Amalawi anaiwala. (Malawians forgot about the plunder of K236 billion spanning 2009 and 2014).
When the Salima South member of Parliament Uladi Mussa was acting People’s Party president, and was vocal against government, it (government) went for him over allegations that he issued permits or passports to undeserving immigrants. Now that he is politically correct after taking camouflage in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that case is dead. Amalawi anaiwala. The same Uladi Mussa who was being demonized while in opposition is now a hero in DPP as its vice president for the centre.
How Malawi lost K577 billion or K236 billion will never be concluded under this regime. It is a forgotten issue. It is only ‘petty’ bulawulas who have the cheek to talk about it. But these are the issues opposition politicians-MCP’s Lazarus Chakwera, United Transformation’s Movement’s Saulos Klaus Chilima, People’s Party JB, ought to be pushing. At what stage is the forensic audit report (if any) about the whopping K236 billion looted from the public pulse between 2009 and 2014? Of course, there have been other Cashgates-the 4.3 million liters of fuel (of 76 tankers of 35 000 litres each)-vanishing at Escom, the audit report about materials worth over K10 billion Escom procured which may never be used in the next 10 years. Billions of kwacha vanishing at the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc). Mystery still surrounds the K1.9 billion of the K2.9 billion that Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) board approved to give to Admarc for maize purchases in 2016. Some 20 MPs embezzled Constituency Development Funds-what is the status of this issue; five years after government’s Integrated Financial Management System (Ifmis) was hacked, improving public finance management remains a mirage as government is yet to procure a foolproof Ifmis. The Malawi Electoral Commission warehouse in Lilongwe gutted immediately after the court ruled that there should be a recount of votes is a forgotten issue.
Meanwhile, the country has plunged further on the corruption perception index. As a result of all these, donors are yet to return to Malawi as they strongly believe Account Number One is a leaking bucket. The ultra poor will continue to be marginalized. Why? Because they forgot why they are in this predicament. Muluzi was very right. Amalawi sachedwa kuyiwala.