I am seeing an important silver lining in the cashgate scandal.
Just observing how the government—add the opposition—has handled the scandal, I have discovered that there exists in Malawi a thick ‘Berlin Wall’ between the leader and the led.
If you take the Judiciary out, the cashgate scandal has unearthed a deeper truth that ordinary Malawians have nobody in the Executive and the Legislature who truly represents them.
Take President Joyce Banda, for instance. As a head of State, not as a leader of government, she was supposed to be the first to go beyond ndale, both in words and deeds, to inspire confidence and instill hope in a demotivated nation paralysed by anger and distrust.
But see what we got?
When everybody wanted to get the heart of cashgate’s beast, Mrs Banda’s first statement was a strong defence of Paul Mphwiyo—a man, whom nobody had accused of anything then, was budget director, a critical office in all the ‘clandestine’ payouts of the cashgate. Why come early to defend somebody whom none had accused of anything?
Yet that is not all.
In the face of wasted billions, hundreds dying due to the shortage of drugs in hospitals, donors withholding budgetary support, Mrs Banda, instead of scaling back to save the little available penny, has turned gear five on her extravagance cruise.
And even against measures of expenditure control outlined by Finance Minister Maxwell Mkwezalamba, Mrs Banda, religiously defended by Brown Mpinganjira she resurrected from political death, has, by saying ‘she won’t stop travelling’, underlined staying the course on extravagance.
Well, in the event of such an indifferent President to a nation in crisis, there was hope that perhaps Parliament would live its ‘representative’ role of the people. They met for some weeks last month to, I am told, ‘discuss’ the cashgate.
Apart from accusing one another on who stole the most, what, after millions spent on their allowances, came out of that sitting? Is there anything we can show today that because of that gathering we are better off in terms of unearthing the big shots behind cashgate?
By the way, as Parliament was in session, Weekend Nation revealed that Mrs Banda spent K25 billion outside Parliament to purchase fertiliser for a loan programme whose philosophy and worth eludes every thinking Malawian. None in the opposition benches questioned this. But why?
Parliament, just like the President, has failed us.
My last hope was on the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC). They said they would quiz some of senior government technocrats whose offices are key in the country’s financial governance system. I was hopeful that being technocrats they would live to the demands of their profession—honesty.
For those that have read what Reserve Bank of Malawi governor Charles Chuka and former Secretary to the Treasury Randson Mwadiwa said, is there anything sensible apart from feigning ignorance—an echo of what politician Ken Lipenga said before PAC?
So, when you have senior government technocrats echoing politicians word for word, as a nation, if we have tears, let’s prepare to shed them now. Who do we trust then?
All this underlines what I have said that there exists a thick Berlin Wall separating the President, Cabinet, Parliament and senior government technocrats on the one hand and ordinary people on the other.
In their world, a world defined by lack of individual consciousness, moral bankruptcy and dried professional integrity, they have vowed, against all odds, to defend each other.
That is why, amidst piled scandals on their heads, their conscience is too dry to remind them to resign and pave way for investigations. That is, even when a President is making flawed decisions, their spirits are too empty to learn from the Yatuta Chisizas, the Masauko Chipemberes, the Willie Chokanis who, out of principle, challenged Kamuzu Banda’s excesses and resigned in what is known as the 1964 Cabinet Crisis.
As they continue to do that, we, the ordinary people, continue to live in our dirty, insecure, helpless and perpetually hungry world. We are cheated, like fools, everyday in the daylight. When donors withhold aid, we are the ones Mkwezalamba targets to face the full weight of his austerity measures.
We are the ones who, when the kwacha flinches on the floating market or when fuel prices skyrocket, face the double-edged sword of rising transport fares and soaring commodity prices. When funds meant to purchase drugs in hospitals are diverted to fund political rallies, we are the ones who die, like a rabid dog, at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH).
This is not a world that we should allow to continue living in. We have lived in this pathetic world for so long, and this cashgate scandal has given us a grand moment to reflect our misery. In fact, it should be our turning point.
That is why I am asking: If we are not angry now, when will we? I think civil society organisations (CSOs) owe Malawians an answer to this question.