When Harry Mkandawire recently resigned as vice-president for the People’s Party (PP), he made some accusations against the party’s leadership. He explains more:
. Why did you resign from your position as PP’s vice-president?
. The reasons for my resignation border on Cashgate. There’s an element of embarrassment in the leadership of the party because of the fact that we were there when Cashgate was taking place. It’s not that I am accusing individuals and the party’s leadership, but because these things were happening during our time. It’s common even in the Far East that when something happens when you are in office you simply step down and it doesn’t matter whether or not you were involved. It’s normal practice.
. But Cashgate was exposed about two years ago, why didn’t you resign then?
. No, I couldn’t resign then. What I wanted to know was the element of truth and when I saw that some people had started getting arrested I knew this thing is for real.
. Does it make sense for you to resign as vice-president but remain in same the party?
. It makes a lot of sense and I am glad to remain just an ordinary member now. I am comfortable with being like any other PP supporter out there in the village.
. It is said you told former president Joyce Banda to return home to clear people’s perceptions that she avoiding answering questions on Cashgate?
. I didn’t say that and I never made that claim. What I simply did was to persuade her to come back as soon as possible because people are misunderstanding her continued absence. That’s all I said and whoever quoted me in the context you are putting it misunderstood me.
. So you still want her to come back as quickly as possible?
. Very much so. In fact if I were her I would come as soon as possible so that people aren’t confused and manipulated into thinking that probably there’s a reason she isn’t returning home.
. What’s your next move, because some people are saying you are returning to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)?
. No, I am not going anywhere else. I am a member of the PP and as of now I remain so.
. People have known you as a political vagabond and you can’t refute the fact that you have been in United Democratic Front (UDF), DPP and now PP. Can you be trusted as a politician?
. No, I am not a political prostitute or vagabond as you put it. Look at most of the politicians, without mentioning names, they have been to all the parties you have mentioned and if you look at these three parties, their genesis is the same; they all came from the UDF. Really there’s no difference and in as far as I am concerned DPP and PP are one and share the same root. The PP president came from DPP and UDF and I don’t know what’s the issue is here.
. Have you spoken to Joyce Banda since your resignation?
Yes, I have, but it’s very confidential. What I discuss with my boss is not for public consumption.
. Did you consult your constituents about your decision to resign as the party’s vice president?
. You don’t have to worry about my constituents because they don’t have a problem with my decision. Just last week I held a meeting with thousands and thousands of my people and they wholly endorsed my stand.
MPs rekindle alauli memories
- Folks, as children growing up in Police Camp in Zomba more than four decades ago, we used to play a game called alauli. It involved drawing some four or six boxes on the ground, then crossing one, two or three of them.
You would have a moment to study the crossed and non-crossed boxes, then you would try to step onto the non-crossed boxes only with your eyes closed. You’d bag a point each time your whole foot stepped onto a non-crossed box and lose a point if you stepped on a crossed box or if any part of the foot touched the lines.
Although witty and exciting in our low-tech days, it remained a game of chance, dependent on memory and not taxing the brain to solve problems and wasn’t anything like the tug-of-war game our fathers used to play whenever they were not using the gun, handcuffs and baton sticks to enforce law and order.
Isn’t it amazing that the honourable folks in the august House today seem to apply the same old alauli game approach to national issues? Take the issue of Malawi Savings Bank (MSB), for example. The narrative in the august House, amplified by the din of protests within the civil society, threatens to push this year’s “intellectual budget” into obscurity.
Yet the perspective is as narrow as it has been defined by the media: by raising K6 billion through the instrument of promissory notes to make up for the toxic debts MSB has on its books, government is effectively making the taxpayer pay for the loans businesses got from the State-owned bank.
The opposition’s perspective assumes hazier proportions when focus is trained on the political significance, albeit by inference, of the K4.9 billion or 83 percent of the toxic portfolio which Mulli Brother Limited owes the bank.
Leston Mulli, the managing director of the indebted conglomerate, is a known DPP diehard. It’s therefore as if the bailout were meant to directly benefit Mulli and his business interests.
Well, there is also Bintony Kutsaira, another well-known politician in DPP, whose company also got a loan from the bank that now contributes K65 million to the toxic assets.
Parliament had better rise above the public frenzy and stalked the issues that matter here. There’s no denying that government has no business bailing out actors in the private sector, but the actual question here is: Who actually is the targeted beneficiary of government’s bailout–the bank which is 100 percent owned by government or the 13 private sector contributors to the bank’s K6 billion toxic assets?
It’s not a secret that the bank is in desperate need of recapitalisation to meet the Basal II requirements. It’s also not a secret that its owner, the government, is so cash-strapped it cannot raise the billions required. This has necessitated the search for an equity partner in the private sector who will take up 70 percent of the shares.
Obviously, when fixing a price-tag to the sale, the bad debts will count or will they not? If yes, then it just may turn out that government’s decision to take the toxic assets out of the way was done in the public interest.
This will especially hold true if indeed there is a mechanism to ensure that the loans are eventually paid for in full.
Sometimes one gets an impression that the narrative on MSB is built on the assumption that the need to privatise it may not arise if government can simply bite the lower lip and squeeze the K6 billion from the companies that owe MSB.
What’s ignored here are the payment terms agreed between the bank and it’s concerned customers and the circumstance leading to the formation of the toxic assets. We are told that some cannot service their loans while there is a case on the same pending in the courts. This implies that various factors may explain the accumulation and management of the bubble.
MPs are better positioned than the rest of us to isolate and take government head on on real issues than the rest of us. Don’t we pay and call them honourables so they can provide checks and balances to the Executive?
Let’s assume that a pending court case is what’s holding back the servicing of Mulli Brothers’ K5 billion loan. It simply means resumption will have to await the conclusion of the case, right? Again, since that is beyond the company’s control, repayment shall resume probably under the terms determined by the courts.
If not, repayment may have to resume under the terms negotiated with the bank
Either case may lead to a longer and more gradual recovery of Mulli’s MSB loan than is required to satisfy deadline and capital requirements of Basel II.
But does anyone with the best interest of our economy at heart expect Mulli Brothers to pay back the whole loan at once? Some may hasten to say yes purely for political reasons. But MPs of all people should realise that Mulli Brothers Ltd is more than what belongs to its shareholders.
It is an employer in our economy; unemployment is a serious problem. It is also a taxpayer in our economy where government tax base is getting smaller when its budget is getting bigger and bigger. Owners of businesses will always belong to one party or another and that shouldn’t be an issue.
Otherwise, opposition MPs are tackling national issues much the same way we used to play the alauli game back in the days when we were toddlers: taking steps with both eyes closed.