I am fighting the urge to talk about the ponzi-like scheme that a cabal of rogue bureaucrats in the Bingu wa Mutharika administration was running.
To be sure, the plot to cover revenue shortfalls is not exactly ponzy, but it is so similar to the real thing that one Charles Ponzi, the man who popularised the racket at the dawn of the 20th century in the United States, maybe smiling approvingly at the audacity of the whole plan.
A ponzi scheme is a fraud in which investors are coaxed to put money in a bogus investment firm that promises huge short-term returns that never exist because the masterminds almost never invest that money in the first place.
When time comes for the initial investors to get their returns, the con-artists simply take the money from new gullible investors and pay it out to the first-stage investors.
And so the cycle goes on and on until the fraudsters are either busted as it has happened in our revenue sting or the scam artists simply disappear with the investorsâ€™ money.
This Capital Hill sect was conniving with like-minds at the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) as well as banks and, as we further learnt yesterday, the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera), to play around with money that did not belong to them.
The funds belonged to taxpayers and banks. Well, even these banks donâ€™t own this money. The money these greedy capitalists were using to aid and abet the illegal government transactions belongs to the public who merely deposit it with them.
The gullible investors in this whole saga are the public (depositors and/or taxpayers) who kept pumping their money into a system that was just moving it from one account to another to hoodwink us. As I said, the revenue scandal is not exactly ponzy, but I am sure you get the drift.
But really, today, I want to talk about something more positive. I like to think that I am a fair critic. If someone gives Malawians chaff, that is what I call it. I pull no punches. If he or she gives us grain, I do not hesitate to acknowledge because that is only fair.
We journalists are usually accused of concentrating on negative developments only, relegating positive things to briefs or sometimes not writing about them at all. Whether that assertion is true or false is immaterial or, if you insist, it could be a subject for another day.
The point is that I want to acknowledge and applaud the seven-week old Joyce Banda administration for stabilising fuel supplies in the countryâ€”at least for now.
It is hard to believe that just a week before President Banda was sworn in, we were all jostling for fuel at the pump and on the black market where the price was several folds higher than the formal market.
Today, those queues have disappeared. The parallel market is less pricy than the mainstream market whereas in some areas, it has disappeared all together. Granted, the Zambians helped us with five million litres, but that could only take us as far as one week.
The $35 million credit facility from South Africa is helping as well, though we know that Pretoriaâ€™s interest is to see us host a smooth African Union (AU) summit so that their Home Affairs Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who also happens to be President Jacob Zumaâ€™s former wife, wins the race to head the AU Secretariat.
The South Africansâ€™ motives aside, this loan has helped ease the crippling fuel shortages; which, I guess, is one of the benefits of helping Africaâ€™s largest economy further to dominate the continent. We must thank God for small mercies.
Suffice it to say, this needed diplomatic deft, which Banda has a lot of experience in, having served as Foreign Affairs Minister in the previous administration. I have also seen a lot of commendable initiatives from new Energy Minister Dr. Cassim Chilumpha who has been trying to coordinate efforts to sustain current fuel supplies.
Banda has also moved swiftly to restore ties with bilateral donors who have already pledged to unlock hundreds of millions in foreign aid frozen to try and discourage Mutharika from his authoritarian bent; a move that cut-off a crucial source of foreign currency that would have partly helped to pay for fuel imports at a time when tobacco revenue, which accounts for 60 percent of the countryâ€™s hard currency earnings, had plummeted.
Malawians are noticing that their leaders are rolling up their sleeves, fighting for them. Even if the results are not sustained, voters will appreciate the efforts, which is always good public relationsâ€”something that was lacking in the arrogant Mutharika administration.
The previous government always spent sleepless nights to find ways of demonstrating that it could not care less if people suffered while enjoying an orgy of revenue cook-ups at Capital.