When things are not working in a country, people look up to the Head of State and the entire leadership for timely solutions. If the leadership believes in transparency and honesty, it can set up weekly briefings on the state of affairs in the country. This is not the case in Malawi. Instead the government is fully engaged in refutation which comes about due to people speculating and rumour mongering. This is one of the reasons that Malawians have been asking for the Access to Information (ATI) Law which has just been assented to by President Peter Mutharika.
One can only hope that government will not create some stumbling blocks for the law not to function properly. For example, the government might take most information as classified. This will indeed be unacceptable and can make the law redundant. For instance, it has so far been impossible for Malawians to know the number of people who have been accompanying the President to United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meetings. It is unfortunate that to Mutharika’s government such information is considered classified and not for public consumption. Malawians want such information to check if their tax is being used properly and not on meetings, but simply merry-making by the courtesy of the rulling Democratic Progressive party (DPP).
It is this habit of government practising unnecessary secrecy that forces the entire leadership to cover up issues with lame excuses. Some lame excuses came out during interview of ex-Minister of Agriculture George Chaponda by the joint parliamentary committees about the Malawi – Zambia maizegate. At some point of the interview Chaponda said that he had to flout rules and procedures of procurement because of the maize crisis in the country. He further stated that he had the welfare of Malawians at heart, hence his rushing to Zambia. How true this was is anybody’s guess. But what most Malawians know is that, just before the maizegate saga, the President said that his government had procured enough maize and no Malawian will die of hunger. So, where was the emergency that Chaponda was talking about? It was just a lame excuse after feeling guilty that he had not followed the procurement procedures.
The other lame excuse emanating from the maizegate is the argument that some leaders put forward in support of Chaponda. Such say that Chaponda had done nothing wrong since the Malawi government had not lost any money as it had paid nothing to Zambia. This is wrong thinking because it is like someone catching a thief red-handed and saying that he had done nothing wrong because he has been caught before stealing something. In fact, both commissions of inquiry reports recommended that the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) should investigate Chaponda further on corruption.
At the moment, President Mutharika should learn a lesson from the maizegate commissions of inquiry and use it on his ministers instead of his usual excuse that unless one tells him which particular ministers are alleged to be corrupt, he will not do anything. The danger here is that ministers would think that they are untouchable and, therefore, would go ahead and institutionalise the get-rich-quick schemes.
President Mutharika should know better that toying around corruption with lame excuses here and there is what has made the vice in Malawi to be deeply entrenched. What is worse is when people feel that the President will protect them together with their corruption schemes.