January 28 2020
Malawi citizens, corporate and individual, have been making their contributions to the Covid-19 citizens’ response, an initiative by one time Malawi Writers’ Union (Mawu) president Stanley Onjezani Kenani and Society of Medical Doctors leader Dr Victor Mithi and another medical doctor Thandi Hara-Msulira. In 12 days, the initiative had raked in aboutK100 million, with some oxygen cylinders and other equipment on the line to be purchased.
The initiative came on the heels of President Lazarus Chakwera’s call for well-wishers to make their contributions to a government set account. How far citizens have contributed to the government coffer in the fight remains unknown but Chakwera last Saturday lauded Kenani and team for the ‘hands-on-deck’ contributions against the novel virus.
Not only have we seen individuals contributing millions, we have also seen students taking part of their pocket money into the coffer. The other day, one woman contributed K50 000 to the cause from the money she got as condolence when her relative died.
The initiative has seen the generous side of Malawians. But, even deeper, it has shown a few lessons we always took for granted.
Firstly, the rapid response has shown that Malawians are gunning for accountability on Covid-19 funds. Not so long ago, the ombudsman released a report how government Covid-19 funds were abused. It is clear from this initiative that Malawians are following every Tambala.
It goes without saying that much of Covid-19 finances in government are used for such administrative purposes as allowances when the hospitals lack flowmeters and other necessary equipment to assist patients.
For a long time, heavily taxed Malawians have lost so much of government revenue to meaningless endeavours.
One other thing that is coming out clear is that setting up of initiatives like these needs so much transparency. Whenever a new President is elected to the helm, the first lady sets up a fund or trust of some form. Yet, we have seen that when they get out of power, the funds and trusts vanish into thin air. The examples are right at your nose.
Such funds and trusts are just a way of siphoning money. It is a given fact that these funds get so many donations from well-wishers, yet little moves on the ground. The money ends into the pockets of the political cronies. For that matter, you can’t rule out that some donate to get favours in one form or the other. Not so long ago we saw one company offering office space to one of these trusts only to get it that the company was offering government some service.
Time is ripe such trusts and funds were wholly scrutinised.
One other clear thing is that it is apparent that some of the government expenses are bloated. Checking how much it costs to buy, for instance, oxygen cylinders you wonder why the same is not available in public hospitals don’t have them. Yet, government claims billions have been set aside for the fight.
It is no wonder, then, that other citizens are demanding government for information on how allocations to various clusters under the Department of Disaster Management (DoDMA) were used. Using the Access to Information law, the citizens are asking for transparency on the matter. Very necessary.
Out of the calamity before us, some may come out heavily enriched. This selfish grabiosis must come to an end.
While we are at it, it seems most funny to me to see that some sectors are going on the street to demonstrate for consideration in these hard Covid times. Minibus drivers and conductors were on the street demanding a drop in fuel prices, and that they maintain a higher seating capacity.
Before the dust settled, sex workers were on the street, saying things were bad for them because of the order to close bars at 8. They want leeway on Fridays and weekends. What the crucial body of key populations forgot to tell us is that Covid-19 can’t sleep when they have the weekend amnesty. n