- We will win this war –Kamlepo
- Demos are about spirit, not numbers -Mayaya
Known for his radicalism in politics, Rumphi East parliamentarian Kamlepo Kalua has said signs are there that the country will win its war on graft; a bone of contention in political circles for some time.
Kamlepo was speaking at Parliament Building today when he received, on behalf of the House, a petition members of the civil society presented following their demonstrations in Lilongwe against what organisers called ‘impunity’.
Ironically, the demonstrations were held on a day Parliament was rising from the Mid-Year Budget Review Meeting.
Reacting to the petition, Kalua hailed the marchers; calling the demos ‘the way to go about it in a multiparty political system’.
“From the look of things, I can confidently say we are with you on this one; we are winning this war against corruption,” said Kalua, who also co-chaired the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Maize Inquiry.
He also revealed that the number of ministers he earlier purported to be on the list of top ranked corrupt public officers had now reduced by one, to six.
He, however, was noncommittal if that follows the fall from grace of former Minister of Agriculture, George Chaponda, whom President Mutharika fired a fortnight ago after both the Parliamentary Committee and the President’s instituted Commission of Inquiry recommended that the ex-minister be probed over his involvement in the purchase of relief maize from Zambia.
“I wouldn’t categorically say that Honourable Chaponda was one of the said ministers. But as a [Parliamentary] Committee, we have our own investigations apart from whatever the office of the Auditor General submits to the House. So far, such investigations reveal we have only six ministers; and the number can actually decrease as the probe continues,” he said.
The demonstrations were scheduled to start at 8 o’clock in the morning, but the marchers could only leave Area 18 Roundabout almost an hour later towards Parliament Building via the Presidential Avenue.
But this was some Billy Mayaya-led demos; and it was plain to show.
Marred by low turnout, it was as if it was the security officers present who were protesting against the powers that be as they outnumbered the marchers, who were supposed to be clad in red.
Probably it was because word had gone round that the demos had been cancelled at the eleventh hour; a development Mayaya descibed as ‘rubbish tactics’ to thwart the demos.
“Well, I think it’s simply government’s attempt to divide-and-rule. As you are aware, there is also a civil society which appears now and then on the state broadcaster, making fools of themselves, but I think we abide by law and simply exercise our birthright of freely expressing ourselves over any matters of national importance. We are not, and can’t, be deterred by any rubbish talk from alternative sources of information on a thing we have organised.”
He claimed presidential adviser on non-governmental organisations Mavuto Bamusi tried to approach him at the eleventh hour to cancel the demos.
When contacted for comment, Bamusi admitted contacting the Mayaya camp, saying “but only to save their face as my office had also received news that churches were also organising their own demos on the same. I just felt they could have saved some energy in conducting the demos together. Look now what happened today?
“Otherwise, there was no way I could have attempted to stop them against the wishes of the President who repeatedly vows that he would die defending the rights of citizens in this country.
Braving the showers that characterised the weather at City Centre for much of the day, their determination shown on their faces, chants and placards said it all for the marchers.
Some of the placards they held read: “Probe Ben Phiri”, “Tatopa ndi mbava”, “No more Cashgates”, “No shielding of corrupt ministers” and “Chaponda amangidwe.”
The CSOs had to wait for half an hour before Kalua came from the Chamber to get their petition to which he explained in an interview that he was on the floor, making his contributory remarks towards the now-passed revised budget.
“It’s not that we were hesitant as Parliament; neither should this be mistaken as a sign that we don’t recognise the efforts of the marchers. Protocol demands that one just can’t abandon their call in the House so suddenly.” He said.
Some of the issues the marchers, who included Reverend McDonald Sembereka, Gift Trapence of the Centre for the Development of People-Cedep, among other few notable faces, want government to act on are high levels of corruption; politicisation of operations of government institutions; persistent water shortages and electricity blackouts; the collapsing economy alongside opulence amid poverty, and nepotism.
Reacting to the demonstrations, Minister of Information and Communication Technology Nicholas Dausi accused the demonstrating civil society members of working on assumptions.
Dausi said: “They have nothing to say. I mean, such issues could have been ironed out through contact and dialogue and the only reason they rushed to the streets is because they have a pathological hatred of the government. They seem to have had a premeditated mind on this so much they felt dialogue couldn’t have worked for them. Still, they exercised their right [to freedom of expression] and that says volumes of how democratic this government is.”
He also that government was already working on almost all the issues raised.
“Do you really want me to comment on this? I mean how they dare say we are only acting on small fish in government on corruption cases when a whole cabinet minister had his house raided by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) before he was fired recently? Only if they had checked with the government to see what we are doing, through contact and dialogue, probably they could have seen that going to the streets was not a good idea at all,” said Dausi.