Now that Oswald Lutepo is where he never wanted to be, what remains is his Cashgate ghost that will haunt the nation for some time.
Anyone who was close to Lutepo will be greatly haunted.
But do not get it wrong. Lutepo’s discourse of public theft is neither the first nor the last. Yet, it will be the peculiar absence of Lutepo than his presence that will permeate pain in those that remain behind him.
For the public, Lutepo’s peculiar absence or presence is nothing exhilarating. The Lutepo encounter could be an irony in a country that wants to squeeze more from its people in tax revenue and generously open its stores for unrepentant thieving civil servants.
There are many feelings with the Lutepo Cashgate ghost present in our midst.
The first explanation of those feelings might be that stealing billions of public money is vogue, for it is a lesser sin than murdering. But as a Yoruba proverb has it: ‘the mouth of the poor person is no better than a machete; the only thing it is good for is to cut a path through the bush’. Implicitly, it will seem that access to public money is no better than the mouth of poor Malawians who share the weight of the burdensome tax regimes.
It is here where we come to the question: Why is there so little, if any, respect for and, as a consequence, interest in protecting public money, until only someone is caught pants down stealing?
Here the question does not suggest that there is a mega or mini conspiracy by politicians against the Malawi poor citizens in this discourse of stealing public money.
The question only contend that the random appearance of the exclusions that constitute the peculiar absence or protecting public money from politicians and their allied thieves in civil service traces its genealogy in either the one-party State or it came wrapped in the package of democracy.
The ghost of Lutepo dominates the hallways, institutions, instructional practices of public management and it reveals the subtle and not-so-subtle negligence of those at the top in securing public money from theft.
How come billions left the Malawi treasury without the leaders feeling the immediate effects of the funding absence and deficits in various government departments?
Or is it that the leaders are arrested in the immediacy of their daily duties, so the public thief enters the house, finds them sleeping and sweeps all property and money and even spend more time to cook some to teach the owner—the stupid fool, that he is in failing to be alert and guard the house from any intruders. Are our leaders always sleeping in the house and not always alert of what happens in their government until someone gives them a tip?
Probably this is what Lutepo and the rest of the Cashgate convicts did to former president Joyce Banda’s administration. They came during the day in her house, found her in deep slumber and sweep the billions.
So our leaders have to first admit that they always sleep in their house and are irresponsible before they deny any responsibility or playing a hand in the stealing. And then, Malawi has turned to be a veritable museum where there are relics of leaders, superseded in customary sleeping.
We have to fast forward at this point. Does the most touted Public Reforms Programme that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government is selling, hold any promise of the end of the Malawi cashgate era?
The whole picture of the reforms is not yet complete. Will the intending public money launderers not learn to fly before the reforms learn to shoot? For it should first be admitted that the public servants entrusted with the government money, always have good knowledge than the presidents of how the money is used and misused and so they know when and how to pass through the needle with bags of money.
In the extreme zones, where the president and his finance minister have never reached and not know, the cash-keepers callously play with government money. How do the reforms set the traps to catch such daring-devils of public money laundering?
It is here also that there are always two agenda of any government: reconstruction and destruction. Any politician that enters into government is excited with one thing: the liberty to easy access of public money. So while there is always the reconstruction agenda; the politicians just coming from huge loans and campaigns that that leave them with only their mouth and foot, try as much as possible to compensate themselves and get rich as quickly as possible.
Will the reforms protect Malawians from the gluttony of politicians just rising from financial bruises caused by seasons of campaigns? In short, can the DPP in which presently Malawians are holding their hope, now tell Malawians its agenda in very clear verbose, than what is in the wordy blinding manifesto?
Given that agenda, then Malawians will expect radical changes in running of the government. They will spot the difference with party that they did not vote into power.
Malawians will no longer want Lutepo’s descendants of Cashgate ghosts. The reason for this is clearer and simple: they do not think the political gods and the icons in which they are represented are one and the same.
Unfortunately, political attitude dominate the mind-set of successors in power. In other words, presidents are but also politicians. So it can be likely that Lutepo’s Cashgate ghost will embody in other angels who are now busy learning and studying how bad and weak the system is. When they finish their study they will deep their hands again in the treasury to scoop what is remaining.
This is to say the possession of relevant information by leaders would be insufficient; rather interpretations must be offered of how public money is drawn like water.
For it is not necessary to only provide the intricate justifications for the practices of stealing—the transcendent cause is what Malawians would want to know first.
Indeed, our presidents should always be knowledge seekers than having always to exude the sterile knowledge that they attained in and out of the academy. Being always knowledge seekers, they will reason to look seriously at what damage is done by the contemporary practices of politics and know how things stand at the present time.
This, indeed, can be part of the concoction in exorcising Lutepo’s ghost which if left to mature will wreck more havoc. The ghost will multiply if left to roam around in the village.
Is it not us Africans who believe that the ghost of the most feared witch in the village need to be exorcised before it turns into little hyenas, foxes and tigers that haunt the village at night? Do we not invite the sorcerers from distances places to our village to help us chase the most dangerous ghost to the oceans where it will never come back?
Of course, it can be warned that Lutepo’s ghost will be tough to exorcise as it has already insinuated itself into the innermost recesses of the other creatures more than human—some of the creature are always on the run, only found and visit the village in the mantle of the night fearing to be exorcised.
One can see how the ghost continues to stalk the present: the unspoken assumption is that there is more than Lutepo’s ghost, a mother ghost which the village needs to hunt and bring the sorcerers to exorcise.
Unless the mother ghost is rid of, Lutepo’s supposed cannon-fodder ghost will keep whispering in the inner ear of the present leadership and everyone in this village, that is full of exorcised ghosts, would be affected and remain to be haunted. n