A day earlier, a celebrated Kenyan orator, PLO Lumumba took to the podium and eloquently told us what has become his claim to fame –and you can add his pay cheque, too. I am sorry to say this, he didn’t say anything new.
And, probably, there was not going to be any man –anywhere on earth—who was going to say anything new.
A row from where I was sitting, party women clad in ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regalia and youth drenched in temporal paint, cheered and applauded wildly.
Speech by speech, they ululated and clapped particularly when President Peter Mutharika addressed the convention centre.
In between the spates of applause, I realised it was all fake.
Some were dozing.
Not that it came as a shock. Majority of unemployed Malawians who happen to make a living dancing to successive presidents at functions like Friday’s closing ceremony of the two-day all-stakeholder conference on fighting corruption are exceptionally illiterate as majority of poverty stricken Malawians.
They don’t do it for fun, desperation churns out unthinkable careers.
With the deliberations limited to English, you would feel forgive the majority for the dozing interludes.
The anti-corruption conference, hosted to the tune of about K20 million, was a brutal waste of time. A criminal waste of time and resources, to borrow a phrase from one learned colleague in town.
Nothing, I repeat, nothing that came out of the conference was new.
All that was discussed had been discussed before; hence was the regurgitation of what was said before.
On numerous occasions, it has been stated by civil society, the media, donors, Parliament, opposition parties, academia, citizens, aliens and anyone who has some semblance of sense in him.
And well, that list include the president and his ruling party. It also include the ACB itself—a toothless bulldog which has also become a laughing stock in the battle against corruption. Check the proposed law ACB itself asked parliament to enact in 2013.
Then, check the 2014 manifesto of the ruling DPP, especially where candidate Mutharika talks about independence of ACB and other constitutional bodies, for example.
Read newspaper extracts of Public Affairs Committee (PAC) meeting with President Mutharika in Lilongwe when the quasi-religious body reminded the president of his electoral commitments, you will realise that the two-day conference was just a show.
Perhaps, an allowance generating scheme for some as often the case.
But if folks at Oxfam, European Union, UNDP and others who put their precious dollars into this thought this was a game changer in the fight against graft, I am sure the defensive rhetoric, self-praise, blamegame, size of the President’s convoy, army of party supporters and others brought them down to earth. Some things never change.
At least, I was not only deflated by the sight of women and youths who could have been more productive elsewhere but the realisation that one of the key proposals—the call for independence of ACB through review of laws governing the appointment and firing of its directors—was also being flatly rejected by government.
Then, we saw the President who on Friday went to town to lambast predecessor and nemesis, Joyce Banda, for allowing corruption to mushroom in the country.
Someone, somewhere is living in denial. Certainly, if perceptions of Malawians are anything to go by, a number of fraud cases and reports show how men and women, we elect into public office, are fleecing the State.