A so-called massive crackdown of corrupt officials is underway. Government agents are said to be all over hunting down suspects, while the cold feet anti-corruption agency has been on some radio stations warning citizens that there will be no mercy for wrongdoers.
The efforts are meant to prove to the voters in the June presidential re-run election that the new government will go flat out to deliver on its promises.
Yet as has been the case before, the arrests, not only will cost the taxpayers’ billions of kwacha, but will end up with no convictions of high profile people or the chejumo’s as they are called on the streets.
Those that are being shamed on social media or those on the so-called corrupt-list will soon be free on our streets, while some will crawl back into top government positions and loot ruthlessly.
It’s a vicious cycle that new President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera has to understand, and put to a stop if Malawians are to take him seriously as a leader.
Unfortunately, those the President has entrusted to lead this exercise will do everything to mislead him into believing they are part of change, when in fact they are failures who have allowed the rotten system of corruption to thrive.
In moving away from business as usual Chakwera must first shake up the cold feet anti-corruption agency. For no government in its right sense would want to go to war against corruption with the wounded soldiers in the current cold feet graft busting body.
The bureau has failed and cannot lead this important task of rooting out corruption. The agency should never be allowed again to cause Malawians heartache.
Why do we, on the streets say so? The bureau has over the years developed the reputation of moving slowly during and after conducting their investigations to the extent that some suspects would prefer to be taken out by the cold feet agency than the fiscal police!
There have been cases where the bureau made arrests but instead of moving swiftly to bring about the speedy conclusion of the case which the bureau has against the suspected person, the cold feet agency failed miserably.
The bureau’s conduct—if you are a suspect—is nothing but oppressive, unfair and unjust. Why a professional State organ would be issuing restriction orders and obtaining seizure and freezing orders and then sit back for years, can only be explained by those at the agency. My guess the adage justice delayed is justice denied does not hold water for the bureau.
That’s why perhaps to remedy the underwhelming performance, Chakwera, not only should he disband the cold feet agency for a new organ, but its officers past and present be investigated and interviewed so that Malawians should understand why they failed to deal with corrupt syndicates in the country.
Blaming failure on lack of funding is not only flimsy but childish for a State organ—that had the easiest syndicates to bust. Imagine if FBI agents were to have Malawi as their training centre, they can have an early Christmas and graduate with distinction. But for the bureau, the nut was too hard to crack.
We, on the streets believe there are better things the new President should focus on in his first 100 days in office. The wanton arrests of so-called corrupt political cadets should not top that list because it will be useless adventure if it is rushed.
What government can do is to review the cold-feet anti-corruption agency performance; panel beat it—so that it has new terms of reference—and fund it accordingly.
Or set up a corruption commission, whose team will include highly trained forensic professionals and auditors to gather as much evidence as possible so that when police make arrests, cases are taken to court and are concluded in the shortest time possible.
By using the same old template of cold-feet anti-corruption bureau set by the likes of Bakili Muluzi to deal with looting of government resources not only will Chakwera and his vice, Saulosi Chilima set up themselves to fail, but will also betray the trust of the people who voted for change.