Hon. Folks, politics is indeed the art of looking for trouble—never mind who becomes the perpetrator or victim.
Ex-British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is also on record to have assumed that politics is almost as exciting as war and quite as dangerous only that in war you die once while in politics you can die multiple times.
True to these theories, Malawi has witnessed numerous dramatic episodes where some political parties and individuals willingly, or involuntarily, courted political trouble and the outcome was utterly dangerous.
These episodes distinctively hit the pinnacle between 2005 and 2009 when the opposition teamed up against former president Bingu wa Mutharika, accusing him of abusing the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to persecute his opponents.
The accusations mostly came from the United Democratic Front (UDF) following numerous arrests of its senior executive members by ACB on charges of fraud and corruption.
After winning his first presidency on UDF ticket in 2004, Bingu instantly launched a spirited crackdown on fellow UDF gurus, cleansing them of deep-rooted corruption and bad governance that prompted the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other major donors to suspend aid to Malawi in 2001.
Compared to his predecessor Bakili Muluzi, Bingu assumed office as an ideal candidate—flaunting an impressive educational background and an imposing track record after serving in various prestigious international organisations such as the United Nations, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and the World Bank.
Hon. Folks, it was, therefore, interesting to see Bingu’s enthusiasm to revive the country’s ailing economy. He even refused to appoint into his Cabinet high-ranking UDF members implicated in fraud.
“For years, corruption has been condoned in Malawi. Even some NGOs and donors have condoned the practice … The fight against corruption remains the focus of my government,” Bingu once said, vowing to intensify the steam of his anti-corruption drive.
In fact, it was his declaration of war against corruption in 2004 that frightened many within the party’s top rank and file, forcing them to accuse their economist of advancing vendetta politics.
They also pointed fingers at ACB, accusing it of “witch-hunting” and claiming that the bureau was only targeting opposition politicians in its anti-corruption drive.
Hon. Folks, it was Bingu’s tough stance against corruption that strained his relationship with UDF―the party that sponsored him to power―and its former chairperson Muluzi who handpicked him ahead of the 2004 elections.
Since then, the phrase ‘political witch-hunting’ has been popularised by some sections of the opposition who, for one reason or the other, feel their political interests are under threat.
This is the exact case even now when many opposition figures are claiming ‘witch-hunt’ to buy public sympathy for alleged crimes that they themselves committed while in positions of influence and when everyone else was in deep slumber.
Which begs the question: Why should Malawians be interested in politics and the government’s fight against corruption?”
Hon. Folks, corruption hinders development and suffocates the poor by diverting funds meant for them to benefit a few individuals. This is the very reason President Lazarus Chakwera has vowed on many occasions that anyone found to be corrupt, including those serving in his government and others close to him, must face the law.
This is also the reason we will continue to remind the current administration to dig deep into all suspicious transactions involving public funds while guarding against the vice under its watch.
This is simply because government and politics impact every aspect of the lives of Malawians—ranging from the hefty taxes paid and the resultant quality of services and development citizens get from the government.