Ardent students of history would recall a period between September 1939 and the spring of 1940, during the bloodiest conflict in human history.
Suddenly during World War I, the fighting stopped, even without any ceasefire.
So little were the skirmishes that history reports that many of the children who had been evacuated at the start of the war, had returned to their families.
This newspaperman is an ardent student of history—so couldn’t fail to draw parallels between once-upon-a-time war on corruption by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and that chapter in history.
Like majority of modern leaders, President Peter Mutharika has on several occasions touted his credentials in fighting corruption, but it’s his departed brother and DPP patriarch Bingu wa Mutharika, who really gave us the mantra: ‘Zero tolerance’.
Last year, the younger Mutharika’s administration hosted a major anti-corruption conference in Lilongwe now memorable for its rueful theme: ‘Corruption in Malawi: Reality or Perception?’
Perhaps, that apparent indifference to a fact that is so obvious, should have signalled to us that the second Mutharika has it twisted on fighting corruption.
Perhaps, our illusions have a home in the DPP 2014 election manifesto that pledged that once in power, the party would rid the country of the cancer of corruption and provided steps on how they’ll do it.
After all, as Bingu dumped UDF, it was corruption within the UDF that was cited as the main reason the former Comesa secretary general hit the exit button.
Well, we know better now. We know that DPP’s anti-graft credentials, built over the years on hounding both the UDF and later, the People’s Party, are fake.
If there is a party that has done so little to fight corruption in this country, it is DPP.
Consider this, Joyce Banda’s short-lived administration might have added Cashgate to the lexicon, but whether out of political naivety or sincere heart to fight corruption, when the K24 billion Baker Tilly Audit report was published, a credible and independent investigation was held.
Several friends and supporters of Banda herself were locked up.
When DPP came to power—mainly thanks to an electorate protesting against PP corruption—a whopping K236 billion was discovered to have been stolen under the DPP, PP and DPP administrations.
Yet unlike under JB, DPP has not released the audit to the public and crucially, not even a single official has been arrested.
After Cashgate, the JB administration quickly enacted the Assets Declaration law to ensure that wealth of public officials, including the President, could be tracked and appropriate lifestyle audits conducted to ensure officials were not living large, thanks to corruption.
Come DPP and APM, that law is being severely undermined not just by junior officers, but an office no less than the presidency itself; and in many ways than one.
A recent investigation by our sister newspaper Weekend Nation on how Cabinet was observing—which should read breaking the law instead—is telling.
The Cabinet is making a joke of the law: Four ministers didn’t declare anything just filling ‘NOT APPLICABLE’ on the forms. One minister just declared a few bags of maize and one Grace Obama Chiumia resolved to just ignore this inconvenience altogether.
From whom did the members of the Cabinet get the cue? The law obliges public officers to disclose details of salaries, loans, donations, gifts, assets procured (such as houses, plots, cars,) among others.
All Mutharika declared on the forms was a new car—and nothing else. The law also asks the President and other selected officers to disclose details of their immediate family, Mutharika, a Yale trained lawyer, didn’t.
And this is the same President who is at the heart of receiving dubious donations from people under investigations of defrauding the State. This is the same administration that is yet to arrest several officials implicated in the Police/Pioneer Investments deal in which the President, as a sole signatory of bank account named under the DPP, was a beneficiary.
This is the same President, folks, who has previously refused to amend the law to give more independence and protection to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to fight effectively corruption.
It would be delusional to think such a leadership is fighting corruption, or has the interest of the nation at heart.
But such things must matter. Corruption has eaten away so many resources that could have alleviated so many of the country’s biggest social ills. Fighting corruption should have been the major electoral issue in this country, why it’s not, is fodder for another day.