Hon. Folks, it is now over a year, two months and a couple of weeks since Malawi ushered the Tonse Alliance administration in office.
Apart from largely campaigning on their cheap fertiliser platform, it is no doubt that President Lazarus Chakwera and his vice Saulos Chilima secured the citizens’ resounding approval partly due to their convincing assurance to fight corruption which ruined former president Peter Mutharika’s political status.
Throughout their campaign, Chakwera and Chilima charged Mutharika’s DPP of committing ‘very serious’ economic crimes against Malawians as they promised to crack their whip on the vice soon after assuming office to drain the swamp.
Hon. Folks, many months since the duo took power on June 23 last year, the key question remains; what happened to the 30-day or so corruption amnesty for all politicians and government officials as proclaimed by Chakwera and Chilima during their thick campaign?
The two publicly told us that once elected they would offer a limited amnesty for individuals and companies to surrender funds stolen from public coffers. They further warned that their government will prosecute those who fail to comply after the amnesty expires.
Of course corruption amnesty programmes are well suited for countries like ours which lack the manpower to investigate everyone suspected to have stolen or mismanaged public funds and can be a potential solution to limited investigative resources.
Many have argued that corruption amnesties provide fresh avenues to regain ill-gotten wealth hidden locally and overseas and help authorities to solicit new information about past corrupt schemes involving senior government and public officials as well as private citizens.
They also suggest that such ultimatums repair the civil service and reposition public officers who may have acted corruptly under previous regimes to properly support the current anti-corruption drive although some officials will display pockets of resistance against such programmes.
Now, is it not high time the government considered declaring that 30-day amnesty now to recover more ill-gotten gains as a strategy to help curb the scourge of corruption in the country other than continuously giving citizens pure lip service?
Without doubt there are many individuals out there who still possess unjustified properties and financial gains and are simply asking their gods to continue calming Chakwera and Chilima so that they are not busted.
However, the truth is this radical initiative can help the government recover sufficient resources obtained in the dark than just relying on State prosecuting agencies whose operations have been choked by financial and human resource constraints for decades.
Hon. Folks, let truth be told that even the on-going crackdown on suspected corrupt individuals inspires little confidence among many citizens due to various factors, including inadequate funding and training for prosecuting agents or agencies.
Although a lot has been said about the Tonse admininstration’s resolve to fight corruption, it is obvious that many citizens do not have the same confidence in the fight against corruption as before.
Until today, we have people who doubt and continue to ridicule the slow pace at which the promised change by the Tonse administration is taking shape because of past experiences where the Anti-Corruption Bureau and other prosecuting agencies seemed to work hard on paper but hardly so in real sense.
I dare say this is the reason why we have lately seen the Anti-Corruption Bureau getting busy and engaging or questioning various people on suspected corruption, including presidential aides because somewhere somehow people are not taking the whole fight against corruption seriously.
Persistent failure to remember is hazardous especially when it is done deliberately for political gains. We have seen politicians falling by the wayside in subsequent elections after promising voters things that they (politicians) knew they were never serious about.
When you experience forgetfulness, you find it harder to recall past information, but I doubt Chakwera and Chilima have transient memories that they completely forgot about the amnesty pledge.
That 15 or 30-day amnesty has fast turned into one year and nearly three months. Soon we will be in 2024 and the two may have nothing to tell the modern voter who does not forget easily.
It is for this reason that we will continue to remind the two leaders that they owe Malawians the timed amnesty for corruption.