The past one-and-a half weeks have been a stormy for President Lazarus Chakwera when he has had to deal with one cyclone after another. Fortunately, to a very large extent the President has not disappointed in handling the same, albeit late in some cases.
The first storm to hit Plot Number One was ‘cyclone’ PAC (Public Affairs Committee) on Tuesday last week. PAC chairperson Monsignor Patrick Thawale, read to President Chakwera, a hard hitting statement that had a litany of issues.
It was easy to tell that what had stirred the hornet nest for the quasi-religious body to call on the First Citizen must have been his failure to fire former Lands minister Kezzie Msukwa after he was implicated in a corruption case involving Zuneith Sattar. When another former Cabinet minister Newton Kambala was implicated in a similar case, Chakwera wasted no time to throw him out of his Cabinet. But he did not do the same to Msukwa. Why was the President dealing with a similar issue differently? PAC was surely not distributing sweets and warned Chakwera against selective justice which they said would derail his determination to fight the rampant graft in the country.
Then before the ink had dried on the paper, another storm paid homage to the Presidency, through the Episcopal Conference of Malawi. In a statement, the Catholic Bishops body put its weight behind PAC on corruption saying government must be fair in its fight against corruption. “Let no suspect, however powerful, wealthy or who their connections are, be shielded or protected provided that he or she is given proper recourse to the legal processes of the courts.”
As the week unfolded, another storm was knocking on the President’s door. Someone who has benefitted from the proceeds of crime schemed against Anti-Corruption Bureau director general Martha Chizuma. The wolf in sheep’s clothing enticed her into a treacherous discussion where Chizuma was made to comment on investigations her office is conducting. Then he leaked the conversation unbeknown to the anti-graft crusader.
While opinion was divided on whether or not what she did was acceptable before the law, the audio which went viral on social media provided President Chakwera enough arsenal to get her out of the anti-graft fight. This was clearly the work of members of a network that wants to protect itself after buffeting in the proceeds of crime.
To their disappointment, the President scored a first on almost all fronts. He dissolved the Cabinet; and promised not to rehire Msukwa in his next Cabinet. He kept the ACB director and rescinded the amnesty offered to people who have been looting government coffers.
But before the President appointed a new Cabinet, came Cyclone Ana. As of Thursday, the tropical storm had killed 19 people, and displaced thousands in various parts of the country. It has also wreaked havoc to houses, roads and bridges which will cost billions of kwacha. Chakwera has acted with speed in accordance with powers conferred upon him by Section 32(1) of the Disaster Preparedness and Relief Act (1991) to declare all districts affected by the floods in the southern part of Malawi, Disaster Areas, with effect from January 26 2022.
Dissolving and announcing an initial Cabinet list, retaining ACB director general Chizuma, rescinding the amnesty, dealing with the emergencies caused by Cyclone Ana, are all firsts.
But a potential downside to all these will be a bloated Cabinet and if the rest of the full members of the team will be lefu lefus picked for their loyalty to the President and the Tonse Alliance and nothing more. Additionally, the fight against corruption has just begun with Malawi getting recognised by Transparency International. This fight cannot be won without political will. The President and government should therefore give full support to all sectors fighting the vice.