Beyond the president, the country’s fight against corruption hinges around three important offices; the Attorney General (AG), the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the director of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
The last time these offices generated a buzz and excitement, the departed Ishmaeil Wadi— young, good looking and likeable— was the DPP. At ACB, a former policeman wearing a no-nonsense façade turned hardcore prosecutor, Gustav Kaliwo, (he would in the future join politics and become secretary general of the Malawi Congress Party), was the director.
AG was Ralph Kasambara, then a blush, explosive lawyer at the top of his game—many rains before he was accused of participating in Cashgate. Later, he was convicted of attempting to murder Paul Mphwiyo— former budget director at the country’s treasury.
Bingu wa Mutharika, who once served as a World Bank economist, deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) and leader of the now defunct Uinted Party, was then president—bankrolled and supported to State House by Bakili Muluzi and his party United Democratic Front (UDF), a president and party still smarting from failed attempts to rape the country’s constitution in a bid to remove limits to presidential terms to allow Muluzi continue being president.
But no one wanted Muluzi for another term, least of all, for life. He was damaged goods. He had made the country worse. A ‘failed decade’ is the famous description of Emmie Chanika, an erstwhile vocal rights activist, bestowed on the Muluzi era; an era Malawians usually unanimously agree, saw the beginning of all that is wrong in this country in so far as mismanagement of the affairs of the State is concerned. An era of corruption and cluelessness.
But whether it was due to rigging or some other tactics, or whether it was the disenfranchised opposition vote, thanks to the endless squabbles between John Tembo and Gwanda Chakuamba— the old personal friends who became bitter nemesis for life— always plotting against each other in the main opposition Malawi Congress Party. In 2004, the unpopular UDF with its least inspiring candidate Bingu—a man bereft of eloquence and charm, made it back to State House. But things changed nonetheless.
He delivered an inspiring inauguration and announced that things would be different. Then he made the right appointments. Goodall Gondwe was an inspiring choice at finance, a fresh face out of the usual political kind, plucked from obscurity of Bretton Woods institutions, to head Treasury.
But it was the three musketeers who really generated a buzz, putting Bingu’s zero-tolerance to corruption mantra into action. And damn, they delivered. They even put Che Jumo—the big fish—on trial.
Today, after making the right noises about fighting corruption and pledging to clear the rubble, President Lazarus Chakwera has also appointed three exciting characters to the key governance institutions.
Martha Chizuma came with a stellar record as former Ombudsman. When the opposition cowardly tried to stop her appointment, the public revolted and forced Parliament’s hand.
Steve Kayuni and Thabo Nyirenda were both surprise picks for DPP and AG respectively. But within months and days of office, they’ve done enough to demonstrate they are more than capable. And that being young and zealous can be a positive attribute if you are professional enough.
The question now is; can these three musketeers continue on this right path or they are just on some make-believe crusade? Will they get the support to continue going after the corrupt and thieves in government and their cohorts in business regardless of the identity of the culprits? Will they resist the temptation that comes with the office and not allow themselves to be corrupted as we have often seen with their predecessors?
The answers to that question will define their legacy in the long run. But truth be told, if the three are to remain steadfast and resolute in protecting the public purse—money that is supposed to help us get the right infrastructure and better service delivery from government—they will probably need citizen number one to constantly display his commitment to rule of law. So far, citizen number one has allowed ministers and aides to be arrested and fired when charged with crime. The real question is, has he done so because all those who have been caught with hands in the proverbial jar are not his favourites or out of principle? That is the question!