On Wednesday, two bodies of productive Malawians and family men were pulled out of the Kyungu River in Karonga after a bridge collapsed due to heavy rains. That part of the M1 that covers that part of the country, were only constructed three years ago, guess what, amid murmurings of how the contract to the contractor was granted.
But the cost of lack of seriousness in national development is higher. Thanks to God’s intervention, the country—and Africa at large—seems to somehow have dodged the bullet when it comes to suffering the full weight of Covid-19, the 1 300 dead withstanding. You may recall the general national panic in January and February when the country entered the eye of the pandemic and our Facebook timelines were full of grief and devastation, but imagine the state of the anguish that could’ve been there if our death toll was anywhere near as high as India’s, for example.
Now, imagine this, when we get sick here, especially with complicated ailments, we rush to India, among other countries (but mostly India) for support. Actually, India donated a good chunk of our sizeable Covid-19 vaccine. India supports us in all spheres of life, agriculture (remember tractorgate?), water and student scholarships, among others. Yet, the images out of India about the Covid-19 are heartbreaking. On television, scores of Indians suffering from Covid-19 are being shown dying at parking areas in ambulances because the hospitals are overwhelmingly full. The Indian health care system, way much improved to ours, cannot cope.
So, by some act of God, we have been spared the same heavy toll. But yet, when the billions of Covid-19 funds were made available to our officials in government, just like when there are funds to construct roads and bridges, like the one that has collapsed in Karonga, they played a game of chicken with the funds. With the money in their pockets, they left our brothers and sisters in the hospitals to die because the hospitals had no enough oxygen and other crucial supplies to keep them alive.
The Lord may have spared us of Covid-19’s full wrath, but still left us with enough thieves masquerading as public servants. And once the audit report on how these funds were abused was out, it was always going to be the litmus test for the Lazarus Chakwera Presidency. Thank goodness, Chakwera decided not to abort the goodwill towards his government and acted as any sensible President ought to—ordering handcuffs to drop on all the thieves like heavy rains. To confirm that he was not going to be seen as anyone’s puppet, and that he was damn serious about his pledge on stumping out graft, the President even fired his Labour minister Ken Kandodo, not for stealing Covid-19 funds, but for simply allowing the ministry to pay his foreign travel allowance from the Covid-19 kitty.
Kandodo, by the way, is no ordinary MCP member. He is from a family that casts an outsized shadow on the country’s oldest political party. Kandodo’s appointment alongside his sister, now presumably under pressure as Health Minister and co-chairperson of the Presidential Taskforce on the pandemic, plus a few others from same families in the Cabinet, had given way to the President’s unwanted moniker—Family Man! Kandodo’s firing will send a chilling signal to the rest of the gang: if Chakwera can fire a member of the Kamuzu family, this man is ready for any war.
That is good for the country, because while we all could expect the President, a former pastor to curse in God’s name the thieves that have been robbing our destiny for so long, we have had our doubts whether the President can follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ, who whipped the greedy Jews who turned the synagogue into a marketplace. But now Chakwera shows he is ready to fight for us. And with us. Chakwera, unlike his immediate predecessor, who often buried his head in the sand during crisis, appears to get it. But that doesn’t mean the fight against corruption will be won by simply arresting the small fish that abused Covid-19 funds. Every thief in government and outside must be confronted and have his day in court.
And, good people with sound credentials must be appointed to clean up the civil service as the President has promised so that we are not perennially firefighting but also able to prevent the abuse of our public funds continuously happening, so far the plunder has been heatless and on industrial scale. It costs a few deaths too many—blamed on Covid-19. One day, if unchecked, it will lead to death of the whole nation, village by village, town by town. We better act now..