‘Why do countries fail?’ is a question that preoccupies leaders, scholars and development planners all the time.
There might be a myriad explanation to why different countries end up on different economic and development trajectories. Our history suggests a number of ills have bedeviled our quest for development: corruption, wastage, preoccupation with politics of patronage and attendant cronyism, among others.
History is also replete with examples of how much we’ve failed to learn from, guess what, history.
Indeed, many a folk has written and spoke, at length, eloquently and profusely on the subject. Among those to impress us with their theories on what is wrong and its supposed panacea, are the folks running government today, the so-called Tonse Alliance.
Whether Tonse remains united or still resembling a vehicle of every ordinary folk’s aspirations is something that is increasingly coming under scrutiny, however.
The supposed revolutionary government—a government elected thanks to decades long frustration over worsening corruption and nepotism, elected to power through a protest-demanded vote after the first rigged one was cancelled by the brave five judges—decided to appoint into Cabinet siblings and spouses, entrenching once again nepotism and cronyism thanks to open appeasement.
That was the original sin. A betrayal as unforgettable as Lucifer’s in the high echelons of heavenly powers, but one forgiveable through the atonement of good deeds.
It will be dishonesty, though, to claim that there have been no good deeds by the Tonse Alliance administration. Rule of law, transparency, accountability is all up. AIP, the signature programme enabling rural farmers access cheap maize, coupled with good rains, has been a huge success.
Unlike Peter Mutharika, his aloof and out-of-touch predecessor who would bury his head in the sand during crisis like the proverbial ostrich, Lazarus Chakwera is more responsive to outcries of the nation whenever things go north. And unlike Mutharika, nature, somehow, rigged the game for Chakwera by gifting him better oratory skills than his nemesis.
But no good speech can fool a nation longing for genuine change. So, time and time again, Chakwera’s administration, like its predecessors, has been caught pants down betraying the aspirations of the people who fought day and night for it to come to power.
Malawians longing for better schools, hospitals, roads etc know their government could afford all this were it not for corruption. But they are witnesses to a crime scene featuring decaying public infrastructure and crumbling services while those in charge and their business cohorts earn overnight riches.
It is exactly for that malaise that they voted Chakwera to confront and upend by appointing good folks into office (perhaps like Martha Chizuma as head of ACB and Steve Kayuni as Director Public Prosecutions), and remove dead wood like….please fill the gap!
They also elected Chakwera so that he would personally wage war on corruption as he has done on the Covid-19 funds abuse.
Now after the audit exposed so much heartless plunder of our limited resources that were supposed to save lives, the government now wants not much to do with such exercises any more. Why?
After the President publicly pledged to conduct further audits to investigate the rest of Covid-19 funds expenditures, and other major budgets such as road infrastructure, the same government, in one corner of the mouth, is turning around and telling us that it doesn’t have enough money to carry out such exercises.
That folks, doesn’t sit easily with us, or common sense.
For one, our government has never been cash-strapped as long as I recall.
Secondly, there appears to be a pattern forming around how the State machinery is reacting to pronouncements by the President, aimed at bringing sanity to our government. There appears to be serious pushback. Orders such as weekly expenditure reports are not carried forward, now his credibility undermined by denying to put in money to clean the system.
Yet we cannot continue throwing our good money into a leaking bucket. Throwing our money at audits and more mechanisms to punish abuse is the surest way we can end the culture of impunity in government.
So, the President should not lose this one, let him be different—and atone for the original sin—by vigorously fighting corruption and all the old vices that have kept this country in this dark hole for a long time. If others dare to hold us back, let Lazarus show them; they’re flying to close to the sun.