We are still in the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV) period. This is the period Malawi joins the world over to raise awareness against GBV. In my last entry, among other things, I opined that “until we know not just why there is a rise in rape and defilement cases, but more importantly why some men steep so low as to get involved in rape and defilement, we will not know how best to fight the vices. Why, for example, should convicted rapists and defilers go to prison and not to the mental hospital” for assessment?” This is where the article also drew its headline. It has solicited a stinging reaction from some readers in the mental health profession. In the spirit of fair play, they will be given space in the next issue of this paper.
The Covid-19 pandemic has completely overshadowed HIV-Aids to the point one would think it no longer exists. Yet Aids is till claiming its thousands while Covid-19 has only officially taken the lives of 185 people. And so, I was taken aback on December 1, which is World Aids Day, to learn that in 2019 there were over 30 000 new infections in Malawians. This is despite the humongous resources that are expended on the campaign against the pandemic.
Like the question I posed last week on the campaign against GBV, and despite the gains we have achieved as a country, why is Malawi’s HIV prevalence still one of the highest in the world, with 9.2 percent of the adult population (aged 15-49) living with HIV? Why the over 30 000 new infections in 2019? What should the country do to spur the nation towards achieving the goal of eliminating HIV as a public health threat by 2030?
But my focus this week is on the wanton pilferage and malfeasance in the public sector. Specifically it is to warn those who have easy access to the public purse to always think long and hard before helping themselves or their political bosses to illicit money. The long arm of the law will always smoke you out. It may take years, but it will still happen.
Apart from those already convicted for or answering corruption-related charges in the Cashgate cases, several politicians and a public servant are now facing the law for various alleged crimes. Some have already been incarcerated. They include Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) former regional governor Christopher Mzomera Ngwira. He is serving a four-year jail sentence—something he could easily have avoided had he been a little God-fearing especially that he is a reverend.
Another is DPP’s Central Region vice-president Uladi Mussa. He is serving a six-year jail term after he was found guilty in a corruption trial linked to passports. He was convicted alongside former senior immigration officer David Kwanjana for aiding foreign nationals to enter into the country illegally. I pity Kwanjana. His real crime might have been his failure to defy his boss’s order. Unless he wins the case in an appeal hearing, he loses pension for all his over-a-decade long service.
The latest to face the music is former minister of Irrigation and Water Development Charles Mchacha who has been charged with four counts. They include inducing public officers to corruptly perform duties to award him a plot in Blantyre. Ministry of Defence Principal Secretary Bright Kumwembe was also arrested in connection with Mchacha’s alleged crimes. He is facing two counts of neglect of duty and giving false evidence.
Like Kwanjana, Kumwembe’s crime might be failing to restrain his boss from engaging in some illicit activities. I am aware that the case is still in court and he as well as Mchacha are still innocent until proven otherwise. But the point is that Kumwembe and his family are now suffering both psychologically and financially as he has to raise legal fees for his defense team.
My hero remains Betty Mahuka former Escom finance director who in 2026 did not want to sell her conscience by illegally awarding DPP officials lucrative contracts with a view to indirectly funding the party. Mahuka could have pleased DPP officials. But the law could have caught up with her as it has with some former Escom senior officials and a board chairperson.
Some would argue that Mahuka was able to resign because she was financially sound from her businesses. But why not use the Anti-Corruption Bureau’s (ACB) open-door policy for those who would like to report corruption and save your job, your name and family from torture?