Hon. Folks, on Thursday this week Malawi commemorated her 48th straight Martyrs Day since the country’s founding leader Hastings Kamuzu Banda set the day aside in 1974.
Records suggest that Kamuzu declared March 3 each year as Martyrs Day and instructed Malawians to respect this day by honouring those who sacrificed their lives and fought for independence and the freedoms we enjoy today.
The declaration was in remembrance of defiant rebellions staged by our brave men and women in 1915, 1953 and March 3 1959, which forced imperialist forces to kill them in cold blood amid ethnic rivalries caused by the intruders’ economic dominance their hysterical human rights violations against black natives.
But the contemporary Martyrs Day meaning stretches to more younger and brave Malawians killed or imprisoned during the national struggle against Kamuzu’s one party dictatorship and a few ‘budding dictators’ that emerged at State House after the fall of the Ngwazi in 1994.
Now, a lot has changed in the country in terms of political governance and Malawians have witnessed numerous strides since the end of the colonial era over 50 years ago. One may even argue that the positives outweigh the negatives by far. This is a debate for another day suffice to say that Thursday’s commemoration in Nkhata Bay left me wondering if Malawi has gained the socio-economic and political aspirations that our departed heroes envisaged before embarking on their freedom wars.
Assume we turned back the hands of time today, would John Chilembwe and other freedom fighters be happy with the progress in education, anti-corruption fight, poverty reduction and the manner our leaders are safeguarding constitutional rights and freedoms for all citizens without regard to race or political and religious affiliations? Would they not start giving us fresh ideas on how to fight for all the above and more to make Malawi great again?
Surely honourable folks one thing would shock the pre-Independence freedom fighters and that is how our post-colonial rulers have devalued the concept of such ancient liberation crusades by establishing newer domains of dictatorship and bad governance through orderly corruption that has bolstered disunity, high unemployment, gender inequality and poor public infrastructure, among others.
This year’s Martyrs Day, therefore, came at the right time amid fascinating corruption cases that are dragging in the courts for reasons very few people can explain.
Honourable folks, it is also this week when a court in Blantyre dismissed an application by a businessperson and three co-accused who wanted their corruption case discharged because the State through ACB failed to serve defence lawyers with court disclosures on February 10 as ordered by the court. These people are charged with conspiracy to defraud government, money laundering and abuse of office in the procurement of some services by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services, among others.
But the Judge observed that the State represented raised good reasons for its failure to serve the defence with disclosures in good time which showed that ACB was committed to prosecute the matter.
This followed shocking revelations by ACB director general Martha Chizuma that the State failed to serve the defence with disclosures on February 10 due to “financial constraints”. According to Chizuma, ACB was unable to access funds for the prosecution of the matter due to challenges with the Integrated Financial Management Information System (Ifmis), among other factors.
Folks, the Ifmis issue has caused a lot of headache for government financial transactions, including payment of salaries due to what authorities described as technical hitches. Many times, we have been told that the system underwent several upgrades, but the song remains the same… delays in payments now they are even affecting ACB which carries the hopes of many Malawians and donors in as far as dealing with corruption and recovering stolen assets and finances is concerned.
These silent miscalculations by those in charge of Ifmis have huge potential in foiling the fight against corruption and what will remain is amplified empty rhetoric by our leaders. I can only emphasise that all Malawians, including representatives of government ministries, departments and agencies have a role to play in the fight against corruption and these include those who handle the Ifmis.
Corruption has endured for ages, resulting in greater impoverishment and moral decay of many citizens and this is why key prosecution agencies such as ACB deserve priority when assessing funds needed in their operations.
This is one sure way the current administration can fast-track those many corruption cases in our courts and in soon this country could become an impenetrable firewall against those who wish to sustain the culture and practice of corruption in our midst.