He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” – Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
Ever since Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika took over power, the only calamities his administration cannot be held accountable for are the floods and drought.
Floods and drought, as everyone knows, are mishaps that can occur anywhere regardless of the competence or incompetence, pragmatism or lack thereof, of whosoever is governing.
On the other hand the agonising impact of:
- lack of budgetary support;
- deficiency of transformational leadership;
- poor planning and execution compounded by absurd national priorities;
- decadence amply demonstrated by an insatiable appetite for celebrating mediocrity;
- failure to move away from the tendency of placing petty politics over national priorities;
- hunger for power today and forevermore even when it is so clear that the man in charge is, to put it mildly, groping in the dark and not leading; and
- the growing insecurity for people and property;
are all issues that, after being in office for over fourteen months, APM should have had a handle on.
From the look of things, even if he was given fifty years, APM would never rise to the challenge.
Why? Because APM has quickly decided to operate on a principle reserved for rockets i.e. no motion or action unless the bottom is on fire despite making loud noises about a business unusual approach and reforms.
This write up, one of many others to come via this column, seeks to prod APM into some sort of action by demanding the “business unusual” that he waxed lyrical about, and reforms in deed not words, promises that have this far proved as empty as an idiot’s mind.
IF APM needs fire on his bottom to propel him forward, then he will get it. If he needs to be told what to do, he merely ought to listen to the clergy religiously, the media with an open mind and open his ears to hear the wailing of ordinary Malawians.
Pretending that all is well with Malawi tantamounts, in my view, to treason and genocide.
Cutting the Gordian knot:
Having dispensed with introductory remarks, the natural starting point – given the state of poverty we are in – is the lack of budgetary support, which is why for two years running Malawi is experimenting with a zero aid budget and failing miserably.
While any ambitious nation dreams of and aspires for economic independence, Malawi, due to a number of man-made factors, cannot provide a variety of vital pro-poor services without donor support.
It just can’t. This is the bitter pill we have to swallow.
To prove this: according to latest reports, when Malawians fall sick and are admitted in public hospitals, they will be taking drugs on empty stomachs, as if falling ill is a crime. The only other place where people live on a meal a day in Malawi is in prisons.
If falling sick is indeed a crime, why then are our ministers and senior civil servants evacuated to South Africa when they fall sick?
If more proof is required: ask teachers. For teachers, getting paid on time is a luxury. I will not bring in the sorry state of our security personnel, who are so ill-equipped and so unmotivated that crime is becoming the usual rather than the exception.
The good news is: if we are to systematically work our way towards economic independence, as citizens, we have our work cut out, just as APM – as president – has his cut out too, as per his campaign promises.
Just as any rational person cannot pour water into a leaking pail, no rational donor will invest money into the dripping tub that is the Malawi Government Account number one.
The reason is simple. For far too long, the account number one, the domicile of funds granted under budgetary support, has been abused and misused for the benefit of a connected few at the expense of the suffering impoverished majority.
What we need to do if we are to cut the Gordian knot, is to accelerate and not dillydally getting to the root of cash-gate and rid government machinery of a multitude of deficiencies that:
- facilitate theft of public resources and
- conspire to let big and connected culprits go free.
This means that in parallel with an earnest and total system overhaul, the brains behind cash gate, all participants thereto, from all [political party] regimes, should be quickly identified, prosecuted and locked up.
This far, this is not happening at a pace any patriot would be proud of.
And even before we achieve a total system overhaul, leakages in the health sector that saw the former Minister of Health, Dr Jean Kalirani and DHOs engaging in a futile finger-pointing match that has not helped anyone must be plugged and culprits be identified, prosecuted and locked up.
The new minister of health, Dr Peter Kumpalume, once he has clarified whether he holds British Citzenship or not needs to prove his worth soon.
We can only hope that the good doctor is aware that IF he is a British national he was not qualified to even run for parliament under the Laws of Malawi Cap VI Section 51.
Never mind about Dr Kumpalume, should we fail, as a nation, to achieve a system overhaul we might as well ring the bell for anarchy because a hungry nation is an angry nation and at the pace we are going, the breaking point is not too far away.
Unravelling the maze:
Cash-gate, as is becoming clearer and clearer every day, was invented and allowed to thrive by unpatriotic leadership. It was not clerks, but the people at the top hired and trusted to look out for the small man.
Why was nothing done in 2012 when Perks Ligoya, then Governor of Reserve Bank first blew the whistle?
What if we may ask, were we paying Perks Ligoya for, if not to blow the whistle so that action – by the president – can be taken?
These are the pertinent questions that donors want answers for and Malawians are owed explanations for. Again, all this validates all inferences that the people being prosecuted today are not the biggest beneficiaries of cashgate.
To put it figuratively: as a nation, we are scratching where it is not itching at all because of our dread for scratching on the really irritating parts of our body.
The problem is, going to bed with an itching anus does guarantee that you wake up with smelly fingers. End result is the stink that we are now wallowing in.
It goes without saying that donors are taking the pitifully slow and insufficient steps made as the window-dressing they are and guess what? They are damn right.
Fact is: big crooks recruited the middlemen that were getting cuts (10% according to one Caroline Savala). Getting rid of the middlemen without surfacing the big crooks does not solve the problem.
Hence the donors’ wait and see game.
We therefore need to speed up investigations, arrests and prosecutions of the cash gate pioneers and their disciples IF we hope to impress any donor.
Malawians: aliens in their own country?
According to media reports, investigations and prosecutions have a racial face. No Malawian of Asian origin and no foreigner is – as we speak – behind the bars, despite some being mentioned in various reports and being known to the Anti-Corruption Bureau as people that really ransacked the kitty.
This shows, without doubt, that APM’s government is contented to parade, name and shame the small fish while they are supping, wining and dining with the big fish.
APM and his government are happy to arrest and lock-up the small fish whose specialty in cash-gate was the local currency when the big fish that were cash-gating in foreign currency and depleting our meagre forex are as free as birds in the sky and still enjoying the curtesy of “supplying” government ministries and departments a variety of goods and non-goods.
No-one knows better than APM, a professor of law, that the Rule of Law, in its most basic form, lies in the principle that no one is above the law.
And therefore, if the rich non-Malawians and Malawians of Asian origin being shielded from the long arm of the law are not tasked to face the music under whatever guise, APM should be the first to know that he is going against a basic tenet of good governance.
It would, given all the above, take a really stupid donor to be impressed with APM government’s non-efforts on waging war on cash-gate and cash-gaters.
Assembly level cash-gate:
Civil society organisations recently blew an alarm that cash-gate permeated all structures and district assemblies were not spared.
They have therefore called for urgent action. Last time we checked, APM was just snoring. Whether APM is awake or not, and aware or not, this has sent wrong signals all over the world.
First, it is his brother’s ignoring of a central bank boss warning way back in 2012 that created space for the Joyce Banda administration to usher in “Peoples Party” era cash gate after his demise.
And today, we have APM, sleeping on civil society’s appeal to investigate assemblies.
I can hazard a guess that lack of resources will be the scapegoat, if he is asked.
What APM should know is that ninety-nine percent of failures, according to George Washington Carver, come from people who have the habit of making excuses.
It goes without saying that for APM and his administration, if they do not want to join the ninety-nine percent, should avoid this bad habit of making excuses.
And with services deteriorating, donor claims that they have not withheld support and they are using other means so that the ordinary people do not suffer, are increasingly sounding hollow.
Show me a person in New York or London or Brussels who recovered from a disease that required hospitalisation on one meal a day, and I will agree that yes: donors are reaching needy Malawians “through other means”.
The truth is: while donor agencies have not, in fact left Malawi; their officers and structures are running.
This implies that staff members are drawing salaries and perks, overhead costs are still running and all these, back home in London, Brussels and New York, are being called: “aid to Malawi”.
This reminds one of Dambisa Moyo’s insightful arguments on Aid.
In the absence of tangible support to the women and children expected to convalesce on a meal a day, the so called aid said to be “flowing” to Malawi is intended to sustain the employment of those working in the aid agencies, in the classic tale of kadya nkena mbiri njakhoswe.
Can we really fault the donors?
No. It is up to Malawians to start demanding the business unusual approach that APM was talking about upon taking office, which – sadly – was just beer hall talk by a man celebrating elevation to an office that had nearly eluded him.
And look at this: according to one engineer:
- a road built to the highest standard (for heavy traffic) in Malawi should cost about K160 million per kilometre at the most. If this road was 95kms long, the total cost would be around MK15.2 billion.
- a road where traffic volume is low should cost about K90 million per kilometre. For a 95km road, the total cost should be MK8.5 billion.
The Lilongwe Old Airport – Kasiya road, that 95km stretch, will cost Malawi MK39.6 billion.
The question is: how in hell did the APM administration come up with MK39.6 billion i.e. MK411million per kilometre for that road?
The conclusion can only be that the process leading to award of the contract to Mota Engil stinks big time. Someone will shave off the cream icing the MK39.6 billion – and I will not hazard names – and stash it abroad.
By now, our leaders ought to have known that donors pretend to be gullible just so that they can learn just how stupid Malawians really are, the art of giving a fool enough rope, to enjoy watching him hang himself.
They are very much aware that the cost of a 95km stretch of road cannot come anywhere near 39 billion Malawi Kwacha.
The only conclusion they have arrived at is: funds will be deposited into an account somewhere.
Whenever anyone writes or speaks on governance issues, pro-government apologists – either from being too dumb or too drunk from bootlicking – deliberately overlook the recommendations and ask “where are your solutions”?
For this sorry grouping of misguided zealots, I have repeated the recommendations made or implied above in summary form:
- APM should walk the talk to restore faith in the public financial management system.
- APM should see to it that big fish join Savala, Lutepo, and others at Maula, Chichiri or Zomba Prison by allocating enough security and resources to the ACB.
- APM should assign the K1.7 billion case to Kamudoni Nyasulu who has experience in prosecuting a former president before and has proved himself in cash-gate.
- APM should stop functioning as a party leader and work as a State President.
- APM should stop shuffling around, or to use his favourite word, redeploying, incompetent ministers and parastatal CEOs. He must have the balls to fire them and hire proven experienced and competent men and women to help him turn around Malawi for the larger good.
- APM should stop mapwevupwevu; it is an insult to Malawian taxpayers for a president to be wining and dining when the taxpayers in public hospitals are on one-meal a day with paracetamol.
- APM should lead in coming up with Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound (SMART) roadmap to set Malawi onto economic independence.
- APM should provide all information on bidding process the bids for the Lilongwe Old Airport – Kasiya road so that we can appreciate how a 95km road will cost MK39 billion.
- APM should start publishing cash allocated to State House, government ministries and assemblies so that the public can monitor where the cash is going and where the leakages are.
Final word, the one thing that APM ought to never forget is that while Malawians are as patient as the hours and as tame as a house cat, when pushed to the limit they can be as angry as wasps disturbed in their nest.
And facing fifteen million angry wasps is not a prospect anyone should entertain.
To my dear and beloved apologists, before you comment blindly, please ponder that when a wise man is pointing at the moon, idiots by concentrating on the wise man’s finger, often miss the bigger picture.