Malawi was at a standstill at 10am on Wednesday. In the build-up to the press conference organised by Vice -President Saulos Chilima, it was as if the country was expecting the second coming of Jesus Christ.
I have never seen a mere announcement of a press conference shake the country so much that, on every social media platform, talk centred on that event.
Chilima’s decision to bow out of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should bring ease in the ruling party after months of tension, animosity, slurs, name-calling, defamatory remarks, character assassination, brutality, harassment of those with dissenting views and violence, among other things, but does not bring in the much-needed new lease of life in intraparty democracy.
Chilima leaves the party just as he found it. He was not given a chance to breathe in a new lease of life and use his expertise to revamp the party and make it a national party by bringing it out of the Lhomwe Belt.
I am not surprised that, as he leaves the party, where he held the useless position of party adviser, he has told us that the DPP-led government is infested with corruption, nepotism, cronyism and other malaise. We have a DPP leadership that uses violence through its youth wing, the so-called cadets, to harass and intimidate those with dissenting views.
The question which the DPP deputy spokesperson
Zeria Chakale asked is; why has he decided to bring the issue of corruption, nepotism and the others now when he had been part of the government for the past four years?
This is a very good question but misplaced because the issue is not about the time Chilima mentioned those issues to the nation but, rather, what the DPP-led government is doing to address them.
As far as I know, these are issues Malawians know exist; President Peter Mutharika has, time and again, acknowledged they exist.
However, he has been vague on how his administration is dealing with the issues.
Just two weeks ago, media reports were rife that Mutharika has appointed his niece to the Malawi Consulate General’s office in South Africa, where she is to be a tourism officer. Just a week after this news, we read that niece to First Lady Gertrude Mutharika had been appointed deputy High Commissioner to Zimbabwe.
It is in the public domain and evidence is there that a powerful senior Cabinet minister has his wife as High Commissioner to the Malawi Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, while his daughter is at the Malawi foreign mission in Lusaka, Zambia, courtesy of a jobless Malawian taxpayer.
Records are there at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that a son to a powerful political adviser to Mutharika is the deputy High Commissioner to India, we all know of a Cabinet minister whose son is at the London foreign office, the President’s direct nephew is at the Malawi foreign office in Geneva, Switzerland.
If this is not nepotism and cronyism, then tell me what this is. Malawi has highly educated, hardworking and qualified youths and other deserving Malawians who can serve the nation better in the foreign offices.
I am not surprised that the country is moving in no direction; it just goes where the wind blows because its leadership is clueless.
Malawians should not get a job just because they are politically connected or because the decision for appointments has been made in a bedroom at Kamuzu Palace during pep talk, that is wrong.
Every qualified and deserving Malawian, not the nieces to the first couple or children to Cabinet ministers— worse still people from one tribe— should be given chance to work in the taxpayer-funded Malawi foreign missions.
This is exactly what Chilima is against; he wants the national cake to be shared equally among people from all walks of life and tribes and regions.
Now let us examine corruption. The board chair of Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) Thom Mpinganjira said this week that the state powerhouse would engage prosecuting agencies like the graftbusting body, the Anti-Corruption Bureau to investigate how and why some members of staff bought items which were not needed at Escom and will never be used, bringing Escom to a debt trap of over K50 billion.
This comes amid published reports that ruling DPP’s powerful officials were using Escom as a conduit to syphon government money for party and personal use.
This is just but one of the major mega corruption and abuse of public funds scandals rocking the poor country.
If Mutharika was serious in busting corruption and ending abuse of public funds, he could have done so long ago, as soon as he got into government. However, it looks like he looks the other way for reasons best known to him.
This is why I say what Chilima said is not new, what is new is why the Mutharika administration is failing to deal with corruption, nepotism and cronyism.
Probably our leaders take Malawians for fools. That is why, as Chilima pointed out, the gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow at an alarming rate, just as corruption, cronyism and nepotism are reaching unprecedented levels.
DPP should go back to the drawing board and examine reasons the Vice-President has bowed out of the DPP presidential race and why he is quitting the party altogether.
He said he decided to chicken out of the party race because he does not want to be seen as bringing confusion to the party and fighting the owners of the party. This is food for thought.
DPP is not supposed to be run like Ndata estate. It should have trustees and a functioning National Governing Council, which is supposed to be making decision on behalf of the party.
This is why the party has many problems; this is why the government is awfully run. No wonder, nepotism, corruption, cronyism are the order of the day and hit headlines on daily basis.
This is why I think the DPP leadership should take stock of the issues of national importance which Chilima raised and, when doing so, they should realise that the Catholic Church and the Nkhoma Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian raised same issues in their respective pastoral letters.
DPP can deal with corruption and nepotism!