There’s no smoke without a fire, so the saying goes.
Even though, there may be smoke resulting from smear campaign fires full of falsities, deliberately started to taint, destroy or implicate an innocent person or groups of people, generally the above saying holds true in many circumstances.
Lately, the Malawian government has been bombarded by a barrage of criticisms over its policies and governance of Malawi. To pick a few of these criticisms, there have been attacks over its response to economic affairs ; the 100 days party in preference to Independence day celebrations; an alleged scam perpetrated by parliamentarians ; Madonagate recently took centre stage (see more here and here ) ; Apollo’s tender award (see here , here and here) ; closely related the purchase of vehicles have caused controversy; a shady oil deal allegedly implicating President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and a Nigerian firm have shown the government in a less than admirable light; an allegedly tainted judiciary , one fraud scam after another ; serious doubts over the devaluation of the Kwacha ; the food crisis …and many more.
Surely, while there is likely to be over estimations and trumped-up charges, all this negative publicity couldn’t possibly all be unsubstantiated or false, its origins hidden deep in the crevices of slimy and nefarious intentions? Definitely not. Neither could it all be hearsay, otherwise who’s to stop these news sources from being sued for spreading false rumours? My take is that there may be more than just a few grains of truth in all this.
Admittedly, the Joyce Banda government inherited a broken economy. The country was on the brink of collapse, everything from policing, schools, universities, food supply, aviation, hospital supplies to availability of fuel and forex was in a mess, and the ‘ruins’ had to be rebuilt from the foundations upwards, a feat not exactly easy when you have hostile donors eyeing you suspiciously, some of whom are waving questionable policies at you. Add to that citizens reeling from the effects of a disaster and the opposition parties pulling at your legs to do something fast to rectify the situation.
However, you can only blame your predecessor for so long, in that by now the ‘honeymoon’ is over and the current administration could have been well on their way towards thinking about long-term, or at least a feasible, well-thought through plan for the long-term. For example, as several people observed here, what was the purpose of spending millions on new cars for ministers when signficantly less could have been spent on used (but equally functional) cars? Or on another front, how could the food crisis have occurred when a few years before, there had been a food surplus to the tune of half a million tones? Further, on matters of energy, is it really justifiable for the government to sign a power supply deal with Mozambique even when it is the case that Malawi can in fact generate its own power?
Where from you ask?
From our rivers, the plentiful sunlight our country receives, our uranium. For example, when will a consultation on the exploitation of solar at industrial scale be issued? Or shouldn’t we be exploring underwater current hydro, as others are currently doing? Surely, with the amount of sunlight we get, and considering that solar technology is becoming ever more accessible, a large Solar plant that could complement the existing hydroelectric power plants has got to be a feasible venture.
Clearly, some of the above scandals point to deeper and graver problems at the core of the government. In particular, it no news in Malawians circles that some of the senior members of government are corrupt sorts, tainted by one corruption scandal after another. In fact, worse than that, a few were implicated in the coup attempt, led by honchos in the DPP party, at the time when the former President Bingu Wa Mutharika suddenly died. There’s also allegation that some may have benefitted from business deals with Mota Engil, the portuguese conglomerate that built the Nsanje port. This allegation goes to say that Mota Engil made secret payments into bank accounts of the former president, Bingu Wa Mutharika, including being the company behind the construction of Ndata farm, the palatial home of the former president.
Much closer to the president, I wonder whether it did cross Joyce Banda’s mind that refusal to declare assets (even when it is said that she was strictly not required to do so again) could work against her credibility and standing. Didn’t it occur to her that such was a missed opportunity to show transparency and ‘clean hands’ in that if she did re-declare her assets, it would squarely put her into the ranks of African politicians who have been hailed as heroes? The likes of Chissano, Mogae and Pires. I’m curious to know what her advisers said to her about this issue? Or is it the case that some around her see her re-declaring of asset as amounting to measures that would make misappropriation of funds harder?
It all begs the question, how can the government (and the president — who appears to be a reformer) succeed in transforming the plight of Malawi (and thereby helping Malawians) in the long-term, when she is a government which is increasingly becoming leaven? Or should we ask whether One muddy buffalo truly makes the whole herd dirty? Anzathu ena ochangamuka ndi anzeru ananena kuti mutu umodzi siwusenza denga. But what if the numerous mitu ikusenza madengawo ndi yoduka yokha yokha?