A den of thieves, a cowboy’s playhouse: The dirty shenanigans of public appointments in Malawi

The truth has a way of coming out. You see, the problem with the truth is that if you try to conceal it, you only succeed in encouraging it to want to reveal itself even more… It may take time before it’s out, and sometimes the people who get to know about it, are not always those who sought to know it ,(or lived through the times) in the first place, but out it will come. Let’s take one example from history…

Remember Stalin? The Joseph Stalin. Ioseb Jughashvili, that guy. Remember how he tried to misrepresent the events that happened in Ukraine between 1932 and 1933, with the Soviet Politburo summarising the famine which their Collectivisation policy had created in Ukraine (which killed 3.9 million Ukrainians) as ‘an accidental inevitable starvation due to Kulak Corruption and problems with the climate and harvest’?

Well, wasn’t it barely 8 years later in 1941, when an agricultural economist, S. Sosnovyi published a study in a Ukrainian newspaper of how the Soviets deliberately tried to destroy Ukrainian peasant opposition to Soviet Power, with disastrous effects, and subsequently lied that the famine had been caused by “natural causes”.

The lesson being no matter how powerful you think you are, no matter the size of your army, no matter how big your tanks are, or how deep your pockets are, if you’re hiding wrongdoing, the truth … will eventually come out.

Anyway, I digress. The decision of the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) of Malawi’s Parliament to refuse to confirm President Chakwera’s appointment of Martha Chizuma as Director General of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has caused great anger to most Malawians of goodwill around the world, and has created a crisis, which threatens to shatter certain conventions of public appointments in Malawi.

You see Malawians love Martha Chizuma. She is not only an accomplished prosecutor but is a legend who has worked diligently as the Ombudsman to stand against corruption, impropriety, misappropriation of state resources, and greed of public officials in Malawi, and has successfully investigated and concluded many cases, even during the DPP administration of Peter Mutharika, when ‘fighting corruption‘ was largely a lip service exercise by the authorities.

Unfortunately, some parliamentarians haven’t yet received the memo that these days Malawians mean business. These MPs think it’s up to them to block the appointment of a star who many people trust and love, and whose record speaks for itself.

The reasons why some members of PAC decided to score her down are simple and can be summarised into one short sentence: they’re playing politics and are afraid.

Lets just say someone who has a track record of busting graft, uncovering dirt, and forcing accountability is definitely not a safe pair of hands to lead the ACB for people with skeletons in their closets.

https://twitter.com/onjezani/status/1392079028266340356?s=19

Simply put, some people on PAC are afraid that if Chizuma becomes head of ACB, she will go after them or their party’s leadership, and investigate the tens of unresolved Political Corruption cases that have been languishing in our courts for years and years. To add to that, there’s a lot of finger pointing and laying of blame between the political parties in Malawi, even between those in the Tonse Alliance…and some people are using this episode to carve out political capital. Uje ndi uje ngoipa, gulu lathu nde labwino

Speaking with a close friend about the Martha Chizuma fiasco, he summed up the conduct of the committee as ‘A den of thieves’ and ‘a cowboy’s playhouse’:

Not only are most of them only interested in enriching themselves, fat salaries, perks ontop of perks, but the moment a really good idea that has the potential to transform our country for the better comes to the fore, they shoot it down! Its a den of thieves, a cowboy’s playhouse!”

President Chakwera, in a speech in Parliament yesterday condemned the decision of PAC, and said it slowed down the fight against Corruption. There are now calls for a detailed report for the proceedings that led to her rejection.

But ultimately there is such a thing as right and wrong. And as elected officials, MPs on the committee are not there in their own capacities or to further personal or professional agendas. We shouldn’t forget that they’re elected to Parliament to represent the people, and are therefore subject to the scrutiny and will of the people.

Thus, if the rejection to Chizuma’s appointment was a legitimate reflection of the dominant sentiments in their constituencies, then let them publish details of how they consulted with people in their constituencies before giving Chizuma a low score? Surely that would be one transparent and clear way of explaining themselves and of showing that the Malawians they represent do not want Martha Chizuma as Director of ACB?

But if they’re unable to provide that evidence, then it’s totally fair to question their motives and intentions, especially when several other members of PAC gave Chizuma a full 25/25.

And while many people do not fully agree with the presidential appointments process, right now it’s what we have. And until we adopt something else, something better, the current system needs to be made to work for the betterment of our country. It shouldn’t be allowed to function in a way that is contrary to or defeats the overall aims and objectives of good governance.

Martha Chizuma is spotless, her record is impeccable. Malawi needs someone like her to help clean up the mess and theft and rogue conduct that has defined our country’s politics for nearly 30 years, and has greatly contributed to the poverty in our country.

And for those who are making comparisons with confirmation hearings in the US, by Senate committees in matters of appointments by US presidents, my answer to that is that the circumstances between confirmation hearings in the US and in Malawi are very different.

In the US scenarios, the kind of Politics at play is very different from what we have in Malawi, and there is often transparency as to why a nominee is objected to. In Malawi we don’t even know why Chizuma was given a 1/25 score by some of the MPs on PAC. Further, if you have been following US Politics for any length of time, you’ll know that the Republican Party has been known to frustrate confirmation processes just because they want to be the ones to make that appointment when a Republican President comes into power. The case of Merrick Garland is one such example. The Martha Chizuma affair is vastly different.

Right now a freedom of information request has been submitted by the unrelenting and absolutely brilliant Idriss Ali Nassah. Let’s wait to see what that delivers, but if I were to make a prediction, my money is on Chizuma becoming ACB chief, one way or another.

Should the Government of Malawi increase the pay of Civil Servants?

President Lazarus Chakwera making a statement

Following the K6.2 Billion COVID19 funds scandal, in which 64 people have so far been arrested by the Malawi Police as being suspended to have been involved in the plunder of the COVID19 funds, various people have opined whether the real problem we have in Malawi is that the take home pay which Civil servants receive just isn’t enough to meet the cost of living in most parts of Malawi.

The argument goes that when you factor in the basic monthly salary most civil servants receive (below Senior posts & Director levels) and excluding benefits, it simply isn’t enough to live on considering all the expenses most people incur, including house rental, vehicle fuel, school fees and other educational commitments, food, electricity, water, mobile phone data and airtime costs and alms/ financial support to relatives. They say most Malawians struggle to keep up, and that it’s not their fault. Their pay is simply too low and has not increased proportionally with inflation levels over the years, and too little has been done to correct this anomally.

Personally, I’m sympathetic to this argument and have written about it before in the past. But considering what has been revealed in the audit report of the misappropriated K6.2 Billion, it’s necessary that tough Anti-corruption measures must first be adopted before we consider increasing the salaries of civil servants. Because the last thing we need is increasing the salaries of the very same people, who have for years been intentionally misappropriating government resources for their own self enrichment.

In a 2016 paper titled The challenge of per diem misuse: Training and travel as extra pay, Norwegian researchers Tina Søreide, Ingvild Aagedal Skage & Arne Tostensen wrote a paper for the CHR. Michelsen Institute in which they said:

‘The abuse of travel and training- related payments results in excessive expenditures and in a distortion of incentives that can frustrate development efforts. Three main factors contribute to facilitating this type of practice: insufficient controls, management (dis)incentives, and donors’ role and attitudes. Strengthening controls alone is unlikely to curb this kind of abuse, the culture of “per diem hunting” needs to be changed as part of a broader reform of the civil service. Coordination among development partners can also contribute to preventing per diem abuse.’

They went on to note that:

While per diem payments are supposed to be strictly compensatory, they can become a form of additional salary (Policy Forum 2009). In countries where salaries are generally low, these extra payments can amount to a significant proportion of civil servants’ total income. As a result, civil servants may be more interested in obtaining these allowances than in the content of the activities.’

One Oxford-based Malawian Political and Social commentator, Thandie Hara, commenting on the fallout from the K6.2 Billion allowances issue wrote on her Facebook wall:

How do you expect anyone to live on MK100,000 a month in Likuni or Ntandire, when half of that will be spent on transport? “

She suggests that a cost of living assessment needs to be done for the lowest paid civil servant, such that take home pay should be sufficient to cover the basics. As a starting point, the lowest paid civil servant, be it a cleaner or a messenger should be paid no less than MK500,000 a month. According to Hara, a review of the unrealistic pay structure is necessary because currently what civil servants are paid

does not accurately reflect the cost of living, and as a result may have inadvertently made people to believe that they are justified in stealing. “

The result, she says, is that such low pay has

“… created a looting culture with no ceiling. You will be surprised that many of the people we are calling thieves, but who see themselves as honest prayerful people. They don’t recognise theft in what they or their colleagues have been doing. It’s been normal practice for underpaid people trying to survive.

A different Malawian on twitter was less forgiving

However, we need to be sober in that side by side with the prosecutions, which the President of Malawi is fully behind and has been pushing for, some ground rules need to be laid down:

  1. Sitting allowances should be abolished in their entirety. Instead a fixed temporary salary increment should be calculated and introduced only to low pay grade civil servants – which I know begs a different question as to what are “low pay grade civil servants”.
  2. Financial controls should be introduced and undertaken rigorously, with a quarterly audit of each department by external auditors. IFMIS modules that are yet to be activated in Government departments need to be switched on, and if not switched on by a certain date, the managers of those departments need to be suspended, and asked to explain why.
  3. There should be a budget for the audit of each department 4 times a year.
  4. There should be stiffer penalties for any form of misappropriation of state funding, including confiscation of personal property, so that a strong deterrent is set to scare off would be offenders.

And after all this has been done, only then can the debate on increasing civil servant salaries begin.

It’s not a popular position when so many people have been conditioned to think allowances are the way to earn a living, and no doubt there will be loud protests from some corners regarding this. Others will also ask ‘Where will the money come from?” Ofcourse from the same allowances being milked, but if that’s not sufficient my next post will fully address that question.

But it is the right and honourable thing to do, if Malawi and the Tonse Alliance Government is really serious about fiscal discipline that protects the country’s finances.

Why Donors should halt all COVID-19 Aid to the government of Malawi until there is full accountability regarding the usage of funds

COVID-19 statistics for Malawi as of 12th February 2021. Source: PHIM
  • US$1 = MWK 780.22  – Source: xe.com (13th Feb 2021)
  • Officials in Malawi, including people at the Department of Disaster Management Affairs(DODMA), have misappropriated the majority of K6.2 Billion (US$7.948 million) of Government funds which were earmarked for fighting Covid-19 and issued to government appointed Covid-19 Cluster committees- which are made up of civil servants.
  • According to credible reports from several sources, in one instance out of K85 Million ($109,000) earmarked for the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment(PPE) for Blantyre district, only K10 million was used for PPE, with K59 million being used for allowances. In Machinga, K30 million was spent on allowances with nothing on PPE. In Chitipa K22 million was spent on allowances, and nothing on PPE. In Chikwawa district for example K16 million was spent on allowances, with a meagre K4 million being spent on PPE.
  • There were several instances where significantly more money was spent on fuel than on PPE.

If you were looking for the perfect excuse not to waste your country’s citizens’ taxes to help the citizens of some poor country in East Afriica, one where officials have the nerve to steal COVID19 funds, now you have the perfect excuse.

Officials in Malawi have been accused of misappropriating a significant chunk of K6.2 billion meant for fighting Covid-19. The scandal now informally named COVIDGATE has revealed just how rampant, insensitive and endemic corruption continues to be in Malawi, and how little accountability there is in Government spending.

Despite the rhetoric from the Tonse Alliance government that they are serious about fighting corruption, or “clearing the rubble” to use President Lazarus Chakwera’s own words, the scandal has revealed just how little in practical terms the government has actually achieved towards that end. And how a lot more needs to be done.

Commenting regarding the scandal, one Malawian I talked to noted:

“If they can steal billions while Malawians are dying of COVID19 every day in our hospitals, while the hospitals are ill-equipped and overwhelmed and struggling to cope, while we have an acute shortage of PPE, what else won’t they do? What does that tell you about the kind of rot that we have in the civil service in this country? I understand poverty but these people are heartless, their brothers and sisters are dying everyday and they’re still stealing?!! They don’t deserve any mercy. Every single one of them needs to be fired!”

These people are heartless they don’t deserve any mercy

One Malawian commenting about the K6.2 Billion scandal.

Another commenter said: “If you donate to the government, your donation will end up into a politician’s stomach.”

Malawians on social media are equally enraged:

Meanwhile the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in Lilongwe has ordered the Inspector General of Malawi Police Service to commence criminal investigations into the scandal. How long that process will take remains to be seen. However, historically such type of corruption or embezzlement cases in Malawi tend to take a long time. And in previous adminstrations, there were allegations that the lack of urgency and speed in prosecuting people who have embezzled Government funds pointed to a lack of political will.

The leader of opposition in Malawi’s p
Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa MP

The leader of opposition in parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa MP has called for a forensic audit to ascertain weather DODMA and other Government officials misappropriated the funds.

However, until all the culprits are brought to book, and until there is total transparency regarding expenditure of Government funds, and until allowances on matters such as healthcare emergency spending are banned (all of which may take some time), I believe donors and international agencies working in Malawi should with immediate effect route all COVID19 aid funds either via charities and NGOs or via the COVID19 Private Citizens Response initiative (which so far has had an excellent record of transparency and of accounting for each and every single penny that has been donated).

Such a drastic action will focus minds within the Government of Malawi to do something decisive and to do so urgently against the scourge of corruption in Malawi.

Malawians are tired of being abused and taken advantage of like this. They want to know who was responsible for the embezzlement, how much was stolen by each official, and to see those people not only prosecuted and jailed, but also named and shamed, and forced to return the stolen funds back to the Government. And if they can’t return the misappropriated funds, then assets of each guilty person equivalent to the misappropriated funds should be confiscated. There has to be a very strong deterrent to stop this kind of thing happening over and over again.

The Governments of Britain, Germany France, the US and the EU should take note of this sad case of embezzlement, and be firm with officials in Malawi. This is an opportunity to force through much needed accountability and transparency in public service.

President Chakwera has on numerous occasions said he wants his leadership style to be a servant leadership style. This wanton embezzlement of emergency healthcare funds unfortunately frustrates such noble sentiments, and must be met with a tough response.

Nkhalidwe wonunkha kwambiri uwu. This behaviour must end now.

Does the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) have the capacity to successfully handle all the corruption cases in Malawi?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
  • Listen to this article here

Let us be honest, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in Malawi is overstretched.

Even before any real big fish have been caught in its net, the ACB appears to be in trouble. Not entirely in a bad way , in fact the ACB is facing the good type of trouble in that never in its entire history has Malawi’s graft busting body have had to pursue so many allegations of corruption made against so many individuals and companies (some of whom are not even Malawian) in such a short space of time.

So, the big questions: Can the ACB cope with all the evidence and allegations currently coming out? I mean, does the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) have the capacity to successfully handle all the corruption cases in Malawi? Will they be able to effectively pursue each lead? And not just arresting suspects who are then subsequently released on bail, but ensuring that arrests end in successful prosecutions that lead to convictions.

I have serious doubts. Already, people are questioning why suspects like Roza Mbilizi and others have been released on bail. Malawians are also asking whether some of these arrests will go down the way of cases such as that against former budget director Paul Mphwiyo – who the High Court in Lilongwe ruled in May that he has a case to answer in relation to the MK2.4 billion Cashgate corruption case. It’s been 6 years, but Mphwiyo is still a free man.

Also, where was the ACB when corruption allegations regarding some of these cases were floating around?

I think for corruption to be effectively tackled in Malawi we need a new institution, one with far-reaching powers, a new mandate and a clear(er) objective.

We need an organisation that is staffed with new blood, that will adopt a new way of thinking and that is not hounded by old allegiances or suspect sympathies. What Malawi needs is a new Anti-corruption body that has zero links or partiality towards political parties; a truly independent institution that is only answerable to parliament, with no entanglements to DPP, PP, UDF, MCP, UTM or any other institution.

Unfortunately, that can’t be said of the current ACB and Reyneck Matemba, the ACB’s current Director General, knows it.

Remember here (external link) how the ACB’s current top sheriff complained about some of the difficulties he faced when pursuing suspects (also see the video below)?

Yes, have all those challenges suddenly gone away?

Of course, no one is suggesting that the ACB should be 100% perfect. But being imperfect should not be an excuse to have sacred cows. Further, with the scale of theft which President Lazarus Chakwera recently estimated to be K1 trillion (over $1.3 billion), you’d think that the bodies tasked with clamping down on corruption are going to be particularly powerful; with dogged prosecutors and an unflinching determination to get to the bottom of every single case.

Further, how likely is it that the ACB can for example concurrently commence court proceedings in the courts of London, Portugal, Switzerland or Qatar against suspects who many Malawians suspect have acquired or hidden the proceeds of corruptions in those countries – by virtue of sudden unexplained wealth which some of those suspects flaunt? The current ACB doesn’t have capacity to manage international parallel corruption probes. They would probably struggle, and it would take months if not years to go after funds that have been externalised.

Let us ask this same question in a different way: Can the ACB start investigating  the houses which certain public figures in Malawi have bought in foreign countries? Houses bought in the UK; the flats and houses bought in the US, the millions that have flowed into South Africa? If so, when will they start following the money trail?

Instead of trying to get answers with an imperfect and compromised body, I believe what is needed is a clean slate. A fresh start. A new beginning: what is needed is the National Fraud Agency (NFA).  

Malawi’s National Fraud Agency (NFA) should have powers to levy fines, powers to cancel contracts which were not signed in the best interests of the country or its citizens, and powers to impound, detain and forfeit goods, and to go after money and foreign property of officials or citizens (which is suspected of being bought using the proceeds of corruption) until the suspect can prove that such funds or property were earned legitimately, and that tax has been paid on them. The organisation should be established specifically to look at the issue of declaration of assets, externalisation of forex, to scrutinise government spending, tender awards and government contracts, and to prevent extortionate prices being charged for goods supplied to the Malawi government or to public agencies.

The NFA can work with the Anti-Corruption Bureau, but it has to be independent of the ACB. Parliament and PAC should establish a framework that decides how the NFA’s powers are to be exercised. This is important to make sure that the theft of public resources that has occured in the past in one guise or another, perpetrated by public officials including ministers, should be firmly and resolutely put to an end.

Thus, Malawi’s NFA would ensure that there is transparency and accountability, and would establish a high standard of ethics in Malawi’s politics. It would also ensure that if wrong-doing does occur, a course of action that swiftly and decisively rectifies the situation can be implemented without delay. It means unscrupulous officials can be cut-off from the business of government sooner than later, and cannot run away abroad with the proceeds of corruption – and feel as though they are beyond the reach of the law. It also means that the onus would be on the suspects to prove that they are innocent, and that their wealth, money earned or property is legitimate, and that they have paid tax on it – in accordance with Malawi’s laws. To take President Lazarus Chakwera’s lingo, it expediates justice on the “dross of sycophants

How to ensure that high profile people in Malawi face Justice for their corrupt practices.

While in the last hour news has reached us of the arrest of Peter Mutharika’s aide Norman Chisale, who has been accused of widespread corrupt practices, there have been many complaints over the last few weeks regarding the Anti-corruption Bureau(ACB), the official body tasked with clamping down on corrupt practices in Malawi.

Malawians are dissatisfied with the pace and direction in which the ACB is taking. Many are saying that the authorities are only targeting low-level criminals, while the big fish, the high-profile politicians who have been accused of corrupt practices at one point or another, are not being pursued, or are not being pursued quick enough.

Some people have even said that if high profile criminals are not arrested then those low level people who have been arrested might as well just be released and set free because it’s not fair that only the common people are pursued when it comes to corruption.

Now while building a convincing case against someone accused of corruption can take time, I believe many of us are missing the point.

The scale and level of corruption in Malawi was so deep, so systemic, so perverse, so pervasive, so widespread and so flagrant that the ACB is unlikely to have the human resource to deal with all the complaints that are being unearthed quick enough.


What is needed instead is Citizen Power; Citizen Action, for people to get together and gather the evidence required to build a successful Anti-corruption case. This evidence can then be used by Human Rights organisations to commence Anti-corruption actions in the courts in Malawi, but where the ACB and others can then join as interested parties.

Such a tactic would ensure that no one gets away with wrongdoing, and would force the authorities to pursue people who are perceived to be untouchable, for all sorts of reasons.
Of course ideally the ACB should take the lead in commencing such prosecutions. But when that is not yet possible, in all cases involving high profile suspects, I think it falls on the people of Malawi to do something.

Mind you, it wasn’t the ACB that led the way for the Tonse Alliance Government to come into power. Instead it was Malawians who organised and created a powerful movement that exposed the widespread irregularities which led to the nullification of the 2019 elections. It was the same Malawians who demonstrated day in and day out for 10 months+, culminating in a new election that toppled the corrupt regime of Peter Mutharika.

So we should not abdicate our responsibility to our country, by expecting the impossible from the ACB. This is the same ACB that has failed to to investigate tens of corruption cases over the last 20+ years.
Thus, it is definitively up to Malawians to build convincing Anti-corruption cases against all the figures we believe, who we know or who have good reason, and evidence to believe, stole from Mother Malawi.

Should Malawi’s next Government have a Code of Conduct for Political Advisers?

lady holding a card with words Code of Conduct written on it

I’m reviewing the code of conduct of special advisers to the UK government.

It’s an interesting read which lists in quite some detail a lot regarding the role, status and transparency with which special advisers to the UK government should operate. It also talks about how contact with the media should be handled, and how involvement of politics in a private capacity can be undertaken.

As a form of background, Special Advisers in the UK are classed as temporary civil servants in the different legislatures of the countries that make up the UK, and are thus exempt from being appointed based on merit. However, that doesn’t make them exempt from accountability or scrutiny over their actions.

So you might ask what does that have to do with Malawi? Well, since Malawi has seen quite a fair share of controversy and other drama involving political aides, presidential advisers and even a president’s bodyguard, considering an election is just around the corner it seems topical to venture into this topic at this time.

Anyhow, among the stipulations of the Code of Conduct are that Special Advisers may:

  • give assistance on any aspect of departmental business, and give advice (including expert advice as a specialist in a particular field);
  • undertake long term policy thinking and contribute to policy planning within the Department;
  • write speeches and undertake related research, including adding party political content to material prepared by permanent civil servants;
  • liaise with the Party, briefing party representatives and parliamentarians on issues of government policy;
  • represent the views of their Minister to the media (including a party viewpoint), where they have been authorised by the Minister to do so; and
  • liaise with outside interest groups (including those with a political allegiance)

In working with Civil Servants, Special Advisers can

  • convey to officials Ministers’ views, instructions and priorities, including on issues of presentation. .
  • request officials to prepare and provide information and data, including internal analyses and papers;
  • hold meetings with officials to discuss the advice being put to Ministers; and
  • review and comment on –but not suppress or supplant –advice being prepared for Ministers by civil servants.

It’s important to note that when undertaking their duties, Special Advisers are not doing so in their own capacities, but on behalf of their minister / the government.

However, Special Advisers may not:

  • ask civil servants to do anything which is inconsistent with their obligations under the Civil Service Code or behave in a way which would be inconsistent with standards set by their employing department;
  • authorise expenditure of public funds or have responsibility for budgets;
  • exercise any power in relation to the management of any part of the Civil Service,except in relation to another special adviser;or
  • otherwise exercise any statutory or prerogative power.

All important and necessary stuff . Necessary because when it is broken, there are usually consequences. Obviously, the UK’s troubles are not like the problems we face in Malawi. In fact you might say their problems are rather tame, than some of the allegations special advisers have been accused of in Malawi. And that’s why the part of public funds is in bold.

The Code of Conduct goes onto say that:

Special advisers are able to give direction to such civil servants in relation to their day-to-day work for them, and their views should be sought as an input to performance appraisals on the basis that these are written by other civil servants. However,special advisers should not be involved in the line management of civil servants in matters affecting a civil servant’s career such as recruitment, promotion, reward and discipline, or have access to personnel files of civil servants.

It also says the following:

Special advisers are bound by the standards of integrity and honesty required of all civil servants as set out in the Civil Service Code.

Special advisers should not disclose official information which has been communicated in confidence in government or received in confidence from others. The Preparation or dissemination of inappropriate material or personal attacks has no part to play in the job of being a special adviser as it has no part to play in the conduct of public life.

Special advisers must not take public part in political controversy,through any form of statement whether in speeches or letters to the press, or in books, social media, articles or leaflets. They must observe discretion and express comment with moderation, avoiding personal attacks, and would not normally speak in public for their Minister or the Department

Special advisers are required to declare details of gifts and hospitality received in accordance with the rules set out in their departmental staff handbooks. Departments will publish,on a quarterly basis, information about gifts and hospitality received by their departmental special advisers and details of special advisers’ meetings with newspaper and other media proprietors, editors and senior executives.

It goes on and on.

Now, given the perilous history of political advisers and presidential aides in Malawi, and what we know of how such people have behaved, especially in terms of amassing unexplained wealth, or otherwise being caught up or named in one scandal or another, shouldn’t Malawi’s next Government ensure that there is a strong and functional Code of Conduct for Political Advisers?

I think it is of the utmost urgency for Malawi’s next government to have an effective Code of Conduct for Political Advisers. It should be drafted with a view to curbing the corruption that has embroiled Political Advisers in Malawi’s history. The Code of Conduct must be drafted by an independent panel of legal professionals and CSOs, and must be reviewed every 3 years to ensure it is functional and fit for purpose.

Further, and in the interest of curbing corrupt practices, a new supranational body, the National Fraud Agency (NFA) with powers to levy fines, powers to cancel contracts which are not in the best interest of the country, and with powers to impound, detain and forfeit goods, and to go after foreign property of officials or citizens (which is suspected of being bought using the proceeds of corruption) should be established specifically to look at the issue of declaration of assets, to scrutinise government spending, tender awards and contracts, and to prevent extortionate prices being charged for goods supplied to the Malawi government. The NFA can work with the Anti-corruption Bureau, but it has to be independent of the ACB, and parliament and PAC should establish a framework that decides how the NFA’s powers are to be exercised. This is important to make sure that the theft of public resources that has occured in the past in one guise or another, perpetrated by public officials including ministers, should be firmly put to an end.

Thus, such a Code of Conduct together with an NFA would encourage transparency and accountability, and would establish a high standard of ethics in Malawi’s politics. It would also ensure that if wrong-doing occurs, a course of action that swiftly and resolutely rectifies the situation can be implemented. It means unscrupulous officials can be cut off from the business of government sooner than later, and cannot run away abroad with the proceeds of corruption. It means every political adviser would know in black and white exactly the type of dutiful conduct which is expected of them.

The Jappie Mhango allowances fiasco is only the tip of the Iceberg of corruption in Malawi

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that Malawi has a big corruption problem. It is a fact and there’s no getting away from it. At least not in the present scenario where Peter Mutharika’s DPP is in government.

But for the benefit of those who are not aware of the scale of corruption in Malawi, or what this post is all about here goes; a few days ago, Malawi’s Health Minister Jappie Mhango, and Malawi’s Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology Mark Botomani were caught by a video recording discussing how they would hide the hefty allowances they were drawing from Covid19 Emergency fund. This is despite Mark Botomani appearing earlier on TV denying allegations that ministers were benefiting from any Covid19 related funds.

As would be expected people in Malawi have been outraged by this development with one Human Rights organisation, HRDC calling for the resignation of the ministers within 7 days.

As thousands of health workers continue to be poorly paid, it is reprehensible that these ministers would connive to cheat Malawians including the Health services even in an emergency situation. Just last week, there was a leaked circular from the Treasury’s recently dissolved Special Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 indicating allowances (termed “Risk Token”) per day for each Minister as MK450,000 (~US$611) and for each MP as MK350,000 (~ US$475) as remuneration for their tours in preparation for the pandemic. Those figures do not include accommodation and fuel allowances, which when factored in push the daily allowances to around MWK700,000! That’s more than twice the monthly salary of a Registered nurse in Malawi! and nearly 3 times that of lower bands of nurses (e.g. diploma holders from the Malawi College of Health Sciences).

No surprises then why people are outraged. Such exorbitant allowances cannot be normal or justified when the government has not provided adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to health care workers including nurses and doctors, in preparation for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Normally, the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) and the Treasury approve allowances structures and once that is done OPC dispatches circulars to government departments for noting and filing. Now in this emergency situation where there was a short notice, who approved the allowances?

Jappie must have discussed with Treasury Principal Secretaries that the government system is completely off bounds, because the way the government system works is that when a transaction is decided, Ministry of Finance and Treasury have to approve the expenditure. What’s happened here is that Jappie and his Controlling Officer (who is the PS) decided to breach that process.

This smacks of lack of discipline at the highest level in government. However, according to allegations from a source who declined to be named, Jappie Mhango’s corrupt ways are not new.

The allegation says that a few years ago, when Jappie’s sister (one Mrs Kaunda) was Secretary of the then manager at the Ministry of Education Division in Lilongwe (Central West), Jappie, his sister and one Thoko Chimuzu who was the Principal Planning Officer then (and is now PS at the Ministry of Information) used to supply maize and beans to schools in a racket that targeted schools. When funding from Education Headquarters to Education Division had been issued, Jappie and his clique would first deduct money that was due to them from their supply activities, and only then would the rest be used to towards the mandated payments for which the funds were issued. There was no restrain, no acknowledgement that there may be a conflict of interest.

Today even though Jappie has a constituency seat and a ministerial position, my source says that the trend never stopped, and the source is baffled how educated people behave in this shameful way.

The source said Jappie is extremely opportunistic and does not think of the effect of his actions or the conflicts of interest that arise. So the thieving team of Thoko Chimuzu and Jappie Mhango is still in operation today, and Mark Botomani is just the latest addition. Apparently, the racket included one Justin Adak K Saidi (a PS at Education) who rose from being a primary school teacher, and who was a protégé of Patrick Mbewe. Apparently, their dodgy operations have included using teachers to rig elections for UDF, and recently in 2019, for DPP. In fact the very idea of Tippex originated from this clique. They monopolize every opportunity to the extent two of Saidi’s children were awarded 2 scholarships to China.

If these allegations are true, then they simply confirm everything many of us have been writing about all these years. Peter Mutharika’s DPP government, as illegitimate as it is, if full of selfish people whose number 1 aim is to plunder the state for personal gain. If Peter Mutharika was truly interested in fighting corruption, he would have fired all these loose cannons and corrupt officials out of his government long ago.

These people will use whatever means to deprive Malawians of resources. They are not public servants and they do not have the best interests of Malawians at heart. Jappie Mhango has shown you his true colours, he is only interested in self-enriching himself. Please believe him.

The Anti-corruption Bureau needs to take note and begin investigating such rackets, including looking at these kinds of payments and allowances across the chain of command at the Treasury, the OPC and the Accountant General’s office, and whether they fully comply with the law.

Government officials including ministers and MPs should not take advantage or benefit from public schemes that are designed to help Malawians. There should be absolute transparency, a clear distinction and a clear separation between “public official” and “Supplier”. Simply put, if you want to be a supplier to the government, you shouldn’t hold a public office, and shouldn’t be in a position where you can influence the awarding of contracts for your own personal benefit, or to benefit your company, your relatives’ company or a company belonging to your friends. That is the only way we will ensure that public resources are safeguarded, and are not misused or fraudulently diverted by such rackets.

This story exemplifies the immaturity of #African Politicians – #Malawi

Summary: A fierce government critic decides to hold a public lecture, and books a conference room in a hotel…. then this happens.

ABOUT THE CANCELLATION OF THE PUBLIC LECTURE:

At 4:30 pm, we arrived at Victoria Hotel to make all the preparations for the lecture. Every thing was ready up until around 5pm. Then the hotel told us that we had to cancel because of load shedding. I responded that load shedding was not a problem because one can always negotiate with ESCOM to turn the power back on where there is an event going on.

After hearing this, the hotel changed tunes and told us that it was in fact not load shedding but an electrical fault that had put the whole hotel in a blackout. We asked about the backup generator, we were told the Genset wasn’t working. We asked about standby electricians that normally every hotel employs to address such emergencies. We were told that the hotel electrician had gone to Mangochi and his phone was off.

We asked to bring our own genset. We were told that that is not allowed. We asked to bring our own electricians to work on the electrical fault, and we were told that that was not allowed either.
We even suggested using a car battery to power our equipment and a few lighting devices so that the lecture could go ahead.

That was when we were told that the order had come from the chairman that since there was no power at the hotel, the lecture should be cancelled and no alternative powering methods should be explored.

As soon as we left the premises, I passed by the hotel again an hour later and the Power was back on. An employee of the hotel has confided to me that there was no electrical fault. He said the chairman of the hotel, MR Gani, called the Events and Conference manager of the hotel and shouted at her, instructing her to ensure that the lecture didn’t go ahead at the hotel and he would pay any compensation and damages incurred afterwards. The informant also told me that it was the order of the Chairman to turn off the power at the hotel and use that as the reason for canceling the event.

We remain undaunted, however, and we will soon announce a new venue and date. There’s no power like the power of an idea whose time has come. And the time has come to end corruption and impunity in this country. How many public lectures and private citizen initiatives are they going to sabotage and block?

To the 200 or so people that showed their support and came to attend the lecture, we apologize and thank you for showing your solidarity and patriotism. We can assure you that these primitively savage methods to deter us will only encourage us to keep going.

Source: Maravi Post

Racism and Bigotry is encouraged from the top, but the real enemy is Global Inequality

The other day – about two weeks ago, the British Prime minister referred to the migrants at Calais trying to cross into the UK as ‘swarming..’ It was an insensitive term and many people rightly took offence. On twitter, many condemned such a wording as dehumanizing.

A few days ago, Philip Hammond, the British Foreign Secretary joined Mr Cameron, speaking of ‘marauding migrants‘ threatening the standard of life of British nationals in the UK. Again, Like Cameron, you have to wonder on which planet these people live on. Amnesty International called the language shameful. The Liberal Democrats Home Affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael had this to say:

“The Tories’ language is becoming increasingly hostile and unsavoury. In reality, they are too scared to deal with the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Calais.

“Britain can’t escape the problem just by sounding ‘tough’, it needs to take a lead.

“It’s time we proved our worth on the world stage, signed up to the EU asylum policy and accept our share of vulnerable refugees, rather than expect other countries to do it for us.”

I think it is insensitive to describe other human beings in such animate and dehumanizing terms, and just goes to show how out of touch politicians really are. It also shows that humans from Africa, Asia and the Middle East are not valued in the same way British or European people are.

It’s a fallacy to see British leaders going around the world preaching democracy and peace, when right on their doorsteps, they are treating foreigners like crap. You can’t make that up, and you’d hope the world is watching.

Asylum Aid criticised the Foreign Secretary’s words as

“inaccurate and inflammatory statements”,

I agree, they present a skewed picture that divorces nuance for the situation. I’m waiting for the day a sensible British politician will rise up who will say to the people of the world that the actions of British leaders in the past have caused immense human pain, and damaged other lands far away from British shores. And some of that damage is still being felt today. I may not be alive when that happens, but I hope one day someone will be honest and brave enough call a spade a spade.

Knowing what I know about British History (both what you are taught in school, and what you find out for yourself), and having experienced first hand the institutional racism in the UK, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that in some sections of the UK population non-white people are treated differently to white people. There is extreme hostility against foreigners, which is not entirely surprising since the media fans hatred all the times. But it’s kind of strange seeing migrants contribute so much to the UK (not only via the NHS, but in the taxes they pay).

The government’s attitude towards immigration is so frustrating precisely because it is so wrong-headed. There is endless proof that the long-term benefit of migrants and asylum seekers are manifold – Ugandan refugees, for instance, have created approximately 30,000 jobs in the Leicester since 1972. Last year the Treasury’s independent advisers said that immigration is beneficial to the economy as new arrivals are most likely to be of working age – and even the chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility, Robert Chote, stated that growing immigration to the UK “does tend to produce a more beneficial picture” for the economy. Read more here

So then why would a leader or a minister speak so negatively about migrants? Cameron and Hammond are hardly Nigel Farage, they can’t possibly be that ignorant not to see the repurcussions of their statements.

Isn’t such talk exactly the kind of talk which sows the seeds of racism, hatred and bigotry in society? Are these the kind of behaviours these leaders want to encourage in Britain? I think not, my guess is there is an agenda – some political capital is to be carved from all this.

To me this is how it looks: they are saying migrants, whose ancestors, Europeans took advantage of, looted their lands of every natural resource, enslaved their peoples, raped their women, made wars against them, divided up their lands along nothing but profit-driven motives, and generally reduced to poverty entire peoples – as they did in India and China; and whose descendants – the migrants – are now trying to find a way of escaping hardship, poverty, discrimination and violence in their own lands,  are not worthy of peace, of security, of assistance – seeing their past troubles, of prosperity. Essentially that they are subhuman, thats what the actions say.

https://soundcloud.com/rttv/calais-ryan

The Greatest Cover-Up in History ? How Imperial Britain’s Racist India, Africa & China Narrative ‎Still Persists

Actions speak louder than words, and what we are seeing here is an entitlement mentality. That it’s okay for historical European abuse of non-European peoples to be swept under the carpet; that the bombing of Libya, Iraq and support for Syrian rebels is irrelevant to the migrant crisis and must be brushed over, that if you plunder resources of other countries, and create economic and political instability…  its okay because if s**t happens, you can always close the borders. It’s the sort of things these people on this poster would say

criminals

During Nazi Germany’s reign, Hitler’s honchos put out propaganda which was later enacted upon to make life difficult for foreigners in Germany, in particular for Jews. What followed was a human atrocity that culminated in the holocaust, but which the Nazi machinery justified with all sorts of abominable stories. But there was a sinister motive behind the hostile rhetoric, and the Nazis made a lot of money out of it.

There’s always a sinister motive behind hostile rhetoric.

Today, the migrants at Calais are not being threatened by gas chambers or execution, but the language directed towards them – by politicians, not least the likes of the Daily Mail – is no better than that which was used by the Nazi machinery. Still, most of these migrants have no access to land or capital in the countries they flee; a polar opposite to Western corporations operating in Eritrea, Ethiopia, the various West African Countries, Syria and Iraq  – who have access to land and capital in those same countries.

The migrants have no security, and indeed may be at the mercy of criminal gangs and trafficking networks – something which expats in the aforementioned countries do not have to fear. The expats can get on with their easy and comfortable lives seamlessly, while the nationals of those countries – and their migrant brothers and sisters drowning in the mediterranean – struggle with day to day living, and can’t afford an existence, never mind a luxurious lifestyle.

Why do we keep on blaming the poor migrants whose poverty the West is partly responsible for? Countries where corruption, tax-evasion, profit-shifting and white-collar crime are responsible for the loss of over US$1tn in illicit financial outflows

ChristianAidDeath & Taxes – the true toll of tax-dodging

That is the real problem driving migrants to Europe – Inequality. Because if you have security, a good job, great educational and financial prospects and a social life – in your own country, why would you want to leave and risk your life for a pie in the sky?

British Red Cross managing director Norman McKinley recently said about the cuts to the money asylum seekers receive in the UK:

“These cruel cuts will plunge families into further poverty, making it agonisingly tough for parents to feed their children, and practically impossible to buy clothes and other essential items.”

What he forgot to mention is that many foreigners support family members back home. I know people who send as little as £20 every other month to a relative in Africa for one thing or another; to help someone pay for school, or for food, or to settle some bill. It’s not much, but it does the job, and helps people at the other end.

So then, if a government introduces policies that have the effect of creating economic hardship for an already deprived community/ section of the population, how will they be able to help their relatives abroad – who are in worse financial circumstances? It doesn’t make sense and if anything it’s counterproductive…

One final thing I should say is this. How many Swiss ‘migrants’ do you bump into everyday? Or how many ‘Norwegians’ or ‘Mauritians’ do you know or do you bump into on a regular basis?

Switzerland, Mauritius and Norway are rich countries, and their nationals live in their own countries because the countries have the capacity to create jobs and distribute wealth fairly amongst their people. When you look at Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and most countries in West Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, the story is rather different.

Further, European and American corporations are not paying bribes (in exchange for lax tax arrangements) in Norway or in Switzerland, or are they? At least you rarely hear of such corruption, unlike in the countries from whence migrants come.

If Western businessmen continue to fleece the countries from whom migrants originate,of valuable resources, how can European leaders realistically expect migrants to stay in their own countries? When the funds the country is losing is exactly the kind of money that would create jobs and an economy that can support that country’s citizens… Let’s be honest here… it’s not going to happen, and some of this rhetoric is a smokescreen to the real problems.

Mr Cameron, and Mr Hammond, if you are really serious about reducing immigration, begin by pushing for real global economic equality, at national level, within the EU, within Commonwealth, at UN level and beyond. That in my view has got a much higher chance of curbing migration to Europe than anything else.