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.