Friday, 14 February 2014

Cashgate: Joyce Banda crusader or pretender?

          Malawi’s cashgate is all over the place in the media. Cashegate is a mega theft of public funds involving millions of dollars ranging from $ 100 to 250 million.  Malawi’s president Joyce Banda’s nary lacked shockers. She recently came up with the purge on corruption in her country after the donor countries unearthed cashgate.  Banda told Malawians that she’s ready to even hit the road shall they deny her votes in the coming elections. Again, she boldly said that the job of stamping corruption out must be done and somebody’s to risk and do it. And she’s the one to do it no matter what. Despite her boldness and assurance, wary Malawians are asking: If she sincerely and seriously means business, why taking actions after donors unveiled the scam so as to refuse to release cash her cash-strapped government wants badly? They add. Why now when the country nears general elections? Does she want to get some of kind of mileage out of this war that she’s supposed to declare many months ago? Did she wait so that she could make some gains out this move against graft?
While questions are asked about the timing others are questing Banda’s "guiltlessness", seriousness and cleanliness as far as corruption is concerned. Detractors are asking: Is Banda clean or she is just whitewashing in order to get votes in the coming elections? Peter Chinoko, an outspoken head of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in the Lilongwe archdiocese, has the answer as he’s recently quoted as saying: “We have concrete evidence about the president’s involvement and being part and parcel of the scandal.”  Interestingly, Banda did neither comment nor refute these damning allegations.
Apart from Chinoko, others are asking: What of her seven trips to Nigeria? Who footed the bills for her given that such trips are private ones? When Malawians wanted to know who Banda’s funder (s) was she squarely refused to divulge the person or persons who fund their president.
As for donors they categorically said, “We will not be able to resume support through government systems until we have a clear assurance, independently verified, that our resources are all being used for their intended purpose,” said Sarah Sanyahumbi, a British diplomat who heads the donor grouping, which includes European countries, the European Union and the World Bank. Britain has withheld £17 million of budget funds.
Detractors accusing Banda are not mincing words. They’re pointing fingers at her donors who happen to be the beneficiaries of the same monies Banda’s trying to retrieve. For example, a prominent business man Oswald Lutepo who also is a senior official in Banda’s party is said to have scooped over $ 6,000,000. Despite being accused, it came to light that Lutepo donated 22 vehicles to Banda’s party. This being the game-cum-situation many are questioning Banda’s cleanliness under such conflict of interests. Will she prosecute Lutepo according to the law despite charging him of theft and money laundering? Will partisan gimmicks come in and the case end up being sideshows?
Another suspicious character is Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara who is behind bars accused of ordering the shooting of one Paul Mphwiyo, Director of Budget who seems to have spilled the bins that lead to opening the floods gates Banda is facing currently.
Those of us who know where the heart of corruption in Africa is tend to suggest one remedy-declare your wealth and make it a national exercise for all citizens. One lifeline of corruption will be brought down. It is only in Africa where a person can acquire wealth or property just over night and nobody asks or task that person to divulge how she or he made such monies. This is why it is easy for many people to indulge in drug dealing, piracy, paid terrorism, corruption, robbery and whatnot. They know they’ll get away with it. It doesn't mean that our rulers don’t know it. They know it too well save that they don’t want to intervene for the fear of being forced by the diligent population to provide sound social services like in developed country. Instead they bless Mobutuism or Bongo-bongo whereby everybody plunders where she or he’s to survive without considering others who have no opportunity.  African proverb has it that a goat eats according the length of its rope. Call it a sin-by- all community whereby the bigwigs steal big sums while the small ones end up robbing whatever they put hands on and life goes on. If anything, pointless plundering and spending were what was going on in Malawi. For, it came to light that a mere junior public servant in the poorest country on earth’s found keeping over $ 300,000 in the boot of his car. Worse enough, most of those who stole the monies in question invested unwisely in posh cars, villas, and whatnot.
 If anything, corruption in many African countries is motivated by the lack of laws and political will forcing leaders and citizens to declare their wealth and file their tax return. How can prosecution work if at all there are some presidents who don’t even pay tax let alone to fail tax return or declare their wealth. 
Source: Business Time Feb. 14, 2014.

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