Monday, October 3, 2022
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SMOKED OUT AND ON THE RUN; THE BLUE RATS THAT ATE PIZZA MEANT FOR MALAWIANS

Author: Precious Kankuzi
Edited by: Innocent Marshall.

My grandfather’s house was rats-infested. And I am borrowing this scenario to drive the context home. Unfortunately, even though he set up traps and injected poison in some food items strategically positioned to annihilate them, he got outwitted. In some way, none of the rats got caught nor died. Yet precious commodities kept on being eaten up.

Therefore, my grandfather decided to buy a cat. Cats and rats are never in a good relationship. He figured that the cat will solve the problem completely. While I was lying on a settee one time, I saw a big fat rat running on the ceiling with what looked like a piece of Hawaiian Pizza that my sister had bought for me.

Not too long did I see the cat chasing after it. But I hurried to the kitchen to find out if indeed my pizza was victimized.  What a bizarre scene it was to find a couple of rats feasting on my dear pizza! They took it to the heels while still chewing the crumbs to satisfaction. I was mad.

But I figured that the fat one was the queen mother. I went back to the sitting room from where I heard some scratches on the ceiling. The cat was policing the rat. I was not to stop at anything until I manhandled the queen mother and in some way the cat was in sync.

I took a stick to hit part of the ceiling I heard the little feet skidding around to scare off the rat. Suddenly the rat came speedily down through a hole on the ceiling and meandered down through a corner. I threw a shoe. I missed it. As I pursued it to figure out where it went, another one fell down. Then three others followed suit. The cat probably ensued a pandemonium. Yet my focus was on the fat one, the queen mother. It might have hidden behind the couch through the corner it descended from.

I pulled up the settee and there it was together with two others. As I was about to stomp my foot on the queen mother, lights went off. Now my dilemma was whether if I just drop my foot it would land on the queen mother or the other one.

Dealing with corruption cases is like trying to catch a specific rat in the dark. There are chances you may hit amiss.

The Chakwera-led new administration came into being equipped with a promise to confront and root out corruption. Soon after being installed, the administration did not waste time but went straight on task of the agenda which led into an immediate exposé of the profane fiscal scourge that occurred in the DPP administration. A backlog of cases built up day after day.  People were happy and equally shocked at the extent of looting that occurred in the five years in which DPP governed the country under the leadership of Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika.

Unfortunately, the euphoria which was created did not last long as some lost patience and begun to demand the government to deal with such corruption speedily. Others took it as a mere scare tactic of a toothless dog who barks without biting abilities.

There is an underlying challenge though: With insufficient evidence, it is like trying to kill a specific rat in the dark. You could miss it. President Chakwera established his government on five pillars with the “rule of law” being one of them. He understands that without following the right procedures, wrong convictions would result into the government spending millions in compensations – and that would be unwise drainage of the scarce resources.

Chakwera’s thoughtful approach is to established special courts to expedite disposal of all financial crimes and secure not only precise convictions, but also recovery of the loot. Yet to that end there is a need for legal amendments, restructuring and repositioning to which the relevant stakeholders including the judiciary and the Ministry of Justice are already set on task. Infrastructure laydown including securing office spaces and appointment of new judges to occupy the specialized task are among the critical tasks that are meant to preface this particular combat initiative. Otherwise demanding for speedy convictions while ignoring this consideration may not work as the glut of the crimes cases so far are beyond the current carrying capacity of the judiciary.

While this plan is underway and shortly these rats will be smoked out and dealt with accordingly, our minds are in an exercise of wondering on the quantum of pizza that the DPP rats consumed. Just to what extend did they scourge through the public purse? What could have been accomplished from what has been wasted from the hemorrhage?

Records show that approximately, US$1 Billion (about MK1 Trillion) was plundered during the DPP era. This plunder resulted into them failing to achieve the development agenda that defined their social contract with Malawians. Below is a list of some of the developments that could have occurred only if the MK1 trillion was not stolen by DPP:

  1. The DPP promised to make Malawi a Southern Africa’s food basket by ensuring that all smallholder farmers were given farms inputs. Unfortunately, only 1 million smallholder farmers were supported each year throughout that tenure. It is instead the Chakwera administration that in 1 year of his presidency the government has supported 3.8 million smallholder farmers which, according to statistics, represents almost 100% farming households coverage throughout the country. What could MK1 trillion have done to the farmers? Well, the Chakwera administration only spent 6% of that to reach to all the smallholder farmers in the country.
  • The DPP promised zero tolerance on corruption. But well, it was under their watch that public servants, even their leadership looted the most. There were no arrests related to corruption. They had a field day of plunder. Yet it is under the Chakwera administration that the wrong doers even within the government are being arrested and their cases are being dealt with. What could MK1 trillion have done to corruption? Well, the Chakwera administration not only funded the ACB with more money than DPP could have, but has also given it full autonomy to handle cases independently as per law.
  • The DPP government promised efficient and effective health system in Malawi. Among them, they claimed that they will introduce Health Insurance for all public servants. But they never delivered that promise. Instead, they looted Central Medical Stores. Well, it’s only under the Chakwera administration where, as of recent, the Director of this institution was suspended for alleged mismanagement of funds. DPP had its officials destroying public funds in peace and on behalf of the governing party and its leaders. But just how much could the 1MK trillion have done to the health sector? That money was enough to build two hospitals of the Kamuzu Central Hospital size and stature in every region, fully furnished with equipment and staff.
  • The DPP promised to improve transport systems by introducing min taxis. How mediocre! 1 year in government, the Chakwera administration is already working on construction of railway transport systems to make Malawi more open. The government is looking to connect Malawi to Beira by rail and has started upgrading of the 201 kilometre Marka-Limbe railway through a concession agreement with Central East African Railways (CEAR). But just imagine what MK1 trillion could have done to the railway industry in Malawi?
  • The DPP promised to build Mombera University at US$40 million. It was built. But with the MK1 trillion that was stolen, the DPP could have managed to build 25 Universities of that kind.
  • While the DPP mismanaged MK1 trillion, the Chakwera administration through the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development and Public Sector Reforms, in conjunction with the Ministry of Finance completed the selection of 15 projects that will be financed through the issuance of a local development bond. Government is expected to raise K1.0 trillion from the local market over a period of 5 years to finance Inkosi Mbelwa University and different other road projects. That is how you put MK1 trillion to good used.
  • The DPP promised to construct 10,000 houses for security institutions to which throughout their five years of reign you can barely point a single house. As we speak, the Chakwera government has already constructed 231 houses which are now near completion and a lot of 1,000 houses have already been advertised in the news for construction. The cost of these 10,000 houses is MK21 billion, had the DPP not embezzled MK1 trillion, it was enough to construct about 476,000 houses. That is beyond the total number of men and women in uniform. Probably teachers would have had their share of houses too.
  • The DPP recurringly disbursed funds amounting to MK13 billion to improve SME’s through MADEF. Unfortunately, these funds were given only to the cadets and the party mafias. Contrarily, when the Chakwera-led administration came to power, they disbursed about MK75 billion into NEEF for young people to improve their businesses. It is projected to empower over 200,000 businesses. Just how many businesses would have been empowered if MK1 trillion was put to good used ?

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The DPP 2014 Manifesto carrying a catalogue of promises that were betrayed by their theft and plunder of public money.

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Malawi Government’s 2021/2022 National Budget outlining development agenda targets.

Peculiar to President Chakwera is his patience to follow procedures to solve problems. While DPP looted, the Chakwera administration is busy fixing loopholes. No thief regardless of who they are will go unpunished. The citizenry have been given power to access any information they want to begin with. Public money is safe from rats! The cat is here to stay. If only DPP did not emerge to plunder, with only MK1 trillion, the country would have been singing a different story on the shipway trip from the poverty dock.

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the authorSenior Editor