Yesterday, marked exactly one week since former Minister of Energy, Newton Kambala and his co-accused AFORD President Enock, Chihana, and Chris Chaima Banda, an aide to president Lazarus Chakwera were arrested by ACB in connection with the NOCMA-MERA fuel procurement scandal. The 3 have since been released on bail after being charged with offenses related to abuse of office (Kambala) and aiding Kambala commit the said offense (Chaima Banda and Chihana).
Now, we don’t mean to brag, but we told you first HERE Yes. While the mainstream media was skirting around the story and others deliberately sleeping on it, we called it out HERE. We called the spade a spade and not a big spoon. We investigated and established criminality around the fuel procurement saga and called it what it was: a criminal syndicate and not a procurement standoff. Now it has unraveled before the public eye, and like a house of cards, fell flat under the weight of its lies. We must be quick to add, we have in possession so much incriminating material on this stinking enterprise that we plan to share as we go along.
Energy is the lifeblood of any economy. In the case of Malawi, fossil fuel energy is specifically important. We are yet to transition to green energy. This is why our economy is particularly susceptible to price changes in fossil fuels: when fuel prices go up, everything on the market goes up. Against this backdrop, it was expected that Kambala would be banging heads with the ministry’s technocrats to conceive both short- and long-term strategies to keep fuel prices low and further strategies to curb corruption in the procurement of the same? Contrary to this ordinary expectation, he went out of his way to arm-twist regulatory bodies to dubiously award fuel supply contracts to certain preselected bidders, disregarding the fact that his actions would potentially lead to an increment in fuel prices in Malawi.
RUTHLESS CRIMINALITY ON DISPLAY
The nature of the subject matter involved, the social standing of the accused persons, and the utter disregard for the economic consequences attendant to this criminal pursuit make this enterprise fouler than the average criminal syndicate. Here we have individuals of higher social standing in both their personal and professional lives, who were more than willing to burn the nation to line their pockets. Ironically so, these are the very people who were under obligation to safeguard the public interest by either proactively taking steps to root out corruption or by providing sound advice to the president. Unfortunately, all of them used their influence and political capital to further a criminal end.
In the case of Kambala, the criminal mastermind in this saga, it wasn’t really surprising to see things turn out this way for him. Him, being originally a progeny of DPP, an entity closely associated with corruption and lawlessness, he was disposed to lend himself with ease to the callous manner of conducting state business reminiscent of the DPP’s mode of operation despite finding himself in a new political environment. Fisi ndi Fisi paja timatero. No bush-switching aids a hyena’s desire to change identity. Isn’t it said that you cannot teach an old dog a new trick? It was only a matter of time before his true corrupt colors took to the surface.
By virtue of his appointment as a cabinet minister, Kambala instantly became a fiduciary and was legally and morally bound to further the interests of Malawians and not those of his own. By virtue of his appointment, he assumed a trifecta of responsibilities towards the public viz:
1) avoiding conflict of interest, wherein he was required to avoid engaging in affairs where he had personal interests conflicting with those of the public;
2) to manage resources under his care prudently, wherein as a minister he was obligated to manage state resources under his control the same way an ordinary person manages the affairs of his own; and
3) to hold an even hand among the public as to not favor one over another.
Looking at the facts of his case, Kambala fell short of all the 3. By attempting to bribe a public officer (NOCMA CEO) to have his preferred supplier awarded a fuel supply contract in return for a favor, he brought himself in direct conflict with the interests of the public. The power of the office of a minister, and the aura that comes with it, is as much any other resource before the minister. Instead of using it to stamp out corruption in the procurement process, he went ahead directly, and savagely so I must add, promote corruption in the bidding process. And by pushing for the award of the contract to a particular supplier, he failed to hold an even hand amongst all bidders. If anything, each bidder was supposed to succeed or fail on the strength or weakness of their bid and nothing else.
To top it all, he directly offered a bribe to a public officer in exchange for a favor. This litany of misdeeds notwithstanding, he had the audacity of refusing to resign leaving the president with no choice but to fire him. A true degenerate for such an honorable office!
Then there is Chris Chaima Banda who was at the material time the advisor to the president on strategy and manifesto implementation. Let me digress a bit here. In the times of antiquity, Plato the eminent philosopher, once argued before a king Archon’s Court that no man willingly does that which is evil, and where one does it, it is purely out of ignorance. In light of Chaima’s misdeeds, one would be forced to think that Plato adopted this position because he had not yet heard of Chaima Banda. If there was someone who should have avoided taking part in this criminal enterprise then it was him.
It is common knowledge that Dr. Lazarus Chakwera came on the back of entrenching servant leadership, ending corruption, and making the rule of law a cornerstone of his administration. These elements were plastered all over the MCP manifesto and even got a special mention in Chakwera’s Hi 5 agenda.
Thus, as someone in charge of manifesto implementation, serving the people of Malawi, avoiding corruption, and following the law should have to linger at the top of his mind all the time for these elements were the basis of his assignment.
By doing the exact opposite of this (i.e. aiding Kambala in his criminal pursuit), he broke the trust that was reposed in him by the president and at large the people of Malawi. Being the president’s advisor on strategy and manifesto implementation, he was for all practical purposes the president’s keeper, the light unto his foot illuminating his path. But he chose to be the stumbling block.
Going behind the president’s back to doing exactly that which was, and still is, at odds with the president’s guiding philosophy, worse still criminal, he committed an unforgivable sin in this area of practice. Relieving him of his duties could not atone for the damage he exacted to the image of the presidency and specifically to the legacy of Chakwera. Chaima Banda crossed the Rubicon.
But there is also another aspect about Chaima Banda that needs to be put to light. He was appointed ambassador to Brazil, meaning he was set to have his advisory role relinquished anytime soon. If you closely followed events in the past, memories must be fresh in your precious mind on how the DPP Government stole billions upon billions of government money via questionable embassy budgetary allocation expenditures. It was one of DPPs nastiest tricks in the book. In light of his true character over the past few days, doubts are now rife over his competency to take over this position: will Chaima Banda help the president arrest this malpractice and save poor people’s money? We strongly doubt that. He was pure rubble masquerading as a change agent. Certainly, the kind the president need not be around him.
Then there is the 3rd suspect, Enoch Chihana, the AFORD don. Quite a man out of touch with reality who grew up a privileged life owing to his father’s political legacy. And he is still living off that legacy, maintaining his political relevancy because of the same. It is said that he dreams of becoming president of this nation one day. To be fair with him, it is not a crime to aspire for better things in life.
If this guy is practically scouting for opportunities to steal and oppress poor Malawians while at a distance from the apex of power, we can only imagine what he can do to this nation, God forbid, should he in the unlikely event become the president.
That concern withstanding, owing to events of the past few days, the pricey questions are as follows: if, as a leader of a political movement he is more than happy to indulge himself in criminal activities, what sort of leadership does he provide to those who follow him and collaborate with him?
To be more specific, what sort of value does he bring to the Tonse alliance? What were/are his intentions of joining the Tonse alliance? Does he share the president’s vision of servant leadership and creating a prosperous Malawi for all? Is it too long a shot to suppose that he is in the alliance to gain better ground to effectively scheme in stealing government money? Most important of all, isn’t he a liability to the Tonse alliance at the moment? Anyways, while Chihana probably thinks of himself as a hotshot of a politician, he is nothing more than a common thug in a suit.
When one carefully considers the nature of this criminal enterprise and adopts a much broader outlook, one is likely to conclude that this perfectly sums up the essence of our society. Ours is a society that doesn’t believe in hard work to hit the finish line. Ours is a society that believes in shortcuts to get the job done. It does not believe in fair play. Against this background, a leader of integrity as Dr. Chakwera could not have shown up at a better time than this. It is principled men like him who effect the necessary changes in broken societies like ours. A reasoned, well-measured, and selfless leader like him is what we need. At the moment, he is the only thing holding us back from a complete societal breakdown. We should be grateful.
While it was reasonably expected that several party officials and family members would show up to offer support, emotional or otherwise, to those arrested, it was quite an unusual sightseeing scores of UTM party supporters lining up at ACB offices chanting liberation songs in support of Kambala. A stranger unfamiliar with the affair would have thought Kambala was a political prisoner. His being a criminal suspect would have been the last thing on the mind of this fictional stranger.
You see, under the DPP administration, Malawians were accustomed to chaos and lawlessness. Under DPP, lawlessness hit record levels. One time, DPP supporters led by party officials demonstrated against the judiciary while shouting unprintable obscenities at its members to bully them into submission. In those times, a mere presidential bodyguard could issue orders as if he were a minister or something. Presidential advisors were untouchable. They were mini-gods unto themselves. Examples are just too numerous to mention. DPP tolerated and celebrated chaos and lawlessness fully knowing that its existence depended more on it. When people voted for change, they voted to leave this nasty file behind. This is why it was surprising to see an alliance partner openly celebrating corruption when they were supposed to distance themselves away from it.
Now, we are not saying an accused person does not need any kind of support. Far from it. Kambala and company need emotional and material support from their families and party comrades. But the said support cannot, at any rate, amount to obstruction of justice, or the perpetration of lawlessness as it was made to be. That will never be acceptable. That said, what UTM did was not offering emotional support but an attempt to influence ACB to let Kambala off the hook. Zimenezo zautsilu heve!
Considering that his trial has not yet begun, and will be required to appear before the Court probably more than once, reasonable care should be exercised by UTM in its quest to support one of their own. It ought to be kept in mind that Mr. Kambala is a criminal suspect and not a political prisoner. He stands accused of criminal malpractice and not spreading a “dangerous” ideology. UTM should at all costs avoid recreating the kind of spectacle that was witnessed last week at ACB offices. Zauchikapezo ayi!
By way of conclusion, let it be said that while it might be tempting to brush this aside like an ordinary criminal syndicate, well-meaning Malawians should not be quick to do so. From a practical aspect of it, this highlights the amount of work our president has in purging the culture of impunity that was cultivated and entrenched by the previous regime. While the president is at the front charging against the criminals, we as ordinary citizens should do our part in supporting him and not the criminals. We need to rise to the occasion and sanitize our beloved nation.
Author: Suji Santillo
Editor: Innocent Marshall