Malawi Cashgate: Will Joyce Banda End Corruption?

Published on 11th February 2014

Malawi’s president, Joyce Banda, has never lacked shockers. She recently resorted to purging corruption in her country after donor countries unearthed a cashgate scandal.  Banda says that she is ready to fight the vice even if it means risking her job.

Despite her boldness and assurance, wary Malawians are asking: If she sincerely and seriously means business, why did wait until donors had unveiled the scam for her to declare war on it? Why now when the country nears its general elections? Does she want to get some mileage out of this war? Others are questioning Banda’s cleanliness as far as corruption is concerned. Peter Chinoko, an outspoken head of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in the Lilongwe archdiocese alleges that there is “…concrete evidence about the president’s involvement and being part and parcel of the scandal.” Malawians are asking who footed her seven trips to Nigeria.

Donors have categorically stated that they will not resume support through government systems until they have a clear assurance, independently verified, that their resources are all being used for their intended purpose, according to 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.

Accusing fingers are already being pointed at Banda’s alleged collaborators in the scam. A prominent businessman, Oswald Lutepo, who also is a senior official in Banda’s party is said to have scooped over $ 6,000,000. Lutepo donated 22 vehicles to Banda’s party. Will Banda 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 for allegedly ordering the shooting of one Paul Mphwiyo, Director of Budget who seems to have spilled the beans that lead to Banda’s  current predicament.

To end corruption in Africa, people must declare their wealth. One lifeline of corruption will be brought down. It is only in Africa where a person can acquire wealth or property overnight without being held to account. This is why it is easy for 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.

According to an African proverb, a goat eats according to the length of its rope. The bigwigs steal big sums while the small ones end up robbing whatever they put their hands on and life goes on. A case in point is a mere junior public servant who was found keeping over $ 300,000 in the boot of his car.

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 returns. How can prosecution work if at all there are some presidents who don’t even pay tax let alone fail to submit tax returns or declare their wealth?

By Nkwazi Mhango
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