Chaponda – Fish rots from head down

OPINION (Z Allan Ntata) –With corruption, impunity and total disregard for the rule of law being ably presided over by President Peter Mutharika and his right-hand man Dr George Chaponda, every Jim and Jack entrusted with public resources is running their own racket.And why not?

How can Mutharika and his ‘co-pilot’ Chaponda rebuke Teveta, ESCOM, Namkhumwa and others when they are simply following their leaders’ footsteps? Wouldn’t refusing to join the looting free for all jamboree be deemed impudence?

This, of course, is the easy way out for the pathological thieves who have just been waiting for prospects of stealing from the public purses. And this is why, day in day out, we are learning of a new heist at ministry a or b, parastatal x or y, and so on and so forth.

During this time of tribulation and temptation, I want to plead with you Uncommon Sensors. Please tarry a while.

Wasn’t it Martin Luther King Jr who said: the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of adversity?

It is in this spirit that you and I should neither falter nor be afraid to continue holding the Mutharika /Chaponda axis accountable in our collective quest to transform our country.

We must call a spade a spade and name and shame the corrupt and nudge those watchdogs sleeping on their posts into action. And this is my theme for today.

Making both local and international news is the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) which was released a couple of days ago.

In short, the report vindicates those of us who have been saying that corruption has worsened under the Peter Mutharika regime.

It is now official. No amount of propaganda can counter our assertions. No chiefs or dubious pastors can hoodwink the world at large that Malawi – under Mutharika – has now evolved into a haven of the corrupt.

The newly released index shows Malawi has degenerated eight places from position 112 in 2015 to 120 in 2016. Malawi was on position 88 in 2012.

The CPI indicates that on a score of 0-100, zero being highly corrupt, Malawi scored 31, which is within the red zone of the CPI between 0-39.

What this means for you and me is that all those Investment Forums the outcome of which were imaginary deals worth billions, and equally fantastical thousands of jobs, were total rubbish; just another exercise in futility because genuine investors use the CPI as a basis for estimating the level of risks for business and investments in a country.

And at number 120, Malawi is not looking attractive at all. Malawi looks rotten.

What can we do then, you may be asking. Corruption, as aided and abetted by the Mutharika /Chaponda axis, can only be addressed via collective mass action by us, the ordinary citizens.

This is the first, the only and the missing piece of the jigsaw towards “information, accountability, participatory democracy, freedom, and human dignity”.

So the question is: who will lead the general public? I could, but if I did, the powers that be would quickly write the whole thing off as the action of a frustrated person – which I am not by the way.

The answer is the Public Affairs Committee (PAC).

Why and how? Because it is the most authoritative civil society platform with the muscle to organize and consolidate various voices for change.

This is why I find it curious that this important body has chosen to remain silent at a time when both the president and his ministers are shamelessly defying court orders and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has been so emasculated that a scarecrow can do a better job of fighting graft in Malawi than Lucas Kondowe.

If PAC wants to retain public confidence, this is the time to marshal popular support for a citizen anti-corruption action without which, next year, we will slide to number 130 on Transparency International (TI)’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI).

This approach would pressurize duty bearers to ensure the people’s best interests. But this can only be effective when backed by a nationally recognized arbitrator for good governance such as the Public Affairs Committee. People-sponsored movements are the only path to salvation in a country such as Malawi, where civil liberties are poorly harbored.

At the moment, in spite of the noises in the press and on social media, Malawians are powerless and far-removed from the government.

Whereas PAC has the moral mandate to spur a far-reaching systemic change in which development projects can be monitored to ensure the best interests of Malawians.

Isn’t it time, for instance, that an initiative was implemented to blacklist corrupt ministers and aspiring electoral candidates by publishing, and publicizing their names and rotten deals to alert the general public that these individuals have been deemed unfit to run for public office according to a set of criteria?

Civil Society could then help by instituting other social sanctions.

While a variety of tactics can be implemented by solitary activists and small players, it is obvious that what is really required is for larger players like PAC to take the lead as they have done in the past, not sleep or, engage in dirty, self-serving alliances with this corrupt administration.

I will say it again…

We can all see that Malawi has reached a stage where what is really required – the only way to save her – is effective anticorruption campaigns that invoke nonviolent, civil movements.

Development partners and larger good governance players must acknowledge this situation and recognize and support the smaller grassroots actors. If these external actors fail to coordinate their efforts with civic actors and assist grassroots organizations, their actions will unintentionally detriment the grassroots initiatives and promote the culture of corruption we are now witnessing.

The importance of citizen engagement, nonviolence, and local leadership cannot be overstated when one considers the culture, political structure, and history of this country.

Today, when civilian-led campaigns ranging from protests against police brutality in the United States to rallies for freedom of expression in France are dominating headlines and capturing the world’s attention, we cannot afford to ignore or understate the significance of nonviolent popular action.