Africa & WorldAnalysis

Chakwera just a modern-day Kamuzu Banda as looting begins in Malawi

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  • TIME TO EAT? Hastings Kamuzu Banda (1964 – 1994) never passed any legislation that specifically dealt with corruption; scholars have called the form of corruption prevalent during Kamuzu era – extractive corruption. Incumbent Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera is yet to pass any legislation to deal with corruption despite his election promises. Now, public health funds have vanished and Chakwera's party allies have gotten filthy rich in just a few months into power...

This should provide a historical perspective in the fight against corruption in Malawi from Kamuzu Banda’s era to the incumbent president, Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera.

Hastings Kamuzu Banda (1964 – 1994); His regime never passed any legislation that specifically dealt with corruption; Scholars have called the form of corruption prevalent during Kamuzu era – extractive corruption.

With the absence of free press and freedom of expression one would say that corruption was little or inexistent. “Katangale kunalibe nthawi ya Kamuzu

Bakili Muluzi (Atcheya, Kuchitekete) (1994-2004); Commentators aver that corruption during Atcheya was ‘distributive.’

In lieu of loyalty and support his government offered patronage and thus maintaining power.

However, Atcheya’s era witnessed several pieces of anti corruption legislation such as the Corrupt Practices Act which was passed a year after he assumed power in 1995; this established Anti Corruption Bureau in Malawi.

Atcheya’s era in addition passed the Public Audit Act, Public Finance Management Act and Public Procurement Act.

Observers agree that despite the immense effort in the fight against corruption ‘kusolola’ was in the regimes’ DNA.

Bingu Mutharika 2004 – 2012; Considered as Atcheya’s nemesis and his withdrawal from the UDF membership in 2004 was mistakenly considered as his stance against corrupt practices prevailing in the UDF regime.

However, his attitude towards his political opponents raised eyebrows to even question his anti corruption agenda.

Nevertheless, Bingu is credited for adopting a National Anti Corruption Strategy in acknowledging that Corruption had become a massive problem in the country.

To date as with the UDF, noone knows the impact of the ‘Strategy’ in combating corruption in the country.

Then along came Joyce Abiti Mtila Banda reigning from 2012 – 2014. In her two year rule, Banda passed the Public Officers (Declaration of Assets, Liabilities and Business Interests) Act.

This requires the President, cabinet ministers and other designated civil servants to declare their assets, liabilities and business interests at the assumption of public office.

With this Act, one would have thought that Banda’s era will sunset corruption in Malawi but the monstrous ‘Cashgate Scandal’ sunk the faith.

Cashgate scandal is Banda’s nightmare as it eroded the trust Malawians had in her and left many question marks on her aptitude and ability to govern and manage the country’s resources.

Arthur Peter Mutharika – Bingu’s brother became the president in 2014. He is also remembered for one important piece of legislation, Financial Crimes Act which directly deals with ‘tainted property.’

Its Financial Intelligence Authority has powers that can be exploited in the fight against corruption. A close observation in its operation reveals that the FIA is ineffective in combating corruption

And finally, Lazarus Chakwera, the incumbent president who has now the key that would enable him to unleashing the powers of the anti corruption legislation he has inherited in Malawi.

He is yet to pass a legislation but considering the trend above it seems inevitable. This goes without doubt as his regime is already dealing with allegations of misappropriation of Covid funds and unexplained wealth of (some party members) amassed in just months in power.

It is worth observing that the Malawi Congress Party has never passed any legislation to fight corruption in Malawi and their leadership in the Tonse Alliance, this time around, is an opportunity for them to prove and demonstrate to all Malawians that they could have done better during their 31 years of ruling the country to sunset corruption.

All I can say is that he is surrounded with capable personnel who can direct him when required. Malawians are eagerly and patiently waiting for the promised everlasting change. A change that will harness equality and alleviate poverty.

In my opinion, Malawi does not need anymore legislation in this area. What Malawi needs is a strong selfless leader who can come up with an innovative solutions to the their problems which include stamping out corruption.

The impoverishment that Malawians endure and their lack of effective access to many socioeconomic rights have more to do with ideology, politics, and corruption and less with law or lack of resources.

I wish to thank prominent scholars who have worked tirelessly in research work in this field such as Mwiza Jo Nkhata, Justice Dr. Redson Kapindu, Professor Danwood Chirwa and many other scholars from Malawi.

Without them it would be almost impossible to fathom the magnitude of corruption in Malawi.

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  • Sheriff Kaunde is an Attorney at Law based in Leicester, United Kingdom and is writing here in his personal capacity.
  • Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are of the author and not the publisher.

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