On Friday 12th March, President Chakwera visited former president Bakili Muluzi at BCA hill. According to state house, they spent two hours in private discussing matters of interest to both. The official communication also says “he went to check upon his predecessor, to wish him well in his retirement, to see if he is in good health and to assess the status of care by the government of the former heads of state so that if there are corrections in the care that they are receiving the president can do so because that was one of his campaign promises.”
Total bull manure!
Yet, judging from some media comments, some Malawians have fallen hook, line, and sinker for this official state house hogwash about the visit. Some respectable Malawians have even claimed that this meeting will go a long way in ‘uniting’ the country. I beg to differ. Uniting the country my foot! Who ever achieved unity by wining and dining with looters or suspected looters?
Official statements after private meetings between politicians rarely reveal the exact things that are discussed. The statements are mostly crafted to just satisfy the ever-curious ears of the press and the public. More often than not, they are cleverly crafted to hide the real objectives of the meetings.
There is, as a matter of fact, many good reasons for being suspicious and why those committed to rebuilding Malawi from the ruins that former corrupt heads of state have left it must downright disapprove of this visit. In many countries that take corruption and the fight against it seriously, a meeting between a head of state and a former head of state who is answering corruption charges would invite serious questions from the citizens. This is because every move or speech a sitting President makes can be interpreted as government policy and can affect a government’s image. Sometimes economic markets can react to what a president does or say.
Bakili Muluzi and his former personal secretary, Lyness Whiskey, are accused of stealing 1.7 billion Malawian Kwacha ($12 million) during his 1994-2004 presidency. The funds came to Malawi as aid from Taiwan, Morocco and Libya. The case has continued to drag on without any end in view and it is now in its second decade.
A few months ago, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) said the 14-year-old case needs a political solution and not a legal one in order for it to reach any kind of conclusion. A political solution? Something like the president and the accused getting together and negotiating or discussing how the case should end? Is that what the ACB meant? And could it be that the president, in paying a visit to Muluzi was perhaps following the advice of the ACB?
A political solution for determining a strong case of how a president corruptly misappropriated billions of Kwachas! Malawi continues to boggle the mind!
Whatever that means, the fact of the matter is that the case is solid and convincing, and that according to the ACB, the only weak link has been politics all along. Indeed, according to some sources, since the beginning of the case, some sitting presidents have been calling the ACB to convince its officials to ‘talk’ to Muluzi about the case. This has been one of reasons the case has been delayed many times.
And this is why the BCA visit is very disturbing to me because it raises questions regarding the real reason behind President Chakwera’s desire and determination to physically meet the publicly acknowledged crafty Muluzi in private at his residence. It doesn’t give a good image at all.
However, it is understandable that Chakwera and his handlers fail to see it that way because their focus is on the 2025 elections. Instead of focusing on fixing the corrupt culture that is derailing the country, reviving the broken economy and fulfilling campaign promises, Chakwera seems to be obsessed with the next elections. All his moves so far are pointing in that direction.
A few months ago, I expressed reservations when president Chakwera visited immediate former President Arthur Peter Mutharika at his residence in Mangochi. I suggested then that the move was not necessary so soon after Malawians had booted out what is regarded as the most corrupt government since the dawn of Malawi’s democracy and when the fruits of the President’s agenda of ‘clearing the rubble’ are yet to be seen. It is just not proper for a president who won elections just a few months ago on the promise to fight corruption which in his own words increased to unprecedented levels during the previous government’s reign, to be seen to be dining with the very persons who presided over the corrupt governments.
Mutharika and Muluzi share three common factors. One is that they have family parties that can influence election results. The second one is that these parties are strong in the southern and eastern regions where Chakwera’s Malawi Congress Party is weak. The third and most important common denominator, at least to my Uncommon Sense, is that both Muluzi and Mutharika, as former presidents, are accused of perpetrating unspeakable corrupt acts while they were leading this country.
These visits that the president seems determined to make therefore somewhat dilute the hard-line stance against corruption that Chakwera claimed he would take both before and after the elections.
Although the president and his defenders might claim that the visits do not mean Bakili Muluzi or Peter Mutharika and their cronies will not be investigated and prosecuted if evidence of corruption is uncovered, the visits send a wrong signal to the nation and especially to responsible officers who implement the fight against corruption.
As I have repeatedly reminded us before, politics is about perception. Facts are often secondary.
It is difficult for me not to think that President Chakwera’s romantic overtures to the former Political heavyweights has politics as the main agenda at the expense of the country’s fight against corruption. With the 50% plus one as determinant of presidential election winner, and with President Chakwera realising that he can’t win with the central region votes only especially with the demise of former MCP vice president late Sidik Mia, he is probably searching for a way to get influence in the southern and eastern region.
What is truly a matter of concern is that as far as perceptions go, the president seems prepared to pursue these votes at any cost, even if that cost means getting in bed with former heads of state whom he must ensure his government prosecutes for corruption and ensure they give back to Malawians what they stole when they were presidents.
Is it a case of the old adage that even old corrupt thieves need love too- as long as they can give you some electoral advantage? Are we sacrificing the fight against corruption for a few votes