Amassing of Funds by Presidents in Malawi: The Constitution Shares the Blame

For many years, Malawi has been a country where politicians play blame shifting games and neglecting responsibility when things are messed up. Kamuzu blamed colonial masters which was justifiable because we couldn’t continue being ruled by foreigners in our own land. Bakili Muluzi blamed Dr Kamuzu Banda for being a dictator, ruling the country with an iron fist. Prof. Bingu wa Mutharika blamed Bakili Muluzi for corruption. Joyce Banda is blaming the dead for messing up economy by waging war with the donors and MK61 billion believed by many that he stole from public coffers. Apart from Kamuzu, Bakili Muluzi arrested the old man, Bingu arrested Bakili, unfortunately Bingu died with cardiac arrest (may his soul rest in peace), but believe me if he was alive and his brother looses election next year, he was going to be arrested also. After stepping out of office, Joyce Banda may also be arrested on grounds her successor will find and believe me, with this feminist world, her arrest will draw many objurgation on grounds that the country is abusing her because she is a woman. In all these arrests tax payers’ money is used but no tactual upshots are coming out of such arrests. Up to date, the government has been using tax payers’ millions on the case of Bakili Muluzu. I wonder if the money used to follow up this case is not close to the said MK1.7 billion already. What will tax payers gain if they overpay the lawyers following this case who are also becoming millionaires through the case? The unfortunate part of these hauntings is that, they are mostly done to gain political mirage not good will. After years of haunting, the citizens are gaining nothing but paying more.

We have been making our presidents kings in the democratic country especially by the gold diggers who support wrong things the president does even when they know s/he is wrong and later the same people are the ones who crucify him. It is the country where clapping hands earns one money or job. It is the country where one sees wrong things and errors in our constitution when not on power but after getting the mantle of power (presidency), the constitution has no flawed because it acts in their favour.

It is the country where leaders effect laws which are in their favour and ignore those that are in favour of the majority. It is the country where money is found in politics. The blames of abuse of office and funds have been effected on many public officers especially those attached to politics, selection of implementation of laws have been for a long time a public outcry. The constitution has not been supreme law to the political elites but only to the grassroots. For all these and many other issues, the constitution is somehow to blame.

Bravo to our Judiciary which for many years, I have respected as truly independent apart from the case of section 65 which I feel they fail to make definite judgement due to knottiness in our constitution. Some issues are not clearly stipulated with some sections conflicting with others. Since 1994, our constitution has been amended for not less than five times already, others say more than ten times. I believe the constitution was done in a hurry and justifiable since the country was rushing for democracy. Now that Malawi has grown in democracy, let us have the second look on it.

Other countries which saw that their constitution brought more problems in political circle than it solved revised it. With such examples as Kenya which revised it in 2010, Zimbabwe just adopted the new one; Zambia is almost adopting the new constitution so that it goes with current issues and rectifying the loopholes. Why can’t we learn from them and revise ours to minimise venomousness in public offices and protect our leaders and economy. The reason why our leaders keep on being arrested after getting out of power is because the constitution has not been protecting them but they don’t know until they land into trouble. We will say a lot of things against Kamuzu Banda, Bakili Muluzi, Bingu wa Mutharika and soon Joyce Banda but the abuse of office and public funds by our presidents will not end until the constitution is revised to protect both them and tax payers’ money. How much are we going to loose just in case the government looses the case against former president Bakili Muluzi and the Late Bingu wa Mutharika’s wealth or if they take too long to settle? How is the constitution of USA and UK that we don’t hear about such scandals as we have been having in our country?  We can’t keep on delighting on ex-leaders arrests after all the hard work and contribution they may have made to our country when something can be done to avoid the replication. Many bills have passed into law in the national assembly but are not in the constitution which is difficult for citizens to follow and abide by.

As a patriotic Malawian pastor I have the following suggestions on areas which I believe need attention or be ratified in our constitution to minimise the abuse of office and public funds by our presidents in the future and at the same time protecting the reputation of our leaders. My advice is focussing on promoting the effective administration of the country in order to reduce the amassing of funds by the seating president and other public officers, promoting national development through national unity and equality so that our country does not move two steps forward and four backwards. I may be a novice on matters of constitution but I am convinced that some of you will have a glance of sense in my suggestions. Here are my areas of concerns in a layman’s language.

  1. A.     Presidency
    1. Putting a structure for accountability, transparency and responsiveness on the part of the president.
    2. Let one attempt presidency once, if s/he fails to win, should pack and go home to pave for the new blood.
    3. Let one running for presidency not run for parliamentary seat at the same time to extend the opportunity to others.
    4. Let a special independent body regulate how the president and first lady introduces foundations and how funds are earned and spent or let the seating president and first lady not run any foundation until s/he retires so that there is no loophole for the president to abuse donations and funds in the name of foundation.
    5. Let it be clear that in case of the vice president ascending to presidency, should re-declare assets because the position is different and also because s/he takes another oath when ascending to presidency.
    6. Let the constitution stipulate how many internal and external trips of government business the president and first lady/gentleman should honour to avoid over-allowances at the expense of tax payers.
    7. Let the president not add ministerial position on top of presidency for effectiveness.
    8. In case of the incumbent’s death, incapacitation or resignation let the vice president take care of the country for only three to six months and then fresh election of the president’s seat and that of the vice for citizen’s re-endorsement of who to lead the country until the next general election.
  1. B.     Cabinet ministers
    1. Let cabinet ministers be well qualified not diploma holders or less who don’t even know what they are doing apart from praising the president. This position requires intellectual competency.
    2. Let cabinet ministers serve as nonaligned civil servants in order to serve the national interest. This will help them to be objective other than thinking about how to please the ruling party to keep their positions ending up giving confusing advices to the president.
    3. Let cabinet ministers be vetted publically on national television for people to assess their competence and comment.
    4. Let the constitution stipulate the number of ministries and cabinet ministers with gender and regional sensitivity to avoid cabinet blotting and stop public outcry.
  1. C.     Members of Parliament and National Assembly
    1. Removing or enforcing Section 65. There is no importance of having a law which is never implemented. That brings more confusion than it can solve. Let’s implement or get rid of it to prevent national stress.
    2. Let the minimum level of education for MPs be first degree for competency and right articulation of policies in the house and to avoid the undereducated take advantage of graduates on salaries.
    3. Let the term for MPs be 2 five year term just as we do with the president so that we don’t recycle politicians.
    4. Let the bills pass in the national assembly with votes not less than half the number of members from the “opposition side” present in the house to avoid passing bills on the advantage of the government side having more members in the house. This will help reduce the abuse of power and office by the government. This will also ensure that all electorates are represented in decision making and at the same time bringing real check and balance on government. Bingu did very well in his first five years of office because the opposition had majority MPs in the house and he wanted to prove the opposition wrong but after winning with landslide in 2009, he disregarded the wish of the majority with such people like Dr. Hertherwick Ntaba saying, “it is our time now that we are the majority, let the opposition not cry foul”. This was because the government had many MPs aiding to passing bills which were not even in favour of the majority.
    5. Let’s find another term for the “leader of opposition” and “opposition side” in the national assembly so that both sides can work together constructively for the good of Malawi.
  1. D.     Public Appointments
    1. Let chiefs serve as civil servants and elevated upon recognisable achievement, competency and if applicable, education level. Let them serve the government not ruling party of the day which leads them to working toward appeasing political leaders other than serving the interest of their subjects.
    2. Let the constitution guide how public appointments are regionally shared with gender sensitivity.
    3. Let the appointment of DCs be based on one’s home district to promote development because the DC will have his district at heart than when he is representing a different district. This person also has a good knowledge of the district and the real needs of the people in a particular district just as MPs are in their constituencies.
    4. Let’s have a remuneration board that will decide on salaries of civil servants for every government ministry and department including presidential position.
  1. E.     Other Concerns
    1. Look at the element of senators (section 68) and implement it or remove it if we think it is irrelevant.
    2. Let’s revise the constitution every 10 years when things are like to have changed significantly to neat out loopholes instead of frequent amendments which may only be for the benefits of ruling elites.
    3. Let’s find another Chichewa term for politics, not “ndale” which is misleading to most Malawian politicians and promotes character assassination other than objectivity.
    4. Let corruption cases have maximum dead lines in court, so that tax payers’ money does not get overused by following one case for years.
    5. Let the constitution allow pre-election party coalition and not after election so that those who win are government and those who loose are “opposition” until the next election to avoid frustrating electorates who may not be in favour of post-election coalition.

Lastly, I would like to say that, PREVATION IS BETTER THAN CURE! You know why? Because it is cheap and cure is expensive. We have spent a lot of tax payers’ money following up corruption cases which can be avoided if we strengthen the stand of our constitution. I hope you will fill some gaps on issues you think are omitted and are of national interest.

I have written this article as a patriotic Malawian who is concerned with what is happening in our country more especially with the revelation of alleged MK61 billion wealth case against the late Mutharika which is yet to be proven and MK1.7 billion alleged case against former President Bakili Muluzi. I thought, I could contribute to our country’s clutters this way. I welcome all positive and constructive criticisms.


4 Responses

  1. Quite thought provoking. Clearly we have a long way to go BUT this should not put us off. We need to get there and some of what you have raised here are quite critical in taking us there. Section 65 should indeed go or we should begin to use it. I like your idea on sitting Head of State/First :ady running fopundations; perhaps if indeed we could let the former presidents/spouse run such affairs; we would not have temptations by some former presidents to bounce back as Muluzi wanted in 2009. we will keep them busy1

  2. Thank you Mphatso for your constructive comment.

  3. This is really amazing Bob. Malawi needs such kind of thinking and we need such kind of worldview if we are to get where we are to some heights. Tatopa ndikukamba same things/issues all the time. We are trapped in a vicious cycle of recycled politicians. Term limits to extend to MPs.

    • Thank you pastor for your kind complements on my write up.

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