Is your conscience clear, Mr Vice President?
Esteemed Raw Stuffers, not long ago, Chemwaali JB said something very fundamental—that Malawians are not cartoons, to be taken for granted.
This, she said, within the framework of advice and caution to her newly-sworn-in Cabinet as well as public servants. The point, esteemed Raw Stuffers, was that she has come with social change; to respect people and make them the centre-piece of her administration.
Chemwaali was saying the pipo must always be consulted and their views factored into public policies and activities. She was saying time for talking down to the people (Professor Moya’s style) as if they were children is long gone.
She was saying time for ministerial, Nkandoish public insults for the people at mass rallies and/or on public airwaves was long gone.
All this sounded neat and politically correct. It marked a fresh chapter in Capital Hill and ruling party PR; the same change that saw Acheemwa going to mop the political and economic dust in Maputo, Lusaka, Washington and London.
Esteemed Raw Stuffers, it all looked good, in the same way things appeared at the end of creation; at least till last week, when Independent MP Lifred Nawena looked straight into the eyes of one Khumbo Kachali in Parliament and asked him if his conscience was clear.
The occasion was when Kachali, JB’s second in command and Minister of Health, told the House his colleague for Finance, Ken Lipenga, was clear of the recent MRA K14.3 billion revenue rot.
Esteemed Raw Stuffers, the noisy protests from the floor and the way some legislators questioned the credibility of the three-man Cabinet verdict, that Lipenga did not know what was happening in his ministry when the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) illegally borrowed funds from commercial banks, said it all.
Whereupon the legal instincts in Nawena, with his trademark steel, calm and direct eyes, asked the VP, the second most powerful man in the Republic: “Mr. Vice-President, is your conscience clear?”
In his direct and immediate shot back, the Right Honourable said he told the National Assembly what he knew, ‘the truth’ that his committee had established. The VP also said he had no apologies to make on what he had said.
Esteemed Raw Stuffers, for those who watched the TV recording of this long-awaited presentation, there was a brief moment of unease, some sort of tension, as the VP’s report did not sound convincing?
Two things engaged our minds as Raw Stuffers: One, whether Lipenga knew or not about the goings-on of his ministry at the time of the ‘borrowings’ is beside the point. It is an issue that can be further investigated. But the question, which was also raised on the floor, is that of the independence and credibility of the team that investigated the matter. Fellow Cabinet ministers probing a fellow ‘cowboy’? Involvement of a Cabinet cohort (Ken Kandodo) who was among the architects of the loathed zero-deficit budget which led to the mess at MRA?
Two, how do ministerial teams work in Capital Hill? A deputy attends a meeting on critical transactions, planning and key operational matters and does not brief his or her boss, the substantive minister?
Esteemed Raw Stuffers, the bottom-line is what was presented in the House. The answers given to the questions somehow did not add up.
We are not saying the Right Honourable Vice-President is a liar. We are not suggesting Dr. Ken Lipenga is, either; nor are we saying the other members of the ministerial enquiry team did not exercise their utmost professionalism and integrity in handling the task as assigned by the President. No.
It is the script they took to the august precincts of Parliament that did not seem convincing. There was something that needed to be said. Of course, we are sure there are details in the full report despatched to New State House which may answer some of the questions raised.
But if the key issues remain as they were presented in the House, Chemwaali JB has just taken the first step down the road of unpopularity. It is an avenue the late Moya travelled in his last days with his unpopular zero-deficit briefcase which was also full of insults for donors. It is the same highway Atcheya treaded with his bad economic policies.
It is the beginning of Chemwaali’s fall. Taking Malawians for granted, relegating them to brainless cartoons. Merry Christmas!