When [President] Bakili Muluzi pioneered the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) over twenty years ago he might have had good intentions to fight corruption but the fight against graft was always going to fail without proper instruments in place to help in the fight against the vice.
It was not surprising therefore to see that for twenty-six years the fight against corruption was just but another lip service. In between we saw four regimes changing hands from UDF, DPP, PP and DPP again (under a different leadership) but no administration between them had the political will to lay good structures for fighting graft. If anything, the ACB was reduced to a toothless bull dog used for political witch hunt.
It was until recently when President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera’s administration assumed the reins of power that we saw some structures for fighting corruption being laid.
In two years President Chakwera’s administration has done more in terms of laying good foundation for fighting corruption than all the previous regimes combined.
This is why Martha Chizuma was being truthful when she said that President Chakwera has been instrumental in the fight against corruption.
Delivering her keynote address at the National Anti-Corruption Corruption Conference last month, Chizuma said corruption has always been worse in the past decades and that the only difference is that President Chakwera does not entertain any cover up of corruption stories and more so journalists have been allowed to expose the deep- rooted corrupt dealings which could have been swept under the carpet in the past regimes.
She said: “The reason the country seems to be more inundated with corruption incidents now can safely be attributed to a very awoke citizenry that is demanding accountability at every turn and corner. Most importantly though is an environment that the Tonse-Alliance Government led by yourself Your Excellency has created not to cover up such incidents and feed the country with convenient truth but allowing Malawians to face the ugly reality of the problem and providing an environment which allow different law enforcement agencies to deal with this problem head on.”
The ACB Director could not have captured it more clearer on what President Chakwera is doing.
The issue of the citizenry being aware of every detail on how the fight against corruption is shaping up boils down to the information being made available to them by the media.
In 2017 the DPP government hinted on Access to Information bill but it was until President Chakwera became the President when ATI was fully operationalized.
This was the time journalists started demanding for information from public offices meant for the public.
If not for the operationalization of the ATI, news outlets such as the Platform for Investigative Journalism (PIJ) could not have become a household name today. We all know that the revelation of Sattar case is what brought PIJ limelight but that was necessitated by the operationalization of ATI.
Another missing link in the fight against corruption by the previous regimes was the absence of the special court to try corruption and related cases and lack of willingness to allow the ACB to work freely without being subjected to consent from the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP).
In the current sitting of Parliament alone government has passed the legislation for the creation of the division of the Fourth division in the High Court which will handle cases related to economic and financial crimes. Together with the putting into effect of the ATI, the two other legislations will see the fight against corruption being rolled out in motion faster than before.
If the previous regimes had the same commitment shown by President Chakwera in the last two years, corruption could have been nipped in the bud. The fight against corruption was never to be won in the absence of these three supporting pillars.