From Janet Karim
Open letter to Sattar, Mpinganjira, and other moneybags in Malawi: set up factories in Malawi!
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.
Malawian-born businessperson Zuneth Sattar and other millionaires such as Thom Mpinganjira should stop thinking small and start thinking big by setting up factories and other labor-intensive businesses instead of corrupting politicians.
The news that the British government has investigated and brought to court, Malawian-born business tycoon Zuneth Sattar greatly piqued my interest. Why is a foreign government investigating a Malawian? And in the wake of investigations by the United Kingdom by the National Crimes Agency (NCA) how is Sattar boldly saying he is ready to “stand before the court of law and prove his innocence amid allegations of suspected corrupt dealings with the Malawi government?”
Amid COVID-19, forex depletion, the rising cost of living in Malawi and elsewhere in the face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and manmade and nature-made poverty, Malawians should be given a break in this fiasco dubbed the Sattar saga. According to reports, the allegations of corrupt dealings span several administrations, among them several layers of political, military, and Police players.
Flying around is mention of enormously obscene amounts of money floating about, money that is out of reach of ordinary Malawians, who scrape around to find bus money to get to a hospital, which is infested with the scarcity of medicine, and topping this is the widespread lack of food.
Zuneth Sattar is not the only Malawian to fall into the eagle eyes of the law (Malawi or UK). In 2020, the High Court in Blantyre found the business tycoon and famous face of the Malawi banking community, Thom Mpinganjira guilty in an attempt to bribe the Constitutional Court justices in the 2019 Presidential elections case. Mpinganjira was found guilty and spent some time in jail.
In his defense in the UK case, Sattar is alleged to have released a list detailing notable politicians to whom he has forked out gifts of huge sums of money.
Sattar, who is based in the UK, has yet to face any music in Malawian courts and has been challenged from the shores of the United Kingdom, recently speaking through lawyer Simon Farrell QC, expressing surprise that discussion is wide on social media where a list of Malawi’s current government is circulating but is yet to be formally charged.
This is my advice to the two men and others to whom God has endowed with money in large quantities, you were born in Malawi, you love Malawi, want to and are doing business in Malawi from where you have acquired your wealth; please, instead of lining the pockets of a few Malawians, please take a leaf from two former Malawian presidents by establishing labor-intensive companies that employ Malawians in rural and urban areas.
The two former presidents are the Late Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda and Dr. Joyce Banda. Kamuzu had a millionaire friend called Tiny Rowland who poured millions of pounds sterling into Malawi during Kamuzu’s 31-year rule. Tiny established the Lonrho group of companies (Sucoma, Chibuku Products, David Whitehead and Sons, and Halls Garage to name four of the many labor-intense companies affiliated with this true friend of Malawi). With the Rowland link, Kamuzu also established the Press Corporation that had companies across Malawi including the People’s Trading Company (PTC). These companies created jobs for Malawians in all corners of the country. They also enabled the country to buy shares, nationalize numerous organizations that enabled the government to deliver essential services across the board to all Malawians, and bring forex into Malawi’s coffers.
Former President Joyce Banda (no relation to Kamuzu) won the coveted 1997 Hunger Project Award for Sustainable End of Hunger in Africa. She took her award winnings and invested in establishing the Joyce Banda Foundation School Girls, which was an open door to educating girls in Blantyre. She then turned to her home village in Zomba and established schools for orphans, orphanages, and other businesses benefiting the rural area. Her beneficiaries in Zomba encouraged her to run for a parliamentary seat.
In 1999 she did that, was elected, and nominated to a ministerial position in her maiden seating as a parliamentarian! So powerful was her contribution to the cause called “Develop Malawi,” she was soon promoted to foreign affairs minister. Here again, it was her love and contribution to the “Develop Malawi” cause that she was selected to be Bingu’s running mate in the 2009 Presidential elections. Banda was occupying the Vice President’s seat on the fateful April 2012 day, when Malawi’s former President Bingu Wa Mutharika passed away due to cardiac arrest. She became Malawi’s and SADC’s first female president.
In all this time, neither Kamuzu nor Joyce Banda thought to line any politician’s pockets, nor were their pockets lined by any business moguls. Indeed, it was Kamuzu’s business mogul friend Tiny, who established a myriad of companies; regrettably, all these companies were ditched into the sea through the disgusting and deceptive Privatization program that Malawi blindly adopted on the threshold of democratic governance in 1994.
My big advice to Mr. Sattar and the likes of billionaires like Thom Mpinganjira is for them to help Malawi:
Think 18 million Malawians.
Keep your list of the people you have corrupted; it takes two to tangle, you are as guilty; like the one with the money, and your desire to continue increasing it, presumably led you to throw the corrupt line to those on the list.
Below is outlined something moneybags Malawians can do with their money while doing business in Malawi, which is their country.
Please invest money in establishing manufacturing companies. Through these companies, a positive domino effect takes place that enriches local farmers, re-creates the cloth manufacturing industry (that DWS has killed), revives the tailoring business, which gives jobs to thousands of qualified tailors, many of whom are street vendors, and boasts our forex earning. A negotiation can be entered with the government to ban second-hand clothing!
It is reported that Sattar has contracts to supply imported uniforms to the Army and the Police. There are uniforms that are also needed by the prison wardens and prisoners (a reliable report states that there are currently 100 sewing machines in the prison system that are sitting idle). Why is Malawi still importing uniforms for the military and police? The uniforms can be made in Malawi to be used by Malawian personnel and made by Malawians! Why should Malawi be ordering uniforms from outside the country, depleting the forex that Malawi is always running out of?
Secondly, Malawi grows cotton. Currently, tons of the crop are languishing in warehouses in the Lower Shire, since DWS prefers to import fabric from outside the country (another forex thief). Sattar and others, please work with Malawi cotton farmers, buy their cotton, open a manufacturing company, and start a uniform-making company. In this one avenue, you would supply the Army, Police, Prison (wardens and prisoners), and the medical industry with uniforms, employing thousands of Malawians, a spillover effect to millions.
Thirdly, Malawian moguls should be thinking heavily about the sugar industry. As Malawi is negotiating with the ACP-EU Agreement 2022-2042 (it’s been reported how that’s going down a rat-hole), please plant sugar canes and establish a sugar-manufacturing company or buy back the existing one so as to get back Malawi’s quota that is sold to the EU. This would bring back to the shores of Malawi the forex from the sale of Malawi sugar.
Rich Malawians, please unite, get to the drawing board, stop lining pockets of individual Malawians, and line pockets of all Malawians. If Bill Gates and other international moneybags have done it, Malawian moguls can do it too. Ditch the politicians, think 18 million Malawians: this is thinking big.
Don’t think small, think big. Malawians will be praying for the moguls as they consider the proposals laid above!
Janet Zeenat Karim
Author of A Girl Called Gaborone – Exceptional, Gifted, Savant
Author of Zinyama Village Road
Author of Grandma’s Garden
Author of The Flying Purple Turtle
Author of Numbers in Small House on the Hilltop
Author of Intergovernmental Leadership: A seat at the UN Table
Author of Brilliant! One Year with Dr. Joyce Banda – April 7, 2012- April 7, 2013
Author of Women & Leadership: Women are the Change you Seek
“If You are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people” – Oriental Proverb
“Never stop LEARNING because life never stops TEACHING.”
M.A. Sociology (Global Development & Social Justice). St. John’s University. New York