By Mapwiya Muulupale
“The general public is hereby informed that President Chakwera has canceled all his upcoming public engagements with immediate effect to deal with emerging national and regional matters requiring his action.” – Secretary to the President and Cabinet, 30 November 2021
When this press statement was released, various “experts” went into overdrive, speculating on what the cause of President Chakwera’s sudden loss of appetite for unnecessary travel was.
While JK Galbraith would have us believe that nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory, short memories for political commentators are liabilities.
Reading analysts’ take (read: speculation) on reasons for Pres Chakwera’s abrupt U-turn, one wonders why journalists bother to quote them at all. Revisit the papers of 1 to 2 December 2021, and you will see what I am talking about.
None of the so-called “experts” bothered to tax their brain, just a tiny winy bit to recall that November had seen Zuneth Sattar unsuccessfully wrestle with the ACB in an abortive effort to kill ongoing investigations.
Sattar was arrested in the UK on 5 October 2021 following a three-year-long investigation by Britain’s National Crimes Agency (NCA) into his suspected corrupt dealings with Malawi government officials. Once released on bail in the UK, he quietly returned to Malawi.
Governments – especially those with close relations like Malawi and Britain – exchange information. As such, there is no reason to believe that once the British had noted how wide-ranging Sattar’s corrupt dealings were, they failed to send a bird to whisper into President Chakwera’s ear.
Further, once the Brits arrested Sattar on 5 October, would they hide Sattar’s entanglement with the Malawi government mafia and only inform Chakwera end of November? Would this be characteristic of “good friends”?
Of course not.
This is why as per my calculus; the Brits informed our government and Chakwera somewhere between early to mid-October 2021.
Sadly, around this time, Pres Chakwera’s minders had him attending all sorts of unpresidential functions which looked as if someone was working overtime to keep him away from his desk or from meeting someone important and learning something unsavory.
Therefore, it is possible that Pres Chakwera was happily doing his ‘Siku-Here-Today-There-Tomorrow’ act, oblivious of a bomb waiting to blow his government to kingdom come.
Anyway, once he got wind of it and its gravity, he realized that undertaking Gulliver’s travels in a country he already knows like the back of his hand when his government was in jeopardy, was suicidal.
Hence the memo above. This is Scenario A.
Let us try one more. We all know that among Pres Chakwera’s strengths, non-existent is an ability to treat urgent business with urgency.
Like his predecessor, former Pres Peter Mutharika, he prefers to bury his head deep in the sand while praying that whatever ghosts are out there exorcise themselves.
So, despite being tipped in October, he continued shillyshallying: addressing a function here, launching something there, delivering a poetic address elsewhere.
As if all was well.
Meanwhile, praying that Sattar-gate dies in Court and demands neither his attention nor action. That is Scenario B.
Whichever scenario applies, hoping for the best was the height of dreaming!
“Court rejects Zuneth Sattar again,” exclaimed The Daily Times of Friday, 26 November 2021. As per our Deogratias Mmana Esq, the High Court threw out an application by Zuneth Sattar for permission for a judicial review of the decision by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to help the United Kingdom (UK) government’s investigative agencies in obtaining evidence or information in Malawi concerning suspected criminal acts that he committed.
Sattar had prayed to the Court to:
• Quash ACB’s decision to collaborate with the British NCA,
• Declare that ACB acted ultra vires and unreasonably and,
• Declare that all things done by the ACB in the cooperation with the UK government are illegal and invalid.
Had Sattar successfully swayed the Court, Pres Chakwera would have been let off the hook.
It was not to be.
Pres Chakwera could waver no more, hence curtailing all travel to “deal with emerging national and regional matters requiring his action.”
As I was saying, our esteemed analysts failed to connect the dots. This, however, is no big deal. Analysts can goof.
Pres Chakwera, however, enjoys no such luxury. More so in a matter as grave as this Sattar-gate. Implicated in Sattar-gate Malawi are politicians, some in Chakwera’s government and others from Mutharika’s. Watching closely is Malawi’s number one donor: the UK.
Apologists are by now saying: so, what? How can Sattar-gate be Chakwera’s downfall?
Please read on.
• Do you remember Cash-gate, which exploded on former Pres Joyce Banda’s watch?
• Do you recollect that audit and some court cases proved that Pres Joyce Banda did not initiate Cash-gate but just inherited it?
• Do you recall that her inheriting Cash-gate notwithstanding, she still bore the brunt to the extent that despite resolving the DPP-made fuel and forex twin crises, she quickly depreciated from hero to zero and lost the Presidential Election?
Do you know why? It is because when the Cash-gate shit hit the fan, her initial reactions were – much like current Pres Chakwera’s in this current Sattar-gate – unimpressive.
Instead of grabbing the bull by the horns and with resolve, firing – without looking at faces – those implicated, she dilly-dallied.
This created an irreparable confidence crisis.
The opposition, ironically the very creators of Cash-gate, capitalized and “convinced” Malawians that Cash-gate was her baby.
By the time arrests and prosecutions started, everyone believed she was the mastermind and that the small fish being apprehended were mere scapegoats.
Check this: former Pres Mutharika tried and failed to connect her to Cash-gate and arrest her. Therefore, she was not the Cash-gate mastermind.
What transpired? While her people let her down, she did not help herself either.
When she needed to swiftly expel those implicated, she wavered. As if some were sacred cows. As if she was afraid of being implicated. When she acted, it was too little too late.
Do you know what I am failing to get?
Why vis-à-vis Sattar-gate, Pres Chakwera has elected to religiously walk in former Pres Joyce Banda’s footsteps. What he hopes to achieve, only God knows. What I know for sure is that Benjamin Franklin was 100% right when he said, “you may delay, but time will not.”
In his shoes, I would have already fired all those implicated to create a conducive environment for enforcement agencies to do their work unimpeded and with less drama.
Failing which, this dude will be another one-termer, and I can only hope he knows that when history repeats itself, the price goes up!
And, whosoever produced the idea of this “amnesty for thieves” announced this weekend by Malawi’s hitherto promising Attorney General has just crowned Pres Chakwera as the archetypal “Prince of Thieves”.