The other day I read about some section of civil society agitating to go and demonstrate at homes of some Malawians considered to be “masterminding” all corruption in the country. This led me to conclude that while indeed the country bleeds from effects of a long neglected social problem, there is a common challenge of thinking that corruption can end with just one solution.
With corruption now becoming the staple ingredient of every day’s conversation it can be easy to stray away in confusion. Others believe the leadership must be stern and decisive to deal with all suspects of corruption. Some point to increasing the efficiency of judicial systems while others believe that perhaps the solution lies in changing the mind-set of a section of Malawians who have evolved to become a very corrupt society with no fear for breaking the law, a people with an oversized appetite for quick and unexplained wealth and luxury!
Obviously there is not one magic wand to ward off corruption from harming our beautiful country.
Perhaps we must really start from acknowledging that corruption exists in Malawi and it has ever been there. Its effects on the public sector are enormous. In Malawi corruption is one of the major causes of poverty and many other social injustices and it continues to grow fanned by politics of patronage, nepotism, appeasement and wanton impunity and spite on rule of law. This is despite the claims that Malawi is a God-fearing nation with leaders across all spheres of life that speak tough against corruption.
We see corruption every day and almost everywhere. Just like in many places throughout the world, corruption in Malawi manifests in diverse forms and levels. Corruption happens on our roads where a bribe is induced or accepted to evade some law enforcement. Corruption happens in a classroom where a bribe is accepted in return for an undeserved good grade. There have also been claims of corruption in processes of electing or appointing leaders in positions of power in the public and private sectors, religious institutions, non-governmental organizations, political parties and even companies.
The effects of corruption are there for all to see. Corruption is one reason for the unequitable distribution of wealth and the worsening poverty levels. While the majority of the population suffers in poverty, while the majority of people are victims of unemployment and cannot afford decent meals or access social services such as medical treatment and education, there are a few selfish Malawians wading in the luxury of high society using wealth from corruption. Some of these Malawians with unexplained wealth or living beyond their means are our neighbours and some are sponsors in our political organizations, education institutions or even religious institutions!
Corruption is evasive and this factor perhaps explains why many societies have found it so difficult to end corruption. Corruption will not end with threats from political podiums neither will it end with scary admonitions from a religious pulpit. Corruption will not end with few arrests of those considered as the most condemned offenders. A victory in one anti-corruption battle shall not be the end of corruption in Malawi. As a country we must develop and support short, medium and long-term strategies for fighting corruption. Winning the fight will be a long haul turbulent affair and we must be ready to put all our resources to use.
It is therefore encouraging to note that despite the political risks associated with speaking against corruption, the Malawi Government has proceeded to develop and support implementation of a National Anti-Corruption Strategy by among other things increasing budgetary allocation to the Anti-Corruption Bureau. Further, the recently held National Anti-Corruption Conference opened an avenue for various stakeholders to raise critical issues affecting the fight against corruption and how everyone can play a part in the fight. However, it should be emphasized that considering how deeply entrenched corruption has become in Malawi, the country needs equally stern measures beyond strategies and public reprimands against corruption. As they say, you cannot bring a knife to a gunfight! The war on corruption needs preparation and effective execution of strategies.