By Tendai Chabvuta
This week has been awash with jokes about President Lazarus Chakwera attending a scheduled online conference in person, with ten family members in tow . The reason being that internet service is poor and unreliable in Malawi – what hogwash?
The man who came onto the scene with a bang has been fingered in so many bad press scandals he would dwarf his predecessors. From sending his daughter to be a diplomat, to allegations that he smuggled and spirited the scandalous Prophet Bushiri out of South Africa when he was facing imminent arrest for fraud and money laundering.
Malawians can joke, make memes, and laugh all they want, but the more important issue that comes out of this is that they have a serious problem in their hands. Their President is sheep in wolves’ clothing and needs to be watched closely, held accountable and taken to task for his actions before he takes the country back to the ruins where it is coming from.
The risk of such a person engaging in money laundering, being used to clean drug or terrorist money, engaging in international crimes as well as siphoning money stolen from the fiscus becomes just too high for him to be left to his own whims.
The Bushiri scandal – why would a whole President be concerned about that one citizen?
It is alleged that President Chakwera took the less than an hour flight to Waterkloof from his base in Blantyre to rescue preacher and millionaire Shepherd Bushiri from the South African legal system.
Whether this is true or not, the fact that President Chakwera’s name came up in the scandal is enough to raise suspicion. There is no smoke without fire so the saying goes!. Malawians need to ask their President questions on a number of issues:
Why was he in South Africa when he was not scheduled for a meeting with President Ramaphosa. He did not even get to meet President Ramaphosa, so what was he doing there?
If he went on a frolic of his own, whose money was used to fund that trip and how much was it?
If it is true that he went to help smuggle Bushiri out of Johannesburg, what was in it for Chakwera? – because definitely it is not the ordinary Malawian who is going to benefit from such.
How is Chakwera beholden to Bushiri that he would risk domestic censure and international ire by carrying out such a move?
This is information Malawians themselves will need to find out using their civil society institutions, their regional connections and even asking the South Africans so that they can hold their President accountable.
Chakwera’s daughter is now a top diplomat in Belgium – nepotism or deploying excellence?
It has emerged that President Chakwera deployed one of his daughters, Violet to be a diplomat in the Malawian Embassy in Brussels. While, several other leaders have done such things in the past, for example, VP Ruto of Kenya has one of his daughters June, as the Charge De ‘Affaires in Poland.
June has a Master’s degree in International Studies from the University of Queensland, Australia, and a bachelor degree in Diplomacy from the United States International University in Nairobi.
On the contrary, Violet Chakwera’ highest qualification is a certificate in International Air Transport Association (IATA). Violet used to be an outbound ticket Sales Agent for Kenya Airways and before that she used to work for Air Malawi as a ticket sales assistant and now she is a top diplomat for Malawi in busy and important place such as Europe’s political center?
Anyway, the drill is the same – Malawians need to hold President Chakwera accountable even on this issue. That his children should be afforded the same chances as any other Malawian is fair game.
Donald Trump did it with Ivanka and that son in law of his. Why would Chakwera not be allowed to do the same for his children? That question is easy to answer – he can do whatever he wants for his children but they have to be qualified and competent to do the jobs they are given or asked to do. It does not look like that in this case.
Foreign Embassies are key institutions and strategic positions for states as well as government officials. For example where government officials are under sanctions, it would be important to have their proxies and key people in strategic places where they can get medication, banking services etc.
This was and probably is still the case with Zimbabwe for their Embassies in Russia, Singapore and China. Where there are financial interests, they would send their best people to safeguard their economic and financial interests. So in places like that governments send their children to school, their relatives as Embassy staff and so on so that gold, diamonds, timber etc. can be sold without too many challenges.
Politically and for international relations, there are some places where states cannot just send novices, for example, Brussels because it is the sit of the EU; New York because of the UN and Beijing because of geopolitics etc. Thus the question, WHY Brussels for Chakwera’s daughter? – She could not have gone there for politics definitely.
Beyond the swirling rumors of Violet’s collapsed marriage and new marriage to the internet Congolese pastor, Malawians need to ask questions and be given answers on a number of levels concerning the President’s daughter’s deployment?
What exactly is Violet Chakwera doing in the Malawi Embassy in Brussels – what value does she add to the team that is already stationed in Brussels?
Does she get the normal perks as the rest of the staff in the Embassy or hers becomes an albatross on the Malawian fiscus considering that she might need extra security and that just she is the President’s daughter?
What businesses does the Chakwera family have in Western Europe that they would need to send one of their own there – what brief does she have or hold for the family that side?
Who else is related to the Chakweras or a close ally is in that Embassy – Chakwera would not send his daughter into a place where she would not have allies.
Why Brussels – of all the Embassies that Malawi has globally?
The internet trip to London – no shame – no face – Globetrotting President
President Chakwera has travelled to London accompanied by his family. Of course, why would he not travel with his family, one would ask. That is not the biggest issue here.
What is concerning and what raised ire is the fact that the Global Education Summit Chakwera is attending is a virtual conference where only a few guests such as President Uhuru Kenyatta had been specifically invited to be there in person but with very stringent Covid tests and other protocols as well.
Just like in the South African case, President Chakwera will not meet any of the British leadership for example, PM Boris Johnson or the Queen or even Prince Philip.
So why is he there? Even going to the extent of defending being accompanied by his son in law and daughter who he says are Malawians who have specific functions to assist deliver his duties on that trip. Interesting.
Malawians need to ask President Chakwera again almost the same questions as asked above for the sake of holding him accountable:
How much money was carried in that plane that took them over to London?
What family or other businesses do the Chakweras have in London?
What properties or stocks were bought by Malawians, anyone related to the Chakweras especially his son in law or anyone with close connections to the Malawi Embassy this week in London?
Does Bushiri have any stocks, businesses, or any notary interests in London?
Chakwera is a person of interest and needs to be watched
President Chakwera is slowly becoming persona non grata because of his nepotistic, buccaneer and shameless behavior which unpresidential like. It is most unlikely that he will stop doing whatever he is doing unless if he is checked by citizens.
Malawi has always offered its politicians room to pilfer money without shame and accountability. It seems Chakwera has just found out that whatever he was fighting while outside government is too lucrative and too sweet to be left to others to enjoy, so he has joined the party.
This makes him a person of major interest for Malawians. The guy needs to be watched. He must be held accountable by being asked the right questions on each and every move he makes that is supported by Malawians’ taxes.
Internationally, the regional neighbors need to keep watching him and that baton should be given to South Africa because already they should have some good files on him which Malawians and its civil society can use to lobby him to change.
Globally, the EU and the UK through the Commonwealth also need to keep a watch on Chakwera’s trips, his entourage during trips as well as his inner circle posted in the Embassies.
Beyond the nonsense accent, the man is proving to be another liability for Malawians that continue to wallow in poverty day in day out.