"It's shameful that the UDF party wants to take us back to the dark days,"

Mr Gwanda Chakuamba (2003)

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Skeletons flashed out of the closet as debate heats up
By Levi Kabwato - 01 November 2005 - 14:01:17

In an unprecedented twist to the suspense-filled tale of impeachment, the buried scandalous pasts of a few politicians seem to have come back to haunt them. A stunned nation heard last week that the lawmaker who moved the (in)famous impeachment motion in parliament, Maxwell Milanzi is an ex-convict.The lawmaker is reported to have been convicted and slashed with a nine-months prison sentence (which was suspended for two years) in 1999 for misappropriating close to K25,000 of company funds where he worked.The reaction from the public to this anomaly, which even escaped the probing eye of the Malawi Electoral Commission, was swift and to the point; Maxwell Milanzi cheated the electoral process.A statement from the Malawi Law Society was unequivocal on the stance the body has taken on the stunt the Mangochi-Malombe parliamentarian pulled.“The bottom line is that it will cast a big shadow in whatever he has done [in the House since] he is not qualified,” said the Malawi Law Society.But the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) professed ignorance on the case, arguing that the organisation’s sole duty was to administer elections “and not vet or check individuals who contest elections.”“We find no problem with Milanzi being in parliament. There has been no official complaint to us from anyone and so, we are not going to act on information being peddled in the press,” said Mec Chief Elections Officer, Anthony Masanza.The cloud of doubt that now hangs over the Milanzi debacle is whether the whole issue is a case of political machination or a simple case of a serious attempt at righting a wholesale wrong. “Why didn’t the issue come out when I was contesting the election?” queried Milanzi in a phone interview.“The fact that the matter is arising after I have moved the impeachment motion makes it difficult to rule out political interference in this whole affair,” he added.But Milanzi was not to be the only casualty of the trek down the memory lane of politics in Malawi. Lucius Banda, a musician-cum-politician was, on Wednesday last week, left wondering just how some people managed to sneak into his closet and leak information that the parliamentarian used a fake Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) to contest the 2004 parliamentary elections.Police investigators from the Central Investigations Department (CID) in Zomba and Balaka are now probing the Balaka North legislator. Apart from his meteoric rise from music to politics, Lucious Banda is famed for the infamous statements he made that he felt heroic after he moved an impeachment motion in June this year against President Mutharika. Pandemonium ensued afterwards in parliament, resulting in the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker Rodwell Munyenyembe.As the heat shifted from political nonentities such as Milanzi and Banda to the so-called bigwigs, the flames first touched on UDF Spokesperson Sam Mpasu and – inevitably – on the former president, Bakili Muluzi himself.The Director of Public Prosecutions, Ishmael Wadi, announced on Tuesday last week that Mpasu is expected to appear in court next week to answer charges of abuse of office in the role he played in government’s purchase of books when he was the country’s education minister just a decade ago.The Fieldyork scandal, as it is popularly known, was revived at the height of clear tensions between government and the opposition UDF in August, probably to send a raw nerve down someone’s spine. A report compiled by the commission of enquiry set up to investigate the discrepancies in the education sector at that time shows that Mpasu did not hold the transactions between a foreign company and government to supply education materials in good faith.“When I looked at the [Fieldyork] report, I concluded that Mpasu is seriously implicated and needs to be tried,” Wadi told The Daily Times last week.And that announcement probably gave birth to an even more dramatic twist to the tale. Two days after hearing that he was due to appear in court in a week’s time, Mpasu quietly sneaked out of the country, reportedly flying out to Europe.But the teeth of the Director of Public Prosecutions proved to be biting harder by the end of the week with a warrant of arrest for Sam Mpasu being issued the office. The clock is now ticking for Mpasu to either come back from Europe and face the music of the law or stay away – for good – from the wrath of the law.Yet the person who is taking the centre-stage at the moment is the former president, Bakili Muluzi. Popular opinion in the country has it that the embattled former head of state is being prepared for arrest anytime soon. The latest signal of the arrest is last Thursday’s search of Muluzi’s three houses in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Kapoloma. In true FBI modus operandi, scores of armed policemen and the corruption busting body, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) searched for documents relating to Muluzi’s K1.4 billion held in his National Bank (Zomba Branch) account. David Kanyenda, Muluzi’s legal representative, described the search operation as a form of harassment “borne out of ACB’s frustration for failing to compel Muluzi to appear at their offices in Blantyre earlier on Monday.“We will resist any attempt in future to harass our client,” Kanyenda said to The Daily Times last Friday, his statement pointing to the seriousness of the standoff between government and Muluzi.The UDF called the search and the continued investigations on Muluzi as “rubbish” and “political persecution”. Through their Deputy Publicity Secretary Mary Kaphwezera Banda, the party also alleged that government is fuelling political tension by probing Muluzi.“There is a lot of tension in this country and government is aggravating the tension by searching Muluzi,” Kaphwezera Banda said.As the nation braces itself for more drama ahead, what may be most striking about this past week’s events is their inalienable connection to the impeachment debate, an issue that has sharply divided the nation. Could it be that it is just a matter of coincidence that the strongest agitators of the impeachment process have suddenly been exposed as cheats, forge-masters and fraud masters? Or is it that someone somewhere is pulling a few strings, showing us that there are not going to be any sacred cows as the debate rages on?But what, really, is the significance of the past week’s events?Political scientists point out that the events leading to this week are amounting to the underlying factors owing to a constitutional and political crisis Malawi is experiencing. In the light of this, they argue that the impeachment process will definitely fall to pieces.“The whole process seems to have overtaken the constitutionality of the state yet the constitution is supreme to parliament,” says political scientist Nixon Khembo.He notes that the motives of impeaching Mutharika are not in line with national goodwill, actually calling them “unacceptable, null and void ways of seeking power”. Khembo also says that the planned impeachment of Mutharika is “a waste of time” since, if someone else assumed the reigns of power, his or her legitimacy and international confidence would suffer.“Any leader who dreams of ruling this country after staging a coup or by any other means would not be recognised by neighbouring countries, the donor and international communities,” Khembo says.But surely, not everyone in the country is seeing things that way. What can be seen, however, are images of Malawians continuing to guess what will happen in the near future, stuck in a perpetual state of ignorance and bewilderment as unprecedented events relentlessly unfold in the country

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