POLITICS.REQUESTS WE CAN’T REFUSE. ASIAN BUSINESSMAN LOSES K4M TO CONMAN
It was reported in the Daily Times of 23rd March that MR. Farook Kali of Suncrest Creameries had been persuaded by a confidence trickster to part with K4 million thinking that the trickster was acting on behalf of senior Government figures including Peter Mutharika, Minister of Education, younger brother of the President and presidential aspirant. Needless to say, spokespersons for the DPP and Peter Mutharika have denied all knowledge and have roundly condemned the perpetrators
I know Mr. Kali and many members of his family. I know them as well-established and reputable people whose businesses have been built up on hard work and application without, apparently, the necessity for bribery. Bribery is a hidden affair. It is only when we notice a rapid and inexplicable rise in wealth or the acquisition of business to the detriment of apparently more worthy operators that we begin to suspect it. Let me say, then, that I do not suspect that the money handed over by Mr. Kali was in any way intended as a bribe. Because the case will no doubt end up in the courts I have not approached Mr. Kali for his story. In fact, the details of the story do not form the subject of this article.
There is always a close linkage between big business and politics. America is a prime example. The cozy relationship of Washington law-makers with the big banks has helped produce the financial mess that America and much of the world is now in.
We can speculate as to why Mr. Kali thought he had to part with so much money. The reason may lie in the poor state of our democracy.
The Asian business community has been the subject of the President’s diversionary tactics, blamed without evidence for the current forex shortage (and not for the first time). As convenient scapegoats, Asians feel insecure. When approached for funding by political parties or individuals in power or who they believe may shortly be in power, they feel that Government agencies may be directed to target them and their businesses or refuse them government business if they do not pay up. With so much at stake, it is difficult to refuse. How many businesses, no matter the race or nationality of the owners, could withstand the full combined assault by the Malawi Revenue Authority, the Fiscal Police, the Immigration Department, Health & Safety inspectors? What inconvenience and misery, even if there is nothing to hide!
When we look at the composition of Parliament and the hierarchies of the main political parties, the business community is not all that well represented. Between our political parties there is nothing to choose in the way of philosophical differences. There is no party of ‘labour’. There is no party of ‘business’ or ‘free trade’. There is no party of labour because the unions have yet to gain sufficient strength and the support of the working class. There is no party of business because many of those who have the knowledge and ability and who may find themselves in opposition to the government of the day, fear that they and their businesses, will also be targeted or that they will be excluded from government business.
There are no regulations concerning political party funding. There is nothing wrong with businesses or individuals making contributions in support of politicians and parties who represent their interests or accord to their political views. However, such donations should be made public and hidden contributions should be penalised.
We can only guess at how many businesses are ‘persuaded’ to contribute out of fear; how many contribute out of the hope of favour and how many contribute to the cause that they believe in. It is up to the ‘honest’ fearful ones to stand firm and refuse to give. That will leave mainly the favour seekers. G
There is widespread speculation that inducement (i.e. a bribe) is needed in order to obtain government business. Of course, while a Government is in power it is unlikely with our weak ‘independent’ watchdog organs of government that anything will be revealed or that any high-ranking person with the right contacts will be prosecuted.
There are even wider concerns that monies voted to projects do not end up being spent on the projects or that government facilities do not receive what has been budgeted for them. That raises the spectre of theft and misappropriation by government officials or office holders.
Our donor partners who have invested so much in Malawi over the years for an inadequate return are not blind to these developments. Where the Police are seen as agents of the executive and the rule of law breaks down; where the Constitution is breached by those who swore to uphold it corruption and cronyism will become rampant. Can we blame them for making the statements that they have recently threatening to hold government to its agreed standards as a pre-requisite for continuing budget support?
Malawi, we are in deep trouble.