Z Allan Ntata’s Uncommon Sense: WHOM ARE OUR PARLIAMENTARIANS SERVING?
It must be emphasised that the selfish manner in which our members of parliament have approached their responsibility to represent the interests of Malawians in the matter of Goodall Gondwe’s secret MK4 Billion disbursement fiasco demonstrates a parliament mindful only of its own interests and not the interests of Malawians; a parliament unfit to represent Malawians, and a parliament that Malawians do not want and must get rid of in the coming elections.
Parliamentarians need always to remember that they hold their positions in trust on behalf of the people, and that it is the interests of the people of Malawi that should be their prime and supreme concern.
At a time when the people of Malawi are interested and concerned with the activities of their president and their government, and the allegations and indications that the executive corruptly influenced the vote on the 50+1 bill that was recently defeated in parliament, they were looking to their parliamentary representatives to have the balls and the mettle to do the necessary and the needful, to expose the travesty and reject the idea of money in exchange for votes.
With due respect to the honourable and veteran Minister, the inconsistencies in his bumbling statements regarding the payoffs make his explanations too ridiculous for me to waste time analysing.
Of greater concern to me is the lack of integrity displayed by our parliamentarians. Members of parliament need to know that their role requires them to lay aside their personal interests- be they financial or other wise, and look to the law and to moral principles to guide their paths in moments like these. This means that if Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe decides unlawfully to give development funds only to MPs that voted to defeat the 50+1 bill, they must condemn him and reject such a proposal. It also means that they must maintain this stand on the law and moral principle even when good ole Goodall, suddenly seeing red over the issue, decided to sweeten things by changing tune and awarding the development funds to all the MPs.
Disbursing the funds to all the MPs does not suddenly make the initially illegal move legal. An MP’s job is to make laws, and to provide supervision and accountability to the executive. More importantly, an MP’s job is to make sure that government’s use of public funds is legally sound and properly sanctioned according to the laws of the land. An MP must take this responsibility seriously, and not suddenly soften his or her position just because the law breaking is somehow benefiting his or her constituency or especially his or her pocket.
Sadly, as the example of the MK4 Billion “cash for votes” fiasco demonstrates, our parliamentarians are pushing largely their own personal agendas. They do not care about laws, morals or ethics. Their main concern is not that laws are followed by the executive when distributing funds. Their main concern is simply that when money is being distributed illegally, they should not be excluded in the hand-outs.
This mind-set is a worrisome one. Not too long ago, I pointed out that one of the biggest challenges in this country’s development efforts of to find players in the political space that actually have the passion and the desire to transform the country when they join politics and become party officials, MPs and such. Perhaps in these scandals like this one, my assertions are vindicated?
Some may argue that this is a small isolated incident and should not be taken to represent our parliament and political parties in general. To this argument I respond that the principles at play here do apply whether on a small scale or on a much larger scale. The MPs that were supposed to stop the Finance Minister from making these illegal disbursements are the so-called opposition MPs. These are the ones that are at the moment shouting on the top of their voices that the current administration is failing because it is rife with corruption, looting and plunder of public resources that should be used for the development of the nation. What their acceptance of Goodall Gondwe’s sweetener reveals, then, is that essentially, what we really have here is a group of politicians who are aspiring to be in power not to serve the nation but to use the same formula of stealing and looting and plunder that their opponents are using so that they too can line their pockets and enjoy the same abuse of process and bad governance.
Stealing is wrong, they say, if you do not share with us the proceeds. But if you steal and we share what you have stolen, then all is well. As for the Malawian public that elected us to represent them here, well, tough luck!
And therein lies the rub, dear Uncommon Sensors. Leaders that are susceptible to manipulation due to poverty of the mind, of the tummy and of the pocket are dangerous. They essentially leave the masses they purport to represent very much unrepresented.
As another election beckons in about a year’s time, it is time to think carefully about how to truly make parliamentarians represent the masses that vote for them. It is a tragedy when the people you are counting on to provide checks and balances to government are themselves in need of even more stringent checks and balances.
The answer to this challenge cannot be found in the singular integrity and good intentions of various individual politicians. The solution is in having a political framework that controls the acts of both the executive and the legislature to ensure that “we the people” – the most important stakeholders in this matter are getting a fair shake.
I am aware that the political party model is so entrenched in our political thinking that it is almost insane for one to suggest to dismantle and re-think it. But I am convinced that this country’s dire situation calls for radical and innovative solutions that so re-configure the political space and the political framework so that our governance is in favour of the masses rather than 193 very selfish and greedy parliamentarians, or 20 cabinet ministers. It is for this reason that I will continue to expound on how our political software can be rebooted- even if I am aware of the momentous task that tilting at this particular windmill will involve.
In the end though, it is better for these things to be said as a witness to posterity.
After all is said and done, then, the question still persists: When our parliamentarians decide to sanction an illegally made disbursement only because they are suddenly given some of the funds, whom exactly are they serving? Are they serving Malawi, or themselves?
Allan Ntata’s Column is posted Every Sunday on The Maravi Post