Maneb boss arrest either historic or dangerous

Chiunda, Maneb

Look, I am all for this: if public officials are to be arrested for doing a bad job, then let's go! It is however strange that of all the public officers that have been doing bad jobs it seems only one person has been arrested and that is kind of weird to be honest.

Before you continue, this commentary is written with the assumption that you are aware of the arrest of the suspended MANEB chief. See here if you are unupdated.

The soon to be former MANEB boss, Gerald Chiunda, was everything one hates in a public officer. If you read audit reports from MANEB when he was there you will see how he flouted procurement procedures, how MANEB promoted and recruited people without proper procedure.

Some people at MANEB actually allege that they were entrapped and then fired in the most DPP way possible while Chiunda was there.

The list is long, to be honest, there are so many things that make me happy to see the guy behind bars, but the charge sheet of the crime he is currently charged with is really curious to be honest.

Here is how the Times the story yesterday:

‘Suspended Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb) Executive Director, Gerald Chiunda, will remain in custody after the Senior Resident Magistrate (SRM) Court in Zomba reserved its ruling on bail application until next Tuesday, February 9, 2021.

The other three accused are the board's Head of Security, Owen Khuntho, Chief Examinations Development Officer and Chief Examinations Security Officer, Ishmael Faki and Joseph Chilombe, respectively.

The four were arrested on allegations that they failed to exercise due care and attention in relation to the security of national examination materials.

The case is related to the leakage of 2020 Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations.

They both deny the charges leveled against them.’

So here are the important basics:

MANEB has been crappy lately and under Chiunda. Chiunda is suspended. He is not accused of leaking the exams, but not being careful enough to prevent the leak. He is at the time of writing this in jail awaiting his bail application.

Cool. Firstly, is this really something that he has to be kept in jail over? What would he do if he was at home? Allow more leaks? He is suspended for Christ’s sake!

That is not even my biggest issue with the arrest of this guy, the issue is that why are the arrests of bad office holders starting only now?

Who at the Reserve Bank of Malawi has been arrested for the billions that have been allegedly stolen? Which jail holds the guy who oversaw the coffers have billions get stolen during the Cash Gate years?

Why have police chiefs not been arrested for crimes that saw civilians die in their custody or during demonstrations such as those of 20 July?

Who has been arrested at Road Traffic for the fake licenses that get issued to motorists who go on to cause accidents on the roads?

When hospitals run out of medicines and people die, I don’t see any doctors or anyone from the Medical Stores or Ministry of Health being arrested for it?

What about the guys that blew the COVID money where are the arrest warrants?

Our soccer national team is also losing too many matches and wasting billions, who needs to get arrested?

The most glaring example being MEC. A whole court found them incompetent. They wasted money on foreign lawyers and kept grandstanding until the costs to the taxpayers hit billions. Why was Ansah not arrested? 

Remember when they got a loan to buy tractors from India and then all they did was made to apologise?

You get the picture, it seems this Chiunda guy, as much as he sucks is being targeted for political ends. The government seems to be looking for a way to show the nation that it is in control even though the leak happened under them.

If we are going to hold public officials criminally liable, let's do it, but let’s do it across the board and let’s put the phrases in the contracts of these men and also not forget to clarify the law to the public.

Where in the Penal Code is what crime, people need to know, and if they know, they should be able to tell why people at ESCOM can waste money and enter into shitty deals that drain public coffers and yet not get arrested.

People need to know how, for example, Peter Mutharika used government money to buy buses for private teams and lied about it and yet never even get to attend a hearing on it.

Something is not right. The arrest of Chiunda is either an historic milestone or it is symptomatic of something very sinister.

This article first appeared here.