When High Judge Dorothy DeGabrielle pronounced a guilty verdict on business magnate Thom Mpinganjira on Friday, she convicted millions of hopes and aspirations among Malawians.
For, a day in prison for Mpinganjira is eternal prison for millions of lives the man has touched and would have touched in his life.
A comment on one facebook post about his being convicted bears testimony. It reads as follows:
“I have never met him in person, but some students at our college were so needy and were about to be withdrawn for non-payment of fees.”
“One student gave me the contact for Mpinganjira to talk to him on their behalf. Mpinganjira deposited 1.5 mita [million] the same day into our account as fees for 2 students. This year he has paid about 10 million as fees for other needy students.
“Before this judgement, he was about to fund us for the construction of 2 classroom blocks. He is kind and approachable.”
This is a comment from a student from Trinity College of Nursing and Midwifery. Since the judgement, comments like these have been outpouring.
For those who are honest, charity is what Mpinganjira is well known for. He has helped the sick, reached out to the needy, inspired and touched millions of lives.
Mpinganjira has not just been an inspiring entrepreneur of note. He has also been almost a perfect human being.
There are many Malawians who are rich, some of them probably richer than Mpinganjira himself. But they have never shared their wealth with anyone. For some of them, their wealth is gotten through sins far graver and more unjust to humanity than the one Mpinganjira is alleged to have attempted to commit.
To the contrary, Mpinganjira has been something else. A self-made banking entrepreneur who built his empire from humble beginnings and grew it with hard work, innovation and business savvy, he has used his money to reach out to needy Malawians, some of whom he does not know and will never know.
Apart from touching lives directly, he has inspired many Malawians that they are as good as others around the world to get rich, in this country, and create jobs for others.
There will be those that will celebrate his conviction. Largely, it is out of jealousy for what he has been able to achieve. It will be because of their perception of him in terms of their political interests. It will be from all sorts of dishonest arguments.
But if you listen to the judgement, Mpinganjira did not commit any crime. He only allegedly attempted to commit a crime. Even then, no one knows what happened in the dark corners of this incident. What if he was influenced by some crookedness into committing a crime?
In human nature, these errors of judgement are normal.
Judges have these errors of judgement. Rich people make them. Presidents make them. Artists make them. The poor make them. Everyone makes them.
We all have our crimes and attempted crimes because we are humans.
The question should be whether some crimes are grave enough for one to get imprisoned for, in the process imprisoning millions of hopes and aspirations.
Mpinganjira is a larger-than-life figure. He did not commit any crime. He only attempted to commit a crime.
Therefore, the nation is stuck with the question to decide on what it gains between having him in jail and having him out of jail.