Malawi president Lazarus Chakwera ordered the suspension of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director Martha Chizuma following an allegation that a warrant of arrest had been obtained by the ACB for the president’s wife, First Lady Monica Chakwera.
However, it has emerged that the intel was cooked up by people who are plotting to have Chizuma removed as ACB director. President Chakwera is said to have been tipped by a senior Malawi government official in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) that the ACB had obtained a warrant of arrest for Mrs Chakwera.
The intel, according to sources privy to a series of investigations the ACB has been undertaking, was cooked up by the official to derail the ACB having completed an investigation into allegations of corruption and fraud by the Secretary to President and Cabinet (SPC) Collen Zamba and ex-Director of Public Prosecutions Steven Kayuni.
The official who tipped the president further exaggerated the report to the President that the First Lady, Monica Chakwera, and the first couple’s son, Nic, were under investigation.
“Sources at the Bureau say while the first son was subject to a complaint of alleged accumulation of unexplained wealth, the ACB decided immediately that the complaint did not carry substance. On the other hand, the ACB did not receive a single complaint against the First Lady. Yet, it’s the First Lady’s name which was thrown to the president to draw his angriest reaction”, reads a report by ” reports the Malawi Platform for Investigative Journalism (PIJ Malawi).
Anti-Corruption Bureau’s Principal Public Relations Officer Egrita Ndala confirmed with PIJ that it the Bureau had indeed received a complainant against Nick Chakwera but it “did not provide sufficient details to warrant an investigation”.
Chizuma was issued with an interdiction order by the SPC, Collen Zamba who is under investigation on fraud related allegations. In its report, PIJ Malawi says it is unclear whether Chakwera ordered Zamba to interdict Chizuma or whether Zamba acted on her own accord to protect herself.
“Zamba herself is subject to an investigation over the procurement of fertilizer, a development that sources believe has affected her actions on the matter” PIJ Malawi further reports.
However, Ndala told PIJ Malawi that the bureau is not investigating Zamba. Rather, she confirmed that the “Bureau is investigating procurement of 2022/23 fertiliser” but could not reveal names of the people or companies under investigations.
Zamba has also been accused by former National Oil Company of Malawi (NOCMA) acting Chief Executive Officer(CEO) Helen Buluma who said the SPC had attempted to influence fuel procurement processes. Collen Zamba is an automatic chairperson of the NOCMA board due to her position as Secretary to the President and Cabinet.
Chakwera is yet to comment on the interdiction. However, he appeared to endorse her interdiction during the swearing in ceremony of newly appointed cabinet ministers.
The interdiction order has been questioned by several legal brains.
“Colleen Zamba has no authority to suspend the ACB Director. Only the President has such authority under S 6(3) of the Corrupt Practices Act… Fortunately, Zamba’s letter suspending the ACB Director does not say she’s doing it under delegated authority. The power is non-delegable anyway. Zamba has clearly usurped the authority of the President. Her letter is unlawful and therefore void” wrote Danwood Chirwa, a Professor of Law at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.
Likewise, Garton Kamchedzera, professor of law at the University of Malawi, called the interdiction “an act of desperate” and “brazen impunity by corrupt networks fighting not only the ACB Director, but the whole idea that this country can fight the rot of corruption”.
“An SPC has no such powers, with a Principal piece of legislation that is called the Corrupt Practices Act in place. Only the President can suspend the ACB Director. What she has attempted to do is invalid and of no effect. It should be ignored, because it cannot be legally enforced.
“The President has told the country that he wants to keep her as ACB Director. It is either the President is hypocritical or he needs to wrestle back control of this Government from corrupt networks who are causing all this shame” Kamchedzera posted on Facebook.