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Anti-Corruption Bureau cautious on suspects

By Taonga Sabola & Rebecca Chimjeka:

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Tuesday kept Malawians guessing on investigations regarding attempts by some unscrupulous people to bribe judges hearing the presidential election case.

Addressing the press in Lilongwe, ACB Director General, Reyneck Matemba, refused to disclose the names of the suspects involved and in whose favour they wanted the case to be tilted.

“Contrary to your expectations, I will not reveal the names of the suspects that the Chief Justice [Andrew Nyirenda] mentioned, for legal reasons. I know I will be insulted. I will be demonised and I will be ridiculed. But I think that is the right thing to do.

“Every person is presumed innocent until found guilty. The names that the Chief Justice mentioned are [of] suspects,” he said after reading a compliant letter from Nyirenda.

He told reporters that he read the letter from Nyirenda because of the misinformation that he was hiding a name of a political party and a politician that Nyirenda was presumed to have mentioned.

“The letter did not mention a political party and did not complain about any politician,” Matemba said.

He could only indicate that one of the suspects is a senior public servant working in one of the three arms of the government while the other is from the private sector.

Matemba could also not reveal the amount of money that the suspects wanted to bribe the judges with.

“On the amount of money involved, the Chief Justice did not indicate both in the informal chat as well as in his written complaint,” he said.

Matemba also surprised the reporters when he said he could not reveal as to whether the ACB had interrogated the suspects or not, saying doing so would jeopardise investigations.

On Sunday, the ACB boss told the press that Nyirenda had complained to his institution that some people made moves to bribe the judges to make the verdict in the ongoing presidential election case in their favour.

“You may wish to know that the complaints that the ACB received are not against any political party or any of the parties to the presidential election case, but against specific individuals,” Matemba said.

South Africa-based legal expert, Danwood Chirwa, said Matemba has done his best under extremely difficult circumstances.

“He has answered questions truthfully and as best as he is allowed under the law. The national spotlight has been on him for the last few days. He has many legally protected interests to uphold—judicial independence, fair investigation, due process and prosecutorial independence.

“The weight on his shoulders is unbearable. It would be easy for him to use this situation and his awesome powers of arrest and prosecution for self promotion and populism. He has resisted the temptation. He has promised to conclude the investigation before the elections case goes to the Supreme Court. If he keeps that promise, he will have done his country a great service,” Chirwa said.

Malawi Law Society (MLS) Honorary Secretary General, Martha Kaukonde, hoped that the ACB would move with speed in concluding the investigations so that the truth comes out on the matter.

The panel of judges Healey Potani, Ivy Kamanga, Mike Tembo, Dingiswayo Madise and Redson Kapindu, are expected to deliver a verdict in the case in which Malawi Congress Party president Lazarus Chakwera and UTM leader Saulos Chilima are challenging the May 21 presidential election results, saying they were marred by irregularities.

The judges will deliver the verdict within 45 days from December 21 2019 when all parties finished making their submissions.

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