Cashgate cars in scrap yard

Gift Trapence

When Cashgate happened in 2013, law enforcement agencies arrested dozens of people and confiscated property from some of those accused in the scandal. Today, much of the seized property, especially vehicles, lie in some wasteland – and government is powerless on ever using these assets to restore what was stolen.

At the premises of the Malawi Police headquarters at Area 30 in Lilongwe, tens of vehicles are parked — beaten by time and weather, wasting away to disrepair.

They are evidence of how Malawi’s fight against corruption falls short: Government will seize assets from the corrupt but it will find itself clueless on how to dispose them off to benefit the coffers from which owners of the property may have stolen.

These vehicles at Area 30 are some of the assets which the government seized in cases related to cashgate.


Ten years down the line, most of the assets are lying idle – effectively defeating the very purpose for which government seized them.

And Director of Public Prosecutions Masauko Chamkalala sounded helpless when Malawi News contacted him on the matter.

“They are assets which we have impounded as government after court processes.


“It appears our interest ends when we have successfully taken the assets.

“As we speak, government has several of them, but they are just wasting away. We don’t give them attention and they are not generating any money,” he said.


Cashgate, which emerged under the Joyce Banda administration in September 2013, was one of the major corruption scandals to have rocked Malawi.

It involved the misappropriation of government funds through the transfer of money from the government bank accounts to private companies in disguise for payment of goods and services.

Public officers were found with stashes of cash in the boots of their vehicles and their homes.

In the scheme, the officers manipulated the government payment system and stole over $32 million within six months from April 2013 to September 2013.

In response, up to 70 people in both public and private sector were arrested.

By 2018, at least 20 suspects had been convicted.

The crackdown included seizure by the state of property such as houses and vehicles and freezing of bank accounts.

Malawi News tracked some of the vehicles which the government seized in relation to the scandal and parked them at Area 30.

There, we found a wasteland of vehicles of various models that have been lying in the premises some as far back as 2014.

All of them have apparently lost their value.

And it does not look like there is anything government can do at the moment.

This is because there is no legislation that guides how government should use assets it confiscates from actions on corruption.

According to Chamkakala, his office is looking into how such assets can be made use of or disposed of.

He said there is need to use such resources for the benefit of Malawians who would have been deprived by the corruption by owners of those assets which the government confiscates.

Chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee Francis Belekanyama said the committee will meet and discuss the matter.

“We will bring the matter to the attention of Speaker of the National Assembly so that we should see the way forward,” he said.

Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) chairperson Gift Trapence said these gaps in the law defeat the fight against corruption in Malawi.

He called for the enactment of laws that can make it easy for the government to make use of such recovered money and assets to restore what has been plundered.

“We need a comprehensive law that guides public officers on how to use recovered money and assets,” he said.

Trapence said it is unfortunate that while the country presents itself as fighting against corruption, Parliament has never seen it necessary to enact laws that would complete such war on corruption by comprehensively dealing with money laundering and forfeiture of stolen assets.

He said management of stolen assets is an important component of the asset recovery process and corruption fight in general.

“Assets recovery is an important aspect of successful anti-corruption enforcement measures,” he told Malawi News.

Executive Director for Centre of Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) Michael Kaiyatsa said management of seized or frozen assets in critical in corruption fight in Malawi.

According to Kaiyatsa, effectively managing seized and confiscated assets reduces the risks associated with having instruments of crime in circulation.

It also ensures that they are managed in a transparent and accountable manner while preserving their value.

“The management of seized and confiscated assets pending return or final disposal has become a priority on the anti-corruption agenda in the past few years,” he said.

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