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Catholic bishops weigh in on Martha Chizuma’s arrest

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ENDORSED STATEMENT—Ryan

Catholic bishops in the country have faulted the manner in which Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General Martha Chizuma was arrested and released with no charge last week.

Chizuma was arrested on December 6 2022 and, according to Malawi Police Service spokesperson Peter Kalaya, the cops acted on a complaint from Director of Public Prosecutions Steven Kayuni – now suspended— who felt injured by allegations made by the ACB chief in a leaked audio recording.

Particulars of the case, which was later withdrawn by the government, included that Chizuma made a speech that was capable of prejudicing Kayuni by stating that he was corrupt and compromised.

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The bishops, in a statement released Monday, argue that the happenings raise serious questions of who is in control and threatens the security of ordinary Malawians.

“This recent development is a wakeup call for the President and the government of Malawi to do due diligence and create a legacy in the fight against corruption—the vice that is eroding the economy of this country, causing the untold suffering of innocent Malawians whose lives hang in the balance because of the evil [called] corruption,” the statement reads.

The bishops say much as they applaud the government for assuring Malawians that it is on top of issues, they fear this could be simply cosmetic.

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On Saturday, Chakwera swore in 12 commissioners assigned to investigate the arrest of Chizuma, emphasising that he will act on the findings of the inquest within the expected 14 days.

However, some observers have cast doubt on the impact of the commission of inquiry, citing past inquires which were simply swept under the carpet.

But Minister of Information Gospel Kazako has defended the President’s decision, saying the findings of the inquiry will help in getting to the bottom of the matter.

The statement has been endorsed by bishops George Tambala, Montfort Stima, Thomas Msusa, Peter Musikuwa, Martin Mtumbuka, John Ryan and Peter Chifukwa.

Meanwhile, government spokesperson Gospel Kazako has reiterated that the Executive branch of the government was not aware of plans to arrest Chizuma.

“The ECM is justified to wonder and get surprised that we, as government, were not  aware of the Martha Chizuma arrest.

“That notwithstanding, we should also not underrate our background and history as a nation; that we have had governments that never gave the police independence. It has always been the expectation of the nation that government must control the police services and know everything that they are doing. We embarked on a civilised, different way of offering independence to the police,” Kazako said.

He urged people to differentiate between being civilised and being abused.

“Unfortunately, our [some Malawians’ understanding of] being civilised is being abused. So, we are not surprised with what the Catholic bishops are asking and wondering about. The actions by the police have informed us that there is a need to review and relook at the genre and level of independence within the law in order to curb abuse of independence. It is a reflection of independence that has been abused and not necessarily a weakness. We, as a government, are in firm control of issues in this country,” Kazako said.

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