President Lazarus Chakwera Monday announced the immediate dissolution of his Cabinet.
He also announced that he had issued a “warning” to Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General (DG) Martha Chizuma, following the leakage of an audio clip in which she discussed ongoing investigations into suspected corrupt practices bordering on businessmen Zuneth Sattar and some public officials.
Chakwera said, after discussing with Chizuma and Justice Minister Titus Mvalo, he had made up his mind to dissolve his Cabinet, further indicating that his office would be discharging duties of Cabinet ministers.
“In exercise of the powers vested in me by the Constitution, I have dissolved my entire Cabinet effective immediately and all the functions of Cabinet revert to my office until I announce a reconfigured Cabinet in two days.
“That reconfigured Cabinet will exclude the current Minister of Lands, to allow him to answer the corruption charges he is facing in court and clear his name there. This is a decision I have made following yesterday’s submission to me of an official ACB report on the charges the minister is facing, which is the same process I followed when I dismissed two ministers in the past,” Chakwera said.
The President also announced that he had told Mvalo to tell Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda that he did not support the idea of offering 60-day amnesty to people suspected of engaging in corrupt practices although this was one of his campaign promises.
“Although the idea of an amnesty was a campaign promise enshrined in our manifesto as a way of speedily recovering government’s stolen assets, it cannot be effected without a clear legislative framework that allows it to be implemented lawfully and without appearing soft on corruption. The Minister of Justice is thus on instruction to review this policy and work with the Attorney General in designing a sound alternative for recovering Malawi’s stolen treasures,” he said.
Commenting on the audio clip— which he said Chizuma confirmed as hers— and allegations it contains on lawyers, Judiciary officials, the clergy and other players in the fight against corruption, Chakwera said he was disappointed that Chizuma breached laws governing her office.
Chakwera, however, said he still believed in Chizuma and decided to maintain her but issued a warning to the DG and has put her on observation to see that she no longer operates in a way that jeopardises her office.
“Ever since I appointed her, I have found her to be a strong partner in fulfilling the promise of ending corruption that I made to Malawians, which is the fourth pillar of my Super Hi5 agenda. I believe that it is because of her resolve to fight corruption that corruption has fought back and used someone she trusted to betray her and expose both her and me to embarrassment. I, therefore, want those evil forces that recorded her to know that neither I nor Ms Chizuma are moved by their efforts to derail my agenda to rid Malawi of corruption.
“If you thought that making this recording would force me to fire her, you better think again. And if you thought that you can use Ms Chizuma’s work or improper comments on that audio to attack me and get me out of the way, you better think again. You may have gotten to the ACB Director this time, but you can never get to all of us who are fighting this fight in different parts of the government. We will never retreat and we will never relent,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Malawi Law Society has downplayed the leaked audio clip, saying there is nothing on law and facts justifying the anxiety and public hysteria surrounding the issue.
“Some members of the public have sought to call for the removal of the Director- General of the Anti-Corruption Bureau for breach of oath of secrecy on account of remarks contained in a leaked audio conversation while others have expressed support for her notwithstanding and indeed on account of the remarks in the audio attributed to her…
“The Malawi Law Society considers that there is nothing on the law and the facts available at the moment to justify the anxiety and public hysteria that currently has engulfed the social and mainstream media as a result of the leaked audio attributed to the Director-General of ACB,” the statement reads.
MLS notes that the official secrets and confidentiality laws are meant to protect secrets and confidential material for the sake of sustaining the will of the people of Malawi as a whole, saying they must be seen and construed in light of Section 12(1)(c) of the Constitution which states that the trust of the people of Malawi is to be “maintained through open, accountable and transparent government”.
The MLS has also faulted stakeholders who are challenging ACB’s investigations on account that the involvement of British authorities violates the country’s sovereignty.