The Malawi Law Society (MLS) has called for the immediate resignation or suspension of all public officers linked to United Kingdom-based businessman Zuneth Sattar’s alleged corrupt practices in the country.
According to a National Crime Agency affidavit, several people in government have been implicated.
On May 31 this year, President Lazarus Chakwera told journalists that he could not act like the people in question had been charged with any offence in Malawi.
However, MLS President Patrick Mpaka said the presumption of innocence should not be confused with the constitutional fundamentals of transparency and accountability, which sustain public trust and confidence.
“Institutions that the law created to serve the people do so based on sustained trust and the principle of public duty requires that public authorities should be held accountable for their acts, omissions, decisions and use of public resources. There is no institutional right to silence or privacy for the public institutions and the public offices in matters of public interest. So any individuals implicated in the Sattar matter, while occupying any public office, except the office of the State President, may therefore lawfully be subjected to criminal inquiry and due criminal proceedings.
“While such criminal processes are underway, the question is whether the public trust prescribed under constitutional law can be sustained into any result of the inquiry or process if the occupant of public office remains in office. While all the presumptions of innocence of any individual remain intact until after conviction, those presumptions must not be confused with the constitutional fundamentals of transparency and accountability which sustain the trust and confidence of the public and are required to be so sustained at all times,” he said.
But Mpaka called for speedy, fair and transparent investigations in line with the Constitution.
“The best way out is for any public officer who may be named in the scandal to pave the way either through suspension or resignation for an objective, dependable and time sensitive investigations and criminal processes so that whatever result of the inquiry or process is not seen to have been interfered with by the public officers concerned. This does not take away the presumptions of innocence,” he said.
State House Press Secretary Anthony Kasunda said Chakwera’s position was fully stated during the briefing on May 31.