Martha Chizuma: A stormy era


At no other time in the history of ACB in the country has the Director General faced as many tempests as has Martha Chizuma in the 20 months she has been head of the graft-busting body. So, where does that leave Malawi in terms of fighting corruption?

If the storm that accompanied Martha Chizuma’s appointment in May 2021 as ACB Director General symbolised how tempestuous her era would be, then it has been true to it.

No other ACB Director General has faced a tumultuous time as has Chizuma.

The hurricanes have effectively weakened the ACB and thrown into doubt any commitment there might have been that the Tonse Alliance administration is keen on decisively tackling corruption, commentators say.


“It is as good as not having ACB in Malawi,” so concludes Gift Trapence, chairperson of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC).

For 20 months, Chizuma’s role has been buffeted by all manner of storms. Here is the recount:

April 2021 President Lazarus Chakwera picks Chizuma, at that time Malawi’s Ombudsman, as ACB Director General. She was one of the three candidates the interviewing panel had the meeting took place. My boss was one of the ambassadors that attended the meeting from around 10am to 1PM,” said one source.


Another contact also corroborated this, adding that so far, the ambassadors are cautious on rushing to make a statement on their position regarding Chizuma’s interdiction.

“The donors have been in meetings since yesterday [Thursday] and from the State House they went into another meeting,” another source said.

“They say they will not say anything now,” the source said.

The source added that one of the issues raised during the meeting was whether Chakwera was aware of the interdiction.

Chakwera’s Press Secretary Anthony Kasunda confirmed the meeting.

“The President met with the development partners this morning and held candid discussions with them and the dialogue will continue in the coming days in the spirit of bilateral trust and solidarity,” he said.

When she was arrested on December 6, 2022, the United States of America Ambassador to Malawi, David Young, expressed his concern, arguing those responsible must be held to account.

Young said the government must focus all its energy on fighting corruption because the vice undermines democracy and prevents Malawi from realising its potential.

The embassy issued a statement in which it condemned the way Chizuma was arrested and further reminded Malawi that the US government recognised Chizuma as one of the champions fighting corruption.

“The US government reminds the Malawi government that the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last year announced Chizuma as an Anti-corruption Champion, one of only 12 honourees globally.

“This was in recognition of not only her great courage in standing up against corruption in her professional capacity, but of the institutions and structures in Malawi that make investigation, prosecution, and conviction of those guilty of corruption possible,” the statement read.

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