Martha Chizuma evades court session
As MLS obtains order against interdiction, criminal charges
Anti-Corruption Bureau Director General (DG) Martha Chizuma will not appear in court Wednesday to take a plea in a case related to a leaked phone conversation she had with one Anderson Mwakyelu.
The Malawi Law Society (MLS) has obtained a court order that stops both the continuation of the criminal case and implementation of a subsequent interdiction until a judicial review is conducted.
Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC) Colleen Zamba interdicted Chizuma last week after the State pressed criminal charges against her [Chizuma] in relation to the leaked conversation in which the ACB DG is heard making allegations that some public officers were frustrating the fight against corruption.
The staying of the case and the interdiction means Chizuma is now back in office.
Last evening, MLS President Patrick Mpaka confirmed having obtained the injunction and that the lawyers’ body wants the matter to undergo a judicial review.
“In the judicial review application, we are asking the court to review the decisions made by the [SPC], police and the magistrates’ court in Lilongwe to issue the summons.
“We want the court to review whether the decisions are in line with the Constitution and directions contained in the Corrupt Practices Act because there are principal guidelines on how to treat the director of ACB.
“For example, Section 22 of the Corrupt Practices Act gives immunity to the director of ACB, deputy director and even officials of the bureau on anything that they have done if it is done in good faith. Even if they make a mistake, but done in good faith, they can’t be questioned,” Mpaka said.
He also confirmed our conclusion that Chizuma will not appear in court Wednesday.
In his order, High Court judge Mike Tembo states that all processes in the magistrates’ court are stopped at the issuance of the reliefs sought by MLS.
“Pending such judicial review or pending any further order of this court, the decisions or proceedings of the respondents contained or reflected in the summons and charge sheet under criminal case no. 236 of 2023 of 25th January 2023, and in the interdiction order of 31st January 2023 under reference no. SPC/S/001 to respectively issue a summons and charge sheet and an interdiction order against the current occupant of the office of director of Anti-Corruption Bureau, Ms Martha Chizuma, on account of complaints premised on a leaked audio recording without any allegations of bad faith in either the summons, charge sheet or interdiction order be and are hereby stayed,” the court’s order reads.
Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda, who is government principal legal adviser, said he could not commment on the court process because he did not have instructions yet.
Human Rights Defenders Coalition Vice Chairperson Michael Kaiyatsa has described the injunction as a good development in the fight against corruption in Malawi.
In the letter of Chizuma’s interdiction, Zamba said the allegations against the ACB DG “constitute serious misconduct of a public officer and an Anti- Corruption Bureau”.
Chizuma is facing two charges of describing former director of Public Prosecutions Steven Kayuni as corrupt and compromised and accusing a High Court judge of having received a bribe while handling a case involving Ashok Kumar Sreedharan, an alleged partner of businessperson Zuneth Sattar.
Mdeza is on record as having said he did not lodge a complaint to the police.
In Kayuni’s case, which had earlier resulted in the ABC DG being arrested, President Lazarus Chakwera directed that the charges be withdrawn.
It is not clear whether that order was complied with or whether Kayuni returned to lodge a complaint as a private citizen or whether the police had gone ahead with the charges of their own volition.