Much as it is difficult like hell to move on from the saga surrounding the recording of a phone conversation that one man identified as Anderson Mwakyelu had with Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director- General (DG) Martha Chizuma, we somehow started to forget it until the ACB boss’s arrest last month.
Now-sacked Director of Public Prosecutions Steven Kayuni had lodged a complaint with the police after feeling injured by allegations made about him in the illegal recording.
A commission of inquiry instituted by President Lazarus Chakwera recommended that the President should crack the whip on both Chizuma and Kayuni.
Obviously, due to public and donor pressure, Chakwera spared Chizuma and dismissed Kayuni from his position, a decision which has also been described by legal experts as problematic.
There have been all indications that without any sort of pressure, Chakwera would have fired Chizuma.
After all, many officers in his government do not like the ACB boss and will use all artillery at their disposal to fight her.
There is no denying that Chizuma heavily messed up by making all those allegations against public officers including judges.
There perfectly is no way of justifying such a careless ‘expose’ from a person holding the position of ACB DG.
There are those who want us to believe that whatever she said in that recorded phone conversation should be thrust to the periphery as responsible State agencies go after the man who recorded the call.
Yet, even if that man is arrested and arraigned before a court of law, the State will need Chizuma as a key witness in the matter.
The biggest challenge is that because the ACB boss herself has not openly come forward to express her willingness to take on Mwakyelu, the man continues to walk scot-free.
The push for the police to arrest him could be a legitimate one, but how will the matter progress?
I have a suggestion, still: let the police arrest the call recorder and later invite Chizuma to testify in the case. Otherwise, we will keep moving in circles on the saga, without any plausible exit.
In cases of this nature, the police can act on their own volition or after someone lodges a complaint to the agency.
In the meantime, the assumption is that Chizuma has not lodged a complaint. Thus, because of public interest, the cops should go after Mwakyelu and invite the ACB boss to play her part.
Should she snub the invitation, we will all know that she is not willing to let justice roll in the matter. Or would it even be necessary to turn her into a hostile witness?
A proper judgement, delivered in a proper law court, on the audio recording would significantly guide future engagements linked to the recording.
By taking after the man who recorded the phone conversation, Chizuma would make her position and arguments on the matter known even before some people who feel injured by her allegations go after her, if they will.
We must not forget that there is a court ruling to the effect that anyone who personally feels hurt by the recording can take the matter to court.
If that happens, the recording will still have to be the centre of attention in the proceedings.
By the way, it was indeed very difficult for the commission of inquiry to ignore the recording in its work because that is the origin of Chizuma’s arrest which compelled Chakwera to institute the team.
The inquiry refused to pander to the whims of those who look at the ACB boss as some infallible officer who should not be touched or reprimanded even when she has goofed.
The forgiveness by Chakwera was a political assertion also made due to public and donor pressure.
The truth is that there are legal elements that can be pursued in the matter just like Kayuni did, though carelessly.
By the way, couldn’t maintaining Chizuma in her position be a deliberately calculated move where those who are uncomfortable with her presence know she will be less effective with the recording saga still popping up now and then?
That is where it would be ideal for the ACB DG to come forward and play her part in ensuring the motive behind the recording is exposed.
There are several questions which can only be answered if the man who recorded the call is compelled to speak in a court of law.
For instance, in whose interest did he record the conversation? What was the motive of the recording and its leakage?
In fact, though it may not be very clear, the fight against corruption is significantly being muddled by the audio recording saga as attention is, once in a while, being drawn away from the real issues to the recorded conversation
Alick Ponje is a features writer at The Times Group. He graduated from the University of Malawi with a bachelor’s degree in education, majoring in literature in English. Follow him on Twitter @aponje