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US, UK pressed for Martha Chizuma

Full inquiry report details Chizuma arrest

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An inquiry into the arrest of Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General (DG) Martha Chizuma has revealed that the United States (US) government demanded her unconditional release and threatened Lilongwe with economic sanctions if it failed to do so.

According to the report, Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda told the inquiry that on the day of Chizuma’s arrest, he was approached by British High Commissioner to Malawi Fiona Ritchie and US Ambassador to Malawi David Young on the issue of arrest.

The report further says the US also threatened to subject the people involved in Chizuma’s arrest to travel bans.

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According to the report, Ritchie asked the Malawi Government to ensure that Chizuma was released from the police holding cell.

The report has also detailed how police officers held several meetings in preparation for the ACB boss’ arrest.

According to the report, about 20 police officers—including nine Criminal Investigations Department officers and 10 Police Mobile Services officers, three of whom were female—took part in the operation to arrest Chizuma.

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The officers were armed with 2KC rifles each.

According to the report, Chakaka Nyirenda told the inquiry that, on high-profile arrests, he expected that, at a minimum, the President and line minister should be informed before the arrest.

He, however, said in the case of Chizuma’s arrest, this did not happen.

“The commission was informed by the AG that the relationship between the DG of ACB and the DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions] was strained. In the AG’s opinion, this emanated from differences in opinion in the course of executing their duties.

“However, the AG’s concern was more to do with lack of management of confidential information by the DG of ACB, which was jeopardising some operations,” the report says.

In his testimony, Solicitor General (SG) and Secretary for Justice Allison M’bang’ombe told members of the commission that the relationship between Kayuni and Chizuma was not cordial and that the Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo had tried to reconcile them, but the situation had not improved.

M’bang’ombe said, in his opinion, the working relationship started deteriorating when the ACB arrested the DPP’s witnesses in the infamous ‘Cement-gate’, which was then at an advanced stage, without consulting the DPP.

M’bang’ombe said because of the arrest, witnesses were becoming uncooperative.

“The SG also informed the commission that what also strained their relationship was the DPP’s refusal to grant consent for prosecution of the former Minister of Lands Honourable Kezzie Msukwa, MP,” the report reads.

On Tuesday, the Commission of Inquiry instituted to look into the arrest of Chizuma presented its findings to President Lazarus Chakwera, who, then, instructed Secretary to the President and Cabinet Colleen Zamba to release it to the public.

But Zamba only released one chapter to the public, drawing the anger of many Malawians, including the Malawi Law Society (MLS)

Wednesday, MLS through its president Patrick Mpaka, demanded the release of the full report.

According to Mpaka, while some of the recommendations made by the commission make sense, others do not make sense.

Later in the day, eight more organisations joined MLS in calling for the release of the full report on Chizuma’s arrest.

The eight organisatios include Human Rights Defenders Coalition, Youth and Society, Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre and Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency.

But government spokesperson Gospel Kazako defended the release of the extract of the report, saying Capital Hill would only release the final product of the inquiry on the arrest of Chizuma once Chakwera has read the full document.

“The commission had read out just part of the report and that is what the President has asked Secretary to the Office of President and Cabinet to release,” Kazako said. Among other things, the commission recommended that leadership be re-organised at the graft-busting body and Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

The commission also found both Chizuma and DPP Steven Kayuni at fault in the way they conducted themselves while discharging their duties and recommended that Chakwera should deal with them.

The report further faults the Malawi Police Service for recording Kayuni’s statement without following procedures.

Section 7 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act provides that: “It shall be the duty of the commissioners, after taking such oath or making such affirmation, to make a full, faithful, and impartial inquiry into the matter specified in the commission, to conduct such inquiry in accordance with the directions (if any) contained therein; to report in due course to the President, in writing, the result of such inquiry, and also, if required, to furnish to the President a full statement of the proceedings of the commission, and of the reasons leading to the conclusions arrived at or reported.”

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