Malawi’s ruling Democrtaic Progressive Party (DPP) national organising secretary Richard Makondi has filed a libel lawsuit against Times Group over a report published in Malawi News on his suspected roles in Cashgate—the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill exposed in September 2013 alongside businessperson Mohammad Kassam.
Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) investigated Kossam, Makondi—a former Toyota Malawi national sales manager—alongside former MDF Commander General Henry Odillo (retired), Lieutenant General Clement Kafuwa (retired) and former Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo on their involvement in a deal where MDF bought about 35 vehicles from Toyota Malawi worth K895 million which the bureau claims were overvalued and did not have specifications agreed in the contract.
And Malawi News reported that Makondi has since been named as one of the people who exerted pressure on the Electricity and Supply Commission of Malawi (Escom)’s former Director of Finance Betty Mahuka for her to authorize MK4 billion payment towards fraudulent procurement.
According to to the national weekly, Mahuka prior to her resignation, received calls from Escom’s board and Makondi ordering her to pay.
But Mahuka refused the order and instead tendered her resignation which prompted ACB to authorize the investigation on September 28, this year.
Ironically, last month, Escom blocked the bureau’s officer from conducting an investigation into the procurement in question.
Following the Malawi News report, Makondi through his lawyers Joe and Max Chambers has filled a libel suit against Times Group for alleged defamation of character.
He is seeking compensation claiming “damages for libel and lose of business and business opportunities.”
Times Group could not immediately confirm nor comment on the receipt of the lawsuit.
However, a governance expert said the story Makondi is suing the newspaper for is about a report on the complaint ACB is probing or rather stopped probing by its director Lucas Kondowe despite his deputy and prosecutor Reyneck Matemba giving a go ahead.
Makondi has a warrant of arrest on his head which Kondowe again stopped execution.
“This is a scenario where corrupt people are trying to intimidate the media through lawsuits,” a governance expert told Nyasa Times.
He added: “Malawians should know that corruption has taken over this country and those behind it will do all they can to get away with it. This is just another highly corrupt man using money and lawsuits to silence media so it stops reporting on his corrupt activities.”
ACB’s director, Kondowe has a strong relationship with Makondi. That explains, say many Malawians, why Makondi has not been prosecuted over an alleged fraud in 2013 involving a prominent businessman, Kassam, in a K895 mn. ($1.2 mn.) deal to supply 35 Toyota vehicles to the Malawi Defence Force.
Its former Commander, General Henry Odillo, and his deputy Clement Kafuwa were arrested over the deal in May last year but Kassam and Makondi have not been touched .
In March, a magistrate granted the ACB an arrest warrant for Makondi and Kassam, owner of Globe Electronics but the warrants were never enforced.
Insiders say Kondowe is responsible.
Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) national secretary Martin Chiphwanya said recent events at the bureau, such as reports of blocking warrants of arrest and fears of political interference, have led to lack of confidence in its operations.
“We have a bureau widely seen as ineffective but also unfairly using its powers. The recent allegations and reports against the leadership of the bureau have in particular been more damaging,” said Chiphwanya.
The President of the Malawi Law Society, John Suzi Banda, said the ACB’s ‘operational independence has been fatally compromised’.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :