Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have angrily reacted to the decision by the graft busting body, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to back President Peter Mutharika on the K145 million, saying the issue should have gone before the courts for logical conclusion.
Gift Trapence, deputy chairman of the Forum for the Defence of Human Rights said the courts could have been better placed to clear Mutharika of any wrong doing.
“This shows that President Mutharika interfered with the operations of the ACB. The courts were the right place to exonerate President Mutharika of any wrong doing,” said Trapence.
He asked ACB to share the report which exonerated the President of any wrong doing to the public, saying the way graft-busting agency has cleared Mutharika on the issue raises eyebrows.
ACB director general Reyneck Matemba says there is no evidence to connect Mutharika to any wrong after Zameer Karim, the owner of Pioneer Investments decided to make a “donation” of K145 million to the bank account of the ruling DPP soon after getting a dubious K450 million from the government over a flawed food rationing deal at the police.
Governance expert Makhumbo Munthali told Nyasa Times that ACB clearing of Mutharika will not manage in erasing the public perception that the President benefited from this.
“ This is the case because of the following reasons: By virtue of being a sole signatory of the said DPP account, Mutharika has the overall powers and authority on how to manage such an account, and no transaction let alone the so-called donations cannot happen without his blessings, consent or knowledge.
“ It would therefore be very difficult for the general public to believe ACB report that Mutharika did not benefit from the donation,” he said.
He argued that by clearing Mutharika but “convicting” DPP as a beneficiary of the “donation” the ACB might be sending a wrong interpretetion- that is Mutharika is seperate from DPP.
“ However, when one critically looks at the party history -just like other parties like UDF etc- and the way it conducts its business one wouldn’t dissassociate DPP from APM. In fact, Mutharika is DPP and this is even partly exemplified in the fact that he is the sole signatory of the party’s bank account. In this regard, it would be so naive and gullible enough for one to believe that DPP benefited the K145 million in isolation – without Mutharika who ironically happens to be the sole signatory of the account.
According to the governance expert, from the very onset the issue came in the limelight ACB seemed to have put much effort at protecting Mutharika than coming to the bottom of the issue. “The public was shocked with the news that ACB was more concerned with finding out the one who leaked the document than taking robust actions towards finalising investigations to prosecute those implicated. It was hence very clear from the public eye that ACB was hell-bent at clearing Mutharika from the whole saga in order to protect him from facing impeachment. This may be another reason why the public may be sceptic about receiving ACB report as gospel truth,” Munthali said.
He pointed out that the very fact that the said K145 million “donation” happened after a contract was granted to Pioneer “smacks corruption.”
Said Munthali: “ Whether Mutharika may have not directly used the money or the money was used for party functions the bottom line remains such a donation may not have been done in good faith, and if anything it may have been a ‘thank you’ to the President and the DPP for possibly influencing the procurement awarding processes in facour of this well-wisher. This again would also make the public not to easily buy in the ACB testimony
“In summary, while ACB and other DPP sympathisers may view the ACB clearance as a sigh of relief, in fact this will open the can of worms even wider. Malawians will continue to demand justice on the matter and I am afraid the K145 million will be come an election issue and shall be associated with Mutharika throughout the campaign period.”
Veteran politician Brown Mpinganjira backed Mutharika, saying he was not in the wrong.
“He made never any attempts to hide it. He received a donation, he did not solict a donation. He did not know who was giving the donation,” Mpinganjira told Times TV.
And President Mutharika said he would never interfere with the graft-busting body.
“I do not interfere in the ACB. Never. Interfere for what?” said Muthatika in Talk to the President programme on MBC television.
Mutharika said he was a victim of a political smear campaign ahead of nex year’s elections.
“I know of a few individuals who were sent by other parties to tarnish my name and the DPP,” he said.
“All over the world people receive donations and it is normal for people to receive donations,” stressed Mutharika.
DPP announced it will refund the funds.
President Mutharika is immune from any prosecution but the ACB has recommended that Karim and the director of finance at police Innocent Bottoman before prosecuted for the illegal deal.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :