Malawi’s Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), which has over the years made strong pleas to the leadership of this country to respect the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in carrying out its mandate without interference, had made fresh calls of such.
In joining the country in the commemoration of the African Anti-Corruption Day (July 11), HRDC said in a statement that it is incumbent upon each and every Malawian of goodwill to allow the ACB to have its operational space devoid of undue influence or pressure of any kind.
Following the high profile corruption case sorrounding Zunneth Sattar — which has been joined by UK intelligence agency — a lot of government officials have been implicated, including State Vice-President Saulos Chilima.
HRDC said: “Of late, we have seen a lot of interference on the Bureau’s operations from various quarters, including the government, suspects, politicians, the public and social media influencers.
“We acknowledge the pledge and commitment by the Tonse Alliance Administration to end corruption in Malawi.
“While we applaud these efforts, we would like to remind the government that a reformed public sector is crucial in the fight against corruption.
“A reformed public sector and procurement system are a prerequisite in this battle as noted by the ACB Director General recently when she noted that 70 percent of corrupt activities in the country emanate from the public sector procurement system.”
In that vein, the HRDC says it makes “a fresh appeal to President Lazarus Chakwera to make public the Public Sector Reforms report which was submitted to him sometime back”.
“We further note that ACB has, for many years, been working on corruption cases involving individuals connected to regimes both past and present.
“However, we have noted with utter dismay, that there has been mounting pressure on the ACB from various quarters on some of these corruption cases.
“Our observation is that this pressure has emanated mainly from people with a myriad of vested interests.”
HRDC further says following President Chakwera’s public statement three weeks ago that dwelt on a situational report from the ACB, “there has been an incessant furore of individuals and entities trying to direct the ACB on what to do”.
“These people are using the traditional media, social media and various platforms and podiums to give directions onto the bureau on how it ought to do its work.”
For this reason, HRDC said “the independence of the ACB should not be compromised at any point as only the ACB is entitled by the Constitution to carry out investigations and prosecute corruption suspects in the country without fear or favour.
“Thus, every person from those in the positions of power, those whose names have been mentioned and every interested individual or entity should back off and let the ACB carry out its mandate without interference.”
The human rights watchdog said “there must not be any politicisation of these investigations, even though some of the suspects might be holding political positions”.
“Every effort must, therefore, be made to avoid politicians hijacking these investigations for their own selfish agendas.
“Politicians must refrain from pressuring the ACB investigate and prosecute any individuals on the basis that they are politicians but rather that there is impeccable evidence that those individuals are genuinely suspected to have been involved in corrupt practices.
“In carrying out these work, the ACB must ensure that suspects are taken to court and accorded the right to defend themselves from the allegations levelled against them as opposed to having a media or public trials where those mentioned are convicted through trial by the media.
“It is high time the government ensures that the ACB is operating efficiently by timely according it with all the financial resources it needs to operate effectively.”
HRDC further calls upon the ACB, “that while pursuing current cases, it must also not forget cases from previous administrations to avoid the perception that the Bureau is administering selective justice”.
“The government needs to ensure that for the battle against corruption to be won, it ought to enable legislation that protect whistle blowers.
“Another area that requires explanation and review is the procurement law that requires the ACB to vet government contracts. We observe that this somehow puts the ACB in an awkward and conflict situation where it is part of a procurement vetting process but might later be asked to investigate the same contract.”
In its conclusion, HRDC “calls on all stakeholders in the fight against corruption to avoid using the ACB as a political weapon or mileage for their interests”.
“As promised by the Tonse Alliance administration, the government must be bold enough to promote the efficiency of the ACB through legal reforms,” said the statement issued by HRDC national chairperson Gift Trapence and his executive.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :