Know Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda, Malawi’s Creme de la Procureur General

A scoop of quicklime into waters of belief and faith – just in the molecules of split seconds, the mixture of hope is boiling in its bucket – we’re all leaning in like the Macbeth’s witches in dire disbelief round the cauldron to take a dogged look into the wheels of justice.

“Are we in the right direction?” we wonder as we ponder beyond the yonder.

Only time will tell.

Well, we’re all googled and masked beyond our ears, eyes and noses so we cannot hear, see or smell, although with our inquisitive hearts, we still can see and look, with our heart’s eyes widening, and then narrowing in grins of enthralled delight.

And like Caesar’s wife, we are all above suspicion and posterity will acquit the innocence and condemn the guilty in the annals of history.

As the country’s heritage of honesty and discipline decline, irreplaceable knowledge and traditions are being lost, putting our future at risk.

However, it is not all doom and gloom because there is one young man who is at the nucleus of advising the government against the greedy, warped-minded and self-aggrandising unpatriotic citizens.

One man, with everything he holds dear to his life and for the love and patriotism of Malawi is set out on a mission to fight to the end, the course of justice for his country.

Some people want things to happen, while some people wish things to happen, but Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda, the man at the nucleus of fighting injustice, especially those wishing to defraud public coffers, is making things happen.

He is perhaps fulfilling the meaning of his middle name Chakaka, which in chiTumbuka, means one who arrests (chakakabanthu) or the one who insists in chiChewa (chakakamira kakaka).

After all, Thabo was born a fearless fighter and has on several occasions faced danger, eyeball to eyeball since he was a child.

And, he says, by God’s grace, he survived.

When he was about 11 years old, he once had an encounter with a Black Mamba in a forest as he played with five of his mates.

Thabo stepped on the Black Mamba’s tail but luckily enough, the clever little boy that he was, escaped unscathed.

He survived.

Before this incident, he also came face-to-face with a python.

However, back in his days, it used to be told during fireside stories that pythons don’t attack people that are alert, but ambushes those that haven’t seen it.

And, therefore, sticking to fireside script, he followed a python for about 150 metres until it entered a bush area just to show the snake that he ain’t scared of it.

A brush with death

One day when Thabo was in Standard Five, he felt ill while attending classes and decided to visit a hospital for medical help.

After knocking off from school, he asked his friend, Amos Msowoya, to escort him to the nearby clinic, which was just less than 250 metres from the school.

This was the first time for little Thabo to go to a clinic in his life and when they got there he presented his problem to a medic who then prescribed some medicine.

He took all the medicine at once and he and his friend, returned from the hospital and parted company and he thereafter proceeded to his home but a few minutes later, he developed a stomach ache and was sweating profusely. He struggled to walk home.

It took him a solid five hours to reach home for a journey that only took him just 15 minutes. He was really ill.

His parents started looking for him. He later reached home and explained the situation to his worried wards and he was so weak he could not even eat because of excessive stomach pains. He vomited and survived the accidental drug overdose.

He took eighteen tablets of aspirin and three tablets of fansidar (sulfadoxine and pyrimethamine malaria drugs) at once.

And by God’s grace, he survived.

Fear and Chakaka Nyirenda do not associate. So, it appears. After all, he is the iconic freedom fighter, Levi Ziliro Mumba’s descendant.

Being an Attorney General (AG) entails a character of being of diligent service to the people through properly directing the public institutions and actors on all legal matters and demands that one is vigilant against exploitation of public institutions and resources attached to it.

Challenges are plenty and abound; they range from lack of enough time to deal with all emerging issues timeously to criminal-minded people taking chances with the law and manipulating it for their own selfish reasons – and such incidents which stimulate unnecessary court actions and drainage of resources in pursuing the same.

Here is a story of a man geared to preserve and defend public resources from fraudulent and criminal-minded people who scavenge on frivolous and exaggerated claims to steal from the government.

Whether or not he will accomplish this noble mission, only time will tell.

The Introduction

Here is an extraordinary story of an ordinary man with a normal life that has specific extranormal goals to be attained.

Chakaka Nyirenda is a passionate pound-for-pound lawyer with a niche to see justice not only to be done but also to be seen to be done.

A dedicated family man, an ardent God-fearing Christian, Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda, who is married with three kids is the country’s youngest Attorney Attorney General.

He is the prevalent head of the bar and the government’s chief legal adviser and he gives legal counsel to the President and the head of government for the Republic of Malawi.

Under the Civil Procedure Act, all claims by or against the Government are instituted by or against the AG and that score.

Therefore, he is the people’s representative and in simple terms—a lawyer for all Malawians and that is why he is fighting claims, which he deems unreasonable, in court of law to protect public funds.

Here is a man with a mission and equipped with an array of goals and targets so that when his time to exit office come, he should be remembered as an effective AG who discharged his duties faithfully and diligently.

Only time will tell.

The Background

Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda was born on 9th May in 1982 in Mphompha area in Rumphi District, some 50 kilometres north-west-wards from Mzuzu City in the northern part of Malawi but his family originally comes from Chiwombo Village, Traditional Authority Kachulu in the same district.

Thabo grew up just like any ordinary African child with dreams that kept adjusting as they grew up.

During his childhood, Thabo has been to both the bad and the good worlds as he experienced poor and rich-living conditions.

Like the majority of Malawians, the better part of Thabo’s childhood had been mostly in poverty but one would expect that being a descendant of one of the historical greats of this country, Levi Ziliro Mumba, then his lineage would not be wanted.

Thabo was born into a poor family and lived in that poverty until he started staying with well-to-do relatives for some study conveniences at schools away from home. In the course of staying with different relatives, he lived in townships such as Ndirande Goliyo, Manja and Namiwawa in Blantyre.

He has also during his journey of life lived in Lilongwe’s Areas 25, 18, 15 and 47 and this means that he has been raised up with a Christian doctrine having switched denominations from being a Presbyterian, Catholic and now he belongs to the Bible Believers Church.

His father was an ordinary bottom-category civil servant working in the Ministry of Agriculture whose earnings were minimal such that he could not manage to cushion the family from hardships.

At one point, Thabo stayed with his grandparents, rotating from paternal to maternal grandparents. He grew up in communities where there was no electricity and potable water meaning that for his family’s domestic needs, including drinking water had to be fetched from streams and ponds.

For Thabo, the issue of child labour that society complains about now was part of his normal life.

But his tough and rough early childhood background has a brighter light at the end of its tunnel because he believes the hardships of his childhood and early life coaching made him the solid man he is today.

Education

Little Chakaka Nyirenda started his education in his birthplace, Rumphi and he went to Mphompha Full Primary School from Standard One to Standard Eight before being selected to Katoto Secondary School in Mzuzu.

Thabo was an above-average child from a very tender age and he used to smash Arithmetic beyond his level.

When he was in Standard Two, he was asked to take Standard Three Arithmetic examinations and came tops beating out everyone in Standard Three—this privilege was accorded to him because his performance in Arithmetic was said to be exceptional.

Again, when he was in Standard Five, he was made to write Standard Six Arithmetic test he also emerged number one and when he got to Standard Six, he was accorded a chance to write Standard Eight Arithmetic, English and Science tests and he emerged number One in all those subjects.

From Katoto Secondary School, Thabo made it to Chancellor College (CHANCO) of the University of Malawi in 2001, where he enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities (BAH) Degree.

When end of year examination results were out, his performance was good enough to get him an entry into the Law School at CHANCO and Thabo seized the opportunity and started his law degree in 2002.

Four years later, Thabo successfully graduated with a Bachelor of Laws Degree (LLB) (Hons) in 2006.

In 2018, he went for Master of Laws Degree (LLM) in International Financial Law at University of Sussex in United Kingdom where he graduated in 2019.

However, Thabo, said that at the time of enrolling at the University of Sussex, he was offered a Sub-Saharan Masters degree Scholarship at the Nottingham Law School at Nottingham Trent University and he had obtained a student visa to study at the University of Sussex when the scholarship was awarded to him.

And, because of new UK visa restrictions, he failed to move to Nottingham Trent University, The Nottingham Law School.

That scholarship is still there for him to take it up.

Thabo, like any child, fancied many things in life but he was inspired by his uncle, who works as a magistrate in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe.

His paternal grandfather was a trained veterinarian, who eventually worked in the Traditional Court as a Chairman and his uncle works as a magistrate in Lilongwe and it is because of such influence that he decided to study law so he could become a Judge.

And, this aspiration, has not died yet.

Professional Qualifications

Additional to his academic achievements, Thabo attended a myriad of trainings and courses which includes a legislative drafting course at the International Law Institute-African Centre for Legal Excellence in Uganda.

Thabo has in his brain-bag a Financial Services and Markets Regulations course at the London School of Economics & Political Science, United Kingdom and a Domestic Debt Market Development, Legal and Regulatory Reforms course with the Macro-economic and Financial Management Institute of Eastern and Southern Africa (MEFMI).

Also, he has attended a SADC Central Banking drafting course organized by the SADC Secretariat, Financial Investigation Techniques course with International Law Enforcement Academy, Gaborone, Botswana, Court Room Techniques & Advocacy organized by USAID.

Again, Thabo enrolled into the Trial advocacy course, which the International Law Institute-African Centre for Legal Excellence organised and several short-term courses on anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism.

Career Path

As an attorney, Thabo has extensive work experience in private and public practice, as he has served in privately owned legal firms as well as the government and public institutions.

He started off as a Legal Aid Advocate from 2006 to 2008 at Legal Aid Bureau where his job involved in providing free legal aid to poor people in areas of human rights, criminal justice, commercial law, property law, family law, public law, labour and employment law.

In August 2008, Thabo joined the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs as a Senior State Advocate until 2010.

From July 2010, he was employed at the Reserve Bank of Malawi as an in-house legal counsel and five years later, in September 2020 he was promoted to head the Ethics and Compliance Division of the Reserve Bank of Malawi, where he worked until 27th August, 2021 when he was appointed the Attorney General of the Republic of Malawi.

Thabo says his successful completion of his comprehensive studies at different levels constitutes his significant achievements in his career path and states that he will continue learning for as long as he lives.

The Gist

Growing up, Thabo has always dreamed of a better Malawi where everyone is equal—a Malawi of equal opportunities and to be part of a system that is responsible for people’s welfare is a dream come true.

He has shared the common challenges like any average Malawian and an African child from poor family background in pursuit of good education.

For him, the most intensifying of the challenges he largely faced has been financial hurdles with which, over and above all else, he managed to sail through, thanks to generous interventions by some generous people and public schemes, for example, students’ loans, which enabled us pay tuition fees and remain in school during secondary and university time.

For him, earning the national trust to serve his country as its principal legal adviser is a significant achievement and foothold in his career path to date.

As an AG, he is the head of the bar and, thus, he has a duty to ensure discipline in the legal profession.

This means that errant lawyers with unbecoming behaviours are disciplined by his office and, therefore, he is responsible for sanitising the legal profession.

His role in arresting corruption in the country includes litigating diligently when civil matters concerning the government requires his representation in court.

Parliament has in the Financial Crimes Act also gives him, as the attorney in-charge, the powers to pursue civil forfeiture proceedings against persons who illicitly obtained their wealth and such powers are stipulated in the Financial Crimes Act and under the common law.

His office also vets Government contracts and in performing this function, he ensures that there is thorough financial due diligence, legal due diligence and anti-money laundering due diligence on contracts and procurements.

Thabo, however, has advice to young lawyers who aspire to be the next Attorney General or indeed a top lawyer to jealously guard themselves against eroding ethics of the legal profession and always demonstrate hard work in administering justice.

Family Man

When Thabo is not reading law statutes, the Constitution, memos or in court on government services, he enjoys hunting.

He also loves fishing. He is an ardent football fanatic and if he is not playing it, he is watching it.

Married and a father of three children, in his free time, Thabo enjoys spending time with his wife and kids and spares time to chill out with friends.

He believes that being a good husband and father takes great skill and discipline. He says charity begins at home and therefore if anybody wants to be good in whatever they do, they must be good at family level for family is where it starts.

“You can never manage anything if you cannot manage your family. It is that simple. If we are to be honest, trustworthy, respectful, forgiving, tolerant and benevolent, we must start to be all that at home.

Thabo strongly believes that people’s behaviour defines them and that their pursuits for honesty mint their legacy. He strives to thrive on hard work, effort, courage, planning and executing his tasks and duties prudently.

While he believes in hard work, he says he is mindful of the sentiments of one American great president and statesman, John F. Kennedy who once said:

“Hard work is nothing without purpose and direction. Effort and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”

In the gist of it all, Thabo says long years of experience should not obscure competence as a requisite that people should look for because experience does not equate to competence.

“This reminds me of the comments that some sections of the society made in reaction to my appointment as Attorney General. They called me a legal intern,” he said.

“According to them, I did not have many years of practice. As to what constitutes many years, they were too shy to specify. Whatever they meant, I was sure they were wrong because I did not go to school to get a paper. Rather, I went to school to get knowledge.”

Thabo says he is greatly inspired by people who passionately and diligently serve others.

It’s all in his names.

His first name, Thabo, means happiness in both Zulu and Sutu and perhaps that is why is he is always a happy chappy.

As for his middle name, Chakaka, it means someone who stresses so much with emphasis on things they do in Tumbuka. And, it also means someone who arrests wrongdoers and trasgressors.

As for his surname, Nyirenda, it simply means a ‘Tree of Wisdom,’ and as they say, a man is his name. So is this man.

Here is a cream that must be celebrated.

For Thabo, working hard to fight corruption and protecting public resources, breaks no bones for many a mickle makes a murkle. He says he is geared to fight on the many bogus and unjustified claims against the government in order to save billions of taxpayers money which can be put into good use for the public’s good.

Isn’t he is magic.

Le Procureur de la General par excellence.

Salut!

Here is Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda’s Quotable Quote:

“Each country would like to attract foreign investment. But, have we done enough to achieve that? Most people whom we call foreign investors in Malawi are actually not investors but traders of all forms including those that plunder and take away resources.

“This is awful. We need deliberate laws and regulations to turn things around. An investor must be the one who brings at least US$20 million into the country, within a given period must have created at least 200 jobs, must have built notable infrastructure and must have generated forex for the country and not siphoned out foreign currency.” – Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda.

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IAN ALFONSO CHIMOMBO
IAN ALFONSO CHIMOMBO
1 month ago

Indeed, I conquer with the AG, we need investors and not traders. These traders are taking away businesses that can be ably be done by bonafide citizens. Something must be seriously quickly done.

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