A constitutional law commentator Professor Danwood Chirwa has said a statement issued by Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) not to confirm the authenticity of the leaked document summarizing serious fraud and corruption involving the police, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), President Peter Peter Mutharika and a businessman Zameer Karim is due to “extreme pressure” from the corridors of power but has recommended the due process of the law.
The document suggests President Mutharika may have benefitted from K145 million that a Pioneer Investments owner Zameer Karim deposited in a DPP account for which he is the sole signatory.
However, the statement the ACB released on Friday fails to deny that it has investigated the suspected crime or the parties mentioned in the leaked document.
“It also does not deny that it has produced a memo of the sort leaked. All it says is that the leak was not made by its director or spokesperson.,” observed Chirwa.
He stated that the claim that ACB is going to investigate whether the leaked report ‘came from the Bureau or not’ is “embarrassing to the Director (Reyneck Matemba) because it suggests that he wasn’t aware of the investigation or report.”
Chirwa added: “Given that the case implicates the highest office, he could not have been unaware, and so this obfuscation must be seen as ploy to escape from personal political pressure, which the office must never experience in any case.
“We know that the ACB has compiled many dockets detailing corrupts deeds of many very senior politicians but it has not prosecuted them due to political interference. This is not what the ACB was set up to do. It’s a waste of resources to investigate cases and never to prosecute. It must be independent and prosecute cases without fear or favour.”
In a newspaper interview, Matemba confirmed ACB received a complaint in relation to the transactions of Pioneer Investments.
Chirwa has said the leak must be welcomed for the reason that the case was not going to be brought to court.
“Now at least people know how their country is being plundered. Not that this is surprising. But knowing that there is evidence for the suspicions people have is edifying and gives hope that there could be some accountability, political or legal,” he said.
Arrest and impeachment
The legal expert recommended that ACB must arrest those implicated who have no immunity – Karim and Malawi Police director of finance Innocent Bottoman – without delay and parliament must institute impeachment proceedings against the President.
“The presidential immunity from criminal prosecution does not preclude political prosecution via impeachment. The ACB should have made the report available to parliament for it to take appropriate action. It must submit the docket and all the evidence to Parliament now,” he said.
Chirwa said there is objective evidence that political parties in Malawi are “criminal enterprises” whose primary victims are the State and its people and primary beneficiaries are those who hold high office and their cronies.
Vice-President Saulos Chilima has called for the amendment of a constitutional provision that shields a sitting President from criminal prosecution, saying it gives the presidency licence to commit corrupt crimes.
Outgoing Malawi Law Society president Mwiza Nkhata, who is also associate professor of law at University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, generally agreed with Chirwa.
He said the provision was put in to allow a sitting President to focus on running the country not court appearances.
Renowned governance expert Makhumbo Munthali recently told Nyasa Times that while it was difficult to prosecute a sitting Head of State it was important that as a country “we should not miss the broader picture or message the Vice President might have been indirectly communicating” to the country.
“Being an insider and someone exposed to the Presidency, the Vice President might have been raising an alarm on the possible existence of ‘embarrassing’ levels of Presidential criminality particularly in relation to the fight against corruption in the country. And by calling for removal of immunity of the President, the Vice President might have been using this as a strategy to get the much needed public attention towards the magnitude of the alleged corruption in the country – which he had earlier on described as reaching embarrassing levels – and indirectly communicating that at the centre of this embarrassing levels of corruption was a higher political and public office something beyond the bureaucrats,” said Munthali.
Added Munthali: “Perhaps as a country we should not only be wary about a country being brought to a standstill but also asking ourselves this question: should political or public office be a safe haven where one can run to in order to escape justice over ‘serious crimes’ [in our Malawi context] like corruption which put the lives of many Malawians at risk? One possibility would be to isolate those serious crimes which the President can be prosecuted while in office and retaining immunity over ‘smaller’ crimes to just ensure that there is some order.”
Influential newspaper columnist Backbencher wrote on Saturday that the framers of Malawi Constitution no doubt had good reasons for granting the presidency immunity from prosecution to shield the President from legal tussles so that undivided presidential attention could be on the taxing job of running the country.
“Obviously the assumption was that a President who is under oath to ‘preserve and defend’ the Constitution and uphold the laws of the land would not wilfully flout the same laws. In reality, the opposite has turned out to be true,” Backbencher pointed out.
“It is a serious act of betrayal to use the highest public office in the land for amassing wealth at the expense of hard-working Malawians who pay tax through the nose. Let’s not forget that even before corruption reached Cashgate proportions, it was estimated to be eroding as much as 30 percent revenue from the public coffers.”
The columnist suggests that to save Malawi, there should be no immunity for anyone indulging in corruption, not even the President.
Character assassination, no wrong doing
Presidential spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani has argued that the leaked document is a coordinated and sponsored character assassination campaign against President Mutharika and the DPP from a disgruntled politician.
“This so-called leaked document is part of that scheme. Take a close look at it and you will notice that the document is not signed. It is a fabrication and the said politician is behind this scheme.
“As regard to the transaction in the DPP account, there was nothing sinister about it and we will provide a detailed explanation about it in due course,” he said.
Both Bottoman and Karim have also denied wrong doing in newspaper interviews.
Bottoman claimed some people are trying to tarnish his image.
“My signature was forged and I do not know who did it and for what purpose. What I know is that the government told the company to reimburse part of the money,” he said,
Karim said the issue is” politically motivated” .Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :