Malawi anti-graft body freezes bank accounts for Chitipa Council workers

Malawi’s graft busting body, the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) has frozen five bank accounts held at NBS Bank in Karonga belonging to five employees working for Chitipa District Council without warning.

The five are Young Chiumia (account number 0065417344017), Felix Lupunga (Account Number 0065670153015), Kettie Silungwe (Account Number 0065307311016), Lusubilo Mwenitete (Account Number 0065307054013) and Lino Nyirenda (Account Number 0065414551011)

Through Mzuzu based lawyer George Kadzipatike, the five are now challenging the ACB’s decision saying it is unconstitutional because ACB did not give them reasons in writing as demanded by the laws to justify its action.

“We went to the said bank to check our salaries on 27th March, 2013 but we got the shock of our lives to learn that the ACB had frozen our accounts. Upon pressing bank officials …reluctantly released to us one copy of the ACB order,” Lipunga said in an affidavit  in support for the application for a judicial review filed at the High Court.

Lawyer Kadzipatike:Seeking judicial review
Lawyer Kadzipatike:Seeking judicial review

The five applied for a judicial review asking the High Court in Mzuzu to declare that ACB’s decision is procedurally improper and unreasonable arguing that the Bureau made the decision without hearing and giving notice of any hearing whatsoever, and without taking any statement.

“A declaration that the decision of ACB is against principles of transparency and accountability as the ACB has never brought its decision to the knowledge of the Applicants, nor has the ACB ever approached the Applicants on any allegations,” Kadzipatike said in his application, a copy Nyasa Times obtained.

Lipunga said the ACB has not informed them of any investigations under the Corrupt Practices Act.

“Nor are we aware of any prosecution that the Anti-Corruption Bureau has instituted against us. We are just very blank. Our livelihood is at stake. We are civil servants who depend on our salaries to pay rent, buy food, pay school fees for children and howsoever fend for ourselves and our families,” Lipunga said.

He said the Corrupt Practices Act is subject to the Constitution of the Republic, which is the supreme law of the land and therefore execution of powers vested in public officers by the provisions of the said Act has to be in line with the dictates of the Constitution and fundamental principles of natural justice.

“Therefore believe that in the present constitutional order, the ACB is not empowered to do away with the presumption of innocence under the Constitution and take away personal property belonging to citizens when those citizens are not aware of, have not been charged with, or summoned for, any offence whatsoever.

“Allowing ACB’s decision to stand will be done by this court at the expense of our lives and our families, when theBureau has not even approached us on any allegations, not even on the order of freezing our accounts, and when we are constitutionally innocent until a court of law convicts us,” Lipunga argued.

Kadzipatike then asked the Court for an ex-parte order restraining the ACB, its agents or servants from freezing the bank accounts or restraining NBS Bank from dealing with the Applicants’ accounts.

Nevertheless, Judge Dingiswayo Madise has ordered that the application for judicial review must be interparties, meaning ACB will have to present its case as well.

“Upon hearing counsel on behalf of the applicants and upon reading the affidavit in support of the application, it is ordered that interim reliefs sought by the applicants will be considered interpartes. And that the applicants do file interpartes summons for stay of, and for an order for injunction against, the said decision of the Respondent within 7 days.” Madise said.

The Judge granted the applicants leave to move for judicial review against ACB’s decision freezing their bank accounts or the decision restraining the said bank from dealing with the their bank accounts.

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