The Malawi Law Society (MLS) has faulted quasi-religious body Public Affairs Committee (PAC) for their proposal that the State should discontinue the protracted prosecution of former president Bakili Muluzi on corruption charges relating to K1.7 billion, saying it is tantamount to elevating politics over rule of law.
PAC raised the issue in its statement assessing the year 2020.
In the statement, co-signed by PAC chairperson Monsignor Patrick Thawale and publicity secretary the Reverend Gilford Matonga, the body cites the lengthy court case that dates back to 2005 as a waste of public funds; hence, the need to discontinue it and find a political solution.
But MLS president Burton Chidongondo Mhango said the proposal was wrong, saying the best way is to have the matter concluded before the court and not political settlement.
“PAC is attempting to elevate politics above all other means of resolving a legal dispute which we think is a very insensitive proposal to the rule of law,” Mhango said in an interview.
He said though Section 13 of the Constitution “sanctifies peaceful settlement of disputes”, the lawyers’ body would not recommend a political solution to a legal problem.
Mhango said the law itself provides appropriate framework of dealing with the concerns raised by PAC.
Several commentators have also said move to discontinue Muluzi’s case politically would fundamentally undermine the fight against corruption in the country. And that the best option was to clear Muluzi through the courts if the case lacks material objective evidence.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) already returned over 60 vehicles it seized from Muluzi which it suspected were bought using corruption earnings. There was a court consent to this settlement.
The vehicles include several opposition-party branded United Democratic Party (UDF) Nissan Hardbody vehicles which were registered in Muluzi’s name.
In its statement , PAC pointed out that costs to the taxpayer on such a prolonged matter is huge “and the tendency to activate such a matter for political gains has been a dent in the pursuit of the rule of law.”
“The use of a statute in such a manner is tantamount to the ‘weaponization’ of the law, a view that has been previously voiced. The position we advocate for is in consonant with an observation made on 15th July 2016 by Malawi Congress Party president and leader of opposition in Parliament, as he then was, Dr Lazarus Chakwera who asked government to drop all cases in respect of former president Bakili Muluzi.”
The statement also specifically cites a statement made by Kasungu South East member of Parliament Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, now Minister of Health, on February 25 2020 during parliamentary deliberations, asking government to drop the charges against Muluzi, who is now 80-years-old.
Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo explained that the fate of any such cases lies with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) which has the constitutional mandate to review all prosecutions by the State.
Muluzi, Malawi’s first democratic president who governed the country from 1994 to 2004, was charged with corruption and abuse of office for allegations that the State claimed he had diverted donor funds into his personal accounts.
The money in his personal account was from Morocco and Libya paid to him directly for the support of his party UDF in the campaign of his handpicked successor Bingu wa Mutharika in 2004.
Former graft-busting body, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) director general Reyneck Matemba recently also said the 14-year-old Muluzi case needs political solution.
Matemba doubted if the case can come to a conclusion using the judiciary.
“My own personal opinion is that the case needs a political solution, that is my personal opinion,” said Matemba without explaining much.
Matemba, a practising lawyer, recused himself from prosecuting the case, citing personal reasons when he was deputy director at ACB.
His former boss director Lucas Kondowe had been on record saying he had serious “reservations” with certain aspects of the K1.7 billion corruption case.
The former ACB boss said before he joined the bureau, his opinion of the Muluzi case was like most people, “which was an opinion driven by the media reports that I had read from various sources.”
Kondowe said when he became head of ACB he requested to review the files to “understand the facts of the case thoroughly instead of just receiving the button and running with it.”
He said: “This is one of the best documented cases I have ever seen at the Bureau with over 16 files of material and a great amount of money spent travelling across the globe, conducting interviews and collecting data and various materials. Thanks to the British government which financed most of this work.
“I have also held private discussions with two of my predecessors who presided as DG(s) at the material time. I will not discuss the details of those discussions as they were private. I have enormous respect and admiration for these two great sons of Malawi for their service to the nation.”
Kondowe said: “I have expressed reservations with certain aspects of the case which I have discussed with my colleagues at the Bureau in great detail. We have had numerous debates on certain matters that I feel strongly about and would like these resolved as they would have dire consequences.”
The former president has always said the charges were politically motivated.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :