Malawi is braced for a mass trial of 100 civil servants, politicians and businesspeople involved in the alleged looting of more than $100 million from government coffers, the country’s Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has disclosed.
The land mark case, coming four months before elections, is expected to become a litmus test for the government of President Joyce Banda on whose watch the scandal was discovered and suspected to have gone out of hand although there are suggestions that the looting started long time ago.
DPP Bruno Kalemba said in an interview that the trials of more than 100 suspects would start Wednesday next week.
He was however quick to admit that the trials follow pressure from the country’s donors. Donors bankroll almost 40% of Malawi’s budget and have since said they will withhold some of the aid until it is clear that it is not being misused.
“We are under extreme pressure. There are lots of files on my desk that need to be dealt with. There are warrants of arrest and a lot of follow-ups. This has become an emotional issue,” he said.
The donors have since suspended almost $150m the government “cleans up the mess” of corruption and speedily prosecutes all suspects.
At the moment there almost 84 known arrests but Kalemba’s statement means that the country would see more arrests but the major question that everyone is asking is whether the real big fish in the scam will this time be netted.
President Banda recently said she had taken a ‘political risk’ to launch a fight against corruption five months before elections.
The British high commissioner to Malawi, Michael Nevin, said withholding the aid was not about punishing Malawi.
“We want government to put its house in order by implementing systems that will not allow pilferage of public funds,” he said.
British diplomat Sarah Sanyahumbi also said: “We will not be able to resume support through government systems until we have a clear assurance, independently verified, that our resources are all being used for their intended purpose.”
Sanyahumbi is head of the Department for International Development and leads the Common Approach for Budget Support (Cabs) the country’s grouping of donors, which includes European countries, the European Union and the World Bank.