The National Anti-corruption Alliance (Naca) which is aimed at mobilising and coordinating civil society activities in combating corruption has demanded a probe into circumstances that led to the suspicious cancellation of the warrant of arrest for business mogul Thom Mpinganjira.
The Lilongwe Magistrate Court on Wednesday issued Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) a warrant of arrest for Mpinganjira on suspicion that he is one of the people who attempted to bribe five judges who are sitting as Constitutional Court handling the Presidential Elections case.
Mpinganjira, who is group chief executive officer of FDH Financial Holdings Limited and sthareholder also board chairperson of Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom), was due to appear before the court on Thursday morning.
But as the ACB was preparing paperwork, a Zomba-based magistrate Benedicto Chitsakamire issued an order at midnight to facilitate the release of Mpinganjira before the charges were read to him in court and thereby quashing the arrest want.
This has angered the National Anti-Corruption Alliance, which suspects that Chitsakamire might have received kickbacks that influenced his midnight judicial decision.
The alliance, which comprises Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Church and Society Programme of the Livingstonia Synod of the CCAP, Youth and Society and Malawi Law Society (MLS), has since demanded that there should be a probe into the circumstances leading to the irregular court decision.
The alliance chairperson, Moses Mkandawire, speaking when he addressed journalists alongside Timothy Mtambo in Lilongwe, urged the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to move fast in instituting investigations to ensure the magistrate accounts for his illegal decision.
“We do appreciate that there are some judges who have discharged their duties very professionally and selflessly in this country. However, there are some who are working very hard, like the Zomba-based magistrate, to tarnish the image of this noble profession,” said
“So, what we are saying is that the Judicial Service Commission needs to jack up! We have a case where a judge gave ruling on a matter that he never heard. Probably, it is time Malawi adopted the American style of appointing judges: vetting, to ensure that people of questionable characters are not admitted to the bar,” he added.
Mkandawire expressed concern that corruption remains pervasive in Malawi.
“At least, 30 per cent of the total national budget is lost through corruption, resulting in compromised service delivery in the public sector. I think we need to strengthen citizens’ arrest like is the case in Zambia,” he said.
Malawi has since dropped on the 2019 Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) which measures perceived levels of public sector corruption.
The country has dropped by three places, from 120 to 123 out of 180 ranked countries with a score of 31 (of 100) in 2019 from 32 points in 2018.
Taking his turn, Mtambo said it is high time the judiciary, too, became accountable to the citizens of this country.
“For a long time, we have regarded the judiciary as a sacred cow such that their decisions should not be questioned. But what has happened in Zomba last night is very questionable and we demand that this magistrate should be investigated and where evidence shows that he
personally benefited to make that decision, he should be arrested and be made account for his iniquities,” said Mtambo.
The High Court in Blantyre is set to review the order Chitsakamire made.
Meanwhile, anti-corruption law expert Wesley Mwafulirwa and governance pundit Rafiq Hajat have said the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) requires complete independence on prosecution as well as appointment of its director general to work effectively.
“The present legal framework gives little independence to ACB, the Executive branch is still too powerful,” observed Mwafulirwa in quotes reported by the local press.
He said even the director general of the graft-busting body cannot prosecute before getting permission from the director of public prosecution, saying this is why some cases have been handled in “a questionable manner.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :