Ombudsman rings in the New Year pledging to be loyal to call of duty: Malawi’s rare gem

Ombudsman Martha Chizuma, who has been bestowed the prestigious title as ‘Person of the Year’ by Malawi flagship online news platform, Nyasa Times has reacted with delight to the great honour.

Malawi’s Ombudsman (Public Protector) Martha Chizuma in her office in Lilongwe, -Photo by Amos Gumulira, AFP

As a public protector, Chizuma  is defending the voiceless and seeking to cleanup government system she is part of and Nyasa Times naming her ‘Person of the Year’ has been a popular choice welcomed by many that it is befitting her.

“I am very grateful for the recognition,” Chizuma, 40, told Nyasa Times.

“My only intention is to be loyal to my call of duty to the best of my ability,” she added.

Chizuma continued: “ The job gets lonely and really tough at times. But my incredible colleagues at the office provide me with the necessary support and more especially humour which helps keep me sane.

“So this recognition goes to them too. Otherwise this is what’s called ending the year on a high note. Am totally grateful.”

Fact File

She is  holder of a Master of Laws in International Law (2007) and World Economy from the University of East London and Bachelor of Laws (Hons) Degree from the University of Malawi (2002).

The quietly confident former magistrate and registrar of the High Court, appointed public protector in December 2015 when she was only 36, is the youngest person and only the second woman to hold the office.

By virtue of being the Ombudsman, Chizuma is also a Commissioner of the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), a Commissioner of the Malawi Police Service Commission and a member of Malawi Prison inspectorate.

She also serves on the Board of the International Ombudsman Institute as a Director of the African Region. Besides, she is Treasurer of the African Ombudsman and Mediators Association and a board member of the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa.

Before being appointed the Ombudsman, Martha Chizuma worked with Limbe Leaf Tobacco Company Limited and Malawi government as a Legal Counsel and Judicial officer respectively.

Between 2002 to 2011 she held various judicial positions including Senior Resident Magistrate, Assistant Registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal and   Deputy Chairperson of the Industrial Relations Court. In all these positions, she made some profound contribution to the development of jurisprudence in so many legal areas.

 Testimonies from others

Social commentator Onjezani Kenani writing on his Facebook wall said in a country where 97 per cent of public servanrs earn money by pretending to be working, Chizuma has “proven to be a rare gem that does not shy away from tackling the toughest issues of our time.”

Kenani said he wishes “dead offices” such as the Anti Corurption Bureau, the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Asst Declaration Directorate could resurrect themselves and emulate the good example set by the Ombudmsan.

Jack Mcbrams of Agence France-Presse (AFP), French news agency, in his article titled “Malawi’s public protector Martha Chizuma on crusade to clean up government” observes that “the battle against corruption in the poor southern African state of Malawi has turned a shy, diminutive ombudswoman Martha Chizuma , into a popular icon. Chizuma’s journey has taken her to the front lines of the war against misgovernment and impunity that is rampant in aid dependent Malawi. Chizuma has been widely praised for her courage”.

The president of opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Lazarus Chakwera is also on the record to have praised  Chazuma that she would go down in history as “ one shining light of integrity on top of a hill in whose valleys remain the dark shadows of institutional corruption and impunity across the public sector”.

Martha Kaukonde- the honarry secretary of Malawi Law Society testified that Chizuma’s strength is “ her knowledge and understanding of the law… and making decisions that are in the best interest of the public”.

Seasoned journalist and blogger Golden Matonga likens Chizuma to South African’s famous Thuli Madonsela as follows: “She has mimicked the same ruthless efficiency and determination of Thuli Madonsela, her former South African counterpart who is lauded for her successful tenure famous for prosecuting abuse of power under then President Jacob Zuma.”

Jack Macbrams, however, observes that Chazuma’s crusade against impunity has sometimes sparked threats and backlash from government where her office’s budget has been slashed in the 2019/2020 national budget and in some cases drawing criticism from some senior government officials.

Government spokesperson Mark Botomani is on record to have warned Chizuma against “abusing” her position, warning that any Ombudsman should be “accountable to the people and to the law”.

However, Chizuma has remained unfazed with these threats as she has continued to discharge her duties with highest professionalism and in line with her mandate, and no wonder she has been widely praised for her courage.

To add the icing to the cake, the Office of Ombudsman was just last week awarded for being the overall best performing public institution in the 2018/19 financial year at the 2018/19 Performance Contract Awards Ceremony by Office of the President and Cabinet.

The Ombudsman also got an award for Best Performer in the category of Constitutional bodies. Prior to this Martha Chizuma was also awarded for her excellence in governance and driving performance in government and organisations at the award of the best exhibitor at the Ombudsman Expo in Nigeria.

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2 years ago

I am very proud of you Martha. Your track record has been awesome and you have always topped the list. I have been following you for the past 20 years. You have always been outstanding. I congratulate you for bringing honor back to the Ombudsman’s office. It’s true you deserve the recognition and award.

Keep it up

Martha Oh yeeeee

2 years ago

we just need more of this across public bodies in Malawi, we can do it, rise and shine and be glorious. you really deserve it Martha congratulations.

2 years ago

My humble request to HRDC is could we not organize a match in honor of the the Malawian daughter for two reasons
1. To encourage others who are afraid that if they perform Malawians will abandon them when faced by this stupid government.
2. To protect our own against the satanic government that we have now. It is obvious that her contract may not be renewed judging by botoman vomit.

2 years ago

A Chakwera, this Chizuma woman should be the minister of Justice after the re run. She will take Malawi to highest levels

2 years ago

Mahopu anga awa eishhhh

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