US Embassy condemns Malawi government for persistent harassment of the Anti-Corruption Chief

Following the decision by the Malawi’s Government through the Attorney General Thabo Chakaka-Nyirenda to vacate the decision of the High Court — that lifted the suspension of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General, Martha Chizuma — the United States Embassy has issued a statement condemning the “harassment” being perpetrated against her.

The Embassy says it “is deeply concerned by series of actions by government of Malawi that have severely damaged the credibility of its fight against corruption” and describes the Attorney General’s urgent application on Tuesday to vacate the court order as culminating in “two months of harassment by the government officials” against her.

“This step seeks to reinstitute the action by the Secretary to the President and Cabinet [Colleen Zamba] to interdict the Director General,” says the statement. “These measures by senior officials follow the December arrest of the Director General in the middle of the night in an armed police raid.

US Ambassador David Young met with Chizuma to convey his solidarity with her

“Since then, no one who carried out or authorized the arrest has been held to account. Following the arrest, the government established a Commission of Inquiry that not only produced an unbalanced report but also did not address the violations of the Director General’s fundamental human rights.

“The State then initiated criminal charges against the Director General and this most recent step by the Attorney General confirms the government’s intent to pursue those charges.

“As a democratic partner, the Embassy of the United States of America looks to the Government of Malawi to actively pursue the fight against corruption and not to wage a campaign of intimidation against anti-corruption champions.

“We have actively engaged senior government officials to seek renewed commitment to the fight against corruption, but those efforts have not yielded results.

“Our shared commitment to Malawi’s development depends on trust that Malawi will use public resources — including development funds — transparently, fairly and with accountability.

“These recent actions undermine the credibility of the government of Malawi’s stated commitment to the fight against corruption.”

Chizuma was on Tuesday expected back in office following an order by the High Court in Blantyre on Monday to suspend the interdiction order government issued to her.

The court, in the Civil Registry, granted Malawi Law Society (MLS) a permission to apply for judicial review and thus put aside a decision by Zamba from interdicting Chizuma done on January 31, 2023.

The MLS is a claimant in the matter while Zamba and Levison Mangani, a police prosecutor, are defendants.

The government interdicted Chizuma following a criminal court case that is to be heard against her at Lilongwe Magistrate Court regarding the leaked audio that went viral in January last year.

An interdiction order which Zamba said was due to two counts that Chizuma is due to answer in court, whose first count is: “making use of speech calculated to lower the authority of a person before whom a judicial proceeding is being had — contrary to Section 113(d) of the Penal Code”.

The second is “making use of speech capable of prejudicing a person against a party to judicial proceedings— contrary to Section 113(d) of the Penal Code”.

Zamba said the allegations constitute serious misconduct of a public officer and an ACB official in terms of section 49B of the Corrupt Practices (Amendment) Act 2004; Anti-Corruption Bureau Standing Order Numbers D/18 )2) and D/18 (9); Sections 4 (4.5); 6 (6.1); 6 (6.3) and 14 (14.1) of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Behaviour of the ACB; Malawi Public Service Regulations 1:201 (6); 1:201 (11); 1:201 (17) and 1:201 (19); and Contract Clause Articles I and II of Chizuma’s employment contract of June 1, 2021.

“In view of this, and in accordance with the Malawi Public Service Commission Regulation 42 (3) as read with Regulation 40, you are interdicted from exercising the powers and functions of your office as Director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (Grade 1/C) effective 31 January 2023, with full pay.

“While in interdiction, you shall cease to exercise any powers and functions in the Public Service and you shall not leave Malawi without written permission from the office,” said the letter, while emphasizing that the interdiction order shall remain in force until the conclusion of her criminal proceedings.

Chizuma was arrested in December over the same issue under instructions from the then Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Steve Kayuni, who was subject of the discussion in the leaked audio but President Lazarus Chakwera ordered that the charges be dropped.

The President later instituted the Commission of Inquiry to investigate circumstances that led to her arrest and after its findings were presented to him on January 18, Chakwera said he still considered Chizuma as his “champion against corruption” — thus stood by his decision made a year ago by refusing to bow down to calls from several quarters of the society to fire her.

In his address to the nation, Chakwera took note that the Commission of Inquiry he constituted to probe circumstances that led to her irregular arrest in December, also recommended that some action ought to be taken regarding offences Chizuma may have committed in last year’s leaked audio.

In that leaked audio, Chizuma is heard divulging some classified information on corruption investigations involving major suspect Zuneth Sattar but since he had already dealt with this as an administrative matter when she forgave her last year, Chakwera sought clarification from the Commission on how they found the leaked audio to be relevant to her attack on December 6.

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