It has now become clear that the number of people arrested on corruption charges will swell. What we have witnessed so far may just be a tip on iceberg. From the rot and other shady deals that are being exposed, it is evident that more people are on the list to be ‘quarantined’ at Chichiri prison, Maula Prison or other confinement centres as the ACB continues to investigate individuals involved in corrupt activities. Many Malawians are happy that those who plundered the economy or linked to criminal activities are being arrested and are face to justice.
However, the question that should be asked is: does the Anti-Corruption Bureau have enough resources – personnel and financial- to prosecute all the cases. Unless the ACB is well resourced there is a risk that not much will be achieved. It will be the same song where people are arrested and charged, but very few end up in jail.
The ACB has so many corruption cases that are still in court. Many of them are yet to be concluded [including those involved in 2012 cashgate]. For example, the corruption cases involving former president Bakili Muluzi [close to 10 years now], former Minister of Home Affairs Uladi Musa, former DPP regional governor Christopher Mzomera Ngwira (two cases), business executive Karim and many other individuals are still in court. Other corruption cases linked to the 13 files have yet to be prosecuted.
With the impending arrests ACB will be overwhelmed and may not manage to prosecute everyone. The euphoria created may end up in disappointment as conviction rate may turn out to be low.
While the arrest is a precursor to prosecution, Malawians are more interested in seeing looters serving sentences than mere arrests. This is where the ACB needs to strategise to ensure that the arrested individuals are prosecuted within a reasonable time. Surely, Malawians will be disappointed to see the cases taking longer than anticipated. It would be in the interest of justice and public interest to dispose of the cases as soon as it practicable.
The ACB should discuss with the chief justice through the Director of Public Prosecutions to set up a special court to specifically adjudicate corruption cases just like the Constitutional Court was constituted to handle the presidential election case. It only took about nine months to conclude the case.
So several judges should be assigned to preside over corruption cases so that they are concluded within a short time. If the ACB has a watertight case against an individual (i.e. enough evidence), it should not take a long before the verdict is passed. Our courts are already saddled with other cases and to add more cases to their plate will make corruption cases drag for ages.
ACB should beef up its prosecution team by employing more lawyers or getting assistance from private law firms at a reasonable fee. [Lawyers are not cheap, eeeh!] If they can get pro bono services, such lawyers need special honour. ACB should also request for more funding from treasury and move with speed with the cases to ensure justice is done.
Malawians want to see looters of public resources spend time in jail. Equally important, they want the stolen money recovered.