The State House has clarified that President Lazarus Chakwera did not order the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Masauko Chamkakala to drop and discontinue the criminal cases against Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General, Martha Chizuma.
A statement from presidential press secretary, Anthony Kasunda says “the powers of the DPP to discontinue a criminal case is as he deems it fit as stipulated in Section 99 of the Constitution and are not subject to presidential approval or direction”.
Kasunda added that soon after his appointment by the President was confirmed by Parliament, the State Prosecutor informed the President that he would review the criminal cases and now he “welcomes the latest news of the DPP’s decision to use his powers to discontinue those cases.
Kasunda emphasized that Chizuma remains “the President’s champion in the fight against corruption” and that “at no point has he infringed on the Constitution by ordering the DPP to discontinue the cases when he has no legal authority to do so”.
“As such, the false reporting of the President’s unconstitutional involvement in this matter is hereby denied.”
Chamkakala also confirmed to mainstream media that he has withdrawn all court cases which were laid against Chizuma, saying he has taken the initiative after reviewing the cases, and that his decision is in line with President Chakwera’s agenda to remove impediments that stand in the path of institutions like the ACB in the fight against corruption.
Chizuma was due to answer two counts in court, whose first was: “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 was “making use of speech capable of prejudicing a person against a party to judicial proceedings– contrary to Section 113(d) of the Penal Code”.
Following these pending cases, Secretary to the President & Cabinet, Colleen Zamba interdicted the ACB boss on January 31 pending the court case regarding the leaked audio that went viral in January last year.
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 Malawi government has been under pressure from the UK, the United States and the European Union to stop court proceedings against Chizuma, with the three donor communities describing the action as attempts to stifle the fight against corruption in the country.
This followed event when the Malawi Law Society, in its mandate of protecting matters of public interest pertaining to the law, applied for and was granted an injunction last by the High Court pending a judicial review of the decision of Chizuma’s suspension until her criminal defamation case was concluded.
But the government quickly hired private practice lawyers, Chancy Gondwe and Jivason Kadzipayike, to act on its behalf in applying for a discharge of the injunction the next day — which was rejected by Judge Mike Tembo, who described the application as “highly unusual and unprecedented because it was instantly made on nine grounds”.
However, the two private lawyers indicated that the government would take the case further with the Supreme Court of Appeal while Malawi Law Society honorary secretary, Chrispine Ngunde told the media in response to government’s unyielding stance that they are “going to do whatever we can, to make sure that justice prevails in this matter”.
Meanwhile, the public went on social media with Andrew Saukani suggesting that Zamba should also issue an official letter to Chizuma to reverse the interdiction order.
While applauding the decision by government to drop the charged, Fred Mkandawire hoped that this should be for good, saying it would be incredulous if it would appear once more as it kept doing since December.
While Mathews Kanthonga said: “It is very funny, how many times will the President forgive Chizuma? Tomorrow, we might be hearing that the Attorney General has taken the case to a court in Zomba. Though I haven’t gone further with education, but some of the decisions being made in Malawi have got no logic.”
Jaffar Kambalame hinted that Chizuma’s personal security “should be watched carefully” as an “attempt on her life cannot be ruled out. They are not done with her. However, thank you bwana President, thank you our donors and thank you MLS. Martha, make us proud, act professionally and not emotionally.”
MacPherson Joya also agreed that MLS acted in the interest of the public good and applauded the lawyers for working tireless on the issue, with Wamaka Kalinga agreeing that indeed they rose above the occasion to stop the hullabaloo over nothing.
One grouping claiming to be a civil society organization condemned the intervention of the donor community, saying that’s interfering with Malawi’s sovereignty, but Patrick Mpinganjira trashed this like of thinking, saying: “Until we start using donor aid properly, we stop corruption, we work on being economically independent and we stop relying on donors, we should never claim that we are a sovereign state.
“Sovereignty of a nation, without a sense of patriotism on the part of the leaders, leads to dictatorship that is of more dangerous magnitude than colonialism,” he said.
Joshua Chisa Mbele described the whole saga as shameful, asking why the leadership “had to go through humiliating threats of sanctions for sobriety to reign”.
Dickson Kashoti opined that President Chakwera “has not made this decision because of pressure from donors or anyone else, no, but rather he observed that the attention, focus and energy was going towards Chizuma rather than the fight against corruption”.
“In addition, Malawians were grossly embroiled on the issue rather than the development of the country. Now that this issue is over, let us move on. All the best to Ms. Chizuma as she returns to office to help President Chakwera in the fight against graft in the country.”
Evans Chirambo summed it up by saying common sense has now prevailed, while asking the President to now deliver on his “promises of ending corruption or reducing it to the bare minimum by supporting the ACB boss without creating hostile environment as a last ditch of making her fail”.