Governance experts and commentators have described as a "signal" from the United States Government regarding efforts to fight corruption in Malawi for their decision to Uladi Basikolo Mussa and his immediate family, from entering the US for his alleged involvement in "significant corruption".
President Mutharika and DPP Vice President for Centre Uladi Mussa
Mussa, who is President Peter Mutharika's special adviser on parliamentary affairs and serves as governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) vice-president for the Central Region is accused of being involved in significant corruption while serving as Cabinet minister in the Joyce Banda administration in 2013.
Mussa was arrested in March last year and charged with abuse of office by Anti-Corruption Bureau relating to the issuance of Malawian passports to foreigners during his term as minister.
The matter is in court. Mussa denies any wrongdoing.
Governance commentator Makhumbo Munthali told Nyasa Times that it would be interesting to see how President Mutharika will react to the news as Mussa's appointing authority in his new role as advisor.
"If Mutharika keeps Mussa on the position it would reflect badly on his leadership as someone who condones corruption. It would be in the best interest of justice and donor relations that Mussa stepped aside to pave way for the completion of the case," said Munthali.
" In fact, Mussa shouldn't even wait for Mutharika to effect such a decision but should be proactive by resigning. But if he doesn't step aside on his own to allow court processes vindicate him, then President Mutharika has the obligation to remove him from the position until the case is concluded," he added.
The governance expert said "this is a break and make issue for Mutharika in as far as his fight against corruption in the country is concerned. Mutharika has nothing to lose by suspending Mussa pending [court outcome]."
Munthali said the the public perception emanating from US decision has the potential to damage the image of Presiddent Mutharika who might be seen as shielding his senior party official.
"This is where caution needs to be exercised," said Munthali.
Malawi's leading daily newspaper, The Nation, in its extended coverage of the story also published an editorial comment which its states that "corruption perception matters much more."
The paper said information is in the public domain that Malawi has not been fairing well on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.
"Diplomats traditionally sugar coat their messages. But when they speak directly like the US Government has done, there si reason to get worried," reads the comment in part.
It said the buck stops with the President "thus, the ball is in Mutharika's court to turnaround the situation and walk the talk in fighting corruption and abuse of office."
A political governance analyst Henry Chingaipe also told the paper that the ban does not reflect well on government.
He said: "This is the first time this has happened to anyone in Malawi. It is an indication that we are not doing very well in the fight against corruption.
"This should also act as a message to the President to think seriously of the integrity of a person when making appointments because the position of presidential adviser is significant."
In a statement dated July 3 2019, the US Embassy the decision is in line with Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programmes Act of 2019.
It states that Section 7031(c) provides that, in cases where the Secretary of State has credible information that foreign officials have been involved in significant corruption or gross violations of human rights, those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the US.