Malawi: Law Expert Backs Matemba - Tells ACB to Keep Names in Judges Bribery Attempt Under Wraps

16 January 2020

Prominent South Africa-based Malawian law professor Danwood Chirwa has put his weight behind Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) decision to keep under wraps suspects' names in the alleged judge bribery saga.

Danwood Chirwa, a South Africa-based law expert, agrees that suspects names be withheld until investigations are through ACB director general Matemba flanked by deputy director Eliah Bodole, gave a description of the suspects but fell short of naming them.

Chirwa says the ACB director general Reyneck Matemba has been correct in his decision to shield the suspects names as of now.

"He has been correct not to act on the spur of the moment and effect an arrest," Chirwa says.

He said Matemba needs to carry out the investigations in a way that does not disrupt the judges completing their task.

The five-judge panel comprising Healey Potani, Ivy Kamanga, Dingiswayo Madise, Redson Kapindu and Mike Tembo completed hearing the landmark case on December 20 2019 broadcast live on radio, a first in the country. The judges are set to deliver their judgement not later than first week of February.

"I would not even suggest that he waits until judgment is delivered. As the judges are the main witnesses in the case, there is no need to disrupt their job at this stage," said Chirwa.

He said Matemba should continue keeping the suspects names close to his chest while continuing with the investigations.

"There can be no side show leading to the investigations ," said Chirwa.

The professor said in the bribery allegations in the ongoing elections case, so far the judges and Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda have taken the high road and done the right thing.

"In a high profile case like this and in a country where corruption is rampant, it was expected that attempts will be made to compromise the judges.

"The whole idea of having five judges, not just three, was to reduce chance of corruption to zero. It also happens that the composition of this particular bench is such that it is impossible for it to be bribed," said Chirwa.

Chirwa says the general public must trust the judges and allow them to deliberate freely, without any form of pressure or inducement, so that they can come up with a judgement that they believe is just in accordance with the facts and the applicable law.

"We as critics will, likewise, assess and evaluate their judgement based on facts and the law only.

"There are several things at play in this saga. There are charlatans who want to profit from their corrupt political superiors by pretending that they have a pathway to bribing the judges. They get the money but never approach the judges and claim to have delivered the cash," he said.

He said the inappropriate approach that is the subject of an ongoing ACB investigation must be understood in various ways, saying one, it could have been a genuine attempt to bribe the judges; two, it could have been an effort to swindle the superiors of money; three, both one and two; four, it could have been intended only to bring the court into disrepute.

Chirwa said the judges made the right decision in accordance with their own personal beliefs and values but also with their constitutional and professional ethical obligations.

"They must continue to deliberate and to write the judgement, which they must deliver in February as they promised. I hope they also ignore the sensationalization of the allegations by party functionaries on social media and focus on the task at hand," said Chirwa.

Chirwa said Matemba is also correct to say that the bribery complaint is against individuals and not a party, saying It's hard to prove that connection in a court of law.

In the elections case, two of the presidential candidates in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections, UTM Party's Saulos Chilima (the first petitioner) and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) candidate Lazarus Chakwera (the second petitioner) want the court to nullify presidential election results over alleged irregularities, especially in the results management system.

Incumbent President Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who was declared winner of the elections, is the first respondent with Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) as the second respondent.

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