Malawi: Hrdc Gives ACB 72 Hours to Act On Judges' Bribery Saga - Activists Vow More Demos

16 January 2020

The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has given Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) director Reyneck Matemba 72 hours to disclose names of those who attempted to bribe the five judges of the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court and currently preparing judgement for the presidential election nullification petition case, arrest and take them to court or resign.

ACB boss Matemba listening to HRDC leader Mtambo giving him 72 hour ultimatum to name the suspects, arrest them or he should step down HRDC chairperson Mtambo presenting the petition to Matemba Thousands took to the streets during the HRDC organised demonstrations

Speaking on behalf of the protesters when he presented a petition to the ACB czar at the Capital Hill in Lilongwe, HRDC national chairperson Timothy Mtambo said the only options available are to name the suspects, arrest them and initiate prosecution.

The coalition leaders have also vowed to hold vigils at the graft-busting agency's offices if the demand is not met.

"Our demand is simple. We want you to act on the suspects. Arrest them and let them appear before a court of law. Alternatively, you may resign. If this is not done in 72 hours, then we will start a vigil at the ACB offices," said Mtambo.

In the petition HRDC states the serious allegations of attempted bribery of the judges are "not sophisticated as ACB would want us to believe that would require ACB to take days or months to affect the arrest and disclose names of those implicated."

The rights coalition points out that the continued delays by the ACB to affect the arrest and name the suspects will give more credence to allegations that the bureau is "buying time to shield certain individuals or cover up the case."

Mtambo said to Matemba:"Should you fail to effect arrest in 72 hours, we will have no choice but to call for your immediate resignation."

HRDC has since vowed that it will stop at nothing in demanding accountability from graft-busting body.

"The use of delaying tactics for this corruption cases or indeed the sacred cow syndrome will not be tolerated henceforth," said coalition stated.

HRDC also indicated that "this time around we will not accept excuses for answers but solution to our demands."

Matemba was escorted by Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers outside Capital Hill gates to receive the petition and retreated to his offices without making any comment.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Matemba said the Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda made the complaint to the bureau and mentioned two people-- a senior public officer "with one of the [the three] arms of the government" and a prominent businessperson--as the suspects.

Matemba inadvertently hinted that a member of the Judiciary was under investigation in connection with the alleged bribery attempt.

Alliance Against Serious and Organised Corruption has also asked the ACB to deal with allegations of bribery attempts effectively and transparently as the investigation into the matter would not only be tackling the alleged corruption, but also defending the integrity of concerned judicial process.

In a letter to Matemba, the alliance's executive director Moses Mkandawire asked the ACB to appoint an external monitor from abroad who can also be a liaison to the civil society organisations.

In the contentious elections case, the Constitutional Court is expected to pass judgement as 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) w are seeking nullification of the May 21 2019 presidential 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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