Malawi: President Chakwera Urged to Expeditiously Reshuffle 'Corrupt Cabinet

Dr Lazarus Chakwera
4 January 2022

In the wake of the recent arrest of Minister of Lands & Urban Development, Kezzie Msukwa on allegations of corrupt practices, President Lazarus Chakwera has been asked to expeditiously reshuffle his Cabinet is it has sown it is highly exposed to the social vice in the ongoing investigations by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).

Msukwa was arrested in connection to the ACB's investigations and arrest of businessman, Zuneth Sattar on suspected corruption of politically exposed persons.

ACB Director General, Martha Chizuma last week warned that a number of high profile politically exposed persons are to be arrested between January and February 2022.

Sources close to the investigations have told Nyasa Times that a list of names exposed during the house raids of suspects in the United Kingdom and Malawi has three quarters of Cabinet Ministers, high ranking officials in the Malawi Defence Force, Malawi Police Services, Immigration, Prisons, Principal Secretaries and procurement specialists and other Government officials.

A concerned citizen told Nyasa Times that if the ACB is left to independently carry out its duties as specified under the law, without political interference, there will be no government as the list of names on the radar in government circles is very high.

The suspects, according to our sources, benefited in various capacities such as campaign funds as token of appreciation -- in order for the benefactors to be facilitated with government contracts and as such the President's high offices as well as his Vice-President, Cabinet, Army, Police are compromised.

"To be precise the entire government machinery is entangled in this and forensics investigations taking place will likely trace who benefited from this whole fiasco," said our source.

Reports reaching us are that a concerned group of Malawi Congress Party members, led by Alex Major, wrote Chakwera on November 26, 2021 calling on him to reshuffle his Cabinet and call for a National Executive Committee meeting to discuss, among others, issues rocking the party and Malawians at large.

But in December 2021, Chakwera filled two posts out of three in his Cabinet a sign that he was not going to conduct a full reshuffle soon and this reneged on his promise to reshuffle the Cabinet seems it would backfire on the President following the impending arrests.

On March 31, 2021, Chakwera told the nation that he had received cabinet assessment report from his Vice-President, Saulos Chilima for final review before making the assessment public.

Last week, the National Anti-Corruption Alliance welcomed the arrest of Msukwa and Ashok Kumar Sreedharan, who is a close business associate of Sattar.

The Alliance -- comprising Church and Society of the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia; Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation; Youth and Society and Malawi Law Society -- thus called on President Lazarus Chakwera to "immediately fire the Minister to pave way for more effective investigations and prosecution".

"While underlying that a person is innocent until proven guilty by a court of law, the Alliance takes cognizance that this is not the first Minister of Chakwera's Cabinet "to be embroiled on a corruption scandal and any delay in firing Msukwa will send a negative signal about the President's commitment to purge his administration of corruption".

The Alliance also asks Chakwera to reshuffle his Cabinet taking cognizance of Msukwa's case and that of former Energy Minister Newton Kambala and others and in reorganizing it the President should do thorough screening.

They say the involvement of Msukwa in this alleged corruption charge is "yet another indication that the President may not have done enough screening before appointing his Cabinet".

"This development is thus an opportunity for the President to pick a cabinet based on merit and of individuals with integrity.

"The Alliance further calls for a comprehensive national audit of plot allocations by the Ministry of Lands for the last five years in all the major cities and their sorroundings. We need to go beyond Sattar and investigate how plots were allocated during the current and previous governments"

The Alliance "strongly suspects that "there could be more to in the Ministry than meets the eye" and that "any wrongdoing must be exposed and remedied quickly so that public lands and finances are benefiting all people of Malawi -- not just those with corrupt connections.

While commending efforts being done by the ACB, the Financial Intelligence Agency and the office of the Attorney General "to curb serious and organized corruption", the Alliance calls on the Bureau "to prosecute those arrested without delay and according to international fair trial standards".

"As an Alliance, we do not want to see any delays to the case considering that the arrests are coming after thorough investigations by the ACB, which we understand, have so far established that Hon. Msukwa corruptly used the privileges of his office contrary to section 25 (1) as read together with Section 34 of the Corrupt Practices Act."

"As an Alliance, we reiterate our call for expeditious establishment of the Financial Crimes Court to fast-track and efficiently dispose of cases of corruption and theft of public funds."

The Alliance believes that the proposed "special court would help clear the growing backlog of stagnating cases of corruption in our courts," adding that "Malawians have exercised enough patience over delays in prosecuting corruption cases. Any further delays will not be acceptable."

"It is therefore our hope that government will expedite the establishment of this special court in order to accelerate prosecution and finalisation of these cases.

The warrant of arrest for Msukwa and Ashok Kumar Sreedharan issued by the Chief Resident Magistrate had said Msukwa "is reasonably suspected of having committed three counts of corrupt use of official powers contrary to section 25 (1) of the Corrupt Practices Act as read together with section 34 of the Corrupt Practices Act".

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