… Thickens Plot to End Chizuma’s Reign.
BY GOLDEN MATONGA
An imminent arrest of his wife, Monica, jolted President Lazarus Chakwera to finally act against Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director Martha Chizuma. The President got intel from a senior government official in his office that the First Lady and his son Nic were to be nabbed by the ACB.
The development came as the ACB was concluding an investigation which probes possible lawbreaking by the Secretary to President and Cabinet (SPC) Collen Zamba and ex-Director of Public Prosecutions Steven Kayuni.
The incident took place after the President decided against taking any action following the commission of inquiry into the arrest of Chizuma. Sources familiar with the events say those seeking Chizuma out picked on a false rumour that the ACB had launched an investigation against the president’s son. They further exaggerated the report to the President that the First Lady, too, was under investigation.
Sources at the Bureau say while the first son was subject to a complaint of alleged accumulation of unexplained wealth—the ACB decided immediately that the complaint did not carry substance as Chakwera’s son is not a public official to be subjected to provisions on the unexplained property by a public official. The ACB, on the other hand, did not receive a single complaint against the First Lady. Yet, it’s the First Lady’s name which was thrown to the president to draw his angriest reaction.
Zamba then later interdicted the ACB boss, citing the court case over leaked audio Chizuma is facing. But whether she did so with the President’s blessing or without it is unclear. What is confirmed, by sources in the bureau, is that Zamba herself is subject to an investigation over the procurement of fertilizer, a development that sources believe has affected her actions on the matter.
Zamba is also under the spotlight over the controversy over the fuel procurement scandal at the National Oil Company of Malawi (NOCMA). She was implicated by the former acting Chief Executive officer at the state company, detailing allegations of attempts to dictate a list of suppliers to the company. The allegations were made in a parliamentary inquiry broadcast on national radio and the Platform for Investigative Journalism exclusively published alleged screenshots of text exchanges between Zamba and Buluma on the matter purportedly proving allegations of interference.
“The plan is to make Chizuma appear as seeking to destroy the Chakwera presidency in the eyes of the President and his sympathizers while at the same time, making Chizuma appear insensitive and naïve in the eyes of the public. After everything, who would go immediately after the First family when the president has just saved your job?” said a top Government official who chose not to be named.
Other official points to the alleged plot’s shortfall. “At the heart of the lies is the fact that the president regularly gets a regular brief over ACB’s investigations of senior officials and was well-informed that none of his family was under probe,” said the official.
Still, Zamba acted against President Chakwera who reprimanded the ACB boss for the leaked audio but retained her as the body’s director. Chakwera is yet to comment on the interdiction, although he has twice addressed the nation, during the National Planning Commission event and swearing in of newly appointed cabinet ministers.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau’s Principal Public Relations Officer Egrita Ndala told PIJ in response to a questionnaire that the bureau is not investigating Secretary to the President and Cabinet Colleen Zamba.
“However, the Bureau is investigating procurement of 2022/23 fertiliser,” she said.
Ndala also said the Bureau received a complaint against Pastor Nick Chakwera over alleged unexplained wealth.
“However, the complainant did not provide sufficient details to warrant an investigation, and was requested to provide additional information,” she said.
The Bureau, Ndala said, has not received any complaint against First Lady Monica Chakwera.
State House and Zamba are yet to respond to our questionnaires on the matter.
Legal experts, however, have questioned whether Zamba, after all, has any powers to suspend or interdict the ACB boss as claimed in her leaked letter.
Among them, revered Law Professor at Chancellor College Garton Kamchedzera, Associate Professor Ngeyi Kanyongolo, and Professor Danwood Chirwa– have since dismissed the legality of Zamba’s interdiction of Chizuma. Kanyongolo has since joined Chizuma’s legal team.
Chirwa, in a public social media post, argues that Zamba has no authority to suspend the ACB Director, but the President has such authority under S 6(3) of the Corrupt Practices Act.
“But the President is a coward, and so he must have detailed Zamba to do the dirty work for him. Fortunately, Zamba’s letter suspending the ACB Director does not say she’s doing it under delegated authority. The power is non-delegable anyway. Zamba has clearly usurped the authority of the President. Her letter is unlawful and therefore void,” said Chirwa.
A lone voice of dissenting view is Mzuzu-based lawyer George Kadzipatike who has defended the government position, arguing that Chizuma, like any other public employee, is subject to the public service act which Zamba used to interdict her.