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Human rights activists warn Chakwera against shielding corruption suspect, fighting ACB Director

….Capital Hill to brace for endless vigils if no action taken within 14 days against the perceived corrupt AG

By Iommie Chiwalo

Namiwa addressing the media

The consortium of Human Rights Activists and Concerned Citizens, have warned against persistent futile attempts by President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera’s administration through State agencies and some citizens to literally hunt down the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General Martha Chizuma.

In a joint statement signed by Activists Sylvester Namiwa of Centre for Democracy and Development Initiatives (CDEDI), Phunziro Mvula of Social Revolution Movement (SRM), Gomezgyani Nkhoma representing Mzuzu Youth Caucus- (MYC) and concerned citizens in the name of
Mundango Nyirenda and Zainab Hassan, says the conduct demonstrated by Tonse Alliance administration is a bid to frustrate and eventually abandon investigations involving business person Zuneth Sattar’s suspected corruption scandals.

The activists have cited the recent detention and harassment of Platform for Investigative Journalism (PIJ) Gregory Gondwe as a classic example of such desperate and shameful attempts.

“While we condemn in strongest terms Gondwe’s detention and harassment, we would like to remind President Chakwera that Malawi is not a police State and that freedom of the press and freedom of expression is non-negotiable,” reads the statement.

Adding that since a lot has been said and done by other concerned parties within and beyond our borders about the arrest and seizure of Gondwe’s electronic gadgets by the State agencies, we would like to draw the public’s attention to a recent published story under the headline ‘The Attorney General Publicly terminated all Zuneth Sattar contracts’ and the fact that ACB also publicly restricted any government payments to some Sattar-connected contracts pending investigations,”

Under fire Chakaka

The activists expressed worry about revelations that despite the restrictions, government with the approval of the Attorney General funded the police and MDF to pay Sattar behind the scenes.

The article published by Gondwe’s PIJ quoted a letter purported to be a legal opinion from the Attorney General (AG) Thabo Chakaka-Nyirenda to ACB Director Martha Chizuma, regarding payments that are to be made to Sattar’s company, whose contract with government was publicly terminated pending investigations.

Just a few days after the publication of the PIJ article, Weekend Nation dated Saturday, 2 April 2022 carried a story under the banner ‘AG warns of legal action against leaked legal opinion’. In the article, the AG Nyirenda openly said he believes his opinion was leaked by ACB and he went on to threaten legal action against those behind the leakage.

“This, in our view, as expected, was a direct attack on Martha Chizuma whose office the AG accused of leaking his confidential documents. We, the civil rights activists and concerned citizens group, have critically analysed the events surrounding the arrest of journalist Gondwe and the publication of the PIJ article on the AG Nyirenda’s purported legal opinion, and have concluded among others that Tonse Alliance administration is spending sleepless nights scheming to get rid of Martha Chizuma,” reads the joint statement.

It further hints that state agencies and some public officers are combing through Chizuma’s operational space to build a case against her and eventually have her arrested thereby clearing the way for government to do as it pleases with corruption cases that are tarnishing its image.

The activists seriously oobserves that the cash-strapped government has made available taxpayers’ money that was purportedly paid to Sattar through the Malawi Police Service (MPS) at a time the entities are under a restriction order from both the AG and the ACB.

“The rights activists have, therefore, resolved to remain standing up in defence of Martha Chizuma, and that it will be an on-going battle until they see victory.

The briefing in progress

According to the Activists, the resolution has been reached after observing that the AG is playing double standards by making public declarations indicating that government has terminated its contractual obligations with Sattar pending investigations, while he is activating the same contracts from behind the scenes.

“The AG, therefore, has lost moral ground to continue serving in such a high office,” reads the strong joint statement.

It has since asked President Chakwera to explain to Malawians how easy it is to find money to pay Sattar but seemingly very difficult for his government to find money to buy essential drugs and medicines for public hospitals where people are dying needlessly,” queries the Activists in a statement.

The have also revealed that the initial plan by the State agencies was to use journalist Gondwe as a witness against ACB director Chizuma but the attempt was miscalculated.

They have since promised that will see to it that Gondwe is not victimised in any way, and that his right to protect sources of information is respected.

Following the recent unfolding trends, the activists have concluded that the AG, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), and the MPS are bent on doing nothing but to punish anyone who may dare touch ‘the anointed’ Sattar.

“That said, the public may wish to recall that we recently demanded President Chakwera to fire the Director of Public Prosecutions Dr. Steven Kayuni on grounds that he is putting spanners into ACB’s works. Today, we add on President Chakwera’s chopping list AG Nyirenda and MPS Inspector General Dr George Kainja,” reads the statement.

Concluding that “if these public officers do not resign, or are not fired in the next fourteen days (14), we will be forced to launch never ending vigils at the Capital Hill and other designated places to be announced in due course,”.

Following the general outcry against the arrest of Journalist Gondwe, AG Nyirenda apologised for the action taken by the police. He made the apology in the face of Media Institute of Southern Africa gurus who stormed his office a day after the incident…

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