VP’S CASE: ACB GUARDIAN OF JUSTICE OR POLITICAL PUPPET?

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There is something that our esteemed journalists are not telling us about the dropped case involving Vice President Saulos Chilima.

We needed a critical analysis of facts and circumstances surrounding this case which has a huge bearing on ACB’s credibility as an institution expected to advance interests of justice.

Indeed by now legal scholars and indeed those versed with expertise in the criminal justice system should have helped to make matters clearer.

From where I stand this is a classical case in which the ACB has completely failed it’s duties. It only has itself to blame. The ACB narrative that it is committed to fight corruption, under the current leadership, is as fake as Bridgin Foundation’s $6.8 billion grant to Malawi.

Here is my reflection:

Politically Motivated Arrest

From the word go, the ACB did not have to arrest Chilima. It was politically motivated.

Did they really have to arrest the Veep? I say no a summon was enough. Here is someone second in command and surely not a flight risk – an arrest was not necessary. Prior to the arrest, both MDF and Police were notified of the assignment. They were deployed in full force. ACB staff members and World Bank staff at Mulanje House which houses the Bureau’s HQ were asked not to report for duties on that day. Why all this fuss? ACB would unlikely ask for deployment of military and police. Someone did. It was all a show to embarrass number 2 as part of a power contest within Tonse Alliance.

Why the arrest in the first place when a summon could have done? It was a show to vilify Chilima.

Mind you the arrest came just few months after the President illegally withdrew delegation of powers from his Vice even when he had said the report from the ACB did not show any wrong doing on the Veep. This was a substandard report according to the President. But he used the same to withdraw delegation of functions.

Do you see what I see?

Do you know that the Veep was the first person the Bureau arrested after an amendment to the law that allowed the Bureau to effect arrest without seeking consent from the DPP for CPA related offences in relation to Zunneth Sattar linked cases?

Secondly, the framing of charges was as suspicious as the arrest itself. He was accused of receiving $280, 000 but later dropped to simply say unspecified amount of money and another was added breach of public trust. Geez!

The change came almost a year after the arrest. It was after the Bureau realized the defence led by Kalekeni Kaphale were up to the task to defend their client from the politically motivated arrest.

If it were in South Africa and other advanced democracies the mainstream media would have a party of scathing analyses. It is about accountability for some decisions.

Court Process

Unlike other suspects such as Kezzie Msukwa, George Kainja and others, the Veep never challenged his suspicious arrest. He believed in the judicial process as the only way out. He followed even the stupidest of bail conditions which required him to report to the Bureau just to ascertain them he was around. It was a shock to the court especially for someone who is under police guard 24/7. The bureau submitted to the court that they didn’t trust the police. The same police they deployed to arrest Chilima. Justice Kapindu refused to buy this line. It was amateurish. Nonsensical.

Chilima religiously attended to all court proceedings without an excuse.

Then came the issue of disclosures from MDF; the revealing documents. The documents literally showed that the contracts Chilima was accused of influencing were approved months before by the President himself.

ACB told the court that it had trouble to get these disclosures from MDF. Defence had to push the state to provide these through the court.

It was at this time that the script started falling apart. The masterminds were now nervous; the truth would be known. It was at this time that two radio stations that had volunteered to broadcast proceedings – potentially to expose the suspect withdrew their application to do so. They were advised not to proceed because the script had backfired. Such broadcast would embarrass the mastermind.

Since then the national security card has been advanced to protect real culprits.

Why the Discontinuance

When Justice Kapindu ruled that the disclosures may be needed later in the court of trial, the mastermind was troubled. They saw danger.

But Kapindu had also indicated that the documents were indeed sensitive and if the state wanted to pursue the case then it had to sacrifice what they wanted to protect or better still drop the case.

Then came the US travel ban that did not include the Veep. The US is on record to have indicated that it’s decision to ban the four was based on credible information.

So there was no credible info against the Veep? Exactly, that was the meaning.

What did we see? Veep delegated to Tanzania to attend the Union Day on behalf of the President. What a coincidence. Was this some guilty conscious?

And then the case is discontinued!

I would applaud the current Director for Public Prosecution for this thoughtful decision. This arrest was unnecessary. Let politician fight on political podiums to outdo each other not the courts. Former DPP Steve Kayuni wanted to stop this nonsense but was vilified and labelled a ‘corrupt one’. For simply different with the ACB boss – a warrant of arrest was issued against him. Typical abuse of power. Using the bureau to fight personal battles?

Politically motivated cases are a huge drain to public resources. We need to avoid this. More importantly, we need to interrogate decision making processes at ACB. It shouldn’t be a weapon to fight political opponents. Just how did the bureau arrest the Veep for influencing award of contracts in MDF when he does not have any powers in MDF transactions? To have influence you need have power over an institution.

While I commend our esteemed Journalists for a job well done in covering these cases, I still feel more should be done to contextualize issues and expose the-behind the scene manipulation of the Bureau which is costly to taxpayers.

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