Chakwera spares ACB Director General Chizuma despite calls on her to be fired following her misconduct of leaking inside information

ACB Director General Martha Chizuma

By Duncan Mlanjira

President Lazarus Chakwera, who was under pressure by the public to fire Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General Martha Chizuma for breaching her Oath of Office following her serious misconduct of leaking inside information, said he decided to maintain her because she is “a person of great courage” in the fight against corruption.

President Chakwera

The President reiterated that he appointed Chizuma because she has “the kind of courage needed to take on dangerous cartels of corruption that have milked our country dry for decades, including foreign ones that donate to us the crumbs leftover from the bread they steal from us”.

In his national address on Monday, Chakwera announced that he had earlier in the day held a meeting with Chizuma in the company of Minister of Justice, Titus Mvalo in pursuant to Section 4(4) of the Corrupt Practices Act, which requires the ACB Director General to report to the President and the Minister on the general conduct of the affairs of the Bureau.

“Among the things tabled at this meeting was an audio recording of a conversation between Ms. Chizuma and another person, which Ms. Chizuma has confirmed to be an authentic recording of a conversation she has acknowledged to me and the Minister to constitute misconduct on her part.

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“In the recording, which has been widely circulated across social media and covered by the press, she discusses certain elements and perspectives related to the Bureau’s fight against corruption.

“Specifically, she discusses what one of our foreign partners said to her about the role she must play in the fight against corruption; she discusses exactly when the Bureau will take action on its findings because doing so earlier would lead to compromise.

“She discusses her knowledge of a bribe accepted by a specific judge two days prior to attending a hearing before that judge; she discusses her emotional and mental state in the course of conducting her work; she discusses the amount of money she believes has passed through the hands of a suspect the Bureau recently arrested.

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“She discusses the sentiments some members of the Judiciary expressed to her about the ruling of a court she argued a case in; she discusses her belief that the justice system in Malawi will not do what is right in handling corruption cases unless it is forced.

She discusses the fact that the lawyers at the Bureau told her that behind the lawyers defending corruption suspects in court are twenty or thirty corrupt lawyers; she discusses how many millions of dollars have been spent on bribery by a corruption suspect.

“She affirms the expressed view that there is no one in the whole country in whose hands a bribe has not passed; she discusses the defensive attitude of Catholics and Pentecostals to corrupt public officers who may be members of their church, and the pressure those churches are being put under to comply.

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“She discusses how we should forget about Civil Society being of any use in the fight against corruption; she discusses rumors she has heard alleging that she no longer has the support of the President who appointed her.”

Thus Chakwera takes cognizance that “understandably, the recording has sparked public debate about whether or not Ms. Chizuma has breached her Oath of Office, whether or not she has compromised the credibility of the Bureau and the security of its investigations and whether or not she has violated the same Corrupt Practices Act she was appointed to enforce”.

It is also “whether or not she has defamed the judge of an independent court, and whether or not she has discredited the Clergy and Civil Society”.

“I consider that debate to be healthy, because Ms. Chizuma’s conduct, or the conduct of any public servant in a public office, is neither infallible nor beyond scrutiny nor above the law.

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“Now since the conduct of any ACB Director is regulated by law, there are several legal minds who have told me that the audio recording

contains information justifying Ms. Chizuma’s removal as Director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau on the grounds of misconduct in terms of Section 6B (2) of the Corrupt Practices Act, 2019.

“But upon consideration of multiple factors, I have determined that the best thing to do in this instance is to keep a watchful eye on her general conduct of the Bureau’s affairs in order to ensure that there are no other incidents of concern about her fitness for office going forward.

“As such, I have given her a stern warning about what the law demands and what I expect from her as the person I appointed to that office.”

In as much as Chizuma’s conduct in this unfortunate incident has been disappointing, Chakwera thus stated why he appointed her to head the ACB in the first place and why she has reaffirmed to that position with a warning.

“I appointed her because I considered her to be a person of great integrity, the kind of integrity needed to resist every inducement that would be thrown her way to compromise her. I appointed her because I considered her to be a person of great strength, the kind of strength needed to keep fighting for justice even when it looks hopeless and dark.

“I appointed her because I considered her to be a person of great vision, the kind of vision to see the whole edifice of corrupt activities and see how best to dismantle it. I appointed her because I considered her to be a person of great experience, the kind of experience she had as the Ombudsman, where she proved herself to be a warrior for justice.

“And I appointed her because I considered her to be a member of the team of warriors for justice I have been building to serve Malawians.

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This is what I believed about Ms. Chizuma at that time, and this is what I believe about her today.”

The President went on to say that ever since he appointed her, he has found her to be a strong partner in fulfilling the promise of ending corruption that he himself made to Malawians, “which is the fourth pillar of my SUPER Hi5 agenda”.

“I believe that it is because of her resolve to fight corruption that corruption has fought back and used someone she trusted to betray her and expose both her and me to embarrassment. I therefore want those evil forces that recorded her to know that neither I nor Ms. Chizuma are moved by their efforts to derail my agenda to rid Malawi of corruption.

“If you thought that making this recording would force me to fire her, you better think again. And if you thought that you can use Ms. Chizuma’s work or improper comments on that audio to attack me and get me out of the way, you better think again.

“You may have gotten to the ACB Director this time, but you can never get to all of us who are fighting this fight in different parts of the government. We will never retreat and we will never relent.

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“As Martha Chizuma says on that audio, Nkhondo iyiyi ndi ya tonse, ndipo tiwina — my resolve to win this fight is the reason why I and many Malawians stood by her to see that Parliament confirmed her after she was initially rejected by its Public Appointments Committee.

“My resolve to win this fight is the reason why I have never once interfered with ACB investigations, including those into the conduct of my own Ministers. My resolve to win this fight is the reason

why even I myself have cooperated with ACB investigations by subjecting myself to questioning by its officers, which no sitting Head of State has ever done in this country.

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“My resolve to win this fight is the reason why in all my public and private statements about the ACB, I have been the most vocal advocate against corruption and supporter of its work.

“My resolve to win this fight is the reason why I have fought many forces to ensure that the Bureau is fully funded and its Chief is well-protected.

“I must therefore confess that because of how vested I am in the fight against corruption, listening to some of the remarks Ms. Chizuma makes on that recording was painful.

“But because I took an oath of allegiance to the Constitution and pledged to work only in the best interest of Malawian, I have chosen to put Malawi first.”

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