Recent arrest involves former Finance Minister Joseph Mwanamveka
* To be a politician is real joy. Such urgent bail outs are not available among the ordinary people
* Bail is constitutional right but the poor fail to access it because they don’t have money to process the bail
* The poor don’t have money for legal representation — that is why we need paralegals to represent them for free
By Duncan Mlanjira
Following the arrest on Tuesday of former Minister of Finance, Joseph Mwanamveka and the immediate granting of bail by Senior Resident Magistrate Wanangwa Nyirenda a few hours later, people voiced their concerns on the speed the courts are handling the granting of bail to politicians involved in the corruption investigations.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) arrested Mwanamveka as another suspect involved in alleged unlawful procurement of uniforms and equipment for Malawi Prison Service worth US$18,374,460.
The goods, bought through Ministry of Homeland Security, were purchased from One Guard FZE of United Arab Emirates and a statement from ACB’s principal public relations officer, Egrita Ndala said Mwanamveka abused his office by arbitrarily approving the US$18,374,460 as cost of the uniforms and equipment.
The ACB says the complaint as case for corruption investigations which ACB recorded on October 16, 2020 was that the goods were “suspiciously procured” and following investigations, it was established that Mwanamveka abused his office by not “verifying the urgency and importance of the procurement”.
He was charged with abuse of office and neglect of official duties contrary to Section 25B (1) and Section 121 of the Corrupt Practices Act and the Penal Code respectively and after been granted bail hours later, the public responded on Facebook on the speed.
Austin Mvula sneered, saying: “To be a politician is real joy. Such urgent bail outs are not available among the ordinary people”, to which Blessings Patuwe Banda responded that this is the reason why people “can invest billions vying for politics to have the ‘real joy’ of politics — no wonder everyone wants to be a politician”.
Francis Mugwa said next time the ACB or other authorities should “just summon them to appear in court. Don’t arrest people for the sake of taking their money via bail bond or surety yet falling to conclude the case in good time.”
Other commentators said bail is constitutional right but the poor fail to access it because they don’t have money to process the bail, with Chard Zuxe agreeing, saying the poor “don’t have money for legal representation — that is why we need paralegals to represent the poor for free.
But Jimmy Manusha suspected that the state might have not raised any objection for bail application, thus the Magistrate had no option but to grant it while Charles Zatuwa Kamanga stressed that the ACB arrests individuals after investigation has been completed — thus there is no reason to deny someone bail.
Marvin Scofield hinted that all this is towards cleaning the sins of the past regime for a new Malawi, saying people don’t bring into their houses new furniture before they clean up the house or keeping old tenant’s sofa — otherwise one might inherit rats kept by old tenants.
Also involved and previously arrested and granted bail over the procurement of the uniforms and equipment for Malawi Prisons is former Minister of Homeland Security, Nicholas Dausi, his former Principal Secretary, Samuel Madula and Kennedy Nkhoma, Chief Director in the Ministry.
Others arrested in high corruption cases involving Zunneth Sattar includes former Director General of the ACB, Reyneck Matemba, who is also former Solicitor General and Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Justice.
He was arrested on July 5 alongside former Board chairperson for the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets (PPDA) Authority, John Suzi-Banda.
During his tenure as Director General, the ACB — under legal guidance from the then-Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale — reportedly cleared Sattar that the UK-based businessman was not under any formal investigation by the Bureau.
It wasn’t until Britain’s anti-corruption authorities alerted their Malawi counterpart and together arrested Malawian-born together with several associates in the United Kingdom and Malawi.
The on-going investigations also saw the arrests of former Minister of Lands Kezzie Msukwa being implicated and later Vice-President Saulos Chilima was also implicated in the corrupt dealings with Sattar.
Others involved were public officers were specifically from Malawi Defence Force, Malawi Police Service — that included Inspector General (IG) of the Malawi Police, George Kainja — officers from Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, Malawi Revenue Authority, Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority, Office of the President and Cabinet, Judiciary, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Information, Ministry of Homeland Security, Ministry of Lands, Ministry of Tourism, State House, Reserve Bank of Malawi, Financial Intelligence Authority — and even more from the ACB itself.
Kainja, who was found by the ACB to have been recorded through telephone conversations with Sattar allegedly discussing procurement deals and kickbacks, was fired as the Inspector General by President Lazarus Chakwera.
Chakwera also withheld Chilima from any delegated duties while waiting for the ACB to substantiate its allegations against him and to make known its course of action in relation to all corruption cases.